Top 50 Architectural Firms of 2017 Announced by Architect Magazine

The Stealth Building -- a renovation of a cast-iron building in Tribeca-- by WORKac, the architectural firm ranked #1 in America for Design by Architect Magazine.

Architect Magazine has published their list of the 50 best architecture firms in the United States, and the 2017 top honors went to a combination of established heavyweights as well as young upstarts.

The rankings are based on scores from three categories: business, design and sustainability. This year there were more entrants than ever before (149 firms submitted entries) with several first-time entrants making waves, including New-York based WORKac who ranked #1 in the design category. Topping the overall list was Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), who also ranked in the top 10 for design and sustainability. SOM became the first firm to secure the overall Number One position twice.

ZGF Architects took first place in the sustainability category for the second year in a row with their ecodistrict Kashiwa-no-ha (outside Tokyo), and the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center cited as industry-leading sustainability projects.

In the business category, the east coast firm FXFowle (New York & Washington D.C.) garnered the top award with special kudos for their Statue of Liberty Museum.

Congratulations to all the firms for their remarkable achievements worldwide.


Getting Pre-Fab Products from Off-Site to On-Site Safely

Safe transport of pre-fab panels from an off-site location to the construction and installation site is as important as the time and money these modular wall systems can save.

Assembling certain components of a construction project at a location other than the job site can help solve several problems contractors face today and, as a result, offsite manufacturing of wall systems is increasingly becoming the solution of choice for new construction and renovation.

The process typically enables different phases of a project to run on a parallel track, shaving valuable time from the schedule and saving as much as 50% in labor costs. That benefit alone can be a huge advantage given the construction industry’s well-documented shortage of qualified workers.

Building offsite can also be a safer alternative to site-built construction. With most of the work being performed at ground level in a controlled factory setting, the chance of workers falling (one of the leading construction-site accidents) is greatly reduced. The fact that off-site construction usually takes place in an enclosed space also protects workers and products from inclement weather, which can interfere with building schedules .

In addition to speed, value, and safety, the best high tech pre-fab panels today are produced in a temperature-controlled factory environment, in full compliance with codes for design, testing, and energy efficiency so that there is enhanced quality assurance as well.

While pre-fab insulated wall solutions are clearly gaining in popularity due to the many benefits they offer, a critical step is how the product will be transported following assembly. How do offsite manufacturers move their products without damaging the product or causing any harm along the way?

When it comes to transporting modular units or any other large prefabricated component, the process can be more complicated than simply loading them on a truck and taking off for the job site. Best practices dictate that after panels are engineered and fabricated and await transport, they are waterproofed and wrapped individually. Based on the size of the panel, it may be shrink-wrapped with other assemblies. These are elevated and stored in a safe, secure area and are then shipped to installers as needed. Safe and secure delivery of pre-fab panels to the construction site, includes detailed planning for transport, well in advance of delivery time.

In California for instance, the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has specific guidelines and requires permits for oversize or overweight vehicles. States could also require special routing to avoid traffic congestion or travel under overpasses without enough clearance, as well as pilot cars to escort the delivery truck.

After the travel logistics have been worked out, the load is usually turned over to professional trucking companies that have expertise in this type of transport. Once the product is on board, the driver is responsible for the tie-downs that will keep the load secure on the way to the site. The transportation company assumes liability for the safe transport of the product from the moment it is loaded onto the delivery vehicle to the time it is unloaded at the project site.

Once the product reaches the construction site, it then becomes the general contractor or end customer’s responsibility. Companies who install their own products would give up liability during transport and assume it once again upon delivery.

The key to getting any sizeable prefabricated component from Point A to B is planning. That means early collaboration between designers and the manufacturer.


High Performance Insulated Wall System a Game Changer for Architects

High performance insulated wall systems like the innovative StoTherm® ci XPS provide the air, weather and thermal tightness required for today’s most energy-efficient architecture, but are also cost-effective and provide designers with a wide range of aesthetic options.

Sto Corp. has joined forces with insulation specialists Owens Corning and Dow to produce one of the most technically advanced exterior wall systems available. The innovative StoTherm® ci XPS wall system is designed to provide the air, weather and thermal tightness required for today’s most energy-efficient architecture, but also makes for exterior walls that look good, and are cost-effective.

One of the first things architects will notice about the product is its design flexibility. The multi-layered system offers a wide range of finishes from the natural look of raw materials to boldly colored finishes, allowing for a variety of looks from traditional textured surfaces to limestone, concrete, metal and many more.

Hidden behind the beautiful outer skin, are important energy efficient properties; StoTherm® ci XPS meets rigorous sustainable design standards, including ASHRAE 90.1-2010, the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC), and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requirements for continuous insulation.

This smart architectural product combines high quality, technologically advanced materials, including Dow and Owens Corning insulation with a closed cell structure which helps prevent liquid movement through the material and provides exceptional thermal performance with an R-value of 5.0 per 1”. The final result is a combination of layers that delivers exceptional air and moisture control, that also meets the latest building code requirements for energy efficient continuous insulation and fire testing. The highly durable system also provides significant impact resistance that exceeds IBC and IECC codes.

How can such a high-performance product, also be economical? The high R-value of Sto’s system (R5/inch) makes for a thinner wall, reducing the overall weight and cost-per-square foot for the building envelope. Add this to lifetime savings from superior energy-efficiency, and you have a product that offers both short- and long-term cost benefits to the client.

StoTherm® ci XPS is truly a system designed with the architect in mind –its versatile and seamless combination of energy-efficient qualities and aesthetically pleasing finishes provide a true “end-to-end” solution for architects.

 


The ROI on Mobile Construction Apps

Mobile construction apps are emerging as a valuable resource offering a significant return on investment in terms of benefits to overall productivity, risk mitigation, as well as savings from labor costs, downtime, and schedule acceleration.

We all know that technology is trending in every sector of the construction industry with companies deploying a wide range of cutting-edge technologies across a project lifecycle. Drones and building information modeling continue to be the rage, but mobile construction applications are the latest tech revolution in the industry.

Although technology and software are prevalent in construction, the industry continues to suffer from persistent challenges, such as skilled-labor shortage, fragmented teams, high competition, tight margins, and increased risk—all of which can be mitigated by increasing productivity. Traditional construction software has not solved the industry’s productivity problem however, whereas mobile technology software tackles some of this challenge including saving time on labor and rework issues.

A new ebook — “The Dollars and Sense of Mobile Construction Apps” — published by PlanGrid, provides insights into this fast-emerging digital transformation. It provides an overview of the bevy of mobile construction apps that can not only reduce risk, but help construction professionals maintain their bottom line while facilitating communication and document sharing with teams in the field and the office. There is a mobile app for just about everything now, from productivity to project management, reporting, and on the job safety.

The book is a valuable resource with strategies to encourage adoption of new mobile technology into your organization, as well as how to calculate the return on investment construction companies can expect from mobile technology. Like what could a team achieve with 5 extra hours a week? Or how much could you save by finishing a project early?

While mobile construction technology is an expense, the potential return is huge in terms of benefits to overall productivity, employee/client satisfaction, and risk mitigation, as well as a tangible return in savings from labor costs, downtime, and schedule acceleration.


Sto EIFS & Element Music Row Featured by EIMA

The new Element Music Row -- a luxury apartment high rise in Nashville -- used StoTherm ci Essence to ensure the building's energy efficiency.

One of Sto Corp’s signature exterior insulation finish projects is now being featured as a case study on the EIMA website.

Last year, working with Southern Wall Systems and Humphreys & Partners Architects, Sto helped incorporate a continuous exterior insulation system, and a continuous air and moisture barrier with high-performance finishes to protect the new Element Music Row highrise in midtown Nashville. The $100 million luxury apartment complex, is a 19-story, 431-unit building located in the heart of the country & western music capital of the world. The upscale new residence offers commanding views of downtown Nashville and easy access to all the shopping, dining and entertainment on Music Row.

StoTherm ci Essence – a decorative and protective exterior wall cladding that combines superior air and weather tightness with excellent thermal performance and durability – was the wall system of choice for the new structure, ensuring the building’s energy efficiency, aesthetics, and air-moisture control. Because of the inclusion of Sto products and other energy saving efforts, the developers are showcasing the building as a model “green living” environment that is, in fact, LEED certified.

The Element is located on Demonbreun (pronounced de-MUN-bree-un) Street in Nashville – an area that has become a symbol of urban revitalization for the music capital and a favorite venue for the city’s young, plugged-in professionals.  Private development is booming in the area, and developers like Element’s Childress Klein out of Charlotte, N.C. are looking to build upscale living spaces, Class A office buildings and tourist destinations.

For more information:

 


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.