It is winter in upstate New York, on a morning so cold the ground squeaks loudly underfoot as sharp-finned ice crystals rub together. The trees look like gloved hands, fingers frozen open. Something lurches from side to side up the trunk of an old sycamore—a nut-hatch climbing in zigzags, on the prowl for hibernating insects. A crow veers overhead, then lands. As snow flurries begin, it leaps into the air, wings aslant, catching the flakes to drink. Or maybe just for fun, since crows can be mighty playful.
Another life form curves into sight down the street: a girl laughing down at her gloveless fingers, which are busily texting on some handheld device. This sight is so common that it no longer surprises me, though strolling in a large park one day I was startled by how many people were walking without looking up, or walking in a myopic daze while talking on their “cells,” as we say in shorthand, as if spoken words were paddling through the body from one salt water lagoon to another.
We don’t find it strange that, in the Human Age, slimy, hairy, oozing, thorny, smelly, seed-crackling, pollen-strewn nature is digital. It’s finger-swiped across, shared with others over, and honeycombed in our devices. For the first time in human history, we’re mainly experiencing nature through intermediary technology that, paradoxically, provides more detail while also flattening the sensory experience. Because we have riotously visual, novelty-loving brains, we’re entranced by electronic media’s caged hallucinations. Over time, can that affect the hemispheric balance of the brain and dramatically change us? Are we able to influence our evolution through the objects we dream up and rely on? READ MORE
The human response to architecture is usually based on subjective emotions: I like that building, I hate this space; this room is so open, this office is oppressive. But something more nuanced is happening to elicit these responses. Neuroscientists have found that distinctive processes occur in our brains—consciously and subconsciously, cognitively and physiologically—from the moment we step into a space. These processes affect our emotions, our health, and even the development of memory.
Interest in the way architecture can support how our brains work and evolve is growing. READ MORE>>
The metamorphosis of the Hotel San José from a 1930s motor hotel into a hip and modern hotel pays tribute to the creative Austin spirit. See an interview with Lake|Flato Partner, Bob Harris and Hotel San José owner, Liz Lambert on the design process that led to this iconic project.
Among the projects sponsored during the Summer 2014 Charrette, two design teams turned their attention to transforming an historic building in Kansas City's urban core into a new maker space for the community.
Kansas City, Missouri, is the home of Make It Right's latest community revitalization project. Though the neighborhood of Manheim Park hasn't been affected by a natural disaster, it's been afflicted with decades worth of decline. Bancroft Elementary, a formerly abandoned school dating from 1904, is the projects locus. Make It Right and local firm BNIM transformed the vacant building into low-income housing for families, veterans, senior citizens, and youths transitioning out of foster care. Architect Tim Duggan, director of Make It Right's Innovations department, spearheaded the effort. We chatted with him about the project, "urban acupuncture," and how this redevelopment plan serves as a model for other cities. "We see this as a model both locally and nationally to identify a catalytic project and revitalize it," Duggan says. "So often conventional development says, it won't pencil out or it won't work unless there are inferior quality materials, or it'll pencil out with less community space or less attention to quality. We didn't want to do that." READ MORE >>
A new solar cell material has properties that might lead to solar cells more than twice as efficient as the best on the market today. An article this week in the journal Nature describes the materials—a modified form of a class of compounds called perovskites, which have a particular crystalline structure.
The researchers haven’t yet demonstrated a high efficiency solar cell with the material. But their work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting perovskite materials could change the face of solar power. READ MORE >>
"The cloud” gives a lighter-than-air spin to all our connectivity and data sifting. In reality, they consume energy like there’s no tomorrow. Next-generation data centers aim to fix that.
Data centers are changing. And that can’t happen too soon. “These buildings use an enormous amount of power,” says Gensler’s Bernie Woytek. “We’re talking millions of kilowatts per year—it really adds up.” After one data center client recently consolidated into a single new facility, its firstyear savings in electrical power was $14 million. The trends for future data centers are clear, says Woytek’s colleague Joe Lauro: “Smaller, more compact, and aggressively energy-efficient.”
The power of footfall. An English company harnessed energy from spectators arriving at the Olympic park during London 2012. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA
Endless amounts have been written about what is the right path to a low-carbon future – but not much of that commentary has focused on the role that literal paths could play. Yet in the future we may all be generating energy wherever we go, whether we're walking, driving or sitting on the train, using a technique known as energy-harvesting.
There are two main approaches. One is to use mechanical technology to capture the energy and convert it into electricity and the other is to use piezo-electric materials, which produce electricity when they are put under pressure – when someone steps on them or drives over them, for example.
One of the best-known uses of the technique was in a club in Rotterdam, which installed an energy-generating dance floor, where the dancers created their own light show. While in the UK, a company, Pavegen, has generated energy from schoolchildren running to their next lesson, from thousands of runners at this year's Paris Marathon, revellers at the Bestival music festival on the Isle of Wight and spectators travelling to watch the London 2012 Olympic Games via West Ham tube station.
The technology is ideal for anywhere that attracts crowds, so ticket barriers at train and tube stations are an obvious application, but the concept will also work at shopping centres, sports venues, even airport terminals. READ MORE >>
Despite the sprawling nature of San Diego, our team chose to concentrate on the downtown core, not only because it is our own backyard, but because this region of the city has consistently lacked compelling public space. Combining historical research with a survey of the current urban landscape and its dynamics, we have started to unravel the “why” of our contemporary city, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. The historic and current drivers of the San Diego economy – the military, research and engineering, tourism, tuna fishing, and shipping – have over the years worked against the development of the downtown waterfront as a civic arena. READ MORE >>
A tornado-resilient Russian nesting doll of a home, a sleek — and rising sea level-safe — spin on the iconic shotgun shack, and an energy effecient dwelling-on-stilts have been named the three winners in the American Institute of Architects’ Designing Recovery residential design competition.
Each home design was required to be site-specific and geared to help residents living in three specific cities/regions deeply impacted by natural disasters — of both the hurricane and tornado variety — over the last several years: New York City, New Orleans, and Joplin, Mo. As the competition, a “design competition with real world impact on the lives of families who have been struck by natural disaster,” brief reads: “This competition is not only about replacing what was lost, but building back better.” READ MORE >>
The Looper repurposes an existing river barge into a greenhouse which collects, uses, filters, and returns water to the river in a remediated state – a loop. The “building” was designed in accordance with the Living Building Challenge Standards and addresses each principle – site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty – to create a zero-impact design. At the heart of the vessel is a “living machine” that distributes filtered river water to an aquaponics system growing both plants and fish. As the greenhouse barge moves along the river, it is able to restore water and habitat, serve multiple communities with access to fresh produce and act as a floating classroom for an ecologically abundant future.
The Looper was an RTKL entry for the 2013 snoLEAF
BIG! Green Greenhouse ideas competition. The competition asked
participants to develop inspired new ideas about the future of locally
grown fresh produce in the Snohomish region of the Pacific Northwest.
The competition requirements for the greenhouse where that it needed to
extend the growing season, around 3,000 square feet, mainly operated by
volunteers and fulfill the requirements of the Living Building
The green building movement doesn’t have one founder—it has several. One of them, without question, is Bob Berkebile, a founding principal at BNIM in Kansas City. In the 1990s Berkebile was part of the small circle of architects, designers and businesspeople who helped create the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. He served as a delegate at the Earth Summit in Rio. Later, he took certification a step further and created (with Jason McLennan) the Living Building Challenge, a vigorous standard that exceeds LEED Platinum and serves as both aspiration and model.
My conversation with Berkebile is the second installment in The Next Building Environment Today series, a collaboration between Metropolis magazine and Architecture 2030. Each month I interview an internationally recognized leader in the green building movement. Here Berkebile talks about the recent Bank of America controversy, his new concept of Urban Acupuncture, early efforts in China, and the Architecture 2030 Palette:
Martin C. Pedersen: You followed the controversy surrounding the Bank of America building in New York. What was your take on the New Republicarticleaccusing the building of being an energy hog?
Bob Berkebile: I don’t know all the facts, but the early responses suggest that it’s being compared unfavorably to the Empire State, but that’s still relatively empty and Bank of America is full. Again, I don’t know the facts. What I do know is, when a system is undergoing change—and I would argue that LEED has created more change in our industry than any other single thing in my professional career—when that amount of change occurs, there are always pushbacks. Several months ago US Today did two feature articles, saying that LEED is broken. When you look at the overall energy numbers, buildings have improved significantly. But the LEED system, as it has matured, is a like a natural system. Are you familiar with the S-curve that defines the vitality over time of a natural system?
BB: It’s a very interesting. Let’s take, for example, an oak forest. You have an X- and Y-axis. The vertical is vitality; the horizontal is time. You plant an acorn, and initially that s-curve is below the line, because it’s taking nutrients, taking resources from the soil, water and sun, and not producing anything. As it becomes a tree, then it starts being productive. It’s sequestering carbon, managing water, sharing nutrients with other plant systems. As time goes forward that S turns up and becomes a steep incline as it increases its contribution and vitality. Then as the forest matures and gets to the climax phase, the line starts bending down again. So the graph looks like an S on its side. Then what happens in a natural system is something modifies it, like fire, and that regenerates the forest, and restarts the S-curve. That might be where we’re at in the green building movement. READ MORE >>
Convergence: An Architectural Agenda for Energy is based on the thermodynamic premise that architecture should maximize its ecological and architectural power. No matter how paradoxical it might initially seem, architects should maximize energy intake, maximize energy use, and maximize energy feedback and reinforcement. This presumes that the necessary excess of architecture is in fact an architect’s greatest asset when it comes to an agenda for energy, not a liability.
By drawing on a range of architectural, thermodynamic, and ecological sources as well as illustrated and well-designed case studies, the author shows what architecture stands to gain by simultaneously maximizing the architectural and ecological power of buildings.
To the side of an amphitheater under construction on the new $44 million satellite campus of Chatham University, an air vent pokes through the ground. Easily overlooked unless a guide points it out, the vent protrudes from a root cellar, a concept that has existed since the Iron Age as a way of using the natural coolness of an underground chamber to preserve fruits, vegetables and other edibles. It may seem like a symbol of the past. On Chatham’s Eden Hall site in the North Hills, it speaks to the future.
Chatham’s root cellar is a symbol of how higher education has become
deeper, greener and broader in western Pennsylvania, where colleges and
universities have positioned themselves among the acknowledged leaders
of a national and international movement. READ MORE >>
When I was a kid I had a “bug box” – a small, homemade container built from wire mesh and a couple pieces of wood. During the summer I’d try to fill this box with lightning bugs –fireflies or glow bugs, depending on where you’re from– in the attempt to transform the small translucent container into a natural lantern full of the insects whose biological incandescence was nothing less than a minor miracle. It never quite worked as I imagined. In, retrospect, the whole endeavor seems like a fantasy fueled by too many cartoons.
Or perhaps not.
Recently an international team of researchers looked to the firefly for inspiration in designing more efficient lighting. Building on previous research into the chemical reactions that powered the glow bugs’ glow, the team focused on the insect’s exoskeleton, which features unique shingle-like surfaces that reduce internal reflection, thereby allowing more light to escape. Using lasers to recreate the shingle shapes on the surface of an LED, the researchers were able to create a 55% more efficient LED. This is only one of the many, many ways that insect biomimicry is improving our products and our lives.
Biomimicry is a design principle that looks to reproduce systems, behaviors, or effects observed in the nature. After all, what we stupid humans have been working on for a couple hundred years –at best!– nature has been developing for eons. READ MORE >>
RISING SEAS AND BURSTING BUBBLES: Today, events both wildly unpredictable and apparently inexorable confront us at every turn. We live in a world defined by risk—environmental, economic, technological, geopolitical.
From the “risk society” (Ulrich Beck) to “disaster capitalism” (Naomi Klein), Fukushima to Sandy, market crash to global instability, we are surrounded by new and unprecedented risks. Yet these risks have arisen precisely during a period in which risk management— the science of prediction, probabilistic calculation, and control—has likewise become all encompassing. We both can and cannot predict the weather. This special section of Artforum aims to address the paradoxes, critiques, and symbolic and material effects of these tumultuous conditions.
Environmental risk and climate change, in particular, are at the crux of the pages that follow. READ MORE >>
The television footage of the devastation of Joplin, Missouri — struck by an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado in May 2011 — reminded him of old black and white photos of World War I battlefields scarred deep with trenches. Not just the devastation to the people, but the way the high winds had actually stripped away much of the bark from the trees, laying them bare.
“Those trees were first an indicator of the injury to the ecosystem…and later would become a springboard image as to how the community would respond,” said Keith Tidball, PhD, an Extension Associate and Associate Director of the Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab in upstate New York.
In time that imagery would also help springboard Tidball to the Landscapes of Resilience project in Joplin and Queens, N.Y., which suffered greatly from Hurricane Sandy. READ MORE >>
We have previously described four key characteristics of resilient structures in natural systems: diversity; web-network structure; distribution across a range of scales; and the capacity to self-adapt and “self-organize.” We showed how these features allow a structure to adapt to shocks and changes that might otherwise prove catastrophic.
We also argued that a more resilient future for humankind demands new technologies incorporating precisely these characteristics. As a result, environmental design, especially, is set to change dramatically.
But such desirable characteristics do not exist as abstract entities. Rather, they are embodied in the physical geometries of our world — the relationship between elements in space. As we will discuss here, these geometries typically arise from the processes that produce resilience, but in turn they go on to create — or to destroy — the capacity for resilience in their own right. So if we want a more resilient future, we first need to understand these geometries, and the technological and economic processes that produce them. READ MORE >>
Architecture is the most contingent of the arts. A painter or a poet, a musician or a novelist can, with even the most meagre of means, begin to create. Buildings need clients and sites, they need planning permission and approval from neighbours, they need engineers and construction crews. And, most of all, they need money.
Architecture is consequently more intimately involved in the economic cycle than any of the other arts. But there is also a curious paradox. Much of the worst architecture emerges from a boom (think of Dubai) when there is too much work and not enough reflection...
The retreat from practice has traditionally fostered intellectual advance and new movements.
But, in recent years, an intriguing trend has emerged: architects
frustrated by a lack of opportunity to build who, rather than retreating
into drawings or text, have formed multidisciplinary practices to build
their designs themselves. READ MORE >>
The biggest issues in society, from obesity to climate change, are due to behavioural and lifestyle factors people embrace on a daily basis.
Most attempts to change behaviour rely on the outdated assumption that people are governed by a rational self-interest. The result is a range of programmes with a firm rationale but minimal impact.
We believe the best way to solve these issues is to not only research how and why people actually make decisions, but use the design of products, services and places to help us all make better decisions. READ MORE >>
Nobody likes living near wind turbines. They’re loud and obtrusive, and their slicing blades create a strobe-light shadow effect. nimbyism may be one of the reasons that wind energy, despite its many advantages, supplies just 4.8 percent of electric power in the U.S.
But what if turbines weren’t quite so awful to be around—what if, in fact, they were quiet and good-looking? Researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have led the development of a “windmill” that converts wind energy into electricity without using any moving parts. READ MORE >>
It’s not that uncommon to see architects designing furniture and product designers involved with small buildings like street carts or garden sheds. In sustainable design terms, a common suggestion for architecture is that we get serious about manufactured housing, that is, housing where the components are manufactured offsite, then delivered and assembled on location. This idea, of course, has a long history as “prefab” or “prefabricated housing.”
Architecture firm Keiran Timberlake is known for promoting high precision manufactured housing, such that component parts are so reliable and interchangeable that you could buy and sell them on ebay when it is time to make modifications to your structure. Their Loblolly house (short video or a blog post) exemplifies this approach where wall components basically become products assembled into buildings–and disassembled later. READ MORE >>
The new Green Dot Animo Leadership public school for 525 students is located in a tough South Los Angeles neighborhood almost directly under the flight path into LAX and adjacent to the very busy 105 Century freeway. The design was influenced by the New Orleans architects Curtis and Davis who designed and built many schools in the early 1950s in Louisiana. Their designs adapted to the harsh southern climate without using air conditioning, creating sustainable light filled and poetic spaces for kids to learn.
Similarly, this project is designed to enhance passive sustainable strategies. It allows for abundant natural light, ventilation and view, while shading itself and inducing airflow. The south facade is clad with 650 solar panels that shade the building and provides 75% of the energy needs for the school. Implementing these strategies will reduce carbon emissions by over 3 million pounds.
Certified by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, aesthetics, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness were considered in every design decision. Taking full advantage of the region’s temperate climate, the designers eschewed the fully contained “big box” idiom of conventional schools on the primary use site. Instead, a landscaped courtyard with multifunctional “bleacher” terracing flows into the open-air covered lobby and the multilayered paseo, lending the school the appeal of a collegiate campus and offering significant environmental benefits—improving daylighting and access to fresh air both inside and out—while providing substantial cost savings by limiting artificial lighting and thermal conditioning to the smaller enclosed spaces.
Over 40 years ago, the Sokol Blosser winery began its journey to becoming a world-class vineyard and an industry leader in sustainability. They had a passion for growing Pinot Noir grapes and creating fine wine which helped shape Oregon's now-prominent wine industry. They also had a commitment “being good to the earth” and striving for sustainable design and operation of their winery. This standard has led to the recent launch of their new wine-tasting room that is pursuing the Living Building Challenge Petal Recognition, including net-zero energy efficiency.
Sokol Blosser, Allied Works Architecture and Glumac’s energy engineering consultants worked together to create this world-class, sustainable space. To target design for Petal Recognition, the first step was to look at Sokol Blosser’s energy consumption and ability to generate energy through existing on-site photovoltaic (PV) arrays. Based on analysis of the panels’ past production and the project building area, Glumac determined that the existing array could produce enough electricity to support a building energy use intensity (EUI) of just 20 kbtu/sqft. For the engineers and architects among us, this is a tight budget for any building. READ MORE >>
Rejuvenative technologies are behaviours and technologies that support, borrow from, utilise, work alongside or benefit from the Earth’s natural productive capacity. They may include recognised sustainable stewardship and production techniques, nature mimicking design, sustainable and net positive biological production, or the as yet emerging “lifelike” natural manufacture.
Our economy, our engineering and our technology must become both explicitly and inherently rejuvenative, to make a manifest contribution to the abundance, vitality and productive capacity of natural capital upon which they rely. Such an approach has a number of obvious benefits: READ MORE>>
What’s the buzz about? In areas of transition like the Central Corridor — once an industrial area and increasingly the home of the city’s high-tech sector — neighborhood rezoning creates many opportunities for new development. Some of this will be private development on sites within the corridor, and some will be public investment in transportation assets, water, wastewater, energy and neighborhood parks. The Central Corridor Eco-District was conceived to help the transitioning neighborhood perform well on the city’s environmental goals for greenhouse gas reductions, zero waste, water conservation and efficiency, stormwater management, renewable energy, transportation and more. READ MORE >>
The Tar Heel State took one step closer to becoming the first state to buck the nation’s most visible building performance ratings system.
By a broad margin, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill in May that will bar the use of LEED for rating public projects. The Protect/Promote N.C. Lumber bill will do exactly that, if passed by North Carolina’s republican-controlled Senate and signed by the state’s republican governor. The timber industry has argued—successfully, so far—that the U.S. Green Building Council’s ubiquitous green rating system disadvantages locally sourced wood.
The LEED system has its own allies in this fight. The Charlotte-based steel company Nucor Corp., for example, benefits from the state’s current policy, which permits cities and counties to offer reduced fees and rebates for LEED-certified construction projects. Nucor—a member of the so-called “toxics lobby” that pushed in 2012 for weaker state-level air standards—continues to lobby state legislators on LEED’s behalf.
What is the human toll for our purchases? Do the organizations we support care about their employees? Do they support the local community? How is their money invested?
These are some unanswered questions leaders in green building design say we have not addressed as we have developed ways of evaluating green buildings through certifications, such as the International Living Future Institute's Living Building Challenge (LBC) and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification.
At the Living Future's annual conference last week in Seattle, Jason McLennan and BNIM founder Bob Berkebile launched the JUST label, an extension of the Declare label that addresses social justice and equity issues, such as as diversity, worker rights, health care and employee happiness, occupational safety and stewardship practices, including investments and community involvement.
Both Declare and JUST are part of a push for greater transparency for products materials in green buildings. READ MORE >>
CAPACITY, the Gensler Los Angeles led academic studio at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was created with the intent to survey, understand and visualize the dynamic set of infrastructure constraints impacting and contributing to Downtown Los Angeles’ capacity to evolve. The video above highlights the documentation and synthesizing done by the SLO_GenLA ’13 Professional studio which shows the capacity of Los Angeles’ infrastructure and demonstrates how the limits of each system may physically impact the future built form of the city.
The first One Planet Living residents in the U.S. have moved in to the Grow Community near Seattle, endorsed as a One Planet Community by BioRegional only last year. A young couple and their two dogs are living in the first Net Zero Home, working closely with developer Asani to monitor their progress toward Zero Carbon living in the home. READ MORE >>
Engineers and architects are rethinking the current design of architectural and environmental infrastructure, in favor of regenerative systems that are capable of harnessing wasted energy and resources and redistributing them where needed. Whether converting the kinetic energy from foot traffic into electricity or recycling grey water for other residential uses, these closed-loop recycled resource systems help deliver greater efficiencies that lower resource consumption and cut back on costs.
Gary Hack, a celebrated urban planner with experience directing large-scale revitalization projects like NYC’s West Side highway and Rockefeller Park at Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, has most recently lent his expertise to a crowdsourced plan in Bogota, Colombia called MyIdealCity. He believes that the future of urban planning is in recycled resource systems:
The term ‘waste’ is a social label. Waste only exists when we don’t know what to do with resources. Finding new ways to use every bit of energy and resources that find their way into the city can lead to a new economy.