Miami is hot right now—and not just because it's midsummer. The city, which is in the midst of a building boom, is of necessity a model of sustainable building practices and extreme-weather preparedness. Thanks to local AEC professionals' experience grappling with high winds, hot and humid conditions, and the threat posed by rising sea levels, Miami is the perfect place to talk about high-performance building envelopes. Many of the industry's top designers, fabricators, researchers, and students will gather to do so this September 10–11, at the South Florida debut of Facades+. Facades+ Miami is the latest iteration of the popular Facades+ conference series, previously held in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Over two days, experts and practitioners dig deep into city-specific (but universally applicable) issues like designing resilience, and explore new technologies and methods using real-world examples. Day 1 of Facades+ Miami features a symposium packed with individual talks and panels on topics ranging from the new Krueck + Sexton FBI Miramar building to the future of facades in the city. The morning begins with check-in and breakfast, followed by a welcome by conference co-chairs and opening remarks from Cheryl Jacobs of AIA Miami and the Miami Center for Architecture and Design. Rojkind Arquitectos' Michel Rojkind and Oppenheim Architecture + Design's Chad Oppenheim will deliver the morning and afternoon keynotes, respectively. In between, conference attendees can expect to hear from panelists representing all points of the AEC industry spectrum, plus plenty of time to network with speakers and fellow audience members during breaks and lunch. For day 2, conference attendees can choose between two facades-focused field trips. Allan Shulman, of Shulman + Associates, will lead "Miami Grows Up: Downtown + Brickell," designed to spotlight recent and under-construction sites Downtown and in the Brickell Corridor. Tour stops include Herzog & de Meuron's Pérez Art Museum Miami and the new Frost Science Museum. The second field trip, led by architecture critic and author Alistair Gordon, is "Miami Beach & Design District." It focuses on old and newly-renovated properties in Miami Beach and the Faena District, and will conclude with a look at high-design envelopes including IwamotoScott's parking garage in the Design District. View a complete symposium agenda and register for the conference at the Facades+ Miami website.
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When it comes to the urban impacts of climate change, said FIU College of Architecture's Marilys Nepomechie, Miami is "the canary in the coal mine." In addition to the perennial threat of hurricanes and the challenge of managing a hot, humid environment, AEC industry professionals must grapple with South Florida's increasing vulnerability in the face of rising sea levels. "As water levels go up globally, places like Miami are affected," explained Nepomechie. "This has implications for infrastructure, as well as our assumptions as to where public life happens in the city—at street level." But for Nepomechie and fellow architect and FIU College of Architecture associate dean John Stuart, Miami's position on the front lines of environmental change presents a set of opportunities as well as challenges. Continually updated in the wake of devastating storms like 1992's Hurricane Andrew, the region's building codes—especially with respect to glazing—have made it "a model in terms of hurricane preparedness," said Nepomechie. "While these are uniquely Miami's for now, we have an opportunity to solve problems that will be in other places soon," added Stuart, citing high-wind storms and high humidity as two areas in which South Florida is innovating. While for years architects, landscape architects, and engineers have looked to the Netherlands for answers to flood management, said Nepomechie, "Miami has the opportunity to be to the 21st century what the Netherlands has been to the century before." Nepomechie and Stuart, who will co-chair a panel on "Responding to the Environment: Sea Level" at September's Facades+ Miami conference, are looking forward to an in-depth discussion of designing for resilience with panelists Marcia Tobin (AECOM) and Enrique Norten (TEN Arquitectos). "What's exciting about Marcia is that she's trained as a landscape architect and environmentalist," said Nepochie. "Performance agendas ask architects, landscape architects, and a range of engineering disciplines [to work together]. Miami is a place where we have wonderful examples of these solutions." Norton, meanwhile, represents the challenge of translating architectural solutions designed for other climates to the Miami context. "Enrique brings an interest in building at the quality he's able to achieve elsewhere," said Stuart. "He's had to rethink building skins to maintain the [standard] he's accustomed to." To hear more from Nepomechie, Stuart, Tobin, Norten, and other movers and shakers in high performance envelope design, register today for Facades+ Miami.
Known for their playful, cutting-edge facades, Rojkind Arquitectos are adept at transforming obstacles into opportunity. Founded in 2002, the Mexico City–based practice is regularly challenged with delivering a sense of cohesion to unplanned urban chaos. As the literal and metaphorical mediator between a building's interior and its context, the envelope is a crucial starting point for any such endeavor. "Our first approach is through digital design and local fabrication, depending on the geography of the project, time, budget, etc.," explained founding partner Michel Rojkind, fresh from the July 7 groundbreaking of the firm's Foro Boca concert hall in Veracruz, Mexico. "We research local craftsmanship to enhance the final results." Besides considering the more pragmatic elements of design and execution, said Rojkind, "We also try to question what a facade is, in terms of performance or how it can produce other areas that blur the line between building and [exterior]." For him, the most intriguing question facing contemporary designers and fabricators is: "How can facades bring added value to the project—not only in economic terms, but also as social innovation?" Rojkind will deliver the opening keynote September 10 at Facades+ Miami, the South Florida debut of the popular conference series on high performance building enclosures. Speaking of architectural conditions in the conference's host city, Rojkind—himself an old hand at designing for a hot, sunny climate—said, "I think there are great opportunities to really push for interior/exterior living connections and blur those boundaries. [We can] learn from the past while embracing future social interactions as a design [guide]." Hear more from Rojkind and other movers and shakers in the AEC industry, and participate in exclusive local field trips, at Facades+ Miami this fall. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.
Miami is on the rise—literally. The local AEC industry is booming, with dozens upon dozens of projects, including 79 towers, currently under construction and 92 projects in pre-construction. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [pdf], 105,600 Miami-area workers were employed in the construction trades as of April 2015, a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year. Downtown Miami, in particular, is a hotbed of activity, thanks in part to Miami Downtown Development Authority's 2025 Downtown Miami Master Plan. The plan, which aims to transform the urban core from a business district into a thriving live-work neighborhood, calls for residential growth, tourist-friendly local transit, and ground-floor and outdoor dining and retail. Prominent mixed-use projects underway or set to break ground imminently include Brickell City Centre and the 10-block Miami Worldcenter. Want to learn more about Miami's present and future built environment? Hear expert analyses and gain access to exclusive site visits September 10–11 at Facades+ Miami, the premier conference on high performance building envelopes.
The motto of Houston architecture, civic art, and product design firm METALAB is "finding new and better ways to build things." In addition to forming the core of his professional practice, this mission aptly describes principal Andrew Vrana's work with the Texas digital design and production network TEX-FAB. "We align emerging designers working with contemporary digital design techniques with companies who are experts in digital fabrication to build experimental architectural assemblies that push the capabilities of all parties," he explained. At next week's Facades+AM Houston symposium, Vrana will share his perspective on new techniques and materials in high performance building envelopes through the lens of TEX-FAB's annual design and fabrication competition. The theme of each TEX-FAB competition reflects the community's commitment to exploding the limits of conventional architecture practice. "We have recently been interested in materials that allow for plasticity in form and performance," said Vrana. Hence the title of the 2014 competition, PLASTICITY. The winning project, by computational design specialist Justin Diles, is called Plastic Stereotomy, and explores the use of composites in construction. After taking first prize in the small-scale prototype round, Diles teamed up with Kreysler & Associates to build a full-scale pavilion for this year's TEX-FAB conference in Houston. (The pavilion also traveled to the AIA convention in Atlanta.) Past competition winners have similarly paired with industry experts to bring their concepts to fruition. For the 2013 SKIN competition, for instance, TEX-FAB put the winning team—a group associated with the University at Buffalo, with materials sponsor Rigidized Metals—in touch with Zahner "to construct an innovative facade prototype using patterned sheet metal folded into complex origami-like modules," explained Vrana. Hear more about TEX-FAB's approach to digital design and fabrication at Facades+AM Houston June 18. Register today and see a full list of presenters on the event website.
As EcoServices team leader for Kirksey Architecture, Julie Hendricks spends her days thinking about how to build sustainably without busting a project's budget. On a typical job, whether for Kirksey or an outside firm, "we look at energy use, daylighting, and site analysis," she explained. "We do a lot of different studies to make sure buildings are performing at the highest level." The EcoServices team also conducts non-billable research, primarily focused on comparing actual to projected performance on buildings designed in-house. Hendricks will present an example from her research portfolio on June 18 at the Facades+AM Houston symposium. Achieving sustainability goals is particularly challenging in Houston, said Hendricks. "We feel like we have a unique and especially difficult climate because of the humidity and heat," said Hendricks. As a result, she explained, they have a limited range of passive strategies to work with; yet passive interventions are the most straightforward and cost-effective tools for mitigating thermal gain and moisture transfer. "That's the number one thing we deal with, and have tried to become experts in," she said. The hot Texas sun can be especially hard to beat. Too often, said Hendricks, facades systems are applied counter to their intended use. "One of our favorite games on the EcoServices Team is to drive around and point out ineffective shading devices," she said. "It's ironic, because they're really expensive. It means someone's investing in a device that has a purely aesthetic function." On the flip side, Hendricks is encouraged by the increasing availability of glass products with built-in thermal protections. "When we can [mitigate solar gain] with just glass, those solutions tend to be more affordable," she explained, citing glazing with embedded shading devices, ceramic frit glass, and electrochromic glass as examples worth exploring. Besides the potential to keep costs down, these options better satisfy clients seeking a streamlined curtain wall aesthetic. Catch up with Hendricks and other experts in high performance facade design and fabrication at Facades+AM Houston. Register now on the event website.
As founding principal of Muñoz Albin, Jorge Muñoz has a unique global perspective on high performance facade design. Based in Houston, the firm's earliest projects were located overseas. "In the last 20 plus years, we have worked and continue to work on projects in Western Europe, where there is a tradition of more generous budgets on building envelopes as well as more flexible user and developer demands on efficiency," said Muñoz. Over the course of his career, Muñoz—who will bring his comparative point of view to a panel on "Current Projects Pushing the Envelope" at next month's Facades+AM Houston symposium—has observed the tendency of facade design and construction technologies to vary from one locale to the next. "There are many exceptions to this rule, but in general, a building envelope matches the market expectations and budget allocation of where the building is being built," he explained. "Climate, program, environmental performance, and design challenges are different in different markets." In Houston, said Muñoz, building envelopes have evolved alongside the economy. "One can see double skin solutions built in the early 1960s, and advanced solutions in the 1970s," he said. "While Houston has lived through many years of pragmatic envelopes, in the last few years architects have been pushing for more and more sophisticated solutions." Houston has tended to be "timid" when it comes to adopting advancements in envelope design, explained Muñoz, but is beginning to consider cutting-edge performance solutions. "In time, we will have some of those buildings in our city," he said. As for local projects, Muñoz expressed admiration for HOK's Sysco headquarters phase one building. The building is on the older side, but "the massing as well as the envelope design denotes a sophisticated understanding of performance and aesthetics," he said. Like conference co-chair Kristopher Stuart, he also pointed to Pickard Chilton's Exxon complex in the Woodlands, as "another example of a complex and sophisticated envelope solution that is worth studying and understanding." Muñoz and Stuart also agree that another Pickard Chilton project, the under-construction 609 Main Street, is worth a close look. "It will offer not only a double- or triple-layered skin that also envelopes an eroding and slightly more plastic building massing, the first in the city," said Muñoz. Muñoz looks forward to a productive dialogue among panelists and attendees at Facades+AM Houston. "I think that facade design is a fascinating subject, and one that elicits plurality of thought," he said. "It will be most interesting to hear about the current trends in the city." Visit the Facades+AM website today to learn more or to register.
Thanks to the city's humid subtropical climate, facade designers and fabricators face a special set of challenges in Houston. Unchecked, steady sunshine and high temperatures can permeate the building envelope, leading to a heavy reliance on mechanical cooling systems. Meanwhile, Houston's Gulf Coast location makes it vulnerable to tropical storms. Sanjeev Tankha, principal and director of facade engineering at Walter P. Moore, argues that the solution to performance issues including solar gain and wind lies in a holistic approach to facade design. "All aspects of building envelope performance—from materials science to building physics analysis, structural analysis, research and development, waterproofing and weatherproofing, longevity and life cycle analysis—must be given a platform to engage effectively in the design process," he said. "Our industry must come to terms with and take on the challenge to respond effectively to the elements of solar heat and wind mitigation." Tankha will share his experience responding to the local climate next month at Facades+AM Houston. A half-day spinoff of the popular Facades+ conference series, Facades+AM brings regionally-specific discourse on high performance building envelopes to AEC industry professionals, students, and policymakers. In the real world of building design and construction, observed Tankha, environmental performance is regularly sidelined in favor of other concerns. "Performance of the building skin, in any given project, is often trumped by financial pressures to the detriment of overall building performance," he said. "I would like to see more commitment from AEC stakeholders to make performance issues a core value in our work." The key, he explained, is making performance a priority from the get-go. "The early design work needs to embed these values in the development so they are not add-on features," said Tankha. "This is a philosophical debate that is held on every project, and many times building performance comes out on the losing side." In Tankha's experience, less can be more when it comes to addressing solar gain and wind. "I always encourage the use of passive technologies and passive building systems first before the overlay of active systems," he said, pointing to historical strategies including building form and orientation. "I see some of that design philosophy coming back and now coupled with advancement in materials, coatings, and efficient mechanical systems, we have a palette for a holistic approach towards exploring effective solutions." To hear more from Tankha and other building envelope specialists, register today for Facades+AM Houston.
For Kristopher Stuart, design director and principal at Gensler, Houston's rapid evolution is exactly what makes practicing architecture there exciting."Houston is a city of change and a great testing ground for new ideas," he said. "The past decade has been particularly robust for design and construction, so we've developed some excellent benchmark projects representing the current state-of-the-art for facade design. The new projects focus on sustainability and resilience with our often extreme local weather in mind; wellness and connectivity that improve the quality of life for people; and performance and innovation that make buildings smarter, more efficient and more cost effective for owners and managers." Next month, Stuart will co-chair Facades+AM Houston, a half-day version of the acclaimed Facades+ conference series. The morning seminar comprises three panels featuring three experts each on topics relevant to AEC industry professionals, observers, and students in Houston and beyond. The June 18 event marks the symposium's Energy City debut. Facades+AM Houston attendees will not have to look far to find examples of innovative envelope design and construction. Stuart cited several recently-completed projects in the city's "energy corridor," plus high performance buildings for Anadarko, ExxonMobile, and Southwestern Energy north of downtown. Downtown, construction is presently underway on Skanska's Capitol Tower and 609 Main, developed by Hines. "It will be exciting to see this next generation of buildings emerge, iconic buildings that will raise the performance bar while enhancing the human experience within the urban environment," Stuart noted. He also pointed to some of the Midway Companies' recent or planned work including CityCentre and Kirby Grove, describing them as "more contextual, urban infill projects that are looking at facades from an experiential as well as a performance perspective, projects that will impact the way we think about facades in the Houston design community." In Stuart's view, Houston's challenging climate has pushed the local AEC industry to a deeper understanding of how design decisions affect performance. The community has also been successful in cultivating relationships with facades consultants and fabricators to execute efficient envelopes. "One might say that we've mastered the basics, and now need to shift our focus to innovative materials and fabrication techniques as well as unique collaboration relationships in order to achieve more dramatic performance enhancements that will be executable and affordable," he said. Stuart looks forward to the June 18 conversation with other movers and shakers in the field of high performance envelope design. "Facades+AM Houston is a unique opportunity to share some outstanding work that has been executed recently either in Houston or by Houston design firms, to hear about facade innovations from academic and industry experts, and to engage in a conversation about the future of building facades in the Houston market," said Stuart. To learn more or to register for Facades+AM Houston, visit the event website.
They say "everything is bigger in Texas." So it goes for Houston's skyline, the fourth largest in the United States. Big, too, are the names behind Space City's most iconic skyscrapers. The city's tallest, the 75-story JPMorgan Chasetower, was designed by I.M. Pei in 1981. A number of other internationally-renowned architects and firms have left their mark on Houston, including César Pelli, Philip Johnson, Robert A.M. Stern, Renzo Piano, SOM, and Gensler. Today, Texas' most populous city is home to TEX-FAB, a network of academics and practitioners pushing the boundaries of computational fabrication. On the urban front, Houston is making strides away from its car-centric past. The city's light rail system, MetroRail, opened in 2004; in 2013, Mayor Annise Parker issued an executive order outlining a Complete Streets policy. Last year, Mayor Parker directed the planning commission to create a General Plan—the first in Houston's history—with a special focus on walkability. And if a panel of advisers from the Urban Land Institute have their way, the disused Houston Astrodome could be transformed into a massive public park in time for 2017's Super Bowl LI. Both Houston's architectural legacy and its potential for urban transformation make it a natural fit for Facades+AM, the quick-take version of the popular Facades+ conference series on high performance envelope design and fabrication. On June 18, AEC industry leaders will convene at the historic Hotel Icon (formerly the Union National Bank, designed in 1911 by Mauran, Russell & Crowell) for a look at the latest developments in the world of building enclosures. Chaired by Gensler's Kristopher Stuart, the half-day event will feature three sessions with three speakers each, to conclude by 12:30 pm. Register for Facades+AM Houston or learn more at the symposium website. Check back frequently for updates on presenters and panel topics.
Eight years ago, in the face of rapidly rising carbon emissions, PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability and resilience blueprint—set a goal of reducing emissions 30 percent citywide by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline. "Enormous progress has been made thus far: the growth has been stopped and emissions have substantially decreased—by 19 percent," observed Laurie Kerr, Urban Green Council's Director of Policy. "But as impressive as that is, we need to do more, faster." Enter One City: Built to Last, the city's ten-year building upgrade plan aimed at helping reach Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious "80 x 50" goal: 80 percent citywide reductions by 2050. Kerr and John Lee, Deputy Director for Buildings and Energy Efficiency at the NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, will be on hand next week at Facades+ NYC to outline the initiative with special reference to the design and construction of high performance building envelopes. The AEC industry holds the key to the 80 x 50 mission, said Kerr. "There are tricky technical, financial and logistical issues to solve. The cutting edge will need to push the craft and the supply chain to arrive at solutions that are efficient, scalable, and appealing to tenants." But the answer to the environmental challenge will necessarily entail behind-the-scenes work as well as splashy innovation, she noted. "The rank and file will need to become proficient in new techniques, such as PassivHaus, that require dramatically greater vigilance on un-sexy issues like thermal bridging and infiltration." Much of the burden for improved performance falls on the building exterior. "High performance envelopes are going to play a major role in achieving 80 x 50—we're simply not going to get there without them," said Kerr. "This will be true for new buildings, but it will be even more important for the existing building stock, which may need everything from sealing, to better windows, to re-wrapping or interior insulation on some properties." The call for upgrades on a large scale is sure to benefit the AEC industry financially, she pointed out, but its members will have to work for their money. "It will entail considerable creativity and craftsmanship to develop and deliver the cost-effective strategies for each facade type—from midcentury modern to brownstones to brick towers in the park," said Kerr. To hear more from Kerr and Lee on One City: Built to Last, register today for Facades+ NYC.
For Enclos' Alex Barmas, true innovation in facade design and fabrication is about more than the latest technological bells and whistles. Rather, it is about exercising creativity despite the restrictions posed by tight budgets, compressed timelines, and aggressive real estate markets. At Facades+ NYC later this month, Barmas will moderate a conversation on implementing innovation with AEC industry leaders including Cutler Anderson Architects' Jim Cutler, Arup's Tali Mejicovsky, Michael Stein, of Schlaich Bergermann & Partner, and Richard Meier & Partners' Vivian Lee. "My intention is to get the panelists talking about the possibilities of producing truly fantastic architecture while constrained by very real-world budgets and schedules," said Barmas. "They have all worked on projects where an intelligent and responsive approach to design, and an intelligence about materials and tectonics have allowed them to deliver great projects under tight constraints. The panel will focus on the commitment and perseverance required to execute and deliver such projects." New York is a hotbed of facade innovation exactly because of the particular constraints at play there, said Barmas. In much of the United States, he explained, the litigious nature of the building design and construction market tends to discourage integrated project deliver. But "the New York market is actually a counterbalance to this. Due to the complexity of building projects, compressed construction schedules, and the need for coordination throughout the design and construction process, projects must take on a more holistic design mentality." At the same time, said Barmas, the drive to build taller and faster for the top of the market "has meant that there are some very interesting building envelopes either recently built, or under construction." As a case in point, he cited BIG's 625 West 57th Street (W57), calling it "a fantastic example of a really interesting curtain wall." All of this is not to say that new technology is not compelling—especially when made a part of built projects. "I'm very excited about the continuing integration of sensors, actuators, and other electrical components with the building envelope to create active and responsive facades," said Barmas. "This seems to be turning into a virtuous cycle where integrated systems are becoming more robust, system integration is improving, and all the parties to a building project are becoming more comfortable implementing these systems. System intelligence and integration enable us to achieve better performance with traditional building envelope components." To hear more from Barmas and panelists on bringing facades innovations to fruition, register today for Facades+ NYC. More information, including a complete symposium agenda, is available online.