Archive for the 'Special Construction and Demolition' Category


The Green Wave of the Future is on Top

Greg Callaghan is as enthusiastic as all-get-out about green skins, and it’s easy to see why. “Living” buildings accomplish the feat of being greener than green. The many benefits include better air in the immediate area, plus an overall reduction of harmful gases released into the atmosphere in general; insulation against cold, heat and noise; and a way to utilize water which would otherwise pour down the drain or possibly even cause flooding. Callaghan says,

Green is the right word to describe the flora-embracing features now being incorporated into new and old buildings across the US, Europe and parts of Asia. We’re talking garden rooftops, multi-levelled terraced gardens, lush foliage draping exterior walls and vast, internal, Babylonian hanging gardens.

Of course every instance is different, depending on location, budget, whether the building is new or already existing, whether the installation is hydroponics-based or soil-based, and many other factors. But in general, the green roof consists of a multi-level sandwich, starting with the structural support. Then come the vapor control layer, thermal insulation layer, support panel, waterproof layer, drainage layer, filter membrane growing medium, and the glorious crown of vegetation. And that’s not even getting into the subject of green walls. When the surface treatment is right, masonry is provided extra protection by the plants it hosts.

The green roof concept started out cautiously, with small, short-rooted plants and grasses. Currently, over a hundred species of plants have been found viable for the purpose, and improvements in filtering, coating and barrier technology have made possible the use of shrubs and even trees. When dirt is the growing medium, many favor deciduous plants, because the yearly shedding of their leaves exposes the dark soil which can then absorb the sun’s heat for the building’s use. A properly designed green roof, garnished with some solar cells, can take care of itself by collecting and pumping its own water supply.

In the average city, at least forty percent of the energy consumed goes into the maintenance of its buildings — and a lot of that is spent either heating or cooling the interior so human habitation is possible. Green skins save energy for both those purposes — one report says air conditioning costs can drop 25% and overall electricity demand by 50%, and that’s just considering the inside. Outside, studies indicate that a sufficient number of green roofs can cool down the whole urban area by two or three degrees. When there’s a sweltering heat wave, even a seemingly small increment counts, and it’s been estimated that in Manhattan, for instance, greening just one-fifth of the roofs could accomplish that difference. In fact, if we slide on over to, there’s a page of potential benefits that might astonish even the most ardent environmentalist.

The hard-headed, no-nonsense city of Chicago, which used to be known chiefly as the hog butchery capital, now wears the uncontested laurel wreath for its amazing number of buildings with vegetated roofs. In the last year alone, Chicago planted over 500,000 square feet of greenery over its residents’ heads. The City Hall set the pace, and there’s a lovely page about it here.

Australia was leery of innovation, but in the five years since Michael and Robyn Thomas produced their comprehensive and still very relevant paper for the government’s Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage, an ongoing drought has made believers out of quite a few skeptics. One of the showpieces planned for the green-skin revolution in Oz is the two billion dollar renewal of an entire precinct of Sydney, including two towers designed by Jean Nouvel and Norman Foster.

Callaghan’s article emphazises the ARCOS building in Japan’s Fukuoka City (pictured) which takes the green roof idea a step forward with not one many green roofs, 15 stories of them, like the icing on a tiered wedding cake. More great photos of this startlingly radical office building are here.

The only thing better than a green roof is an accessible green roof. When it’s created not just for energy-efficiency, but for people, it can provide the desired refreshment and even the company of birds and little animals. Sometimes you don’t need to consume the fuel and the time for a day-trip to the country. Half an hour under a tree can renew the spirit wonderfully. Remember the old Carole King/Gerry Goffin song, “Up on the Roof”?

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me.

SOURCE: “Green skins ” 06/21/08
photo courtesy of tanaka_juuyoh, used under this Creative Commons license


Parking Structures Fit for Kings

Cordova Parkade, Vancouver

In the pages of Newsweek, Matt Vella reports on his quest for the world’s greatest parking structures. The piece is accompanied by a slide show titled “Most Incredible Parking Garages.” They may be the neglected stepchild of the architecture world, but buildings that house cars are an important component of modern urban life, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of them, so they might as well be good. While Vella’s definition is a bit broad, his admiration is sincere:

Few and far between, these wonders are sprinkled around the globe in locations from Paris to Santa Monica. These buildings-green parking garages, innovative automobile dealerships, and futuristic gas stations-form a network of buildings fit for admiration as well as for parking your car.

Santa Monica is mentioned because of the attention-getting Civic Center parking structure, the creation of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners. Its glass panels add bold color to the seaside community, while concealing the presence of 900 vehicles inside. This innovative facility made history when it gained recognition as the first parking garage to be certified according to the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating program.

Also singled out for praise is the Cordova Parkade in Vancouver, British Columbia, an $28 million edifice with a light well in the middle (pictured), recycled elements from an older building, and a method of cleaning storm water by filtration.

At the Fullerton branch of California State University, the Nutwood Parking Facility stands as an example of the movement toward greenness. Holding more than 2,500 vehicles, it is enveloped on three sides by “living walls” of vines and bamboo which are sustained by the storm water collection system.

Vella also finds much to admire in several automobile showrooms, particularly one in Paris where Citroën shows off its classy cars. Located on the fabulous Champs-Elysées, it had better look good . A Toyota dealership in Australia is impressive too, with its high degree of energy efficiency and its sinuously warped roof. Some compare this building’s profile to a snowdrift, while others think it resembles an interstellar craft that has just landed or is about to take off.

Another fine example of a car dealership to the nth degree is San Francisco’s Mercedes-Benz complex, which is actually four separate structures, including a tall, glass-enclosed atrium and a two-story showroom. In Los Angeles, Helios House is a modernistic gas station which, Vella says,

incorporates energy-efficient lights, a green roof of native plants, and a water-collection system that treats contaminated waste water and redistributes it to irrigate on-site greenery. The station’s unique metallic skin is made of prefabricated, recyclable, stainless-steel panels.

In Stamford, Connecticut, the Royal Bank of Scotland is in the process of constructing what will be the state’s largest green building, which will include a 2,000 car parking structure with an aluminum, faux wood façade.

This seems like a good opportunity to mention something that, while not a garage nor indeed a structure of any kind, is a place to keep cars, and does hold environmental benefit as a high priority. It’s actually the parking lot of a ballpark, US Cellular Field, on the south side of Chicago. Its permeable surface is composed of more than half a million interlocking pavement blocks (made of recycled brick) that absorb water rather than letting it run off into channels. The Environmental Protection Agency and the US Green Building Council are all in favor of the concept, and this thing can soak up 920 gallons of water per minute.

Are there any more innovative parking solutions out there that we should know about?

SOURCE: ” Traffic-Stopping Parking Structures “05/21/08
photo courtesy of SqueakyMarmot , used under this Creative Commons license


A High-Performance Building in Texas

UT Nursing

The School of Nursing and Student Community Center at the University of Texas in Houston (pictured) was chosen as an AGS case study for several reasons, according to a very explicit piece by Rives Taylor in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. Ambitious high-performance goals were set and met. It began with a holistic approach to design and planning:

These building strategies were developed through a highly defined and premeditated process in a one-year period before design started. A collective team of experts undertook this year of intensive research, seeking the best existing research methods, design, and operational practices to direct the realization of this facility.

One of the greenest things about the School of Nursing is what happened even before the first step toward its creation. The site had previously been occupied by a research building, which was deconstructed so conscientiously that 80% of its materials were reclaimed for recycling and eventual further use.

Building Information Modeling techniques were used to formulate an initial plan, which was then, with the aid of the software, changed and adjusted along the way. BIM helped with the validation of recycled content, the balancing of CO2, and assessment of the buildings life cycle, and in other areas as well. For instance, in the matter of lighting:

The team refined their intuitive ideas using energy and daylight modeling tools with the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs… Actual lighting levels for the alternative design schemes were simulated through a yearly cycle. The measurements were then compared and decisions were made to follow specific strategies based on light quality, quantity, energy performance, costs, and other criteria.

Maximum lighting effectiveness was achieved through a combination of several different solutions including windows, four skylighted atria, sun shading devices, and artificial lighting. Daylighting is characterized here as one of the most simple and powerful strategies, because it doesn’t require a trained operations staff in order to work effectively.

Some recycled materials were used, for instance the multi-layered insulation. All materials were closely scrutinized with an eye to their low volatile organic compound (VOC) content. Once set in place, these of course also continue to perform without further human intervention. For greater energy efficiency, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) equipment was installed with a combination of some undersized elements (pumps and fans) and some over-sized ones (ducts and pipes). Ventilation is treated separately from cooling, and a localized instantaneous hot water delivery system is the solution preferred over the traditional central hot water source. The double-paned window glass is spectrally selective.

Five tanks collect rainwater which, combined with condensation from the cooling system, provide greywater for the low-flow toilets and other uses, while potable water is to be found only in drinking fountains, sinks and showers.

The first two floors contain facilities used by the whole student body: bookstore, auditorium, café, and student services offices. The third and fourth floors are dedicated to the academic needs of the nursing school: classrooms and other learning environments. Then there is a research lab floor, topped by three stories containing offices for faculty and administration, and conference rooms. The service building is a separate structure.

The School of Nursing’s four elevations and its roof were conceived as five unique facades, each a distinct entity, and the detail with which Taylor describes the individual design approaches to the conditions and requirements on the various sides, is the highlight of this chapter.

SOURCE: “University of Texas School of Nursing and Student Community Center” AGS page 495 2007
photo courtesy of JoeBehrPalmSprings , used under this Creative Commons license


Carl Galioto and Paul Seletsky on Building Information Modeling

Freedom Tower

Recently, Bryant Rousseau conducted a joint interview with two Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architects, Paul Seletsky and Carl Galioto, about the still-emerging field of building information modeling (BIM), also sometimes referred to as “virtual design and construction.” Galioto, incidentally, was subject editor for the Special Construction and Demolition section (Chapter 6) of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. Interviewer Rousseau introduces the piece by describing the shape of the discussion:

The pair discuss how BIM facilitated a major redesign of the Freedom Tower; assess the technology’s strategic impact on the profession; address common misperceptions; explain BIM’s potential benefits for smaller practices; point out how BIM can lead to increased compensation for architects; and lay out the potential ramifications of BIM-both positive and negative-on the architect’s overall role in the realization of buildings.

Both Galioto and Seletsky see the advent of BIM as a transforming event whose full impact has yet to be realized or appreciated. They describe the concept of performative design, and the new idea of a model rich with data, that is not really owned by anyone. The exchange, the borrowing, the circular process of swapping back and forth between all the contributors creates a huge database that is, in effect, a virtual building. Building information modeling, they say, is not just about cost-effectiveness or 3D geometry, but about a whole new level of collaboration, and joint ownership of intellectual property, and thus requires a whole new mindset.

Galioto compares BIM to email, as an entity whose beginnings give barely a hint of what it will develop into over the course of time. Seletsky knocks down the mistaken notion that BIM is just for large firms, saying that in his opinion it gives unprecedented opportunities and advantages to small firms and small-scale projects. He says:

As a very good example, take specifications-which is traditionally coming as a post-rational application to something that has already been designed. But what we’re going to see is where the specifications become embedded into the rules of a building information model. We’ll see more and more examples of taking knowledge and applying it at the very early stages of design rather than applying it later.

What is the effect of BIM on architects? Does it take away the autonomy and leadership they’ve become accustomed to? The consensus is that both the responsibility and stature of architects can only be increased, if they get behind the technology and use its full potential. Galioto in particular praises and welcomes the magnified role of collaboration. He gives the example of how the analysis of thermal performance on building envelopes is much richer when architects, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers, can have a meeting of minds so much more fully enabled by the software.

In his view, the biggest problem area is interoperability, which has fallen behind the huge gains made by individual applications. He predicts that this difficulty will be overcome due to client demand, which is always the prime mover of the marketplace. This will inevitably happen, he suggests, because clients will realize how BIM is not just something that gets the building designed, and all its systems coordinated, but is an enduring and permanent facilities management tool, much to their advantage.

BIM also brings new legal liability and insurance implications that weren’t factors before. First, there needs to be a universally accepted definition of exactly what BIM is. The technology entails changes in the delivery system, new job descriptions, the redefinition of contractual relationships, changes in compensation to the various parties, and other issues. Galioto explains why he is very pleased with the way the difficulties are being negotiated and how well the shift to a new set of expectations is progressing.

The two architects also discuss BIM in relation to the Freedom Tower, part of the new World Trade Center complex, which is under construction and will be for many more years. It presented the unusual challenge of having to be redesigned after the decision was made to increase the setback from the street to reduce its vulnerability to car bombs and other security threats. A great deal of work had been done and the creators thought everything was pretty much in place, when they learned the building was to be relocated. Seletsky describes the unparalleled usefulness of Autodesk Revit in this regard, enabling them to understand the relationships of subway lines, water mains, conduits and other underground elements to the overall suitability of the site.

The plan includes many features that hark back to the 9/11 disaster, such as a dedicated staircase for the use of firefighters and other first responders. The Freedom Tower project is highly emotionally charged and has been since its inception, with every step being controversial. Only a couple of weeks ago it made news again when a homeless man found sets of schematics in the trash, prompting a public relations uproar.

SOURCE: ” SOM’s Carl Galioto and Paul Seletsky on BIM ” (no date given)
photo courtesy of alvy, used under this Creative Commons license


AGS Real-World Example: BIM applied to Loblolly House

Loblolly House

In Maryland, amongst trees, stands a residence that was fabricated off-site and assembled on-site. Designed by KieranTimberlake Associates with the help of the Autodesk Revit array of building information modeling software, Loblolly House is iconic. In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, Mark Swackhamer tells us how and why:

KTA’s systematic approach to Loblolly House allowed the architects to seamlessly combine standard on-site with unconventional off-site construction strategies. Use of Autodesk’s BIM software, Revit, enabled them to improve communication among themselves, engineers, fabricators, and contractors, to collapse all phases of the project into a virtual snapshot. Design decisions were made in tandem with detailing, building system, fabrication, and shipping decisions.

Designed by Stephen Kieran for his own family, Loblolly House attracts admiration from many quarters. The American Institute of Architects gave it an award last year, and the Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community gave it a BIM award the year before. It continues to command attention. Just two months ago, the house was profiled in the February 6, 2008, issue of Architecture Week. Kieran and Timberlake have even published a book about it.

In many ways, Loblolly House is like a child’s ultimate dream treehouse. It rests on a “foundation” of air, supported by a platform resting on wooden piles. The side that faces the water doesn’t even have a wall per se, but is equipped with accordion-fold glass and retractable hanger doors, for on-demand melding of the interior space with the entire universe. Strips of red cedar give the exterior a bark-like appearance. The whole thing can be disassembled like a Lego project, and most of the components recycled. Noting that building debris makes up 40% of landfill contents, Stephen Kieran says, “If you could take apart a building and sell elements from it on eBay, you could make a difference.”

One thing Keiran wants to overcome is the stereotype people have of prefab housing as chintzy. But over the past few years the economics of on-site construction versus prefabrication have shifted, so there’s hope. Part of the change is due to BIM, which, among other advantages, allows materials to be ordered directly and accurately.

The present state of digital parametrics, as Kieran told Architectural Record, granted

a new depth of control and a new depth of specificity, geometric certainty, and three-dimensionality…” Unlike the garbage heap of unsuccessful prefab experiments of recent decades, which, in Kieran’s words, failed to understand the need for predictable, standardized components and connections, the BIM model of Loblolly has proved effective in pulling a theoretical prototype together. “As soon as you get materials out in the field and they don’t fit, you’re into handwork, and then you might as well have done the whole thing by hand.”

Swackhamer’s article in Architectural Graphic Standards traces how BIM technology was applied to the areas of scaffolding, framing, cartridges (shop-fabricated elements containing mechanical and electrical components), boxes (elsewhere, Kieran calls them “blocks”: prefabricated units for kitchen, bathroom, closet areas) and exterior skin. All these elements are exhaustively described and illustrated in the AGS chapter on building information modeling, with many examples of how BIM expedited the project.

In a Wired Magazine article titled “Plug+Play Construction,” Andrew Blum put it this way, “The house is like a concept car at an auto show: The point is not to do it more cheaply right now but to show how it can be done better later.”

Is this vision coming true?

SOURCE: “Real-World Example: Loblolly Residence,” page 950, Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition 2007
Diagram copyright 2006 KieranTimberlake Associates, used with permission


AGS Case Study: The Genzyme Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Genzyme Center

Genzyme Corporation’s corporate HQ, part of the Kendall Square Redevelopment Project, was chosen as a case study presented in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition because of the health and environmental challenges overcome by the RETEC Group, a Massachusetts environmental engineering firm. Immediately following the Introduction to Architectural Graphic Standards, Nancy B. Solomon explains the nature of those challenges as met by the building’s creators on behalf of their client, a biotechnology firm:

The fact that the property (once home to a coal-gasification plant) was contaminated was considered an appropriate challenge: Genzyme’s participation in the transformation of an abandoned lot into a vibrant asset was seen as consistent with its corporate mission of improving individual lives through the proper application of technology.

Solomon goes into more detail about this aspect:

An impermeable vapor barrier consisting of a nonwoven geotextile placed over the treated soil, a 12-inch layer of gravel resting on the fabric, and a spray-applied membrane between the gravel layer and concrete floor slab prevents uncontrolled gas seepage into the building. High-density polyethylene piping (running through the gravel and slab penetrations to vertical risers) safely removes any vapors from below grade. When activated, pressure sensors in various parts of the building and under the slab trigger a blower to draw fumes from this internal piping system to treatment equipment on the roof.

One of the building’s innovations, which earned it recognition as a top ten green project from the American Institute of Architects, is the filigree wideslab construction system, which serves multiple purposes in fulfilling U. S Green Building Council standards. In this method, pre-cast, pre-stressed slabs of concrete are placed on pillars, then a reinforcing bar is added, with polystyrene filling in the spaces. Along with lessening the amount of concrete, this method allowed for nearly 400 fewer tons of reinforcing steel, with a resulting reduction of total building weight of 25%. The thermal mass of the structural frame also helps stabilize the building’s temperature, which adds to energy efficiency.

The 12-story Genzyme Center features a central atrium which functions both as light shaft and return air duct. The interior light-enhancement system is meticulously described in Solomon’s article, with explicit diagrams. The exterior features a curtainwall glazing system with operable windows. The evaporative cooling towers and landscaped roof make use of stormwater, and water conservation is aided by automatic faucets, dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals. The lobby contains a water feature, and there are 18 indoor gardens and outdoor terraces. The U.S. Green Building Council presents several very interesting pages on the project, described by one admirer as the “poster child of green building.”

One important mission was not mandated by green standards, but considered imperative by the client in terms of by human needs. Rule 1 was that the building’s form would follow the function of providing openness and togetherness. Everybody working inside would have ample opportunities to see, communicate with, and interact with colleagues.

Conference rooms and open-office areas adjacent to the atrium are separated from the central zone by full-height glass, providing acoustic privacy while maintaining visual continuity. The conference rooms are fitted with darkening drapes that can be employed when needed. The walls of private offices along this inner circle are sheathed with highly reflective anodized aluminum panels below and a combination of fixed panes of glass and operable casement windows above. The windows can be opened and closed manually by occupants, but will shut automatically in case of fire.

An interplay of clients, designers, and builder reinforced Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner’s highly integrated design process, thereby, resulting in a building whose various elements resonate so well together.

If anyone reading this works in the Genzyme Center, it would be interesting to hear how you experience it from the inside.

Photo courtesy of GregPC, used according to its Creative Commons license


AGS Case Study: the Greenwich Street Project with CAD

Greenwich Street Project

Start with a six-story brick warehouse on the edge of New York’s Soho District. Wind up with an 11-story “smart loft” building, topped with a four-story glass and steel penthouse. That’s the tale of the 497GW Renovation (or Greenwich Street) Project, one of many case studies presented in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition .

Beginning with architect Winka Dubbeldam, everyone connected with this project, located at Manhattan’s lower west end, is justifiably proud. There are a ton of great photos of the Greenwich Street Project on the website of the client, TakeOne LLC, exploring all its aspects. Archi-Techtonics offers a lovely animation by Alex Pincus.

The main, and unarguably most spectacular, feature is a glass curtain wall reminiscent of a waterfall, which seems to float right off the structure. From inside, the blue-tinted glass cascade offers spectacular views of the Hudson River.

Digital analysis of the façade’s structure led to the decision to actually bend the glass panels to minimize forces and to create completely transparent seams. The result was that the glass was folded in Barcelona, Spain, the aluminum mullions custom-extruded in Hong Kong to match the façade’s angles, and all was assembled in Brooklyn. Installation was then a matter of suspending the glass panels off the steel structure on-site.

For the way it folds around and partially engulfs the old brick façade, the resulting exterior has been called a “parabuilding”. The rippling glass flood certainly seizes the eye and captures the attention, guaranteeing that the structure will not stop looking startlingly new for years to come.

The building’s interior was completely gutted, and then filled with 23 residential “smart lofts.” An army of electronic devices takes care of the residents when they are home, and automatically tends to everything when they’re not. Each loft is open-plan and has a full bathroom. The building also contains a fitness center and other amenities, while the ground floor and basement have been refitted to welcome an art gallery and other retail establishments. Every part was designed with attention not only to energy efficiency, but to good acoustics as well.

All the custom-designed innovations were made possible by the newest building information modeling technology.

The (electronic) communication was simply through digitally transmitted three-dimensional computer drawings between Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Brooklyn. The two-dimensional drawings were no longer made by the architect, but rather by the manufacturers, thus minimizing mistakes, and facilitating a fast manufacturing process. The installation was no longer based on verify in field (VIF), but rather on verify in computer (VIC). Site installation moved away from a site-oriented construction method to a construction method based on the digital data of abstract computer drawings.

It looks as if the human/machine partnership is here to stay. In fact, Wiley also offers a separate volume that covers the topic exhaustively: BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers and Contractors.

The next question is, do these buildings turn out to be as livable as the software says they will?

SOURCE: Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition
Photo courtesy of Phil Ritz, used according to its Creative Commons License