Since its founding in 1996, SHoP Architects has been committed to fostering architectural innovation despite on-the-ground constraints. In New York, those constraints often take the form of municipal regulations. "From day one SHoP was always a firm that was interested in pushing the limits of design, really getting into materials and craftsmanship," said principal Gregg Pasquarelli. "But we were also building in the pressure tank of New York, where a lot of the innovation has to occur in the skins of the buildings, because zoning is so prescriptive." Pasquarelli will outline his firm's approach to cutting-edge facade design in the context of New York's regulatory environment in the afternoon keynote address at next month's Facades+ NYC conference. For SHoP, "innovation" extends not just to the materials and systems the firm uses, but to the way the architects with other members of the AEC industry. "We learned that to build innovative facades, we had to interact with the construction industry in a new way," he said. In 2003, for a 20,000-square-foot addition to the historic Porter House warehouse, the designers collaborated with the fabricator to digitally design a custom zinc skin. "It was 2002 and it was the first facade completely designed and manufactured using 100 percent digital fabrication," said Pasquarelli. "We were way out in front of everyone, but it was our joint venture with the developer and the contractor that allowed innovation." SHoP has carried a similar strategy through to more recent projects, including the 2012 Barclays Center, which Pasquarelli describes as “ the only way to get that facade built was to create a joint venture with the contractor in order to fabricate the 12,000 panels of weathered steel for the facade." SHoP is known for, among other things, its creative use of a varied material palette. The paired towers of 626 First Avenue, currently under construction, are clad in copper; the recently-unveiled 111 West 57th Street high-rise features a terra cotta and bronze envelope. The diversity, said Pasquarelli, "is more about experimentation than anything else. The thing we don't like is working with finished materials. We are interested in raw materials, how they patina and age over time." But while many of SHoP's designs draw inspiration from the colors and textures of Manhattan's historic built environment, the architects never lose sight of their ultimate goal: moving building design forward. "What are the limits of these materials now that we're using CNC equipment to digitally fabricate facades?" asks Pasquarelli. "How can we rethink how traditional materials are used in a very twenty-first-century way?" For more information or to register for Facades+ NYC, visit the conference website.
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As an engineer, Thorsten Helbig, co-founder of Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, has a unique perspective on facade design. "We conceptualize a facade as an integral part of a whole, as part of a larger system," he explained. Helbig, who will deliver the morning keynote address at next month's Facades+ NYC conference, identified two focal points. The first is the relationship of the building envelope to structure. The second is performance: "What can the facade offer back to the building?" Helbig asked Helbig queries all of his facade design choices. "Can we use the facade to capture energy for the building? What are the operation modes—is there a potential the facade could be flexible or adaptive to actively support the building functions?" In both cases, Knippers Helbig is invested in moving beyond yesterday's solutions. "Our engineering approach is fundamentally driven by our interest in innovation," said Helbig. Two areas in which Knippers Helbig is leading the innovation charge are design technology and materials. The firm began developing tessellation tools for grid shells about two decades ago, well before similar software was commercially available. In the years since, the engineers have refined their in-house technology into a multi-criteria optimization tool, which proved critical to the Shenzhen airport project. "Our work on the Shenzhen airport profoundly shaped our approach to design technology—as it relates to our basic understanding of the design process (or you might say process design)—and as it relates to a potential paradigm shift in project organization as a whole: away from the traditional hierarchical-linear design process toward a design of the process in which all design parameters are simultaneously considered," explained Helbig. As for materials, the firm is known for its facility with both conventional and "new" systems. Knippers Helbig capitalized on the flexible strength of glass fibre reinforced polymers (GFRP) first for an operable facade in a typhoon zone for South Korea's Expo 2012 pavilion, then for a proposed shading concept for Renzo Piano's Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. "However," added Helbig, "even more traditional building materials such as timber can be re-interpreted through an application of the latest design and fabrication technologies." Two cases in point are a double curved multi-layer grid shell in Cologne and a parametrically developed timber grid shading screen for a Dubai high-rise. Knippers Helbig is also known for its sensitivity to environmental performance. Helbig points out that 75 percent of New York City's greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the building sector. "As long as we are not able to generate the required energy emission-free and based fully on renewable resources, the reduction of the operational energy will remain a key factor in designing sustainable buildings," he said. Embedded energy is also a concern, leading the engineers to explore materials that are based on renewable resources and/or compostable at end of life. Knippers Helbig recently collaborated on the EpiCenter Expansion for Artists for Humanity (with Behnisch Architekten and Transsolar), poised to become Boston's first LEED Platinum building and the first Energy Plus house in New England. "The facade system will be developed to have the capacity to supply energy back to the building, ultimately producing a building system that generates more energy than it consumes," Helbig explained. To hear more from Helbig and other movers and shakers in the world of facade design and construction, register today for Facades+ NYC. Visit the conference website for more information and a full schedule.
With its combination of iconic references to the nation's past and the machinery that drives our political present, Washington, DC presents a particular set of problems and possibilities to facades innovators. Top experts in high-performance building envelope design and construction will this gather this Thursday, March 5, to explore some of these issues during Facades+ AM: Washington Three by Three, a morning seminar taking place at the District Architecture Center. Facades+ AM is a quick-take variation on the popular Facades+ conference series. Over the course of the morning, three panels of three experts and one moderator each will take up questions concerning facade design and construction in the nation's capital. Session one, "Design Opportunities in a Blast Resistant World," moderated by Steve White, president of AIA DC, will consider how innovative designs can flourish despite security restrictions. Washington Post columnist and University of Maryland professor emeritus Roger Lewis will moderate session two, "Innovative Facades Come to Washington," highlighting cutting-edge facades in the DC area. Session three, "The New Face of Monumental Washington," moderated by Washington Architectural Foundation president Janet Bloomberg, will describe the role played high-performance building envelopes in both old and new monuments. Mark Strauss, senior partner at FXFOWLE, and AN's editor-in-chief William Menking will deliver opening and closing remarks. Seats are limited; register today for Facades+AM: Washington Three by Three. For more information, include a detailed agenda, visit the symposium website.
As building envelopes become more complex, it is imperative that AEC professionals exit their specialist silos and come together to share lessons learned. Facades+, the premier conference on high-performance building enclosures, offers a unique opportunity to interact with the movers and shakers of the AEC industry. Fresh off successful runs in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, Facades+ is coming next to New York, April 16-17, 2015. Day 1 of the conference features a symposium packed with thought-provoking keynotes and panels. Past keynote speakers have included the biggest names in cutting-edge facade design and fabrication, like Gordon Gill, Antoine Predock, and James Timberlake. Panels draw experts from across the AEC industry to puzzle over issues such as resilience, sustainability, preservation, and collaborative design. On the second day of Facades+, attendees choose from a selection of dialog and tech workshops for hands-on exposure to new concepts and tools. Taught by leaders in their respective fields, and grounded in real-world examples, the workshops provide an unparalleled opportunity to translate the thoughts generated during the symposium into action. Throughout the conference, networking breaks encourage participants to continue the conversation over food and drink. For more information, visit the Facades+ NYC website. Check back soon for an updated list of symposium presenters and workshop opportunities.
In recent years, architects and fabricators in the field of facade design and construction have formed new collaborative relationships through the design assist model of contracting. Under design assist, the fabricator contributes their know-how throughout the design process, not just during building. A couple of factors have encouraged the shift to design assist. On the one hand, "the recent increase of building skin complexity has been a driver of this new way of working," explained Enclos’ Luke Smith. "But I think budget and schedule demands have also played an important role." Next week, Smith will moderate a panel on design assist contracting, "Delivering Complexity," at Facades+ LA. With panelists Bill Kreysler (Kreysler), Paul Martin (Zahner), and Kerenza Harris (Morphosis), Smith will explore several case studies of architect-fabricator collaborations, and will examine the benefits and challenges of these new alliances. (Smith is also leading a dialog workshop, "Material Explorations: The Resurgence of Wood," on the second day of the workshop.) Because design assist encourages early and frequent communication between architect and fabricator, said Smith "all of the involved parties feel invested in the project." Collaboration also improves the likelihood that a design is actually built. "Working together toward a buildable solution can often mean the difference between whether a project moves ahead or not," said Smith. "At Enclos we’re seeing that the discrepancy between design intent and budgetary restrictions can be minimized through early involvement on a project." As for the criticism that design assist removes control from the architect, he argued, "given the intricate knowledge required, the facade is no longer simply a byproduct of design, but is a specialty of its own." Smith and the rest of the panel will focus on two examples the group knows well: Morphosis' Emerson College Los Angeles Center (with Zahner), and Snøhetta's San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The museum expansion, said Smith, "has been a great opportunity for Enclos, partnering with Kreysler, to explore solutions with Snøhetta from a very early stage of facade conception." Regarding the future of design assist, "increased communication between the two 'sides' of architecture and construction will only benefit everyone in the long run," said Smith. "Whether we need to collaborate on all projects is another question. Where we really see the process take center stage is when a new challenge arises." To hear more about design assist from some of the AEC industry's top experts in building envelope design and construction, register today for Facades+ LA. More information, including a complete symposium agenda and lineup of tech and dialog workshops, is available online.
Though sustainability remains a primary goal for many AEC industry professionals, its definition is increasingly up for debate. Tried-and-true energy efficiency standards such as LEED and Energy Star are facing competition from other rubrics, including net zero. "LEED was the sustainability measure," said CO Architects' Alex Korter. "It's good, but people looked at it more as a certification. With net zero, you're setting hard performance goals." With his colleague Kevin Kavanagh, Korter will lead a panel on "Net Zero and the Future Facade" at Facades+ LA next week. Korter, Kavanagh, and the panelists—who include ARUP's Russell Fortmeyer, Atelier 10's Emilie Hagen, and Stephane Hoffman from Morrison Hershfield—will dig in to the what and why of net zero, and ask how facade designers and builders can push the envelope on environmental performance. Both Korter and Kavanagh see room for improvement in terms of how facade designers and fabricators address sustainability. "Something that we've talked about—and something that will get us in a bit of trouble—is that we don't think the envelope world has done well in terms of upping performance," said Korter. Part of the problem is the focus on checking boxes for energy certifications, rather than setting concrete goals. Even in the world of net zero, said Kavanagh, "the facade is often looked at as an insulating layer, and is relegated to a high-performance insulating component. Our argument is that if you want to maximize net zero, architects and developers really need to rethink their approach to building. Why are facades trying to get as thin as possible? It makes sense for an Apple Store, but for other buildings, why not a two-foot-thick facade with [integrated mechanicals]?" The logical extension of the critique posed by Korter and Kavanagh is, as Kavanagh put it, "Is it possible for a facade to make a building net zero?" But to get there, the two say, designers and fabricators will need a push as well as a pull. "The way this is really going to happen is that the code tells you to, or the building owner—the person who pays the bill—starts to make it their number one priority," said Korter. "Those are the two ways. We've been dancing in this nebulous time: We could do it, but do we really have to?" Hear more from facades experts on net zero and other pressing issues next week at Facades+ LA. To learn more and register, visit the conference website.
Thanks in no small part to the local AEC industry, Los Angeles is a leader in sustainability in several areas, notably green building. But there is still room for improvement, said Matt Petersen, former president and CEO of Global Green USA. Petersen would know: he's the city's first Chief Sustainability Officer, appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti as part of a broader administrative overhaul. "The mandate the mayor gave me was to build on the great things Los Angeles is already doing, and to put forward a vision for sustainability in the city," explained Petersen. Petersen, who will represent the city at Facades+ LA in early February, has spent the last year preparing Los Angeles' first ever comprehensive sustainability plan. "We're headed toward the finish line as we speak," said Petersen, who expects to deliver the plan to the mayor's office within the next several weeks. "It's been an extensive process of engagement both internally and externally." Water conservation is one of Petersen's top concerns, especially in light of the ongoing drought. In an executive directive released last year, Mayor Garcetti set the ambitious goal of reducing water usage by 20 percent. "The biggest source of water use is outdoor landscaping," noted Petersen. "How do we get Angelenos to replace ornamental lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping?" Architects and landscape architects can play a critical role in encouraging the shift, he said. "Landscape architects have a rich history [of working with drought-tolerant landscaping] in Los Angeles—they've done a lot already." As for non-residential projects, said Petersen, "we're really thinking about how to reuse water or divert it before it goes into a storm drain. How do we start to break from the tradition of moving water as quickly as possible from the building site?" Energy efficiency is another area in which Petersen's priorities overlap with AEC industry goals. "Los Angeles was a little behind for about a decade, because the utility was historically not investing in energy efficiency," admitted Petersen. His office has set a goal that the utility meets 15 percent of its needs through efficiency measures—the highest such standard in the country. On the positive side, Los Angeles already boasts both more Energy Star buildings and more installed solar than any other city. "Can we build on our leadership and expand the number of LEED-certified buildings, not just to have plaques on the wall, but to encourage an integrated design process?" asked Petersen. "An integrated design process, when done right, can deliver so many benefits. We hope that the design and construction community helps us [get there]." To hear more from Petersen, join the movers and shakers of high performance building envelope design and construction at Facades+ LA. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.
In the fast-paced world of building design, hands-on instruction in new methods can be hard to come by. Next month, attendees at Facades+ LA can take advantage of a unique opportunity for one-on-one guidance in digital tools at tech workshops intimately connected to the themes of the conference. "The tech workshops are a great way to learn cutting edge methods that are regularly at the core of what is presented in the symposium and dialog sessions," remarked Thornton Tomasetti's Matt Naugle, a veteran Facades+ tech workshop instructor. On day two of the conference, Naugle will co-teach "Advanced Facade Panelization Optimization Techniques" with Thornton Tomasetti colleague Daniel Segraves. "This workshop is a unique opportunity to explore methods of optimization in Grasshopper with a pair of instructors who professionally use these methods on complex designs," said Naugle. "By the end of the day, all attendees will have a strong understanding of how to embed these methods into their own design and engineering methods." During the first half of the day, enrollees will learn how to apply algorithmic approaches to panelization optimization. The afternoon session will focus on dynamic optimization using Kangaroo. Naugle and Segraves will lead participants through examples that they either build themselves or pull from sample files, depending on their level of experience. "Throughout the day we will pause to discuss the reasons and logic behind the methods present—discussing the merit for each procedure on different use cases," explained Naugle. Other tech workshops featured at Facades+ LA include "Environmental Performance in Building Envelope Design," taught by Mostapha Roudsari, also of Thornton Tomasetti, and "Enhanced BIM Workflows for Data-Driven Facades," with Case Inc.'s Tim Dumatrait. All workshop participants will benefit from interaction with their peers as well as the instructors. "The workshop typically brings together a diverse collection of architects, engineers, facade consultants, manufacturers, and construction experts creating a great dialog about the methods being taught," said Naugle. Register online today—tech workshops fill up well before the conference weekend. For more information on Facades+ LA tech workshops, dialog workshops, and symposium events, visit the conference website.
In architecture—and especially in warm, sunny locales like Southern California—light is a double-edged sword. Successful daylighting reduces dependence on artificial lighting and enhances occupants' connection to the outdoors. But the solar gain associated with unregulated natural light can easily negate the energy savings effected by replacing electric lights with sunshine. As leaders in the field of high-performance building envelope design, James Carpenter and Joseph Welker, of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), are no strangers to the benefit-cost balance of designing for light. Carpenter and Welker will draw on their firm's extensive portfolio of both civic and commercial projects for "Light in the Public Realm," the morning keynote address at next month's Facades+ LA conference. "We'll talk about the approach we have to light—how you use light for the occupant, and for the public realm," said Carpenter. "It obviously has technical components, like cable walls and curtain walls. But the thread might be less about a purely performative agenda and more on performance and aesthetics together." JCDA's notable facades include two joint projects with SOM, 7 World Trade Center and the Time Warner Center atrium, both in New York. For 7 World Trade Center, the firm was tasked with integrating the glass tower and concrete podium. By floating vision glass in front of a stainless steel spandrel panel, the architects encouraged the play of light on the tower facade, creating an ever-shifting dynamic that blurs the line between building and sky. In the case of Time Warner Center, JCDA designed the largest cable-net wall ever constructed, and achieved the remarkable feat of hanging two cable-net walls from a single truss. To hear more from James Carpenter and Joseph Welker on JCDA's approach to light and the building envelope, register today for Facades+ LA. More information, including a complete schedule of speakers and workshops, is available online.
When it comes to responding to climate change, said Stacey Hooper, senior associate at NBBJ, architects have tended to be more reactive than proactive. "Our industry is so insular," she explained. "As a profession, we're really interested in the coolest, newest thing—not necessarily how we're going to support these bigger global challenges." Hooper had this in mind when she sat down with co-chair Luke Smith (Enclos) and the rest of the planning team to lay out the inaugural Facades+ LA conference, taking place in February in downtown Los Angeles. "We were talking about, 'Who are the influencers?'—not just in the building industry," recalled Hooper. "Where will real influence come from?" Hooper, who has practiced in California for more than a decade, includes government regulations high on the list of changemakers. "The state has been pecking away at energy consumption standards for 40 years," she noted. At the local level, Los Angeles has struggled to push through energy measures, water standards in particular. A representative from city government will deliver an introductory address on day 1 of Facades+ LA. "It seemed like a good introduction to a conference here to bring in a government body to talk about the necessity [of energy standards]," said Hooper. The tech industry has also made an impact, especially in California. "At NBBJ we see the influence of things like Silicon Valley; industry-driven change," said Hooper. "There's a need for high-tech workers, and they're being very demanding about what their environment is. That's a good thing because that demand drives change." Then there are the individual examples. Hooper mentions the Historic Green Village on Anna Maria Island in Florida, which achieved LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy for its first 18 months of operation. "You have these smaller influencers that build into something big," she observed. "These are all great role models for the profession. The client is another piece of the environmental puzzle. Hooper recalls working on ZGF's Conrad N. Hilton Foundation building in Agoura Hills, California, designed to exceed LEED Platinum Certification. When the mechanical engineer told the team that direct sunlight could harm the building's passive mechanical system, the architects followed up with a series of digital studies before importing an exterior system from Germany. "That's my benchmark I'm thinking about now," said Hooper. "When I get asked, 'Where's curtain wall going?' I say, "'It's not doing enough; let's start thinking about things in a different way.'" Thinking about things in a different way is where the architect comes into the picture, said Hooper. "It's a great privilege and a real challenge," she explained. "You need to be able to leverage design thinking to really serve the environment, and serve humans at an individual scale. That's what I love about working on envelopes: it starts at this big citywide level, then it manifests in these finite details in our built environment." To learn more about Facades+ LA or to register, visit the conference website.
With its combination of warm temperatures, low humidity, bright sun, and vulnerability to earthquakes and fires, Southern California presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges to facade designers and builders. "It's way more forgiving here than in most places," said Larry Scarpa, principal at Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa. "I've been on design reviews in various parts of the country where you have to do things much differently with the building envelope. In Southern California you have a lot of freedom to explore things that you don't in other parts of the world." Scarpa and other AEC industry movers and shakers will gather in early February at Facades+ LA to discuss possibilities and trends in building envelope design, both in Los Angeles and beyond. Scarpa, who will deliver the afternoon keynote at the Facades+ conference series' Southern California debut, says that Los Angeles' temperate climate allows architects to simplify building envelopes, shifting resources from insulation and humidity control to lighting and materials. "Condensation is a big concern, but it's less of an issue here," he explained. "Generally speaking, we can be a lot less high tech with the actual wall construction. We then tend to spread it out: you still make it perform, but in a way where it's more like a rain screen." Southern California architects need not incorporate large thermal cavities, as at Herzog & de Meuron's Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis. The attendant freedom "becomes a way to deal with light in a much more significant way—how facades harvest light, or shade the building, or how you can make them function as public or private," said Scarpa. Brooks + Scarpa also use the flexibility engendered by their location to experiment with materials. "The materiality is a big thing for us," explained Scarpa. "We tend to use a lot of non-traditional building materials." The firm's Broadway Housing project, for instance, features a building skin partially clad with building blocks made from recycled aluminum cans. Benchmark Builders Showroom similarly incorporates an outer wall constructed from industrial brooms. "Because we have a certain amount of freedom here, we look to use ordinary materials in a way we're not used to seeing them," said Scarpa. Of course, Los Angeles is not all sunshine. Multiple active earthquake faults in the region place constraints on architects and builders. Earthquake codes require particular structural systems, which in turn impact the buildings' facades. "You wind up with large amounts of columns or moment frames. If you have glass or curtain walls, they're going to be exposed—you're going to see it. It's very hard to conceal it in a wall." To learn more about designing and building high performance facades in Southern California and worldwide, register now for Facades+ LA. More information, including a list of speakers and the complete lineup of hands-on dialog and tech workshops, can be found on the conference website.
As AEC professionals who have practiced in different cities know, each place has its own unique architectural culture. That is one of the lessons Mic Patterson, VP of Strategic Development at Enclos, has learned during his years of involvement with the Facades+ conference series. “Instead of holding one annual conference, we’ve been doing three a year in different cities,” said Patterson. “My observation is that each of those has been different.” The newest event in the Facades+ stable, Facades+ AM, was inspired in part by a desire to bring the conversation about high performance facade design to more locales. The inaugural Facades+ AM four-hour program takes place next week in Seattle. “Everywhere makes sense to talk about building envelopes,” said Kerry Hegedus, architect at NBBJ and seminar chair of Facades+ AM Seattle. At the same time, he added, “in Seattle, we have a great architectural community that can be very experimental and, most importantly, aspirational. We need a forum like this to share these thoughts and developments.” A prime example of the seaport city’s aspirational architecture is the Bullitt Center, the subject of one of three panels at Facades+AM Seattle. Designed by Miller Hull and often referred to as “the greenest office building in the world,” the Bullitt Center embodies a no-holds-barred approach to sustainable design. “The Bullitt Foundation is that missing link the profession needs to evolve to a new, higher density, sustainable future,” said Hegedus. “We will find, I suspect, that this is not just a skin, but an integral part of the strategy of how this living building became a success. We need to build on this project’s great success.” But while some of the Facades+ AM program next week will be specific to Seattle, much of the discussion will hold value for designers and builders working in different contexts. More importantly, the lack of a script makes way for spontaneous, collaborative problem-solving. Speaking of another panel, on innovations in facade design and construction, Hegedus observed: “The beauty of this format, with this wildcard ‘Facade Futures,’ is that we don’t know what is going to come out of this.” To learn more about Facades+ AM or to register, visit the event website.