A recent article by Stateline, a nonprofit news service that reports on state policy, says that deconstruction could be a viable source of jobs and building materials in cities with aging downtowns like Baltimore or Portland. The article follows Brick + Board and Details Deconstruction, two Baltimore nonprofits trying to create a viable business model out of taking apart derelict structures and reselling the materials for new construction projects around the country. The concept relies on the appeal of reclaimed materials, usually for rusticized finishes. Both groups also hire and train released convicts in the hopes of preparing them for other jobs in the construction industry. As the article describes, these and similar initiatives have encountered a tough road to success. It's much cheaper to demolish buildings, as opposed to taking them apart piece by piece, and many structures don't offer the kind of charming materials customers are looking for. Still, the idea has potential for cities that are struggling with both abandonment and unemployment. Rust belt cities like Detroit have hundreds of empty homes that are both eyesores and public safety hazards, and such cities have large populations of unskilled workers in need of employment. Deconstruction initiatives could kill two birds with one stone—the trick is just getting the financial side to work. For designers concerned with building waste and sustainability, groups like Brick + Board offer materials with positive social narratives and visual appeal. Check out the original article for more information on resources in your area.
Posts tagged with "Sustainability":
With buildings responsible for about 47 percent of electricity usage in the U.S., making buildings more efficient should be a top priority in combatting climate change. New York City has already pledged to retrofit its older buildings and slash CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but with the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, such action has been left to cities and states to undertake voluntarily. At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September, businesses, investors, and local and state leaders from across the country will convene to discuss ways to decarbonize the economy and reach a carbon neutral U.S. by 2050. The AIA has announced that it will be sending a delegation headed by President Carl Elefante, FAIA, to represent architects at the summit and come back with a set of scalable best design practices. The AIA members attending will be part of the organization’s sustainability-oriented Committee on the Environment (COTE) and other climate change-related groups. The AIA will also be sponsoring two public events during the summit: Carbon Smart Building Day on September 11 and Climate Heritage Mobilization on September 12 and 13. The summit is meant to in part build momentum for COP24 in December, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Still, even if radical decarbonization guidelines are agreed upon at the summit and adopted by the AIA and business leaders in attendance, such a shift likely wouldn’t be enough to reach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s target of limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celcius. The Paris Agreement and temperature targets are only reachable if the world were to produce negative emissions and sequester CO2 on a massive scale, a technology that’s still several years away. Still, the AIA has pledged to continue pursuing its sustainability and environmental health goals, as seen in its recent call for a blanket ban on asbestos in building products after the fracas last week.
As I drive down into the future lakebed, the terrain on either side of the gravel road becomes haggard and unkempt. Signs of the area’s past as farm and ranchland are evident, but shrubs and gnarled trees have grown high to create a deserted, post-apocalyptic landscape. This is the future site of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, a 16,600-acre lake soon to be constructed in rural Fannin County that will provide water to the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), serving Dallas suburbs in Collin, Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall, and Hunt Counties. This lake recently received its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making it the first major reservoir in Texas since Lake Gilmer was constructed in 1999. Reservoirs provide the majority of Texas’s drinking water. Texas has been building reservoirs since 1893 (Lake Austin), with the majority created in the 1940s through the 1960s. There are currently 188 in the state, according to the Texas State Historical Association. In the Dallas area, with the limited availability of river water and an aquifer too low to be practical on a large scale, reservoirs have been the main strategy for providing water to a growing region. During a recent visit to Bonham, the Fannin County seat and nearest town to the proposed lake, a passive acceptance of the forthcoming project was evident among a number of residents. There are those who oppose it, most notably the landowners whose land will soon be flooded. However, in rural unincorporated areas, there are few options for organized resistance when a powerful water authority decides to plant a reservoir in your backyard. Yet the impact on Fannin County extends beyond the boundaries of the lake itself. The NTMWD is required to mitigate the habitat destruction caused by the new reservoir by creating new habitat nearby. Thus, an area slightly larger than the reservoir has been purchased to this end. In total, 33,441 acres of private land has been appropriated from local landowners (5 percent of Fannin County). This situation in Fannin County magnifies a common but overlooked tension in the field. Despite the extreme impact, large-scale water infrastructure is strangely absent from the architectural conversation. Architects employ water conservation and collect stormwater at a building scale, but, like most, take the availability of water for granted. They know their project simply has to tap into the existing water main in the adjacent street. Yet the construction of buildings is an extremely water-intensive process, regardless of the water-efficient fixtures they specify. A significant amount of water is used during the production of concrete, with yet more added at the building site. To complete the curing process, concrete requires approximately one pound of water for every three pounds of concrete. Unfortunately, little data is available for water use in construction sites in the U.S. Furthermore, under current infrastructural constraints, cities have no capacity to provide the resources for their own sustenance. Most cities do not generate power or harvest their drinking water within their boundaries. In light of this, cities can be seen as having a parasitic relationship with their surrounding rural areas. The ugly and unpleasant realities of power generation are located far out of sight of the cities themselves, and the inundation of private land for drinking water is undertaken in rural areas because, after all, they have plenty of land. This leeching of resources from the countryside enables cities to exist, but it is a reality that the design profession should begin to address. In February 2018, the residents of the NTMWD used an average of just under 3,000 gallons per capita. A few months earlier, in August 2017, the water use was approximately 6,200 gallons per capita, which equates to 200 gallons per day per resident. Watering St. Augustine lawns accounts for much of that summertime use in this suburban water district. While the NTMWD champions the new reservoir as critical to its supplies, it will only meet the demand for the year 2022 through 2040, a span of 18 years. At that point, additional reservoirs will be required. While Texas is a large state, land is still a finite resource, and new prime reservoir locations are very limited. Climate change also poses problems for the continued reliance on reservoirs. Record-breaking drought in 2011 meant nearly all the reservoirs were significantly below capacity, with some municipalities enacting mandatory water conservation measures. Future droughts will be harsher, posing severe challenges to water provision. As architects strive to address the challenges of building in our current environment, a knowledge of the complex and connected relationship of water to development and construction is important. Architects and planners, water officials, and more will need to be creative in solving the complex problem of providing water to future populations. While American cities have not yet had to deal with the scale of catastrophic water shortage that occurred in Cape Town, South Africa, it should give us all pause as a similar situation in North Texas is quite possible.
GreenerBuilder, hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is a one-day conference and expo convening hundreds of general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, design professionals, advocates and policy makers to discuss key green building trends, new research and emerging technologies in the building industry. GreenerBuilder unites all of the key players to discuss how the built environment can help California and the entire Pacific region meet ambitious climate change mitigation and energy conservation goals. Speakers include experts in green construction, architects, project managers, engineers, code experts and representatives from USGBC. Topics of discussion will include the latest trends in green building such as CALGreen building code updates, net zero energy, affordable housing, climate change, resiliency and public health. The conference is designed for those involved in construction, engineering, architecture, city planning and LEED project management. Register Today at greenerbuilder.usgbc.org
Yale University and Gray Organschi Architecture have designed and built a self-sufficient tiny house for UN Environment and UN Habitat, and the building is on display in UN Plaza in Midtown Manhattan until August 11. The Ecological Living Module contains 215 square feet of occupiable interior space and carves out another 16 square feet for a rear mechanical closet. The unit uses passive lighting and moisture collection, structural cross-laminated timber (CLT), food-growing green walls, and sun-tracking solar panels to shrink both the building’s embodied energy and resource needs. According to UN Environment, housing construction worldwide uses 40 percent of all resources produced every year and accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention the conflicts being fought over rapidly dwindling materials like sand). The module was commissioned just in time for the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, to illustrate the idea that sustainable urbanization can only be accomplished if buildings minimize their contribution to climate change. The Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture and Gray Organschi worked together to design and install the module in only four weeks. The building was fabricated partially in New Haven and partially in Brooklyn and assembled on the UN campus amidst heavy security and tight construction restrictions. In order to balance maximum sun exposure with thermal comfort, the module was designed with New York’s specific micro-climate in mind. The dramatically-sloped building is clad in dark cedar planks and is home to two cascading “farm walls”, one on either side, and Gray Organschi claims that in New York the home can produce over 260 servings of vegetables. Plants were used inside as well in the loft area, and a living wall in the upper loft area purifies air for the inhabitants. “Structure was used as finish,” explains Gray Organschi founding principle Alan Organschi. The same pale CLT used to support the building was left exposed inside to create all of the finished surfaces, from countertops to stairs. The timber was sourced from the northeastern U.S. and sequestered more carbon than the effort used to harvest it. The team optimized daylighting in the building by carving strategic cuts into the back and roof. An Integrated Concentrating Solar Facade was installed to both reduce the amount of incoming sunlight and harvest solar power; an array of tiny panels track the sun’s movement and focus light on the minimally-sized solar receivers. The team wanted to build a system that could be assembled with the least amount of effort, and that would use the minimal amount of toxic materials to create. After August 11, the Ecological Living Module will be partially disassembled and brought to San Francisco; the structure was built narrow enough to be towed by truck. After that, the module will be flown out for demonstration in Quito, Ecuador, and then Nairobi, Kenya.
The public-life think-tank Gehl Institute with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released guidelines for the design of places that promote public health. The Inclusive Healthy Places Framework is "a tool for evaluating and creating inclusive, healthy public places that support health equity.” The report specifies that the design of public spaces is integral to the physical and mental well being of local communities and proposes that these spaces are tools for fostering inclusion, accessibility, and shared social values. In the report, four principles are highlighted in the design of public spaces: Context, Process, Design & Program, and Sustainability. Context refers to data such as local demographic characteristics, socioeconomic and environmental health, predictors of exclusion, and preexisting community assets. Process refers to types of civic engagement, participation, and social capital that can be used within a region. Design & Program tackles the accessibility, diversity of usage and of users, and safety and security of the space. The last principal, Sustainability, touches on community stability, collective efficacy, and adaptability of spaces in the long term. Gehl Institute, a New York City-based non-profit that builds on Danish architect Jan Gehl’s work, rethinks how spaces change our “experiences, perceptions, and needs," and focuses on issues of social and environmental justice. The Institute wants to bring the discussion of health into the design of public spaces across the U.S. The full report can be viewed at this link.
On May 17, 2018, BSA Space will premier NatureStructure, a global overview showcasing more than 30 architectural and design projects that work in harmony with nature to heal and restore ecosystems and make cities more resilient and sustainable. Curated by Scott Burnham, the creator of Reprogramming the City, with exhibition design and curatorial assistance by Samantha Altieri, NatureStructure will feature a vast array of international projects that weave built projects with nature and natural functions to enable cities and regions to function as living systems. The works on display include the US premiere of the Delfland Sand Motor, a feat of engineering that uses coastal tides to distribute sand along the coast of the Netherlands to reverse erosion and protect against sea level rise; Pop-Up, a revolutionary parking garage by Denmark’s Third Nature that rises in the city scape as its base absorbs rainwater overflow; and 3D printed reefs and seawalls by Australia’s Reef Design Lab to repopulate Sydney Harbor sea life and counter the depletion of reefs in the world’s oceans.
Amaravati, the new state capital of Andhra Pradesh, India (formed in a recent redrawing of state boundaries), is set to rise as a sustainable smart city, and Foster + Partners will master plan the green “spine” running through its administrative core. The 134-square-mile city is being positioned as one of the “most sustainable in the world” according to Foster + Partners, thanks to widespread solar power, electric vehicles, dedicated cycling routes, and shaded paths to encourage walking. The city was strategically positioned on the banks of the River Krishna for easy access to fresh water, and water taxis have been floated as mass transit options. The 3.4-mile by half-mile stretch that Foster + Partners will be planning holds the city’s central governmental complex, including the design of several administrative buildings, and most importantly, the legislative assembly and the high court complex. The green spine will be at least 60 percent occupied with either greenery or water, and Foster + Partners claims that the area, centered in a city with a strong urban grid, was inspired by Central Park and Lutyens' Delhi (an area of New Delhi designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens). The legislative assembly building will sit inside of a large freshwater lake at the spine’s center and appears to be floating over the water’s surface. Keeping the Hindu principles of vastu shastra in mind, the building dramatically spikes 820 feet towards the sky at its core and creates an internal void. The space below inside of the assembly building will be used as a courtyard, while visitors can climb a spiral ramp to a cultural museum and viewing gallery on the upper levels. The high court complex is located off of the spine’s central axis, and the building’s stepped, dome-shaped roof references Indian stupas; domed buildings typically containing Buddhist relics. Generous overhangs encourage natural, passive cooling throughout, and the programming is made up of concentric circles of circulation spaces and rooms. The public-facing sections will be at the exterior rings, while the most sensitive and private areas will be located at the heart of the court complex. A mixed-use neighborhood has been planned for the area closest to the river’s edge, structured around 13 public plazas, each representing a state district in Andhra Pradesh. Sir Norman Foster was recently in Amaravati to survey the site and discuss the project’s next steps. “We are delighted to be working with the Chief Minister and the Government of Andhra Pradesh to help them realise their ideas for the People’s Capital and to build a clear and inspiring vision for the governmental complex at Amaravati,” said Foster in a press release. “The design brings together our decades-long research into sustainable cities, incorporating the latest technologies that are currently being developed in India.”
Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.
How do you rebuild after a natural disaster? This question was the call to action at the fifth edition of the MEXTRÓPOLI Festival of Architecture and City that took place March 17 to 20. The four-day city-wide event was presented as an active reflection to rebuild since last September’s major earthquake that struck central Mexico. Coincidently marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the natural disaster in September last year hit hard on the same day three decades prior–at least 40 buildings collapsed, wreaking havoc in the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. At MEXTRÓPOLI, temporary built environments activated Mexico City’s public spaces to promote reflection of those events and fuel sustainable future building. Twenty pavilions designed by institutions such as UNAM, Ibero Puebla, Anahuac University, Querétaro, Sci-Arc, and Maristas took up at Alameda Central, the oldest public park in the Americas located downtown, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The goal? To inspire sustainable and preventative practices, and to demonstrate potential sustainable architectural futures. Architect Elias Kababie, Taller Paralelo Arquitectura, Michigan Architecture, and students from Colectivo Seis collaborated to design Pabellón ( ), a brick pavilion, with financial support from Masonite. The ephemeral structure is described by Kababie as a built testament to what local people felt in the aftermath of the quakes. “It creates an experience based on what we felt when everything was demolished,” explains Kababie. The structure itself was the very first built project for Colectivo Seis, who are only in their second year of college. As the story goes, on the first night of building the pavilion, the students and Kababie assembled the bricks made by a local factory and craftsman. The bricks themselves are made from locally-sourced clay, baked, and dried. Initially, they tried laying each brick one by one. Eventually, they made a rig that allowed them to stack eight bricks at a time. What took six hours to build on the first day took only one hour on the second. The trace of their handiwork lingers, with the red ochre-hued dust marking anyone who enters the pavilion. From the outside, the pavilion looks fortress-like, a cubic construction of six tiers of stacked brick on all four sides. Visitors were invited in by Kababie and the students through the periwinkle Masonite door into a narrow, tubular passageway. Once inside, onlookers are pleasantly surprised to find an undulating series of brick laid out to form the negative space of a circular sphere, or, if you will, an inverted oculus. The stacked formation encourages sitting and climbing, as well as spectacular views of the heart of Mexico City. Aptly dubbed, Pabellón ( ) is formally a parenthesis. Conceptually, it is a theoretical interpretation of the meaning of “collapse,” what students from Colectivo Seis described as the continuum of material and emotional rubble that was left behind after the quake. These experiences are collectively housed between the empty parentheses, the material manifestation of the symbolic namesake, the pavilion. “It’s a metaphor for the current situation. When you have this perfect brick wall that when you walk outside, you don't realize that there’s a greater structure, an emptiness that came about through the earthquakes. It’s still there and it hasn’t been fixed. We wanted this to be a point to talk about those aspects of our lives and that is still going on and many of us don’t realize it,” explained Alonso Varela of Collectivo Seis. This collective experience is not only expressed in concept, but also in practice. Kababie proudly reflects on their experience as completely collaborative, a project completed by a group from beginning to end as a group. “Having that extraordinary shared journey, the idea of idea of changing the conversation through bricks, through a situation, with a door that you go through, in a specific place as a specific project—it was an amazing idea.” You can find more videos of Mextropoli, Pabellón ( ), interviews, and other footage of the festival as a story highlight on AN's Instagram story highlights.
Yesterday Cornell Tech's campus opened on Roosevelt Island, a strip of land between Manhattan and Queens perhaps best known for housing medical institutions and mental hospitals. This development definitively stakes a new identity for the island. Created through an academic partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the project is the winner of a New York City competition for an applied-sciences campus initiated by the Bloomberg administration. The campus spans 12 acres and houses three new buildings by Morphosis, Weiss/Manfredi and Handel Architects. So far, what makes the buildings stand out is their aim to be among the most sustainable and energy efficient structures in the world. The four-story, 160,000-square-foot Bloomberg Center, designed by Morphosis Architects, serves as the heart of Cornell Tech. With its primary power source on-site, it is one of the largest net-zero energy academic buildings in the world. Smart building technology developed in collaboration with engineering firm Arup includes a roof canopy supporting 1,465 photovoltaic panels designed to generate energy and shade the building to reduce heat gain, a closed-loop geothermal well system for interior cooling and heating, a rainwater harvesting system to feed the non-potable water demand and irrigate the campus, and a power system conserving energy when the building is not in use. Another striking element is The Bloomberg Center’s facade, which is comprised of a series of metal panels designed to decrease the building's overall energy demand. The Bridge, designed by Weiss/Manfredi, is a seven-story “co-location” building intended to link academia to entrepreneurship. It houses a range of companies from diverse industries that have the opportunity to work alongside Cornell academic teams. The loft-like design of the building encourages dialogue between the University's academic hubs and tech companies. The building orientation frames full river views and brings maximum daylight into its interior. At the ground level, the entrance atrium opens onto the center of campus extending into the surrounding environment through a series of landscaped terraces. The House, designed by Handel Architects, is a 26-story, 350-unit dormitory for students, staff, and faculty. It is the tallest and largest residential passive house in the world, meaning it follows a strict international building standard to reduce energy consumption and costs. The House is clad with a super-sealed exterior facade created from 9-by-36-foot metal panels with 8 to 13 inches of insulation which are projected to save 882 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Yesterday’s opening comprises just the first phase of the campus development project at Cornell Tech.
What now? Will environmentalists be able to make any headway in the next four years? That was the theme of a discussion moderated by veteran environmental reporter Andrew Revkin (now of ProPublica) at the offices of BeEx (Building Energy Exchange), a group dedicated to improving the environmental performance of buildings. The panelists were Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, and Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “Is there a way you can see for environmental groups to engage the new administration, or is it going to be completely antagonistic?” Revkin asked. Bystryn answered that, at least with moderate Republicans, the conversation should be about the economic impact of various responses to climate change. “I’m not sure the ‘are you a denier or not a denier’ gets you anywhere, particularly in this administration. If you stick with 'you’re either with us or against us,' you’re locking yourself into a situation where you’re not going to move anybody.” And could there be common ground between environmentalists looking to build wind and solar “farms” and an administration committed to creating infrastructure? According to Gerrard, “That could be a ray of hope, but [Trump] probably means oil and gas infrastructure.” Revkin thought there was a chance that upgrading the electricity grid, which is antiquated and vulnerable to hacking, might pass the new administration’s test for infrastructure projects. Conservation, as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was a constant theme. “The best energy is the energy we don’t use,” said Revkin, who referred to reductions in energy use as “negawatts.” The trouble, he said, is that politicians gravitate to high-profile projects. “You can cut a ribbon for a new power plant. You can’t cut a ribbon for negawatts.” Gerrard was pessimistic about conservation as public policy during the Trump years. “People going into the cabinet have as one of their objectives maximization of use of fossil fuels, which makes them not interested in efficiency,” he said. But Bystryn replied that “what the members of the new administration really want is to make money,” which suggests they might be willing to invest in renewables if the return on investment is there. As for the possibility of a national carbon tax—which some environmentalists see as the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—Gerrard again seemed doubtful. “The only prospect is if it were part a macro budget deal, as a way to solve the deficit [by bringing in new tax revenue]. But it’s not clear that the new administration cares about the deficit.” Revkin reported on a conversation he had not long ago with Bill Gates, who said that that resistance to conservation explains why he is focusing on new modes of energy production. “If it’s zero-carbon energy pumping into the system, it can be a leaking balloon and it doesn’t matter. That’s why I’m focusing on the big initiative,” Gates said, according to Revkin. But one questioner worried that “talking about innovation becomes an excuse for not taking action” in the present. Revkin responded that “it’s not an either/or issue.” He said innovation can extend beyond technology. “The biggest factor in reducing New York City’s water usage was installing individual water meters.” Similarly, he said, when it comes to conserving fuel, “People’s views change when they see a picture of their house with heat leaking out everywhere. Using those pictures to educate people is a kind of innovation.” If the federal government steps away from enforcing environmental regulations, the onus may shift to state and local governments. “We have an election coming up in New York City next year,” said Bystryn. “We should make clear that the mayor’s climate agenda is critical and force him to make that more visible. Similarly with the governor.” Gerrard discussed an investigation by state attorneys general into whether Exxon misled its shareholders about its climate change initiatives. Investor disclosure laws are a tool, he said, that can be used to hold companies accountable. “I think it’s important for people to support their states in these actions.” He recommended using the “state and local legal levers” to make buildings more efficient. “Traditionally the real estate industry has fought back. So we need citizen activism to push back against pushback.” The conversation repeatedly turned to whether nuclear power has a place in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Gerrard said, “The economics of it are just horrible. It’s the most socialist of all energy forms. It requires massive government subsidies at every step of the way. It amazes me that a lot of people on the right favor nuclear power. That’s mostly because it’s a macho technology, I think. Not because it’s economical.” Revkin, a longtime reporter for the New York Times, seemed unsure if climate change would ever get the attention it deserves from the public and from politicians. “I’ve spent 30 years writing articles in the presumption that if people are given more information they will change.” But, he reported,“among liberal Democrats climate change has finally climbed to number 6 on their list of priorities. Number 6. And that’s liberal Democrats.” One problem is that groups focused on climate change, which is a global concern, and groups with local environmental agendas, don’t always see eye-to-eye. Scenic Hudson, dedicated to protecting Hudson River Valley views, may disagree with advocates of wind turbines in New York State. “If you love wind power, you’d better like transmission lines,” he said. “Because energy has to get from point A to point B.” Conversely, groups concerned about climate change might support fracking, which does its environmental damage locally, because natural gas burns much cleaner than the coal it generally replaces. Bystryn said that while New York has banned fracking, it might be “unwise” to try to stop fracked gas from coming into the state, as some have proposed, because “renewable energy is not ready yet to take its place.”