Cove.tool is an energy vs. cost optimization software for the AEC industry. It offers users the ability to simulate the material performance of a building in its context by assessing energy against cost over a given period of time. It empowers architects, engineers, contractors, and owners to make better decisions about building by presenting cost and energy information in a simple app, with the ultimate goal of helping buildings reduce their carbon emissions in an affordable way. The problem, as they phrase it, is: “When a contractor and architect make choices, they are unable to perceive all of the choices and their impacts collectively.” The software therefore uses large data sets to create material performance profiles for building components which can be run through millions of possible combinations before providing users with optimal solutions for a project’s constraint space. The software has been iteratively developed over the last several years by the sustainability consulting firm Patterns r+d, based in Atlanta, GA. While energy simulation is of course nothing new, Cove.tool is distinct in that it is the first affordable, easy-to-use energy software in the AEC industry to introduce cost into an advanced combinatorial building simulation. It is potentially a watershed development for the sustainable building industry in that it can incentivize sustainable ethics through cost analysis. According to the Cove.tool team, this software is part of a much larger shift. They make the bold assertion in their white paper that “it will not be possible to build any building without simulation within the next five years,” a relatively short time horizon in an industry which is usually slow to innovate. The tool also offers the foundations for a programmable library of materials whose construction and energy costs can be incorporated into the larger BIM workflow. Cove.tool is available as both a Revit and Grasshopper plug-in with dedicated development. It can hypothetically be integrated into the vast majority of medium-to- large scale AEC projects in which marginal savings on energy costs may represent millions of dollars over time and incentivize an increasingly sustainable building culture. For under $3,500 a year, a team of five can leverage Cove.tool in almost any project context, adding robust energy modeling value to their proposals. With a simplified graphical interface which is effective for internal and client-facing purposes, the tool is likely to gain widespread adoption.
Search results for "Atlanta"
Memphis Cook Convention Center is about to receive a major facelift
The city of Memphis, Tennessee, will be 200 years old in 2019. In anticipation of that milestone, the city is investing in improvements throughout the downtown and along the Mississippi. Along with redeveloping the Mississippi Riverfront, Mud Island, and the Pinch District, the Memphis Cook Convention Center renovation is part of the much larger citywide Bicentennial Gateway Project. Led by the Memphis office of Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK) and Atlanta-based tvsdesign, the overhaul will affect the entire complex, including the neighboring Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. In the first week of the year, the City of Memphis filed for the project’s first construction permit, which lists the budget at $175 million. That money will be drawn from a 1.8 percent hotel tax and Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) funds gathered from the convention center’s surrounding neighborhood. The most dramatic changes to the convention center will come in the form of an expanded footprint and outdoor terraces with views to the river and downtown skyline. New glazed concourses and meeting rooms will increase breakout space while providing more views of the city. In the 125,000-square-foot main exhibition hall, new retractable ceiling lights and additional material upgrades will allow for a 40,000-square-foot secondary hall to be carved out from the west end. The number of breakout rooms will also be expanded from the current 30 to 52. Access to the building will be updated with the addition of a new grand entrance and a new sky bridge. The new grand entrance will open to the Main Street Trolley station and neighboring Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel. The sky bridge will connect the convention center to the Sheraton. Back-ofhouse access will also be improved with a redesign of the loading docks. The neighboring 2,100-seat Cannon Center for the Performing Arts will undergo a complete cosmetic update, as well as backstage improvements. Along with the performing arts, more public art will be brought to the complex through a partnership with ArtsMemphis and the Urban Art Commission, as well as private contributions. In order to establish these goals, the Memphis Meeting Planners Advisory Board met with convention and event planners from around the country. Along with this research, feasibility studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 found that redeveloping rather than moving or rebuilding the convention center would be more cost effective while achieving the same goals. Another advantage of not moving the complex is that through careful phasing, both the Convention Center and the Cannon Center will be able to host events throughout construction. Other portions of the city are set to be transformed through major infrastructural improvements in multiple neighborhoods, and TIF districts will be expanded to help pay for the improvements. With work beginning in earnest this year, Memphis will be a changed city by 2019.
John Portman told me that when he was a little boy, he was so poor that he didn’t have any toys, so he played in his backyard by making imaginary cities out of mud piles and old glass Coca-Cola bottles. I recall going with him to the incredible artist’s foundry Polich Tallix in upstate New York to check on the progress of a sculpture he was creating for one of our projects in India. This massive sculpture was underway, and after looking it over, Dick Polich took Portman over to some clay forms he’d set up, and Portman started playing with them. He was like that. He just loved to create, and was in his zone when he did. There was a movie made about Portman by Ben Loeterman called A Life of Building, and in it, Portman kind of dramatically says, “It’s about life!” He’s obsessed with creating and sustaining life, in his architecture and in his way of being. Going down to his house Entelechy II, on Sea Island in Georgia, you can see it there, everywhere. The building is essentially a big trellis with a lanai under the front half and a sculpture of indoor and outdoor spaces in the back. But the entire home is teaming with life, plants, vines, blooming, living material everywhere. The building is probably his most formally complex project, but it almost seems foremost like an armature for the plants. It’s pretty well known among Portman’s family and the people in his companies that he was inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frank Lloyd Wright. The story of how a young John Portman went to see Wright when he came to Atlanta was told when he was eulogized last week. Portman told me that story about ten years ago, but he told it differently. And the difference tells you a lot about his personality. Portman said, “I heard the Great Master was coming to Atlanta. So, I went and stood in this huge line for hours and hours to see the Man. Finally, my turn came. He was sitting there, and I inched up to him and said, ‘I want to be an architect. What should I do?’ and after all this time in line, he looked at me and said, ‘Go seek Emerson.’ Pause…‘Next.’” Portman was funny, and humble, self-deprecating, and had a real admiration for people, like Wright and others. At the memorial, they left out the “Next,” and maybe that was appropriate for the somber nature of the event. But when you hear Portman tell the story, it’s funny and endearing to imagine him, this Great Master in his own right, being shooed away by Wright all those years ago. But he did seek Emerson. He found a way of living that was rooted in self-reliance, and an ecumenical appreciation for life that permeated his architecture and his relationships. He took a group of us to see Wright’s Fallingwater in 2012. I think it was his way of pointing us toward Emerson and Wright and helping us to see, feel, and experience firsthand some of what he knew. It was raining, and the house is pretty deep in the woods, and the one iconic view that you get in all the photos is from down in a ravine. Portman must have been 88 at the time, but he went blazing down there, all over the property. We spent time taking it all in, and then that evening he’d arranged a dinner where we all went around and talked about what we got out of it. He ran things that way, provoking everyone to bring their ideas forward and then guiding, editing, and compiling the best ideas from each person into a cohesive project. Portman was always soaking up ideas. He was curious. He had stacks of magazines on his desk and liked to stay current, but eschewed anything he considered a “trend.” Atlanta was his favorite city and the place he drew his power from, but Venice, Italy, was his second favorite. We went there to be part of the Venice Biennale in 2010 and see what was new. I recall Portman being very interested to see the exhibits and, in particular, what was in the Japanese pavilion. We got there and it was a very cacophonous installation that is almost the polar opposite of what I would consider “Portmanesque.” He looked in, puffed out his cheeks, kind of shrugged his shoulders and smiled as if to say, “What’s this crazy thing?” But then he went in and soaked it up and talked at length with the curator with a film crew in tow. He was open-minded and always respectful. He never criticized anyone and was thorough in giving the reasons for his decisions. It would have been easy for him to say, “Because I said so.” But he never did. I think he remained open to the idea that others would see things that maybe he hadn’t considered. One time when we were walking through the skyway of Sun Trust Plaza Tower after I crashed and burned in a meeting, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You know, if you have a great idea and you’re trying to persuade someone to do it, it’s usually better if they think it’s their great idea.” Portman understood people, how they think and feel, and was generous in sharing what he knew. Portman always looked to the future. He kept moving forward, even as we weathered the Great Recession, during which time he did not lay off a single person. He told me once that it’s easy to be positive when you’re up, but it’s more important to be positive when you’re down; advice he got from his mother, whom he revered. John Portman touched the lives of many people over the course of his long and productive career. He had an artist’s heart. He painted outside the lines, and we’ll miss him.
The United States, let alone Florida, is not known for its widely accessible and comprehensive regional mass transit networks. Bucking this trend, on January 15, the state inaugurated Brightline, a private passenger rail between the cities of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale that shaves 30 minutes off the time required by car. While the distance between the two cities is not great, with the train journey taking just 40 minutes, the Brightline has reintroduced private commuter rail to the United States for the first time in decades. Although Brightline currently only operates between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, it is slated to expand to Miami and Orlando by 2020, utilizing 240 miles of track carving through densely populated Southeastern Florida. While not part of the current proposal, All Aboard Florida has suggested that Tampa and Jacksonville could be linked to the Brightline network. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Zyscovich Architects are designing the stations located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. All of the stations share a material palette and design aesthetic, while conforming to their individual environments. At the cost of $3.1 billion, Brightline promises to transform commuting between Miami and Orlando to a relatively minimal 3 hours, taking an hour off the drive time. According to Next City, the new rail service could take upwards of 3 million cars off of South Florida roads, with the potential to capture up to 20 percent of travel between the two cities, two of the most visited cities in the United States. The introductory fare between West Palm and Fort Lauderdale is $10, a bargain considering the amenities aboard the train, which include leather seats, free WiFi, power outlets and bike racks. As reported by USA Today, the Brightline will prove operationally profitable if it captures just 2 percent of the 100 million annual trips between Miami and Orlando. Fortress Investment Group, the parent company of the Brightline, is hedging that its investment in new transit hubs will increase property values surrounding stations as well as revenue generated by real estate development. Forrest Investment Group is already building more than 800 high-priced rentals at its Miami station and close to 300 in West Palm, in tandem with new skyscrapers dedicated to commercial and retail functions. While Brightline is based in Florida, its model of privately-funded and operated high-speed rail is replicable across the country. According to Modern Cities, Brightline is considering implementing its concept in similar urban corridors to those in Southeastern Florida, with the possibility of new links between Atlanta and Charlotte or Houston and Dallas. With the Trump administration’s recently leaked draft infrastructure plan emphasizing financially independent public transport systems, Brightline could prove to be a successful model for expanding rail service to millions of Americans while spurring high-density development in sprawl-ridden metropolitan areas.
Amazon announces the 20 cities that made its HQ2 shortlist
Ending months of speculation and handwringing, Amazon has announced that the company has cut its list of prospective locations for its second headquarters from 238 down to 20. Competition over HQ2, a $5 billion co-headquarters expected to bring 50,000 jobs to the area it touches down in, has been fierce, as cities submitted bids that aggressively gave away land and tax breaks to the tech giant. While Amazon had received offers from all over North America, including Canada and Mexico, their shortlist skews heavily toward the East Coast of the United States. All of the following metropolitan areas met Amazon’s requirements of having at least one million people, and zoning capable of building up to eight million square feet of office space. The full list includes: Atlanta Austin, Texas Boston Chicago Columbus, Ohio Dallas Denver Indianapolis Los Angeles Miami Montgomery County, Maryland. Nashville Newark New York Northern Virginia Philadelphia Pittsburgh Raleigh, North Carolina Toronto, Canada Washington, D.C. The selection is notable not only for the cities it includes but the locales that didn’t make the cut. Los Angeles is the only west coast city on the list despite competing bids from Seattle, which holds Amazon’s current headquarters, and cities throughout California. Detroit is absent, as is Baltimore, even as both cities had promised to give Amazon hundreds of developable acres. Tax considerations seem to have played a major role in the final decision, as the inclusion of two cities in Texas, as well as Nashville and other southern cities and regions might attest to. While none of the Mexico-based bids made it through to the final round, Toronto may have been chosen for the money Amazon could save owing to the weakened Canadian dollar; $1 USD at the time of writing is worth $1.25 CAD. Details on what these 20 metropolitan areas have offered Amazon in exchange for HQ2 have been hard to come by. Muckrock has been tracking down bid packages for all 238 of the areas that submitted initial proposals, and while many of them have refused to release detailed packages, giving away unrestricted development rights or heavy tax breaks have been common. Chicago, for instance, has offered to return 50 to 100 percent of the income tax collected from Amazon employees straight back to the company itself. Newark, New Jersey, has explicitly offered to give Amazon a $7 billion tax break, which is the highest among any of the other finalists. New York, for its part, had offered potential space in four neighborhoods across three boroughs: Midtown West, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn "Tech Triangle" between Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and DUMBO, and Long Island City. The RFP for HQ2 can be read here, and should give some idea of what the headquarters will mean for the winning city when Amazon chooses its final location later this year.
Through its midtown hub, Georgia Tech is priming Atlanta for an influx of technology jobs
Since the earliest days of the technology industry, home has been Silicon Valley. However, there are some signs the tide is turning and heading towards the east. Attempting to capitalize on an impending Atlanta tech boom is The Georgia Institute of Technology, which is due to move into Coda, a mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta’s Tech Square, in 2019. Designing a building fit for such a brief is John Portman & Associates. The Atlanta-based firm has integrated a 645,000 square feet of office space, a high-performance data center, retail and collaboration space within the development, all while accommodating a former Crum & Forster insurance house that dates back 1927. Pierluca Maffey, a principal at the architecture firm, said the project was "all about" the Italian Renaissance Revival structure that, upon close inspection, is more than just a rudimentary brick building. Atlanta firm Ivey & Crook worked with New York-based Helmle, Corbett & Harrison to design limestone flourishes, notably three arches topped by owls and a lion, which serve as keystones. "It was immediately considered as a jewel," noted Maffey. Though two-thirds of the historic building was lost in 2012, its iconic features remain. Now the former insurance house is being repurposed as a restaurant. Adjacent will be a slightly taller data center which employs chilled beams along with captured greywater deployed in cooling towers to aid temperature control. Furthermore, the center retains some proportions of its older neighbor and also serves as a stepping stone to the larger massing behind it. This glass-clad part of the project is where most of the program is housed. Across 21 floors will be mostly offices, half of which will be for the university, which owns the whole complex, while the rest of the office space is currently being leased out. Retail and conference areas are located on the first two levels. Connecting all these areas will be what Maffey described as a "collaborative core," intended to drive fast-tracked connections through intentional cross-tenant “neighborhoods,” supplemented by "collaborative lounges" on each floor of the building. For the levels occupied by Georgia Tech, a staircase atrium, intersected at every third level, will indicate the university's presence as the building's hub and connect it visually and physically to other tenants. Externally, a glass curtain wall makes up most of the facade. However, this is divided by a band of glass panes that are each individually calibrated, in lieu of lighting studies, to varying levels of translucency and reflectivity to produce a gradient effect that wraps around the building. Pierluca Maffey will be speaking about Coda in greater detail at the upcoming Facades+AM Conference in Atlanta this January 26. He will be on a panel discussing innovations in mixed-use and residential projects in Midtown Atlanta. To find out more, please visit am.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.
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.
Atlanta's premier park is slated for a major upgrade. Late last month, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city will kick in $20 million to expand Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which sit just east of the city's Ansely Park neighborhood. The new entrance, envisioned by HGOR, will replace now privately-owned parcels at the park's northern tip near Piedmont Drive NE and Monroe Drive NE. Preliminary renderings and concept sketches depict new outbuildings surrounded by rolling green hills and broad, winding paths, a homage to the park's original Olmsted design. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that stewards the park, commissioned the Atlanta-based landscape architecture and urban design firm to do the initial renderings. HGOR works for public and private clients, mostly in the South. The expansion will include connections to the Atlanta BeltLine, the city's massive pedestrian and bike path project, plus additional access points to Piedmont Park. Building on the city's $20 million commitment, which includes a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor, Atlanta Committee for Progress board member and Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé is spearheading a funding effort to raise $80 million from private donors to acquire property and pay for the project's design and construction. Despite Atlanta's notorious car-centricity, the city maintains that 64 percent of residents live within a half-mile walk of a park, and the new entrance should up that number even further. To start the process, the City of Atlanta signed Letters of Intent on December 29, 2017 with two property owners at the chosen site, and the city will be conducting community engagement around the design. A city spokesperson said officials are waiting to close the real estate transaction, then fundraise and plan for the expansion. No date for the groundbreaking has been set. Piedmont Park was established in 1834, and primarily served as fairgrounds until the next century. The city commissioned Olmsted Brothers, the firm that John Charles and Frederick Law Jr. inherited from their father, to redesign the park in 1909, and most designs since then, including the 1995 master plan, have honored the Olmsted Brothers' original design intent. For the Bicentennial, Isamu Noguchi designed Playscape, a delightful one-acre spread of swings, slides, and climbing blocks, the same year the city leased land for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
The big atrium in the sky
Atlanta architect and developer John Portman dead at 93
John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect and developer has died at 93. The Georgia Tech–trained architect is credited with developing large downtown projects that revolved around the concept of the the atrium, which he turned into large and dramatic enclosed open spaces surrounded by multiple balconies, hundreds of rooms and capsule elevators rushing vertically from base to upper floors. Portman—who often developed and partially owned his projects—thought of these megastructures as new downtowns and they were often built in old downtowns that had been decimated by urban renewal and middle class fight. These buildings were often criticized by theorists like William H. Whyte, Mike Davis, Frederic Jameson and others for their lack of context with the historic city, especially the street. However, later in life Portman received praise from multiple sources including Herbert Muschamp, Paul Goldberger and Rem Koolhaas, who praised his work as “a hybrid” of styles and urban relationships. In 2010 Portman’s career was featured at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and more recently, Harvard Dean Moshen Mostafavi used his designs in a GSD studio, sponsored by Portman, to think of “a new architecture, but one with a lineage.” Portman’s first large important project was for the Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart) in his hometown of Atlanta in 1961 and this led to his design for the nearby multi-block Peachtree Center in 1965 where he maintained his office. His development firm created the multi-block complex at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles 1976, the New York Marriott Marquis in 1985, and the Renaissance Center in Detroit in 1977, whose central tower remained the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013. The Shanghai Centre (1990) was the first of many major projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. Look for a longer appreciation of Portman’s life and career in the next Architect's Newspaper print edition.
Bay Area Basin
2017 Best of Design Awards for Urban Design
2017 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: India Basin Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: San FranciscoAtlanta’s Park Over GA400 seizes the opportunity to reclaim the GA400 highway void with a 2,500-foot-long public space for community gatherings and public art. A dense cover of native trees over the highway links adjacent canopies and reduces the heat island effect, captures stormwater, and supports native flora and fauna. Honorable Mention Project: The Reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square Architect: WXY Location: New York The network of streets in and around NYC’s Astor Place and Cooper Square benefitted from configurations that improve the experiential nature of the neighborhood. At the behest of the city’s Department of Transportation, the design team developed a rich pedestrian environment, relieved pedestrian and vehicular congestion, and created custom-designed seating throughout the plazas.
Embodying a commitment to sustainable placemaking, the India Basin project proposes the transformation of acres of overgrown former industrial land on the San Francisco Bay into an active waterfront destination and a vibrant, diverse village. The comprehensive design reconnects surrounding communities with the shoreline, cultivates economic opportunities, and provides mixed-income housing. The mixed-use project creates a complete community at a human scale, with all basic services and amenities located within short walking distance. It interweaves parks, plazas, and open space with new pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly connections, as well as buildings for residential, commercial, and community-serving purposes.
The design also embraces the existing ecology of the land. A robust stormwater management strategy links streetscape streams and bioswales (landscape elements that remove silt from runoff water) with a landscape of canals, reservoirs, and wetlands. "This is a significant redevelopment that will affect this part of the city in profound ways. That said, it is an elegant and reasoned plan that integrates nicely with its surroundings." —Matt Shaw, Senior Editor, Architect's Newspaper (juror) Client: Build Inc. Landscape Architect: Bionic Civil Engineer: Sherwood Design Engineers Urban Design and Planning: Gehl StudioHonorable Mention Project: Atlanta's Park Over GA400 Architects: Rogers Partners and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Location: Atlanta
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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+.
Moving Music City
Nashville mayor unveils details of $5.2 billion transit plan
Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry has announced the ballot language for the city's much-anticipated transit referendum. The referendum, which will be voted on in a May 1, 2018 election, would bring a completely new expansive light-rail system to the city. At a cost of $5.2 billion, it would be one of the most ambitious transit plans in the United States, and the largest single project Nashville has ever taken on. The announcement included the full 205-word ballot measure, a broad overview of the proposed referendum. Those projects would “improve and expand its transit services to include: expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improvements to the Music City Star train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and pedestrian connections; and system modernization.” The wording also outlines the city’s plan to raise four taxes, in the form of surcharges, to fund the projects. These include, “a sales tax surcharge of 0.5 percent for the first five years, increasing to 1 percent in 2023; a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25 percent for the first five years, increasing to 0.375 in 2023; a 20 percent surcharge on the business/excise tax; and a 20 percent surcharge on the rental car tax.” The next step for the referendum will be gaining the approval from the Metro Council for the ballot language. The plan includes 26 miles of new light rail, additional bus services, and most dramatically, a rail tunnel that will stretch under the downtown 40 to 50 feet below the street level. The 1.8-mile-long, 60-foot-wide tunnel would contain two tracks, and would cost an estimated $900 million. Above ground, five light rail corridors will run to the downtown from all directions in the city. While the rail portion of the project would take until 2032 to complete, the improvements to other parts of the system could be implemented much quicker. In particular, 25 miles of rapid bus transit and “neighborhood transit centers” would connect the bus system to the future rail network. Another aspect of the proposal is reduced or free transit fares for residents living below the federal poverty line. This consideration would help offset the increased sales tax burden on the poor, who are often disproportionately affected by such taxes. If Nashville residents approve the referendum, the city will join the likes of Seattle, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, who have all recently passed extensive transit plans. Critics of these types of plans question the return on investment of the billions of dollars, while proponents argue that they are needed to attract the types of companies and workers 21st-century cities need. An example often cited is the call from proposals for the Amazon HQ2. Amazon specifically requested a robust mass transit system for its workers, a requirement that many midsize cities are unable to meet.