Posts Tagged ‘recycled materials


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


First LEED-Certified Parking Structure, Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica Civic Center parking structure

Count on California to implement pioneering technologies, especially those related to cars. In Santa Monica, the city’s Green Building Program offers an interesting case study – the first certifiably green parking garage. This article is more oriented toward the technical details, but fortunately, another website, Inhabitat, offers spectacular pictures of the building’s exterior.

As for what the City of Santa Monica itself has to say about it, here is the Project Overview, as presented on their website:

The City of Santa Monica has made an aggressive commitment to becoming more sustainable. The new Civic Center Parking Structure embodies that commitment while at the same time establishing a new aesthetic monument in the City. This parking structure promises to be the first building of its type in the country to receive a LEED-Certified rating through the U.S. Green Building Council. The building features design strategies, materials, products, and construction practices that preserve natural resources, conserve water and energy, and reduce waste.

The page includes photos of many of the details that went into the sustainable design, like the photovoltaic panels on the roof which also provide shade for the top parking level. On the other levels, white ceilings augment the available light which is also bolstered by fluorescent lamps. A solar power inverter takes the energy harvested by the photovoltaic panels, and changes it to alternating current for the building’s needs. Stormwater is filtered and used for landscaping and toilet-flushing. Recycled steel and glass are used, in addition to recycled flyash in the concrete, and the building has outlets for 14 electric vehicles for public use. Alternative transportation is encouraged by the provision of bicycle storage lockers, and signs help the public understand the advantages of the building’s green components.

The building’s creators, Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, also contribute some remarks:

Pre-cast white, ribbed concrete panels are set in a rhythmic, variegated pattern on all facades. These panels, in shifting locations along the facades, lend a surprising quality that screens the presence of parked cars. On the Fourth Street façade, a series of bays made of channeled colored glass breaks down the scale of the structure, and are set at varying sizes and angles to provide a light, luminous, and ever-changing quality to the viewer.

The considerations related to vehicles and parking are much more complicated than would be apparent to the uneducated eye. Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition devotes several pages of its Building Sitework section to these questions, and then goes into the matter of accessible parking in even greater detail in its Inclusive Design section, including all the specifications for various scenarios. Its introduction on design considerations says:

Creating vital places is the job of those who design, build, finance, and plan the built environment. Unfortunately, too often as acres of asphalt attest, engineering standards are applied cavalierly; they are not used properly to help design the place. Even “just a parking lot” can be made into a place of delight.

We might also want to consider what Bobby Grace asks, at Media & the Environment:

I hope you realize the contradiction of terms here; this is an earth saving structure dedicated to the machine that has arguably accelerated the destruction of the earth…Is this making a joke of LEED certification?

SOURCE: “Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure”
photo courtesy of Omar Omar , used under this Creative Commons license


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