Archive Page 2


The Glavinich Guide to Green Building Requirements

Green Roof in Canada

Among other accomplishments, Thomas E. Glavinich is past president of the Architecture Engineering Institute, associate professor at the University of Kansas (more specifically in the schools of Engineering and of Architecture and Urban Design), and author of a new book from Wiley. In its current issue, ArchitectureWeek excerpts a chapter of this book, Contractor’s Guide to Green Building Construction. Glavinich draws the distinction between green project requirements and green building project requirements, and recommends careful attention to every detail of both, saying:

Green building product requirements are expressed explicitly when the required green product characteristics are included in the product’s respective specification section with other standard product requirements. Implicit green building requirements are usually included in the contract documents by reference.

Explicit requirements should not be hard to find in the building’s specification and drawings, and of course it’s always better to have these things spelled out in a way that guarantees a reduction of the contractor’s risk by expediting the bid process and the accuracy with which bids may be arrived at. Clarity upfront leads to a project where change orders are few or none, and disputes don’t even have a chance to happen.

A responsible contractor will diligently comb every available paragraph of text in order to glean the fullest information on which he is expected to act. As in so many other areas of life, making assumptions is not recommended, since they can lead to a large ration of grief, down the road.

Green building product requirements might be spread around in a lot of different parts of the documentation, and general requirements might be loosely stated as a requirement that the building be certifiable at a certain level of a certain third party system, such as LEED-New Construction 2.2 (from the US Green Building Council), SBTool 07 (from International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment), and Green Globes for New Construction (from Green Building Initiative.)

Implicit requirements always include the particular demands of state an local governments, as well as federal agencies and whatever third-party rating system is invoked.

When the green building product requirements have been identified, they need to be broken down into the categories of general, specific, and mixed. A specific product requirement can be told by its descriptive, prescriptive, or performance specifications. The specific product requirements translate into how many tons of what kinds of materials need to be procured.

Of course, all these things must be figured out before the contractor decides which parts of the project he will self-perform and which parts will be let out to subcontractors, and the sooner that is known, the better. Both the contractor and the specialty subcontractors need the most accurate information possible before suppliers are asked for RFQs (requests for quotations.) Getting things right from the earliest possible moment always gives a project the strongest possible foundation on which to build.

Glavinich’s book, Contractor’s Guide to Green Building Construction, covers the broad areas of management, project delivery, documentation and risk reduction; and judging from the sample of his meticulous work presented in this excerpt, he lays out a path through the green building jungle that can be followed easily, and with great benefit to all the concerned parties.

SOURCE: ” Getting Green Products Right ” 06/18/08
photo courtesy of pnwra , used under this Creative Commons license


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower

three views Price Tower

In The Atlantic, Wayne Curtis explores an Oklahoma landmark, the Price Tower. Way back in 1952, a pipeline entrepreneur named Harold Price asked for a three-story, three-quarter-million dollar building and ended up with a 19-story building that came in at over two million. Finished in 1956, it was, says Curtis,

…easily one of the more bizarre towers ever built. Wright, who is best known for his low Prairie-style buildings, had a complicated relationship with tall buildings, calling one an “incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions.” Yet late in life he created drawings for a 528-story skyscraper featuring atomic-powered elevators with five cabs strung vertically in each shaft. (It was never built.)

Despite his aversion to height, it was Wright who talked the businessman into the 19 floors, although it doesn’t seem to have been a difficult selling job. Price’s son later joked that the Price Tower was basically 18 floors that existed to hold up his father’s office on the penthouse level. It stands today as the tallest example of Wright’s architectural accomplishments. Apparently there had been plans for a number of New York City high-rises on Wright’s drawing board, back in the 1920s, but none were ever built.

After passing through other hands, the Price Tower eventually became the property of an arts center, which remodeled part of it into a hotel in order to support the more culturally relevant sections. More recently, the owners had a new arts center designed by world-class architect Zaha Hadid, but funding problems have kept the actual construction of it on hold.

Upon personal inspection, the author found the tower to be interesting from the outside, not quite looking like the same building when seen from different viewpoints. The interior is replete with many triangular features, and being inside it definitely gives the observer a different feel than any experienced in more conventional, rectangle-based structures. The author calls it a space “almost perfectly scaled for human occupation,” thought it did start out with a couple of problems, like leaky windows, which had to be dealt with. Curtis quotes Wright on the virtues of the triangle, then remarks, “This statement, like much of the architect’s writing, recedes further from comprehension the longer one considers it.”

This building is characterized by a lavish use of copper inside and out.
In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, the chapter on metals discusses copper, along with its alloys bronze and brass, as having such properties as conductivity, resistance to corrosion, and malleability, so it’s available pre-formed into all kinds of shapes. The advantages are offset by a not very good strength-to-weight ratio.

The inspiration for the basic structure of the Price Tower was arboreal. Wright was neither the first nor the last architect to take the tree as an exemplar. He designed the “trunk” as the sturdy service core and cantilevered the reinforced concrete floors off it. Without the need for weight-bearing columns around the periphery, the architect was free to treat the shell as an almost purely decorative element. Like a tree’s leaves, the copper fins protect the interior from direct sunlight, and the myriad textures that result from the various external ornaments make a very eye-pleasing arrangement.

While visiting the building in order to write about it, Curtis waited out a rainstorm inside and fancied that it felt like being in a safe, snug treehouse. Unlikely as it might seem, Bartlesville, near Tulsa, is also the home of structures designed by other noted architectural firms, such as John Duncan Forsyth, Bruce Goff, Welton Becket, Edward Buehler Delk, Clifford May, and HOK. So, whether it’s regarded as radically innovative or simply bizarre, the Price Tower is in good company.

SOURCE: ” Little Skyscraper on the Prarie ” July 2008
photo courtesy of ercwttmn , used under this Creative Commons license


Urban Landscape Lights Up with LED Technology

Galleria Seoul

Rebecca Cathcart recently interviewed Sonny Astani, a Los Angeles developer of real estate who turned her on to his vision of a shining city reminiscent of the urban landscape revealed in the 1982 film Blade Runner. As she lyrically describes it:

The illuminated windows of the city’s densely packed towers sparkle like stars in the night, and their facades are covered with bright, animated billboards. A flying car glides past the enormous eye of a smiling geisha hundreds of stories above the wet urban streets.

The Philip K. Dick story from which the movie was derived was titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Now, architects dream of electric buildings. Though the action of the film is set in 2019, Astani wants to hurry things up. He envisions just such a glowing façade on each of the two high-rise condominiums that are his current project. Located in an area some call “Times Square West,” the 30-story towers are scheduled for completion next year.

Various methods of lighting up buildings are in use around the globe. In Seoul, the Galleria West (pictured) shows off electronic façade technology developed by UN Studio and Arup Lighting. The shopping mall’s whole façade is covered with discs, more than four thousand of them, which can each display up to 16 million colors, just like a desktop monitor, combining their colors into any graphic or text combination dictated by the controlling computer. Each disc is 850 millimeters in diameter and each one plays its part in the perpetually-changing appearance.

In Hong Kong, a building’s LED-lined elevator changes color as it moves up and down. The tallest building in Israel, the Moshe Aviv Tower, is topped with shimmering display from Color Kinetics. In Minsk, the National Library of Belarus sports 4646 LED fixtures lighting up the tundra night. In Tokyo, the new corporate headquarters of Chanel employs an art director whose task is to invent new looks for the LED-encrusted façade. Likewise in Barcelona, a single computer controls the 4,500 points of light on the programmable radiant surface of starchitect Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar.

Astani’s lighting designer is Frederic Opsomer, whose company System Technologies made a splash by creating a 706 square meter video screen for rock band U2’s 1996 tour. This first and biggest moveable LED video display screen was greeted with rapturous amazement by fans. The company’s website offers a complete list of other music stars whose concerts have been enhanced by similar technology.

What Opsomer has in mind are not discs but “blades” or panels set six inches apart, each half an inch thick and 3″ wide, with a row of diodes. From a distance, the illusion of a solid lighted surface is attained. A similar method was used to clad the T-Mobile headquarters in Bonn.

UCLA graduate Astani, originally from Iran, built up a business that now encompasses two million square feet either currently in development or already built. About five years ago, when the concept of adaptive reuse really started to take hold in Los Angeles, he saw an opening for the adoption of his fantasy. City planning officials are in the process of mulling over Astani’s application, also taking into consideration the objections of residents who are disenchanted with the sometimes obtrusive glare of advertising.

Brightness is not the object here. Astani’s plan is for low-key graphics with an intensity only fractionally that of existing LED billboards. The pictures would move sedately and vary in brightness according to the time of day or night. Only 10 stories of each structure would be involved, and only on one side. The builder’s plan is to allot 80% of the time to paid advertising, but reserve 20% for the use of non-profit agencies and to display works by Southern California artists. The partly pro bono aspect of the plan has complicated matters for the Planning Department.

People who care about the appearance of downtown Los Angeles are divided in opinion. How about it – should buildings shine?

SOURCE: ” A Developer’s Unusual Plan for Bright Lights, Inspired by a Dark Film ” 05/21/08
photo courtesy of zoom zoom , used under this Creative Commons license


Venturi, Scott Brown, and the Future of Architecture

Sendai Mediatheque

At Archinect, Steven Song examines the ideas of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, as set forth in their book Architecture as Signs and Systems: for a Mannerist Time. Here it is in a nutshell, Song’s summation of what these two enormously influential writers are saying.

The book revisits the architectural duality of ‘signage’ and ‘shelter’, introduces the concept of superimposed activity patterns as a design tool for deriving physical form from social conditions, advocates a reassessment of our ideas of context in architecture, and discusses the relationship between form and functional flexibility, ultimately advocating rule-bending mannerist architecture for today’s post-industrial Information Age.

That’s a tall order. But first, what is mannerist architecture, and what rules does it want to bend? The answer is, any rules that don’t address the needs of the particular instance at hand, which are likely to be many and varied. “Function”, for a building, needs to mean a lot of different things, and some of them are mutually exclusive. Increasingly, the needs for inclusive and sustainable design are part of the whole. Sometimes it’s impossible to follow all the rules of every system involved, because of the overlapping, superimposed way they are. And the mannerist approach is to figure out which are the best rules to break, for the good of the whole.

Song discusses the two major roles of architecture, as defined by Scott Brown and Venturi: architecture as shelter, and architecture as signage. Signage doesn’t only mean advertising, but has to do with communication, decoration, information, and symbolism. Put them all together, and you have a “decorated shed,” a phrase which they coined.

Contemporary society has a lot of blurred boundaries, many of them obliterated by modern communication devices that erase the distinction between public and private space. People can act like they’re in public (for instance, go shopping) when actually occupying a very private space (a bedroom with a computer in it). Our cities are replete with people walking around talking to themselves because they are schizophrenics, and with people walking around talking to themselves, but not really, because they’re attached to some kind of electronic gadget with a human, or at least a machine, at the other end. The first group would be locked up if there were anyplace to put them – because it’s considered insane to talk, for instance, to a deity that, being all-powerful, presumably doesn’t even need gadgets. The second group is considered normal.

What does this mean? What does it mean for cities, and for architects? Since we can now do so much from so far away, why do urban centers survive? Because people like one-on-one transactions with those they must trust, and enjoy seeing interesting strangers, and welcome the possibility of chance meetings with friends. Urban centers will continue to not only survive, but grow. Real estate prices will keep going up as land becomes more scare and sought-after. As a result, architecture needs to be more flexible. Adaptive reuse needs to mean something more than changing a building from one type of structure into another. It needs to mean that a space can serve several purposes within one week, being adaptable at short notice and able to change back again. “Wiggle room” is the answer, and the authors give the industrial loft and the Italian palazzo as examples of flexible space. Others that come to mind are the church parish hall and the hotel ballroom. There follows some discussion of flexibility, derived from the ideas of Kevin Lynch.

Another example they offer is the hotel whose lobby seating area serves the welcome desk during the day, and the bar at night — it’s multi-use, but nothing needs to be physically moved. The tradeoff between flexibility, and the drudgery of moving partitions around, is one of the arguments against flexible space. Also there’s a philosophical argument: If it can be anything, then it’s nothing.

Pictured above is the Sendai Mediatheque, designed by Toyo Ito, whose reductive analysis of architecture finds only three elements: plate, tube, and skin. Another school of thought sees four elements : floor, column, wall, and window. Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi are looking for more.

SOURCE: “Shifting Paradigms Part 1 | Renovating the Decorated Shed” 05/15/08
photo courtesy of yusunkwon , used under this Creative Commons license


The Inevitability of Building Information Modeling

Ronda Bridge visualization

“Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job,” the old saying goes. That’s the gist of John Tobin’s plea for universal adoption and fullest possible use of Building Information Modeling (BIM). Tobin’s career has focused on 3D technologies. Now the principal architect at EYP Architecture & Engineering PC, he has also taught at Rensselaer School of Architecture.

His message is to not rely on the same old convention of two-dimensional drawings to visualize a project when there is a so much better tool at hand. And likewise, don’t send a man to do a boy’s job. Don’t think of BIM as just a fancier way to produce two-dimensional drawings. It’s a whole new world. Tobin says, “We would be better served to look beyond using BIM merely as a more powerful representation tool, and instead to treat the models we create as proto-buildings.”

A BIM model is the first iteration of a building, Tobin says, a true prototype, because proto means first. Once BIM gets its hands on a project and is used properly, what you get is less like a picture of a building, and more like a building. What you get is virtual construction.

Like anything else in life, the full realization of the BIM promise depends on attitude, the willingness to learn, change, co-operate, and share. New ways of thinking are called for. For instance, Tobin says:

After working with BIM for several years, many architects find themselves modeling in ways that don’t necessarily make sense if 2D representation is the end-goal.… A segment of the architecture profession is moving beyond representation, and embracing a proto-construction mentality, carefully but inevitably.

Tobin suggests that contractors have a head start on architects when it comes to adaptability, and discusses the options for interoperability, including the National BIM Standard (NBIMS), about which he is optimistic. He breaks down the chronology of BIM history into generations, and, along with the great examples and many illustrations, this is really why it’s worth reading the original article:

BIM 1.0 – CAD on Steroids, but still doing the traditional representation.
BIM 2.0 – The Big Bang in Reverse – this has to do with solving the design/build dichotomy. Now we get into the 4th dimension, which is time, and the 5th, which is money. Then came analyses of energy and environment, and the drive for interoperability, all wrapped up in a steep learning curve.
BIM 3.0 – Post-Interoperability: This era is in its infancy, and the quicker we help it grow up, the better. Just think of the advantage: Unlike any architects or builders in history, we can build a thing twice (or as many times as it takes) without the dreary agony of tearing down masonry or pulling out wrongly placed components. We get an infinite number of do-overs, without the sweat. What’s not to like?

Wiley’s BIM Handbook is just what’s needed to get up to speed on this vital topic. It includes everything you’d want to know about BIM, and case studies, too; a universe of information in a very accessible format, starting off with a chapter called “BIM Tools and Parametric Modeling Interoperability.” Other chapters approach BIM from the viewpoints of the architect, engineer, owner, facility manager, builder, subcontractor, fabricator, and family dog (just kidding.)

The visualization of Ronda Bridge, at the top of the page, was tagged by its creator with the labels Autocad and Maya.

SOURCE: ” Proto-Building: To BIM is to Build ” 05/28/08
photo courtesy of Ziuth2008, used under this Creative Commons license


The Current Concerns of Peter Eisenman

At the recent RIAS 2008 (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) gathering, Peter Eisenman was a keynote speaker. The thoughts he shared with the convention were organized into six major points, as recapitulated in a transcript at bdonline. Eisenman is known as one of the “New York Five” and, philosophically, as a “deconstructionist,” whose career has been problematic in some ways. In this speech, he makes a point about the widespread media craze for polls and popularity contests, a point which has been made by theorists in fields other than architecture:

Vote for this, vote for whatever stories you want to hear, vote for what popular song you want to hear, vote for what commercial you want to see. This voting gives the appearance of active participation, but it is merely another form of sedation because the voting is irrelevant. It is part of the attempt to make people believe they are participating when in fact they are becoming more and more passive.

He warns that people, especially students, have become increasingly non-participatory, content to just lie back and let their sensoria be flooded by tides of images. This is particularly dangerous in the case of students because it is the young to whom we look for the fresh ideas and the massive amount of energy it takes to effect changes in society. But now, terrible things are going on all over the globe, and students are inert.

Eisenman seems concerned by the ubiquity of media, and its inseparable intertwining with human endeavors at the most mundane level, to the point where people have almost become extensions of their own computers. He sees this as the cause of a widespread societal epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder, causing the inability to focus or concentrate on anything for more that a short time. Irrelevant information keeps multiplying, he feels, while genuine communication shrinks. In his view, architecture must resort to “more and more spectacular imaging” to counter this trend.

But, speaking of spectacular imaging, what about computer-aided design? Well, it seems that Eisenman thinks computers have a deleterious effect on design standards. There is a connection between what the hand does and what the brain learns, which he feels is being broken when students no longer draw with actual tools on actual paper. He goes so far as to say that computers are great for those who don’t want to think, an assertion that would surely be disputed by any student burning the midnight oil, trying to wrap her head around the latest software package. But his own students, he says, are no longer able to draw a simple diagram or plan, and this bodes no good for the future of architecture as a whole.

He goes on to discuss the difference between icons, symbols, and indices, and what the difference means in terms of real-world applications. He references the work of C. S. Peirce, explaining what is meant by the concept of the “decorated shed.” For some reason, which may or may not lay responsibility at the door of the CAD revolution, Eisenman sees a loss of values in architecture, resulting in an inability to judge.

He sees some importance in sorting out what phase architecture currently resides in, relative to its other phases both past and future. The phase architecture is in now, he says, is a period of late style, which contains no new paradigm, but represents the end of a historic cycle. Quoting Edward Said, he sees late style as, “A moment not of fate or hopelessness but one that contains a possibility of looking at a great style for the possibility of the new and the transformative.”

Eisenman goes on to reflect on the relationship between the part and the whole: the building is related to the site, which is related to the street, the immediate neighborhood, and the whole city. He concludes that to be an architect is a social act, and that this engagement with society is what needs to be concentrated on now.

(Pictured: one view of Eisenman’s “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”)

SOURCE: ” Eisenman’s six point plan ” 05/14/08
photo courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt , used under this Creative Commons license


End of Life Cycle for Gettysburg Cyclorama

Among other accomplishments, Richard Longstreth has served as president of the Society of Architectural Historians and now directs George Washington University’s graduate program in historic preservation. In an ArchitectureWeek article, he discusses some abstract notions by referencing a real-world example, the Cyclorama at Gettysburg National Military Park It’s not clear whether this unique structure has already been demolished, but if not, it’s only a matter of time. What interests the author is the difference of opinion between people who don’t agree on the definitions of things like architecture and history. He says,

…the practice of preservation, like the crafting of history, is of necessity a selective act that is impossible to conduct in a purely neutral fashion. Rather, practice must be guided by reason, principle, knowledge, and fact. Much the same applies to cultural landscape, which is a construct no less than the idea of anti-restoration or of historical significance.

Consulting Wikipedia, we find that the term “cyclorama” seems to be used interchangeably to describe either the building itself, or the long, 360-degree painting of Pickett’s Charge that it was built to house. The building was designed by Austrian immigrant Richard Neutra who is recognized both as a history-sensitive modernist architect, and one who was extraordinarily attentive to the needs of his clients. He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1949, and designed the Cyclorama in 1959. It was finished in 1962, toward the end of his career. He died in 1970.

Here’s an interesting historical footnote: Even though he didn’t exist, Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, is probably the architect with the highest name-recognition factor ever. Rand owned a Neutra house. Once, when Neutra brought some people over to see it, Rand focused her attention on his contractor, Fordyce Marsh. “You are the physical embodiment of Howard Roark!” she is said to have exclaimed. Neutra felt slighted, or so the story goes.

In relation to the Cyclorama, Neutra seems to be a forgotten man. On the National Park Service’s Gettysburg website only a single page mentions his name. The Cyclorama seems to be a forgotten artifact. On Flickr, a search through many pages of Gettysburg photos reveals no trace of it.

For a while, it looked as if the Cyclorama might survive. The effort to preserve it turned into a bureaucratic nightmare of which Longstreth relates only a fraction. In 1998, the National Register of Historic Places declared it of “exceptional historic and architectural significance,” and in 2005, the World Monuments Fund put it on their 100 Most Endangered Properties list. But it wasn’t enough. Those who wanted to keep the Cyclorama were ganged up on by two bureaucracies, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which said, “There are other Neutra buildings; there is only one Gettysburg Battlefield…The Building must yield.”

Longstreth deplores the attitude of the park administrators, who feel that the building is an intrusion and a violation of sacred ground. In his view, the building is an integral part of the landscape, and actually, it’s the building that is not getting due respect. He defends the Cyclorama’s right to exist, and equates the literal-minded drive to restore the Gettysburg battlefield to its previous condition as a form of snobbery.

The things added since 1863 are equally legitimate parts of the place and the meaning it holds. And even if the battleground itself could be put back like it was, there’s still the whole surrounding environment of businesses and fast roads. In fact, local merchants were among those who opposed the relocation of the visitors’ center. And in fact the parking lots will stay, “partially restored” to their 1863 appearance, whatever that means.

Any opinions on the destruction of the Cyclorama?

SOURCE: “Preserving Cultural Landscapes” 06/04/08
photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik , used under this Creative Commons license