On November 9, Facades+ is headed to Boston for a full-day conference. The conference features a range of facade specialists and manufacturers, ranging from stone fabricator Quarra Stone to Boston's very own designLAB Architects. Chris O'Hara, founding principal of Studio NYL, and Rishi Nandi, associate at Perkins + Will, are co-chairing the event. With decades of experience across the globe, both firms have been recognized with design awards for their advanced enclosure systems and finely executed architectural preservation projects. To learn more about what the two practices are up, AN interviewed the two co-chairs on the complexities of architectural preservation, environmental performance, and digital fabrication. The Architect's Newspaper: Both Perkins + Will and Studio NYL have been involved in numerous preservation projects. Could you expand on the difficulties of bringing historic structures up to contemporary standards, blending new design elements with the old, and the opportunities present with these projects? Rishi Nandi: The revitalization of historic buildings is challenging but pays great dividends. These buildings often represent something well beyond the program they house to their communities. Approaching the projects in a manner that is responsive to the neighborhood’s needs is critical since the structures often embody the resilience and stability of the communities they are embedded within. The most difficult part of any restoration is making sure the improvements you are making do not have any unintended consequences. For instance, many historic structures breathe differently than today's facade systems. This becomes a significant issue when one considers improving the performance of the envelope through insulation and air barriers. Understanding the hygrothermal properties of the walls is critical to ensure that potential compromising events like freeze-thaw do not occur. Matching old with new is also critical. We simply do not make component pieces the same way they were when many of these buildings were built. For example, no one is field fitting and assembling windows on site to conform to glazing dimensions that are all slightly off. The good news is that mass manufacturing is changing rapidly and customization options that did not exist in the 1980s have proliferated. We are often now able to work with fabricators in a hands-on way to create matching components that can replace those that we have to. By this, I mean that the first option in our approach is to rehabilitate as much as we can. Some of this is driven by the aesthetic. The majority of this, however, is driven by the consideration that the reuse of the existing structure and envelope has a significant environmental and social benefit. In these scenarios, we are able to keep intact the community's connection to the identity of the structure while significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the building through the reduction of primary materials. Chris O'Hara: Existing and historic buildings are a fantastic challenge. As we are always discussing sustainability, and it generally focuses on energy performance and recycled materials, it pales in response to what we can do by saving the embodied energy of an existing structure and breathing new life into it. Taking that existing structure that is either of an age where insulation was not considered and thermal comfort was managed through thermal mass and passive means, and mixing it with modern mechanical systems relying on a reduction of air exchanges–or worse yet a building designed with modern mechanical systems but an ignorance of envelope due to cheap energy–requires more analyses and more clever solutions. Management of the thermal performance of the existing building while trying to take advantage of the systems' drying potential is fun. Getting these buildings to perform at a high level is likely the most good we can do as a facade designer. What do you currently perceive to be the most exciting trends in facade design that boost environmental performance? RN: There are a lot of great products on the market including nanogel insulations, fiber reinforced polymer (FRP), and advances in glazing. That being said, as an architect, I have a tough time understanding the environmental impact of our products. We need better data from manufacturers that tell us clearly the waste stream. We need to know how much water is being used to make the products. Manufacturers should be required to help us better understand the life cycle carbon footprint of the products we are using. This information should be mandatory and should be directly influencing the way we make product selections and decisions. We can then have a more informed discussion on environmental impacts and, hopefully, then come up with a strategy on how to begin to address the concerns addressed within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s most recent report. CH: Fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) and vacuum insulated systems. For the FRP, our ability to more cost-effectively thermally break and structure our faces with nearly thermally inert materials opens up possibilities in how we build. Vacuum insulated glass and vacuum sealed nanogel insulation are offering the ability to drastically improve our system U values while thinning down our assemblies. Although these technologies are still new to the market and come with a cost, like all other advances we have seen in the last 20 years or so I expect that cost to come down as we find how to use these systems more efficiently. Digital fabrication offers incredible possibilities for the mass production of individual facade components. In your experience, how is this technology reshaping the industry and your projects in particular? RN: Technology is reshaping our approach. Digital fabrication workflows are being created that are beginning to bridge the gap between documentation and fabrication. Working from a common platform has a number of benefits including allowing for a more detailed conversation on material applications and efficiencies. Robotics and digital printing allow us to create the right responsive materials that maximize the material return while minimizing waste. This increased communication is pushing more and more early involvement from manufacturers. We have employed modified delivery methods such as the integrated design process and design assist to help engage fabricators earlier to better our designs, drive a level of cost certainty and work within proprietary systems that help minimize team risk. The result is a blurring of traditional lines. The next step to me is a disruption in the way we work. We are already starting to see it with companies like Katerra, who with their digital platform are looking for ways to deliver entire projects at all phases from design to construction completion using prefabricated components and an integrated approach not yet seen by the industry. It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next 15 years and the types of efficiencies that may be gained and what it means for the way we all work and deliver projects. CH: The use of digital fabrication seems to have found its way into most of our current enclosure projects, although the aesthetic is not always driven by the technology. We have found that the speed and precision it affords makes it an important part of our toolbox. Whether it is used for an elaborate cladding geometry or for the precise fabrication of repeated parts, it has really opened up the possibilities of what we can achieve while still being conscious of the parameters of schedule and cost. To do this the designer needs to understand the craft that goes into this work. Many do not understand that even with the technologies available there is still craft. The difference between this and a carpenter is simply what is in the tool belt. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
Posts tagged with "fiber-reinforced polymer":
Wave-like composite facade animates SFMOMA expansion.While visually interesting, the primary facade of the SFMOMA expansion (Snøhetta with associate architect EHDD) was not originally designed to pioneer a new material system. All that changed when William Kreysler visited the architect's New York office. "I went there to meet them about the interior," recalled Kreysler, whose firm—composite specialists Kreysler & Associates—had been called in to advise on the project's vaulted ceilings. "I asked about the exterior, how that was going to get done. They didn't know." Over the coming months, Kreysler & Associates transitioned from interior consultant to envelope fabricator as the facade itself was transformed from a ductal concrete fantasy to a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) reality. Along the way, thanks to a patent-pending process developed by Kreysler & Associates, the design and fabrication team positioned itself on the cutting edge of high performance building enclosures with the first major use of FRP cladding on a multi-story facade in North America. When a client's representative called to ask if his firm—at that point poised to collaborate with an outside glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) contractor on mold-making—would consider taking on fabrication themselves, Kreysler's reaction was mixed. "I said, 'Yes, I don't see anything particularly complicated about it in terms of fabrication,'" he recalled. "The problem was the fire codes. No one in the [FRP] business had attempted to pass the fire code requirements." Kreysler & Associates had been keeping abreast of the regulatory situation, and had been involved in inserting a new section for FRP into the International Building Code[s]. But the fire code test itself, NFPA 285, is expensive. After further conversation, the client committed to partially fund the test. "We got to the point where I said, 'Okay, I'm willing to put some money at risk here,'" said Kreysler. "We went ahead and did it." Kreysler & Associates' system, which they call Fireshield 285, passed the test, likely becoming the first FRP cladding panel to do so. Having thus paved the way for a more widespread application of the lightweight material to building exteriors, the fabricator's next step was to bid to three facade companies. Of the firms to which they introduced their design, Enclos was the most engaged. By the end of the first meeting, Kreysler & Associates and Enclos had brainstormed ideas to eliminate the secondary structural frame intended to go in front of the weatherproof wall specified in the original design. Soon the group introduced an additional innovation. Enclos is known for its expertise in unitized panel systems rather than conventional walls, explained Kreysler. "We said, 'Maybe we could make our material so lightweight, we could just fasten our material onto the front of the unitized wall panel.'" Kreysler is quick to give credit to Enclos "for seeing the potential and sharing their expertise in building facades so we could work collaboratively to take full advantage of both systems' strengths." With a combined composite-unitized wall panel assembly, one team of contractors could erect the entire rain screen in a single shot. "It would save one million pounds of structural steel, plus the time of going around the building three times," said Kreysler. Not surprisingly, "the contractor liked it, and the owner liked it," he recalled. Only one obstacle remained. "Unitized wall systems are designed to go in straight lines, or if curved, are curved in a radius," said Kreysler. "But if you look at the facade of SFMOMA, it's all over the place." The Kreysler & Associates-Enclos team quickly developed a solution: Kreysler & Associates would fabricate their panels with edges of different depths to bridge the gap between the facade's surface and the flat unitized panel wall. "We were able to create a curved front even though the the wall behind was a nice straight line," explained Kreysler. "From the front of the building you don't see any of the edges—you see this flowing curved line. That was a big breakthrough, and as a result, Enclos really got behind our system." The client was suitably impressed, and Kreysler & Associates won the contract against bids involving GFRC systems. "Even if our price turned out to be higher, the benefits of only going around the building one time, and the benefits of a system considered to be a higher-quality weatherproof wall" won out, said Kreysler. Though the expansion is not expected to open until 2016, Kreysler & Associates' work on the project is finished. The installation went "beautifully," said Kreysler. The 710 unique FRP panels were mechanically fastened and bonded to the unitized wall using a custom aluminum extrusion. The Enclos representatives had been nervous, he recalled. However, "the project manager told me that in the years he's being doing this, it was the most complicated project he's ever done, but in the end this was the most straightforward part of the project." As for Kreysler himself, he has no regrets—quite the opposite. "It was tricky, but it was fun and interesting," he said. "And it was nice to know that we were breaking new ground."
Competition winner uses composite materials to re-imagine Semper's primitive hut.The title of TEX-FAB's fourth annual competition—Plasticity—has a double meaning. It refers first to the concept at the core of the competition brief: the capacity of parametric design and digital fabrication to manifest new formal possibilities. But it also alludes to the material itself, fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP). “Plastics have the potential to push contemporary architecture beyond the frame-plus-cladding formula dominant since at least the 19th century,” said competition winner Justin Diles. Pointing to traditional stonecutting and vault work, he said, "I'm very interested in this large volumetric mode of construction, but I'm not at all interested in the stone. I think that composites probably offer the best way of addressing this old yet new mode of constructing architecture." Diles' proposal, Plastic Stereotomy, builds on his work as a KSA fellow at The Ohio State University. But where his earlier Eigenforms were two-dimensional freestanding walls, Diles' Plastic Stereotomy pavilion—which he will build at scale during the coming months—is fully three-dimensional. Inspired by teaching tools designed by Robert le Ricolais, Diles used a finite element analysis 3D modeling plugin to simulate surface buckling by superimposing volumes onto one another. "Those pieces are voluptuous; they create a lot of poché [thickness] as they overlap with one another," Diles observed. While the plugin developed by his friend was critical to the design process, Diles remained focused throughout on the end goal of fabrication. "What I'm really looking at is how we can use simulation to think about issues of construction rather than just optimization," he said. Custom fabrication shop Kreysler & Associates will provide technical support as Diles moves from design to construction. Diles cites the fire-resistant FRP cladding developed by Kreysler for Snøhetta's SFMOMA as an example of how composite materials can ease the transition from two-dimensional to volumetric design. "Even though the project still adheres to Gottfried Semper's model of a lightweight frame and cladding, the panels don't have a frame expression," he said. "They're massive, with ripples and indentations. They point to a new way of thinking about architectural surface and enclosure." Kreysler and Diles will work together to streamline the techniques he used to build his competition prototype, a scaled-down section of the Plastic Stereotomy pavilion. (Bollinger + Grohmann will provide additional structural and material engineering support.) For the mockup, Diles used a 5-axis CNC mill to shape EPS foam molds onto which he layered up FRP cloth. He then removed the pieces from the molds, painted them, and glued and bolted them together, adding stiffeners to the open-backed components. Because the FRP is so light, he used two solid foam blocks to weigh down the structure. "I'm interested in working with Kreysler around thinking through production to make it more efficient," said Diles. For the fabricators, the TEX-FAB collaboration represents another step in Kreysler's journey from boat-building to other applications of composite materials, including architecture. "We're excited to work on this with Justin," said Kreysler's Josh Zabel. "It's exciting to see designers put fresh eyes on these materials we're devoted to." Plastic Stereotomy will be on display at TEX-FAB 2015 Houston at the University of Houston College of Architecture, March 26-29. The conference will feature workshops, lectures, and an exhibition on the theme of Plasticity.