Light. Organic. Structured. Natural. Airy. Geometric. Breathtaking. These are just a few words that could be used to describe the juxtaposition of design elements that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) chose to incorporate as inspiration for the new structure erected alongside Castle Peak Bay in Hong Kong’s New Territories. The structure is the new Chu Hai College of Higher Education campus, and beginning in 2013 students will begin populating the lavish facility surrounded by rolling hills and tranquil views of the bay.
Currently, the intersection of Tramview Road and Indian Canyon Drive is a quiet spot in the midst of the southern California desert, located just north of Palm Springs. However, the expanse of land on its northwest corner is soon to be the home of the College of the Desert’s Palm Springs West Valley Campus, and, once built, it should represent groundbreaking territory for sustainable planning and design.
As the construction industry continuously looks for ways to enhance its offerings to companies and clients, its abilities to do more with less and to offer better value by using better technologies will provide real benefit. It’s also rewarding for us drivetrain and energy nerds to see the application of some pretty cool and useful technologies such as biofuels that are morphing from research lab to fuel tank and from start-up enterprise to hyper-clean engine.
The first thing we noticed upon entering Boone, North Carolina, from the east was the Great Porch of the Solar Homestead, a prototype net-zero home designed and built by students at Appalachian State University for competition in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011. Capped by a detailed canopy of bifacial solar panels, the Great Porch serves to connect the main house with an assemblage of outbuildings, but, more importantly, it serves as the communal heart of the house. Join us as we learn more about the Great Porch and get a tour of the Solar Homestead in our continuing video series.
Throughout the United States, thousands of students are spending the majority of the day in unhealthy and aging portable classrooms. Not only is their presence required, students are expected to thrive and flourish educationally in such environments. “The aging infrastructure of K–12 schools throughout the nation is a serious problem that is presenting unacceptable health and safety risks for our children,” says Marshall G. Zotara, co-founder and senior managing partner of Cause and Effect Evolutions. “In school districts throughout the country, budget deficits are making it very difficult to fund replacements.” Enter the Green Schoolhouse Series and their commitment to replace dangerous portable classrooms with LEED Platinum designed structures.
Most of us understand sustainability to run the gamut of environmental benefits. Saving the trees, the Earth, and the animals may be our primary goals when we decide to pursue green behavior, but we can achieve many different personal health benefits as well — making the point of sustainability hit a bit closer to home. The fact is that our planet is a living, breathing network of organisms, and even our small-scale actions may have a butterfly effect. Here, we’ll examine the ways in which we can improve our health, from the personal decisions we all make individually to the grander scheme of urban or regional planning.
The answer to this question lies in economics. In a down economy, it would seem logical that the cost of materials would drop in response to a decline in projects, i.e., a lack of demand. However, global events impact construction costs in the United States, specifically the prices and availability of materials. We spoke with Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA), to learn exactly what is driving construction costs and find out his predictions for the coming months.
Upon first blush, the term “Lean Construction” seems to lack the hype usually associated with the latest and greatest, best and brightest product of construction firms interested in getting the attention of their clients, who always want to save money and receive greater value in the buildings. The relentless quest for ways to improve the often provincial construction processes at work for projects from the large to the small, from the simple to the complex. Indeed, the construction industry is haunted by the constant beckoning of high-tech solutions; in most other primary industrial arenas, factory lines, supply chains, and sophisticated “back office” functions have created greater efficiencies and much better products.
When the American Society of Hematology (ASH) was researching options for their new headquarters in 2008, they found a building in downtown Washington, DC, that offered the benefit of a central location combined with ample square footage. The structure required substantial reworking, however, to meet ASH’s various goals.
Anyone who has glimpsed New Zealand’s picturesque beaches or the rolling green hills and mountainous terrain showcased in films like "The Lord of the Rings" can imagine why New Zealanders value their country’s natural beauty and enjoy spending time outdoors. Team New Zealand is competing in the 2011 Solar Decathlon and is comprised of Victoria University of Wellington students from the Schools of Architecture, Design, Marketing, Commerce, Tourism Management, and Building Sciences. Their entry is titled First Light because “New Zealand is the first place the morning light shines at the start of a new day,” and it conveys the students’ pride in their country to attendees on the National Mall in Washington, DC, all the way on the other side of the world. In fact, First Light is the Solar Decathlon’s first and only entry from the Southern Hemisphere.
Tight budgets and aggressive timelines are nothing new in the construction industry. The current economic climate has only increased the need to deliver more for less. More and more, the industry is now turning to Building Information Modeling (BIM) to help increase productivity, minimize waste, and prevent costly errors earlier in the construction process. According to Building Design+Construction’s 2009 Giants 300 Survey, half of all respondents reported using at least 30 seats of BIM software, and a recent McGraw-Hill Construction survey report revealed that 50 percent of North American contractors have adopted BIM.
CHIP Off a New Block
There are two facts about living in Los Angeles: real estate is expensive, and cars are beloved, if only out of necessity. A team of students from Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) created CHIP, an affordable home that acknowledges both facts while saving energy. This 2011 Solar Decathlon entry employs conventional materials in unconventional ways, offering a new prototype for living in LA (and, yes, it protects your car, too).