Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

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A net-zero, cross-laminated timber apartment complex will rise in Boston

Thanks to support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Softwood Lumber Board, developer Placetailor and Boston-based architecture firm Generate have collaborated to design a carbon-neutral apartment block in Roxbury, a neighborhood in the south end of Boston. Named Model-C, the 5-story, 19,000-square-foot building will contain 14 residential units above an affordable co-working space on its ground floor. Model-C will be assembled using a cross-laminated timber (CLT) kit-of-parts and will be net-zero energy and net-zero carbon for its first decade of operation. The CLT rooftop will allow for the easy installation of solar panels, and the building’s walls will be insulated with natural mineral wool. The entire building, including bathroom “pods,” will be prefabricated in sections off-site and assembled from the ground up to reduce the need for scaffolding. Its plans have been certified by PassivHaus and meet the standards of the new Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s “Zero Emissions Standards,” part of the city's Climate Action Plan. Once complete, Model-C will be one of the only totally timber buildings in Massachusetts, and one of the least energy-intensive buildings in America. Generate sees Model-C as a demonstration of a modular cross-laminated timber system the firm will apply to other sites in response to different topographical conditions and coding requirements. “Over the past year,” the firm's website states, “Generate has been transitioning out of the academic setting of the MIT Mass Timber Lab, and into industry by actively seeking progressive developers to deploy its first demonstration project, which they hope will serve as a catalyst in the Greater Boston area, and eventually in North America.” While mass-timber buildings are currently limited to six stories in North America, Generate is currently exploring the application of their system to buildings as tall as 18 stories tall in response to the 2021 Tall Wood building codes. The project received zoning approval last September and construction is expected to begin this June. Given the expediency of the prefabrication method developed by Placetailor and Generate, as well as the elimination of an interior framing system, the project can be completed as early as winter of next year.
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France mandates public buildings be built with at least 50 percent timber

Instead of forcing a uniform style of federal architecture, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to go green with government-funded structures. The Times reported that after 2022, Macron is aiming for all new public buildings in France to be built with at least 50 percent wood or another bio-sourced material. Not only that, but the President has his sights set on creating 100 urban farms across the country in an effort to bolster its large-scale sustainability measures. Julien Denormandie, the French minister for cities and housing, said the move was inspired by Paris and its recent low-carbon mandate to build structures that are at least eight stories or higher for the 2024 Summer Olympics from timber. “If it is possible for the Olympics, it should be possible for ordinary buildings,” he said in a statement. “I am imposed on all the public entities that depend on me and which manage development to construct buildings with material that is at least 50 percent wood or from bio-sourced material.” Dominique Perrault’s master plan for the river-adjacent Olympic Village includes a series of mid-rise developments that comprise 2,400 units of housing, offices, shops, restaurants, and activity centers. Located in the lower-income neighborhood of Saint-Denis, most of the buildings will be passive or energy-plus structures that utilize wood or other sustainable materials. City Lab pointed out that Paris is using the international sporting event as a way to regenerate the inner suburbs of Northern Paris. The project broke ground on its 126-acre site in November. The push to use eco-friendly materials on big building projects has already started in other cities across France too. In Bordeaux, the country’s first mass timber residential tower is currently under construction as part of a three-structure development called Hyperion. Designed by Jean-Paul Viguier, the 187-foot-tall building will feature 16 stories of housing and office space built around a concrete core. Each floor, which cantilevers slightly over the one below it, will be made of cross-laminated timber. Hyperion is expected to open next year.  As France increases the build-out of these sustainable structures, the country is also boosting access to nature throughout the country’s densest urban enclaves. Denormandie said the first set of urban farms, a group of 30 locations, will be announced this summer. The government also wants to build 90 low-carbon “eco-neighborhoods” that can adapt to extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods. A new group called France Ville Durable is spearheading the effort.  
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Expo 2020 Dubai pavilions will showcase global innovations in sustainability and design

Long before the telephone, the airplane, and the internet, the original World’s Fair was created in 1851 as a method of presenting the achievements of all the world’s nations in a single setting. Countless modern accomplishments—among them, the telephone, the Ferris wheel, the dishwasher, and even the Eiffel Tower—have all debuted at various World’s Fairs hosted by prominent cities around the globe. And though international communication has dramatically improved since its inception, the World’s Fair lives on as the “World Expo”—a multi-acre exhibition for which countries around the world create pavilions emblematic of their respective cultures and exemplary building techniques. Expo 2020 will be held in Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates that has gained international standing in the last half-century and has since maintained one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The expo master plan, designed by American design, architecture, engineering, and urban planning firm HOK, will host 190 pavilions across 1,083 acres between the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and will be divided into three themed districts: Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability. While the majority of the pavilions have had their designs already approved and are currently in the construction phase, the Fentress Architects-designed U.S.A. pavilion has recently met financial troubles, leaving some of its features up in the air; Arabian Business reported that the UAE stepped in last week to help with necessary funding. AN has rounded up a selection of the most striking, interesting, or technologically advanced pavilions that will go on display when Expo 2020 opens on October 20: Austria—Querkraft Architekten
The 47 truncated cones of the Austria Pavilion will be constructed using 9,000-year-old-soil to demonstrate the country’s application of traditional techniques to contemporary challenges. The cones will be arranged to naturally ventilate the exhibition space and Viennese-style coffeehouse contained within as an alternative to the air conditioning technology commonly used throughout the UAE. They will have the added effect of animating the exhibition floor in a pattern of light and shadow as the sun moves overhead.
Bahrain—Christian Kerez Swiss architect Christian Kerez has designed a 21,000-square-foot pavilion for Bahrain with an imposing facade that sharply contrasts the interior, which will host live weaving stations and an open exhibition space. The roof will be supported by 187 evenly dispersed columns—each less than two inches thick—that recall the country’s weaving tradition on a massive scale. Set to be completed within a nine-month timeframe, Kerez told News of Bahrain last December that the pavilion “is quite complex, though it looks very simple, [and] at the moment we have three different international companies working together to make this project a success.” Belgium—Assar Architects and Vincent Callebaut Architectures The architects of Belgium’s pavilion describe it as a “green ark”—both for its wooden boat-like design and its goal of producing more energy than it consumes during the duration of the expo. Multiple green spaces throughout the building will be supported by smart technology programmed to efficiently grow the produce that will feed the pavilion's visitors. While the pavilion will exhibit Belgium’s various innovations over the centuries, the country’s world-famous culinary history is the main attraction. Brazil—JPG.ARQ, MMBB, and Ben-Avid The Brazil Pavilion recreates the feeling of exploring the Amazon basin using an expansive body of water enclosed by a lightweight tensile structure. Visitors can traverse the atmospheric interior either by using a black concrete path or walking through the shallow water to get up close to the sounds, scents, and sights (via images and videos projected onto the ceiling) of the Brazilian riverside. The water has the added effect of naturally cooling the main exhibition space as well as the enclosed multipurpose room on the upper floor. Finland—JKMM The Finland-based architecture firm JKMM is blending the climatic aesthetics of its native Scandinavia with those of Saudi Arabia to produce an Arabic-style tent that appears to be made of snow. Before interacting with its main exhibition space, visitors will pass through the pavilion’s slender entrance to enter a ‘gorge,’ a curved wooden space reminiscent of a Finnish forest. The light wooden elements of the gorge will contrast the rough brushed concrete of the exhibition space, which will highlight Finland’s contributions to sustainable technology and health science. Germany—LAVA and facts and fiction As a country long dedicated to energy technology, Germany will be represented by a multi-story building its architects liken to a campus to recall the “campus learning experience.” The building’s spaces will be loosely arranged under an amorphous roof encased in a translucent ETFE membrane, recalling the engineering feats of German architects Frei Otto and Konrad Wachsmann. The pavilion will guide visitors through its major exhibition spaces—The Energy Lab, The Future City Lab, and The Biodiversity Lab—using wearable devices uniquely designed for the space. Morocco—OUALALOU + CHOI Following their design for the Morocco Pavilion at the 2015 Expo held in Milan, OUALALOU + CHOI return with an adobe brick building inspired by the ancestral construction techniques commonly found throughout Moroccan villages. The firm’s design attempts to recreate the experience of the country, rather than its iconic aesthetics, by tying the pavilion’s galleries together with a continuous ramp that recalls the narrow and dynamic streets of the Moroccan medinas. The Netherlands—V8 Architects The pavilion representing the Netherlands is, according to its architects, “more a biotope than a building.” With an enormous, cone-shaped vertical farm at its center, the pavilion will maintain a relatively low temperature thanks to a passive cooling system. The design of the interior recalls both Dutch landscapes and the traditional geometric patterns of Arabic culture. The entire space will be constructed using locally sourced materials that will all be reused within the region following the Expo’s closure.
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New Orleans convent to be transformed into 25-acre wetland

Hurricane Katrina lasted only eight days and ended nearly 15 years ago, yet the residents of New Orleans are given daily reminders of the presence it wrought in their city after levees constructed by the Federal government failed to redirect excess stormwater. With 80% of the city destroyed, reflecting a citywide property damage price tag of over $125 billion, the broken levees came to signify the largest engineering failure in modern history that left many residents to decide between building off of what had been affected or starting anew. The city's local nuns have been shepherding a former Catholic convent weakened by the man-made disaster and are working with the city of New Orleans to transform the site into Mirabeau Water Garden, a 25-acre wetland that will one of the largest in the United States when complete. Led by Mary Kincaid, sustainable infrastructure program manager at the City of New Orleans project delivery unit, and designed by local firm Waggonner & Ball Architects, the project was originally conceived of by the Sisters of St. Joseph, a group of nuns that once occupied the convent before the building damage became too great to ignore. Their choices, as they have debated them since 2005, were to rebuild the convent or work with the city towards determining a better function for the site. The wetlands will have the capacity to absorb roughly 10 million gallons of stormwater runoff to combat the flash floods that have become common in the city within the last 20 years. Though that water will eventually reach the city's outdated drainage system, the wetland will act as a much-needed filter and partial barrier to prevent sewage overflows. As the most substantial wetland effort taken on by New Orleans in its centuries-long history, the Mirabeau Water Garden will be a signature element of Resilient New Orleans, a city-wide initiative to enact solutions to climate change and other issues facing future generations, and is being developed in accordance with the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, a set of guidelines developed by the State of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development - Disaster Recovery Unit in 2010. The project is estimated to cost $30 million and city officials have already begun soliciting construction bids. The city is hoping to have construction begin in the spring of this year, though no completion date has been set.
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LEVER Architecture elevates regional materials to new levels of innovation

“People connect to wood differently than other materials,” said Thomas Robinson, founder and principal of Portland-based LEVER Architecture. While training in the offices of Allied Works and Herzog & de Meuron, Robinson initially became attracted to the natural material due to its deep phenomenological properties. As structural timber gained popularity in the Pacific Northwest thanks to its ease of acquisition and carbon-capturing capabilities, his firm dove further into its own use of regionally-sourced timber and progressive construction techniques. “Wood is important," explained Robinson, "but innovation is what drives our interest in wood.” LEVER has consistently been at the forefront of timber construction for the last several years and has demonstrated its skillset at varying scales and through a wide range of innovative building techniques. Below, AN rounds-up a variety of the studio's diverse, wood-centric projects:  Oregon Conservation Center Completed in 2019, the Oregon Conservation Center dramatically renovates The Nature Conservancy's original, 1970s office building, which had poorly lit interiors, inefficient office layouts, and an uninspiring facade. As one of the first buildings in the U.S. to be built with cross-laminated timber panels certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the project reflects the client's own progressive sustainability goals. The firm revamped the near-50-year-old structure by introducing materials and plantings that evoke three regional habitats: the Rowena Plateau, Cascade-Siskiyou, and western hemlock and cedar forests. The majority of the materials were sustainably harvested from the client's conservation sites, while the original building's exterior was completely redesigned with steel cladding that will gracefully patina over time. Hidden from plain sight are a number of energy-efficient initiatives, including rooftop photovoltaics that produce a quarter of the building's energy supply and a subsurface filtration system that manages and redistributes all stormwater on-site. L’Angolo Estate Standing as a beacon within a sprawling, 23-acre winery outside of Newberg, Oregon in Yamhill County, L'Angolo Estate was designed in response to the surrounding views and the area's unique climatic conditions while visually connecting to the native Oregon oak trees that populate the valley. A combination of Douglas Fir, exterior cedar siding, and dark anodized aluminum ties the building to the rustic material palette familiar to the Pacific Northwest. Two cantilevered roof structures made also of Douglas Fir interlock at the point of entry give the building a sense of grandeur despite its petite 2,200-square-foot perimeter. The ceiling of the tasting room is patterned with 86 glulam beams that lead the eye towards the rolling hills in the distance. The tasting room can also expand towards that view through the opening of two large, central sliding doors that double as an effective passive cooling system in the summer in addition to the clerestory windows above them. Mass Plywood Pavilion While CLT was developed in Europe in the 1990s to enable the construction of large-scale buildings, a domestic version to the Pacific Northwest was unveiled only in 2017 by Portland, Oregon-based company Freres Lumber. Shortly after it developed the product, dubbed "Mass Plywood" as a thin wood veneer alternative to CLT, LEVER was commissioned to design the very first structure in the country using it. Their Mass Plywood Pavilion, which debuted in Portland that same year, was built exclusively with timber sourced from forests within 100 miles of the Freres' manufacturing plant in Lyons, Oregon. The pavilion demonstrated the potential of the material by expressing its structural and aesthetic capabilities using the fewest cuts possible to produce just 15 panels. Four of the panels were cut in half to become its structural frames, while others were cantilevered and spread out across the small pavilion. Made with untreated materials, the project also showed off the product's ability to withstand the weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Redfox Commons Located in a quickly developing neighborhood in Northwest Portland, Redfox Commons is made of two former industrial structures from the 1940s that were combined to create a light-filled office campus offering over 60,000 square feet of usable space. LEVER stripped the original buildings down to their timber framing and exposed the wood within the interior while adding 80-foot-long clerestory windows that bring generous natural light down into the massive, open space. Ribbon windows on the buildings' steel-clad exterior further drawn in light. LEVER also designed and built a glassy, central entrance structure to connect the two older buildings. The firm used over 6,500 linear feet of salvaged wood from a preexisting mezzanine building on-site to make a timber tunnel walkway on its second floor.
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EHDD discusses Facades+ and industry trends in the Bay Area

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On January 31, The Architect’s Newspaper’s Facades+ conference series is returning to San Francisco. The conference co-chair is EHDD, a Bay Area firm with particular expertise in sustainable design. The morning is split into three panels discussing the resilient design features of 181 Fremont and The Exchange; the complex facade assemblies of Mira Tower and 950 Market Street; and the refurbishment of the historic Pacific Gas & Electric along with the building reuse of 633 Folsom. Participating firms include Atelier Ten, Handel Architects, Heintges, Heller Manus Architects, Gensler, RCH, Studio Gang, SGH, The Swig Company, and WJE. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper EHDD principal Brad Jacobson, associate principal Lynne Riesselman, associate Ivan Chabra, and senior associate Katherine Miller discuss the curation of the morning symposium as well as their present body of work. AN: San Francisco, and the Bay Area as a whole, is undergoing a tremendous phase of growth and development. What opportunities and challenges does that present for AEC practitioners, and how is EHDD addressing them?  Brad Jacobson: Economies go in cycles, and we have been riding a long wave. These times of optimism are opportunities to explore innovative solutions to some of our toughest problems. Here in the Bay Area, these range from climate change, to housing affordability, to enriching public discourse. We’ve been finding success, for example, designing with Mass Timber as an alternative to concrete and steel. It radically reduces embodied carbon emissions while resulting in an aesthetically higher quality product that also allows for prefabrication and streamlined construction processes. The tremendous amount of construction we are seeing bakes in our city's fabric for decades, if not centuries, both in terms of identity and performance. Key efforts, such as building electrification to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, are a priority as these decisions are difficult to undo. Nearly all of EHDD’s projects in design are all-electric, and we’ve been advocating with local municipalities considering electrification ordinances. A core part of our mission as a design firm is enabling our clients to change the world for the better. For KQED, our new Headquarters design opens up the building to better engage and connect with the community. We need to redouble our efforts to support institutions like KQED who are helping keep our City open, democratic, and equitable at a time when the profit motive is so strong. California is no stranger to natural disasters and is facing increasing strain from climate change. 181 Fremont is a model of earthquake resiliency and The Exchange for a large-scale demonstration of LEED qualification. From your perspective, what lessons can be learned from these two case studies and which recent projects by EHDD demonstrate the firm's commitment to resilient design? Lynn Rieselman: Resiliency is such a complex topic. By examining these projects in juxtaposition, we identify how they show leadership in two distinct aspects of resilient design. Sustainability is one cornerstone of resilience: the more effective we are, collectively from a sustainability standpoint, the less our resilience will be tested in the long run. Despite being a speculative office building, and over 700,000 square feet, the Exchange was designed to achieve dual LEED Platinum and Well Certification. It’s an excellent example for the commercial development sector that sustainable design can and should be pursued at every scale. In contrast, the design of 181 Fremont exemplifies excellent resilience against known threats. The project is designed above and beyond code with the intention that it would stay operational after a major seismic event, a plan that is proudly expressed through its triangulated exoskeleton. This strategy protects the investment made in the building, and creates the potential for the project to act as a resource for its community by providing shelter to others in the event of a major regional disruption. The third prong of resilience that we must consider as a design community is speculative resilience, or how our designs will address threats that emerge as the effects of climate change become more tangible. At EHDD, we regularly work on the waterfront, leading us to consider the more pessimistic predictions around sea-level rise. For example, our recent project concept for the National Aquarium of New Zealand identified a multi-faceted resilience strategy, including: a visitor level raised above a worst-case 100-year storm surge, a water-tight basement with sealed penetrations, elevated mission-critical equipment, and a site design that restores native marsh and dune ecology to channel flooding from the building. The design is also intended to exceed seismic codes and has an envelope that incorporates passive design strategies, so the building remains occupiable and comfortable in the event of power loss. MIRA Tower and 950 Market Street demonstrate a spate of new San Francisco developments pushing the envelope in terms of facade cladding and assembly. What do you hope will be the main takeaways from "Twists and Stacks: Assembly Innovations?" Ivan Chabra: As Brad mentioned, this phase of rapid growth will set the trajectory for the character of our city and region for many years. In addition to making sure we are addressing pressing environmental and social issues, this is a unique opportunity to explore the potential of architectural expression. Both of these new buildings depart from the Miesian paradigm of shear glass curtain walls, taking advantage of the three-dimensional opportunities of facade design and fabrication. Utilizing repetition and variation to create complex geometries, these additions to the San Francisco streetscape and skyline add texture and dynamism to the city without resorting to historicism or purely sculptural form-making. These two projects do so with very different techniques, from the materials that are used to the level and scale of prefabrication (and how that affected the erection process), to the hidden elements and details that make these complex geometries possible. I hope that we gain insight into these differences and an understanding of the parameters of cost, schedule, character, and performance which drove these decisions. It is safe to say that preservation and building reuse are essential to responsible urban growth; Pacific Gas & Electric and 633 Folsom are two sides of the same coin on this subject. How will the audience benefit from the juxtaposition of the two case studies and which facade strategies to be presented are you most curious about. Katherine Miller: Reuse of existing buildings is absolutely essential to responsible growth. From a carbon reduction perspective, retrofits have a huge advantage over new construction. New buildings, even buildings that are 30% more efficient than average existing buildings, can take decades to pay back the emissions generated from their construction. If we are going to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the State of California – to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – we need to turn our attention to upgrading our existing building stock. We aren’t going to get there only by building new, energy-efficient structures. Most of the buildings that exist today will still exist in 2050, and this is especially true in a heavily built-up and historic city like San Francisco. The two projects in this panel represent opposite ends of the building re-use spectrum. The 215 Market Street project is a historic restoration and refurbishment of a landmarked 1924 terra-cotta and wood window facade, while 633 Folsom is a transformative re-clad and expansion of a 1966 building. I’m looking forward to hearing about the process that led to the decision to re-use and invest in these existing structures rather than sell or re-build. I think it’s not a coincidence that both buildings have long-term owners with long-range views and a deep history in the City. In terms of specific facade strategies, for 215 Market, I’m interested to hear how a small investigation into window leaks morphed into a full-fledged multi-phase refurbishment. For 633 Folsom, I’m interested to learn how the exterior’s transformation benefits the interior experience through improved daylighting and views. Further information regarding Facades+ San Francisco can be found here.
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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.