A green building research center at Harvard has enlisted Snøhetta to transform its headquarters into a test site for technology that may make it easier to retrofit older homes. Using its modest headquarters as a guinea pig, the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the GSD will retrofit its on-campus home. Designed by Snøhetta, the HouseZero project revamps the CGBC's 1924 stick-built house to run without an HVAC system, without daytime electric lighting, and produce zero carbon emissions, among other efficiencies. The project is the brainchild of Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at the GSD and the center's founding director. "Before now, this level of efficiency could only be achieved in new construction," said Malkawi, in a press release. "We want to demonstrate what's possible, show how this can be replicated almost anywhere, and solve one of the world's biggest energy problems—inefficient existing buildings." In the United States, 113.6 million homes use around ten percent of the nation's energy. Although there are plenty of new buildings that are net-zero, there aren't many practitioners working to bring older buildings—especially older houses—up to that standard. For the CGBC, which was founded in 2014 to promote high-performance building techniques through design, HouseZero is a major test project. Instead of considering the house as a sealed box, Snøhetta will create an envelope that passively heats and cools itself. The HVAC system will be replaced with thermal mass, while a ground source heat pump will provide extra energy to regulate temperatures in the warmest and coldest months. Clad in white cedar shingles, HouseZero sports ash and birch interior finishes, natural clay plaster, and reclaimed brick and granite—all high-performing, locally available materials. The building components are outfitted with sensors so the structure can adjust itself for thermal comfort throughout the day while collecting data for future retrofits. A lab inside will be connected to the energy exchange system so architects and researchers can swap and test new facades and materials to further optimize the structure's performance. The project's concept design was developed in collaboration with the Center and with Snøhetta, which will act as lead architect, interior, and landscape architect. (The U.S. branch of Norwegian construction company Skanska is working on the house, as well.) Though it could probably go LEED super-platinum, HouseZero's creators aren't setting out to build for any existing certifications. According the press release, the team "wants to demonstrate an entirely new paradigm for ultra-efficiency, one that is localized and focused on curbing energy demand, with energy production secondary to that." Construction is expected to take between seven and nine months.
Posts tagged with "retrofits":
Heitmann & Associates President and CEO Glenn Heitmann is surprised that more developers do not take advantage of one solution to the demand for new residential or commercial space: retrofitting an existing building. Like other cities in the United States, said Heitmann, Kansas City, Missouri is home to a surfeit of buildings constructed during the 1950s and 1960s “that have gone through a useful life cycle as it relates to the facade.” But while these structures might not meet contemporary demands for efficiency and comfort, “Rather than tear them down and start over, we can say there are choices,” said Heitmann. Heitmann, who will participate in a presentation block on “(Re)designing Downtown” at the upcoming Facades+AM Kansas City symposium, sees existing buildings as “clean canvases” onto which builders can project just about anything, from surface rehabilitation to a complete aesthetic update. That said, a few facade-related factors outside the design and construction teams’ control can help determine the scope of the retrofit. The first is that renovated buildings must meet current building codes. “A building built in the 1950s was constructed for that code,” said Heitmann. “But keep in mind that your new building skin has to comply [with contemporary codes]. That means anything we do now needs to be airtight and thermally efficient.” Second, explained Heitmann, would-be retrofitters must consider the condition of the anchors holding up the existing cladding. If they are in good shape, the team can opt to keep them in place. But if “over the years air or water infiltration has compromised structural integrity,” said Heitmann, they may need to start from scratch. Asbestos can also present a challenge. “Most people think about asbestos on the interior,” said Heitmann. “What I’m talking about is sealant or byproducts that make up the exterior facade.” In bringing up asbestos, he said, his intention is not to “use scare tactics,” but instead to encourage architects and builders to think through every facade renovation “clearly and holistically.” Whether of an occupied or a vacant building, said Heitmann, retrofitting can be a powerful tool by which to improve a property’s financial value—not to mention occupant comfort. One example he cited was an office building in prime location that, through renovation, catapulted from Class B to Class A. Another concerned a “very high end” residential structure constructed in the 1960s. “People were frustrated,” said Heitmann. “They loved it, they loved the views, but they saw their investment dwindling” due to inefficiencies. A revamped skin, including new glazing and framing, brought the property up to snuff. Learn more from Heitmann and other facades experts from Kansas City and beyond at Facades+AM Kansas City. Register today to secure one of the few seats remaining.
In addition to being AN's Midwest Editor, I was the special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2014, interviewing tall building designers, developers, and other experts at the skyscraper think tank's Shanghai conference, and its annual CTBUH Awards ceremony in Chicago. In Chicago I interviewed two of the minds behind the recent overhaul to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City (technically, in an extraterritorial space contiguous with Midtown Manhattan). Michael Adlerstein, of the U.N. Capital Master Plan & John Gering, managing partner of design firm HLW International, discussed the retrofit of the 1953 United Nations Secretariat Building, a finalist in CTBUH's 2014 awards. “Not many buildings in our time are looking at the exterior window wall and composition with the interior as one system. In many cases they're looking at them as either the exterior or interior,” said Gering. “What we looked to do was blend those two things together, and the end result was a lot of energy savings.” The handsome glass skyscraper exemplifies midcentury office design, drawing on the expertise of its architects, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace K. Harrison. But its outmoded performance standards left it in need of a serious update. In that sense the project to retrofit the building—which also included firms Heintges & Associates, Gardiner & Theobald, Skanska, and Rolf Jensen & Associates—is a case study for repurposing aging office buildings around the world. “All buildings need to be considered for recycling because they do incorporate tremendous embodied energy … And not just beautiful buildings and buildings where treaties were signed,” said Adlerstein. “I do feel the preservation movement has to move beyond iconic buildings.”
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the nonprofit arbiter on tall building design, has named its 2014 picks for best tall buildings. Among the winners are a twisting tower in Dubai, Portland's greenest retrofit, and a veritable jungle of a high-rise. The four regional winners are: The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland, USA (Americas); One Central Park, Sydney, Australia (Asia & Australia); De Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Europe); and Cayan Tower, Dubai, UAE (Middle East & Africa). Portland’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building is not a new building. Designed by SOM in 1974, the office tower used a pre-cast concrete façade that had begun to fail by the turn of the 21st century. Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Cutler Anderson Architects and local firm SERA modernized the 18-story, 512,474 square-foot structure that is now targeting LEED Platinum. One Central Park in Sydney uses hydroponics and heliostats to cultivate gardens and green walls throughout the tower, cooling the building and creating the world's tallest vertical garden. OMA’s De Rotterdam is the largest building in the Netherlands, and its form playfully morphs the glassy midcentury office high-rise in a way that’s part homage and part experimental deconstruction. In the Middle East, Dubai’s twisting Cayan Tower (formerly The Infinity Tower) is a 75-story luxury apartment building that turns 90 degrees over its 997-foot ascent. Remarked the CTBUH panel: “happening upon its dancing form in the skyline is like encountering a hula-hooper on a train full of gray flannel suits.” CTBUH will pick an overall “Best Tall Building Worldwide” winner at their 13th Annual Awards on November 6, at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Their panel of judges includes Jeanne Gang, OMA’s David Gianotten, Laing O’Rourke’s David Scott, and Sir Terry Farrell, among others. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition. Most of the 88 contest entries were from Asia, CTBUH said, continuing that continent’s dominance of global supertall building construction. CTBUH's international conference will take place in Shanghai in September. You can find more about the 2014 CTBUH awards, including a full list of finalists, at their website.