Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

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Olson Kundig reveals world's first human composting facility in Seattle

Last week, doctors, architects, and funeral directors gathered in a Seattle warehouse to toast the first project site for Recompose, a company that offers composting as a “gentle” and natural alternative to cremation and burial. Founded by Katrina Spade, the company converts human remains into soil “so that we can nourish new life after we die.” Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig is heading up the project and revealed renderings for the 18,500-square-foot facility, which is slated for completion in early 2021 in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.  The project is led by Olson Kundig principal Alan Maskin, who is also a part of Recompose’s team, and project manager Blair Payson. “Six years ago, Katrina walked into our studio and had the craziest idea I’d ever heard,” said Maskin, according to The Seattle Times, “I had this transition of shock from ‘oh my God I’m going to die’ to thinking this is something I need to do—something the world needs to do.” The team’s vision involves bodies being placed inside of a modular system of reusable, hexagonal “Recomposition Vessels” which are aerated and covered in wood chips to promote break down. When the process is finished, families will be able to take home some or all of the soil created (one cubic yard, or to put in perspective, several wheelbarrows full), and it's anticipated the rest will go towards reforestation efforts in Washington.  “The core of the new facility’s space is a modular system containing approximately 75 of these vessels, stacked and arranged to demarcate space for rituals and memorial ceremonies,” according to a recent press release from the design team. One rendering shows an aerial view of a ceremony taking place with visitors gathered around in a circle surrounded by walls composed of hexagonal portals, ample biophilic influences, and an arched wooden ceiling.  The interior will consist of trees planted on top of grassy mounds which have the ability to be moved and rearranged across the concrete floor during ceremonies and rituals. Landscaping is planned to surround the space’s ramped entrance and a living wall will span one section of the facility. Seamless transportation of the bodies through moveable vessels is key and pivoting doors will help facilitate the circulation between ceremonial and preparation spaces. The natural organic reduction process requires an eighth of the energy needed for cremation and has calculated carbon savings of over a metric ton per person. The process also prevents embalming fluid from polluting groundwater and minimizes the waste from the production of caskets, headstones, and grave liners. All of which is to say, Recompose’s method is pitched as being more sustainable than conventional after-death practices.  Despite the carbon-sequestering impact, Washington is so far the only U.S. state to have legalized human composting and Recompose claims to be “the first facility in the world to provide a sustainable option for after-death care,” Spade told CityLab. Addressing the group present at the Recompose “housewarming party,” Spade shed some light on the matter, “You all have one thing in common…you are all members of the death-care revolution.”
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Skanska rolls out a new tool to evaluate embodied carbon

Construction remains one of the most carbon-intensive industries, with materials often contributing significantly to the final project's total pollution (concrete production, for example, is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions). A report from the Carbon Leadership Forum, a network of academics and industry professionals hosted at the University of Washington to focus on reducing embodied carbon, suggests that as the population grows, the equivalent of one New York City in additional floor space will be built every month around the world. That's as much as two trillion square feet of new building, or significant renovations, happening over the next 32 years, according to the nonprofit Architecture 2030. While many environmentally concerned architects and builders focus on operational impacts—certainly a significant contributor to climate change—others have emphasized a concomitant need to focus on the embodied carbon, emissions that result from construction and from creating and transporting materials themselves. A signatory of the Paris Climate Accord, the construction giant Skanska is the latest AEC company to enter the fray of carbon-reduction solutions with an open-source tool called the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), developed in collaboration with C Change Labs and incubated at with funding from Skanska and Microsoft. Current tools and assessments center on these lifecycle impact and operational efficiencies of buildings, however, embodied carbon can account for around half of a building’s emissions impact over its average lifespan. “It may not matter how efficiently we operate our buildings over time if we don’t immediately address the carbon embodied in what and how we build,” Skanska USA chief sustainability officer, Beth Heider, FAIA, explained in a release. The hope with EC3 is that those in the AEC industry can better understand their impact in order to reduce it. “Until now, the building industry has not had a way to assess our supply chain through the lens of their carbon impact,” said Stacy Smedley, regional director of sustainability for Skanska’s building operations based in Seattle, whose benchmarking research was foundational to the project. Currently in a limited pilot, EC3 is an open-source database of over 16,000 materials, searchable by performance requirements, design specifications, project location, and global warming potential—all based on environmental product declaration data. The hope is that stakeholders in the building process, such as designers, developers, and contractors, can better understand the potential carbon impact of their projects. Skanska reports that current participating projects are seeing carbon reductions upwards of 30 percent with little to no difference in cost. EC3 will be publicly released on November 19.
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Pittsburgh launches its own International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings

Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.”   As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.”  “Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony. The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations. Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030. "The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future," said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”
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MILLIØNS explores the future of hempcrete in the United States

Last May, Zeina Koreitem and John May of the experimental Los Angeles architectural practice MILLIØNS conducted a weeklong workshop for Space Saloon, a “community in residence” design-build festival in Morongo Valley, California. While the small-scale structure they oversaw in the desert landscape was novel in form, spatial sequencing, and coloration, its most stunning aspect was perhaps the fact that it was primarily built with hempcrete, a material virtually nonexistent in the American construction industry. Currently, both the production and application of concrete is woefully unsustainable. As the world’s most common building material, the production of the ancient compound requires a tenth of the world’s industrial water production and produces 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Once a concrete building is completed, its exterior envelopes absorbs and retains the sun’s heat, contributing to rising temperatures in urban areas (known as the heat island effect). If the biggest global cities, including those in India and China, continue to rely on concrete to meet the demands of their increasing populations, an additional 470 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere by 2050, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. All of that's before even taking into account the material's deadly human cost of production. First developed in France in the 1980s, hempcrete appears to be a miracle material in contrast to its traditional cousin, beginning with how it's produced. Not only do the hemp fields from which it originates absorb airborne carbon while they grow, but the crops continue to absorb greenhouse gases after they are harvested and transformed into building materials—287 pounds of airborne carbon dioxide are estimated to be captured by one cubic meter (35 cubic feet) of hempcrete, while a half-ton is emitted into the atmosphere by each ton of cement, according to the European Cement Association. Hempcrete is also up to eight times lighter than concrete, meaning it takes significantly less energy to transport, minimizing its carbon footprint even further. When the inner woody core of hemp plants, known as hemp hurds, is mixed with lime or clay as a binding agent, the fibrous consistency of hempcrete has demonstrated better ventilation, fire resistance, and temperature regulation properties than its predecessor. Although the material doesn't offer the same load-bearing capabilities of traditional concrete, developers throughout Europe have made great efforts to test its limits and have so far produced buildings as high as ten stories (which could, of course, be improved with increased research and application). Despite all of the apparent benefits of hempcrete, the North American construction industry is only beginning to take note. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp's cultivation under certain conditions, there are only about 50 homes throughout the U.S. built at least partially with hemp, while the practice has become relatively common in Canada and Europe. As marijuana production becomes a more regulated industry, and hopefully the production of hempcrete and other hemp materials could become the building blocks of America’s future as the material becomes less stigmatized.
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Can flatpack refugee housing be safer, faster, and more durable?

While refugee camps are generally designed to be temporary, they often end up staying up for many years and become full, functioning cities in their own right, housing generations of people—Dheisheh camp, in Palestine, for example has been continuously occupied since 1949. However, because the materials they are built with—often just tents or tarps over metal frames—are generally intended for quick deployment and a limited lifespan, it is becoming just one of many problematic facets of housing displaced peoples. Cutwork, an architecture and design studio based in Paris and Amsterdam, has developed a concept for quick-to-build, affordable, and durable refugee shelters that can be set up by just two people. Working with the building materials company Cortex Composites, they’ve created plans for homes that can be assembled by two people in just 24 hours. Cortex, which is classified as a Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mat, is a concrete-impregnated textile that can be shipped flat and simply rolled out and hardened with the addition of water, no additional equipment or specialized construction experience necessary. The half-inch-thick shell then hardens within a day and, the company claims, can last for as long as 30 years with compressive strength twice that of average concrete all while being as much as 90 percent less carbon-intensive. Cutwork’s design for the Cortex Shelter would roll these concrete textiles over bendable metal-tube frames. Washable insulation panels would be added to the shelter’s interior and the design has high windows that allow both natural light and privacy. Cutwork also imagines solar panels being placed on the roof to generate electricity, and, in theory, should there be the infrastructure to support them, there would be ample space for kitchens and bathrooms. While the Cortex Shelter is designed to be a repeatable home, the firm also imagines that in supporting the urbanization of refugee communities, schools, shops, other structures could be built with the same technology. Cutwork suggests that Cortex could be used to build permanent schools, shops, and even a sports stadium. While they admit urbanizing refugee settlements is not the ideal solution to this global crisis, the company believes that it can be one tool among many in making safer, more sustainable, and pleasant lives for the tens of millions of global refugees.
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Shigeru Ban Architects completes a sprawling mass timber campus for Swatch

Pritzer Prize-winner Shigeru Ban has made a career out of pushing the limits of timber construction. This week, the Japanese architect celebrated the completion of one of the largest hybrid mass timber structures in the world. The 500,000-square-foot Swatch and Omega Campus in Biel, Switzerland took 8.5 years to build and is composed of three new buildings by Shigeru Ban Architects (SBA): The Swatch Headquarters, the Omega Factory, and the Cité du Temps, a flexible space serving as a conference hall and museum for both of the Swatch/Omega companies. While the buildings share commonalities in their function and composition, each carries its own distinct qualities. The Swatch Headquarters has a light and airy quality, with an arched, coffered canopy made of 7,700 individual pieces of engineered timber. Meanwhile, the Omega Factory presents itself as a more rectilinear, fixed structure, with exposed timber elements blending among paneled glass walls. The result is a clean, sharp aesthetic that highlights the duality of the building. The Cité du Temps acts as a crossroads for the watch manufacturing company, which operates 18 subsidiary brands, in its function as a space for meetings and exhibitions. To demonstrate this point, SBA designed the third building to intersect with the canopy of the Swatch Headquarters—here, the building becomes both a symbolic and physical link between the subsidiaries of the Swatch Group. SBA has always advocated for the use of wood in architectural design, arguing that it is one of the only truly renewable resources in construction. In addition, timber construction reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, cuts down the cost and duration of construction, and could even make tenants feel happier and healthier. In its tactical use of timber, SBA has long led the charge in sustainable design practices, tracing back to Shigeru Ban’s experiences with disaster relief efforts. A ribbon-cutting ceremony in Biel celebrated SBA’s remarkable achievement on October 3.
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SOM shows off the sustainable potentials of robotic fabrication

For the Chicago Architecture Biennial opening on September 19, SOM debuted a concrete pavilion called Stereoform Slab to showcase the latest in material and manufacturing technology. As much as 60 percent of a building’s carbon footprint can result from the creation of concrete slabs, according to SOM. By developing new fabrication methods and integrating robotic construction, the firm reported that a 20 percent reduction in material use and waste equaled an equal reduction in carbon output. The fluid form of Stereoform Slab, designed as a full-scale abstraction of the single-story concrete bays you might find in a high-rise, was built in partnership with McHugh Construction, the developer Sterling Bay, Denmark-based Odico Construction Robotics, and Autodesk. Using robots, Odico fabricated EPS foam molds which were shipped from Odense, Denmark, to the U.S. “The shape is formed of a specific, but simple class of geometry—the ruled surface,” the interdisciplinary research team behind the project at SOM said in an email. “This formal constraint is derived from the nature of the fabrication method itself, a hot-wire spanning an eight feet width at the end of a seven-axis robotic arm.” While one might have seen this "constraint" as just that, a restriction, the designers said they saw it as a way of offering “geometric freedom,” and also enjoyed the high fabrication speed. While new technology has allowed for designers to conceive of “more sustainable and expressive structures,” the resulting complexity often makes them hard to realize with conventional construction techniques. “The impetus for Stereoform Slab, however, was to prove that emerging approaches to fabrication using advanced robotics could help close this gap, and that this type of formwork could augment more conventional concrete forming systems without adding additional cost to construction,” the SOM team explained. Odico used a proprietary technology called robotic abrasive wire cutting, which allows for the rapid creation of polystyrene formworks—reportedly at up to 126 times the speed of traditional methods. “Because of this advantage, formworks can be produced at very low cost compared to conventional timber formwork molds," said Asbjørn Søndergaard, chief technology officer of Odico, "which is the critical enabler for realizing more advanced, structural designs that save material through more intelligent use of material." SOM isn’t doing away with the human hand entirely, and they said that “This type of advanced fabrication is about augmenting human labor in order to expand design freedom and the potential to actually build what we can imagine and create with more advanced digital design methodologies” Though certainly smaller than a tower, working closely with the robotic manufacturers and with a firm, McHugh Construction, that focuses on high rises means that the Stereoform Slab has more in common with a construction prototype than a pavilion. The Stereoform Slab will be up until January 5th, along with a bench produced by the same process at the Chicago Athletic Association.
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A collaboration of Dutch companies wants to 3D print an entire pedestrian bridge

Three Dutch organizations—the materials company DSM, the engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV, and the 3D printer manufacture CEAD—have teamed up to create a printer capable of printing continuous glass- or carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. Currently, they are demonstrating the capabilities of printing structural elements, and even, they hope, entire pedestrian bridges, with CEAD’s CFAM Prime printer which can create parts as large as 13 feet by six-and-a-half feet by five feet. While formwork molds have previously been created by large-scale printers and then used in turn create structural parts, this is one of the earlier examples of the potential of 3D printing to create large polymer structural elements, and, possibly, entire bridges. The firms say that combining polymers with continuous fibers allows for the construction of lightweight, high-strength elements ideal for infrastructure solutions, and while other 3D printed building materials have run into trouble when it comes to cold temperature and exposure to the elements, the designers hope that these fiber-and-plastic combos can weather storms as well as any traditional building—though it remains to be seen if these 3D-printed elements would be able to address the brittleness problem sometimes faced when plastics are used for larger structures. Maurice Kardas, the business development manager of Royal HaskoningDHV, told 3Dprint.com that “fiber-reinforced plastic bridges have been known for their long life spans and lower overall costs in comparison with steel bridges. Now we will be using a new 3D printing technology which lets us at scale make fiber-reinforced plastic parts. through adding sensors to the bridge we can make a ‘digital twin’ of the bridge itself. these sensors can predict and optimize maintenance, ensure safety and lengthen the life span of bridges.” While the team cites sustainability as a possible benefit—noting the polluting nature of concrete—these forms still rely upon plastics, in this case Arnite which is a rigid PBT or PET. Composites like these remain notoriously difficult to recycle, and are often petroleum-based. Still, additive manufacturing processes often produce less waste, take less time, and hopefully, will offer durability advantages over other existing processes.
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Zappos invests in startup Geoship to build domes for the homeless

Geoship, a startup with a plan to revolutionize single-family housing, has caught the attention of Zappos via Tyler Williams, director of brand experience at the shoe retailer's Las Vegas headquarters. The two companies are now working together to make geodesic dome structures the homes of the future, addressing a variety of mounting social and environmental concerns in what they're calling affordable, regenerative architecture. Geoship’s dome structures are made of bioceramic, a self-adhesive material made largely out of phosphate, which can be recycled from wastewater. The material is touted as being "nearly indestructible," making it suitable for a world hurtling towards a climate crisis—the homes can withstand a heat of up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit without burning, resist insects and mold, and can weather tremors and storm surge from earthquakes and hurricanes alike. All of this?  “Essentially, it’s like Legos going together,” Geoship founder Morgan Bierschenk told Fast Company. The startup claims their domes cost 40 percent less to build than traditional existing construction methods. The geodesic domed shape, similar to that of a soccer ball, is made up of faceted triangles and pentagons welded together via the bioceramic’s self-gluing properties. The form and its translucent, light-filled nature were popularized by great 20th-century architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller, who used the form and technology to build structures like his pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal or the Dymaxion House. The shape is inherently strong and structurally sound and this is further enhanced by Geoship’s combination of the classic form with a new material. Zappos jumped on the fundraising wagon with Geoship when Williams recognized the domes’ potential to address homelessness around its Las Vegas headquarters. The idea of a collective of the domes, made available for free to the homeless adjacent to Zappos's office, was a shared vision of both Bierschenk and Williams. The solution combines low-cost housing with extreme environmental sensitivity; Geoship claims that there is even a possibility that the domes could become carbon negative, as bioceramic has the ability to absorb amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Geoship also argues some more theoretical points—the domes are supposedly said to align with Vastu Shastra, a traditional Indian theory of architecture. The goal, though, is to appeal to a mass audience and modernize home building: “We started to question why we’re still pounding nails in wood, like people were doing 100 years ago,” said Bierschenk.   It may take some time before the unlikely partnership bears dome-shaped fruit; Bierschenk estimates it will be at least two years before the structures begin production. Whether we can "envision a new future for Earth" as Geoship encourages us to do remains to be seen—as well as the company's claims that the interiors of their domes harmonize the electromagnetic environment with biological systems—but at least the homeless population in Las Vegas may be getting a new form of housing.
 
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Can you envision a new future for Earth? The converging global crises of ecosystem disruption, democratic dysfunction, unaffordable housing, and increasing chronic disease are clear signals that it's time to dramatically transform where and how we live. Geoship's vision for the future of home is a natural earth sanctuary that calms your senses and restores balance; a place of maximum efficiency, beauty, and resilience. Where the light and electromagnetic environment harmonizes with biological systems. Inside, you feel connected to all that exists outside – nature, community, and the universe. Your dome is calling! #futureofhome #buckminsterfuller #domesweetdome #newparadigm #domehomes #geoship

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GreenerBuilder 2019

Hosted by the Pacific Region communities of the U.S. Green Building Council, GreenerBuilder is a one-day conference and expo for green building professionals. The annual event unites all of the key players in greening the Pacific Region’s built environment—including architects, engineers and contractors—to discuss industry trends, new research and emerging technologies. GreenerBuilder is where you can get the strategies and tools to help create a more sustainable future in the region.

Open Call: R+D for the Built Environment Design Fellowship

R+D for the Built Environment, is sponsoring a 6-month, paid, off-site design fellowship program starting this summer. We're looking for four candidates in key R+D topic areas:
  1. Building material science
  2. 3D printing, robotics, AR/VR
  3. AI, machine learning, analytics, building intelligence
  4. Quality housing at a lower cost
  5. Building resiliency and sustainability
  6. Workplace optimization
  7. Adaptable environments
We're excited to support up-and-coming designers, engineers, researchers (and all the disciplines in between!) advance their work and provide them with a platform to share their ideas. Follow the link below for more details and instructions on how to apply. Applications are due by May 31, 2019. https://sites.google.com/view/rdbe-design-fellowship-2019/home  
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NYC Council passes sweeping building emission legislation

Some of New York’s tallest towers are doing the most harm to the environment. Although buildings larger than 25,000 square feet only represent two percent of the city’s stock, according to the Urban Green Council that minority is responsible for up to half of all building emissions. Now the New York City Council is finally cracking down on the worst offenders, and New York will soon become the first city in the world to constrain large building emissions through hard limits. Yesterday the council passed the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act, a legislative package that some are comparing to a New Green Deal for New York. The Climate Mobilization Act, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign, would set increasingly harsh limits on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet beginning in 2024. According to the Urban Green Council, New York City produces 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and buildings account for approximately 67 percent of that—meaning buildings over 25,000 square feet produce 35 percent, or about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, a year. The legislation covering the affected 50,000 buildings will roll out in phases. This year, an Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance and an advisory board will be created at the Department of Buildings to both regulate and enforce the new standards. When the law fully takes effect in 2024, emissions from qualifying buildings will need to be reduced 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Climate Mobilization Act then takes things one step further and requires that these same buildings slash their emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Why are large buildings such energy hogs? Lighting, heating, cooling, and tech requirements, combined with inefficient equipment, all constrained within leaky envelopes, have combined to create a perfect storm of waste. Retrofitting these massive buildings to use or waste less energy is projected to potentially create thousands of jobs for architects, energy modelers, engineers, and construction workers, as everything from inefficient windows to HVAC systems will need to be replaced. For those structures that can’t be brought up to code on schedule, their owners can offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits. If an owner still isn’t in compliance, they can be hit with an ongoing fine based on their actual emissions versus the cap. The real estate industry had been a vocal opponent of the measure, arguing that it would place an undue burden on both it and tenants. “The overall effect is going to be that an owner is going to think twice before she rents out any space: ‘Is the next tenant I’m renting to going to be an energy hog or not?’” Carl Hum, general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), told the New York Times. “There’s a clear business case to be made that having a storage facility is a lot better than having a building that’s bustling with businesses and workers and economic activity.” Still, those fears appear unwarranted. Part of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance’s job will be to work with landlords and tenants and issue variances for buildings with higher energy requirements.