Archives For Architectural

Beside New York’s Bryant Park this morning, a crowd paired their pre-work coffee with an interview of prolific architect Daniel Libeskind to discuss the future of our urban spaces. While some in the audience were still waiting for the kickstart from their morning java, the aminated designer spoke with an enthusiasm that belied the early hour.  The task at hand: help shed light on what Smart Cities are and how they fit into our future.

As a part of the “Future Of” series hosted by the Wall Street Journal, the conversation was guided by WSJ Financial Editor Dennis K. Berman to dig into this oft repeated concept of the next evolution of dense urban cores. In many ways “Smart City” is still a term in its infancy with many trying to define where it begins and ends (struggling with the same reality as “sustainability.”) Though regularly paired with the technology advances of infrastructural systems and the utilization of big data, in Libeskind’s eyes the crafting of tomorrow’s city has as much to do with looking back as it does looking ahead.   Continue Reading…

village view ecology

Photo by EFFEKT

The rate and degree of evolution for building types and development patterns around the world may be one of the most critical decisions facing the fate of the biosphere over the next century. While a growing number of voices can point to the decidedly unsustainable nature of the settlement patterns of many different cultures, proposals that offer a significant step towards the dynamic equilibrium of sustainability are harder to come by. One developer/architecture team has recently rolled out a vision that does more than toggle the mainstream model, but proposes the framework for a cultural shift built around goals of balance.

Together, entrepreneur James Ehrlich and Danish architecture firm EFFEKT have created the ReGen Village as a model for small communities that utilize planning and technology for some bold steps towards self-reliance while minimizing its negative environmental impact. Continue Reading…

Even with the progress that both designers and governmental offices have made in bolstering the ecological stewardship of our new building stock, the average baseline of construction is still notably far from the realm of consistently viable options we have at our disposal, let alone the cutting edge. All too often, too many aspects of our new buildings have more to do with the past than the future. The call for sustainability in the built environment has undeniably gained in strength and continued to garner support from municipalities that raise the minimum standard of building codes. Still, sustainability has faced the same headwinds in the design and construction of buildings that it has in other areas of business as well as the social and political arenas. Continue Reading…

Mid Rise Hive FarmWhile the interest in the prospects of Vertical Farming have picked up over the last few years with the topic finding its way into more articles and design competitions, we have yet to see a corresponding surge in prototypes going into construction. We have not suddenly come to an ulterior solution for how to supply more locally grown produce to our cities with a reduced carbon footprint behind it by any means, but financing hasn’t yet found a model for vertical farming that seems to be worth bringing past the brainstorming stage. However, a new proposal by OVA Studio that pushes a modular version of vertical farms is in the process of trying to secure funding for prototype design and construction, hoping to be the model that bucks the trend.  Continue Reading…

Existing Navy Yard BuildingAs one of the country’s oldest cities Washington has a lot to see and, as a result, a lot one can miss. Amidst the migrating swarms of people milling around for the 4th of July festivities, the nation’s capital recently provided me with some top quality dining, refreshing beverages, art museums, monuments and even some transit oriented development complete with dash of adaptive reuse. I was fortunate enough to walk around the evolving landscape of the D.C. Navy Yard. This post-industrial area continues to undergo a series of remarkable changes that have been in the works for over two decades and will hopefully make it a great example of maximizing transit-oriented sites for a new generation of walkable urban streetscapes. Continue Reading…

CF Lafeyette Rendering SidewalkOur culture’s current efforts in sustainability can usually be divided into one of two groups. The first group is trying to add efficiency and/or decrease the negative impact of the way that we do things now. Given its inherent benefit of requiring minimal change to the way people are already operating, this method is unsurprisingly popular. Examples include hybrid cars, LED light bulbs or printer paper with recycled content. These products help mitigate the negative repercussions of our current lifestyle.

The second group is changing a paradigm, archetype or cultural norm in order to operate in a more sustainable way—challenging the baseline to redefine the standard rather than tweaking an existing solution. Examples of this direction would be more in the vein of transit-oriented-development, designing spaces around more natural light or entirely paperless offices. One could argue that the first train of thought is looking for a better answer, where the second one is challenging the underlying question. Do we need to universally rely on automobiles? Do we need so much artificial illumination? Do we need to print things? Continue Reading…

night mumbai lightsEven as real estate markets in most of the United States are still in the early stages of recuperating from the throes of the recession, there are still developing countries that are riding an economic wave of a real  estate boom. These changing cities bring an opportunity to explore how the density of the urban environment can adapt and evolve to different environmental resources and climatic restraints around the world—what some designers would see as an inherent recipe for variability and evolution. The problem is that all too often these new versions of urban space are merely copies of western norms, lacking the site-specificity needed to link them to their surroundings.  Continue Reading…

series of power metersOur migration to more sustainable buildings is an evolving process that requires a consistent combination of goals, results and critiques. Without any one of these components, we run the risk of stagnation and dampening our progress towards more ecological responsibility in our buildings. However, it is important that the level of effort and investigation put into criticism is commensurate with the amount contributed to the process of designing the results in the first place. When sustainability is critiqued (and it should be) it has to be weighed as a series of components and relationships rather than being boiled-down into one or two metrics to make its retention more palatable.

Sam Roudman’s recent New Republic article condemning Bank of America’s Tower at One Bryant Park that sped through the blogosphere is indicative of one of the largest hurdles that our culture faces for sustainability: the propensity we have to shrink its definition down to fit into sound bites and online rants at the expense of removing large portions of its meaning and resulting importance. Not only does this diminish the progress we have made, but it perpetuates an inaccurate idea of what we are striving for in the first place.

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Community Architecture in AfricaThis is a guest post by friend and former classmate, Charles Newman. Charlie has committed his architectural practice to helping communities in places around the world. He is currently working for International Rescue Committee in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo as the Community Driven Reconstruction Manager and he keeps a great blog on his architectural travels in Africa. Aside from being a LEED AP, his work consistently seeks to integrate sustainability.   

While in a small southern town of the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid 2012, a colleague of mine approached me for some guidance on a large health proposal he was putting together. A portion of the grant would be earmarked for the construction of hundreds of clinics across the DR Congo, and he mentioned that the donor would be very interested in “green” building standards. Knowing that I was a LEED Accredited Professional, he began asking how we might be able to incorporate such building standards into the designs for the pending projects. I rattled off some general guidelines such as using local materials – recycled ones if available, incorporating existing infrastructure, natural ventilation, etc. He jotted down a few notes, then began to pry a little deeper. “What about the LEED point system? Could we incorporate that into our strategy?”

My response was frank: “No, not really. LEED doesn’t work here in rural Africa.” Continue Reading…

Office Building Environmental AnalysisIn a previous article I dug into the first half of the Midcentury (un)Modern study conducted by Terrapin Bright Green that raised the question of what we should do with a group of over 100 energy deficient New York office towers built between 1958 and 1973. Once it became clear that a series of unique conditions were making this particular group of poorly performing buildings unadaptable the question became if there was a positive scenario for demolition and reconstruction. There could be a number of ways to stimulate or incentivize the replacement of these buildings to coax building owners into action–essentially paying them to make a change. However, even though it’s possible, is it positive? Is there a process that creates a new building while providing a net gain? Not only a monetary gain for the city, but a net gain in things like energy use, water consumption and air quality. Continue Reading…