Search results for "solar panels"

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Instagram Eavesdrop

Flying a drone at the Salk Institute and other updates from the architects of Instagram
At The Architect’s Newspaper, we’re plain addicted to Instagram. Sure, we love seeing Brutalist concrete through “Inkwell” or “Ludwig” filters, but there’s also no better place to see where architects are getting their inspiration, how they’re documenting the built environment, and where they’ve traveled of late. Below, we bring you some of the best Instagrams of this past week! (Also, don’t forget to check out our Instagram account here.) OMA's European Instagram account teased its nearly-complete Lab City at the Université Paris-Saclay—see their account for more pictures.
We're not sure if this is ArandaLasch's drone or not, but either way, the firm was there to capture this flying machine drift toward the sunset.

It's what it wanted.

A post shared by Aranda\Lasch, NYC & Tucson (@arandalasch) on

We missed this last week, but T+E+A+M teased its project (#ghostbox?) for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial.

#ghostbox #comingsoon to #chicagoarchitecturebiennial

A post shared by T+E+A+M (@tpluseplusaplusm) on

3XN revealed this design for a children's hospital that will feature both solar panels and vegetation on its roof, along with what appears to be some very colorful cladding.
Last but not least, Cooper Robertson gave The Architect's Newspaper a nice shout-out for our coverage of their Las Vegas streetscape design (thank you!). Read how this project is part of the city's big gamble on sports, conventions, and leisure.
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American Pickers

Robotics and fulfillment centers are reshaping retail—and cities could be next

The city of Leonia refashions itself every day: every morning the people wake between fresh sheets, wash with just-unwrapped cakes of soap, wear brand-new clothing, take from the latest model refrigerator still-unopened tins, listening to the last-minute jingles from the most up-to-date radio. On the sidewalks…the remains of yesterday’s Leonia await the garbage truck. - Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

I just learned that my underwear, my mattress, and most of my wardrobe all came from the same place. I didn’t purchase them from a one-stop, big-box retailer, but from a no-stop, small-box room—my bedroom, to be specific (from my bed to be more precise). All I had to do was open up a web page, pick, click, and then wait as my underwear, my mattress, and most of my wardrobe were shipped from a warehouse located in a Massachusetts exurb to arrive at my doorstep in two days or fewer. The maker of this mundane miracle is a company called Quiet Logistics, a third part logistics (3PL) provider that helps online retailers like Mac Weldon, Bonobos, and Tuft & Needle reach customers as quickly as possible. They and companies like them, along with online retailer behemoth Amazon, are using new technologies to redefine retail and transform the architecture of fulfillment. And if they don’t bring about the birth of Skynet and the robot apocalypse first, they might also transform cities and towns across America.

Open up any newspaper (or newspaper app) and you’re likely to read an obituary for the shopping mall. While the reports of its death may be somewhat exaggerated, malls are indeed changing as more and more people buy, well, everything online. Some are being transformed into mixed-use “town center”-style developments; others are filling vacancies with new tenants who lean into recent consumer habits like “showrooming,” an industry term for trying on clothes in one store and then buying them online from another at a lower price. While showrooming may be the bane of many a salesperson, retailers like the aforementioned Bonobos design and build stores as showrooms: comfortable environments where customers find the right-size pants and then leave empty handed; two days later they’re delivered to their home. Any longer than that and customers might not be so quick to leave without those slim-fit chinos. Thanks to the proliferation of fulfillment centers, no one has to wait for anything anymore.

Fulfillment centers are massive warehouses where the ephemera of our lives is stored until we call upon it with a wave of our hand. The typical fulfillment center is a rectangular box built from precast concrete slabs or tilt-up concrete panels that are poured on-site and lifted into place. They range in size from 300,000 square feet to more than a million, feature hundreds of loading docks, 30-to-40-foot-tall-space-frame ceilings (cubic volume is key), and towers of nearly endless shelves containing rainbow Slinkys, Swiffer Wet Jets, Hello Kitty pencil cases, and literally everything else. “The picking towers are like mini-buildings, only without mechanical systems,” said architect Greg Lynn, who has visited two Amazon facilities and has long been interested in the formal and spatial possibilities presented by new technologies. “Then there are the massive sorting areas and areas where they compress boxes. It’s like a little world. Or a theme park.”

While large distribution centers aren’t new, the growth of online direct-to-consumer shopping has prompted a building boom of the fulfillment center. For better and worse, no company is better known for these buildings than Amazon, which has built more than one hundred fulfillment centers in America alone, totaling over 77 million square feet in size. Amazon uses a few different types of these centers, each designed to accommodate a specific type of item: small sortable items, large sortable times, large non-sortable, expensive specialty items, and apparel, as well as newer facilities designed for perishable and nonperishable food. Some are conventional centers, where products are picked and packaged by human pickers who can walk up to ten miles a day; some use mechanized conveyance and sorting systems; others are automated with robots handling most of the heavy lifting.

While Amazon is the standard-bearer for this new model of retail, it’s not alone. Logistics real estate is booming. Online retailers, 3PLs, and traditional big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target have all invested heavily in new fulfillment centers to more quickly reach online customers. Target’s online sales tripled from 2013 to 2016, and in that time it nearly doubled the amount of space dedicated to e-commerce with two new fulfillment centers totaling 1.7 million square feet. According to Colliers International, in 2016 e-commerce prompted the construction of 74 million square feet of new warehouse space in the United States, with 93 percent of that space occupied. Already this year is on track to deliver another 55 million square feet, according to research firm Reis Inc., with Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Central New Jersey, and San Bernardino, California, as the top markets, although warehouse construction is also booming in Atlanta and Indianapolis.

As with all things real estate, it’s about location. Many of these fulfillment centers are built on former farmlands in centralized locations with easy accessibility to highways and airports. For example, Quiet’s new facility in Hazelwood, Missouri—its first outside Massachusetts—is part of a larger development of fulfillment centers built near St. Louis, where ground shipments can reach anywhere in the United States in two or three days. Amazon initially followed a different tact, building its warehouses in locations selected to take advantage of state tax policies. But those policies have changed as the industry has grown and states have grown savvier. Since 2013, Amazon has focused on building smaller fulfillment centers closer to major urban areas—sometimes even in cities—rather than building larger fulfillment centers in farther-out, less populated areas. The ultimate goal is same-day, and even same-hour, delivery.

But fulfillment isn’t just about fast delivery; it’s also about fast packaging. And that’s increasingly done by robots. In 2012 Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, now Amazon Robotics, whose rechargeable orange robots might look like a 1970s ottoman but can find anything in any warehouse instantly, and lift up to 3,000 pounds. They’re designed to move proprietary shelving “pods” along a predefined grid to workstations where real-live humans pick, pack, and prepare the items for shipment—often working on multiple orders simultaneously. Among other benefits, the Amazon Robotics system is flexible, scalable, and it’s five to six times more productive than manual picking. Plus, without the need for human-scale aisles, a fully automated warehouse requires half as much space as a traditional warehouse, and can use purchasing data to constantly rearrange itself so that the most frequently bought products are closer to the picking stations. The downside of this robot revolution? The robots can only be used to transport relatively small items that fit in the pods, and the systems requires a large and expensive investment in infrastructure—as well as a very, very flat floor.

After purchasing Kiva, Amazon took it off the market, forcing competitors who previously used them to find a new solution. This has resulted in a robot arms race as new companies rush to fill the void. One of those companies, Locus Robotics, was founded by Quiet Logistics, which was the first 3PL to use Kiva’s technology. Locus’s robots, which look like the love child of the Jetsons’ Rosie and a hat rack, can be integrated into any standard warehouse, cutting startup costs and accommodating the unpredictable nature of e-commerce. In a Locus-equipped warehouse, human pickers work in specific areas and the robots zip around each other from zone to zone, following the most efficient path to fill an order before taking it to the shipping station. Sensors, cameras, and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) help the robots map the warehouse and keep them from running into anything or anyone. Locus markets its robot as a more collaborative, worker-friendly solution that plays to the unique skill sets of both: The robot, with its infinite spatial knowledge, limitless stamina, and complete lack of self-doubt, quickly locates and delivers items, while the nearby human, with his or her prehensile hands, picks it up and puts it in the basket. For now, anyway. The robot arms race is becoming a robot hands race as companies work to develop reliable grasping mechanisms to replace human pickers who have annoying habits like going to the bathroom and going home at the end of their shift.

These two automation systems have very different implications for warehouse design, but denser solutions like Amazon’s automated ottoman seem ideally suited to the smaller fulfillment centers encroaching into our cities with carefully calculated products selected to get more people more things in less time. Lynn believes they could do a lot more than cut down shipping time on your Crest Complete Multi-Benefit Toothpaste with Whitening + Scope. “The level of spatial intelligence in these buildings is remarkable,” he said. “It’s clear that every item is being tracked at all times. In terms of localization and knowing where things are, it’s a hyperintelligent space.… [But] how do you take that kind of spatial thinking and apply it to other building types—a library or market or university?”

Lynn has been exploring that question with architecture students at Yale and UCLA, but we may not have to wait long to find out. Amazon is already experimenting with brick-and-mortar bookstores and grocery stores. Could Amazon U really be that far out? Could logistics save the shopping mall? Should more architects and planners consider these interconnected systems and design for robots as well as people? It may only be a matter of time before automation becomes integrated into our daily lives outside the warehouse and the architecture of fulfillment becomes the architecture of the city. Beyond packing and shipping, could fleets of autonomous vehicles transform cities by making parking garages and parking lots obsolete—creating new space for fulfillment centers, perhaps, or putting a new premium on curb space for drop-offs and pick-ups? I haven’t even mentioned drones yet. As technology evolves to meet the demands of our on-demand lifestyle, what else will change? Perhaps all cities will come to resemble Calvino’s fictional Leonia, whose opulence was measured “not so much by the things that each day are manufactured, sold, [and] bought…but rather by the things that each day are thrown out to make room for the new.” Ultimately, Leonia was threatened by a looming mountain of its own leftovers. But I bet they could get new underwear delivered in less than an hour.

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Only In The U.K.

IKEA now sells solar panels and home battery packs

IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant known for selling cheap, do-it-yourself furniture, is now offering solar energy systems (only these products aren't quite cheap and definitely aren't D.I.Y.).

IKEA has partnered with energy technology company Solarcentury to launch its Solar Battery Storage Solution, which features solar panels and home batteries, in the U.K. Solarcentury, one of the U.K.’s biggest solar panel providers, will produce the panels.

IKEA’s home storage battery works in the same way as Tesla’s Powerwall, storing energy generated from the solar panels instead of selling excess energy back to the grid. The home batteries are compatible with existing solar panels or as a part of a combined storage system.

There is a bit of a sticker shock for those used to IKEA’s affordable prices—the upfront cost for both panels and battery is £6,925 (about $9,034 in U.S. dollars)—but the company estimates customers will make their money back within 12 years and their electricity bills will be cut by up to 70 percent. 

Solar panels and home battery systems have been making big waves thanks to Tesla's recently-announced offering. While still expensive, IKEA's solar system has an advantage in that its starting price is much lower. Just the batteries will cost £3,000 (around $3,900) as opposed to Tesla's price of £5,900 (about $7,684). However, location, type of building, and size of roof, also affect the final cost.

“We believe IKEA and Solarcentury are bringing the most competitive package to the market yet so more people than ever before can profit financially and environmentally by producing their own energy,” Susannah Wood, head of residential solar at Solarcentury, said in a press release.

This news comes on the heels of two big announcements for the U.K.’s energy industry. Just last week, the U.K. government unveiled a plan that will allot £246m of funding (that's around $320.48 million) for battery technology research. British gas owner Centrica also revealed that it would be increasing its energy prices 12.5 percent, despite promises to lower costs.

If you live in the U.K., IKEA’s website offers a free estimate on how much installing its Solar Battery Solution will save you.

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Game Changer

Tesla’s solar roof will cost less than normal roofs
While the oil companies struggle to maintain their environmentally disastrous stranglehold on the market and the planet, there are some very realistic technologies that threaten to disrupt the status quo. One of the most dangerous for the oil companies is the Tesla solar roof, an off-the-shelf consumer system of tempered glass tiles. Last week, Tesla began accepting orders for the product and released pricing, which is comparable to normal asphalt roofing. The system is a mix of active solar tiles and inactive simple glass tiles, and as the percentage varies, so does the eventual cost. A 35 percent mix would cost $21.85 per square foot, and according to Consumer Reports, the tiles need to be under $24.50 per square foot to compete with normal tiles. That math doesn't even take into account the energy savings over time, which should allow the tiles to pay for themselves. Tesla released a savings calculator when they announced sales, and they are also offering a lifetime warranty. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla rep told Inverse. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7HVS3AZ4q/
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Yankee Ingenuity

Six innovative American projects you should know about
American inventors gave us airplanes, elevators, light bulbs, cellular phones, and countless other modern devices we take for granted. This July 4th, we're celebrating that spirit of ingenuity with six architectural and urban projects that are pushing the envelope, whether that's through cutting-edge technology or unprecedented design strategies. SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) gave the new Los Angeles U.S. District Courthouse a simple yet powerful design: A cube of folded glass that seems to float above a recessed base. About 1,600 chevron-shaped units of high-performance, blast-resistant glass were craned into place, and nearly all of them have an inner baffle on the side that receives direct sunlight. That cuts solar gain by half, and a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels further reduces energy consumption. A soaring atrium with south-facing baffles channels light down to all 10 levels, including the 24 courtrooms on floors five through ten. “The whole building is about light,” said José Luis Palacios, design director at SOM with Paul Danna. Detroit engages with its community to solve its raw sewage and storm water problem

The City of Detroit is solving one of its major problems with the help of one of its other problems. Detroit is experiencing combined sewer overflow, a messy, and often downright dangerous event that happens every time it rains too much. But by leveraging the abundant city-owned vacant land to create bioretention gardensDetroit may have found a way to alleviate at least some of the overflow.

Eva Jiřičná designs all-glass stair in New-York Historical Society' new Gallery of Tiffany Lamps

Jiřičná’s firm, who has come to specialize in glass construction, designed these LED-lit stairs with absolutely minimal metal details. In most instances, the stair’s glass-to-glass metal connections are encased within the layers of laminated glass panes, making them totally flush and well-hidden. Furthermore, the stair’s glass hangs off the nearby wall and works in tension. A small amount of give was engineered into the steps for users’ comfort when walking upward.

Chicago debuts first of 500 sensors that aim to transform urban data collection

The City of Chicago is piloting a “Fitbit” for its city streets. In collaboration with researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and a few corporations, the city last week installed two of 500 planned sensors for the Array of Things, a project to measure the city’s performance on an array of environmental metrics. The first cross-laminated timber high-rise in the U.S. now has a building permit It’s a first for the United States: the State of Oregon and City of Portland have granted a building permit for the first Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) high rise over 85 feet. The building is called Framework, an under development 12-story (148 feet tall), 90,000-square-foot mixed-use building in Portland, Oregon designed by LEVER Architecture that will make use of a wood core structure. Construction is expected to begin this fall, while the building is slated to open in the winter of 2018. Large raised earth “Lily Pads” by KPF will help stop future floods at NYC’s Red Hook Houses Collaborating with Philadelphia-based landscape architects OLIN, KPF worked out a master plan that will serve as part of a contingency plan in response to the devastation Red Hook faced after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. After conducting community research, including surveys, workshops, forums, KPF now aims to install 14 “utility pods” that would provide heat and electricity to each building as well as doubling-up as a gathering place for public programs.
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NBBJ

A smartphone-controlled responsive shading system prototype
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Sean McKeever, a senior associate at NBBJ, works between architecture and energy modeling in the firm’s corporate and digital practice studios. "One of the things I appreciate the most about architecture is not its static state. I love to see a building that is clearly 'living' with its occupants. There's beauty in letting users have a certain amount of control over the building." In response to a growing desire for clients to produce more user control over their workplace, McKeever and his colleagues have released multiple apps for smartphones and a prototype for a smartphone-controlled facade-shading device.
  • Facade Manufacturer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Architects NBBJ
  • Facade Installer tbd, Prototyping Phase
  • Facade Consultants NBBJ Digital Practice group (concept development)
  • Location Seattle, WA
  • Date of Completion 2016-ongoing
  • System unitized curtain wall with integrated LED
  • Products pyranometer sensors; Goldilocks app (by NBBJ)
The prototype, called Sunbreak, is a responsive system of louvers that raise and lower dependent upon solar radiation, temperature, and user override variables. The project has its roots in the Seattle office, which is one of the first buildings in the country to integrate automated exterior blinds that raise and lower with pre-programmed sun paths throughout the day. Although these sunshades have been a popular feature from the start, they block employees’ views when deployed, inspiring the firm to improve them. McKeever attributes this to a lack of user control and the fact that the blinds operate without regard to radiation data. Sunbreak runs off of pyranometers—sensors measuring solar radiation and infrared light. When shading is not needed, the panelized system folds up to, in McKeever’s words, “hide from view,” while performing as a light shelf to direct daylight further into the building. The modular shades feature narrow slats that operate along vertically oriented tracks. As the system contracts, individual panels fan out to form curvilinear shapes, which NBBJ’s team has fine-tuned to produce optimum shading responses throughout the diurnal cycle. The project is panelized so that individual units can be controlled by a smartphone app, allowing authorized users to operate the shades in real time. Since Sunbreak was developed, user-control and responsiveness to sensored data has extended beyond the facade to the interior workplace. "The user-driven ultra-controllable workplace is the desirable workplace of the future and present.” In response, NBBJ’s Digital Practice group has developed an app called Goldilocks that utilizes real-time data to track acoustics, temperature, daylighting, and activity within open office environments, giving employees the option to find an ideal working environment for their current tasks. McKeever believes facade projects are more challenging to implement for the industry due to their complexity: "I think dynamic facades are still in a ‘prototyping’ phase for much of the industry. To deliver a project of this ambition at full-scale you need collaborative partnerships among teams of specialists and capital investment… I'm excited where the industry is going, but it feels like we can't get there fast enough!"
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Lux Aeterna

Office tower integrates 1,500 linear feet of LEDs with unitized curtain wall
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An active light display animates the facade of a new office building in Warsaw, Poland, highlighting the Wola neighborhood’s transition from industrial manufacturing to a new residential and office district. The Prime Corporate Center was designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz in conjunction with the Warsaw office of Epstein.
  • Facade Manufacturer Guardian Glass (glazing); Aluprof / Widok (curtain wall)
  • Architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (design architect); Epstein (local architect); Golub GetHouse (developer)
  • Facade Installer Widok
  • Facade Consultants Candelux (lighting consultant); Luxmat (LED programming consultant)
  • Location Warsaw, Poland
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System unitized curtain wall with integrated LED
  • Products MB-SR50N HI Mullion-transom wall by Aluprof
The building’s design addresses varying vehicular and pedestrian arrival points by segregating car drop-off from those arriving by public transit. An additional 15 stories of offices above an eight-story base is coordinated with the scale of the street. Martin Wolf, principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz, said the simplicity of the building allowed his team to focus on a sophisticated facade composition: "This project became an exercise in pattern, geometry, and very subtle layers of texture. We achieved this through the combination of fritted glass panels, clear view glazing, and a selective articulation of the curtain wall system." At night, a grid of LED lights incorporated into the unitized curtain wall system to produce a delicate, shifting array of color and pattern that dramatizes the exterior wall. Guardian Glass's Poland manufacturing facility provided glazing and worked with the project team to integrate LED wiring into the curtain wall. These linear lights are wired into a central computer housed in the building, which hosts a computer sequencing program. The technology allows for Prime’s facade to be easily programmed by the building operator, who can flexibly produce variation in lighting schemes. Prime’s building envelope features integrated building systems to control the MEP/FP systems, a monitoring system that optimizes water and electrical power consumption, a heating recovery system, and an interior shading system to help manage solar heat gain. The office plates are designed for future flexibility, incorporating a raised floor system and column-free interior space. These features contribute to the building’s BREEAM certification, a UK green building rating system. Wolf said the Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s office continues to have an ongoing interest in integrative lighting techniques, and that LEDs allow for an impressive amount of variables for any project team to work with. "The beauty about LED is that if you wire it properly, you have an infinite array of color, sequencing, intensity, and timing." Facades like Prime’s, which have the capacity for coordinated building-scale lighting schemes, have the opportunity to communicate with the city utilizing data analysis, upcoming cultural events, and atmospheric conditions. According to Wolf, Prime is an “incredible work of art,” and adds “a needed touch of whimsy” to the urban context. A video of the facade lights in action can be seen below:
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Green Machine?

New book tells the story of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, but can a building this wasteful really be called “green”?
Last year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a 1.28 million-square-foot complex built into an artificial hill in Athens, was inaugurated to great fanfare. The building will provide two institutions, the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, pristine new homes, and it is a significant addition to the Athens cultural landscape. This year saw a related achievement: the publication of Victoria Newhouse’s Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, a richly detailed account of the creation of the $800 million complex. The book could have been a dud; after all, as Newhouse herself notes, the realization of the Athens project was “nearly trouble-free.” But Newhouse lucked out, in part because Greece didn’t: The country was in dire financial and political straits for most of the time the complex was in the works, providing the “chaos” of the title. Only the commitment of the deep-pocketed Stavros Niarchos Foundation kept the project on track. But the plan was always that the complex, once completed, would be turned over to the Greek government, which would operate it with taxpayer funds—a result that now seems unrealistic. (Worse, the agreement between the foundation and the government stipulates that if the government fails to meet its obligation to operate the Center, it will refund the foundation’s entire investment in the project—money the government doesn’t appear to have.) So the book became as much a tale of politics and economics as of architecture. And right now, that tale is a cliffhanger: neither the library nor the opera house has fully moved into the building. True, there is some architectural intrigue, usually involving firms other than the always-dependable Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW): Newhouse details the master-planning work of the New York firm Cooper Robertson that preceded the selection of RPBW to design the complex. She then reports that almost nothing of the master plan can be seen in the RPBW design. And she delves into the hiring, in 2013, of the Dutch firm Mecanoo, to rethink RPBW’s library design. Newhouse writes:
The idea that work by Renzo Piano—winner of a Pritzker Prize, among numerous other awards—could be corrected by anyone, let alone a far less known firm, would be surprising under any circumstances. What made it especially so is the stark disparity of styles between the two offices.
But Piano prevailed: “Having initially greeted [Mecanoo founder Francine] Houben with his usual charm, the Italian architect barely glanced at the Mecanoo proposal in late 2013 before rejecting it out of hand.” In the course of writing the book, Newhouse developed expertise on subjects as diverse as the history of philanthropy in the Ottoman world and the acoustical preferences of Southern Europeans. The book is a kind of encyclopedia. But there is one significant lacuna:  Newhouse calls the building “a triumph of environmental sensitivity.” In fact, the building, despite incorporating enough “green” features to achieve LEED platinum status, is inherently wasteful.  First, it’s not clear it was needed in the first place. The Greek National Opera, though lacking a purpose-built home, has performed “with great success” at the Megaron Concert Hall in the center of Athens, Newhouse reports. As for the library, its existing building, also in the center of the city, could handle far more visitors than it received. Consequently, Newhouse writes, “no one was able to realistically define the new library’s purpose.” Neither organization had a director at the time the planning for the cultural center began. And with the country in economic crisis, the entire enterprise, Newhouse observes, “defied logic.” But the Niarchos Foundation was determined to build something important, and its resolve only strengthened when the Greek economy collapsed. True, Piano’s best buildings, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibit an inherent modesty (as does Piano himself). But the Niarchos Foundation encouraged Piano to think big. After visiting the Athens site, he decided to give the library and opera separate buildings, facing a modern agora (through a pair of enormous glass facades) and set them into a manmade hill, more than 100 feet high at its peak. “It was an almost childish idea:  I simply lifted the ground’s surface to make way for the architecture,” Piano told the author. Creating the hill would involve building vast retaining walls, moving some 654,000 cubic feet of earth, and protecting all of it against seismic activity. That was accomplished by filling steel tubes with rocks, then hammering the tubes into the earth at 10-foot intervals, creating some 3,500 “gravel piles” in the process. Those processes required vast amounts of energy. Then came the planting of the center’s 40-acre garden, much of it on raised ground, and the extensive irrigation required to keep it alive in arid Athens—a process that involves both pumping water uphill and passing it through a reverse osmosis desalinization plant. The hill, that “childish idea,” is a grown-up energy consumer. Overall, operating the cultural center will require 14 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, Newhouse reports. Producing that much power through the burning of coal—the predominant source of electricity in Greece—will create some 30 million pounds of CO2 or its equivalents, according to the best available figures. That’s about as much 1,500 average Greeks produce each year. True, setting the building in a hill could reduce the cooling load by as much as 7%, Newhouse reports. But counting that as an environmental victory is like counting gambling winnings while ignoring losses. And, true, the vast building has a substantial photovoltaic system. In fact, after the artificial hill, its most prominent feature is the canopy atop the opera house, a kind of flying carpet supporting 87,000 square feet (about two acres) of photovoltaic panels. That certainly sounds green. But the panels, even with the latest technology, will produce just 2 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, or about 15% of the building’s needs. (And that’s if all goes well.) And even that power isn’t “free,” environmentally speaking. Thirty steel columns, braced by diagonal cable ties, support the p.v. panel-covered canopy, which is estimated to weigh 4,700 tons. The carbon footprint of structural steel is enormous. And solar panels themselves require energy to fabricate, transport, and install. There is no free lunch, energy-wise. Making matters worse, the Center is two miles from the nearest subway stop. Hard to reach by public transit, it contains 1,000 parking spaces, evidence of its reliance on private cars. LEED doesn't take any of that into account. It is essentially a checklist system, conferring points for “moves” like providing bicycle racks and using recycled building materials.  Whether the building should have been built in the first place; whether it could have been built closer to public transportation; or could have been significantly smaller than it is—the big-ticket items, environmentally—are the very issues LEED ignores. Of course, I understand the need for symbols, which can help uplift societies (especially societies as troubled as 21st-century Greece). And I believe that the Niarchos Foundation had the best intentions when it vowed to make the building green.  But the building it built is anything but green, and LEED is its enabler. With its “platinum” imprimatur, LEED sends a message that even unnecessary buildings, on sites ill-served by public transportation, and requiring vast amounts of energy to build and maintain, are good for the environment. Which, at this time of climate crisis, triggered by energy consumption, is a dangerous message to send. Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens is available from Monacelli Press.
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Great Outdoors

Landscape Forms says “GO Outdoors” with a powerful new platform supporting people and technology

The GO OutdoorTable is a new platform for outdoor activity. A true original, GO provides a focal point and gathering place, a large work surface with access to data and power on or off the grid, and an optional canopy with lighting. GO supports work and social connection, individual and group activity, outdoors. Offered in three basic configurations: dining height, standing height and standing height with canopy, GO enables people to work, meet or just plug in and connect while sitting, standing, or leaning. Standing height versions can offer power for charging devices with one or two small power garages located on the exterior leg panels or inside canopy panels; the optional canopy, designed to reduce glare on personal devices, acts as a spatial anchor and can support solar power.

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Case Design

Rural Indian school achieves net-zero
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A residence school recently completed in an Indian village roughly 90 miles away from Mumbai integrates passive strategies in the design of its highly ambitious yet modestly budgeted project. The campus of Avarsa Academy consists of seven similar buildings, each with classrooms on the first two floors, and a student dormitory and faculty residences on the upper two floors. The architects of the project, Mumbai-based Case Design, said the school “is uniquely positioned to take advantage of locally shared resources while establishing its own identity as a leader in the education and the development of young women in India.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Malekar Gharat, Pritesh Gharat
  • Architects Case Design Studio LLP
  • Facade Installer Rameshwar Bhadhwa from Mortar Constructions
  • Facade Consultants Case design Studio LLP (facade); Transsolar Inc. (Passive design and climate-engineering)
  • Location Lavale Village, Pune (India)
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Solar chimney, Earth ducts, Exposed thermal mass, and shading system
  • Products custom bamboo screen
Referencing local and universal examples of academic, domestic, public and sacred spaces, the project responds to site, program, and climate, addressing the needs of the community to provide a “sanctuary for learning.” The architects collaborated with Transsolar, an international climate engineering firm, to develop the passive climate strategy, which involves a facade design that shades the interior. The building envelope, coordinated with strategic interior program placement, is composed of recessed window walls and cantilevered reinforced concrete slabs. Locally-sourced bamboo screens span floor-to-floor and are composed of a series of vertical chutes with intermediate horizontal braces. One of the most compelling strategies developed by the team was to supply outside air through underground earth ducts. This eliminated unwanted noise from the campus while allowing for natural ventilation of the classrooms. For the structural frame of the building, exposed reinforced concrete construction was paired with locally-sourced stone to provide thermal mass in occupied spaces, thus producing a moderate, more consistent radiant temperature.   The air from all classrooms and living spaces passively transfers in three separate, centrally located “exhaust cavities” which are integrated into the structural core of the building and eventually extend out as solar chimneys above roof level. These chimneys, using solar heat from the sun, are designed to passively drive the entire air flow, and provide cooling, throughout the building. Transsolar said that these design strategies reduced initial construction cost by approximately 7% through elimination of mechanical systems, and reduced annual energy cost by 80% due to its completely passive design. A handful of solar water heaters provides hot water for showers and PV panels on the building roof supplies electricity for ceiling fans and electric lighting in the building, making it also a Net-zero Energy Building.
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Lights Out

Indiana moves to revoke consumer solar energy incentives
Ironically coinciding with an announcement that Chicago plans to utilize more renewable energy, a bill has passed the Indiana legislature eliminating much of the financial incentive for individuals to install solar panels. The bill was pushed by Indiana’s investor-owned utility companies, who fear the growing popularity of the solar industry. Solar energy only accounts for less than 1% of the state’s power, but quickly falling solar panel prices—paired with their increased efficiency—is leading to their growing popularity. The bill is now in the hands of Governor Eric Holcomb. Currently, the state has four main solar energy incentives: a net metering program, the Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption, the Indiana Sales Tax Incentive for Electrical Generating Equipment, and the Indiana Income Tax Deduction for Solar-Powered Roof Vents or Fans. The bill is specifically targeted at the net metering program. Energy customers that participate in net metering receive credit on their energy bills for the solar energy that they produce but do not consume. The bill would limit the rate at which credits are issued for net metering. Everyone who installed solar panels before 2018 would continue to receive credits at the current rate for the next 30 years. Those who install panels before 2018 and 2022 would only be able to collect until 2032. The 11 cents per kilowatt/hour credit would also be reduced to 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. Some are saying that the bill is unnecessary tough because the net metering program will only be in effect until over 1% of the state's energy comes from alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar. Others believe that the bill is directly aimed at encouraging consumers to buy into community solar programs, which the utility companies own. Community solar programs work by leasing solar panels, which are part of larger solar arrays, to consumers. This allows customers to use solar energy without having panels on their own roof, but it also keeps the utility companies in control of energy production. The bill was introduced by State Senator Brandt Hershman. The Senate voted 37-11 to pass the bill with changes made by the House.
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Energy Shooting Star

Chicago plans to power public buildings with 100% renewable energy
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with other top city officials, has announced the city’s intention to power every one of its public buildings with 100% renewable energy by 2025. This would make Chicago the largest city in the U.S. to power its properties with renewable energy. The announcement comes in direct opposition to recent policy proposals put forward by the Trump administration. “As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down,” Mayor Emanuel said. “By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st-century economy here in Chicago.” The announcement was made atop the roof of the Shedd Aquarium, which is not a public building, but recently installed 900 solar panels. The Shedd is participating in the mayors Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge, which also involves installing high-efficiency lighting and large on-site batteries. The combined energy use of the city’s buildings in 2016 was approximately 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours, which accounts for about 8% of the city’s total electricity use. This is also the equivalent of powering about 295,000 Chicago homes for the same amount of time. In recent years, the city has made significant moves towards its renewable energy goals by eliminating coal use from over one billion kilowatt hours in 2013 alone. The city also reduced its carbon emissions by 7% between 2010 and 2015. Chicago was also named the 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Today's action is a historic step forward in establishing Chicago as a clean energy leader,” said Jack Darin, Illinois Sierra Club President. “By moving boldly to repower its public buildings with renewable energy like wind and solar, Chicago is leading by example at a time when local leadership is more important than ever. While President Trump and his administration would reverse America's progress on climate change and clean energy, Mayor Emanuel is ensuring that Chicago will move forward, and that its residents will benefit from the good jobs and cleaner air that come from renewable energy projects. We look forward to working with the Mayor, community leaders, and the people of Chicago to achieve this bold goal on the path to eventually powering all of Chicago with 100% clean energy."