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!

Green Building Trends in Interior Office Design

The right interior office design can have a positive impact on employee attitude and productivity.

Even though office workers spend a large proportion of their time indoors, companies don’t always place a high priority on the design and interior features of their work space. Lobbies and meeting rooms typically get the most attention because they are used to impress clients or customers, while the more functional workspaces may be ignored.

As a result, research has shown that office workers’ productivity can be impacted; some environment’s are so poor, it’s estimated that workers only spend three days out of five actually working. A dull, poorly lit, uncomfortable work space can lead to lack of focus, even depression, that is not conducive to productivity. The right office space design can have positive benefits on health and performance so here are some office design trends to consider for the year, as forecast by Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at Ambius.

  • A splash of color can be an inexpensive way to brighten up an office space and can stimulate creativity and productivity; color experts claim shades of green are “the color” for 2017.
  • Office plants can increase productivity by 15 percent, which may be another benefit of the color green! Air plants and succulents are trending for office use right now as they are robust and long-lasting.
  • Adoption of the WELL Building Standard: a certification to support the health and well-being of employees based on air, light, and comfort is driving workspace design that is more compatible with long hours behind a desk.
  • Flexible design. While not a new concept for enhancing working environments, is gaining in popularity — with modular soft seating, desk pods, meet-point tables and breakout furniture.
  • Since 75% of all emotion is triggered by scent/smell; fragrant environments can not only provide a powerful customer experience but also make staff more productive. Or so they say!

How is your work space looking,feeling  and smelling these days?!?

The New World of Virtual Reality in Construction

Virtual building design is making a dramatic impact on the construction industry.

Okay.  You are an architect in Hong Kong, and you’re working with a construction company in San Francisco. You can both “look around” a computerized 3D model of your building (this is not new technology) but now you can also actually feel what it’s like to be right inside the structure by wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets, getting a 360-degree view. And, by wearing the same headsets, you can do this together and make real time changes even if you’re on opposite sides of the world.

Welcome to the world of virtual building design – a big leap for the construction industry, which has traditionally been more interested in bricks than clicks.

Building information modeling (BIM) – or developing a 3D digital prototype of a project – has been trending.  Using 3D gaming technology and cloud-based software, industry leaders are now bringing together building design environments and workflows into a single, navigable view. Users navigate these virtual designs almost like a video game.

The opportunity for reducing errors, keeping tabs on and tracking large complex projects while also saving money (30% of a project’s total budget is usually spent correcting errors not visible in the design stage) are the obvious benefits of this VR computer-aided design. It’s definitely disruptive technology, and it’s spawning new, streamlined building design practices that will change the nature of construction forever.

Can Green Buildings Make Us Smarter?

Green is good -- outside or inside an occupied building.

A recent study published by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) suggests that Green Buildings create optimized conditions for health and productivity. In a series of experiments, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) factors for both “green” and “conventional” buildings were simulated in a controlled environment that included office workers, and the researchers measured variables such as carbon dioxide variation, ventilation and exposure to volatile organic compounds in the building atmosphere.

The results? On average, cognitive scores for the two groups of workers were 61% higher for those working in a building with green features than with conventional construction.  In other words, green building can potentially deliver a smarter workforce.

Architizer Site Now a Resource for Architects and Builders

Medical library in Dusseldorf, Germany displaying Sto Façade & Glazing materials.

Launched in 2009, Architizer has become the largest business-to-business data resource online for architects, builders and materials suppliers. The site enables design professionals to post images of their projects along with related lists of vendors who provided the building materials required to construct them. Today, the database encompasses the work of 40,000 architecture firms and more than $4 trillion worth of projects.

Architizer thus provides a clever form of “endorsement marketing” in which fellow architects and designers can shop for ideas among the posted projects, which can turn into referrals for suppliers. The site has become a powerful tool for design industry leaders to not only showcase their products, but to learn more about the tremendous range of architectural materials available from suppliers worldwide. For example, there are 47 projects from around the globe that illustrate what can be created using products from Sto. It’s an eye-opener.

The Top 100 American Architecture Projects

The South Florida Headquarters for the FBI by Krueck + Sexton Architects is on ArchDaily Top 100 list Photo Credit © Nick Merrick - Hedrich Blessing

ArchDaily sorted through thousands of architectural projects that have been completed in recent years and highlighted those that — in their opinion — represent milestones for our times. The top 100 projects they chose make for a compelling compilation of case studies and references that can serve as an invaluable resource for the millions of architects, students and industry specialists seeking the nation’s most important and inspiring architectural projects. Many of the architects involved in these projects have provided additional information, including virtual models, interactive plans and high-quality photographic images, as well as the material and product specifications that were used for construction.