All posts in Sustainability

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Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat

How can architects design facades for the age of climate change?
Taking environmental stresses into account when designing a building is typical, but rising tides, heat waves, extreme winds and other climate change-driven conditions present new challenges to building envelopes. Ahead of the upcoming Facades+ conference in New York City on April 19 and 20, AN sat down with Yan Chu of Adamson Associates Architects to discuss what can be done differently. Chu will be presenting as part of a 2:30 PM symposium panel on April 19 titled “Re-evaluating Metrics: Thermal Performance of Building Enclosures and Future Climate Change.” Chu will be joined by Nico Kienzl of Atelier Ten, Ken Kunkel of NC STATE, and Elizabeth Tomlinson of TKDA. Architect’s Newspaper: As climate change becomes more of a factor, how does facade performance need to change? Yan Chu: We design our facades and mechanical systems based on certain climatic data for that region. For New York City, it’s 11 degrees Fahrenheit, 17-mile-per-hour [winds], this is data all of us use every day and know by heart. These numbers have changed very slightly over time. I wonder if there’s a more fundamental rethinking of these basic design functions that we need to make to attack climate change from multiple fronts, beyond just increasing insulation value and decreasing air leakage rate. The data is all based on historical weather data. Every fourth-year cycle when this weather design data comes out, it’s based on the last 20 years, and that’s how [The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] ASHRAE derives their design position that you and I and all of the engineers use. If we know that climate change is going to take us to a whole new level of weather conditions, why aren’t we using projected data? What are we actually using as our design basis? There is a whole sector of the design community trying to address resiliency and survivability. We need to find a way to fold that into the design process, and something we need to consider to holistically address climate change in terms of the building envelope. The idea of this panel is to talk about those issues. AN: Are there any big picture things that architects, engineers and designers can do? Chu: The passive house strategy is brilliant because it addresses the performance of the building together with the occupant’s comfort holistically. It really is a holistic way of thinking of design, and moving forward, it’s the kind of mentality we need to adopt. Whether we’re talking about glazed façades or more opaque facade elements, I think the challenge is to get owner incentives to adopt some of these holistic strategies into a larger scale. If we design a building today with the 2014 or 2016 energy code, I know for a fact it’s already not sufficient for when the next code comes. So I think the biggest challenge for us is, how do we incentivize buildings owners, occupants, and designers to address climate change without depending on the building code telling them to do so? The nice thing is that in Europe, the passive house movement is really being brought by the private sector. How can we bring that mentality to the U.S.? Especially for very large projects? AN: What will the impact of climate change be on envelopes? Chu: It depends on the climate and depends on what extreme events we’re being challenged with. On one hand, we have to re-evaluate the average condition; in some parts of the world, the temperature will increase, but in some locations, temperatures will actually decrease. The interesting thing is that certain wall systems have certain advantages in one climate region over another. That idea is limited because design is about flexibility, and you don’t want to prescribe a system that an architect has to design to. The idea of designing to what is the ‘norm’, and what extreme events are, that’s a huge question. Citing one example, flood resistance at storefronts at the ground level. That’s something new that all the architects in New York City are working on, not only specifying how this system works and what test criteria it conforms to, but also, how does it function in a normal day? We’re way in the beginning stage of understanding what that even is. It’s such a new thing that we know we’ll have to go on to full-on testing for this wall system to know what it can accommodate. Whether or not we end up with a standard IGU or something thicker is still something we’re working through. And how does that affect the interior conditions? It’s a big question mark, and it’s only one thing that we’re dealing with. Are we designing for a 50-year building, a 100-year building? The idea of durability has to come into play. That determines what extreme events we’re designing for, and results in a vastly different building. Facades+ in New York City will run from April 19 until April 20, 2018. Registration is still open and available at this link.
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Net Zero Plugins

Cove.tool helps architects green their buildings in a user-friendly format
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.
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Surge Forward

New East River flood barrier park aims for quick approvals
Ahead of a presentation before the full Community Board 3 (Lower East Side) tonight, March 27, planners from the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project have released new details and renderings for an updated "resilient park" along the shores of the East River. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency is hoping to receive approval for the snaking project before the end of 2018, though the combination of seawalls, berms and levees hasn’t pleased everyone. The updated concept, a joint venture between AKRF, One Architecture and Urbanism, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA), and several city agencies, was unveiled at a CB3 Parks Department meeting on March 15. The proposed park would stretch from East 25th Street down to Montgomery Street, and would fortify the existing green space, but also include new parks, lawns and nature walks. Rather than installing hard infrastructure that would block off the waterfront from the public, MNLA attempted to expand out the usable parkland where possible. In the narrowest areas between FDR Drive and the East River, a flood wall gate would swing (or possibly slide) into action to cordon off stormwater. Several bridge upgrades have also been included, as well as new footbridges at Delancey Street and on 10th Street that would loop into the park. The approximately 2.5-mile-long stretch is just one part of what was once the BIG-U coastal resiliency plan (neé The Dryline), which has been broken up into the aforementioned ESCR and the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project. The ESCR’s southern counterpart will stretch 3.5 miles, from the northern tip of Battery Park City to the Lower East Side’s Montgomery Street. Once completed, the entire system should be able to protect (though mitigate would be a more apt phrase) southern Manhattan from the likes of a 100-year storm. Time is quickly running out for the ESCR to reach approval and hit its accelerated 2019 groundbreaking target. The $335 million distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) in the wake of Hurricane Sandy for the construction of the ESCR must be spent by September of 2022, and with the project a year-and-a-half behind schedule, the city is hoping to move through the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and ULURP process quickly. AN will follow up this post with more information about the outcome of tonight’s CB3 board meeting. The feedback gleaned from community boards 3 and 6 will help the city inform changes that they may need to make before presenting to the Public Design Commission in the coming months. The full March 15th presentation can be viewed here.
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The Climes They Are A' Changin'

AN rounds up our favorite climate change books of 2018
Coastal flooding, heatwaves, snow storms, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes; all of these natural disasters are being exacerbated by the effects of climate change, and architects and planners will need to learn to plan for the future. Through building structures and facets of the urban landscape that resist or incorporate flood waters, that manage stormwater runoff or create “wind corridors” to blow pollution out of city centers, designing for the impacts of climate change often means designing for health. With a wealth of sophisticated modeling tools and techniques at our disposal, it’s easier than ever to look towards the future and harden projects for what might be coming next. Below is a list of books that AN considers as helpful guides for thinking about and designing for climate change. Toward an Urban Ecology The Monacelli Press Kate Orff $34.00 Towards an Urban Ecology may feature a number of projects by New York’s SCAPE, but the overall message extends beyond a simple firm retrospective. Throughout the book, Kate Orff (now co-chair of the new climate resiliency center at Columbia’s GSAPP) dissects how designers can integrate environmental concerns with urban ones, and create a more resilient built environment. Landscape architecture can play an integral role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and often acts as the first line of defense in protecting buildings from disasters. Blue Dunes: Climate Change by Design Columbia Books on Architecture and the City Jesse Keenan & Claire Weisz $17.15 Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was a watershed moment in designing for climate resilience, as the reality of a “once-in-a-hundred-year” storm hit architects and planners along the eastern seaboard close to home. Blue Dunes follows a plan to place wave-blocking barrier islands off the Mid-Atlantic coast, and the research (and cost concerns) uncovered in the multidisciplinary quest serves as a valuable lesson for designers who want to pursue the same path. Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change Verso Ashley Dawson $21.41 The world’s cities will both be hit hardest by climate change and have the largest impact on it. How can cities cut their carbon emissions while simultaneously hardening their defenses and creating resilient systems? In Extreme Cities, Dawson argues that seawalls and hard infrastructure aren’t enough, and that the successful cities of the future will survive through fostering new social movements and ways of integrating climate change into design and planning. Adaptive Ecologies/ Correlated Systems of Living Architectural Association Publications Theodore Spyropoulos, John Frazer & Patrik Schumacher $49.11 Though it might seem better suited to our technology book roundup, Adaptive Ecologies confronts the twin challenges of harsher environments and tighter resource restrictions that buildings will face in the future. The abundance of modeling programs available to architects and planners, whether it be daylighting, planning for high-performance facades, or computational design, can be combined with active data intake from an array of sensors. As a result, new typologies, artificial ecologies and unimaginable city planning-schemes might one day reign supreme as we become more and more able to optimize building design. Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary The Avery Review: Columbia Books on Architecture and the City James Graham, Caitlin Blachfield, Alissa Anderson, Jordan Carver & Jacob Moore $36.99 A collection of essays and sample projects from Columbia University’s Avery Review, Climates examines the intersection of architecture and climate change. What precedents already exist in dealing with such an existential threat? How can architects and their work render climate change knowable while also combatting it? What kind of shifts would be required to bring awareness to the field about designing for resilience and sustainability? Far from providing concrete answers, Climates seeks more to stimulate discussion and speculation about a topic that can be hard to conceptualize. BIG, HOT TO COLD: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation TASCHEN Bjarke Ingels $45.30 Whatever one may think of the work being done by Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), it would be hard to argue that the firm isn’t prolific. In Hot to Cold, architects can find 60 case studies for designing in extreme environments in conjunction with BIG’s projects all over the world, and innovative ways of dealing with extreme heat, cold, and everything in between are put on display. Designing for water is given significant weight in the book’s middle section, as BIG breaks down the master plan for their lower Manhattan-encompassing seawall system, the Dryline. How can the extreme environments of the present give designers an idea of what may be to come? New York 2140 Orbit Kim Stanley Robinson $13.65 2140 may be the only fiction book on the list, but even far-flung speculation has its uses in inspiring architects. While New York (or any city for that matter) might not be inundated with 50 feet of water anytime soon, Robinson’s work speaks to a future where adaptive reuse and clean energy are the norm, not the exception. Most importantly, 2140 presents a worst-case scenario ostensibly overcome by design, and serves as a reminder that no solution should be ruled out as too imaginative. Every book on this list was selected independently by AN‘s team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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Totem Towers

The future of smart power could lie in a single solar, storage and communications platform
In a 2016 broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, author and cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke characterized America’s energy grid as “increasingly unstable, underfunded, and incapable of taking us to a new energy future.” Nevertheless, the steady march toward progress continues, and the threat of obsolescence is driving many cities, urban planners, developers, and businesses to invest in the future. “We happen to be at a moment in time where people are starting to fear that technological obsolescence in the workplace and in cities is a pretty tough place to be and has some real consequences economically for the buildings and the cities that don’t have high-speed networking or don’t have modern energy,” observed Brian Lakamp, founder and CEO of Totem Power. “That’s why you’re seeing city planners, mayors, and businesses get more aggressive about deploying built environment technology than they ever have been, as far as I can tell.” (Note: Some states, such as California, have already passed legislation requiring new buildings to be outfitted with electric vehicle charging ports.) Identifying significant shifts in transportation, communication, and energy, Lakamp saw an opportunity to solve a problem that innovation imposes on our aging buildings. For example, as millions of electric vehicles begin to flood the market in the years ahead, a major investment in infrastructure will be required to support them. Similarly, as buildings are rewired with higher-gauge electrical cabling to accommodate new energy and communications networks, it’s clear that smarter, more flexible solutions are required to meet these ever-increasing demands. “With the coming of 5G and some of the IoT technologies, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, there’s a lot that is emerging that needs to change in terms of the way communications networks work and new technology is presented that gets really exciting,” Lakamp said. “We’re here as a way to deploy that infrastructure in the built environment in a way that can be made beautiful and impactful.” To that end, Lakamp launched Totem, a groundbreaking energy solution that reimagines and redesigns smart utility. The Totem platform combines solar energy and energy storage, WiFi and 4G communications, electric vehicle charging, and smart lighting into a single, powerful product that weaves these capabilities directly into the built environment.

How It Works

Totem is, at its core, a vertical server rack that’s designed to support evolution in technology over time. Its base product deploys over 40 kWh of energy storage that serves as a grid asset and dynamic energy foundation that ensures energy quality and provides critical resilience in the event of broader grid issues. Integrated solar generation, electric vehicle charging, and LED lighting add further capability to each Totem and sophistication to each property’s energy assets. Totem also provides a reliable hub for Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G cellular services to bring high-speed connectivity to properties and communities. Through its modern connectivity platform, it also presents a key communications gateway for IoT devices on and around properties. According to a statement from Jeffrey Kenoff, director at architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, “Totem is one of the first to unite design, infrastructure, and community in a single as well as exquisite platform. It’s hard to imagine a major project or public space that it would not transform.”
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Climate Control

Carlo Ratti unveils four seasons installation at Salone del Mobile
As climate change blurs the typical boundaries between seasons, a forthcoming installation by Carlo Ratti Associati and Studio Römer will take that a step further, by exploring the relationship between nature and living in a piece that combines spring, summer, winter, and autumn under a single roof in the center of Milan's Piazza del Duomo. Titled "Living Nature," the 5,400-square-foot garden pavilion will be open to the public in the city's main square over the course of the Salone del Mobile fair, from April 17 through 15, 2018. With its four natural, climactic microcosms, the piece is ostensibly a study on the relationship between the natural environment and the city surrounding it, but it also goes one step further by experimenting with the latest technology in energy management systems, including photovoltaic cells, accumulators, and heat pumps. “In the 20th century, cities expanded outwards to conquer nature and the countryside," says Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA and director of MIT Senseable City Lab. "We believe that today’s challenge is the opposite: How can we bring nature back to the city and in the house?" Citing Bosco Verticale as an example of Milan's leading-edge engagement with biophilic design, Ratti says his firm's new project “continues such a reflection, bridging the domestic dimension closer to today’s most pressing environmental challenges.” As such, the pavilion will be divided into four "rooms," each with its own interior furnishings and plants selected by French botanist Patrick Blanc. Though climate control is often associated with excessive energy consumption, the new project aims to spark a conversation about sustainable design. The structure's Crystal membrane dynamically filters light based on input from light-reactive sensors. PV panels generate the energy to heat the summer area and cool the winter zone, with excess energy generated during peak production times stored in a battery system. With the challenges of climate change in mind, “we need to devise strategies for climate remediation to improve living conditions in our cities, defining a closer alliance between the natural and artificial worlds,” says Antonio Atripaldi, project leader at CRA. “This project offers a radical change of perspective, demonstrating the feasibility of climate control technology that is also sustainable, with vast potential for future applications.”
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Rockafeller the Boat

Kate Orff to head new climate resiliency center at Columbia GSAPP
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) and the Rockefeller Foundation have teamed up to found the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at GSAPP. The newly created center will unite science and cultural considerations with design and planning, and Columbia has announced that landscape architect Kate Orff of SCAPE Landscape Architecture and urban designer Thaddeus Pawlowski will helm the project. Drawing from the university’s climate science and design expertise, the Center will collaborate with partners across Columbia to improve, accelerate and implement resilience projects for cities. This interdisciplinary model will involve partners from Columbia’s Earth Institute Climate Adaptation Initiative, and bring a holistic approach to resilience that will combine academic work with the Center’s existing external partners. “Design and planning methods are rapidly changing to face issues of climate dynamics and the need for resilient, flexible, and equitable urban landscapes,” said Columbia GSAPP Dean Amale Andraos in a press release. “Working jointly with natural and built systems is of critical importance – it offers a way forward for communities to adapt and prepare for the future.” The Center’s first project will be the launch of a Resilience Accelerator, funded by a $3.7 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, a joint effort between GSAPP and the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) nonprofit. The accelerator will take projects for its first cohort from 100RC partner cities starting this spring, and two finalists will work with the Center every academic semester. Over the next two years, eight cities in total will work with GSAPP students, groups from the private sector, and other resources across Columbia and 100RC to run workshops, seminars and design studios to bring their ideas to fruition. “What we are looking to do is to combine design thinking, the creative, iterative design process, together with the related disciplines, particularly law, policy, climate science and engineering,” Orff told AN. “We’ve only just begun, and the goal is to bring resilient thinking as a cross-cutting initiative across the university.” Orff, a 2017 MacArthur genius grant recipient, is no stranger to thinking about the future threatened by climate change. Orff and SCAPE regularly incorporate flooding or resiliency considerations into their designs, whether it’s with plans for a living breakwater, or at conferences meant to address the impact of a changing clime on the built environment.
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Hard Lessons

IKD has pioneered hardwood cross-laminated timber
Thanks to a two-year, $250,000 Wood Innovations Grant from the United States Forest Service, and with further support from the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Indiana Hardwood Lumberman’s Association, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, IKD is currently working on an advancement that may completely change the cross-laminated timber (CLT) market. Currently, CLT is made primarily of softwoods, which have the advantage of being fast growing and inexpensive. IKD believes the future of CLT should also include hardwood, and now it just might. As a proof of concept, IKD has constructed a large installation, which stands as the first hardwood CLT structure in the United States. The project was built with an experimental CLT material made from low-value hardwood-sawn logs for Exhibit Columbus, the new architectural exhibition in the modernist mecca of Columbus, Indiana. A reference to the conversation pit in the Eero Saarinen–designed Miller House, the IKD’s Conversation Plinth is a multilevel occupiable installation in the plaza in front of the I.M. Pei–designed Cleo Rogers Memorial Library. The motivations behind using hardwood are two-fold. Currently, over 50 percent of the 80 million cubic feet of hardwood harvested in Indiana each year is used for low-value industrial products. By integrating this wood into the higher-value CLT, it raises the value of what is already Indiana’s largest cash crop. And from the perspective of designers and engineers, hardwood CLT provides the possibility of a more fire-resistant panel and a form-factor advantage. “We are currently exploring a number of applications that could have larger scale building applications,” IKD partner Yugon Kim said. “Since hardwood has superior mechanical properties, we believe we can achieve a panel that could be thinner to meet the same structural capacity of an equivalent softwood CLT panel.” The Conversation Plinth is not simply an exhibition piece for IKD. It is a test of the hardwood CLT the firm developed with SmartLam, the first CLT manufacturer in the United States. Over the months, the project will be subjected to the varied and sometimes-extreme weather of south-central Indiana, providing firsthand data that IKD and SmartLam can use to advance their research on the material. From the beating sun of late summer through the sleet, snow, and ice of winter, the project will be monitored for durability as well as aesthetic and structural changes. “We are closely observing the mixed-species panels and seeing how they react in the extreme temperature and moisture fluctuations so that we can continue to refine the species mix within the panel, the adhesion process, and the finish application and approach,” Kim explained. “It is really interesting to see how differently hardwood moves from softwood when the moisture content varies, and we are looking deeper at the fiber structures and unique characters of species themselves as well to create a superior CLT panel.” The project continues much of the timber research IKD has been doing, including its design for the Timber City at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and work on timber modular waste units, a timber version of CMU made from timber waste that has won numerous awards. Resources Project Lead and Designer IKD CLT Fabrication SmartLam Timber Engineering Bensonwood Phase One Hardwood Testing Material Supplier Pike Lumber Company Phase Two Conversation Plinth Hardwood Material Supplier Koetter Woodworking General Contractor Taylor Brothers Construction Co. Softwood Material Supplier And Fabricator Sauter Timber
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Have Merced

San Francisco's Parkmerced development to break ground after seven-year delay
After an initial approval in 2011 and years of delays, the SOM-master planned redevelopment of San Francisco’s Parkmerced neighborhood is finally set to break ground early this year. The 152-acre project is expected to bring 5,679 new residential units to San Francisco once it’s fully completed, a welcome respite for a city that’s in the midst of a housing crisis. According to the San Francisco Business Times, developer Parkmerced Investors LLC is expecting break ground on the first phase of the project, which includes 1,000 residential units across three buildings, in the first half of 2018. Part redevelopment and part addition, the Parkmerced project will ultimately add 230,000 square feet of retail space, 80,000 square feet of offices, and 60,000 square feet of parks to the neighborhood, according to the master plan. Although site permits for the first phase of construction were approved by the city in December, they have yet to be approved. Still, Parkmerced Investors is hopeful and has already begun spooling up to begin work. If everything goes as planned, the three new buildings should all be complete by 2022, although what percentage of these units will be affordable has yet to be finalized. This first phase of work will encompass a 17-story residential building with 299 units at 1208 Junipero Serra Boulevard, designed by DLR Group | Kwan Henmi, at an estimated $131 million. Additionally, international firm Woods Bagot is designing two 11-story buildings with a combined 248 units, one at 850 Gonzalez Drive and the other at 455 Serrano Drive, for $91.5 million, while 300 Arballo Drive, an eight-story, 89 unit building designed by San Francisco’s LMS Architects, will rise at the same time. The San Francisco Business Times notes that 21 and 25 Chumasero Drive will also be designed by SOM, although the timetable for any future buildings is currently uncertain. Once completed, the 11-million-square foot development could cost up to $1.35 billion. Parkmerced has long been viewed as an outlier community in San Francisco, as some former residents will fondly recall. Built as a planned community in the early 1940’s in part to house returning WWII service members, the neighborhood is part city-inside-a-city and part suburb, as the planning emphasizes single-family houses and car culture. While the area’s original developer, Metropolitan Life (MetLife), restricted home ownership in Parkmerced to whites-only until a lawsuit in 1972, the extension project has been envision as a holistic “eco-village” according to SOM. A sustainable vision plan was used to create the master plan, and prominently features open green spaces and storm water management systems. The vision plan is viewable here.
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Across the Pond

Learning from Europe and Canada's timber industry
If the steady stream of newly announced mass wood projects is any indication, mass timber building technologies are poised to take the American construction and design industries by storm over the next few years. As products like cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber (NLT), glue-laminated timber (glulam), and dowel-laminated timber (DLT) begin to make their way into widespread use, designers, engineers, and builders alike are searching for the best—and sometimes, most extreme—applications for mass timber technologies. But rather than reinvent the wheel, American designers can look to experienced mass timber designers in Europe and Canada for key lessons as they begin to test the limits of these materials in the United States. European and Canadian architects and researchers have long been at the forefront of mass timber design, starting with early experiments in the 1970s. By the 1990s, researchers like Julius K. Natterer at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, were developing initial CLT prototypes. Natterer’s work has been buttressed by that of many others, including research performed at the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology under Thomas Orskaug and experiments conducted at the Technical University of Munich under Stefan Winter. One key lesson European timber projects teach is that when it comes to structural systems, weight matters. On average, mass timber assemblies weigh between one-third and one-fifth as much as concrete structures, despite equivalent structural capacities. As a result, mass timber buildings are much lighter than concrete ones, a positive for building in tricky urban situations, for example—where underground rail yards, subway tunnels, and municipal utilities place limits on how heavy and tall buildings can be. London-based Waugh Thistleton Architects (WTA), for example, recently completed work on Dalston Lane, a 121-unit CLT midrise complex located above a tunnel serving the Eurostar train line in the city’s Hackney neighborhood. For the project, the architects worked with timber-engineering specialists Ramboll to develop a stepped tower cluster rising between five and ten stories tall. CLT panels are used for the external, party, and core walls of the building, as well as the stairs and the building’s floors. The variegated massing is due directly to the architect’s use of CLT construction, which resulted in a lighter building that allowed the designers to build taller without more extensive foundations. The resulting building, with its staggered massing, better maximizes daylight infiltration into apartment units. The added height allowed the architects to add 50 more units to the project than originally permitted, a testament to just how light CLT can be. Andrew Waugh of WTA said, “Timber buildings are just simpler, cheaper, and nicer [than concrete ones]. High-density urban housing should be built using mass timber.” Lighter mass timber buildings also perform better in seismic zones. Since the lighter buildings carry less inertia, the potential for catastrophic swaying goes down. The strategy was applied this year with the Brock Commons tower, an 18-story, 400-bed college dormitory designed by Vancouver-based Acton Ostry Architects for the University of British Columbia Point Grey campus. The tower is made up of a hybrid structural system that includes CLT floor slabs, glulam columns, steel connectors, and dual concrete cores. The concrete cores anchor the light mass wood structure in place, helping to counteract seismic and wind-generated forces. The 173-foot-tall structure is currently considered the tallest mass timber building in the world, and the construction is particularly multifaceted, utilizing a specifically fabricated set of interdependent building materials and finishes to meet structural and fire-safety regulations. The Brock Commons tower’s hybrid structural system brings to light another valuable lesson: that above certain heights—ten to twelve stories—the lightness of mass timber construction becomes a liability with regard to wind loads. The lack of physical mass at the highest parts of a prototypical timber tower results in increased deflection from wind loads. Ola Jonsson, partner architect at Swedish architecture firm C.F. Møller, recommended architects “go back to thinking about construction when designing mass timber structures,” as a way of rethinking approaches to dealing with difficult-to-manage structural conditions. He added, “It’s so early [in the adoption of mass timber technologies] that few really know how to do it well.” The architect said that with certain tall timber tower projects the office is working on, designers had to develop new massing strategies to limit wind loads. Jonsson continued, “Many engineers lack experience in mass timber, so architects have to become central figures in construction and design during this early phase of adoption.” The firm is currently developing over ten mass timber projects, an emerging body of work that came out of earlier mass timber competition entries developed by C.F. Møller that took the world by storm. C.F. Møller recently entered into a partnership with HSB Stockholm—Sweden’s largest housing association—to design a series of new mass timber housing towers, including the 34-story Västerbroplan tower designed with concrete cores and wraparound terraces. The tower’s columns and beams will consist of a blend of CLT and solid timber. The building’s terraces will come with integrated exterior curtains and will be fully enclosed by a steel superstructure containing glass panels. The tip of the building is designed to dematerialize as it steps back along two facades, creating a series of exposed terraces and planted areas. Like Brock Commons, Västerbroplan tower features a hybrid structural system that is “resource-effective,” according to Jonsson, meaning both lightweight and rigid. The firm is also at work on a 20-story bundled housing tower called Hagastaden for HSB Stockholm, this one designed as part of a new quarter of the city that will contain mixed uses and generous pedestrian areas. The tower features varied floor heights designed to accommodate divergent uses like student flats, penthouse apartments, and typical family-occupied units. Aside from the firm’s multiple mass timber projects, C.F. Møller is working as part of an interdisciplinary research team that is developing new strategies around mass timber towers rising 20 stories or more. The group—backed by SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Växjö Municipality, and Linnaeus University, among others—will investigate mass timber construction from a fire-safety, life cycle, and construction technology perspective. Regarding the research project, Jonsson explained, "Massive wood constructions give urban planners, architects, and designers great possibilities to develop innovative and sustainable architecture,” adding, "but a broader knowledge and more practical experience in the industry is needed." Another paradigm-shifting impact mass timber construction has had on European building methods relates directly to the construction process. Because mass timber elements are factory-produced to order, the relationship between engineer, builder, and architect is extremely integrated. Cory Scrivner, mass timber specialist with Canadian mass timber manufacturer Structurlam, said, “For us, it’s all about the 3-D model. [Digital modeling and coordination] are all done before we go into production in the factory: Everything has already been approved by the architect, engineer, and our team.” Scrivner explained further that the intense coordination was necessary, as “we are designing a building made from components that are accurate within one to two millimeters of the digital model.” The designers behind Brock Commons utilized Structurlam as the mass timber manufacturer for the project. The advanced level of project coordination and off-site fabrication meant that project was finished roughly four months ahead of schedule, with a time-lapse video on a project website showing construction crews erecting upward of two floors per day. The first story for the project was built from cast-in-place concrete, while the remaining 17 stories are built in mass wood. The structural system utilizes glulam columns, steel connectors, and a two-way spanning CLT flat-slab. The design creates a floor beam–free structure that could be erected start-to-finish in nine and a half weeks. The rapid-fire construction time line, however, comes at the expense of longer planning and design phases prior to any work boots hitting the job site, as the teams must become absolutely synced prior to fabrication. Waugh of WTA explained that often with timber buildings, the firm asks its clients to “give us more time now [in the planning stages of construction] and we’ll save you even more time on the back end.” Waugh added, “The better programmed the construction process, the faster and more accurately the buildings come out.” Waugh said that after erecting several mass timber structures, the firm had “gotten so much better at it” than when they first started. One area of improvement has been material usage, which decreased with each project as the structural capabilities of mass timber have been further explored, tested, and certified. The Dalston Station project mentioned earlier, for example, utilized about two-thirds as much timber as the firm’s first mass timber project erected a decade ago. Part of the reason for the improvements, Waugh and Jonsson agreed, results from designers’ greater awareness of and comfort with the construction process. “To design well in mass timber, you need an architect who wants to understand that the nature of [the architect] is one of a ‘master builder’ as well as one of a ‘master designer,’” Waugh explained. Since mass timber construction methodologies are based on kit-of-parts assembly systems of mass-produced panel types and structural elements, there has been increased interest among European and Canadian firms in building high-density mass timber housing. These experiments have positive implications for the many American cities burdened with housing shortages and long project-approval times. Waugh explained that WTA’s focus rests on expanding the abundance of available housing through mass timber construction. He said, “We design everything in our office now as if it was a mass timber project. Concrete projects are becoming more and more rare.” Several projects in the works, like Shigeru Ban’s recently proposed 19-story Terrace House in Vancouver, Michael Green Architecture’s 35-story Baobab building in Paris, and PLP Architecture’s 80-story addition to the Barbican housing estate in London, point toward a wider adoption of tall and supertall mass timber housing towers. With faster construction times and fabrication that can occur in tandem with permitting, mass timber has the potential to help cities add housing rapidly, safely, and efficiently. Waugh added, “Humanity is becoming more urban, so the principal job of an architect in the 21st century is to develop high-density urban housing. In an era of climate change, it behooves you [as a designer] to reduce the amount of carbon emitted. Again, for us, mass timber is a way to do that.”
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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 [2013], 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.
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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.”