In Boston, a booming job market is drawing people back from far-flung suburbs and remaking the region, but it is also exacerbating a housing-affordability crisis and forcing difficult conversations about the future of the city. Greater Boston is riding a wave of development that is perhaps the largest the region has ever seen. By 2030, the city of Boston projects its population will top 700,000, a number it has not seen in 60 years. “The vast majority of our growth is happening in the inner core of the Boston region, so within the city of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, and in some of the other municipalities within the Route 128 corridor,” said Eric Bourassa, director of the transportation division at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). “This is a trend we’ve been seeing over the past decade, and we’re just predicting more of this growth.” The MAPC is in the process of updating the 30-year plan it released in 2008, highlighting housing, sustainability, and transportation. Another regional planning group, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, is updating its periodic long-range regional transportation plan. But change is happening quicker than the region’s existing plans can reflect. Data from the MAPC shows the region added more than 225,000 jobs between 2009 and 2015, and nearly two-thirds of them were in those inner-core cities. In July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Boston’s non-farm employment rose 2.1 percent compared to the previous year, outpacing the national rate of 1.5 percent. The engines of that growth are Greater Boston’s dozens of colleges and universities, and the biotech industry that grew out of them in the 1970s. Biotech turned Cambridge’s Kendall Square from an undeveloped urban frontier into a regional hub home to the highest concentration of biotech companies in the world, but many migrated to the area around Route 128 during the 1980s and ’90s to build suburban campuses. Today some of the same genetic engineering startups that began that transformation, like Biogen, are reinvesting in Boston and Cambridge. That trend is likely to continue. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently announced his plans to put another $500 million into the life-sciences industry over the next five years. In addition to Kendall Square, the South Boston Waterfront—better known as the Seaport—has gathered a growing share of those new jobs in a growing portfolio of pricey office developments and luxury condos. Many suburbs are also becoming more dense. Needham, Natick, and Framingham are among the further-out cities developing around commuter rail stations in their downtowns. Two areas of Somerville are undergoing massive redevelopments tied to public transit, as well: Assembly Square, which recently landed the new offices of the state’s largest private employer, Partners Healthcare; and Union Square, which is preparing for major changes ahead of getting the first new MBTA train stop in decades. Matthew Littell is principal of the Boston design firm Utile, which is working on the Cambridge Master Plan, and was a lead consultant on Imagine Boston 2030, Boston’s first citywide plan in 50 years. His firm analyzed demographic patterns in the region and found that younger employees in industries like tech tended to cluster around the inner-core cities and neighborhoods where they worked, compared to Boston’s bankers and lawyers, who still generally preferred houses in the suburbs. Littell pointed to Autodesk’s decision to supplement its office space in the suburban Route 128 corridor with a new space in the Seaport. “That’s a classic example, and the only reason these companies are moving is to attract and retain talent,” he said. “The young, smart folks don’t want to be out in Framingham or Waltham. They want to be in downtown Boston or Kendall Square or somewhere like that.” MAPC socioeconomic analyst Sarah Philbrick agreed that young people are flocking to the inner-core cities in search of walkable neighborhoods and city life, and businesses are following them. “Businesses want to attract these workers and therefore decide to locate in highly desirable locations,” Philbrick said. “I don’t believe many businesses would pay the high rents of the core if this were not the case.” Real estate is booming along with the regional job market, but housing is coming up short, and local business leaders worry that could hobble their ability to attract top talent. Finding enough skilled employees is already an issue in a state with one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates—soaring housing costs could drive away would-be residents. “We just we don’t have enough housing to meet the demand,” said Bourassa, “and so we lose a lot of young professionals who can’t afford to live here.” The MAPC estimates only about two-thirds of the region’s housing needs are being met. Some worry that could lead to long-term stagnation or brain drain away from Greater Boston. “I have a real question about how sustainable this rental housing boom is actually going to be in the long term,” said David Hacin, principal of Hacin + Associates. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand here, but it’s hard to build in the Boston area. It’s a very expensive market from a construction cost point of view, and when you combine years-long review processes with limited site opportunities because it’s a mature market, you run into problems of affordability.” The City of Boston said it’s trying to address that problem. Mayor Marty Walsh has pledged 53,000 new housing units as part of a new housing plan—a sizable effort that may have contributed to median rent in the inner-core cities dropping for the first time since at least 2009. Still, Barry Bluestone, professor of political economy at Northeastern University and lead author of the Boston Foundation’s Housing Report Card, estimates the region needs around 160,000 new housing units by 2030. So far statistics show that efforts to ease the housing crunch are having mixed results. The pace of new housing construction in the same inner-core cities seeing the most population growth has slowed lately, according to the Foundation’s report card, published in November. In its report, the Boston Foundation found that the City of Boston has issued more than 41 percent of the new housing permits in the region this year, almost double its share five years ago. But fewer than one in five new units put on the market since 2011 were affordable, less than half the rate seen between 1996 and 2003. Meanwhile, the number of permits issued outside the city of Boston declined this year, while more than half of renters reported paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the report. The region’s recent growth spurt may be making that problem more severe, but it should not come as a surprise, said Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Population growth is contributing to some of the congestion and growth pressure being experienced in Greater Boston,” said Goodman. “But our transportation and housing issues are primarily the result of inadequate infrastructure investment and counterproductive zoning regulations which limit new housing development.” With more people and corporations calling Boston home, housing advocates are calling on local governments to direct the benefits of a growing tax base into more affordable housing initiatives. “Even in Boston, there continues to be a challenge of creating a housing stock that benefits working households along with everyone else who strives to live in the city,” said Barry Bluestone, lead author of the Boston Foundation’s housing report, in a statement. He recommends the creation of “21st-century villages,” defined as multistory mixed-income buildings located near public transit. In an interview, Bluestone expanded on that idea. Many communities around Boston currently prohibit accessory dwelling units and, in some cases, ban multifamily housing outright, he said. “In the past, everyone has acknowledged there’s a housing problem, but they’ve mostly looked to their neighbors to solve it,” said Bluestone. Now that the whole region’s housing market is feeling the squeeze, however, more local governments are starting to take note. On December 5, municipal leaders from 14 cities and towns in the Boston area came together to identify a regional housing goal and recommend zoning changes to help them get there. “I’ve been looking at housing for two decades, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of coordination,” said Bluestone.
Search results for "sustainability"
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Constructed adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the new Palace of Justice in Córdoba, Spain delivers a contemporary take on the traditional courtyard typology and Moorish screening techniques found throughout the city. Led by Dutch firm Mecanoo and Spain's AYESA, the 51,000-square-foot super dense project was initially awarded after a competition in 2006, and after a long delay, it was designed and built from 2014–2017. The exterior cladding is responsive to large massing blocks that accommodate deep courtyard recesses for daylight admittance. These voids in an otherwise imposing monolithic block doubly function as spatial dividers for various internal zones serving civic, judicial, administrative, and institutional spaces. The resulting semi-public patio spaces offer up an opportunity for admittance of natural light and ventilation deep into the core of the block, where a central circulation “spine” runs. The cladding strategy is precisely coordinated with the massing of the building, relying on 33 versions of white glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFC) panels, articulated with a loose grid of punched window openings and recesses in the facade for texture. The depth of this system offers solar shading at glazed openings to help buffer the building’s occupants from southern Spain’s subtropical climate. A large cantilevered entry, and numerous courtyards, assist in the self-shading strategies of the building massing. A bronze-anodized aluminum lattice composed of vertical plates and horizontal tie rods clads the courtyard walls. These screens sit outboard of various window configurations to accommodate the office program beyond. While the Córdoba city center is located south-east from the site, the building volume was condensed to create a generous ramping entrance square to the north which connects the Palace of Justice with the existing Huerta del Sordillo gardens. The building contains a courthouse with 26 courtrooms, a wedding room, a Forensic Institute, offices, a cafe, an archive, a prison, and a parking garage."One can say that the sustainability of the building is not achieved by expensive technological mechanisms but by an intelligent interpretation of the vernacular architecture," said Mecanoo, referring to the unique shaping of their building, in a press release. "The massing strategy creates urban integration through fragmentation. It follows a similar strategy to the spontaneous growth process of medieval cities resulting in a volume which is carefully sculpted to adapt to the surrounding context. This results in a puzzle-like structure which hints its process of formation and emulates the experience of the dense historical center of Córdoba." Francine Houben, a founder of Mecanoo, will be delivering a keynote presentation at The Architect's Newspaper's (AN) upcoming Facades+ New York conference, a two-day event in mid-April focused on the design and performance of the next generation of facades. More information on the conference, along with registration details, can be found at facadesplus.com.
Emerging Voices 2018
Modus Studio gets ahead by sticking to its Arkansas roots
The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Modus Studio founder Chris Baribeau will deliver his lecture on March 1st, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Modus Studio might have started in 2008 as a two-man operation in cofounder Chris Baribeau’s back office, but the firm’s expansion to 24 people and a full fabrication shop shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The office’s intensive focus on the surrounding Arkansas environment and their hands-on approach have drawn attention both inside and outside of the state. “A thinking–making philosophy really evolved out of our passions, from working through college, working on construction, working on fabrication,” explained Baribeau. “It set the tone for the rest of our professional work.” Modus is a frequent collaborator with the University of Arkansas and has designed for the school a pair of mass timber residence halls, an athletic area master plan, and, most recently, a sculpture studio— although the firm has realized nearly every type of project. Its single-family homes typically draw on the surrounding geographies and ecosystems to influence the final forms, as is the case with Van Huset on the Bluff, a stark cabin overlooking Beaver Lake, in northwest Arkansas. Educational work has a special place in the studio’s canon. Green Forest Middle School, Modus’s first project, was also the first school that either Baribeau or cofounder Josh Siebert had ever worked on. Having to leap into a new building typology meant engaging heavily with the community at every step of the school’s design and construction, an approach that has carried over to all of their projects afterward. Timber and sustainability are prominent through-lines in many of Modus’s built works, no matter the intended use. Working with timber allows the studio to harvest wood directly from the trees on-site, or if they’re not able to do so, connect with Arkansas’s timber industry. Even Modus’s Fayetteville office, a reclaimed warehouse clad in timber that was charred in the fabrication shop, is winning notice, as it was Arkansas’s only LEED Platinum– certified building in 2017. “We’re very connected to the natural world,” said Baribeau. “And being in the Ozarks, the language of the rugged mountains and valleys and rivers connects us to the outdoor world. We’re straddling this dynamic place that’s somewhere between the manmade and the natural world. Our buildings are about fitting into the landscape and drawing inspiration from the context around the site.” Modus views its location outside of the “major design cities” as a boon. Arkansas is in the process of rebuilding and infilling its urban centers, providing the studio an opportunity to experiment while allowing them to build their brand through projects that serve the community. While Modus has begun working on projects as far north as Illinois, Baribeau is most proud of the K–12 schools that the studio has designed for low-income, rural areas. “We’ve found, particularly in this region of Arkansas, how rural communities are really underserved in terms of good design. The hub of that community, their tax money, the local football team, all focuses around the public school. For us, the ongoing tilling of the soil is to raise the bar for rural communities."
University of Washington’s molecular engineering complex is now complete
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Six years after the University of Washington opened its 90,000-square-foot Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building (MolES), a new addition, the Nano Engineering and Sciences Building (NanoES), has nearly doubled the size of the complex located at the center of the University of Washington (UW) Seattle-based campus. The Seattle offices of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP (ZGF) programmed and designed the two-phased MolES and NanoES buildings, which together provide 160,000 square feet of research space in the field of interdisciplinary molecular engineering considered critical for ensuring future economic, environmental and medical health worldwide. NanoES features unique fabrication and characterization equipment to measure and manipulate molecules at the nanoscale. This second phase relies on custom-engineered products from Wausau Window and Wall Systems to achieve more stringent building and energy codes than were initially in place for phase one. An intensive three-day series of design charrettes brought together the owner, architects, general construction company, curtain wall manufacturer, and glass installer at the onset of the project. Based on the charrettes' targeted value, design goals, code requirements and LEED Silver criteria, Wausau's four-sided structurally glazed (4-SSG) unitized curtainwall system was selected for the project. "The 4-SSG unitized curtainwall was glazed and sealed in Wausau’s factory-controlled conditions. This achieved the targeted designed performance and industry-leading, 10-year warranty required for the project and for the UW campus facility plan," explained Brad Glauser, Wausau’s Northwest Territory manager. "The units were built one lite wide by one floor tall, with interlocking vertical mullions that aligned with the adjacent rain screen’s stone façade, thus creating a true continuous thermal envelope." One benefit of ZGF's integrated design approach was improved communication, which led to a reduction of Addenda, Requests For Information and Architect’s Supplemental Instructions submitted during the pre-construction and construction process. The resulting assembly of the unitized system was installed and enclosed within five weeks. Some of the curtainwall units on NanoES were up to 16 feet tall. To carefully install each unit, lift equipment hoisted each unit onto embeds at face-of-slab, where they were anchored with J-Clips. In total, more than 22,000 square feet of curtainwall were installed on the project.Integrated within the curtainwall are zero sightline project-out awning windows with both manual and motorized operators. In certain areas, windows are programmed to automatically open at night to provide natural ventilation and lessen energy load demands on the HVAC system. Complementing the high-performance curtainwall and window systems, custom, 6-inch-deep aluminum fins at vertical members and 24-inch-deep exterior sun shades were integrated into the building envelope. ZGF designed customized shadow boxes, similar to those on MolES, to add visual depth to the assembly. These elements are all protected with a two-coat "Silver Shadow" mica coating that matches the neighboring MoIES building. Linetec manufactures the resin-based liquid paint through a process that captures the materials volatile organic compounds (VOC) content using a 100 percent air capture system and safely destroys the VOCs with a regenerative thermal oxidizer. Linetec then reuses its heat energy byproduct to improve process energy efficiency. This process of reuse is completed before the material exits the paint line. "The combination of durably finished, 4-SSG unitized curtainwall and high-performance glass achieved UW's requirements," summarizes Glauser. "We exceeded the national forerunning Seattle Energy Codes, as well as UW's energy-efficiency goals with low solar heat gain coefficient, low U-Factor and high condensation resistance. At the same time, high visible light transmittance was maintained, providing occupants with access to daylight, a transparent connection to views and interior comfort. We stayed ahead of schedule and within budget. In my book, this definitely is a success story." Elaborating on this success in the Daily Journal of Commerce, ZGF's associate partner Nicole Cooper, AIA, concluded, "The strong partnership between UW and the design team, as well as a commitment to sustainability, brings the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building and the Nano Engineering and Sciences Building together to create one high-performance building that fosters a collaborative research environment for years to come."
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Located in Dublin’s historic D4 district, Eaton House serves as Eaton Corporation’s new global headquarters. It is located in an early 19th-century Georgian neighborhood containing a mix of residences, small businesses, parks, and embassies. The project occupies the site of five original terrace houses dating to 1830. A new building replaced these houses in 1970 following their demolition. This project, led by Pickard Chilton, was an extensive reuse of the existing 33,000-square-foot concrete frame structure. The architects designed the building retrofit to be of its time while respectful of its historical context, re-envisioning the exterior enclosure in linear coursed stone, clear vision glass, and handmade cast glass bricks. "One of the most important aspects of the facade design process was that this did not replicate the historical context,” said William Chilton, principal at Pickard Chilton. “The city was a great partner in this effort." The architects worked with the neighborhood community and city regulatory agencies throughout the design process to deliver the project. This involved meeting with historic oversight committees very early on in the process before a design was ever proposed. In parallel to this effort, and continuing through the design phases, the architects set regular meetings with residents in the neighborhood. Chilton said these conversations produced a healthy dialogue with the community which helped to inform the design process. "This was a very intense regulatory process, but ultimately very satisfying. The embrace of this project by the community has been particularly gratifying."Once the overall design strategy was confirmed, the design process was executed very quickly over the course of a few months. An analysis of the original terrace houses revealed the facades were organized based on the golden rectangle. The composition of the new facade works within the constraints of the existing 1970’s concrete frame while reflecting the original 19th-century terrace houses in its organization, with clear glass openings recognizing the original golden rectangle proportions. The architects realized these openings would actually decrease the amount of daylight that had been admitted into the building. To maintain their specific proportional composition, but introduce more daylight, the architects introduced cast glass into the facade composition after discovering the durable material was historically integrated into sidewalks in the neighborhood to admit daylight into basement spaces. The glass blocks were handmade to specific dimensions which coordinated with the proportions of the stone coursing dimensions so that mortar lines in the masonry facade would translate uninterrupted into the window composition. The effort led to a more open, productive work environment, improving daylight by 38 percent and helping the project to achieve a LEED-NC Gold rating. The cast glass bricks sit recessed within a secondary frame. Insulated glazing installed to the interior side of the cast glass to ensure thermal continuity without disrupting the unique hand-crafted aesthetic. The glass blocks are supported every few courses with horizontal metal rods. When looking from the interior, this tectonic assembly disappears. "An enormous amount of energy spent around the detailing to make this work,” said Ben Simmons, an associate at Pickard Chilton. “There wasn't a precedent we could look towards." MCA Architects collaborated closely with Pickard Chilton from the onset of the project to execute key exterior enclosure and glazing details like this. The materiality of the primary facade challenged conventional thinking about "historic" materials. After a mock-up comparing brick with a granite stone material, the architects convinced regulatory agencies and the owners to proceed with stone. In the spirit of the historically sensitive project, the installer worked closely with the architects on installation details focused on traditional hand-laid masonry construction craft. Metallic-coated aluminum "portal" frames offer a subtle luster to daylight reflecting off windows, adding a dynamic quality to the facade. This, paired with the sheen of a stone that resembles an iron spot brick, offers a facade that more dynamically responds throughout variable daylighting conditions. Eaton House has been recognized with four AIA awards, including an inaugural award from AIA Europe. "The project was diminutive in size, but quite significant in terms of its impact," said Chilton. "By doing this project, it really opened our eyes to the potential for this type of re-envisioning work. This was the smallest project we've ever done. It underscored our interest and commitment to seeking out projects of quality no matter the scale. If it's an interesting design problem, and the client has aspirations of quality, then we are all in."
This is the first article in a three part series documenting the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards. This lists the winners of the architecture category, while additional segments contain the winners in the interior architecture and regional & urban design categories. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the 2018 winners of the AIA Institute Honor Awards. The list contains projects from all around the world, and of varying programs and uses, and honors firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be recognized at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York City, in late June. This year's eight member jury panel included:
- Lee Becker, FAIA (Chair), Hartman-Cox Architects
- Anne Marie Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects
- Susan Johnson, AIA, Strata; Anna Jones, Assoc. AIA, MOD Design
- Caitlin Kessler, AIAS Student Representative, University of Arizona
- Merilee Meacock, AIA, KSS Architects
- Robert Miller, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
- Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation
- Rob Rogers, FAIA, Rogers Partners.
Rehabilitating Lookout Mountain’s historic "Castle in the Clouds"
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Originally built as a resort hotel, Carter Hall is a Tudor style concrete-framed stucco structure on the Covenant College campus outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Following a late-1970s recladding project, the landmark building was covered up in an effort to address ongoing moisture and thermal concerns. This rehabilitation project, led by Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent (LAS), uncovers the original building envelope, implementing a number of robust performance overhauls while rediscovering the historic architectural look of this mountaintop resort. The effort has led to the allocation of between $3.5 million and $4 million dollars in historic tax credits. With matching funds from donors, and a phased construction process that allowed the building to remain operational throughout much of the scope of work, the liberal arts college is fully debt free upon the completion of the renovations. The building opened for the 2017-18 academic year following over ten years in planning and construction. Before Covenant College was able to receive tax credits for renovations, Carter Hall had to claim a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, a list maintained by the National Parks Service. To earn this designation, the building had to be “purged” of its 1979 modifications, and converted back to its original state. Beyond facade improvements, this included restoring the original roof and building porches on the north and south ends of the building. LAS utilized extensive historical research, referencing original drawings and photographs of the building throughout the design of the project. The architects developed measured drawings in Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, which served as a foundation for the scope of work. One of the most illustrative examples of this is the crenellated tower of the building where precast concrete was introduced in parapet wall construction for durability considerations due to limited maintenance access. Four vertically-oriented high bay 2x4 LED fixtures with high lumen output were implemented into the custom top of the tower cap– a “lantern”–which was carefully reconstructed from historical drawings and photographs of the project.One of the most significant challenges of the project, according to David Steele, associate at LAS, was addressing moisture infiltration concerns with the original building envelope. After uncovering the original facade, the architects developed a multi-year, full-scale, two-story mockup process that compared the original assembly of the building against a new proprietary steel stud and stucco wall assembly. The mockups were pressurized to simulate driving rain conditions in an attempt to drive moisture into the assembly. After testing in back-to-back years and inspection throughout seasonal change, the architects were able to prove the original wall assembly met ASTM testing requirements. Previous concerns about leaks in the building were attributed to detailing at original window openings. Window units in the retrofit project paired energy efficiency with a historic look. A thermally-broken aluminum window system with insulated glazing units was specified to match original mulled configurations and divided lite styles. In this regard, the full-scale mockup process ultimately offered the project team invaluable moisture and insulation ASTM testing and feedback for window and wall detailing. The resulting wall system pairs the original clay tile infill wall with an interior furring wall which offers structural backup by means of six-inch steel studs, and an additional insulative layer to the building envelope. The exterior stucco is finished with a mineral-silicate coating that offers at 25 to 30 year lifespan. Durability and low maintenance considerations extend to the roof where a new Ludowici tile roof replaces the original tiles from the same manufacturer, which had endured 90 years of high wind and rain exposure. The project adds to a portfolio of educational and sustainable projects for the Atlanta-based architecture firm, which touts their design process as offering an “analytical approach to optimizing building performance.” Joshua Gassman, senior associate at Lord Aeck Sargent, will be speaking at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Atlanta. For more details, along with registration info, visit am.facadesplus.com. Gassman will be speaking about Lord Aeck Sargent and Miller Hull Partnership’s plans to deliver the first “Living Building” in the Southeastern United States. The 37,000-square-foot project on Georgia Tech’s campus aims to meet the International Living Future Institute’s rigorous certification. This effort supports LAS’ sustainability commitments as one of the first architecture firms in the country to adopt The 2030 Challenge, an initiative that called on the global building sector to immediately reduce energy usage by 50 percent in new buildings and major renovations in order to avoid hazardous climate change. More information about LAS Living Building efforts can be found here.
Up for the Count
Learning from the 2017 global timber tower audit
AN Midwest Editor Matthew Messner spoke with Daniel Safarik, editor for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), about its “Tall Timber: A Global Audit.” The audit documented proposed, under-construction, and built tall buildings that use mass timber as their primary structural materials. The Architect’s Newspaper: What Prompted the CTBUH to conduct an audit of timber projects around the world? Daniel Safarik: We track all kinds of tall building construction routinely for the Skyscraper Center database and for our Global News feed on our website. The first well-publicized tall timber building was Stadthaus in London, which was completed in 2009. We noticed what seemed like a spike in announcements of timber tall buildings being proposed and constructed about four years ago , and everything that has happened since has reaffirmed this impression. When we saw the buy-in from the U.S. government represented by the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition, in October 2014, that confirmed the impression that this really had momentum behind it, so we committed to tracking the two resultant projects through to completion. Unfortunately, the New York project was canceled due to market feasibility concerns, but the Portland project is now under construction. So the momentum began to build from that point, and we formed a Tall Timber working group in late 2014. The group started working on a design manual in mid-2015, and that effort has now gotten a turbo boost with the audit and the upcoming workshop at our 2017 conference, which is bringing together a lot of the key participants. Were there any interesting surprises once the information was gathered? The most striking thing was the diversity of construction methods that are being used to create these buildings, which are specific to local jurisdiction and the nature of the timber supply in each region. Of course, herein lies the difficulty of generalizing about what’s going on in tall timber worldwide, as well as coming to a consensus about classification and best practices—that is our challenge. What are some of the interesting discussions happening around mass timber? It’s encouraging to see the range of proposals, from both a stylistic and construction standpoint. The primary discussions revolve around fire safety and code, sustainability, and the feasibility of modifying fabrication techniques from mass production of stick-built single-family and platform-framed low-rise buildings to something that is workable for high-rise. What do you think the next steps are, or barriers to overcome, for mass timber to become a common building method? The foremost obstacle is local fire codes. Most fire codes prohibit wood structures from rising above five or six stories. Many codes stipulate that a building of this height must also have a concrete base, particularly if there are commercial uses on the ground floor, such as restaurants, or if there is vehicle parking, to give one to three hours of fire protection that would allow safe exiting before structural collapse. This is predicated on the assumption that wood high-rises would use platform construction, with dimensional lumber such as two by fours, beams, and joists, similar to those currently permitted. The key to mass timber’s viability as a structural material for tall buildings lies in its name. Massive wood walls and structural beams and columns comprised of engineered panels have demonstrated fire performance equal to concrete and, in some cases, superior to steel. Wood unquestionably burns, so there would be smoke issues, as with any fire, which would require proper sprinklering, pressurization, and other tactics used in tall buildings today. But mass timber has to burn through many layers before it is structurally compromised—basically it “chars” long before it collapses. As more jurisdictions come to appreciate the aesthetic, economic, and environmental advantages of tall timber, fire codes are expected to change. The second-biggest obstacle is a lack of standardization of construction materials, methods, and definitions. There are many forms of mass timber, and a wide degree of variance in approach when it comes to supporting tall timber structures. Thus, there is a range of techniques, from assemblages of highly similar panels for both floors and walls, to complex column/beam/outrigger combinations, such as are found in high-rises of steel and concrete. There are numerous proprietary systems, and the connections between elements also vary widely—often it is the location and orientation of the steel connectors between wood elements that can make all the difference in how long a structure can withstand fire or seismic action, and thus determine its feasibility under local code. Are there any proposals, speculative or real, that you are particularly excited about? I like the one we published in the CTBUH Journal for Chicago: the River Beech Tower. It would be great to see that go up in our home city.
E for Efficiency
Large New York City buildings will now post energy efficiency grades
Of all the tools designed to provoke urban compliance, the most effective, it seems, is the old-fashioned letter grade. That’s the tool New York City restaurants have to use, for instance, to communicate their health department ratings to would-be diners. Thanks to newly-passed legislation, New York is becoming the first city in the country to require that "energy grades"—A to F ratings based on federal Energy Star energy efficiency scores—be posted at the public entrances of commercial and residential buildings over 25,000 square feet. Currently, the city collects energy and water usage data on private buildings over 50,000 square feet and public buildings over 10,000 square feet and posts the results for these 11,000-plus properties online. The new rules will broaden energy reporting requirements to owners of eligible private buildings, too, and cover around 20,000 structures total. On December 19, the New York City Council passed the bill, 1632A, authored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. If the mayor signs off on the bill, its first provisions will go into effect immediately, but owners won't have to post letter grades in 2020. To get their scores, building owners will need to fill out an online assessment of their property's performance, and the results will be available in a searchable database, in addition to being posted on the building's public entrances. “As the federal government shirks its stewardship of our environment, it is up to cities to step in,” said Garodnick. Despite the US's recent withdrawal from several global sustainability pledges, the city is still aiming, per the 2015 Paris Agreement, to reduce its greenhouse emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. Efforts to do so include transitioning to a renewables-based electric grid, achieving Zero Waste landfills, and replacing fossil-fuel based heating and hot water systems with high efficiency systems. "Nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas pollution in New York City comes from buildings,” said Rory Christian, director of the New York Clean Energy Environmental Defense Fund, in a prepared statement. “Requiring large buildings to post their energy efficiency grades is a natural next step in the evolution of the city’s energy policies.”
The country’s tallest timber building wraps up in Portland
As the race heats up to demonstrate that timber is a viable alternative to concrete for mid and high-rise buildings, Portland, Oregon, has been leading the way in realizing mass timber projects. The latest to claim the country’s tallest timber building crown is Carbon12, an 85-foot tall mixed-use building in Portland, designed by PATH Architecture. Built with a mix of glulam beams and cross-laminated timber (CLT) surrounding a central steel core, the eight-story building was designed to have a minimal environmental impact and promote Oregon’s local timber industry. As downtown Portland addresses a growing demand for housing, timber projects constructed with prefabricated CLT panels cut off-site, like Carbon12, hold a speed advantage over traditional steel and concrete techniques. Carbon12 features a mix of 14 residential units, each with their own recessed balcony, as well as retail on the ground floor and a mechanized underground parking system. While the exterior is clad in vertically striated metal paneling that recalls timber grain, PATH chose to accentuate the natural materials of the interior spaces by leaving the wood columns, beams, and undersides of the CLT slabs exposed for a warmer feel. PATH’s focus on sustainability as a requirement in part drove their decision to use timber for Carbon12. Because locally grown timber can sequester more carbon dioxide than is used to grow and transport the wood, it often has a smaller carbon footprint in production than steel or concrete. Carbon12 will also feature solar panels on the roof. Although Carbon12 is currently the tallest timber building in the U.S., it won’t be for long. The 148-foot tall, 12-story Framework building, also in Portland, is shooting to take the title once it finishes in winter of 2018. Designed by LEVER Architecture and the Framework Project, Framework will feature a wood core as opposed to steel. Still, as timber buildings continue to push higher and higher, they may be paving the way for the eventual acceptance of timber as a mainstream urban construction material. Carbon12 is now fully complete and units are available on the market.
U.S. State Department releases final list of designers for worldwide embassies
Capping a search for new designers for the U.S. Department of State’s newest worldwide embassies, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), responsible for constructing and maintaining embassies, has chosen 16 firms to provide design and engineering services for U.S. facilities around the world. The winning offices are expected to provide not only new construction services, but also to renovate existing buildings. The selection process for the Worldwide Design Services Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) began with 136 initial submissions, where firms were asked to provide a package detailing their approach and design capabilities. A 26 studio shortlist was released next, and competitors were invited to provide technical qualification documents and information on completed projects, followed by in-person interviews with the OBO selection committee. After winnowing the field down, the OBO’s final selection contains some surprises, with a healthy mix of larger and smaller studios from all over the country. See the full list of winners below: Mark Cavagnero Associates SHoP Architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro Krueck & Sexton Architects Ennead Architects Richard + Bauer Architecture Morphosis Architects Robert A.M. Stern Architects Kieran Timberlake Marlon Blackwell Architects 1100 Architect Allied Works Architecture Ann Beha Architects Studio Ma The Miller Hull Partnership Machado and Silvetti Associates According to the OBO’s announcement, “The final 16 selected firms presented the most highly qualified technical teams and demonstrated exemplary past performance, strong management and project delivery experience, a well-defined approach to public architecture, and a commitment to sustainability and integrated design.” While U.S. embassies have traditionally been thought of as fortresses disconnected from the urban fabric, newer iterations of the facilities have embraced a more holistic approach, one that doesn’t shun the surrounding city. The OBO has 285 facilities around the world, with $7 billion in projects currently under construction and in the pipeline.
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When the Georgia Dome opened in 1992, its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof was considered a modern marvel, stretching more than 395,000 square feet and weighing just 68 pounds. Atlanta's domed stadium hosted an impressive roster of sporting events in its 25 years of use, including three NCAA Men's Final Fours, two decades of SEC championships, two Super Bowls, two NBA seasons and an Olympics. Today, its new sibling, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, offers perhaps more impressive engineering accomplishments and promises to draw impressive sporting events to the city. Completed in August 2017, the multi-purpose venue is officially the first LEED Platinum-certified professional sports stadium in the United States. Among other industry-leading features, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is notable for its kinetic roof structure. While other stadiums with retractable roofs must allocate additional land for the entire roof assembly to open horizontally off the stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers an innovative space-saving solution by breaking down the geometry of the roof into eight triangular petals which retract in a radial fashion. The petals are composed of three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane fabricated into air-inflated “pillows” involving more than 143,000 square feet of membrane. The lightweight material was selected for its durability and translucency. Each petal cantilevers approximately 200 feet inwards towards the center of the stadium on 16 secondary trusses which spring from four 720-feet-long primary steel trusses. This primary steel frame spans to concrete “mega-columns.” Nested within the steel framing of the oculus is the world’s largest media wall, an immersive six-foot-tall, 360-degree HD display covering over 63,000 square feet. Unrolled, the video board would stretch three football fields long. HOK worked with an integrated team of engineers from the start, coordinating information with a robust digital toolset that included digital modeling software. Custom algorithms and parametric modeling tools integrated the stadium’s complex geometrical layout with tens of thousands of pieces of information about the roof structure and its behavior and movement during various load scenarios. The project ultimately generated over 18,000 sheets of steel shop drawings, and during peak fabrication involved 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada making and delivering steel pieces simultaneously. The facade of the project is composed of insulated metal panels and a transparent ETFE facade, which has been marketed as a “window to the city” offering seamless visual connection to the surrounding context. ETFE in the wall assembly was fritted in a range of coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent in response to solar orientation. The composition of the angular wing-like wall panels abstractly reference the stadium’s National Football League team, the Atlanta Falcons. Beyond the Falcons, the stadium flexibly hosts Major League Soccer franchise, and is expandable for major events that the Georgia Dome used to host–Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four Basketball tournaments, FIFA World Cup matches, and major concerts and performances. To accomodate geometric differences between a soccer pitch and football field, lower level seats are retractable and an automated curtain system attached to the roof structure comes down to bring soccer fans close to the pitch. Several impressive planning decisions beyond the facade contributed to the stadium's LEED Platinum certification. Design elements of the building envelope which contributed to the stadium’s LEED Platinum certification include integrated rooftop solar panels, improved daylighting from use of ETFE, and passive cooling benefits from the retractable roof. Gus Drosos, technical principal of HOK's Kansas City office, said the consistency of the attachments of the ETFE system throughout the project and detailing of complex corners were specific successes of the building envelope design that offered valuable insight into working with ETFE and might carry over into future ETFE projects.Additional insight into the design and construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be offered at the upcoming Facades+ Atlanta, where a panel of architects from HOK, EcoWorks Studio, and tvsdesign will deliver presentations in a session titled, "Designing MBS: Secrets of the Mercedes Benz Stadium." For more information on the Facades+ conference series, along with registration information, visit Facades+.