Search results for "sustainability"

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A H-E-B of the Pack

Lake|Flato blends high design with sustainability for an Austin grocery store
Imagine shopping for groceries in a LEED Gold–certified building on a site once occupied by Austin’s airport, and you can picture the Mueller H-E-B structure designed by Lake|Flato Architects. The glass-clad building is one of the many collaborations between the Texas supermarket chain and the San Antonio–based firm Lake|Flato. Triangular steel trusses support a soaring, curved roof made of corrugated metal. The H-E-B Market’s design responds to Austin’s highly variable humidity with a vestibule that transports and expels heat out the top. The building is also a testing ground for many sustainable concepts, such as a rain garden that doubles as a water filtration system, rooftop sensors that monitor how much daylight the building gets, and smart air-conditioning—all aimed at reducing energy use and improving the interior environment for shoppers. In 2016, it was awarded an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Award, recognizing the architects for their commitment to sustainability.
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Recap

From an urban planning graphic novel to debunking a sustainability myth: AN’s can’t-miss top posts from this week
Missed some of our articles, Tweets, and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don't sweat it—we've gathered the week's must-read stories right here. Enjoy! How green are Apple’s carbon-sequestering trees really? When the Apple's new headquarters is completed later this year, 8,000 trees, transplanted from nurseries around the state of California, will surround the donut-shaped building by Foster + Partners. But how much impact can one tree, or even 8,000 trees, make? The answer: Very limited or null. The untold story of Harlem’s gentrification and growth A new book from the Harvard University Press debunks the idea that the gentrification of Harlem was solely imposed by outside developers and investors.
Why everybody’s mad at Anish Kapoor Did Anish Kapoor cunningly plan this controversy over the world's darkest engineered material as performance art? To spark a debate about artistic freedom? It could also just be old-fashioned feud.
This graphic novel aims to shape Chicago’s next generation of city planners The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s latest venture is an educational graphic novel about urban planning and its challenges. While the book—titled No Small Plans—raises questions that aren’t new, it serves as an introduction for its target audience, namely children in grades six to ten.
Koning Eizenberg combines symbolism and craft for a new chapel in Hollywood It took decades of piecemeal construction—a new day school here, a dank brick chapel there—to build the Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH). But it would require 10 years of work by Koning Eizenberg Architecture to transform the 90-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival–style temple into a flexible and social campus for worship.
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Digital Facility

Phil Bernstein on students using digital tools to maximize renderings and sustainability

This is the second column of “Practice Values,” a bi-monthly series by architect and technologist Phil Bernstein. The column focuses on the evolving role of the architect at the intersection of design and construction, including subjects such as alternative delivery systems and value generation. Bernstein was formerly vice president at Autodesk and now teaches at the Yale School of Architecture.

I recently sat on a midterm design jury for the Yale studio taught by the dynamic duo of Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten and Andy Bow of Foster + Partners. It’s a rare treat for those of us who teach in the “suburbs” of the curriculum (in my case, professional practice) to visit the hip “downtown nightclub” scene of the design studios. The jury comprised far more talented designers than me, so I kept my focus and comments on issues of process and outcomes.

The brief was both thrilling and daunting: Design a museum and restaurant complex, including production facilities, for a sake company in historic Kyoto, Japan, on one of two challenging sites facing a shallow river; acknowledge the intricate urban context; solve for the production complexities of the ancient art of sake manufacturing; create a strong work of architecture. And, by the way, make your solution environmentally responsible through clear sustainable design strategies. The morning sake tasting we held before the jury began steeled both the jurors and the students for the intense day ahead.

As I watched our students present their projects, I was amazed at their energy, determination, and facility with almost every challenge of the brief. It was midterm, so many issues were not unexpectedly left unresolved, but few were ignored. Andy and Patrick had guided these 10 folks to unique, provocative, and dare I say even poetic solutions. It was hard for this architect, trained in these same jury pits in the pre-digital age, to believe the sheer skill with which these schemes were iterated, analyzed, evaluated, and presented. There was no question that the students’ development as designers was accelerated by an ability to deploy digital tools—visualization, cogent drawing and diagramming, CNC-model fabrication—in the service of their craft augmented with an array of beautiful hand sketches. All these skills were clearly mutually amplifying. I don’t think any of my final presentations in school were nearly as resolved, nor presented so beautifully.

The jury and students met after the review to discuss more general observations, when I explained that the biggest surprise of the day for me, to wit, was the generally tangential treatment that sustainability received in the solutions. There were the typical gestures to ventilation, the movement of the sun, or attempts to co-locate hot and cold functions in the sake factory, but overall the sustainability challenge received much the same treatment that might have been given if the brief had had a building code requirement—it was considered somehow adjacent to the central problems of the Design with a big “D.” I was reminded of a statement made by one of my professors, Vincent Scully, when I asked him about the importance of “solar architecture,” a design approach popular in the 1970s: “Oh, that’s just plumbing.”

Somehow the digital facility applied to solving the context, planning, massing, and compositional challenges of the brief was nowhere apparent in answering questions of sustainability. A wide array of computational analytical tools is easily available to today’s students, ranging from various Rhino-based Grasshopper scripts, through Energy Plus, to Impact Infrastructure’s AutoCASE. It may be that Patrick and Andy will press this particular part of the pedagogical agenda later in the term. If so, our students would benefit from the advice of juror Michelle Addington, Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University School of Architecture, who suggested that the tyranny of the sustainable checklist (such as LEED or BREAM) should lead to choosing a single important green strategy, and making sure that it’s accomplished well. The tools are certainly there to do so.

This seems a reasonable teaching strategy if combined with another requirement: demonstrable outcomes of that given green approach. Today’s digital design tools provide vivid answers to design questions of composition, drawing clarity, senses of three-dimensional space. Analytical algorithms that evaluate the quantitative results of a scheme are the “renderings” of sustainability, with hard and fast results. While those results may be only approximations as a design evolves, they are also a measure of sustainable success or failure. And learning to deliver those results in concert with a skillful design prepares these same students to make the demonstrable value arguments that future practice will demand. This will be a central theme of some of my subsequent columns.

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New York Values

NYCHA’s new guidelines for rehabilitation of public housing push for sustainability and preservation

Who knew the launch of a document about putting new rooftops on old buildings, raising boilers above flood levels, and updating kitchens and bathrooms in municipal housing would be the East Coast elite’s hottest ticket in town? The release of New York City Public Housing Authority’s Design Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Residential Buildings had to turn away dozens of attendees to its January 12th panel packing three stories at the AIA’s Center for Architecture.

Part of the reason for the overflow crowd may be the sheer number of partners, collaborators, and offices involved. Led by the agency’s Office of Design, the Design Guidelines implicated its Capital Projects and Energy & Sustainability divisions, affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), the AIA’s Design for Aging and Housing Committees, participants in NYCHA’s Design Excellence program, including Andrew Bernheimer, Domingo Gonzalez, and Claire Weisz, and dozens of maintenance staff members and residents.

Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Jae Shin served as embedded coordinator of many of these conversations within the agency and co-edited the guidelines. “She really helped facilitate a lot of the internal discussions that we had with our various groups at NYCHA as well as external partners,” said Bruce Eisenberg, deputy director of NYCHA’s Office of Design, who spearheaded the project. “We really wanted to make it a very interactive process.”

Produced in collaboration with ECP and supported by a $100,000 grant from Deutsche Bank, the Design Guidelines belong to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s NextGeneration NYCHA, a 10-year agenda to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of America’s largest and most successful public housing agency.

“This will impact all of our capital projects,” Eisenberg said. “We have a five-year plan of scheduled projects, and so we really wanted to raise the bar of design in how we execute them. This is a roadmap to enable us to do that.” It has implications for a vast and practically unending scope of work. If fully funded, renovation of NYCHA projects, which comprise 2,500 acres in 328 complexes containing 125,000 units and serving more than 400,000 residents, would require $17 billion in current capital costs. Allocations over the next three years amount to $784.4 million from the city’s budget.

In some parts, the Design Guidelines formalize the standards employed in recent capital projects, such as the exterior lighting installed at Castle Hill and Butler Houses in the Bronx, which replaces the dim yellow light of old with nearly 1,000 bright and energy-efficient LED fixtures to improve public safety. In other outdoor areas, the guidelines aim to reduce metal fencing around grass and add amenities to create more active and healthy spaces. They take cues from the guidelines set forth by the Center For Active Design, while encouraging visual sight lines. In-progress projects like KPF and Olin’s landscapes for Red Hook Houses—funded as part of the post-Sandy $3 billion FEMA recovery grant—indicate a High Line–like attention to detail.

“We’re starting to be more aspirational in that area,” Eisenberg said. “We’re looking to make our open spaces more attractive and useful to our residents and the community at large.”

NYCHA’s push toward environmental sustainability nudges projects to install subsurface infiltration systems, sidewalk bioswales, and porous pavers rather than asphalt to limit stormwater overflow and heat sinks. Pilot projects in Bronx River Houses, Hope Gardens, and Seth Low Houses will slow stormwater, while the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx will contain the city’s largest green infrastructure installation. For other areas vulnerable to stormwater rise, the guidelines recommend concrete retaining walls to double as seating, like the floodwalls as wood-clad benches by Nelligan White Architects in Baruch Houses below the Williamsburg Bridge.

At Sotomayor Houses, NYCHA will begin installing the new standards for kitchens and bathrooms later this year, expanding cabinet space and adding accessible grab bars and sinks. That is, after the roofing is done: Mayor de Blasio has dedicated $100 million annually to roofs alone for the next two years, recently supplemented by another $1 billion over 10 years. Upgrading the troublesome low- or no-slope roofs of its modern-era buildings is NYCHA’s biggest capital projects burden.

The Design Guidelines’ release landed on the same day as nomination hearings for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, adding a collective spirit of defiance to talk of preserving the country’s largest public housing agency. The De Blasio administration vows to press on, regardless of the new administration’s priorities, which appear to involve gutting all federal agencies the President’s cronies cannot use for profiteering.

“We have a 10-year strategic plan NextGeneration NYCHA that’s not a kitchen sink plan; it’s very specific, and we’re moving forward,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, director of NYCHA’s Office for Public/Private Partnerships and president of newly formed Fund for Public Housing nonprofit, which coordinated privatesector grants for the guidelines. “We don’t know what the policy priorities will be, but we know what New Yorkers’ priorities are, so we are moving forward with that plan, because it’s the best investment in public housing in New York City.”

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Not Your Grandad's Passive Design

Passive-Aggressive design: When sustainability radically shapes architecture

This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Diagram

The promise of architecturally considered, environmentally conscious buildings that are more than exercises in technological prosthetics is taking shape around the world. Sustainable design can be achieved without subjugating space, form, experience, and aesthetics, concepts that often end up subservient to green concerns. Even offices are moving beyond the often-gauche addition of solar panels and sun shades to typical building typologies. To do so, form is playing an important role in achieving sustainability goals, and a new crop of spatially and formally exuberant projects is being realized. The result is a series of buildings that neither perform—or look—like anything we have seen before.

Perhaps the best test of a project’s sustainability aspirations is an extreme climate. Drastic temperature changes, remote locales, and inhospitable landscapes call for more than technological gadgetry to produce even a habitable project. Deserts in particular present challenges that push conventional designs to their limits. When New York firm WORKac began designing a guesthouse in southern Arizona with the goal of being completely off the grid, it looked to the southwest Earthship typology to start. Earthships are passive solar homes that use a combination of natural and upcycled materials embedded in the earth to create a thermal mass that keeps their interiors cool during the day and warm at night. WORKac took some of these concepts and elevated them into a unique architectural form. A simple diagram, the heart of the project is an adobe brick mass, upon which airy living spaces are cantilevered above the ground.

New York–based MOS Architects engaged the desert climate in its Museum of Outdoor Arts Element House. A guesthouse and visitor center for the Star Axis land art project by the artist Charles Ross, the project hovers just above the New Mexico desert on stout concrete piers. The house, designed to be off the grid, is built out of prefabricated structural insulated panels. By distilling the project down to its basic architectural components, a theme among many MOS projects, a clear yet expressive geometric system governs its overall shape. Rather than a central hearth, a series of modules each has its own solar chimney. The result is a naturally lit interior without excessive glazing to increase solar gain. A reflective aluminum shingle cladding counters even more of the sun’s intense rays while also playing visual games with the overall form. Views out of the project are captured through deeply inset operable glass walls at the ends of each module. The only typical sustainable technology visible is a solar array folly, situated just a few yards from the building.

On the other side of the world in another desert climate, Zaha Hadid Architects supersized its sustainable efforts. The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) was founded in 2010 by its namesake as an independent, nonprofit research institution to investigate the future of energy economics and technology. KAPSARC will bring together researchers and scientists from 20 nations into one planned community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Currently under construction, KAPSARC will become the main building of the campus, while formally being a campus within itself. An aggregation of six-sided plant-cell-shaped spaces, the project is a series of conditioned and unconditioned laboratories, conference rooms, lecture halls, and courtyards. Thanks to the office’s mastery of parametricism, angles, openings, and surfaces are cleverly utilized to manipulate sunlight, blocking it or allowing it into the advantage of the occupants. The modules also permit future expansion while maintaining the overall form and performance. The complex interlocking forms, and green-water-filled courtyards passively cooling surrounding spaces, echo traditional Arab courtyards buildings.

While designers strive to capture and control sunlight in the desert, in more northern climates it can be a scarce resource that is protected by code. In a city like Toronto, which averages six months of regular snowfall, new buildings can be required to allow sunlight to hit the sidewalk for portions of the day. For large projects like Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) King Street development, sunlight, views, and greenspace were calculated using the latest in super-computer simulation modeling. Though the pixelated project will resemble the early diagram-driven ones from Ingels’s days with PLOT, such as the Mountain Dwelling project, King Street will be undeniably more complex. Within BIG, a smaller studio called BIG Ideas works in collaboration with Microsoft to develop predictive modeling tools for direct use by the designers. “All of the hill heights are determined by the sun and site,” Jakob Lange, BIG partner, explained. “Big Ideas created a tool for the design team to use to generate the formation of the hills. On the sidewalk, you need at least a certain amount of sunlight. The only way you can do that is to have a machine that can test every point.” The result is a seemingly haphazard stack of blocks that allow copious light and air into each unit and terrace, as well to streets and public courtyards. 

Whether through high-tech computer modeling or low-tech desert vernacular, passive sustainable design is turning a corner. No longer an afterthought, environmental considerations have stopped holding projects visually captive. With improved agency, architects are striking a delicate balance between formal, spatial experience and sustainable considerations.

—Matthew Messner

Envelope

Be aggressive and show off your passive sustainability strategy facade first.

Bates Masi Architects’ Amagansett Dunes home, a modest cottage a few hundred feet from the ocean on the South Shore of Long Island, is covered on its east and west sides with operable glass. Different-sized adjustable openings create a pressure differential that promotes natural ventilation. To modulate light through these surfaces, the firm installed canvas louvers that admit cool breezes in the summer and block cold winds in the winter.

Each tapered louver is cut from one piece of canvas and wrapped around a powdered aluminum frame, its riveted strips slightly twisted to increase their transparency. The canvas pattern, which was developed through several digital and physical models, casts dappled light and dramatic shadows throughout the house and creates a lantern effect at night.

Another dramatic facade is located at Carrier Johnson + Culture’s Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The concrete project has achieved LEED Gold certification through a number of sustainable solutions—from drought-resistant landscaping to smart solar orientation—and is lined with a curved, south-facing stainless-steel screen that reflects solar heat while allowing in natural light. A concrete roof overhang provides additional shading for the building and an adjacent outdoor walkway serves both as a pedestrian connector and a sort of double-layered facade. A new public plaza fronts the other side of the wall.

The wall’s staggered, water-jet-cut steel panels are unique: Each one contains a gap to allow air and views and is connected to a series of steel posts. The screen’s design makes subtle references to the religious campus, employing alpha and omega symbols, images from the cosmos, and other abstract references. “It’s both an art piece and an environmental wall,” Carrier Johnson + Culture’s design principal Ray Varela said.

Halfway around the world in Tehran, Iran, Admun Design and Construction created a memorable brick facade that shields the hot sun, encourages natural ventilation, and provides privacy while allowing limited, interesting patterns of light. Inspired by the surrounding neighborhood buildings and the city’s chaotic skyline, the facade is composed of variously rotated bricks with varied apertures. The openings change size based on the views, sun angles, and external distractions. Mortar was removed by punching the bricks, and the scheme was designed using parametric software. The process was carried out by the builders through a simple coding system. A ledge was placed in the gap between the brick membrane and the outer edge to provide space for flower boxes and to give cleaning access to the windows from outside. Balconies were placed behind the brick facade.

Indeed, low-tech solutions are becoming new again, but with a clever technological twist.

—Sam Lubell

Material

Is it possible for sustainable systems to be both high- and low-tech at the same time? That’s the question architects are answering with a resounding “Yes,” thanks to advanced, but somehow simple, passive strategies that rely on new materials. One of the most publicized solutions is New York–based raad studio’s Lowline Lab, a heavily planted public space—still early in development—that will be located in a historic trolley terminal under the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

In order to bring natural light into the space, the team is using what they call a “remote skylight,” in which sunlight passes through a glass shield to a parabolic collector, where it’s reflected and gathered at one focal point, then transmitted onto a “solar canopy,” a reflective surface underground. The technology transmits the necessary light wavelengths to enable plants and trees to grow in the underground space. A motorized optical system (likely to be powered by photovoltaics) tracks maximum sunlight throughout the day, and the solar canopy carefully distributes light evenly throughout the space.

Raad principal James Ramsey likened the system, which uses a series of relay lenses and mirrors, to both a telescope and a plumbing system. “You’ve almost treated the light as if you’ve turned it into a liquid,” he said. “It’s only geometry. That kind of simplicity is very efficient, and there’s something elegant about that.” All these technologies, added Ramsey, are still in development, so a specific system has not been finalized. He hopes to have it nailed down in the next couple of years.

French firm studioMilou’s reimagining of the National Gallery in Singapore consists of a roof and “veil” that unite two renovated historic buildings while creating a new courtyard. It’s another passive wonder that draws even, dappled light and keeps the buildings and their new public space cool. It mimics one of the oldest systems in the universe: a tree, with its thousands of branches stemming outward. The veil starts above the existing buildings and swoops down around them, filtering and softening natural light through thousands of laminated fritted glass and perforated aluminum panels, creating a filigree structure that also marks the new main entrance. All is supported by large aluminum columns, which effectively serve as tree trunks.

The goal, the French architects said, is for the roof and veil to resemble a handcrafted rattan tapestry. To execute the simple but complex form, the firm scanned the entire space and created a detailed 3-D model, working the roof and veil into the complex geometries of the space and even adjusting panels to fit and avoid the existing facade cornices. Each aluminum panel (chosen for its light weight and rust resistance) can be removed if maintenance is needed.

Meanwhile, Phoenix-based Wendell Burnette Architects’ (WBA) Desert Courtyard House uses a simple, reductive system to create a memorable space in a Sonoran Desert community near Phoenix while also being naturally sustainable. The house, which wraps around a courtyard containing volcanic rock, Saguaro cacti, and desert trees, is located in a low-lying area. It consists of about eight percent locally sourced cement (constituting the raised base) and 92 percent rammed earth excavated from the site. All of the extracted soil was used for the thick walls—none was taken away from the site and none was imported from elsewhere. The peripheral walls range from 3.5 to 18 inches thick, their high thermal mass keeping the home cool—although air conditioning can be used on particularly hot days. Another natural cooling system is the folded, wood-framed Cor-ten steel roof, which conducts heat up and out, creating a chimney effect.

The heavy, almost cave-like palette continues throughout the house, creating a unique aesthetic that Burnette said “feels ancient, primal, and modern at the same time.” He added, “You experience this as a shelter in a very elemental way.”

—Sam Lubell

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typologyMOS Architects' Michael Meredith on sustainability, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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Fresh Perspective

AN interviews Michael Meredith of MOS Architects on sustainability

 This article is part of  The Architect’s Newspaper’s “Passive Aggressive” feature on passive design strategies. Not to be confused with “Passivhaus” or “Passive House” certification, passive design strategies such as solar chimneys, trombe walls, solar orientation, and overhangs, rely on scheme rather than technology to respond to their environmental contexts. Today, architects are more concerned with sustainability than ever, and new takes on old passive techniques are not only responsible, but can produce architecture that expresses sustainable features through formal exuberance. We call it “passive-aggressive.” In this feature, we examine three components—diagram, envelope, and material—where designers are marrying form and performance. We also look back at the unexpected history of passive-aggressive architecture, talk with passive-aggressive architects, and check out a passive-aggressive house. More “Passive Aggressive” articles are listed at the bottom of the page!

Michael Meredith is a founding co-principal of MOS Architects, whose work connects the rigor of American formalism with 21st-century biopolitics.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How does sustainability affect form?

Michael Meredith: I would say that in the last few years, formalism went from geometry-as-god to performance-as-god. If Eisenman would say, “The logic of geometry made me do it,” today people would say, “The sun angles made me do it.” It’s a narrative that played out in schools, at least.

What kind of passive design strategies do you use?

Well, a lot of our projects use the chimney effect. We love chimneys, we even gave a lecture on it. The Element House is maybe the most explicit. It is totally off the grid and has about 12 inches of insulation.

But we also implemented it in the Ordos house in 2005, as well as After Party, our MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program installation in 2008, and some of our other more recent house proposals. It’s one of the most basic units of architecture and acts as a catalyst for both performance and form without a lot of effort, and to great effect.

How do you see sustainability today?

Sustainability has become the new default. It is hard to find anyone who says they aren’t sustainable, although that would be interesting. Nobody would say they’re not sustainable, it’s like saying they’re against ADA. It’s just a requirement nowadays. Maybe we should make a bigger deal about it, we don’t really sell the sustainability thing like some other offices would, but we do use it.

For more “Passive Aggressive” articles, explore: our feature article that features projects from across the world, Bjarke Ingels Group’s own tech-driven think tank, how WORKac’s Arizona House revives the super sustainable Earthship typology, and our brief, unofficial history of recent passive-aggressive design.

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Snøhetta SF

Craig Dykers and Nic Rader on nature, architecture, sustainability, and everything in between

Recently Gregory Hurcomb sat down with Craig Dykers and Nic Rader of internationally-based Snøhetta to discuss some of their latest projects on the boards in the San Francisco office. Given the new SFMOMA, Hurcomb wanted to consider how they were moving forward with new and dynamic proposals that help rethink architecture’s relationship with landscape, nature, the public, and sustainability. As the firm often looks to engage the user in compelling ways through the use of vast spaces located somewhere between landscape and architecture, how do they work to create these places and think about the ever-evolving hand of the designer in relationship to the world’s ever-shifting environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Is there something new on the boards here in San Francisco?

Nicolas Rader: We have a project on the corner of Market Street and Van Ness, right near the office, in the heart of the downtown area. We’re working with a great client called Build, Inc., who does a lot of work and is very well respected in San Francisco. It’s a very ambitious project, a 40-story condominium tower, but to us, the most interesting part is the proposal to close down part of Oak Street where it meets Van Ness to create a new public plaza. Of course, the client has an interest in the tower, but they also really want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. It will provide an amenity that is really fantastic for the city overall.

Is the general plan to make it more pedestrianized?

NR: Yes, more pedestrianized. There will be some artistic wind canopies in the plaza as well. The intersection is incredibly windy and can be so strong that it often knocks people over. We’re currently working with engineers to figure out the structural optimization for those.

How would you say the firm approaches the idea of land and the natural? For the project here in San Francisco, we could consider the artistic wind canopies and look at wind as a natural phenomenon pushing against us. How does that connect to your design process?

Craig Dykers: Many people misunderstand our relationship with landscape. I think many people naturally assume that our work is to merge things together, to merge architecture and landscape and vice-versa. While that does occur on some projects, there are other projects where merging is the opposite of what we want to do. Sometimes you want to push back against nature. The more important issue is having a dialogue, and that is where we always begin. We always want to find out what the relationship of a condition is to a project. That could mean merging things, or it could mean ignoring them or to make a point, just so long as the dialogue exists. In that sense there is a character of understanding the invisible as well as the visible. Some of the context might be things that you can’t see: cultural context, psychological context, driven by things beyond the nature of sight, or the place itself. In addition, we do quite a good deal of branding and graphic design work as well. With identity creation, we also like to get physical, so that even our branding work very directly connects you to a place. For example, we most recently designed Norway’s new bank notes, which speak to the Norwegian coastal landscape.

Building on the connection between architecture and landscape, what would you say is your design approach? Is it cultural from the beginning, or is it more specific to the job and the client?

CD: We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as tailors but there is a certain degree of that involved.  Our projects often begin with conversations about what people might find valuable. Sometimes those conversations are internal among the design team; sometimes they are external. We often go out and talk to people in the community surrounding the site. We’ve begun many projects by interviewing people on the street. It’s always a little embarrassing to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to speak into a microphone when you’re not a TV or media journalist, but it’s important for us to hear what they have to say. We also work closely with specialists to hear what they think and we try to create something that is built around all of those understandings. Now that doesn’t mean that if someone says this we say the same thing back. We’re not just a sponge. We also have our own ideas and ways of seeing things. And that is the core of how a project begins: can we create something that is surprising and familiar at the same time?

NR: We often approach a project with questions, even if we think we know the answers. Certainly, we contribute some answers but we gather as much information from others as we can just to get a more holistic view. Then, we apply critical filters to it to better understand the best solution.

CD: Many architects today rely on a form of abstraction in their research. Mapping technologies and other ways of analyzing information are very interesting to us. But our work is always grounded in a more intuitive understanding, and a less abstract way of manipulating knowledge.

What does sustainability mean to the firm?

CD: Well, there are many types of sustainability: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, environmental sustainability, and one of the things that we like to talk about is intellectual sustainability. How can we expect to manage nature if we can’t manage human nature? Human nature, emotions, and perspectives are all somewhat out of our control. You just have to pick up the newspaper to see all of the rivalries and polarity that exists in the world. Our work tries to create a sense of intellectual capacity through socialization. A kind of social interaction that builds awareness that will help people commit to other, more direct forms of sustainability, like environmental sustainability.

NR: In a way, I often think it’s sort of dangerous even to talk about sustainability because it’s something that should be inherent in practice and in discourse. By calling it out as something special or something separate assumes that some people choose to ignore it, which in itself is a problem. My approach is a little bit different because I don’t sit here and talk about sustainability. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘green’, or even talk about intellectual sustainability, but it’s something that I try to integrate into the way that I think and practice.

Well I bring it up mainly because I think because it is a somewhat contentious word these days, and possibly always, because there is a movement that is associated with “green” architecture. One of the noteworthy aspects about Snøhetta for me is an inherent ecological awareness and a certain connection to the earth in your projects.

NR: What I appreciate about our work and our approach is that we’re not known as “sustainability architects” or “sustainability designers.” It’s embedded so deeply into our design that there is an assumption—and a genuinely accurate assumption—that it’s just there.

CD: What you’re saying is really important. I think many people who are working with this mindset have sort of marginalized themselves. They’ve said, well, we’re not like those people over there, we’re like these people over here, and you’re either one of us or one of them. And I don’t think that’s healthy.

In some regards perhaps it is too isolationist of a stance. We’ve created a camp or a group and we’re just over there talking amongst ourselves with this singular set of concerns, these particular thoughts and ideas.

CD: And then the conversation becomes, “if it doesn’t look environmentally sustainable then it can’t possibly be,” or “if it looks good then it can’t possibly be environmentally sustainable.” Or more often, it goes in the other direction, where someone says it’s ugly, therefore it must be environmentally friendly. And on that note, I’d like to consider the notion of interactivity and the promotion of diversity in architecture. I think it does have a very large impact eventually on how we function as a society in dealing with very large complex issues, like the environmental conditions of the earth we live on. You won’t be able to solve it one building at a time, although that helps. But you also have to create a condition where people start to think differently about who they are when they walk through a city, or when they walk into a building. They are thinking about their place in this wider world that we all live in…and that is where intellectual sustainability supports environmental sustainability.

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Video> Douglas Durst on affordable housing, sustainability and developing New York City
This Fall, I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat‘s awards ceremony in Chicago. Among the many architects, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Douglas Durst, head of The Durst Organization, a family-run real estate empire established in New York City 100 years ago. He was there to accept the Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAlxwBgzAio We talked about developers' role in promoting affordable housing, neighborhood development and sustainability. “When people build these high-income, expensive buildings, they should be forced to contribute also to low-income construction, which will bring down the cost of land and make it possible to do rental housing,” said Durst, noting that developers of condominiums are currently exempt from New York's “80/20” housing program. Watch the full video interview embedded from YouTube on this page, or on CTBUH’s website, where you can find the rest of the videos in the series.
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Perkins+Will Builds a Sustainability Beacon

Building technology research center features wood, integrated photovoltaics, and green wall.

When John Robinson began formulating a vision for the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), he did not start small. Robinson, who is responsible for integrating academic and operational sustainability at the university's Vancouver campus, dreamed of constructing the most sustainable building in North America, a monument to and testing ground for energy-generating strategies. Invited to join the project in 2001, architects Perkins+Will sought an approach combining passive design and innovative technology. Featuring a facade of locally manufactured wood panels, high performance glazing, solar shading with integrated photovoltaics, and a green wall sunscreen, CIRS is a living laboratory for the research and practice of sustainable design. The initial concept for the building included 22 goals centered on three themes, explained Perkins+Will's Jana Foit. First, CIRS was to have a net positive environmental impact. In addition, the structure was designed to provide an adaptive, healthy, and socially generative workplace for researchers, staff, and students. Third, CIRS would utilize smart building technologies for real-time user feedback and testing. The building envelope was a critical component of the project's overall environmental strategy on both conceptual and practical levels. "The overarching design idea is to communicate sustainability, to make it visible and apparent," said Foit. In terms of pragmatics, the architects focused on reducing heat gain and providing 100 percent daylighting to the interiors.
  • Facade Manufacturer Silva Panel (rain screen), Kawneer (curtain wall), Green Screen (vegetated screen), Solarity (PV panels)
  • Architects Perkins+Will
  • Facade Installer Heatherbrae Builders (rain screen), Glastech (curtain wall)
  • Facade Consultant Morrison Herschfield
  • Location Vancouver, BC
  • Date of Completion 2011
  • System wood rain screen, fixed sunshades with integrated PVs, green wall, high-performance glazing
  • Products Multiple Ply Cedar Panels from Silva Panel, Kawneer glazing, Green Screen vegetated screen, Solarity PVs
To reduce solar gain, Perkins+Will reduced the window area from the current code of 40 percent maximum to 31 percent. They installed fixed and operable triple-glazed windows on the ground floor, and fixed and operable double-glazed windows above. For cladding, the architects selected Multiple Ply Cedar Panels from locally-developed Silva Panel—one of the first solid wood products designed for rain screen application. "The exterior panels were detailed and designed to be removable, to allow for material testing and research," said Foit. CIRS' two-pronged solar shading program includes a network of fixed shades with integrated photovoltaics and a green wall. The former results in 24,427 kilowatt-hours per year in energy savings. The architects designed the green wall, meanwhile, to protect the west-facing atrium, which lacks a mechanical heating or cooling system. Together with a combination of solid spandrel and vision glass, the living screen achieves 50 percent shade during the warmer months. "The plants are chocolate vines, which lose their leaves in winter, allowing passive heat gain into the building," explained Foit. "In the summer, when the vines are in full bloom, the leaves provide shading for the atrium." In an important sense, the CIRS story did not conclude once construction was complete in 2011. Rather, the proof of CIRS' value as a demonstration tool is in its ongoing operations. The building returns an impressive 600 megawatt-hours of surplus energy to the UBC campus each year—and continues to rack up sustainability prizes, including the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada's 2015 Green Building Award. But perhaps more importantly, thanks to publicly available performance data and a "lessons learned" document compiled by UBC, CIRS has fulfilled Robinson's dream of promoting green design through the construction of a transparent, replicable model.
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Architects in Barcelona are remaking this tired, old bridge into a glow-in-the-dark, smog-eating sustainability machine
Spanish architecture studio BCQ recently announced plans to upgrade the arterial Sarajevo Bridge in Barcelona to be self-cleaning, smog-eating, and boast hanging gardens to boot. The Barcelona City Council commissioned the firm to improve the pedestrian experience through better lighting and air quality. First, a layer of photocatalytic concrete will replace the existing surface. This self-cleaning material neutralizes air pollutants by absorbing nitrogen oxides and converting them into harmless substances, and can also be applied to white or gray cement. All pollution removed will be simply washed away by the rain, guaranteeing a self-sustaining method that is environmentally non-invasive. This same technology will be modeled in the Italian pavilion at the upcoming Milan Expo 2015. Reminiscent of the glowing roads currently being trialled in the Netherlands, the bridge will harness glow-in-the-dark phosphorescence using photoluminescent glow stones to provide ambient light. Non-toxic and non-radioactive, the stones absorb solar energy during the day, which they slowly metabolize by night. BCQ will also mount photovoltaic solar panels to power low-energy LED lighting fixtures. Meanwhile, the area will be vegetated by green walls and pergolas covered in climbing plants. “It enables better interaction between pedestrians and vehicles, provides the space with vegetated arcades and changes the image of the bridge to distinguish it as one of the gates of Barcelona,” the architects said. As the gateway linking traffic from the north to the Catalonian capital, and spanning the Avinguda Meridiana, a major avenue, the dual carriageway will become a hoped-for meeting point between the two Trinitat neighborhoods.
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FXFOWLE broke ground on this sustainability seeking Long Island City high-rise on Earth Day
A new tower designed by FXFowle will bring a touch of design to Long Island City’s ever-growing skyline of glassy and generic residential buildings. For starters, the 35-story luxury rental tower is differentiated by a rust-colored steel that encases the podium and runs up its sides, framing three glassy expanses. Yes, there is still a lot of glass on this one too, but FXFOWLE said the building is inspired by the area's “original industrial heritage and its new position as a fresh and modern NYC locale.” The profile of the building, with three stacked volumes, reminds us of Chad Oppenheim's Williamsburg Hotel project proposed a few years ago in Brooklyn. The designers and developers of the Purves Street Residential Development are also quick to point out the project's sustainable features. To hit LEED Silver certification, the tower's podium will be covered in an expansive green roof and common areas will be partially powered by solar and wind energy that is created on-site. In renderings, it is easy to spot a helix-shaped windmill on top of the building. But as the New York Times explained last year, the impact of these types of  windmills that are now appearing across New York City can be pretty mixed. Inside the Long Island City building, the apartments and amenity spaces (of which there are many—in fact, there is a separate “amenity building”) are decked out with industrial materials like concrete and steel, alongside lots of wood. The building broke ground, not coincidentally, on Earth Day and is expected to be completed in two years.