Award Winning Architectural Proposals that Speak to the Future

An award winning architectural concept for a hydroelectric canal to protect a low-lying harbor area in Boston from flooding and sea level rise. Photo: Paul Lukez Architecture

A recent CNN story showcased this year’s most innovative architectural concepts – they haven’t yet been built, but these designs are being lauded for addressing the biggest challenges facing architects in the next decade, including climate change and aging populations.

The inaugural WAFX Prizes, created in conjunction with the World Architecture Festival (WAF), honor concepts that address sustainability, smart cities, building technology and cultural identity. “Everything architects do is about the future, even if it’s a restoration project,” said WAF’s program director, Paul Finch.

The award winning architectural proposals include a wooden tower in Nigeria, a community food center in Hawaii and an industrial building in Norway repurposed into a greenhouse and social hub. The overall prize went to the US firm Paul Lukez Architecture for its proposed hydroelectric canal in Boston, which also won in the climate, energy and carbon category. Designed to protect Boston’s low-lying harbor area from flooding, the project would restore almost 25 million square feet of salt marshes to create a sustainable neighborhood. In the case of rising tides or storm surges, the canal system would channel water toward recreational parks which double as reservoirs. Hydroelectric turbines would also provide clean energy to residents.

The development would use tides and infrastructure to generate renewable energy — a new urban design that would make this area of Boston more resilient to climate change. The firm believes that their design concepts can be applied to other cities at risk from rising sea levels.


Sto Werkstatt Features Alternative Glass Architecture by Space Popular

Sto Werkstatt in London is currently showcasing an exhibit featuring StoVentec glass that was created by the innovative design firm Space Popular.

Werkstatt – which means workshop in German – is a showcase and test center in London for Sto’s innovative facade and interior materials. In addition to the workshop’s extensive resource library, the center offers technical consultations, exhibitions, speakers and seminars.

The current exhibit, “The Glass Chain”, is by Space Popular, a Bangkok-based multidisciplinary design and research practice led by Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg.  The exhibit, which will run until December 14, features StoVentec Glass that can be used as an external rain screen cladding system, and as an interior decorative option. In their UK debut at Werkstatt, Space Popular has redefined the potential of the material with its colorful and energizing installation, which encourages the imaginative use of glass in building design.

The title “The Glass Chain” is a reference to the infamous exchange of letters by a group of German architects from 1919-1920 initiated by Bruno Taut, who fantasized about the vast possibilities of an incredible new construction material: glass. He believed that all architecture, and even furniture, could be made of glass. His vision of the material was never realized, and glass simply became a solution for windows and walls.

Now, almost 100 years later, Space Popular – inspired by Taut’s vision — is taking glass applications to a new level. Working with Sto technical experts, they have created a kaleidoscopic glass construction that explores different ranges of scale, playing with our visual perception of glass doorways as grand arches and small steps as giant pediments.

Curated exhibitions such as this at Sto Werkstatt are an opportunity to explore the changing nature of collaboration, between architects, materials manufacturers and applicators.

Materials on display include glass and rendered rain screen cladding, seamless acoustics, facade elements and intelligent interior and exterior paint coatings.


Material Selection Conference Yields Valuable Product Data

Sto product experts participated in Durability & Design’s Material Selection Conference last week which showcased the latest in high performance coatings and air moisture barrier products for exterior walls.

At Durability + Design’s inaugural Material Selection Conference last week (Sept. 26), the themes that prevailed were data collection and communication. Though different challenges were discussed — from air leakage to moisture damage — the resounding message was: know your materials inside and out.

The one-day forum focused on the capability of coatings to manage moisture intrusion into exterior walls, and how liquid-applied air barriers can limit heat, air and moisture transfer through walls. The effect of permeance on exterior wall coating performance, as well as how specific coatings and water repellent brands performed on exterior walls were also discussed.

Manufacturer representatives participating in panel discussions offered their opinions on a variety of scenarios and recommended applicable products. Chuck Duffin, Ed Telson, and Tyson Lodge, representing Sto Corp., participated in these panels, educating attendees on how Sto coatings and air moisture barrier products perform on exterior walls in different conditions and circumstances.

Andre O. Desjarlais, program manager for the Building Envelope Systems Research Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, discussed the importance of WUFI software (an acronym for Wärme Und Feuchte Instationär—which, translated, means heat and moisture transiency) and why this hygrothermal modeling is valuable based on the wide range of materials available today consistent with the drive for energy efficiency.

While WUFI models yield a lot of data for designers of durable building envelopes, understanding this data and using it appropriately are critical for achieving the construction of energy-efficient, moisture-resistant walls, roofs and basements. Again, the need for knowing your products and how to apply them was reiterated.

The value of using the web-based Energy Savings Calculator developed by ORNL, along with quality assurance and installation requirements for liquid-applied air barriers, were also discussed to ensure building envelope energy efficiency and air tightness. It was noted that air leakage rates of a building depend on multiple variables, including envelope airtightness, HVAC system operation, occupancy, weather and the stack effect. Fluid-applied air barrier products and installation considerations were also debated.

The overall objective of the event was about making buildings last longer by integrating design objectives with exterior performance objectives, selecting materials wisely and knowing those materials. Regardless of which products are selected for durability and design, the manufacturers, architects and contractors in the audience seemed to agree that working closely with, and consulting, manufacturers regarding air barrier and wall coating products was the best way to ensure successful project outcomes.

 

 


Designing for Resilience—Part Two

Sto Therm ci is an exterior insulated wall system that can stand up to blows and abuse; it can be as durable and impact-resistant as you want to make it.

Having provided a macro look at design issues based on increasingly dramatic and devastating weather events, this week we are going to look at specific resilient design solutions and products as they relate to wind and water, specifically Hurricane Impact (HI) systems.

Hurricane impact resilient design can save lives, structures and money. Hurricanes inflict costly damage on the populated areas where they hit, causing billions in insurance losses, costly business disruptions, and taxpayer dollars spent on disaster management. With more than 50% of the American population (who account for 58% of the nation’s gross national product) living or working in coastal counties; these hurricane-prone areas call for well-sealed buildings that also allow for adequate drainage. Severe wind load, heavy precipitation and ground level flooding all need to be addressed.

Creating smarter exteriors for storm protection

Stricter building codes have contributed to improved resilient design, but so have innovative building products and systems. Exterior insulation finish systems (EIFS) and air moisture barrier (AMB) products have been available for decades, and have always been a “resilient design” solution, but they weren’t necessarily referred to as such.

Using specialized EIFS, AMBs and other exterior wall products and systems to enhance design resiliency can provide protection from some of the most severe weather conditions in North America involving high-wind events and moisture intrusion.  Hurricane protection systems for exterior walls can be economically installed on a variety of substrates including metal frames with gypsum sheathing, wood or steel frames with plywood sheathing or concrete masonry. Many of these are also available in a wide range of decorative and protective wall finishes so that form doesn’t have to be sacrificed to function.

As EIFS have evolved, so has the market for advanced solutions for exterior cladding options that protect against hurricane and tropical storm winds, water intrusion and windborne debris (missile impact).  Exterior walls may be susceptible to damage and can result in building envelope failures in such storms. In most cases, windows will fail before the exterior wall, so one of the key components of good resilient design is an air/moisture barrier with connections and transitions that integrate the window and penetration points, creating a monolithic barrier across the entire building. Specialty systems for coastal construction, incorporating innovative wall systems can offer more wind-and-water-related structural protection.

One of those protective products is Sto Corp’s StoTherm® ci exterior insulated wall system, which can stand up to the full range of blows and abuse that Mother Nature can dish out. You can make it as durable and impact resistant as you want by simply swapping out the standard basecoat and mesh and substituting more flexible or resilient components . The product meets the ultra-high impact class per ASTM E 2486 at 150 inch-lbs. Just how tough it is, can be appreciated here: https://youtu.be/LkEFv7O3s_cArchitects, engineers and builders, as well as politicians and city planners need to understand and take advantage of products that can be incorporated into design strategies to protect valuable buildigs that are subject to severe wind and water intrusion.

Advanced resilient design solutions can offer structural protection and enhance public safety, but also deliver significant economic benefits

 


Designing for Resilience–Part One

Key West, Florida, underwater.

Key West, Florida, underwater.

As the frequency of severe weather events escalates, resilient design solutions need to be found to safeguard people and the economy. With the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma, clearly coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding.

It isn’t just about hurricane winds, flooding and rising tides however. Resilient design must also address the shelter-in-place realities of tornadoes, blizzards, and heat waves. We are going to address all of these in our current blog series.

Living with Water

From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to Hurricane Irma this year, coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding and rising coastal tides. With sea levels rising in almost every coastal area in America, even without an epic storm like Irma, large percentages of urban coastal areas face the threat of flooding. Living with water seems to be a new reality and the risks facing coastal cities must be addressed with resilient design.

While current flooding strategies exist in many coastal areas, most do not thoroughly address future challenges. The resiliency of coastal cities relies on architects and engineers and city planners rethinking how they design cities but also the multitude of individual spaces that comprise the urban environment. Extreme weather heavily impacts our infrastructure and real property, creating unique issues for developers and owners.

Resilient Design Solutions & Sea Level Rise

Should traditional mixed-use buildings by redesigned to move restaurants and retail to higher floors? What impact does that have on consumers and what do the street-level spaces become? If you build high enough in a flood zone, the building and its occupants may be safe, but the building will be inaccessible in flooded conditions.

Climate resilient strategies include wet-flooding (letting buildings flood without damaging major equipment or the structure and continuing operation even without power) and dry-flooding (keeping the water out with tight envelopes). Wet flooding requires materials that are capable of being submerged in water for 72 hours. So how long can a material be submerged without compromising its integrity? Can biomimicry be used to develop flood resistant materials? Are today’s water resistant products also resistant to submergence? There are no simple answers to these challenges. Both proactive and adaptive strategies should be examined for the future of our built environment.

Rather than wait for disaster, many coastal communities are tackling the issue of resilient design. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Resilient by Design Challenge is asking residents, community leaders and organizations to submit ideas that will shape a collaborative research process where design experts work with community experts. The idea is to develop new, creative and implementable design solutions that will protect the Bay Area’s most vulnerable shoreline communities from increasingly severe storms and flooding — while also addressing critical issues such as disparities in housing, income and access to open space.

The Venice Environmental Studies Program at Boston University is exploring these questions  as well looking at how scientists and policy makers in the famous Floating City are collaborating to develop mutually beneficial solutions to protect against sea level rise. For instance, could a sea gate such as Venice’s flood barrier system Modulo Sperimental Elettromeccanico (MOSE) be built in Boston and how would it change that city’s architectural vernacular?

Because climate is no longer predictable, design professionals need to explore and consider an entirely new set of factors. Ignoring the reality of new and extreme climate variables could mean that the huge investments made in city infrastructure and buildings lose value over time.

More on resilient design next week!


The Changing Face of Construction Engineering — Part Three

Panelization is revolutionizing the construction and engineering landscape today, saving time and money.

In this final post of our blog series, we reiterate and summarize the benefits of prefabrication and specifically the rise of panelization. We also offer an overview of what to look for if you want to incorporate these “manufactured” panel solutions into your construction and engineering plans.

Pre-Fab Manufacturing Can Mean Faster Build Times

A systemized approach to panelized construction can offer many benefits over traditional precast panels, including speed, value and superior performance. There are lightweight, energy efficient, durable panels available today from panel producers from a network of panelizers/fabricators such as those associated with Sto Panel Technology. These are available in a wide variety of aesthetic options for new construction or renovation.

Building envelope installation-time can be greatly reduced using prefab wall panels. The reason? Fast-track, systemized panel manufacturing can occur simultaneously with site prep and construction, with fewer delays due to weather and faster installation times.

Reduced Project Costs

By eliminating scaffolding and other complications of working at high elevations, prefab panels can also help reduce jobsite labor requirements and crew sizes along with the associated risks.  Lightweight panels can also lower structural requirements, drywall furring, boxing, strapping and various costs related to doing it “the old-fashioned way.” Since the shortage of skilled labor is one of the biggest issues in commercial construction today, any labor-saving innovation such as reduced on-site craft work can add value.

Ensure Quality Control, Compliance and Energy Efficiency

In pursuing a panelization solution, make sure your vendor’s output is in full compliance with codes for testing, building and energy efficiency. Sto panels for instance, have ISO-engineered components and offer superior fire, and thermal performance with industry-leading warranties. If you’re adopting this technology, look for products that offer extensive architectural and finish options. With the factory application of materials, you can count on a consistent, high quality finish that will last.

The beautiful, new Aloft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas was a StoPanel project  with panels engineered and manufactured by Baker Triangle Prefab in partnership with Dri-Design. The 34-story building represented a design and construction challenge due to the restricted access to the site and non-existent lot-line. The results speak for themselves.

The beautiful, new Aloft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas was a StoPanel project with panels engineered and manufactured by Baker Triangle Prefab in partnership with Dri-Design. The 34-story building represented a design and construction challenge due to the restricted access to the site and non-existent lot-line. The results speak for themselves.

Over the past few years, leading building material manufacturers, such as Sto, have partnered with regional affiliates (leading contractors and fabricators) that are independently owned and operated, ensuring high-caliber products and solutions in every major construction market. Sto, in particular, has a network of 24 affiliates (19 in the US; 2 in Canada; 3 in South America) that are developing common processes and best manufacturing practices while adding panel components that put Sto Panel Technology on the leading edge of building design.

By specifying a single, versatile prefab panel with the option of utilizing virtually any desired finish — from brick and natural stone to the most modern, light-weight energy-efficient coating systems — owners and designers now have the freedom to choose the look they prefer while meeting the schedule and performance requirements the GC/CM desires at a price every owner will find attractive.

Exterior insulated wall systems that are engineered, fabricated, shipped and installed can be a competitive differentiator, saving time, adding value and improving quality. These prefab solutions and other offsite building processes are in fact transforming the construction industry and promise to continue doing so.

 


The Changing Face of Construction Engineering—Part Two

A primary benefit of offsite work or pre-construction engineering is that onsite construction can take place concurrently; with more fabrication accomplished offsite, the more time can be saved on site.

In this three-part blog series, we are continuing to explore how design and construction processes are changing and how prefabrication solutions are increasingly being adopted in commercial construction. This is primarily because in today’s labor-constrained construction environment, prefab helps reduce costs and meet demanding construction schedules.

Glossary of Terms

Three terms are typically used to describe structural components that are not built on a traditional job site: offsite, prefabricated (prefab) and modular. They are similar, yet, in some ways, different.

Offsite: Offsite construction refers to any building process that takes place away from the ultimate point of installation, and the term includes both prefabrication and modular construction.

Prefabrication: The term prefabrication refers to the practice of assembling building systems and components before incorporating them into a structure. Window and wall assemblies have been prefab construction staples for quite some time. Panels such as those manufactured by Sto and its affiliates are gaining traction. More recently, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) racks, have been the rage. These are corridor-length panels that are pre-wired and pre-fitted with ductwork and piping to make connections neater and faster for the relevant trades.

 Modular: Modular construction is a form of prefabrication and most often refers to complete rooms or sections of a building — such as bathrooms, kitchens and hotel rooms — that are built in a factory.

One of the primary benefits of offsite work or pre-construction engineering is that onsite construction can take place concurrently. The more fabrication that can be accomplished offsite, the more time can be saved on site.  It is estimated that working offsite with other subcontractors to assemble multi-trade racks can reduce onsite skilled labor requirements by as much as half.

Industry at a Tipping Point

Aside from the advantage of being able to work parallel to ongoing job site processes, prefab and modular construction can allow for:

  • A safer process. Common job site dangers can be diminished on a controlled, well-supervised factory floor.
  • No weather delays. Offsite construction is usually performed inside, so work doesn’t have to stop because of inclement weather.
  • Consistent quality. Working in a centralized location allows for closer supervision and quality control.

As previously noted, offsite construction may also mitigate the skilled labor shortage currently plaguing the construction industry nationwide. An Associated General Contractors survey at the beginning of 2017 found that 73% of construction companies anticipate having trouble finding enough skilled workers and yet that same 73% also expect to have more work this year. Any offsite construction processes that can take the pressure off contractors, who are scrambling to find enough labor to manage current loads, could offer some relief.

It would appear that prefab solutions can in fact impact a project’s bottom line and can be a competitive differentiator. Those who embrace it may be best-positioned to excel in the built environment of today and tomorrow. To learn more, be sure to read Part 3 of our series next week.