Monday, October 31, 2016

Green Building Facades in Post-Modern Architecture

Arup was spamming my news feed in September about green urban facades, and while apathetic toward the spamming, the aesthetic potential of green facades ignites the imagination and so I've finally found time to write about this excellent sustainable design option. The example linked above comes to us from Milan and is nearing the end of construction (to the best of my knowledge). The random arrangement of balconies with their rectilinear presentation lends the project a modern slant and one can only imagine that once the tree canopies fill-in the balconies will become an inviting place to visit in a crowded city. Found at the end of this post is the work of architect Jean Nouvel of Paris whose building One Central Park in Sydney, Australia, won the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s award for ‘Best Tall Building – Worldwide’ in 2014. From what I can tell from the details online the design is sharp sharp sharp. I love the strong square stance and radical approach to vertically. The building is also notable for its broad approach to sustainability, throwing everything at the problem, including the kitchen sink, to reduce its carbon footprint. I had to look up what a heliostat was – and this building has many – and in combination here the heliostats counter the creation of any dark void which might be created by the overhang and give extra support to the green canopy underneath.

Now if one is excited as me to use a green building envelope in a project one word must brightly flash as warning before starting: Complicated! I mean, firstly there is the issue that not all plants tolerate confined spaces equally well. I'm not a botanist nor landscape architect nor really a green thumb so this would necessitate inviting a plant consultant onto the team for sure. Then secondly, it's well-known that plants held near the surface of a building also holds in the moisture as well. And though it's possible to navigate these risks on smaller projects, once a certain scale is reached the need for a building science specialist to detail the green facade will be an important step in mitigating any long-term deterioration of the structure due to moisture. Lastly, the weight of the soil needs to be accounted for structurally. It imposes loads on the structure not typically found in generic buildings and therefore how these loads are transferred to the ground without ruining the design takes engineering expertise.

The advantages of green building envelopes are many and the same group who fought through the problems of green facades have also kindly cataloged their benefits: Foresight, Arup's R&D arm, first stresses human's fundamental connection to nature and plants, contrasting that with how urban environs have developed. Green infrastructure reduces our carbon footprint and reduces local pollution. Furthermore, green building envelopes cool the surrounding areas and makes them quieter. All these characteristics together make our cities much more walkable, another sustainable policy I might be even more passionate about to which Arup has also contributed research.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Notable New York Building Reviewed for Archtober

To celebrate @Archtober - an architecture festival just winding down in New York - I wanted to highlight a New York project of supreme architectural merit. Sadly the building in question was demolished in 2014 after only 12 years of use: I am of course talking about the celebrated American Folk Art Museum designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien completed in 2001. There’s no point in re-litigating the causes of its demise, rather I will use this time remembering a New York architectural jewel. Though the facade of the building was excellent on its own merits – it’s rare bronze alloy panels making a significant visual impact on the street ­­– it was the material selection and careful design that brought the building to my attention. The floorplan, with its many nooks and crannies, reminds many visitors of a domestic interior which is well-intended since the details are craftsmen-like as well, all reflecting the museum’s folk art roots. The budget for this building must have been astronomical to be able to source such fine materials like Douglas Fir and Cherry woods in large amounts and Pietra Piesentina, a hard stone from north Italy, to say nothing of the specialization it took to create the façade. What a dream to be able to design with such materials. And then to be able to specify such fine tolerances and highly customized building details - a feature contractors hate but which good design demands - is what raises the building to a fine example of post-modern architecture. The arcspace blog has pictures and a rundown of some of this great building’s notable details. For those interested in what architects replaced the Folk Art Museum: Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York were awarded the expansion of the Modern Museum of Art which brought down the building in question but supposedly the American Folk Art Museum’s façade was saved.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

French Architectural 3D Printing Technology Update

Published two days before my blog post this online article can claim to have beaten me to the story. The article also addresses LafargeHolcim’s work in architectural 3D printing with XtreeE in Europe. However, it adds one tantalizing piece of information I’d like to share with my readers in which I might have been ahead of the curve. The article goes on to describe LafargeHolcim’s goals in architectural 3D printing thusly: “LafargeHolcim has initially pegged three 3D-printed concrete targets: high value-added architecture, affordable housing, and robotics-enabled, precast building element fabrication.” Interestingly I had actually already identified the first two points in some writing on the subject from 2015 (an example of which can be found on my Linkedin profile). The third point referred to in the quote I’m a bit wishy-washy on since I see this factor as facilitating the first two but can see how this can become its own business goal depending on one’s position in the AEC Industry. Anyways, just wanted to say that if one wants to be not just days ahead of the curve, but years, please follow the blog and we’ll try to help build and design as much as possible!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Mini-Review of the University of Manchester’s new Engineering Building

Currently rising up on the University of Manchester’s historic campus is the new Manchester Engineering Campus Development. I really love the look of this building. Encompassing approximately. 870 000 sq. ft. it will provide expanded research and teaching space to the university. During the 1970s it seemed like many tech companies were attempting this same sort of sleek black aesthetic but coming away with an ominous and foreboding black blob instead. Credit goes to architecture firm Mecanoo of London for their light and sleek design that reminds me of lace but with a hyper-technical edge suitable for engineering. The whole rhythm of the façade says, “Hey, some important science is going on in here.” The project is striving for BREEM “Excellent” status with the help of Burohappold Engineering and props to Arup for their civil, mechanical, electrical and structural expertise on the project as each of those factors contribute to the building’s overall sustainability and here are executed to the highest degree. I think the University of Manchester will be very happy with their new building, though with the caveat this is a mini-review with little insight into the building’s layout. I suppose it’s possible the floorplan is a dog’s breakfast of lonely corridors and windowless classrooms but I doubt it considering the outlined project team. I love seeing wide public support for buildings with ambitious architectural goals. It means they will stand a chance to get the resources they need to state, loudly, in architectural terms, that these are our values are as a city and university.