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.
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Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Scott Johnson's Museum Tower in Dallas, and Rafael Viñoly's Vrada Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas have at least one thing in common. All three provoked the ire of their neighbors when glare from their reflective facades raised sidewalk temperatures, blinded drivers, or—as in the Museum Tower case—jeopardized the nearby Nasher Sculpture Center’s collections. Glare is increasingly a problem in facade design, says Curtainwall Design Consulting president Charles Clift, in part because of the tools contemporary architects have at their disposal. "The conclusion I came to is that the digital age of architecture has allowed designers to create anything they can imagine, but with that comes some unintended consequences." Clift and other experts in high-performance envelope design, including George Loisos (Loisos + Ubbelohde) and Luke Smith (Enclos), will dig into the problem of glare in a symposium panel at this month's Facades+ Dallas conference. Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick, David Cossum of the City of Dallas, and the Dallas Morning News' Mark Lamster will join them to discuss the reflectivity challenge within the local context. The conversation will continue on day 2 of the conference at the "Curating Daylight: Effective Control of Interior Illumination & Issues of Exterior Reflectivity" dialog workshop (led by George Loisos and Susan Ubbelohde), which meets at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Advancements in building materials offer one solution to the glare challenge, which exists in tension with the demand to reduce thermal gain. "An easy way for the facade to accomplish sustainability goals is to use highly reflective glass, but obviously that rejected glare goes back into the environment," said Clift. Happily, innovations by today's glass manufacturers, including low-e coatings, boost performance, reduce glare, and allow a decent amount of visible light transmission. External or internal sunshades can also do double duty as thermal barriers and glare blockers. But both specialty glass and shading structures come at a cost, and are often the first to go when the budget gets tight. "A lot of the time, the issue of glare has been taken into account in the design process, but it’s one of the first components that might get value-engineered out," said Smith, who will moderate the panel. Municipal-level regulation is another possible fix for the reflectivity problem. Clift reports that some Dallas builders he’s talked to are confident that the market will sort things out. They say that the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center debacle "is such a bad situation that a savvy developer won’t do that in the future." Smith is not so sure. "This is an urban problem, but as soon as the city tries to step in, people say, 'No, this has nothing to do with the city,'" he said. "I think the problem is getting worse because density is increasing in cities, and right now glass is predominantly the building material of choice." Dallas, he notes, is the perfect place to explore the glare issue. "The city’s going through a regeneration: the place is coming back. Plus, it’s sunny, and they like glass buildings." To hear more from Smith, Cliff, and the other panelists about the problem of glare, register today for the Dallas Facades+ conference. The complete lineup of symposium speakers, dialog workshops, tech workshops, and networking events can be found on the conference website.