Posts Tagged ‘energy efficiency

03
Jul
08

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 GreenRoofs.org, 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

01
Jul
08

The Gilman Ordway Campus at Woods Hole

“Building for the Future” is a thorough case study of a high performance building, the Gilman Ordway Campus at Woods Hole Research Center. It lays out the basic principles the design team started with: a tight building envelope, efficient mechanical, lighting and office systems, and the optimization of natural light and ventilation. The Performance Overview section starts by noting that the energy monitoring system provides the numbers for evaluating the performance, a subject that definitely needs research.

The relative dearth of performance data for high performance buildings, combined with the ongoing need to educate the public and design communities about advancements in building technologies and performance, led us to include a whole building energy monitoring and data-logging system in our building design and construction plans.

A network of 75 sensors reports on what goes on throughout the building. The numbers are crunched, and charts are produced which display the current state of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and of the sources and loads of the energy flow, and even of the weather conditions. The comprehensive monitoring system keeps track of the solar thermal system and thermal exchange heat pump and energy recovery units.

Woods Hole is a venerable institution where science, education, and policy all support the prevention of environmental degradation, and especially the stewardship of the earth’s forests. The Gilman Ordway Campus was designed with an ambitious environmental agenda in mind, to produce more energy than it uses, and to do that without using fossil fuels or causing any harm to the surrounding environment or the world at large.

All the design consultants and the people from the Center itself collaborated from the start as a design team. It was especially important, because of the nature of the institution, that forestry concerns be addressed in the best possible way, using sustainably harvested, certified wood. The soils science department of Woods Hole Research Center keeps working to refine the rainwater collection system and the wastewater system, the latter with a denitrifying septic system. One of the intentions was to be sure the project was reproducible, so most of the building systems came from readily available “state-of-the-shelf” technology.

Finished in February and occupied in March of 2003, the Gilman Ordway Campus is the work of William McDonough + Partners with Mark Rylander, who is a partner in the firm, as the project manager. He also teaches at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and has been chairman of COTE (Committee on the Environment) and in 2005 was one of the Solar Decathlon judges. This is an annual competition among teams of college students to design and build houses that are both energy-efficient and attractive.

Rylander wrote the Sustainable Design chapter of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition and here, from that chapter’s Introduction, are some of the topics it covers:

…site ecology, alternative urban infrastructures, mobility, socially-responsible design, water conservation and treatment, heat island mitigation, energy efficiency, renewable energy integration, design for disassembly, adaptive reuse, recycled, recyclable and reclaimed materials, healthy material redesign, efficient construction protocols, daylighting, indoor air quality, commissioning, post-occupancy feedback…

There is truly more to sustainability than meets the eye.

Pictured: the pier at Woods Hole

SOURCE: ” Building for the Future” No Date Given
photo courtesy of andjam79, used under this Creative Commons license

12
Jun
08

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

10
Jun
08

Awards from American Institute of Architects, San Francisco

In ArchitectureWeek, Brian Libby reports on the awards handed out by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Of particular interest is the Urban Design category, in which Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) received a merit award for the immense project known as Beijing Finance Street.

Located in a historic district close to the city center and the Forbidden City, the plan is organized around a Central Park as well as a series of interior courtyards based on the traditional Chinese Hatong neighborhoods that were largely wiped out by past urban renewal but have regained favor as the nation re-embraces its past heritage.

Beijing Finance Street encompasses eight square blocks or 860,000 square meters of office buildings, hotels, and retail stores including a huge glass-roofed shopping mall. There are also more than 300 apartments and numerous small parks. Each of the 18 buildings has three parking levels underneath. It’s a district that never sleeps, but the hotels and housing units are located near the central park to take advantage of the quieter atmosphere there, while office buildings are on the edges.

The firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill can do pretty much anything, including the most high-tech projects that clients can dream up. In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, we see another example of their work, this time for the Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York, with special attention to how they designed the vault for the Diagnostic & Treatment Facility Linear Accelerator (page 667.)

Not all AIA chapters do so, but the San Francisco chapter has a whole category for energy and sustainablilty. The honor awards in that category were captured by the Orinda City Hall (Siegel & Strain Architects), and by the Nueva School Hillside Learning Complex (Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects.) This latter project was also recently named one of the top ten green projects of 2008 by the AIA Committee on the Environment. Additionally, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry (SmithGroup) won the only merit award in this category.

Four Honor awards for excellence were given. One recipient was the firm Brand + Allen Architects, for 185 Post Street, a restoration project with innovative aspects that worked with the protective laws guarding the early 20th century origins of the historic building. Morphosis and SmithGroup shared credit for the San Francisco Federal Building, whose double skin and tall thin shape help it to overreach the energy code’s requirements. Also recognized for excellence were Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects, for Bridge House, and Fougeron Architecture, for Tehama Grasshopper.

Tehama Grasshopper is a remodeled warehouse located in San Francisco, which has been converted to offices and residences, and it also has received more than one award, having been honored earlier this year by the national AIA for its interior architecture.

Again, unlike some other local chapters, AIA San Francisco has established an awards category for interior architecture, which this year recognized three projects: a temple, a restaurant, and a residence.

Interestingly, there is even an “unbuilt design” category, for which the honoree was IwamotoScott Architecture for Hydro-Net: City of the future, a vision of San Francisco a hundred years from now. Building information modeling (BIM) helped The Design Partnership snag an honor award for the remodel of a University of California pathology lab in which costs and construction time were greatly reduced through use of the BIM technology.

The Panhandle Bandshell (pictured) received an urban design honor award, which just might be the coolest one of the bunch. This functional piece of sculpture is now located at Treasure Island, an artificial island that is part of San Francisco, where students and other low-income residents live. Among other reclaimed components, the bandshell was constructed from 65 automobile hoods and 3,000 plastic water bottles.

SOURCE: “San Francisco AIA Awards 2008″05/28/08
photo courtesy of MikeLove, used under this Creative Commons license

30
May
08

The Role of Building Information Modeling in Cleantech

The Majestic Fool

While public awareness of ecological problems focuses on the transportation industry, many people are not quite accustomed to regarding construction as an area where green technology can make a huge difference. But new methods are changing the design, construction and operation of buildings and facilities more every day. This is emphasized by Scott Boutwell in a TriplePundit.com piece, where he says,

The building & facility industry is undergoing radical change today, as owners are demanding more project visibility, improved risk management (scheduling & costs); and increased use of technologies that will allow for less waste, more efficient energy consumption, and ultimately lower costs over the lifecycle of the facility (from design and construction to operations).

This change is due to Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is exponentially different from 2-dimensional computer-assisted design. Boutwell tells why:

This knowledge or database contains the ‘intelligent objects” of a structure; not just lines and arcs typically associated with traditional CAD or drawing tools. As such, BIM can represent multiple, dynamic, and collaborative views of information such as spatial data (3D), un-structured data (text), and structured data (databases, spreadsheets), as well as new views including scheduling and cost information (termed ‘4D’ and ‘5D’, respectively).

The visualization capabilities of BIM are of a different order of magnitude, allowing for much more in the way of collaboration in the early stages and throughout the gestation and birth of a structure, but that’s only the beginning. The technology’s innate intelligence and especially its ability to simulate events and processes are what really make a difference. In the area of energy and resources, like water management and re-use, it has never been so easy to design with conservation in mind. All the various elements that make up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can be tested and improved before one pipe is laid. The impact of alternative energy sources such as wind can be factored in. Energy analysis predicts how all the parts will work together and how their synergy can be enhanced, advancing also the health and comfort of the building’s eventual inhabitants.

The results of using various kinds of insulation, windows, and structural components can be played with, trying out different combinations until the optimal energy-efficient result is reached. The virtual management of materials allows for a formerly undreamed-of degree of efficiency and a significant reduction in waste. Along with being earth-friendly, this kind of analysis is also budget-friendly. The impact of a building upon the world around it, in terms of carbon, water, and other elemental substances, can be predicted and adjusted before mistakes are made on a large, expensive scale.

The management of risk is a subject dear to the heart of every architect, builder, developer, attorney, accountant, and insurance underwriter – aside from the purely altruistic safety considerations put in place for the public good. When the goal is to meet the U.S. Green Buildings Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, building information modeling keeps the project on track every step of the way.

Boutwell calls the adoption of BIM technology as a green tool “rapid but uneven” across the industry. He cites the Green Index Study, conducted in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects and Autodesk. The findings are that 44% of the responding architects are currently using some form of BIM. But, at this point, the definition is not quite pinned down. He quotes Buddy Cleveland, an Applied Research expert at Bentley Systems, who says, “People are defining BIM as whatever they want it to be.” What does it mean for a firm to say it utilizes BIM technology? Does it have a full team headed by a BIM manager? Has it bought the software but not quite gotten it installed yet? Does the firm make full use of BIM technology in the back office, while not yet incorporating this green-friendly approach into its marketing strategy?

In architecture, engineering, and construction, there are cultural factors to overcome before the concept of BIM as the royal road to greenness is fully accepted. There are training issues, and adjustments that must be made in traditional business processes. For owners, operators, contractors, engineers, and architects, ultimately the widespread adoption of BIM spells win-win-win-win-win.

SOURCE: ” Building Information Modeling and the Adoption of Green Technologies ” 05/22/08
photo courtesy of The Majestic Fool , used under this Creative Commons license

29
Apr
08

Green, Eco-friendly, and Sustainable Architecture

Caltrans Building Aerial View

What uses the most electricity, more than half of the total electricity generated in the United States? Buildings that are four stories high or taller, says Michael Martinez in the Chicago Tribune. He succinctly explains what is being done about this by the U.S. Green Building Council:

The non-profit council implements a universally accepted method for authenticating a green building, under a rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)…The project is awarded “points” for the sustainability features until it achieves certification, which has four levels: basic, silver, gold and platinum…California and many other states now require that all new government buildings be certified as “green,” or eco-friendly. Officials also are stepping up efforts to set an example for the private sector.

For example, the California Department of Transportation regional headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, which occupies a whole city block and is 13 stories high, has healthy air inside, and plentiful natural lighting. It opened nearly four years ago. One of the features that helped it gain a LEED silver level certification is the wall of solar panels. In its chapter on heating, ventilating and air conditioning, Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, has this to say:

For commercial/institutional structures in particular, the use of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) is becoming rather common. In such cases, PV modules may be sufficiently integrated into the roof or walls of the structure so that they provide the exterior barrier to the elements. Because of this integration of the PV system with the building envelope, it is particularly important that the architect be intimately involved in the design and specification of such a system.

It appears that the General Services Administrations, i.e., the federal government, is the nation’s largest commercial tenant, which puts the government in a position to encourage green building through a number of incentives, like tax breaks, and with disincentives. Over the last six years, 24 states have initiated programs that spell out requirements. So far there are around 1300 certified green buildings in America, although somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 applications await the council’s attention.

Every day, some community announces a national “first”. In Elkhart, Indiana, there’s the first theological library to be registered with the USGBC. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has the first LEED-certified carbon neutral building, the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, which also was named a top-ten green project by the American Institute of Architects. Wisconsin is also working on the state’s first LEED-certified jail. Recently in Washington, the Public Utility Districts Association headquarters became the state’s first new construction project to snag a LEED platinum rating. In New York there is Dinkins Gardens, Harlem’s first green building that is 100 percent for low-income residents. The state of Illinois boasts 18 LEED-certified buildings including five public libraries, a high school, a police headquarters, and the renowned Merchandise Mart.

California is really surging ahead in the race to green. The first LEED-certified parking structure recently opened in Santa Monica. San Francisco has the nation’s first LEED-certified medical spa. In Paso Robles, the River Oaks Center is the first building to be pre-certified gold. In Hemet, the Water + Life Museums complex is the first museum to be certified at the platinum level. It is part of the Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology.

What makes some people nervous is that green-only construction adds about 5% to a building’s cost. But developers and builders are assured that such cost can be made up in energy savings within the first couple of years of the building’s operation. It’s one thing to have a brand-new building certified because all the correct elements are in place. How are green measures working out over time?

SOURCE: ” Push on to Make Buildings Grow Green ” 04/21/08
photo courtesy of Mr. Littlehand , used under this Creative Commons license

24
Apr
08

UC Boulder’s Solar Decathlon Entry Open to Public

Solar Decathlon entry, CU Boulder

As of April 22, the University of Colorado at Boulder offers tours of its 2007 entry in the Solar Decathlon competition, which took third place in the engineering category and seventh place overall in this nationwide design competition for solar dwellings, sponsored yearly by the Departmant of Energy. The most original aspect is the building’s provision for heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning. Here is the team’s description:

The heat pump connected between the hot and cold tanks will heat the hot tank and cool the cold tank at very high efficiency. The storage tanks enhance the efficiency of the system compared to a conventional heat pump by optimizing the time – and temperatures – at which energy is transferred to and from the outdoor environment. For example, in winter, the main heating needs occur at night when it is coldest outdoors… The storage tanks in our system allow us to bridge the gap between day and night to improve system efficiency. The cold tank even includes encapsulated ice to expand the thermal storage capacity with a relatively small tank volume.

While it’s true that the system works optimally in a Colorado-like climate, that climate does prevail over much of the western part of the United States. Generally, it’s dry, the sun shines all day, and at night the temperature drops dramatically. Like buildings equipped with the passive systems we’ve been used to, this house makes use of the natural temperature variations, only it uses mechanical systems to manage the transfer of energy. The peculiarities of the climate make it feasible to use radiant cooling.

The house contains a modular, prefabricated engineering spine, made from surplus shipping containers, which holds the heat exchangers along with the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and equipment spaces. Since the windows are high-performance and the house is well insulated, the perimeters can take care of themselves, so the centralizing of heat and cold at the spine provides several advantages.

The design team used EnergyPlus energy simulation software to predict air and surface temperatures and operative temperatures, and PHOENICS, a program that anaylzes flow and stress, and TRNSYS, which simulates the transient performance of thermal energy systems.

Solar energy heating and cooling systems are described in lavish detail in the Services section of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. After structural considerations, HVAC is considered the second most important area of building design to get right, since it impacts the budget so greatly both in the construction phase and ever afterwards in the operating expense due to energy use. It can occupy as much as 10% of a building’s floor area, and deeply affect the building’s aesthetics. The comfort of occupants is of course a primary consideration in most buildings, and can be of critical importance when a building is used for storage, processing or manufacturing.

Now that the CU Boulder team’s house is back from the competition in Washington, D.C., and various other travels, it will be made available not only for tours but even for private parties — by reservation only, of course.

SOURCE: “Heat from Ice?” (no author or date given)
photo courtesy of Jeff Kubina , used under this Creative Commons license