Kansas City, Missouri's hot, humid summers and cold winters pose a special challenge for AEC industry professionals when it comes to facade design and construction. "We deal more with vapor control through our building skin, making our building more efficient from that standpoint—adding more insulation, but also trying to not create problems with that," explained Helix Architecture + Design's Miranda Groth. "We haven't been able to be as experimental with our facades as, for example, Seattle or even Boston." Groth, along with Anthony Birchler of A. Zahner Company, is a co-chair of the Facades+AM Kansas City symposium September 15. In addition to grappling with the city's unique climate, said Groth, "We've been slow on the uptake with energy [efficiency] because energy's been cheap in the Midwest. It's harder to make the case to clients." One workaround comes of collaborating with fabricators like A. Zahner Company. (Zahner VP Anthony Birchler is the other Facades+AM Kansas City co-chair.) In those cases, factors including aesthetics can help tip the scale in favor of green design. In terms of innovative facade design opportunities, said Groth, Kansas City is a hotspot for adaptive reuse. "Right now there's a huge shift to go back downtown," she explained. "Even buildings as recent as those built in the 1960s have hugely inefficient envelopes. We're now going in and trying to retrofit them to be more energy efficient." The city is also a center for sports architecture. "I see a lot of those firms pushing new innovations on what to do with building skins," said Groth. Groth has nothing but praise for her fellow Kansas City-based design and building professionals. "I feel like we're excelling or at least keeping up with coastal cities in new ideas," she said. "The technology is there. The architects in town will set a new standard." Meanwhile, "we have amazing structural engineers in town. It's exciting that we have all that locally." Hear more from Groth and other facades experts at Facades+AM Kansas City. Space is limited; register today to secure a spot.
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Richard Askin, Director of Planning and Design at W/S Development Associates, has had his eye on Boston's burgeoning Seaport District for about a decade. During that time—as Askin's firm planned and initiated construction on a multi-block mixed-use development called Seaport Square—the local AEC industry has increasingly focused on designing for resiliency. The chief concerns in the low-lying Seaport District are rising sea levels and severe storms. "Because we started before Superstorm Sandy, before there was the remapping of the flood plain, I've seen us go from not understanding what we should want to do, to more proactively coming up with design solutions for the risks that are instigated by floods and/or sea level rise," said Askin, who will participate in a presentation block on "The Seaport District Reconsidered" at Facades+AM Boston June 17.
Increased awareness around rising water levels dovetails with W/S Associates' traditional area of expertise: retail. Both involve a focus on the ground plane. "We've done a host of things that have to do with both occupancy and infrastructure" in response to the need for more resilient designs, explained Askin. One example has to do with the buildings' electrical transformers. These are typically positioned on the ground floor and covered by a utilitarian facade. The result is both vulnerable to damage during a flood and aesthetically displeasing. "It essentially becomes a blank wall, and typically very large," said Askin. "The problem for us is that retail wants to be at the ground floor—it's in direct conflict with conventional placement of the transformer."
Askin relishes the ways in which the attention to resiliency in the Seaport District has stretched his own approach to a development problem. "I've never had to figure out these micro-level details before, to invent ways of doing things on the facade that's not conventional," he said.
Learn more about the Seaport District and other Boston-area development hotspots at Facades+AM Boston. To learn more or register for one of the few remaining seats, visit the symposium website.
Mark Pasnik has written the book on Boston's evolving architectural identity—literally. Pasnik, founding principal at over,under and co-author (with Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo) of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, will offer his take on "Facades and Regional Architecture" in a presentation at next month's Facades+AM Boston symposium. "While Boston is often identified as a brick city, its architectural traditions are more complex," observed Pasnik. The city's landmark structures include not just brick but also granite and poured-in-place concrete edifices. "Where there is unity is in the thickness, heaviness, and solidity of nearly all of Boston's most significant buildings," said Pasnik. More recent architectural trends, including the elevation of thinness, contradict this legacy. "Some of the most criticized areas of new development in the city have suffered from paper-thin, inelegant, commercial curtain walls, particularly in the Seaport District," noted Pasnik. (Exceptions include William Rawn Associates and Ann Beha Architects' high-tech, highly transparent Cambridge Public Library). "However, Boston's identity, seen in historical and modernist traditions alike, is almost always on the side of having a thick skin," he remarked. Architects including Kennedy & Violich (Tozzer Anthropology Building at Harvard University) have successfully married Boston's historic heaviness with new technology and materials. Of particular note is the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square (Mecanoo and Sasaki Associates). "What makes a structure like the Bolling Building and its high performance facade so remarkable is that its skin serves to stitch a neighborhood back together, animate its streets, renew a dilapidated historical facade, and in general represent the value of meaningful civic investment—which has become more and more rare in the United States," said Pasnik. "The building has catalyzed improved design ambition and expanded development, but its most important effect is in revitalizing an important urban center." Hear more from Pasnik and other facades specialists at Facades+AM Boston. Space is limited—register today on the event website.
In Boston, local AEC industry professionals face a particular challenge: how to move forward while honoring the past. "Boston is a unique city in terms of architecture, and new versus old," said Ryan Salvas, Design Director at CW Keller & Associates and co-chair of the upcoming Facades+AM Boston symposium. Facades+AM, a quick-take version of the popular Facades+ conference series, makes its Beantown debut June 17. "There are a lot of forward-thinking academic programs in the area, but we also have, I would say, a very practical architecture base here," continued Salvas. "It's really about balancing historical references—and historical facades—but also looking forward to what's new." Now is an especially good time to talk about high performance building envelopes in Boston, said Salvas's co-chair, NADAAA principal Katherine Faulkner. "The city hasn't seen this much development, easily, in a century," she explained. "For Boston, it's been an exciting last five years. But one thing that's resulted is a lot of criticism—that the buildings are not inventive, not-forward thinking in terms of performance, that there's nothing indigenous [to the region]." Nine experts—including academics, designers, planners, developers, and municipal officials—will explore the upside of Boston's rapid transformation (as well as its particular challenges) in three presentation blocks at Facades+AM Boston. Each session is framed around an up-and-coming Boston-area neighborhood. The first, "The Seaport District Revisited," features presentations from CBT Architects' David Nagahiro, WS Development Associates' Richard Askin, and Utile Architecture & Planning's Tim Love. The second session, helmed by Mark Pasnick (over,under), David Carlson (Boston Redevelopment Authority), and Gerard Gutierrez (Sasaki Associates), shines a spotlight on "Facade and Regional Architecture," with special focus on the Dudley Square area. The final group of presenters, NADAAA's Nader Tehrani, Studio NYL's Christopher O'Hara, and Payette's Andrea Love, will zero in on "Boston's High Performance Skyline," especially in and around the tech hub of Kendall Square. In planning the symposium, the biggest challenge Salvas and Faulkner faced was not having too little to talk about—it was having too much. "Any one of these topics could take up a full morning on its own," admitted Faulkner. They nevertheless remain confident that the diversity of experiences represented by the panelists, in combination with the specificity of the sessions, will offer valuable insights to anyone interested in the aesthetics and pragmatics of high performance building envelopes. To learn more about Facades+AM Boston, visit the symposium website. Seating is extremely limited, so register today!
High performance facade design is as much a science as an art. Structural engineers can bring crucial knowledge to the architect's drafting table, including how building movement and deflection will impact the building envelope. From the engineer's perspective, collaboration is better when begun sooner rather than later. "We like to be involved in the conceptual phase so we can actually integrate a structural solution into the facade," said Stephen DeSimone, President and Chief Executive of DeSimone Consulting Engineers. "More recently, the expression of structure has become a part of the architectural solution with breathtaking results." DeSimone will deliver a talk on "Determining and Understanding Lateral Loads" at next week's Facades+NYC conference. DeSimone will discuss how innovative engineering can enhance facade performance. Take wind tunnel testing, for instance. "We've been wind tunnel testing 'after the fact' for decades," explained DeSimone. "What we are doing now is letting the results of the wind tunnel inform the shape and orientation of the building. Through shaping we were able to reduce the frame as well as facade loads, resulting in significant cost savings." Only 7 days away, Facades+NYC gives you the opportunity to hear more from DeSimone and many other facade design and fabrication experts.
The proliferation of digital modeling platforms can sometimes seem like too much of a good thing, particularly when transferring data from one environment to another requires complicated back-end manipulations. For those of us without a background in coding, FLUX Factory's Charles Portelli and Karl Garske are offering hands-on instruction in "Seamless Exchange of Geometry & Data: Analysis & Modeling via Flux" in a lab workshop at this month's Facades+ NYC conference. The workshop "deals with interoperability between multiple modeling applications," explained Portelli. Flux facilitates data exchange among applications including Grasshopper and Excel using native plug-ins, putting users "in an environment they're familiar with, so they can just start transferring data and geometry," he said. In addition to helping participants manipulate geometry and data across platforms, Portelli and Garske will also introduce cloud processing features. Cloud compatibility means that users "don't have to use desktops to run time-consuming tasks" including view analysis (sky exposure, solar radiation, shadow study) said Portelli. Workshop attendees will model a building from scratch using Grasshopper, Excel, Flux, and Revit. Portelli, who has attended previous Facades+ conferences but is serving as a workshop instructor for the first time, is hoping "to have people be enthusiastic" about the seamless data transfer enabled by Flux. More generally, he also looks forward to hearing "people's feedback and comments with regard to the AEC industry, including what it's lacking." "Seamless Exchange of Geometry & Data" is just one of several lab workshops on offer at Facades+NYC. Others include:Workshops are limited in size—sign up today to reserve your spot.
- "Parametric Modeling and Adaptive Automation: from Design to Fabrication" with Kyle Watson (Zahner) and Jonathan Asher (Dassault Systems)
- "Advanced Facade Analysis, Rationalization, and Production," with Daniel Segraves of Thornton Tomasetti CORE Studio
New York City's waterfront Hudson Yards development is a big deal—literally. The largest private real estate development in the history of the United States, the project comprises 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space and 14 acres of public open space. Hudson Yards is having "a catalytic effect in terms of kicking off an entire new neighborhood," said Related Companies' Michael Samuelian. (Related and Oxford Properties Group have partnered with a number of high-profile architecture firms to design and build the project.) "We don't just focus on a building, but on the relationships between buildings—the spaces between the buildings themselves are just as important." Samuelian and KPF's William Pedersen, whose firm is designing three skyscrapers for Hudson Yards, will deliver up-to-date information on the work in progress at next month's Facades+NYC conference. Hudson Yards promises to reshape the city on multiple scales. On the larger end, "the development of Hudson Yards fills a void in Manhattan's fabric which has prevented the city from having a dialogue with the Hudson River," explained Pedersen. Related commissioned a wide slate of architects "to purposely create variety and juxtaposition, which is the dominant characteristic of Manhattan's iconic skyline," he said. As important as Hudson Yards' impact on New York City's skyline, said Samuelian, is its capacity to create a welcoming streetscape. "We put considerable effort into ensuring we have warm, appropriate materials below 150 feet," he said. "Each building changes as it comes down to grade to give civility to the skyscrapers, to make them more humane participants in the street life of the city." Pedersen concurred. "The dominant characteristic of our buildings is their gestural capacity," he said. "They do not stand in isolation but rather seek an active relationship with every aspect of the context they engage, including the pedestrian on the street." Catch up with Samuelian, Pedersen, and other AEC industry leaders reshaping New York's built environment at Facades+NYC. Register today to secure your space at the symposium and in a lab or dialog workshop of your choice.
It is hard to imagine a better introduction to new digital design and fabrication software than the "Advanced Parametric Modeling: Design to Fabrication" lab workshop at next month's Facades+NYC conference. Dassault's Jonathan Asher and Zahner's Kyle Watson will co-lead a tutorial in the application of Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE to building envelopes, combining the perspectives of software developer (Asher) and early adopter (Watson). "First we'll be giving a walkthrough of how to use the software," explained Watson. "Then we'll demonstrate some new features available in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, as well as how it's different" from other automation programs. Rather than passive observers, workshop attendees will be active participants, working through a full facade Asher and Watson will create especially for Facades+NYC. "Our intention is to develop this workshop facade system so it includes everything a typical engineer would be creating for a real facade: fully unfoldable panels, documentation created automatically," said Watson. By the end of the session, attendees will better understand how to leverage automation to generate complex systems. "Since it's our speciality, the focus will be on automation—creating complicated forms and then automating the creation and visualization of multiple panels going into this form." In addition, Asher and Watson will highlight the collaborative potential of Dassault's new platform. "Given that 3DEXPERIENCE is a relatively new software, and we [at Zahner] are among the early adopters, we're getting a lot of chances to experience the collaborative side of the software," said Watson, pointing out that his cooperation with Asher (Asher works from France; Watson, Missouri) exemplifies the easy back-and-forth facilitated by 3DEXPERIENCE. Other lab workshops on offer at Facades+NYC include "Curtain Wall Systems: From Sketch to Completion," taught by Bart Harrington and Richard Braunstein, both of YKK-AP America; "Advanced Facade Analysis, Rationalization, and Production (Grasshopper + Dynamo)," with Thornton Tomasetti CORE Studio's Daniel Segraves; and "Seamless Exchange of Geometry and Data (Grasshopper, Revit, Excel)." For more information and to reserve your space in a lab or dialog workshop, visit the Facades+NYC website.
For Thomas Phifer, director of New York-based Thomas Phifer and Partners, there is no one best way to design a high performance building envelope. Phifer, whose recent work includes the Corning Museum of Glass expansion, will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next month's Facades+NYC conference. "Each facade has to do with the particular spirit and ethos of the building," said Phifer. "They each have a particular climate that they have to respond to; they each have a particular way of dealing with the context." As a result, he explained, the firm employs a wide array of materials, from large concrete blocks to reclaimed brick or window walls with exterior sunshades. "Our work doesn't focus on one particular material or one attitude toward dealing with the environment," explained Phifer. "We just take each particularity and put them together to try to make an enclosure." As an example, Phifer cited the United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City. "We wanted the building to be all about light, since light can foster that sense of enlightenment," he said. The architects aimed to flood the building's interior with natural daylight, moreover, "so that all of the occupants had a sense of the changing atmosphere of the day." They designed a calibrated louver system for each facade to reduce the radiant heat entering the building while enhancing the building's aesthetics. The shades were "developed in such a way that the louvers hold light," said Phifer. "It's not about reflection or absorption; [the facade] embodies light through the design of the micro-louver. It glows during the day with what turned out to be a kind of metaphor for enlightenment." To hear more about Phifer's recently-completed and pending projects, and to catch up with other leaders in facade design and fabrication, register today for Facades+NYC.
A specialist in large-scale projects with over 20 years of experience, Kohn Pedersen Fox principal Shawn Duffy is a keen observer of trends in London's commercial and residential building markets. Next month, Duffy—who served as managing principal on Aykon Nine Elms and One Nine Elms—joins BuroHappold Engineering's Jonathan Sakula in a panel on "London Calling: The Bold New Face of the UK" at the Facades+ NYC conference. With respect to commercial developments, observed Duffy, one contemporary preoccupation is how to improve the adaptability of the facade by the occupants. "Most often the outer layer of skin simply wraps a traditional sealed curtain wall with no operable panels," he said. "The control of the blinds in the ventilated cavity is done by a central computer system concerned mainly with reducing heat gain, leaving little or no individual control over daylighting and glare." Duffy anticipates an increased focus on how to enhance the comfort of individual users without sacrificing overall sustainability goals. "The challenge will be balancing the conflicting issues of natural ventilation and noise, daylighting and glare, fresh air and reduction in mechanical loads," he said. On London's residential construction scene, meanwhile, one challenge is the fact that "facades in both tower and low rise construction require solid building materials—aesthetically, so they don't look like office buildings, and in increasing percentages, technically, in order to meet the stringent facade performance requirements," explained Duffy. Because materials including brick and stone are so expensive, architects are often left few options for cladding other than metal or concrete-composite panels. The situation may soon change for the better, however. "The use of prefabricated, fully glazed facade panels is increasing," said Duffy. "The benefits of improved quality control in finishes and reduced fabrication/construction time is offsetting the increased cost of quality materials, creating better looking and performing residential facades." High performance building envelopes have the potential to help mitigate some of London's most pressing concerns, including energy waste. At present, London's commercial market remains fixated on floor to ceiling glass. "The value of extensive glass facades to office developers and occupiers looks likely to continue as a main driver of office facade design," said Duffy. But a growing emphasis on environmental performance will eventually privilege more solid surfaces, he predicted. "We will then see more commercial buildings turning the amount and type of glazing to the orientation of the facades, the existing and future context, and the types of spaces within." Learn more about the cutting edge in facade design and fabrication in London, New York, and beyond at Facades+ NYC April 21-22. For a full agenda and to register, see the conference website.
As an architectural typology, the contemporary office building sits at the intersection of a number of social, economic, and environmental trends: the changing nature of the workplace; the expanding reach of communications and other technologies; and an increasing focus on sustainability and resilience. Three AEC industry professionals at the forefront of office building design and construction will be on hand at this week's Facades+AM DC symposium to discuss the new materials and technologies (including coatings, fritting, curved, and formed glass) that can be brought to bear on the challenges and opportunities associated with private- and public-sector office projects. Bob Schofield, Senior Vice President of Development and Director of Design and Construction at Akridge; Front Inc. Founding Partner Marc Simmons; and Gensler's Firmwide Commercial Office Building Developers Practice Area Leader, Duncan Lyons together bring years of experience in high performance design and construction to the conversation. Asked about the factors influencing the design of an office building's facade, Gensler's Lyons cited, "How the office building contributes to place-making, energy performance, and user experience; creating a healthy and inspiring workplace; [and] connecting building users to daylight, outside air, and a unique sense of place." That the worker experience is a key consideration in office building design reflects a broader transformation in American work culture, one in which a focus on fostering employee potential has replaced the traditional emphasis on products and processes. Just as employer–employee relationships have changed, so, too, has the technology available to tackle other pressing issues, including environmental performance. Lyons sees a future for dynamic building facades that utilizes new glass technologies, operable facades, and user adaptation—developments that promise to boost both worker satisfaction and sustainability. Hear more from Lyons, Schofield, and Simmons, as well as other movers and shakers in the facades world at Facades+AM DC. Register today and earn CEU credits at the event March 10.
The increased focus on environmental performance in building design and construction is changing the AEC industry for the better, says Nora Wang, senior engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Performance-based design encourages designers to consider buildings as integrated systems rather than separating the look/function of a building from its energy/environmental performance," she observed. The potential impact on facades is particularly significant. "New buildings with poor envelope design—which may look nice—make it difficult to reduce energy use and expensive to retrofit in the future, even with advanced lighting and HVAC systems installed," said Wang, who will join co-presenters Robert Moje (VMDO Architects) and Roger Flechette III (Interface Engineering) in a session on "Facades and the Environment" at the upcoming Facades+AM DC symposium. As the technical lead of Pacific Northwest's Buildings of the Future initiative, Wang has a front-row seat to the latest developments in "very interesting design strategies and technologies that take passive designs to the next level." She is particularly intrigued by biomimicry and biophilia, in which designers and fabricators look to nature for clues to creating better built environments. "This is extremely important to design resilient buildings and communities," said Wang. Wang is looking forward to Facades+AM DC in part because it provides a venue to discuss the implementation of high performance building envelopes with professionals from multiple disciplines. "I have an architectural background, so I understand the gap between design practice and technology development and the challenges of adopting new strategies/technologies in design," she explained. "I am interested in learning how cutting-edge technologies can be incorporated into design in an innovative way that will drive positive changes without sacrificing other aspects of design needs. Catch up with Wang and earn CEU credits at Facades+AM DC March 10. Register today on the event website.