Fossil fuel dependency is now a thing of the past for this municipality on Colorado's Western Slope. Aspen has just announced that it's only the third city to kick the habit and is fully reliant on renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, the Aspen Times reported that the city had reached the landmark after it signed a contract with electrical energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. As part of this process Aspen swapped coal for wind power to make up for the non-renewable energy deficit with its energy also coming from hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal. Prior to this, Aspen had been running on an estimated 75 to 80 percent renewables. The feat was also able to be realized due to the recent drop in solar energy prices. In fact, the cost of solar energy is predicted to fall further still, dropping below $0.50 per watt in the next few years. Solar energy is not alone in this trend. In what's a good economic indicator of renewable energy's growing popularity, wind power is also much cheaper than it was just a decade ago. This trend toward renewables was likely aided by Obama's carbon regulations which made renewable energy alternatives increasingly competitive against fossil fuel sources such as coal. According to ThinkProgress, "already, more than one-third of American coal plants have been shuttered in the past six years, and the new carbon rules make it quite possible that no new coal plants will ever be built in the United States." “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Aspen's Utilities & Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible. Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals” Renewable energy has long since been on Aspen's agenda going back to the 1980s with the Reudi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects. Highlighting the accomplishment, former Project Coordinator Will Dolan said Aspen only began working toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about a decade ago. Beating Aspen to the 100 percent renewable landmark were Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
Posts tagged with "Sustainability":
Always an early adopter of innovative sustainability methods, the city of Rotterdam is considering piloting roads fabricated from recycled plastic. The creators of PlasticRoad wooed the city council with their proposal of an all-plastic road that is quicker to lay and requires less maintenance than asphalt. Construction firm VolkerWessels also claims that the material can withstand greater temperature extremes—from -40 to 176 fahrenheit—can be laid in weeks rather than months, and lasts three times as long. The Netherlands-headquartered conglomerate points out that asphalt generates 3.2 billion pounds of carbon emissions globally on an annual basis, accounting for two percent of all road transportation emissions. Lighter roads that exert less pressure on the ground are a godsend for the low-lying Netherlands, one eighth of which is already submerged below sea level. The hollow design of PlasticRoads makes it easy to install cables and utility pipelines and even channel rainwater. Sections of road can be prefabricated in a factory, reducing on-site construction and ensuing congestion caused by roadworks. “As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to try this],” Rolf Mars, director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, told The Guardian. “It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry. We’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions.” Although still at the conception stage, VolkerWessels hopes to lay the first fully recycled thoroughfare within the next three years, and the city of Rotterdam is raring to host the pilot test. “We’re very positive towards developments around PlasticRoad,” said Jaap Peters from the city council engineering bureau. “Rotterdam is a city that is open to experiments and innovative adaptations in practice. We have a ‘street lab’ available where innovations like this can be tested.” The initiative should perhaps be most lauded for its potentially massive-scale, industrial use of waste materials. And while plastic bottles are already widely recycled and repurposed into garden furniture, compost bins, and more plastic bottles, the questions becomes: can used up PlasticRoads be recycled?
In September the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) gathered high-minded designers, developers and engineers for a conference in Shanghai. CTBUH, which often partners with AN on conferences, including our own Facades+ events, invited me to serve as a special media correspondent for the conference, held September 16–19. I spent most of the time conducting video interviews with the symposium guests, which we'll post here on the AN blog as they become available. For now, here' a quick overview of the topics discussed. The theme of this year's conference was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism.” It was an especially relevant topic given the venue—held in the elegant, SOM-designed Jin Mao Tower, the conference looked for lessons (and warnings) in the kind of supertall, super-dense development that turned the Lujiazui area of Shanghai's Pudong district from farmland into a world financial center in just 20 years. Symposium presenters tackled sustainability from several angles. Matthew Clifford, head of energy and sustainability services for North Asia at JLL, stressed building operation and management is as important as design when it comes to energy use and building performance. Cathy Yang, manager of Taipei 101, recounted how “greening” the 101-story building did not turn a profit until the initiative's sixth year, but then made up for it in just three years. The Taiwanese supertall remains the largest LEED Platinum–certified building in the world. Jianping Gu of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development espoused the benefits of the “stereoscopic” form of his building, which at 2,073 feet is set to become the tallest building in China upon completion next year. “If you compare Shanghai Tower to Taipei 101, Petronas Towers, those were all isolated," Gu said. "There were already two towers in the vicinity when we started. We had to pay particular attention to harmonizing with those buildings. We consider this an issue of sustainability.” But towering, monumental architecture may not be for everyone. David Gianotten, an OMA partner heading the firm's Hong Kong office, told me OMA gets so many briefs seeking “iconic” design that the word has begun to lose its meaning. “If everything's special, then nothing's special,” he said. That debate continued onto the conference floor, where developers discussed how China's third- and fourth-tier cities should embrace the tall building boom—or whether they should at all. On the conference's final day, Mun Summ Wong of Singapore-based WOHA talked about the psychological environment of horizontal cities, and how tall buildings should better embrace the human scale. “The idea is to inject more urban life into the high-rise city,” Wong said. “We introduce horizontal movement in the high-rise building because it changes the dynamic. When you talk to the people next to you in an ordinary high-rise, it is considered rude. But in the street, you talk to people, build relationships and bonds.” Similarly, Yang Wu of the Bund Finance Center warned of the risks of homogeneous skylines. “When I open my eyes in the morning and I am in Shenzhen, I still think I am in Shanghai because they look the same,” he said. “[China is] duplicating buildings and the mistakes of the West. There is focus on building bizarre and tall buildings but ignorance of the connotations–resulting in cold buildings for cold cities. As a developer, I call on architects: you need to have your own independent ideas that bring vitality.” You can read more about the conference on CTBUH's website. Check back here as we post video interviews.
A team of mayors and nonprofit foundations said Wednesday that they’ll spend enough retrofitting major U.S. cities to save more than $1 billion per year in energy costs. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropy, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation pledged $3 million each year for three years to provide technical advisers for 10 cities across the country: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. The City Energy Project, as it’s called, is intended to cut 5 to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually, or roughly the amount of electricity used by 700,000 to 1 million U.S. homes each year. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation will help the cities draft plans to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency—a process the group said should not take more than one year. Chicago’s participation could lower energy bills by as much as $134 million annually and could cut about 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the mayor’s office. In a prepared statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the investment would create jobs: “More energy efficiency means new jobs and continued economic growth, and a more sustainable City,” Emanuel said, “which will lead to a further increase in the quality of life for the people of Chicago.” Last year Illinois tightened its building code and Chicago ordered large buildings to disclose their energy use. In Chicago, like many of the nation’s older cities, large buildings eat up much of the city’s energy—together the buildings sector accounts for 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the U.S. While energy efficiency has long been recognized for its financial opportunity, major banks have only recently begun to invest. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hopes City Energy Project will connect building owners and private financiers, bringing more money to large-scale efficiency initiatives.
Defying the standards of conventional landscaping, living walls take vegetated ground cover to the vertical extreme. For the past 30 years, French botanist and green enthusiast Patrick Blanc has made a quantum leap forward in the art of gardening by designing and building these living walls all over the globe. Blanc's latest project—One Central Park Tower—is in Sydney, Australia, where nature’s tranquil features join forces with dynamic city life. The project is a collaborative effort between Blanc and Jean Nouvel. When completed, the major mixed-use urban renewal housing plan will boast the world’s tallest vertical garden. The building consists of two adjoining residential towers connected by terraced gardens, built atop a retail center. Each tower measures 380 feet in height and consists of shops, cafes, restaurants, offices, 624 apartments, and 38 luxury penthouse suites. Over the years, Blanc has perfected the art of the vertical garden by using synthetic moss instead of soil for the growing medium. At One Central Park, he envisions covering up 50 percent of the building’s facade by incorporating 1,200 square feet of plants stretching from the 2nd floor to the 33rd floor. On the 24th floor, an immense sky garden projects 100 feet out over the park below. At night, the cantilever will act as a canvas for an LED light installation designed by artist Yann Kersale, with vines running up its supporting cables. The lower part of the cantilever will be equipped with an apparatus containing a heliostat, which will reflect sunlight down onto the surrounding gardens and naturally illuminating the building. The lush green tapestry of the structure's facade will be entwined with the foliage of the adjacent park in order to replicate the natural cliffs of the Blue Mountains, which are located in the Western part of Sydney. By using plants and natural sunlight, the design projects to reduce energy consumption and will help cut down the city's greenhouse gas emissions. One Central Park represents a shift towards a new contemporary design era; one that encapsulates all that the age of living and breathing architecture has to offer. Estimated completion date is set for January 2014. Images courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel / Patrick Blanc / Fraser Properties. Image below: Courtesy the messiah website.
There's a lot to be excited about in the jam-packed schedule of intimate dialog and tech workshops on day two of AN and Enclos’ upcoming Facades+ PERFORMANCE conference. But don't forget about the exciting keynote-speakers headlining day one! Industry leaders Stefan Behnisch of Benisch Architekten and Gerardo Salinas of Rojkind Arquitectos will set the tone as they discuss the effects of emerging design, fabrication, and construction techniques on building facades in our current technological, environmental, and economic landscape. Leading innovators from across the AEC industry will be on-hand to redefine sustainable facade performance, so don’t miss this rare opportunity. Register now and mark it down on your calendar: Facades+ PERFORMANCE, October 24th-25th at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus in Chicago. “For me, performance means going beyond the technical behavior of a facade or technical system to incorporate new-found relationships between technology, fabrication, and understanding the full potential and use of the local craftsmanship to obtain the desired results," Salinas told AN. "At Rojkind Arquitectos, we look at every project as a state of active awareness fueled by continuous research, cross-pollination and context sensitivity. Rather than focusing on 'all' we selectively choose a context and adapt our thinking to recognize opportunity under those parameters.” Before returning to his native Mexico in 2010 to become the first partner at Rojkind Arquitectos, Gerardo Salinas worked on several master planning and institution projects with Ellerbe Becket, acted as Senior Project Designer with HNTB and Senior Associate at Anderson Mason Dale Architects, and demonstrated his expertise and dedication to sustainable design as a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. In his keynote address, “The Economics of Fabrication,” Salinas will discuss how, by viewing the users' needs as sources of inspiration, his firm is able to construct designs that maximize potential while maintaining attainability. “The facade as a building’s skin is becoming a more and more complex element in architectural development,” said Stefan Benisch, founder and principal of Behnisch Architekten. “Considering that the number of trades and different materials within a building is decreasing, and the remaining, fewer trades will become more complex, the facade then needs to become a highly sophisticated, complex, integrated element, not unlike what the skin represents for the body.” In his keynote address, “Techinical and Architectural Expectations: The rapidly developing role of the building skin in the wake of new technologies,” Bensich will bring his decades’ worth of knowledge and experience to the Facades+ stage. Through his award winning work, like the Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hannover, Behnisch has infused dynamic, eye-catching design with forward-thinking sustainable technologies to create buildings that provide maximum benefit to their users, the public realm, and the natural environment. Join him on October 24 to see the projects that are paving the way for the next era of sustainable facade design and construction. Reserve your space now to hear more from these and other groundbreaking professionals on the future of high performance facades and the technologies that are revolutionizing our built environment, only at Facades+ PERFORMANCE.
Anticipation is growing for AN and Enclos’ eagerly awaited Facades + PERFORMANCE conference, touching down in Chicago from October 24th to 25th. Leading innovators from the architecture, engineering, and construction industries will share their insights on the latest in cutting-edge facade technologies that are redefining what performance means for 21st Century architecture. Don’t miss your chance to join Cory Brugger, Director of Technology for Morphosis Architects, as he is joined by a group of industry specialists to lead an in-depth dialog workshop on expanding the idea of performance in the design, engineering, and fabrication of innovative building systems. "Traditionally, performance has been defined in singular terms," Brugger told AN, "but when it comes to delivering architecture, it can encompass everything from energy usage to fabrication technique. For us, performance is multifaceted and interdisciplinary. We have found that technology provides a platform for incorporating a variety of performance criteria in our design process, allowing us to create innovative architecture, like the Cornell NYC Tech project on Roosevelt Island." Set to open its doors in 2017, Morphosis’ winning design for the highly publicized Cornell Tech campus will be breaking ground on Roosevelt Island in the coming year. As part of this ambitious, 2.1 million square foot development, Brugger and his colleagues at Morphosis hope to earn LEED-Platinum certification by with their 150,000 square foot academic building by utilizing cutting-edge modeling techniques and an array of sustainable technologies. "In general, we are designing for extremely high EUI (energy use intensity) goals, which are being accomplished through the use of comprehensive models that integrate mechanical systems, day-lighting analysis, and architectural assemblies," said Brugger. "This effort is being supported by a 140,000+ square foot PV array that is integral to both the performance and aesthetics of the design. Other technologies include high performance facade systems, smart building technology, and geo-thermal wells." In conjunction with master-planners SOM and landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, Morphosis are working to create a new model for high-tech education in the information age by extending the definition of performance beyond traditional notions to incorporate far-sighted social and technological considerations. Reserve your space at Facades+ PERFORMANCE now to take part in an intimate discussion. Brugger will be joined my Paul Martin (Zahner), Tyler Goss (CASE), Matt Herman (Burro Happold), and Marty Doscher (Dassault Systèmes ) on Friday, October 25th at the Illinois Institute of Technology Main Campus in Chicago. Don’t forget to check out our other exciting key-notes, symposia, and workshops on the complete Facades+ PERFORMANCE schedule.
San Francisco Facades+ PERFORMANCE is only three weeks away! Connect with other architects, fabricators, developers, consultants, and other design professionals and earn up to 8 AIA LU credits per day at the conference, presented by AN and Enclos, July 11 to 12, 2013. Invaluable information, networking opportunities, and hands-on workshops are on the lineup for this year’s two-day event. The symposium on Day 1 involves exciting presentations and discussion-based panels. Here are just a few of the speaker highlights on the agenda for Facades+. Claire Maxfield, Director of Atelier Ten, in conjunction with Jeffrey Vaglio of Enclos, will offer introductory remarks on Day 1. Her expertise includes facade optimization and water systems. Ecoarchitect Ken Yeang of Hamzah & Yeang is an architect, planner and ecologist known for his distinctive green aesthetic. He trained at the AA School and received a PhD from Cambridge, and he will present a keynote address at the symposium titled "Ecoarchitecture: Living Facades and Architecture." Edward Peck of Thornton Tomasetti will speak about The Components of Performance on Day 1. Peck has over 15 years of experience in architecture, building skin technologies and building systems fabrication. Gary Handel, Founding Partner of Handel Architects, has directed the expansion of his firm to over 150 architects, designers, and planners since its start in 1994. Handel focuses on enriching the urban environment and will present a keynote address on Day 1 titled "Glass Without Guilt." Stephen Selkowitz, Senior Advisor of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has over 35 years of experience in building energy performance and sustainable design. With a focus on RD&D of energy efficient glazing and facade technologies, he will give a lecture titled "Measured Building Energy Performace: First Results from the New York Times HQ Building." Don't miss out on conversing with some of the world's top design professionals. Early Bird registration has been extended—register online today!
Studio Gang, which recently kicked off the first solo exhibition of their work at the Art Institute of Chicago, will celebrate another opening event next month: the architects’ Arcus Center at Kalamazoo College will ceremoniously break ground October 9. Gently curving wood walls demarcate a 10,000-square-foot space for social justice leadership development in the woods. The structure uses local white cedar, engaging its environment while transparent façade elements honor the building’s goal to facilitate conversation. Targeting LEED Gold certification, the project will source sustainably harvested wood for its low-impact, highly insulating structure. A curvilinear floor plan funnels activity from the building’s three wings into a communal meeting space. Though the corridors grow out from the central area and allow for separate functions in the institutional building, large windows at each terminus accentuate a feeling of interconnection with generous sightlines.
With nine million dollars total in prizes up for grabs, The Mayor’s Challenge simply asks for innovations in city life, a subject that’s been a growing concern for countless architects, planners, and governments worldwide. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the competition last week calling for individual designers and teams to address urban challenges from sustainability to citizen empowerment. "Every day, mayors around America are tackling increasingly complex problems with fewer and fewer resources," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Our cities are uniquely positioned to inspire and foster the innovation, creativity, and solutions needed to improve people's lives and move America forward." Mayors of cities with a population above 30,000 people—about 1,300 across the country according to the 2010 census—are invited to participate as team leaders. Entries will be theoretical, but will be judged for their vision, ease of implementation, potential for impact, and replicability in other cities. Teams are encouraged to present new and radical ideas relevant to multiple cities addressing social or economic problems, improving customer service, improving accountability, or that help governments run more efficiently. But what ideas are big enough to change cities across the country? The challenge points to PlaNYC, an initiative launched by the Bloomberg administration in 2007, calling in part for transforming 4,000 acres of New York City land into public space to provide every New Yorker with a park within a ten-minutes walk from their homes; Chicago's 311 hub, implemented in 1999, also helped improve city life by combining multiple city services and access points in one easy-to-reach location, providing efficient customer service and encouraging public engagement. From the contesting cities, twenty finalists will be chosen to attend an Ideas Camp and among them five will be named national winners, with one $5 million grand prize and four $1 million prizes to help implement the ideas. All qualified entrants are required to RSVP by July 16th, 2012 and apply by September 14th,2012.
So you want to win the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program? This year's champs Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner of HollwichKushner (HWKN) shared some insight about their strategy with AN. The competition started with an invited portfolio submission from about 20 young architects. After being selected by the MoMA PS1 panel as one of three finalists, HWKN started in with rigorous research into past winners and the selection process. "We made a book about every entry," Hollwich said. This study provided in-depth knowledge of the different approaches and forms which have won, and also those that have not been successful. The next step was a brainstorming session with their project team that produced 100 ideas. Those 100 were trimmed to 10, and then cut to three, but then Wendy, a striking scheme for a neon blue star, was added, making four. Once the final choice was made, a retroactive analysis helped to assure that they made the right choice and that the design had all the elements they were looking for. "It was not a linear process, but design never is," Kushner said. Wendy is a formal departure from recent winners. MOS' afterparty in 2009, Pole Dance by Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu (SO - IL) from 2010, and Interboro's Holding Pattern from 2011 all worked as canopy-like structures spanning the courtyard, providing shade by creating spaces with overhead elements. Wendy is an object, and is more autonomous and isolated than previous entries. "I am interested in volume more than surface," Hollwich explained. The competing teams worked together in an unusual way. During the competition process, HWKN was in contact with the other teams regarding site information, which they felt helped create an even playing field between the competitors. As the only team from New York, HWKN assisted out of town firms with measurements and other on-site information. Upon being named winners, the other architects called to congratulate the HWKN team, said Hollwich. But then things got real. "High-speed architecture and prototyping have many hurdles. We are glad that we were already able to jump a couple of them," Hollwich explained. There was some unexpected drama when the question of ambulance access arose, requiring a column to be moved breaking the 3-D grid of scaffolding, but making for an interesting moment in Wendy's final form. A shout-out goes to the intern at HWKN who successfully convinced the leaders of the project to go with the name "Wendy." One late night in the studio, Hollwich received a long email detailing the reasons the name fit. He liked it, but figured Kushner would hate it. Kushner liked it, but thought Hollwich would hate it. "We think of Wendy as a kind of perfect storm, and every perfect storm is named for a woman." Personifying the building breaks with conventional architectural naming, and, the team hopes, invites visitors to fall in love. Construction begins May 15, and is set to be completed June 27th.
It might be the latest trend in creative modern eco-office design or, more likely, it's a tongue-in-cheek reminder to avoid letting work take over your life. In the typical modern office with row upon row of geometric cubicles, the closest a worker might get to nature is a small potted plant, a faraway glimpse out a window, or a rainforest background on his or her computer. But a new installation in downtown Denver quite literally breaks down this man-made environment in an effort to promote outdoor activity and a connection to nature during the workday. Boulder-based architecture firm Tres Birds Workshop created the five-part installation called Natural Systems Domination in July from old office furniture covered in live plants, evoking an office—perhaps abandoned by workers who left to find nature—where nature has found a way back into the work environment. From the architects:
Domination implies taking over. If we had it our way, natural systems would dominate entirely. Natural systems operate in perfect efficiency. Humans are both part of those natural systems and also somehow separate (by choice). The further we stray from connections with nature, the more alien we become.The installation is part of sustainability-minded Keen Footwear's "Recess Revolution Tour" and represents a collaboration with Green Roofs of Colorado and the Fabric Lab. All of the office equipment from chairs and tables to an old copy machine was purchased from second-hand stores and was donated back after the installation was complete. Plants were also reused in the community. (Via TreeHugger.) Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.