Posts tagged with "health":

Smart Cities New York

Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.
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New study will investigate skyscraper-induced depression and sickness

This article was originally published on ArchDaily as “New Study to Investigate Skyscraper-Induced Depression and Motion Sicknesses.” Have you been experiencing motion sickness, depression, sleepiness, and even fear, as you gaze out of your window from the 44th floor? If so, you may be prone to “Sick Building Syndrome”—the informal term for side effects caused by swaying skyscrapers, according to experts at the Universities of Bath and Exeter, who are launching a £7 million ($8.6 million) study into their causes and prevention through testing simulations. “More and more people are living and working in high-rises and office blocks, but the true impact of vibrations on them is currently very poorly understood,” explained Alex Pavic, professor of vibration engineering at the University of Exeter. “It will for the first time link structural motion, environmental conditions, and human body motion, psychology, and physiology in a fully controllable virtual environment.” Despite the solidity of their masses, skyscrapers are indeed subject to motion in response to the external forces they experience from their surrounding urban environment, such as construction work and underground trains. With thinner floor slabs and greater column spacing, skyscrapers built from the 1970s onwards aren’t able to dampen vibrations as well as their predecessors, thus amplifying the effects experienced by their occupants. The study, which is to be conducted by a varied team of engineers, medics, physiologists and psychologists from the two universities, will use built simulators to test motion from tall buildings, offices, stadiums, and concert venues, in addition to vibrations caused by large crowds crossing bridges and leaving stadiums. Studies have already indicated that slight movements in buildings can register as the aforementioned symptoms, as well as poor concentration and lack of motivation. However, no concrete origins have been discovered yet, though scientists do believe humans have evolved in their perception of subtle vibrations. Dr. Antony Darby, head of civil engineering at Bath, said:
Just like sea sickness, our propensity to motion-induced discomfort is situation and environment dependent. For example, people at a concert in a grandstand will accept a completely different level of vibration than those in a hospital operating theatre.
The new simulation facilities will be funded by the Universities of Bath and Exeter, as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The study hopes to shed some light on this curious phenomenon, and could possibly establish new standards for allowable levels of a building’s motion for the health and safety of its occupants. News via: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Written by Osman Bari. Want more from ArchDaily? Like their Facebook page here. Archdaily_Collab_1
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Perkins+Will integrates healthy materials into their new Seattle office

On an early May day, Perkins+Will Seattle gave The Architect's Newspaper a tour of their new offices in downtown Seattle, the first of their global offices designed to incorporate their in-house healthy materials initiative research. The Seattle office moved east in April from their prior space on First Avenue above the Seattle Art Museum, to Minoru Yamasaki’s 1977 Rainier Tower on Fifth Avenue. The relocation gave Perkins+Will the opportunity to live-test their healthy materials initiative—putting their research on toxic building chemicals into action on themselves. In 2009, Perkins+Will developed a precautionary list of harmful building materials, compiling governmental agency information about building chemicals that may harm our environment and ourselves.

“We wanted our workspace to reflect who we really are, and to some extent use ourselves as a little test lab. Can we walk the walk?” said Ed Palushock, associate and senior project designer at Perkins+Will who heads up the firm’s Material Performance Research Lab.

“There were a bunch of people who did some research and started recognizing, hey, these chairs that we’re putting in the space have flame retardants [in them] that have a fallout for people’s health. Or, we’re using copper on exterior roofs, and noticing some research being done about elevated copper levels in runoff water. Some copper is good, but too much copper is not so good,” said Palushock. “The goal was to take ourselves out of the equation.”

The Perkins+Will Vancouver office led the Seattle office design, working with Perkins+Will’s Seattle team. The precautionary list informed how the firm approached their new space on a micro level: 32 of the 34 products and finishes met the firm’s healthy materials standards. The vetting process involved a bit of investigation, as some product manufacturers’ ingredients lists were proprietary or incomplete. (Two products that didn’t meet the architecture firm’s requirements: A chromium alloy plating process used to lend a chrome finish to products, and the solar shades. The firm found out after installation that the shades contained 15 percent PVC.)

There was a slight up-charge for specifying healthier materials. “But once [these materials] become an industry standard, it will level the playing field,” said Oliver Wuttig, an architectural designer at Perkins+Will. “The more we ask manufacturers about these products, the less it becomes a commoditized item.”

The Seattle office spans two floors. The main office is 16,500 square feet while a lower level houses a 1,400-square-foot materials library and model shop. But even with close to 120 employees working in the office, the main level—with most of the surfaces white and soft gray—is bright and spacious due to an open, square-shaped floor plan. Workstations with employees organized by teams, a corner kitchen, and meeting and conference rooms run along the perimeter with direct access to natural light and views of downtown and Puget Sound. The firm also has phone rooms for privacy. “We sit people together who are working together,” said Palushock. “Every month or every other month there is a switching around in the office.”

At the core are elevators and an entryway featuring white perforated branded metal screens backlit by LEDs. Along the outer core walls, the firm can display projects and hold critiques. There’s also a social component to the design. Each corner of the office is reserved for flexible workspaces—a kitchen in one corner can double as a meeting room for the whole office. “The kitchen engages people and gets them from their desk, said Wuttig.

The sustainable building industry has made headwinds in the past decade—the United States now has an abundance of certification opportunities such as LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and Cradle to Cradle—the presence of toxic chemicals in products is a persistent issue. “We have wiring lined in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but it can contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates and Bisphenol A,” Palushock explained. A safer alternative to PVC may be polyvinyltulene (PVT). But it’s not ready for market. “It’s one thing to design a building in terms of the orientation and use healthy materials, but the question is, what are those healthy materials?” he continued.

Perhaps we lag behind Europe on the healthy materials front because of our legal framework and mentality. As Palushock put it, Europe’s approach is to “prove this material is not harmful” while in the U.S., it’s “safe unless deemed otherwise.”

Resources General Contractor: Turner Construction Company Lighting Consultants: Candela Corporation and Stantec Electrical Consultant: Evergreen Electric HVAC, Plumbing Consultant: American Mechanical Corporation
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AIA Infographic: Designing Community, Shaping Health

Over time, architects, designers, and engineers have demonstrated how the structural significance and quality of architectural design impacts the built environment and the quality of life of people residing within it. To drive that point home, the AIA has released an infographic showing architecture's key role in the enhancement of individuals' physical and mental well-being. The interactive charts explore how design plays significantly more than an aesthetic function. It is not solely about linear or convex shapes, about geometric structures or innovative materials. Rather, the importance of architecture lies in the choices that architects make when designing buildings in order to positively affect the quality of life of its users. The infographic entitled "Designing Community, Shaping Health" was designed by Link Studio and depicts how diligent architectural decision-making can impact human life. The graphics show a variety of objects that the user is able to scroll over or click on in order to see their function and impacts. For instance, clicking on a staircase will explain in great detail how buildings that are not equipped with elevators ultimately benefit individuals through exercise. In fact, stair-climbers have a 20 percent lower risk of stroke or death than elevator-users. The AIA makes a point that architects are not just instrumental in the modeling of a building, but rather, how they contribute to the shaping of our happiness and unhappiness as well. AIA’s message is that design doesn’t just impact our lives. It can save them. View the infographic here.
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St. Louis Architect Wants Public Art for Public Health

One St. Louis architect thinks his city’s public art needs a shot in the arm. Michael Jantzen says public art should further public health, and his work—interactive designs replete with solar film and meant to encourage exercise—shows how. Not that the Gateway Arch has lost its luster—the Eero Saarinen landmark stills makes millions of dollars in tourist revenue each year and is the subject of a $380 million redesign—but as Jantzen told the Daily Riverfront Times, its value is largely aesthetic:

The whole purpose of the Arch was to generate tourism, which it did very successfully here, to say the least … A lot of architecture and art projects that are being built and have been built, their prime function is to get people to come to the city and look at them—not unlike the Arch.

Jantzen, who moved to St. Louis from Carlyle, Illinois to attend Washington University, has a few ideas for public art that break the mold. His projects include a glass and steel bridge that changes shape according to its users and a massive waterwheel meant to harvest the energy of the Mississippi River’s current.
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Bloomberg Urges New Yorkers to Take the Stairs

When confronted with the option to ride the elevator or muster up enough energy to walk up multiple flights of steps to a destination, most of us opt for the elevator. But according to the Bloomberg Administration, we might choose differently when surrounded by a built environment that encourages physical activity. In response to our country’s mounting obesity crisis, Mayor Bloomberg has recently changed design standards, launching a new series of pro-health and anti-obesity initiatives that promote physical activity in buildings and public spaces. The plan comprises of three main elements. The first is the creation of The Center for Active Design, a non-profit organization that fights obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, by implementing active design strategies in the construction of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods. This was accompanied by an Executive Order that Mayor Bloomberg signed on June 27th obliging all city agencies to incorporate smart design strategies that promote physical activity in new construction and renovation projects. Finally, Bloomberg has proposed two acts of legislation to the City Council that promote access to stairways in all major construction projects by hanging signs on walls and near elevators that recommend taking the stairs. These efforts are the latest in the Mayor’s campaign to urge New Yorkers to live a healthier lifestyle. Past initiatives include his ban on cigarette smoking in bars, restaurants, and outdoor public spaces, prohibiting restaurants to use trans fats, and forcing food chains to include calorie counts on their menus. The Bloomberg Administration firmly believes that by making stairways more visibly accessible people will feel more inclined to use them, by beautifying our streetscapes more people will be encouraged to walk or ride a bicycle to work, and by creating public spaces conducive to physical activity people will feel inspired to get outdoors, exercise, and live a healthier lifestyle.
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New York City Targets Buildings’ Heating Oil to Improve Air Quality

What’s your building burning? Some 10,000 buildings in New York City are stuck on the dirty stuff—heavy heating oils—to keep warm, which is polluting the air across the city. But as of the first of this month, the city has begun to phase out these feuls in favor of more environmentally-friendly and health-conscious alternatives. As part of plaNYC’s initiative to remake New York City with the cleanest air of any major U.S. city, NYC Clean Heat aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by the end of 2013. While used by only one percent of the city’s buildings, heavy oils No. 4 and No. 6 emit more emissions than all of the cars and trucks on New York’s streets. The elimination of the use of these heating oils in favor of cleaner fuels, such as No.2 oil, Biodiesel, natural gas, and steam, is estimated to save 120 lives a year, as well as prevent 200 respiratory and cardiovascular related emergency room visits, and 77 hospitalizations. Currently, three grades of heating oil are used in New York City: No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6. Quite literally the “bottom of the barrel,” No. 6 heating oil resembles tar, and like No. 4 oil, can contain sulfur, nickel, and other impurities which create soot when burned, thus polluting the air and lessening boiler efficiency. The byproduct, PM2.5, lodges in lungs and aggravates respiratory illnesses, while nickel inhalation can lead to heart disease. With PM2.5 concentrations 30 percent higher in neighborhoods that rely heavily on heavy heating oils, and nickel concentrations over nine times higher than those of any other major U.S. city, it is no surprise that 300,000 New York children suffer from asthma. NYC Clean Heat aims to cooperate with property owners, building managers, tenants, and environmental organizations to achieve its goals. Check out this map to see what you and your neighbors are burning, and contact NYC Clean Heat for additional information getting your building converted.
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Quick Clicks> Thinkin’ Lincoln, Green Critic, Exhausted Cyclists

Thinkin' Lincoln. IBM is taking over the Lincoln Center through October 23rd with one of the biggest interactive technology exhibits in the city: IBM Think Exhibit. Highlights include the 123-feet long "data wall" and a forest of 40 seven-foot media panels. More at Inhabitat. Bronx Beauty. The New York Times' new archi-critic, Michael Kimmelman, has penned his first review, shying away from the iconic, gleaming projects of his predecessor, instead beginning with Via Verde affordable housing in the South Bronx, which may help him demonstrate that quality trumps quantity, especially in moral debates of architecture. Biking Sacrifice. Atlantic Cities reported that cyclists in urban environments might want to be wary of cars for more than just accident risks: harmful automobile emissions create a hazard for cyclists as well. According to new research, bikers inhale more than twice the amount of black carbon particles as pedestrians do in the same trip.