All posts in Sustainability

Placeholder Alt Text

It's Going Down, We're Yelling Timber

Construction on Framework, the tallest timber tower in the U.S., has stalled
Disappointing news has come out of the woodwork this week: plans for the tallest timber building in North America have been shelved. Framework, a 12-story structure planned for downtown Portland, Oregondesigned by LEVER Architecture, was set to begin construction after receiving a building permit and a $6 million investment from the City of Portland to include 60 units of affordable housing. The developer, project^, said that inflation, escalating construction costs, and fluctuations in the tax credit market are to blame for the sudden hold. Despite massive investment, the project still had not met it’s $29 million fundraising goal as of Monday. The tower was on track to break records as the largest single use of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) in the U.S., and would have set an example for possibilities in timber structures. It would surpass the already-built Carbon12an eight-story, mass timber building also in Portland. The research and planning that went into crafting the design for Framework were considered by many to be revolutionary in the field. Anyeley Hallova, a developer with the project, acknowledged the extensive work and collaboration the Framework team has undertaken with both private entities and public agencies since the design process began in 2014. “Although beset with market challenges beyond our control, we are very proud of Framework’s achievements and the new standards we’ve established for the use of CLT in the U.S.,” Hallova said in a statement. The project was also expected to be a building block for the revival of the state’s rural timber industry. Recent political attention has surfaced on the topic as Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley pushed for a half a million dollar grant last week to be awarded to Oregon State University to study the durability of CLT. The team behind Framework was also able to advance research through a $1.5 million award which it won in the 2015 U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  
Placeholder Alt Text

Grow-Your-Own

Yale University and UN Environment design self-sufficient tiny home
Yale University and Gray Organschi Architecture have designed and built a self-sufficient tiny house for UN Environment and UN Habitat, and the building is on display in UN Plaza in Midtown Manhattan until August 11. The Ecological Living Module contains 215 square feet of occupiable interior space and carves out another 16 square feet for a rear mechanical closet. The unit uses passive lighting and moisture collection, structural cross-laminated timber (CLT), food-growing green walls, and sun-tracking solar panels to shrink both the building’s embodied energy and resource needs. According to UN Environment, housing construction worldwide uses 40 percent of all resources produced every year and accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention the conflicts being fought over rapidly dwindling materials like sand). The module was commissioned just in time for the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, to illustrate the idea that sustainable urbanization can only be accomplished if buildings minimize their contribution to climate change. The Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture and Gray Organschi worked together to design and install the module in only four weeks. The building was fabricated partially in New Haven and partially in Brooklyn and assembled on the UN campus amidst heavy security and tight construction restrictions. In order to balance maximum sun exposure with thermal comfort, the module was designed with New York’s specific micro-climate in mind. The dramatically-sloped building is clad in dark cedar planks and is home to two cascading “farm walls”, one on either side, and Gray Organschi claims that in New York the home can produce over 260 servings of vegetables. Plants were used inside as well in the loft area, and a living wall in the upper loft area purifies air for the inhabitants. “Structure was used as finish,” explains Gray Organschi founding principle Alan Organschi. The same pale CLT used to support the building was left exposed inside to create all of the finished surfaces, from countertops to stairs. The timber was sourced from the northeastern U.S. and sequestered more carbon than the effort used to harvest it. The team optimized daylighting in the building by carving strategic cuts into the back and roof. An Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade was installed to both reduce the amount of incoming sunlight and harvest solar power; an array of tiny panels track the sun’s movement and focus light on the minimally-sized solar receivers. The team wanted to build a system that could be assembled with the least amount of effort, and that would use the minimal amount of toxic materials to create. After August 11, the Ecological Living Module will be partially disassembled and brought to San Francisco; the structure was built narrow enough to be towed by truck. After that, the module will be flown out for demonstration in Quito, Ecuador, and then Nairobi, Kenya.
Placeholder Alt Text

Hold the Line

Army Corps of Engineers proposes swinging sea gates for New York Harbor
The shores of New York and New Jersey are, as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated in 2012, particularly vulnerable to flooding, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. Coastal construction has become more resilient (though some question to what end) and flood prevention ideas both big and small have been floated to protect the area’s shores. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed several different approaches to preventing flood surges using gates and berms in and around New York Harbor, and environmentalists are sounding the alarm. The proposals are part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, a 2,150-mile survey of the region’s most vulnerable areas. The Corps has put together five schemes—four that use storm barriers, and one “as is” projection—and is soliciting feedback from New York and New Jersey residents with a series of information sessions this week. In designing floodwalls for New York Harbor or the Hudson and East Rivers, the Corps will need to balance ecological concerns with property protection; nonprofit clean water advocacy group Riverkeeper has called the Corps “hard infrastructure” solutions, those that use concrete barriers, detrimental to the health of the harbor and its waterways. The Hudson River is technically a tidal estuary and not a full-fledged river. Salt water from New York Harbor, and in turn the Atlantic Ocean, flows back up through the Hudson and mixes with fresh water from tributaries upstate to create a nutrient-rich environment. If the Corps's plan to install a five-mile-long gate across the harbor’s mouth between Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Breezy Point in the Rockaways came to pass, Riverkeeper argues that the barrier would slowly cut off nutrients from the harbor and prevent contaminants from washing out into the ocean. “From Day One, these offshore barriers would start to restrict the tidal flow, contaminant and sediment transport, and migration of fish. They would impede the tidal ‘respiration’ of the river. We fear that a slow death would be inflicted on the river and that in time, the barriers would slowly, but surely, strangle the life out of the river as we know it.” The Corps alternative plans include: building berms, dunes, and seawalls across the lower-lying sections of the New York-New Jersey waterfront, with small floodgates across a few waterways; a barrier across the Staten Island-Brooklyn gap spanned by the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge and gates along Jamaica Bay; and targeted berms and seawalls across targeted low-lying coastal areas without any gates. Creating a centralized approach to flood prevention could be more effective than the piece-by-piece method currently being enacted but comes with its own set of risks. If a massive gate were installed to prevent flooding, it would need to be closed more and more frequently as sea levels rise and would increasingly cut off New York and New Jersey’s waterways from the ocean. Planning for a storm that currently has a probability of occurring once every hundred years may be futile as storms of such intensity become increasingly common. Seawalls have been linked to increased erosion, and if water builds up behind the wall, it can be hard to fully drain the affected area. The Corps is looking to identify a scheme to move forward with by the middle of this summer. However, with a possible price tag of $20 billion and several years of construction likely, whether or not the Corps can follow through is unclear. Interested New York and New Jersey residents can learn more at the following information sessions: Monday, July 9th, 3-5 PM and 6-8 PM at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in Tribeca, Richard Harris Terrace (main floor) 199 Chambers St, New York, NY 10007 Tuesday, July 10th, 3-5 PM and 6-8 PM at Rutgers University-Newark Campus, PR Campus Center, 2nd Floor, Essex Room 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark, NJ 07102 Wednesday, July 11th, 6-8 PM at the Hudson Valley Community Center in Poughkeepsie, Auditorium Room 110 South Grand Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Placeholder Alt Text

Passive progressive

New passive 'house' guide includes high rises and projects by Handel and FXCollaborative
While sometimes controversial, passive house design techniques have become a standard reference point for some small-scale projects. A new publication by Low Carbon Production from New York titled From Small to Extra Large: Passive House Rising to New Heights expands that scope by presenting 51 new passive projects of a wide range of scales, including high-rise towers. Sendero Verde, a mixed-income development in East Harlem, and The House at Cornell Tech, both designed by Handel Architects, are among the projects published. The Cornell Tech building on Roosevelt Island offers housing for the new academic campus, and the 26-story complex featuring a double height lobby space and ceiling-high windows was once the world’s tallest passive building. The tower made use of specially designed vapor barriers and refrigerant flow systems. Many of the technological solutions are used in Sendero Verde, including a “floor-by-floor” strategy, where each floor has its own condensing unit that is housed in the balconies, creating flexibility in energy use. Sendero Verde incorporates “660 affordable passive house rental units,” community, and retail spaces.  A forest cabin, a country farm, and a panelized home by Barry Price Architecture are also featured in the publication. The 1994-founded design firm has developed standards for comfort, durability, and energy efficiency in their buildings. In a Bearsville, New York cabin, Price used prefabricated roof and wall elements, locally sourced exterior cladding and interior flooring to reduce the building's environmental footprint. Pollution to the rural site was minimized as building elements were manufactured off-site. Three projects by Paul A. Castrucci Architect are described in the publication, including ABC No Rio’s new headquarters in the Lower East Side, which is one of the first passive commercial buildings in the city. The building is included because of its careful attention to air sealing. According to the publication, “the concrete masonry shell was coated with an air sealer on the inside,” and a polyisocyanurate and mineral wool-made secondary air-sealing layer was introduced on the outside. The thermal breaks are essential for reducing energy consumed in regulating the interior temperatures throughout the seasons, according to the passive building philosophy. The report also presents other sustainable buildings by FXCollaborative, Jane Sanders Architect, and CO Adaptive Architecture. Check out this link for the full report.
Placeholder Alt Text

All the President's Women

Christiana Figueres awarded the Architectural League's 2018 President's Medal
Architects, planners, and policymakers all gathered for a June 20th dinner at the Architectural League of New York, where they conferred this year’s President’s Medal on Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The President’s Medal is the League’s highest honor and was awarded to Figueres for her role in negotiating the 2015 Paris Agreement; the multi-country accord created voluntary emission limits that were designed to keep global temperature rise under two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Medal recipients are selected by the League’s President and Board of Directors and recognize those who have had an outsized impact in art, architecture, the environment, urbanism, and design. Ecologist and Manahatta author Eric Sanderson, landscape architect and educator Kate Orff, architect Anna Dyson, Architectural League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro, and League President Billie Tsien were on hand to laud Figueres. “As architects, designers, and builders,” said Tsien as she presented Figueres with the award, “we honor her for offering us a model of action based on moral commitment and hope, and for demonstrating how to act with urgency and boldness to take on the encompassing challenge of our era, and in doing so, to imagine the possibility of a better world.” All of the speakers touched on Figueres’ role in bridging environmental concerns with the built environment, and the League’s role in advocating around climate issues. “Moreover, it’s an incredible moment for the League,” said Kate Orff, “a treasured cultural organization that over the years has laureled artists, architects, planners, and patrons of the city, to pivot to a broader context and honor a champion of the planet itself.” Figueres herself echoed the same sentiment in her acceptance speech. “I happen to think that urban spaces are where the new relationship between nature and society will germinate and thrive. And I also happen to think that this is where a lot of […] societal healing is going to take place.” After stepping down from her UNFCCC role in the summer of 2016, Figueres now works as the Vice-Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, a coalition of cities and local governments that are combatting climate change through local action. Figueres is also the convener of Mission2020, an initiative to drastically reduce worldwide CO2 emissions, and long-term climate damage, by 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Waste Spaces

Can design help New York City go zero waste?
New York City is not exactly a city that takes pride in its waste treatment. Currently the city’s waste ends up mostly in landfills and incinerators. Organizers of Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City at the Center for Architecture want to change the status quo and are calling for a waste system that can be “improved by design.” The exhibition, on view from June 14 through September 1, is based on Zero Waste Guidelines, a 2017 publication that rethinks the future of managing trash. In 2014, New York City announced a Zero Waste plan to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials ending up in landfills by 90% by 2030. The organizers respond to the goal by urging architects to consider designs that can “change human behavior,” as they often neglect the use and maintenance of buildings after handing them over to clients. Designing Waste was curated by journalist and independent curator Andrew Blum and designed by multidisciplinary workshop Wkshps. The exhibition is divided into two parts, the existing ground level and the new basement level. Diagrams on the ground level document how different building types in the city deal with waste, a categorization extracted from the Zero Waste Guidelines. Life-size garbage bins and bags are exhibited alongside the panels. In the basement, proposals for new waste management measures were set up for each building type. They include strategies such as introducing shared trash collection, repurposing chute rooms, and extending shared amenities. According to the curator, the exhibitors referenced existing NYC precedents such as Stuyvesant Town and the Gateway in Battery Park City. Operable balers are also on display on the same level. AIA New York has launched its 2018 Zero Waste Challenge to coincide with the exhibition, and have invited architecture firms in the city to combine their efforts in reducing office waste. For a full schedule of curator-led exhibition tours and various panel discussions related to the exhibition, check out this link.
Placeholder Alt Text

For the Birds

Kuth Ranieri Architects transforms an abandoned roller coaster into an aviary in China
Some might say adaptive reuse is for the birds—in which case, San Francisco–based Kuth Ranieri Architects might happen to agree. The office is currently working on an unexpected adaptive-reuse project in Suzhou, China—just outside Shanghai—with fellow Bay Area landscape architects TLS Landscape Architecture, with the aim of repurposing an aged amusement park at the foot of the iconic Lion Mountain into a central green for a new, technology-focused residential hub. For the Shishan Park project, TLS has designed a district-wide master plan focused on a new circular promenade surrounding the old central lake that once anchored the forgotten fun park. The development is carved into ten subdistricts, each anchored by iconic pavilions—also designed by Kuth Ranieri—and recreational spaces “capitalizing on the site’s natural and man-made lakes as well as the mountain’s historic significance and beauty,” according to the architects. Overall, TLS’s designs highlight 18 “poetic scenes” that visually connect occupants to the existing lake, nature zones, and views of the five distinct mountaintops that can be seen from the site. At the heart of the new urban area is the disused amusement park and its original metallic roller coaster, which Kuth Ranieri plans to convert into a new, 160,000-square-foot visual and functional center for the 182-acre development. Utilizing stainless steel mesh netting to create the outermost enclosure and wooden decking and steel platforms for new occupiable promenades, Kuth Ranieri reenvisions the dilapidated roller coaster as a superscaled aviary. The plan includes a circuitous “infinity walk” that takes occupants up and through the reused roller-coaster structure to perches above the treetops furnished with viewing platforms and an expansive sky deck. The complex can be entered from any one of three access points framed by glass-wrapped concrete parabolic arches that extend into the aviary as covered walkways. Within, the complex will also contain a ten-story circulation tower that can bring visitors up to the highest observation levels. Here, a wide staircase containing landings generous enough to host public programming will wrap the elevator core. The complex will also include a green roof–topped animal care facility. The metallic enclosure surrounding the aviary is inspired by traditional Chinese ink paintings and, more specifically, by representations of Lion Mountain in such artworks. The cascading, rounded geometries of the canopy are designed to evoke “a feeling of layered misty mountains,” according to Kuth Ranieri. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Watch for Splinters

Cross-laminated timber passes its first real-world blast test
Timber construction continues its march to mass market feasibility following a series of live blast tests on full-scale cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures. Through a series of tests conducted at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the WoodWorks Wood Products Council and U.S. Army are putting together guidelines for framing buildings with CLT. As Engineering News–Record reports, the idea to test CLT for its blast resistance properties arose after developer and construction company Lendlease entered into an agreement to build hotels on army bases across the U.S. As Lendlease chose to frame some of their hotels with CLT to save on time and construction costs, they were told that CLT wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the Unified Facilities Criteria, the building code for the U.S. Army. This meant that the material would have to pass a battery of durability and security hardening-related tests before it could be applied in any real-world structures. While the Army allowed the construction of Lendlease’s first CTL hotel, the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, any future timber-framed buildings would require full-scale testing on a physical mockup before it could be approved. Lendlease reached out to WoodWorks Wood Products Council, who arranged the seven blast tests, Karagozian & Case Inc. (KCI), who developed and followed through on both phases of the testing, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, and the University of Maine. The tests were carried out in two phases–the first in late 2016, and second at the end of last year. Lendlease built the testing structures, each of which were exposed to successively larger blasts over a period of seven tests; two of the mock buildings were 27 feet tall with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 12 feet, and the third was 23 feet tall, with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 10 feet. Both “buildings” had 15-square-foot footprints. After exposing the structures to 32 pounds, 67 pounds, and 199 pounds of TNT (with 610 pounds used for the last test), KCI concluded that for blast exposure, CLT was equivalent to the standard steel-studded wall. Because CLT panels contain multiple laminated layers, the remaining wood provides additional strength at the point of rupture. The load from the blast is also more evenly distributed owing to the panel’s support on all four sides, allowing the force to be evenly distributed towards the joints. The U.S. Army Protective Design Center (PDC) has already released their report on the 2016 tests and will follow it up with their analysis of the second round of testing this June.
Placeholder Alt Text

Zero Tolerance

Preview: Designing Waste at the Center for Architecture
Every day, about 24,000 tons of discarded materials leave New York City to head for distant landfills. Designing Waste, curated by Andrew Blum and designed by WkSps, will investigate how designers can help sharply reduce that number. Drawing from the Rockefeller Foundation and AIA New York’s Zero Waste Design Guidelines (PDF), the exhibition closely examines current trash management systems, and explores how to improve efficiency and alternatives, especially before trash makes its way to trucks. “It’s not about recycling plants and landfills. It’s about the moment trash is closest to us,” said Blum. “This is where architects can really do something. Its sheer invisibility mesmerizes me.” Innovations range from simple ideas like making waste separation easier and improving the flow of material, to providing new resources for compacting, recycling, metering, and calculating waste. The show will even include a giant recycling baler, which Blum says could become a common site inside most New York buildings. Per its Zero Waste Challenge, the city plans to send zero waste to landfills by 2030. So it better hurry up and pay attention. Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City Center For Architecture, 536 Laguardia Place June 14- September 1
Placeholder Alt Text

Post-Landscape Ontology

SCI-Arc exhibit will explore post-digital attitudes toward environment and landscapes
The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has announced Environment[al], a forthcoming exhibition curated by Herwig Baumgartner and Marcelyn Gow that will explore “contemporary attitudes toward environment in a post-digital context.” The exhibition and installation will feature the work of a slate of renowned international designers, architects, and landscape architects as it seeks to examine the changing character of environmental concerns in the face of technological innovation and climate change.  According to a press release, Environment[al] will feature the work of Izaskun Chinchilla of Izaskun Chinchilla Architects, Enric Ruiz Geli of Cloud 9, Carme Pinós of Estudio Carme Pinós, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Gilles Retsin, and Günther Vogt of Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten.  The exhibition will be supported by a panel discussion taking place June 15th that will feature Baumgartner, Chinchilla, Geli, Gow, Restin, and Vogt as well as Violeta Burckhardt, Vittoria Di Palma, SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso, and SCI-Arc history and theory coordinator Marrikka Trotter. The exhibition will seek to engage with the ways sites, objects, and spaces generate “multiple authenticities” in contemporary constructed environments and will include transforming the school’s campus gallery into an interactive installation. The gallery will be transformed into a “landscape/substrate” designed as a diagrammatic facsimile representing the soil and geologic conditions of the Owens Valley to the northeast of Los Angeles. The space will also host a “sound map” installation portraying recordings taken along the banks of the Los Angeles River that will play when participants interact with elements of the installation.  The exhibition is slated to open at the school’s campus gallery June 15, 2018. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Low Line

San Antonio’s "Latino High Line" opens to the public
The first part of phase 1 of the San Pedro Creek redevelopment in San Antonio, Texas, is now open to the public, and the waterway’s rejuvenation has been touted as a celebration of Latino culture in the city. San Antonio-based Muñoz and Company was tapped in 2015 to design the 2.2-mile-long restoration of what was then a concrete drainage ditch. The completion of phase 1.1, a 2,200-foot-long stretch of riverwalk christened San Pedro Creek Culture Park, marks just one part of a four-phase plan to revitalize the 2.2-mile-long creek. “As the Trump administration boasts about building a wall between us and our Mexican roots, San Pedro Creek will be a national symbol for Latino and Anglo communities actually coming together to celebrate their shared values, history, and future,” said Henry R. Muñoz, Principal in Charge at Muñoz and project lead. “This unveiling marks the start of San Pedro Creek’s restoration, turning this neglected creek into the ‘Latino High Line,’ which exemplifies the community’s rich heritage and stands for a national dialogue playing out in nearly every city across the country.” The opening of the first phase on May 5 coincided with the 300th anniversary of San Antonio and was commemorated by the unveiling of Rain from the Heavens, a public art installation cut on stainless steel panels depicting what the stars looked like that night in 1718. Also on display in the Cultural Park are murals that honor the local culture of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County, by artists Adriana Garcia, Katie Pell, Alex Rubio, and Joe Lopez. San Pedro Creek once flowed freely through the city but has been deepened, rerouted, and sometimes covered entirely since the 1700s. Each area of the river will eventually have its own design and accompanying visual identity, but retain a focus on the local ecology, history of San Antonio, and the water itself. The San Pedro Creek Culture Park section is hemmed in by historic limestone walls, and features widened walkways, a new boardwalk overlook, benches, and new landscaping that uses indigenous aquatic plants and trees. The widening and deepening of the creek also boosted the waterway’s ability to sequester stormwater, in addition to the five new bioswales that were installed. Phase 1.2 of the project is under construction and set to finish in 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Capital Idea

Foster + Partners will master plan the core of a new Indian state capital
  Amaravati, the new state capital of Andhra Pradesh, India (formed in a recent redrawing of state boundaries), is set to rise as a sustainable smart city, and Foster + Partners will master plan the green “spine” running through its administrative core. The 134-square-mile city is being positioned as one of the “most sustainable in the world” according to Foster + Partners, thanks to widespread solar power, electric vehicles, dedicated cycling routes, and shaded paths to encourage walking. The city was strategically positioned on the banks of the River Krishna for easy access to fresh water, and water taxis have been floated as mass transit options. The 3.4-mile by half-mile stretch that Foster + Partners will be planning holds the city’s central governmental complex, including the design of several administrative buildings, and most importantly, the legislative assembly and the high court complex. The green spine will be at least 60 percent occupied with either greenery or water, and Foster + Partners claims that the area, centered in a city with a strong urban grid, was inspired by Central Park and Lutyens' Delhi (an area of New Delhi designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens). The legislative assembly building will sit inside of a large freshwater lake at the spine’s center and appears to be floating over the water’s surface. Keeping the Hindu principles of vastu shastra in mind, the building dramatically spikes 820 feet towards the sky at its core and creates an internal void. The space below inside of the assembly building will be used as a courtyard, while visitors can climb a spiral ramp to a cultural museum and viewing gallery on the upper levels. The high court complex is located off of the spine’s central axis, and the building’s stepped, dome-shaped roof references Indian stupas; domed buildings typically containing Buddhist relics. Generous overhangs encourage natural, passive cooling throughout, and the programming is made up of concentric circles of circulation spaces and rooms. The public-facing sections will be at the exterior rings, while the most sensitive and private areas will be located at the heart of the court complex. A mixed-use neighborhood has been planned for the area closest to the river’s edge, structured around 13 public plazas, each representing a state district in Andhra Pradesh. Sir Norman Foster was recently in Amaravati to survey the site and discuss the project’s next steps. “We are delighted to be working with the Chief Minister and the Government of Andhra Pradesh to help them realise their ideas for the People’s Capital and to build a clear and inspiring vision for the governmental complex at Amaravati,” said Foster in a press release. “The design brings together our decades-long research into sustainable cities, incorporating the latest technologies that are currently being developed in India.”