New Business Model Suggested for Architecture Profession

A prominent architecture professor at Yale suggests that the profession could benefit from a new business model based on results versus selling time.

A recent article in Architectural Record penned by Phil Bernstein suggests that the architectural profession could benefit from a new business model. Bernstein, who is an Associate Dean and Senior Lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture, challenges the current methods of value creation and proposes a new business model for architects that shifts the value proposition of practice from selling time to creating results for clients.

According to AIA, architects are responsible for designing approximately $600 billion worth of buildings each year for which they are paid about $29 billion in fees, or 4.8% of construction value. Bernstein notes that these fees are largely paid as a commodity, and that real value is rarely reflected when compensation is a commodity; it hurts the overall economics of the profession. Fees are typically negotiated down, and architects are too often selling time versus measurable results.

If architectural compensation models were based on delivering outcomes of the building process, including the performance of the finished building, he believes these result-based fees, or outcome-based design practices, would redefine and benefit the architectural services business model. With digital tools and technology today, architects can truly impact building performance objectives such as energy usage, carbon emissions and maintenance-cost optimization.

Imagine a world with an outcome-based delivery system in which architects are helping clients realize goals to create offices that boost the effectiveness of workers, schools that educate students better, hospitals that promote faster healing. Bernstein is encouraged by the architectural students he sees today who are eschewing the more traditional architectural firms and are looking for more entrepreneurial, multi-faceted practices that include builders, researchers, and developers as well as architects. He is hoping this next generation of architects will be more responsive to innovative business models and demand new ways of practice.


StoPanel Technology Project in Downtown Denver Wins Award

The Le Meridien AC Hotel complex in downtown Denver is an award-winning study in Sto Panel Technology.

 

The Le Meridien and AC Hotel complex in downtown Denver is one of the first dual-branded luxury lifestyle hotel developments in the U.S. The 272-room Meridien, and the 223-room AC offer two iconic brands under one roof, just a block from the Denver convention center. The pair of European-inspired properties mark an industry milestone as the first collaborative project from hospitality giants Marriott and Starwood since their merger.

The 20-story project which opened in September 2017, is also noteworthy for its use of award-winning StoPanel Technology. Built quickly and efficiently, the project won top honors for Excellence in Construction Quality from the Association of the Walls and Ceiling Industry (AWCI) in its EIFS category.

According to Tyron Garrison, Senior Product Manager for Swinerton Builders, a contracting firm on the Meridien/AC hotel project, “Sto is our go-to resource for panel systems; no one else has a panelized system like theirs. With StoPanel Technology,” he adds, “we can confidently say we are constructing a completely dry, energy-efficient building.”

StoPanel Classic ci was the cladding selected for the new structure – using a prefabricated insulated exterior wall panel system that weighs almost 90 percent less than a precast panel of the same size. The light weight prefabricated panels are both energy efficient and durable, incorporating an insulation layer and StoGuardÒ air and moisture barrier.

Prefabricating the exterior with finished panels improved quality, safety onsite, and cut the onsite construction time.  In fact, the finished panels were installed in under 300 hours.

Despite limited access to the construction site and a location in the heart of busy downtown Denver, the streets were kept open to traffic during this massive construction project. Precast was done three days each week and panels were installed three days each week.  The panels were set in 40 days, employing a maximum crew of eight at any one time on the site.

The installation of the exterior walls for the entire project was done simultaneously, and by using the panels, saved about 75% of the conventional construction time, according to Travis, Vap, CEO of South Valley Prefab. “Panelization takes the guess work out of any project,” said Vap.  “The projects can be designed ahead of time, there’s a fast dry-in, and the interior can be completed concurrently. It’s an easier way to build.”


Restoration of Iconic Buildings Means Big Business and Big Energy Savings

The Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco is one of many older, iconic buildings that are benefiting from retrofitting and restoration.

As reported by National Geographic this month, iconic buildings are often celebrated for their architecture that has withstood the test of time, but what lies beneath those favorite, enduring facades – the cladding and infrastructure — does not usually hold up so well. The majority of the world’s most famous structures were built long before sustainability, climate change, recycling and energy efficiency were key trends and mainstream buzz words.

Enter the age of retrofit and restoration, which has (thankfully!) become the prevailing practice in preserving vintage structures worldwide. Aging buildings of note are being updated with new windows and claddings, lighting, heating and cooling systems, all of which are preserving the historic nature of the buildings, saving owners and operators money while also conserving energy.

Some iconic structures that have set an example for others to follow include the Empire State Building in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Reichstag in Berlin and the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco.

  • The Depression-era Empire State Building completed a $13 million energy-efficient retrofit in 2013 that cut energy consumption by almost 40%, saving over $4 million annually. The upgrades are expected to eliminate105,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over 15 years.
  • In keeping with its original raison d’etre as a symbol of engineering prowess, the Eiffel Tower undertook a 4-year, $37 million renovation, completed in 2015. It included everything from installing solar panels to LED lighting, and adding enhanced glazing on glass. In addition to saving energy, the structure now generates much of its own electricity with wind-powered turbines in the building.
  • The 853-foot Transamerica Pyramid, built in 1972, was the tallest building in San Francisco until it was eclipsed last year by the 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower. But it’s keeping up with the newer structure thanks to a sustainability retrofit and a gas-fueled cogeneration plant in its garage that generates 70% of the building’s electricity. In 2011, the Pyramid was certified LEED Platinum, the country’s highest rating for green buildings.

Revitalizing iconic buildings is only a small part of the huge commercial market for restoration and energy efficient retrofitting. New York, for instance, is also tackling the improvement of energy efficiency in less prominent landmarks, investing nearly $500 million to improve its million-plus buildings.

Buildings consume 73 percent of the electricity in the U.S., and indirectly create 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions—more than industry or transportation. Experts estimate that only 10% of the 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. are now “high performance” thanks to upgrades. The remaining 90% represent a huge market opportunity.

Leaders in the building material and restoration industry such as Sto Corp. have been on the forefront of commercial restoration providing state of the art products and systems that can help preserve an historic structure as well as safeguard a property’s value by conserving energy, reducing operational costs, improving interior comfort, and enhancing curb appeal.


What Films Teach Us About Architecture

Architectural documentary films provide invaluable insights into the architects and architecture of yesteryear and today.

Dozens of movies have been made in the past 100-or-so years about famous architects and architectural projects. Arch Daily recently published a piece on architectural documentaries to watch in 2018  and Arch 20, an online architecture & design magazine, recently looked at some of the most enduring and notable architectural documentaries from the archives that are as awe inspiring as they are educational, many of which are laced with human drama and politics.

Whether depicting the life and work of famous architects, past and present, a school of architecture, or a remarkable architectural feat, the new slate of films as well as the 30+ films highlighted by Arch20  have made a memorable impact and may even leave viewers as delighted and breathless as a Hollywood action film would.

From Cairo, the Capital of Egypt  (a 1914 documentary) to Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) a film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick about the famous architect’s life — including his misdeeds — and the surpassing influence he had on American architecture, or Inside Piano (2013) about Renzo Piano’s three most symbolic buildings including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the films reviewed offer insights into architectural visionaries throughout time, as well as a grand international tour of architectural wonders.

Some of the other films reviewed include:

  • Schindlers Hauser (2007) — a “cinematic photo album” directed by Heinz Emigholz, showcasing 40 of the homes Schindler built in Los Angeles between 1921 and 1952. Emigholz also pays tribute to the pioneering work of Modernist Adolf Loos (1870-1933) in the film Loos Ornamental (2008).
  • Antonio Gaudi (1985) — an ethereal visual documentary with minimal narrative that showcases the innovative architect’s work, directed by Hiroshi Teshigarhara.
  • Bird’s Nest – Herzog & de Meuron in China (2008) elaborates on the cultural and political challenges the two architects faced building the new National Stadium for the Olympics in Beijing.
  • If you’re a Rem Koolhaas fan, there are at least three films to choose from: REM (2013) directed by his son; Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect (2008), and Koolhaas Houselife (2013).
  • Samsara (2011) — filmed over five years, in 25 countries on five continents, directed by Ron Fricke, generated $2.6 million in box office earnings and transports viewers to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes and natural wonders.
  • Unfinished Spaces (2011) — an inspiring story about the National Arts School in Cuba and the political turmoil there in the 1960s, and about how dreams are destroyed but can be revived. The film was a catalyst for restoring the structure.
  • One of the most widely viewed documentaries, Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005), directed by the famous Sydney Pollack, portrays Gehry’s career and creative process and his twin masterpieces: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles.
  • And finally, while not a documentary, Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang, is a science fiction masterpiece that architectural scholars consider a “must see”. It depicts a futuristic dystopian city severely divided along lines of wealth and class.

Films may be accessed online (Netflix, Amazon, etc.); get the popcorn ready and turn down the lights!


Biophilic Design in Architecture for Health & Tranquility

Biophilic architectural design which is harmonious with nature has proven to enhance the health and wellness of those living and working in such spaces.

There is feng shui, and there are meditation decks, white noise fountains, serenity pools, soft lights and harmonious neutral colors to create a peaceful haven in your home. And — there is biophilic design in architecture.  It’s all intended to optimize your life by creating a healthier, less stressful living space.

According to a recent post in Houzz, while biophilic design has been around for a long while (Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated it into his architecture) it is experiencing a resurgence with today’s architects.  Biophilia literally translates as ‘love of life’. Examples of biophilic design date back to ancient civilizations, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, that the terminology evolved thanks to American biologist E. O. Wilson who proposed that evolution has soft-wired us to prefer natural settings over built environments. In Wilson’s words, we have “an innate and genetically determined affinity … with the natural world”. Proponents of biophilic design are attempting to satisfy this instinct architecturally.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an advocate of biophilia. “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you,” he advised, and many of his buildings bear this out. Notably, his game-changing creation Fallingwater (pictured above) is so integrated with nature as to be inseparable.

Essential to biophilic theory is the idea that buildings aid our physical and mental health only when they are designed holistically and in tandem with nature. Green building principles emphasize responsibility to the environment and efficient use of sustainable resources, and while biophilic design embraces these aims, it focuses more on the wellbeing of the people who use the spaces.

Today, the concept of biophilia is supported by a more scientific understanding of the psychology behind building-based wellness. Some pundits believe that the inordinate amount of time we spend in built environments may contribute significantly to feelings of isolation, tension and lethargy. So, there is a growing interest in designing restorative, productive and appealing buildings that better engage with nature and are more biophilic in nature.

Some of the components of biophilic design include:

  • Natural light from windows, skylights, walls of glass
  • Exterior views; psychologists claim that people with views have a healthier outlook on life, because there is more dimension to their perspective and a sense of connection to a wider ecosystem
  • Water features such as fountains and ponds that can be seen, heard and touched
  • Sensory stimuli that reference nature: scented plants, plants that change color seasonally; open flames; tactile materials and natural fibers that reflect local ecology such as stone and timber

In a concrete, urban jungle — In the absence of real natural environments — biomimicry can be a source of biophilic design as found in organic shapes in construction and furniture. If you stop to think, geometric shapes are rarely found in nature. Color schemes derived from nature – earthen and green, water and sky tones, even images of nature, including photographs, art, murals, and sculptures, can create a biophilic effect.

An undulating, cedar-clad ceiling for instance is, as one architect noted, “the antithesis of the ubiquitous flat, white plasterboard ceiling” and is replicating more environmental shapes and forms. A buffer of green landscaping in a causeway to the street enables connection and interaction with nature for occupants and passers-by. A central courtyard allows visual connection with other areas of a structure and creates a thermal ‘lung’ for natural cooling and heating. The results are living spaces that comfort the body as naturally and effectively as they do the soul. And that’s what a biophilic environment should do.

Zen principles which are often applied in design are attempting to do the same, reflecting balance, harmony and relaxation. Despite all of our modern conveniences today, well-being and contentment often evade us, and it may just be that our home and work environments have an influence. Bring on the biophilic and namaste all around.


AIA Announces Architecture Honor Awards for 2018

The highly innovative Spring Street Salt Shed, in Manhattan, by Dattner Architects in association with WXY architecture + urban design, was also honored. This New York City industrial facility was transformed into urban art; “a visual oxymoron to sanitation” said the judges who applauded the project for raising the bar on civic infrastructure design.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced its Honor Award winners for 2018, which include projects from around the world designed by architectural firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be honored at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City in June of this year. The Honor Awards, now in their 69th year, were selected by a jury consisting of architects and academics who judged projects based on “outstanding excellence and innovation”.

The Audain Art Museum in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada by Patkau Architects was one of the 17 award winners. An eco-friendly design, the elegant architectural structure hovers above a floodplain topography where there is heavy snowfall, thus embracing the elements and the setting. According to the judges, the project “wraps users around nature, blurring the boundaries between man-made and natural”

Another award-winning museum was The Broad in Los Angeles, designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler.  The contemporary art museum is home to more than 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, one of the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. The 120,000-square-foot building features two floors of gallery space.

The Chicago Riverwalk, by Ross Barney Architects & Sasaki Associates, also took top honors. A once neglected downtown riverfront area, it is now a reinvented urban space with a wide range of amenities that reflect the city’s layered and diverse history.

Another award-winner was the Gohar Khatoon Girls’ School, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, designed by Robert Hull, FAIA, and the University of Washington, Department of Architecture. A modern take on masonry construction, the school’s beautiful yet restrained aesthetic creates an urban oasis and promotes community engagement as well as reflecting a new era for girls and women in the country.

Other architectural design winners were: the Mercer Island Fire Station 92, in Washington by Miller Hull; the new United States Courthouse by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Los Angeles; the Vol Walker Hall & the Steven L. Anderson Design Center, a state-of-the-art architecture, landscape architecture and interior design school, by in Fayetteville, Arkansas, designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects; and the Washington Fruit & Produce Company Headquarters, in Yakima, Washington, by Graham Baba Architects.