Design News

MulvannyG2 Architecture Designs Self-Sustaining Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda

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A conversation between two Seattle women sparked action that is now changing the lives of hundreds of young women, as well as a country. Suzanne McGill and Shal Foster founded the Rwanda Girls Inititative and, in partnership with MulvannyG2 Architecture, built a school that is now in its second year of operation and is providing a replicable model for future educational development.

During a marathon training run in 2008, two longtime friends and moms from Seattle began talking about the high-quality educational opportunities available to their children simply because they were born in the United States. The conversation eventually led to a discussion about Africa, a continent where only 13% of young women achieve secondary education due to poverty, lack of opportunity, and obstacles such as household chores and safety concerns. Suzanne McGill and Shal Foster began to wonder: What can we do to make a difference and help to provide educational opportunities for these young African women?

Commuter Colleges Transition through Structural Changes

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BRB Architects’ design for a new campus center at Molloy College is representative of a larger trend in campus planning: the shift from a commuter-only campus to a 24/7 community.

A commuter college is a college in which most students do not live in dormitories but commute from homes nearby. Community colleges are a common type of commuter college, but many private and smaller colleges and universities also fall into this category. In the past, students of commuter colleges have been present on campus only briefly as they attended classes; they would go elsewhere else to eat, lounge, study, and socialize. Now the atmosphere of many commuter colleges mirrors that of a more traditional college or university environment, where students do not just go to college to attend class but may meet with other students on campus for collaborative projects or simply for recreational purposes. As students begin to spend more time on campus and academic and social lives become increasingly integrated, the need for structural changes on many campuses has become more apparent.

Pervious Pavement: Pavement That Leaks Like a Sieve, Part 2

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Contractor to Contractor: In this second of a two-part series, contractor-turned-homebuilder Fernando Pages Ruiz shares his knowledge on how to choose a mix, prep the site, and install porous pavement.

Although a blended, high-course aggregate/low-fines concrete (a concrete blend of Portland cement, 3/8" or pea gravel aggregate, and little to no sand) is a simple concept, the logistics of it are far from simple. For this highly porous concrete to provide a durable surface, conditions have to be almost perfect. The concrete requires an exact proportion of aggregates and water, special chemical admixtures, proper mixing during delivery, and expert placement. I recommend that if you decide to use pervious pavement in one of your projects, don’t do it yourself. Hire the very best paving contractor in your area and work with the largest and most sophisticated ready-mix supplier. Pervious pavement is not so much a concrete product as it is a paving system, including soil, sub-grade, and, of course, the mix.

Haiti Orphanage by HOK

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HOK Architects has partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council to rebuild a Haitian orphanage. As early adopters of biomimicry principles, HOK Architects took inspiration from the native Kapok tree for the building’s design.

The lives of thousands of children were devastated by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, but thanks to a building initiative, many of these children will soon have a new place to call home.

BIM for Small Businesses: The Benefits to You

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You’ve been reading about BIM. It’s being used by all of the big companies, and they’re talking about the benefits they’ve reaped.You know that BIM will be coming to your workplace soon, too, but how and from what direction? Are you just supposed to buy a software suite and hope for the best?

As it turns out, that’s an approach not even the product makers and suppliers would recommend. Building information modeling (BIM) is increasingly being described as a "disruptive" technology, even by its biggest promoters, for a reason.“Most people now understand that BIM is a process, not a product,” says Catherine Palmer, Sr. Industry Marketing Manager, AEC Solutions at Autodesk. “It’s a paradigm shift.” When asked how small to medium sized firms should handle the move to BIM, Jim Lynch, Vice President, Building Product Line Group at Autodesk recommends education as a first step. “Position yourself by beginning with the concept,” says Lynch, “Then embrace it.”

5 Green Home Trends for 2012

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Green is here to stay! Here’s what to watch for in the next few months.

With 2011 quickly drawing to a close, it’s time to take out our crystal ball and conjure up the green home trends that will shape our choices in the coming year. Many of these trends will sound very familiar; some have evolved out of economic necessity, while others exist thanks to great advances in technology. Whether you already own a home or plan to build a new one, there’s bound to be at least one trend that appeals to you.

COP17’s Failings and Where Our Poker Chips are Better Played

Mitigating the Risks of Green Construction

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Green building practices have come on the scene so fast that many implications – and unintended consequences – are just now coming to light. How can you protect yourself, legally speaking, in these new situations?

Environmentally conscious building practices are typically associated with positive outcomes, such as improved energy efficiency, reduced material waste, financial savings as a result of tax incentives, and improved builder reputation. In addition to these benefits, research indicates that certified green buildings cost less to operate; command higher occupancy rates; contribute to a healthier, safer environment; and can possibly enhance employee recruitment and productivity.

Green Building Codes

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Do you know the green building code basics? City and state governments continue to adopt new ordinances that support sustainable building, and the new laws require new ways of doing business.

In recent years, more and more municipalities have been adopting green building codes as a strategy to help them to develop in a more sustainable fashion. Green building codes are issued for the purpose of improving public health, safety, and general welfare. They encourage sustainable construction practices in planning and design, energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, environmental quality, material conservation and resource efficiency; improvements in these areas have been shown to reduce negative effects and enhance positive environmental impacts.

Rebuilding Japan After the Tsunami

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In the past year, we’ve seen many wrenching images of post-tsunami Japan. What has happened since March, and how much hope is there for the affected area’s recovery?

Media coverage was intense following Japan’s Tohoko earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Despite the scale of this disaster, coverage inevitably shifted to other news stories. The people of eastern Japan still have a long road ahead in the rebuilding and recovery process. How are they faring, nine months later?

Solar Windows on the Willis Tower

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Pythagoras Solar undertakes a pilot project to install solar windows on the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago. The project should provide data on the potential use of glass facades to collect solar energy.

Pythagoras Solar is conducting an experiment on one of the most iconic structures in the world – the Sears Tower, now Willis Tower. Established in 2007, Pythagoras specializes in solar panels for windows, focusing particularly on skyscrapers and other tall buildings. Skyscrapers have little rooftop area to accommodate solar collectors but use an extensive amount of glass use in their facades. These expanses of glass result in astronomical heating and cooling costs. Skyscrapers also contribute to a localized retention of heat known as urban heat island (UHI) effect, and large cities such as Chicago are looking for ways to mitigate that heat retention.

The Impact of BIM on Construction Law

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From green building to Building Information Modeling (BIM), new technologies are changing the construction game and changing it fast. What legal and contractual protections can be put in place as the workplace adopts these technologies?

There’s no question that, in the design and construction industries, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is what’s termed a “disruptive technology.” Since the 1980s, when PCs finally became affordable enough for architectural practices to begin to bring them to bear on design, computing power has become ubiquitous and increasingly influential on budgeting, programming, design, and construction.

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