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AN's Facades+ Conference

AEC professionals behind Cornell Tech Passive House reveal key to high energy performance

Today at Facades+ New York, The Architect's Newspaper's conference series on innovative building envelopes, AEC professionals gathered for a day of talks on the challenges and opportunities presented by the design and construction of high-performance facades.

To kick off the afternoon session, Blake Middleton, partner at Handel Architects and Lois Arena, senior mechanical engineer at SWA convened to talk about “The House” at Cornell Tech. The 26-story, 350-unit building, on Roosevelt Island on the East River, is the largest Passive House–certified structure in the world. AN editor-in-chief William Menking was on hand to moderate the post-talk Q+A.

Passive House certification, Arena explained, is the most rigorous building standard in the world. Why? The certification is based on performance—and the performance levels that Passive House demands are five to ten times higher than current building codes require. So, to meet the exacting standards, Arena and Blake revealed just how they rose to that challenge with their project at Cornell Tech.

There are six key factors, Arena said, to achieving the certification: siting, compact shape, the proper enclosure, a low energy HVAC system, energy efficient appliances and lighting, and, crucially, user-friendliness.

The Cornell Tech building is sited due south to maximize solar gains. Middleton added that minimizing the facade’s exposed surface area was key to the certification: the designers used a “wrap” metaphor for what the facade might be, a form that's connected to the geology of the island. With a facade that’s 23 percent glass, “the design goal was to break down that scale and solidity with banding,” he said.

Functionally, the team used a prefabricated panelized wall frame for the facade, both for quality control and to achieve desired R-values of 19-40, depending on the wall’s thickness at various points.

To really double down on efficient energy use, The House has a feedback system to encourage occupant participation whereby residents can see how much energy they are using. The system, as a result, promotes friendly competition between floors to meet or beat projected energy use. Meanwhile, a centralized mechanical ventilation system helps maintain optimal airflow, but each room—per Passive House standards—comes equipped with fully operational windows to encourage natural ventilation.

Building on the success of the Cornell Tech project, the team’s next projects include a 700-unit Passive House–certified affordable housing development in East Harlem. To find out more about The House, check out another Q+A AN did with Blake earlier this week as well as more previous coverage here.

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Just Encase

Specsheet>Standout building envelopes and facade panels
Highly customizable facade panels offer a variety of aesthetics limited only by an architect’s imagination, while high-performance stone and terra-cotta systems raise the bar for invisible building envelopes. Escale Golden Anodized GKD Metal Fabrics An anodized aluminum product that can be used in facade design as well as solar management, this 37-percent open-weave metal mesh is suitable for new and retrofit projects and is easily applied over existing facades to create a fresh look. ALPHATON Terracotta Rainscreen Facade System Shildan This envelope system is made from natural clay, making it an eco-friendly option that comes in 18 standard and unlimited custom colors, as well as a range of shapes and finishes, all of which are customizable (or all of which can be customized to suit a project’s unique design intent). Panels, which contain a chain of internal i-beam supports, can be incorporated horizontally or vertically. The system’s ventilation is on the outside of an air or vapor barrier, which enhances insulation and cuts energy consumption by up to one-third.  Selective Polish Zahner Zahner works closely with clients
 to create surfaces that combine texture and shine by blasting or brushing stainless steel, a stunning yet subtle technique to make metal facades stand out. The brand uses acid etching to create custom finishes, including perforation, which can allow a project to come to life when backlit. Virgola, Le Pietre Incise Collection by Lithos Design Part of Lithos Design’s original line, the Incise Collection now includes an array of undulating graphic patterns that create subtle optical illusions. The designs are available on a variety of different stone slabs, which are machined flat. The Virgola pattern was inspired by the comma and creates a repeating design that can be interpreted in many ways. Trespa Pura NFC Decors Trespa At this year’s IBS, Trespa released ten new colors and two new wood patterns to their Décor line. Each panel is made of 70 percent natural fibers saturated with thermosetting resins with a closed surface to offer supreme weather resistance. Pura NFC can be applied both horizontally and vertically, whether side by side or in a lap pattern. Carbon Pro-Fit® Modera™Ledgestone Cultured Stone by Boral Comprised of 58 percent pre-consumer recycled content, Carbon Pro-Fit Modera is a high-quality manufactured stone product that is available in three natural color options. This product is easy to install and GREENGUARD Gold certified. Mockett-ArchNews-Digital-04-17-v1

Solid Brass Grommets offer a luxurious wire management solution for executive work desks and conference tables. MM Series - 4 sizes, 7 finishes.

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Say Yes to the Mesh

YKK’s LEED Platinum Tokyo Headquarters
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Tokyo-based YKK Fudosan Co, Ltd, part of YKK Group's global network, has obtained LEED-BD+C (Core and Shell) Platinum certification for its YKK80 Building. It was the first such certification for a new office building in Japan. The goal of the project team was to reduce energy consumption by 60% when compared to typical office buildings. To achieve this, the design prioritized water and energy efficiency along with a healthy indoor environment. Open space within the seismically isolated structure was utilized as a heat sink for the geothermal heating system of the building. Other features include sensors for day-lighting and motion-activated operability, outdoor air cooling and mist facilities for the exterior shaft, radiant panels, desiccant air cooling, and high-performance electrical outlets.
  • Facade Manufacturer YKK AP (metal screen, windows)
  • Architects Nikken Sekkei Ltd.
  • Facade Installer Kajima Corporation, Toda Corporation and Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd. joint venture
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Tokyo, Japan
  • Date of Completion 2015
  • System Steel reinforced concrete; seismically isolated structure; double-skin facade with integrated blinds
  • Products custom YKK metal screen and glazing assembly
The architects, Nikken Sekkei Ltd, say the site of the building posed the biggest challenge for the project. Located in a busy area of the city along an elevated expressway with a primary west-facing exposure, the project team relied heavily on the building envelope to provide necessary acoustical and solar protection. The facade design, engineered in-house by Nikken Sekkei, employs a double-skin curtain wall which includes automatic blinds within the cavity and a custom exterior aluminum screen. Set outboard of this facade, a custom metal screen manufactured by YKK was incorporated to provide further solar protection. Covering the roughly 25,000-square-foot primary facade, the mesh-like appearance of the screen is comprised of two layers of delicate extruded aluminum “Y” sections. Beyond the facade, a “forest dining room” features bright and simple design scheme, using plain wood as the base color for both the interior finishing and furnishings. The cafe, which roasts its own beans on the premises, serves as a PR activity and is directly managed by YKK, is located on the first floor. The theme color of the cafe was used for the eaves and walls. Furthermore, the shape of the lighting box was cut into Y, the image design was taken from YKK. For workstations on the standard floor, the emphasis was placed on smooth operations, with our original design used for desk systems. The architects say the facade system at YKK80 creates a varied expression while maintaining a uniform appearance. “From a practical standpoint, the metal screen was incorporated to help reduce the strong west sunlight and filter the view of the busy neighborhood from the interior. The details joining sections of the metal screen were carefully designed so that the screen would appear seamless, or in other words, a single fabric. We felt it was important for the 'screen' to appear like a single fabric that wraps the building.”
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Feel the Learn

Miami’s Frost Museum of Science by Grimshaw aims to be paragon of sustainable architecture
Miami’s new science museum will open its doors on May 8, 2017. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science (or Frost Science, for short), which sits Miami's Downtown Museum Park, is part of Miami-Dade County’s initiative to make Miami a “cultural hub.” The 250,000-square-foot campus—designed by London-based Grimshaw Architects, who worked with local firm Rodriguez and Quiroga—is divided into four entities: the Planetarium, Aquarium, North Wing, and West Wing, which will include exhibit space, the Learning Center, the museum’s Science Store, and a museum café. The building is designed to be an exhibit itself, with examples of sustainable building practices and local wildlife. A rooftop urban farm and “Living Core” will be dedicated to showcasing native vegetation, while a solar terrace of photovoltaic panels will supply the building with energy. As part of the museum’s Everglades exhibit, there will also be an on-site wetland. These features should help the project achieve its expected LEED Gold rating. “The technology, engineering, and sustainability features found throughout the museum rival those on a global stage and will inspire and motivate generations to come,” said Frank Steslow, Frost Science President, in a press release. “Our goal is that Frost Science will be an international destination and vibrant educational space that encourages curiosity and investigation.” On top of the building’s built-in experiences, the museum will also feature exhibits on the history of flight, from dinosaurs to aerospace engineering, and the physics of light, and will, of course, provide ample opportunities to engage with local wildlife at the three-level aquarium. The museum is currently in its final stages of construction, awaiting the arrival of its new inhabitants. For more information about the museum’s exhibits or to purchase tickets, visit their website here.
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THE LUMBERJACKS ARE O.K.

WIDC: Isn’t it good, Canadian wood?
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Timber was the obvious choice for the Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC). This sturdy carbon-storing material is increasingly an alternative to concrete or steel in mid-rises and “plyscrapers.” For a province-owned building in Prince George, British Columbia, mandated to use local products, Michael Green Architecture (MGA) won the competition with a “dry structure” using no concrete slabs above grade (except one small vibration-controlling roof panel, notes project manager Mingyuk Chen) and deploying wood everywhere from posts and beams to mullions.
  • Facade Manufacturer Guardian Industries Corp.; Brisco Wood Preservers; Kawneer
  • Architects Michael Green Architecture
  • Facade Installer PCL Constructors Westcoast, Inc. (contractor)
  • Facade Consultants RDH Building Engineering, Ltd. (building envelope); Equilibrium Consulting, Inc. (structural engineer)
  • Location Prince George, BC (Canada)
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System Cross-laminated timber (CLT)
  • Products Columns and timber by Structurlam; facade and glazing by Guardian Industries Corp., Brisco Wood Preservers, Kawneer; Blinds and shades by Hunter Douglas Architectural
The 97-foot WIDC was North America's tallest all-wood building when it opened in 2014. A site-specific code amendment allowed nonresidential construction for this project, recalls Chen. Its lowest three floors house programs of the University of Northern British Columbia and Emily Carr University, with wood-industry offices above. Materials include cross-laminated timber (CLT), mainly Douglas fir, for floor panels, shear walls, and core shafts and stairs; Douglas fir glulam for columns and most beams; laminated veneer lumber for the window mullions, entrance canopy, and feature stairs; parallel-strand lumber for load-transferring beams; and Western red cedar, charred or natural, for cladding. The facade, notes principal Graham Finch of envelope specialists RDH, uses Kawneer curtain-wall units of aluminum veneer attached to wood framing, with high-performance triple glazing and irregular patterns varying from solar-gain-maximizing southern fenestration to prefabricated structural insulated panels on the north. CLT is counterintuitively fire-resistant, Chen notes, needing no chemical treatment; if exposed to fire, it forms a carbon “sacrificial layer” slowing the char rate. Onsite dampness mitigation poses minimal challenge, Finch adds, noting that timber construction is widespread in Europe and ready for prime time here. “It forces you to go back to first principles and rethink.... It's not that it's hard; it's new, it's unique,” he says. Growing the WIDC's materials, he adds, took Canada's forests under three minutes. RDH Managing Principal/Senior Building Science Specialist Brian Hubbs will be speaking about "Facades for Wood High-Rises" at Facades+ New York City on April 6+7.
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Mesh to Impress

Dominique Perrault’s hinged facade
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The result of a winning competition entry from 2011, the Mechanics Hall building carefully integrates new program within an existing campus framework at the campus of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The Swiss university is a research institute specializing in physical sciences and engineering. The design-build project—a collaboration between French-based Dominique Perrault Architects and Steiner SA—serves as a laboratory for research scientists, and consists of two wings connected by a large central atrium. The composition of the space is organized by an existing structure, which dates back to the early 1970s.
  • Facade Manufacturer Bluesteel SRL
  • Architects Dominique Perrault Architecture; Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost (Interior Design and Lighting); Architram (local architect)
  • Facade Installer Steiner SA
  • Facade Consultants PREFACE SARL (facades); Daniel Willi SA (structure)
  • Location Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System unitized panel with operable metallic mesh solar shade
  • Products GKD metal fabrics (metallic mesh); Bluesteel SRL (aluminum frame)
The building incorporates industrial components and data processing technologies while preserving the circulation network and the structural grid established by the original master plan. The main entrance features a 40-foot-high self-supporting structure with a canopy that integrates water drainage through poles that double as lateral bracing members. The facades of the building combine two distinct architectural styles in one common material: a metallic mesh from GKD Metal Fabrics. The architects said this material is both a contextual response to neighboring buildings with operable elements that evoke the scope of mechanical engineering. A mechanical facade along the East, South, and West of the building involves shop-built modules dimensionally benchmarked off a geometry that was established by EPFL’s historic master plan. Each module is composed of an inner thermal and soundproofing layer paired with an outer solar protection layer. The modules are divided into three vertical panels, two of which are sliding with one static. These panels are operated through a building automation system, but can also be maneuvered manually by the user of the building. The solar screen is set at a staggered 5-degree tilt away from the facade, producing a super-scale woven pattern. The architects said the indoor lighting system provides a backlit effect at night, highlighting the translucency of the facade assembly: “With its blinds that shift and turn with the Lausanne skies, the slant of the frames and the weave of the mesh, and the visual clash between the threshold and the outer panels, the building offers a range of rich and contrasting perceptions.” A “historic” facade on the north elevation features original construction that was retrofitted to meet the stringent Swiss-based Minergie energy standard. Wide horizontal window units roughly 5-feet by 10-feet are mounted above an opaque apron mode of horizontal stamped sheet metal. On the interior, the architects said an open office layout was located at the perimeter of the building, and benefits from ample screened glazing: “Comfortable, luminous and spacious rooms are apt spaces for long hours of research work.” Beyond the facade, an atrium facilitates chance encounters and circulation through a series of flared diagonal corridors and straight staircases. The architects said this the circulation scheme of the atrium creates a “fantastic spatial experience” that was inspired by Piranesi’s Capricci: “Superimposed planes and crisscrossing lines create a dynamic tri-dimensional picture, which is deconstructed and reconstructed by each visitor passing through it.” Dominique Perrault will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Facades+ conference in New York City, April 6 and 7. Click here to learn more!
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Measure HHH

San Fernando Valley poised to tackle homelessness with new $1.2 billion housing initiative

The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.

One area where this transformation is taking shape is housing, specifically, transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.

According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, the number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley increased by 36 percent last year. Though the increase was significantly lower throughout L.A. County overall last year, one thing is clear: The number of people without homes in the areas around Los Angeles’s urban core area is growing. A similar trend is playing out across the country. Not only are urban homeless populations being increasingly displaced out toward the suburban areas by gentrification, but greater numbers of suburbanites themselves are becoming homeless, as well, due to a fraying social net and systematic income inequality.

Dire though the situation might be, Los Angeles—and the San Fernando Valley in particular—is currently poised to make strides in re-housing currently homeless individuals living in quasi-suburban environments by building a collection of new housing projects across the city. That’s because this November, 76 percent of L.A.’s voters supported Measure HHH, the city’s Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. The initiative will raise $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of up to 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The victory represents a shift in collective perspective that goes hand-in-hand with changing urban attitudes: As transit, density, and pedestrianism spread, so too has a visceral awareness that the city’s homeless population has been wholly abandoned by society and that action is overdue.

The passage of Measure HHH represents an opportunity for architects to assert themselves in civic and cultural discourse at an incredibly meaningful scale. And as much as the valley has begun to accept increased density, so too is it likely to see its fair share of new transitional and supportive housing as a result.

Already, the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a local affordable housing provider known for its focus on design quality, has begun to expand into neighborhoods beyond Skid Row. The organization opened a new set of apartments designed by Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa this summer in the MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, called The Six, is the group’s first development with permanent supportive housing specifically for veterans. The name of the complex comes from the military shorthand, “got your six,” which means “I’ve got your back.”

The complex is designed around a central, planted courtyard and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It features solar panels on the roof and ground-level supportive services for the residents, with a large public courtyard located on the second floor. Units rise up around the perimeter of the courtyard along a single-loaded corridor and are capped by a roof terrace and edible garden. The firm also calibrated the building’s architectural massing in order to respond to passive cooling and lighting strategies and features selectively glazed exposures as well as a courtyard layout that facilitates passive lighting and ventilation.

Another project under development by SRHT is Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) Crest Apartments in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Crest Apartments will deliver 64 affordable housing units for formerly homeless veterans. The building is laid out as a long, stepped housing block raised on a series of piers above multifunctional hard- and soft-landscaped areas. The long and narrow site shapes the complex such that the building’s mass steps around in plan as it climbs in height, creating vertical bands of windows aimed toward the street and side yard in the process. The ground floor of the complex contains supportive service areas as well as a clinic and community garden. The building recently finished construction and residents are beginning to move in.

The future of housing efforts in the valley is also being tackled by students at University of Southern California (USC), where a studio funded by the nonprofit Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) is aiming to develop a rapid-re-housing prototype to be deployed across the valley. The studio, formally unrelated to Measure HHH, is led by Sofia Borges, acting director at MADWORKSHOP and R. Scott Mitchell, assistant professor of practice at USC. The professors tasked architecture students with studying the spatial implications of homelessness at the individual person’s scale.

Ultimately, the studio, with nondenominational ministry Hope of the Valley as its client, developed the beginnings of a single-occupancy housing prototype that could be mass-produced and temporarily deployed to selected vacant sites in as little as two weeks. The cohort spent the semester meeting with officials in the city government, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, to work on an actionable plan for implementing their prototype. The students built a full-scale mock-up of the 96-square-foot unit for their final review and detailed plans for how the unit might be aggregated into larger configurations as a sort of first-response to help people transition from living on the streets to occupying more formal dwellings like The Six or Crest Apartments.

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Stone Cold

A self-shading protective skin for the desert
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The Sandra Day O'Connor Law School, at Arizona State University (ASU), is a new six-story, 260,000-square-foot state-of-the-art law school, designed by New York-based Ennead Architects in collaboration with Jones Studio. The architecture of the building is inspired by the school’s progressive legal scholarship and outreach to the community through services like a public interest law clinic and the nation’s first not-for-profit teaching law firm. Ennead Architects say the Phoenix-based school is designed to act as an institutional agent of change dedicated to educating students and citizens on the importance of the law in shaping civil society.
  • Facade Manufacturer Kovach
  • Architects Ennead Architects; Jones Studio (Local Architect)
  • Facade Installer DPR Construction (construction manager)
  • Facade Consultants Buro Happold Engineering (Strutural, MEP/FP, Lighting Design, Sustainability)
  • Location Phoenix, Arizona
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System unitized prefabricated panels on steel frame construction
  • Products Kovach (unitized facade and storefronts); GKD (fall protection and media mesh); Cornerstone (Arizona sandstone); Fabri-Tech Structures (Courtyard sails); Performance Solutions (retractable seating system); Barrett-Homes (Hunter Douglas Ceilings & ACGI); ISEC (custom millwork)
In response to this initiative, the building design encourages vibrant connections between ASU, the College of Law, and the local downtown Phoenix community. A north-south “slice” through the courtyard massing creates an inviting and active public space with a pedestrian pathway that brings individuals directly into the central core of the law school, exposing them to the main lobby and three double-height spaces located at the heart of the building. Here, an expansive bi-folding glass door at the front of the school's Great Hall blurs the line between indoor and outdoor space, providing flexibility while offering a unique civic space to the downtown Phoenix community. Brian Masuda, associate partner at Ennead Architects, said this massing strategy paired environmental responsiveness with the desire to expose the core functions of the building to the public. The courtyard allows views into the building while self-shading large glazed areas of the facade. Sustainability was a key design driver throughout the process. A "hard-shell," which the design team considered a "protective skin" that performs as a shading device, wraps all of the exterior surfaces of the building. Ennead collaborated with Buro Happold to develop an articulated facade of Arizona sandstone with aluminum and glass windows. Masuda said internal programming and solar orientation prompted undulation in the window openings of the facade: "The aesthetic was driven by the program and environmental analysis. We wanted to make the stone facade modulate and calibrate in a way that when the windows got wider, fin elements got deeper." The facade is unitized and factory assembled, both to assure quality and to achieve a higher standard of thermal performance. The decision to work with a unitized system also helped with an aggressive one-year design and documentation schedule, said Masuda: "A unitized prefab facade system came into play because of the efficiency of the construction." Heavily insulated walls and roof also contribute to the efficiency of the shell. Mechanically, the building incorporates energy-efficient technologies, including chilled beams and under-floor displacement cooling. The project team said that because of the integration of these passive systems, they relied more heavily on the performance of the building envelope. "Hot spots" discovered through energy modeling were managed by the fine tuning of glazing types, the specification of high solar heat gain coefficients, and fritting in specific areas of the facade. The building is expected to reduce energy consumption by 37% compared to a baseline building, per ASHRAE 90.1-2007. Desert-adaptive planting and water features activate the landscape, helping to minimize on-site irrigation demands. The building taps into a campus-wide system of tracking energy usage, which is publicly accessible online through ASU’s “campus metabolism” website.
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Home Sweet Home

NYC unveils new affordable housing developed by women and people of color
Update 1/18/17: This post was updated to include the architects for each project. As part of an ongoing affordable housing development drive, New York City has selected eight Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) to develop hundreds of affordable units across three boroughs. The six city-owned sites—in East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; Melrose and Crotona Park East, the Bronx; and Central Harlem, Manhattan—will be 100 percent affordable across a broad range of incomes. The developments will include 440 units for seniors, the homeless, and extremely-low income New Yorkers. “These Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise firms are offering first-rate projects that will serve a diverse set of New York communities and New Yorkers," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. "I congratulate them, and expect to see important work from each of them as we continue to work together in the future to protect affordability and quality of life in all our neighborhoods." The developments will include a STEM center for high schoolers, a tech center, space for a green market, and an LGBT community center. The M/WBE contracts are part of the city's goal to award 30 percent of the value of its contracts to nonwhite and woman firms by 2021. To meet its metrics, the city is increasing access to capital and putting resources towards capacity-building for M/WBE firms, among other measures. The six winning projects are pictured below: 1921 Atlantic Avenue Architect: GF55 Developer: Dabar Development Partners and Thorobird Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn "The 25,762 square-foot site will be transformed into a mixed-use project with 183 affordable homes for seniors, and low- and moderate-income households. The project will feature a community facility operated by Oko Farms and NHS. A new fresh food grocery store will be created." 1510-1524 Broadway Architect: GLUCK+ Developer: MacQuesten Construction Management Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn "Partnering with the not-for-profit East Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation, the M/WBE will create 59 affordable homes for extremely-low income individuals on the 20,059 square-foot parcel." 461 Alabama Avenue Architect: Newman Design Developer: CB Emmanuel Realty East New York, Brooklyn "In partnership with the non-for-profit Services for Underserved, the M/WBE firm will transform the 10,000 square-foot lot into a supportive housing development, with 55 homes for formerly homeless and low-income households. The nonprofit will provide onsite supportive services for the homeless. The building will feature a recreation room, a landscaped yard and roof for resident use." 1490 Southern Boulevard Architect: Bernheimer Architecture Developer: Type A Real Estate Advisors Crotona Park East, the Bronx "[490 Southern Boulevard will be developed] into a 95-unit senior housing development, affordable to senior households with incomes between $25,400 and $38,100. Working with the LGBT Network and the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, the project will offer support services for senior residents and a community space with programing for the LGBT community of all ages." 359 East 157th Street Construction Services: FG-PH Developer: Infinite Horizons Melrose, the Bronx "With MBD Community Housing Corp., the M/WBE firm will build 20 affordable homes on the 4,700 square-foot parcel. The homes will be affordable to individuals with incomes between $50,750 and $63,500, and families with incomes between $65,250 and $81,600. The development will feature a green roof and solar panels." 263-267 West 126th Street Architect: Aufgang Architects Developer: Lemor Realty Corporation and Apex Building Group Central Harlem, Manhattan "The companies will build a passive-house development with 29 affordable homes on the 8,492 square-foot property. The project will house a restaurant and space for the tech incubator company Silicon Harlem, which offers the Apps Youth Leadership Academy, a seven-week course for high school students focused STEM education and enrichment."
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Shine a Light

SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day

The new Los Angeles U.S. District Courthouse is located downtown midway between City Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and it’s a worthy companion to those exemplary civic landmarks. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) won the competition four years ago with a simple yet powerful design: A cube of folded glass that seems to float above a recessed base. The nine upper floors are suspended from a multi-dimensional roof truss system supported on four structural cores—a strategy that halves the amount of steel a conventional building requires and makes it more resistant to a blast than one supported on columns. Architects and the Clark Construction Group collaborated on a design-build program that brought the building to completion in 40 months, and it expects to secure LEED Platinum rating.

Few buildings achieve so much, so quickly, and SOM has made a significant contribution to the renaissance of Downtown L.A., which is still a work in progress. A park designed by OMA and Mia Lehrer + Associates will occupy the long-vacant block fronting City Hall, and a Frank Gehry–designed mixed-use complex, repeatedly delayed, may soon begin construction to the west across from Disney Concert Hall.

As SOM design partner Craig Hartman explained, “We began with the concept of a courthouse that had the appropriate scale and massing and strengthened the civic axis of First Street. The facades had to achieve transparency and clarity of expression, qualities that express what Americans hope to get from the justice system.”

To exploit the drop of 25 feet from Hill Street to Broadway, the building was raised so that—as Hartman noted—the topography flows under it and it stands apart, accessed by steps on three sides and by ramps that slice up through gardens to either side of the entry. Steel bollards provide an unobtrusive security perimeter. The downtown grid is 38 degrees off from a true north-south orientation, which complicated the architects’ task of protecting the facades from solar gain. Rather than rotate the building, they folded the glass. 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. The elegance of the detailing at the corners and along the upper and lower edges is the product of intensive research by SOM, which constructed full-scale mock-ups and worked closely with curtain wall manufacturer Benson Industries.

The upper stories are cantilevered 28 feet over an entry plaza, shading people who are waiting to pass through the security barrier inside the glass doors. From there, they emerge into a soaring atrium with south-facing baffles that channel 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. The courtrooms are lit from clerestories facing in and out to achieve a harmonious balance. United States Marshals deputies share the third floor with the holding area for the accused. The 32 judicial chambers occupy the periphery with sweeping views of the city. Artworks, including a multi-level work by Catherine Opie, enhance the minimalist interior.

The public has free access to the upper floors and to a tree-shaded patio in back, which is flanked by low, meticulously detailed glass wings. Jurors gather in one and a cafe occupies the other. Many cases are settled by mediation, even on the day scheduled for a trial, and there are breakout areas with comfortable seating on three upper levels to accommodate these encounters. Only a small amount of artificial light is required and this is provided by energy-efficient LEDs.

The architects’ main client was the General Services Administration, whose Design Excellence Program has done much to enhance the quality of federal architecture country-wide. But SOM also worked with a committee of judges, headed by Justice Margaret M. Morrow, who enunciated 10 guiding principles for the design of the courtrooms. “Decorum, fairness and equality are the essentials and those haven’t changed very much over the years,” explained Hartman. “But judges have different opinions on how to express those qualities and it’s surprising how much latitude there is in the layout. Judge and jury need to see the face of a witness, but where are they all to sit?”

To refine its design and win approval from the judges, SOM did a full-scale mock-up of their courtroom, which groups all the parties closely together. Sidewalls clad in ribbed gypsum reinforced plaster assure good acoustics, for audibility is the highest priority of all. A tilted ceiling diffuses the natural light, and every position—including the raised dais of the judge—is wheelchair accessible.

“America’s civic buildings offer a permanent record of our democracy’s values, challenges, and aspirations,” declared Hartman at the opening. Though the SOM courthouse is a demonstration of these ideals, the reality is that ever fewer Americans can afford a day in court, given the dizzying rise of legal costs. That’s the next big case for judges and legal associations to ponder.

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LEED Platinum

Stacking glass bars in Chicagoland
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Chicago architects Goettsch Partners, along with Clayco and Thornton Tomasetti, among others, have achieved U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum certification on a new North American headquarters for Zurich Insurance. The campus, located in suburban Chicago is the largest LEED Platinum Core and Shell v2009 project in the U.S. and the only LEED Platinum CS v2009 project in Illinois. The building achieves a 62.7 percent whole-building energy cost savings, making use of multiple green roofs, energy efficient technologies, rainwater harvest and re-use, accommodations for electric and low-emitting vehicles, and native landscaping with more than 600 trees on 40 acres.
  • Facade Manufacturer FacadeTek (Indianapolis) for Ventana
  • Architects Goettsch Partners; Clayco (developer/design-builder)
  • Facade Installer CK2 installer (contracted by Ventana)
  • Facade Consultants Thornton Tomasetti (sustainability consultant / daylighting / façade performance); CDC (unitized curtain wall design for Ventana / FacadeTek); Sentech (engineering of glass fin lobby wall and ventilated double skin façade)
  • Location Schaumburg, IL
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Unitized curtain wall with integrated horizontal aluminum sunshades, structurally glazed ventilated double wall
  • Products Shanghai Pilkington / Carey Glass / PPG-Oldcastle (exterior glazing); Ventana / FacadeTek-CDC/ Active Glass (Curtain wall and storefront systems); Ventana / Sentech (Structural glass systems); Prodema (exterior soffits); Horiso (Double-skin façade cavity shading); Lutron (Interior solar control shading)
The building is composed of three primary “bars” stacked and arranged to maximize views of the surrounding landscape and optimize solar orientation. The composition is benchmarked off the top volume, which was rotated 22-degrees. Paul De Santis, principal of Goettsch Partners, said this calculated move aligns the building with downtown Chicago, over 30 miles away. "The idea that you are in the suburbs but have a visual connection to the city resonated with Zurich's leaders." The lower bar on the east side of the campus is set 90-degrees off of the top bar, which helps to deflect northern winds and buffers sound from a nearby highway. Its rotation allows for direct sun in the courtyard near midday, promoting outdoor campus usage during the lunch hour. The curtain wall facade wraps outboard of three super scale trusses that are set 60 feet on center, achieving an 180-foot span over the middle of the campus, and a 30-foot cantilever at the perimeter. Michael Pulaski, vice president of Thornton Tomasetti, said that their team fine-tuned the glazing characteristics on the building, and custom designed a shading system that reduces peak gains and optimized daylighting. Detailed daylighting studies, using parametric software like Honeybee, were used to evaluate the effects of automated interior blinds and fine-tune the depth of the exterior shading devices for each orientation. The analysis optimized the depth of the shades for energy performance, which reduced peak solar gain for better thermal comfort and the size of the mechanical systems. De Santis said that in addition to this significant work to manage electricity usage, the management of water on site helped the project achieve its LEED Platinum rating. To push the project from a gold to platinum rating, De Santis said, "it comes down to two things: energy and water." The project team also incorporated features such as 1 acre of green roofs, native planting strategies, and large water retention areas for landscaping irrigation. The most advanced facade assembly occurs along the glazed south-facing wall of a three-story cafeteria where a ventilated double-wall facade was specified. Here, to verify performance and optimize the façade for reduced energy consumption, Thornton Tomasetti provided computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling. The 4.5-foot-wide double wall with integrated shades is designed to reduce solar gains in summer, while increasing the gains in the winter, as well as to improve daylighting, resulting in an estimated 33 percent energy savings in the adjacent space. Elsewhere, a single low-e coating on the number two surface (inner side of the exterior layer) continues through the insulated spandrel panels to produce a more uniform aesthetic while helping to minimize solar heat gain. The ground floor features a more transparent recessed glass, which De Santis said was an aesthetic and compositional move to help the upper floors read as "floating" volumes. With approximately 2,400 employees moved into the facility, the campus was designed to accommodate up to 2,800 employees. De Santis said the two lower bars are designed to extend an additional 100-linear-feet if and when more space is needed in the future: "It's very rare to work on a 26-acre site. We're used to working in very urban conditions. So the idea that the land allows for some of these growth strategies is very natural for the project. The longer these bars get, the more elegant the architectural expression will be."
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Closed Cavity Facade

This is the best performing all-glass facade system in SOM’s history
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Surrounded by parkland and built on a former industrial site, the new JTI Headquarters is located in a Geneva district home to prestigious international organizations. JTI (Japan Tobacco International) is a global tobacco company whose flagship brands include Winston, Camel, Mild Seven, Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut. The competition-winning design consolidates four existing JTI premises within a single landmark building. The project—a collaboration between SOM’s architecture, structural engineering, and interior teams—was led by their London office, but involved expertise from SOM offices in New York and Chicago, along with architects on site in Geneva throughout construction. Kent Jackson, design partner at SOM, said the new building demonstrates SOM’s commitment to integrated design, sustainability, and innovative workplace solutions. "Clearly we feel it is a huge benefit to bring all of our disciplines together and bringing different experts from across our offices. This is something we think brings added value to a project."
  • Facade Manufacturer Josef Gertner AG
  • Architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Burckhardt+Partner AG (Local Architect)
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner AG (facade contractor)
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Geneva (Switzerland)
  • Date of Completion 2015
  • System Closed Cavity Facade (CCF)
  • Products Interpane ipasol bright white coating on low-iron glass (Outer solar control glass); Interpane iplus 3E coatings on low-iron glass (Inner triple insulated glass); Mechoshade Thermoveil 1519 ‘ Silver Birch’ (Shading blinds within cavity); Christian Pohl GmbH (Anodized aluminum perforated soffit panels)
The building’s innovative Closed Cavity Facade (CCF) was designed in collaboration with Josef Gartner GmbH as a unitized curtain wall system that responds to the demands of seasonally changing external climatic conditions while providing exceptional views out and maximizing daylight penetration into the workspace. The facade prioritizes occupant comfort and reduces the energy demand and carbon emissions of the building, helping it to meet the requirements of European energy directives and the Swiss Minergie sustainability rating. The floor-to-ceiling glazed panels measure approximately 10-foot-wide-by-14-feet-tall and consist of triple glazing on the inner layer and single glazing on the outer, forming a cavity with a fabric roller blind in between. One challenge with a typical double skin facade is the risk of condensation and dirt in the cavity. This introduces the need to provide maintenance access to the cavity, either by opening up the interior side or exterior side of the assembly. The closed cavity facade at JTI reduces these requirements, because rather than drawing external air into the cavity, the cavity is pressurized with a very small amount of filtered and dehumidified air from a pipe system that runs around the perimeter of the building. This ensures dirt and moisture from outside don't travel through into the cavity, while also preventing condensation inside the cavity. To achieve this design, SOM relied on facade contractors who have become skilled in the assembly of envelopes that minimize building air leakage. Martin Grinnell, Associate Director at SOM and Technical Lead on the project, attributes this to increasingly stringent air tightness standards in Europe, where many buildings undergo building envelope pressure testing. "We were confident we could achieve this design and get a very careful balance of air tightness with a modest pump in the basement to pressurize all of the facade panels." The German-made closed cavity facade was shop-built in individual unitized panels comprised of both the inner and outer layer of glazing. By producing these units in a controlled factory environment, the fabrication sequence could ensure the cavity remained clean throughout the construction process. The panels were tested in the factory for air tightness, and whilst stored in the yard of the factory they were temporarily tapped into an air supply system which kept the cavity pressurized prior to delivery to site. Once installed on site, the panels were plugged immediately into a network of pressurized air so that the cavity would not draw in dirty air or moisture from construction activity. With just a single glazed pane on the outer layer of the facade, Grinnell says the project team was able to produce a more expressive facade. “We were able to achieve a quilted appearance on the outside; incorporating very delicate mullions, transoms, and diagonal elements because we were using a single outer layer. We were able to facet this layer much more easily than if we were trying to do that with a double or triple glazed layer. I think this lent a real delicacy to the detailing of the outer skin of the facade." Grinnell said the facade represents one of the best performing all-glass facade systems in SOM’s history. "This was a great project, and is a great demonstration of what a closed cavity facade system can do. We're very proud of it. All of the European countries—UK included—are pushing harder and harder on energy efficiency, and clients are quite rightly looking to us to improve the efficiency of our facades. We are going to be developing more and more facades which rely on dynamic performance—having to achieve very good solar control in the summer, while admitting sunlight in the winter—and the closed cavity facade is a really interesting solution to achieve that."