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Lucy Wang
At the Winkerlaan in Utrecht, Dutch architecture firm EVA architecten has completed SO Fier, an energy-neutral primary school for Special Education Cluster 2 students that emphasizes sustainability, flexibility and connections with nature. The school, which belongs to SPO Utrecht, is split into two volumes — academia and a gym — that read as a single mass thanks to the continuous brick masonry that wraps around the facade as well as the rounded corners that soften the building’s appearance. Large windows fill the interiors with natural light and frame views of greenery and outdoor spaces on all sides.

At nearly 3,000 square meters, SO Fier comprises 15 group rooms, a technical room, two gyms, offices for ambulatory care and additional supporting space. Designed to provide specialized care to the students, each group room includes a bathroom and a workplace that serves as a shelter zone. All group rooms face a central courtyard, which funnels natural light into the rooms and “literally forms a resting point in the building,” the architects explained. “Here you can isolate yourself from the rest as a pupil or teacher.”

In addition to the central courtyard, SO Fier enhances biodiversity with a green roof located on the low roof between the two building volumes as well as with the integration of nest boxes — for local swifts, bats and house sparrows — into the facade. Flexibility has also been built into the school’s design; for instance, the group rooms can be rearranged to accommodate regular classes. The project has achieved Fresh Schools Class B, a Dutch rating tool for determining indoor air quality.

“In consultation with the users and in collaboration with interior architect NEST and landscape architects Beuk, the complete interior and exterior spaces were also designed,” the architects added. “A coordinated color and material palette ensures peace and consistency in the busy life of the school. The same applies to the squares: These are programmatically connected to the spaces on the facade, each age group has its own square that is as green as possible.”

Slovak company Ecocapsule has just debuted their newest egg-shaped micro-unit — SPACE, a tiny mobile home with semi off-grid capabilities. Developed as a more affordable alternative to the fully off-grid Ecocapsule ORIGINAL, SPACE starts at the base price of €49,900 (about $56,380) and comes with a removable solar panel instead of a wind turbine. Like the original Ecocapsule, this new compact mobile home sleeps up to two people within about 68 square feet.

After launching the mass production of its first Ecocapsules in 2018, the company has shipped Ecocapsules around the world from the United States to Japan. In response to demand for a more affordable option — the Ecocapsule ORIGINAL was priced at €79,900 (about $90,278) excluding VAT — the company launched SPACE. While the Ecocapsule ORIGINAL can operate entirely off the grid with 880W of solar power, a low-noise wind turbine and rainwater collection, the new SPACE is only semi off-grid with a removable solar panel in place of the wind turbine.

Designed for multipurpose use, the SPACE features an open plan and includes a built-in lightweight plywood cabinet wall and laminate flooring. Clad in insulated fiberglass, the exterior measures a little over 15 feet in length, over seven feet in width and over eight feet in height. The default installed power system includes 200W of solar power and 1.2 kWh of battery capacity. Electric installation and external hookups to a 110/230V grid are pre-installed, as are a smart home system and sensors. Heating and AC are optional. SPACE can also be customized with additional add-ons.

“Based upon demand of our customers we’ve made SPACE affordable for broader customers scale, and more comfortable to use. Besides green energy collected by solar panels SPACE can also use energy from the grid, which makes it more user-friendly,” said Tomáš Žáček, founder, Design Director and CEO of Ecocapsule Ltd.

Architecture 2030, U.S. Energy Information Administration
Ed Mazria believes that with a shared vision, "we can grow our economies, create and support livable and equitable communities, and phase out fossil fuels to solve the climate crisis."

“When written in Chinese, the word crisis () is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other
represents opportunity.”

—John F. Kennedy

The heartbreaking crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it a rare opportunity for the architecture, planning, and building community. We know the pandemic is already changing the way we live and conduct business, affecting the way we will design and ultimately the way we will build.

As temperatures continue to rise and many are still sheltering in place, we are also reminded of the need for dramatic action to mitigate the other planetary emergency we are facing: the climate crisis. Our collective work to effectively address this life-threatening crisis is already underway. We have realized the seemingly impossible and have paved the way for our community to move forward.

Since the Industrial Revolution, as the economy grew so did the building sector, resulting in more construction, more energy consumption, and more CO₂ emissions. During the Great Recession, from 2007 through 2009, the U.S. gross domestic product stalled and so did the building sector. However, after 2009, when the economy began to grow again and GDP rose, the unexpected happened: Beginning in 2010, U.S. economic growth and increased building construction decoupled from building sector energy use and CO₂ emissions—an unprecedented achievement in modern U.S. history.

While U.S. GDP increased 26.2% and the building sector floor area by 18% (about 47 billion square feet), operating energy use and emissions in the building sector decreased by 1.7%, and 21%, respectively. This decoupling now appears to be actualizing globally as well.

Our leadership, influence, and power as architects, designers, and allied professionals go beyond borders and governments, as we are primarily responsible for shaping the built environment. It’s clear we can grow our economies, create and support livable and equitable communities, and phase out fossil fuels to solve the climate crisis.

Now is the time to deepen our motivation and expand our actions—designing buildings with no on-site fossil fuels; shifting to carbon positive buildings, materials, construction, and infrastructure; implementing building decarbonization; creating clean energy jobs; integrating passive design strategies and renewable energy in projects; and designing to keep people safe during climate catastrophes and pandemics.

With global building construction stalled and the sector’s emissions set to drop significantly this year, by accelerating our efforts post-pandemic and continuing to work together with a shared vision, we suddenly have within our grasp what once seemed unreachable: keeping planetary warming to 1.5 degrees C. We should welcome this opportunity as we reshape our world in this time of crisis.
Silver Oak Cellars
Designed by the San Francisco–based firm Piechota Architecture, the 113-acre winery is the 25th project to achieve the International Living Future Institute's rigorous standard.

When a 2006 fire destroyed Silver Oak Winery’s vineyard in Oakville, Calif., its owners and staff members channeled their grief into rebuilding an environmentally responsible venue. After completing the rebuild, the project achieved LEED Platinum in 2016, the first production winery to do so. Capitalizing on the lessons learned during that Oakville reconstruction, Silver Oak’s owners had also begun planning a second high-performance winery, this time in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. Opened to the public in 2018, Silver Oak’s 113-acre Alexander Valley winery announced today that it has been certified as a Living Building by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), making it the largest certified Living Building in the world. It is also the 25th project ever to achieve the ILFI’s rigorous standard, and the second winery to do so.

Designed by the San Francisco–based firm Piechota Architecture, the winery nestles into the rolling hills just east of Healdsburg, Calif. Drawing inspiration from the area’s favored barn style, the architects constructed a complex of tasting rooms, production facilities, and a wine center, each topped by a metal gable roof.

Like all projects that achieve Living Building status, Sliver Oak’s Alexander Valley winery underwent in a one-year audit to prove that the winery meets the ILFI’s net-zero waste, net-zero energy, and net-zero water requirements. Silver Oak's certification report notes that the facility sources its water from an on-site well and from treated wastewater. The winemaker treats wastewater resulting from its production of wine with an ultraviolet light system and a membrane bioreactor before reusing it for indoor plumbing, irrigation, and cleaning equipment. The winery achieves net-positive energy with 2,595 300-watt solar panels arrayed throughout the vineyard and an additional 404 panels on a nearby warehouse and shipping facility, generating 121% if the winery’s energy needs over the year’s audit.

To reduce the winery’s embodied carbon, the structures use concrete comprised of 40% fly ash, salvaged redwood siding—sourced from wine tanks used by the historical 1920s Cherokee Wine Association in Lodi, Calif.—for the building façade, and a lightweight steel frame, which decreased the on-site construction time.

In order to comply with the LBC’s Red List, which mandates that all building materials and products are free of the ILFI’s extensive list of harmful chemicals, Alexander Valley winery’s design team spent three-and-a-half years to vet each component, researching more than 3,000 products and materials before selecting 1,600 different products in the final project.

“We saw this as an opportunity to shift the paradigm in how we think about our most enduring artifacts as an industry: vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms,” said Silver Oak sustainability manager Haley Duncan in a press release. “Symbolically, the winery is built to engender community relationships and also set a broader, global benchmark here in Sonoma County.”

Civil | Structural Engineer
Single family home builders are commonly using many green products and practices, especially energy saving ones, but only one third (33 percent) are committed to building green homes. This is the finding of the latest study on green home building from Dodge Data & Analytics, published in the Green Single Family and Multifamily Homes 2020 SmartMarket Brief, in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The study reveals a complicated picture about the amount of green building activity currently occurring in the single-family home market. On the one hand, when provided with a stringent, performance-based definition that a green home “incorporates strategies in design and construction that increase energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality and minimize environmental impacts on site and/or is certified by a third-party green rating system,” only 33 percent report that this definition applies to 50 percent or more of the homes they build, and 42 percent state that they do no green building projects at all. On the surface, this seems to suggest that the overall commitment to green building among home builders is still somewhat limited.

However, the study also demonstrates that many home builders are in fact using a wide variety of green building products and practices on the majority of their projects. The most prominent investments are those that make homes more energy efficient. Use of LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances and right-sized HVAC systems is very common, with over 70 percent of home builders using each of these in half or more of the homes they construct. In addition, over half of the builders use five other energy-efficient products and practices in the majority of their home projects. This includes windows and insulation that exceed code requirements, a focus on air tightness, and even blower door testing to confirm the tightness of the envelope before they finish the home.

And energy efficiency is not the only green area in which builders are actively engaged. Most builders also employ different water-efficiency products and practices in their homes, from water conserving fixtures and appliances, to efficient plumbing techniques and tankless water heaters. All four of these are used by more than 50 percent of builders on half or more of their home projects. Water conserving strategies inside the home, though, are far more commonly used than those outside the home, such as rainwater collection and reuse, or drip irrigation.

The findings also demonstrate that most builders are invested in building homes that conserve material resources, through their frequent use of durable materials, prefabricated components and minimizing construction waste. They are also widely employing products and practices that improve indoor air quality like direct outdoor ventilation of bathroom fans, kitchen exhausts and clothes dryers, duct insulation and using low VOC materials.

So when it comes to wide consideration of energy and water efficiency, conserving material resources and improving indoor environmental quality, most builders are engaged in ways to improve their homes, even if nearly half of them report that they are doing no green homes.

However, the findings on those dedicated to green building overall do suggest ongoing potential for the share of green to continue to grow in the home building market. The study looked at the top drivers for encouraging more green building, and increased home buyer demand emerged quite strongly as the top factor, ranked among the top three drivers by 66 percent. Conversely, the lack of home buyer demand along with concerns about the price premium to build green, were the top obstacles reported in the study.

Several of the findings in the study suggest ways that the industry can increase homeowner interest in green building and overcome the issue of the price premium. One requires choosing the right market to focus on. The highest percentage of home builders reported that buyers seeking to either upscale or downsize are the most likely to be willing to pay a green premium for a home – so targeting these markets could be useful. And for these two markets, the top features to emphasize are lower operating costs and greater comfort/better occupant experience, according to those with experience selling green homes to these consumers.

Other factors that are curr
Stacy Smedley/Skanska
Achieving Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Targets through Life Cycle Carbon Accounting

Climate change is the existential crisis of our time. The design and construction industry has responded to this challenge with a wave of green buildings that have reshaped expectations for environmental performance of the built environment, striving to meet increasingly stringent energy codes, rating systems, and greenhouse gas reduction targets. However, we are only solving the problems that we are looking at, and we are not seeing the whole picture. The substantial up-front carbon emissions associated with the production of building materials and construction have gone largely uncounted, as have those associated with demolition—but they are no less real and just as significant. New, high-performance buildings are designed to reduce emissions over the life of a building, but when will that payoff occur? Thirty years from construction? Fifty? Unfortunately, we cannot wait fifty or even twenty years for our new, efficient buildings to save us. Design and construction practices must be dramatically and immediately reshaped to drive down emissions associated with all stages of a building’s life—including materials, construction, and demolition—in order to meet critical global climate goals.

The Urgent Need to Reduce the Life Cycle Carbon Footprint of Buildings

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement established the necessity of capping global temperature rise to well below 2° Celsius, setting the target at 1.5°. In order to achieve that target, the world needs to get to net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. According to the 2018 UN Environment Emissions Gap Report, we are not on track to meet this goal [i]. In fact, we must now reduce global emission by 50% by the year 2030 to have even a 50% chance of meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement [ii].

At a global scale, building construction and operations account for approximately 39% of carbon dioxide emissions annually [iii]. We are also projected to build an astounding 2.5 trillion square feet of new construction globally by the year 2060 [iv], roughly doubling the current square footage of existing buildings. This is an extraordinary figure, and it means that building owners and professionals in the construction sector have a substantial opportunity and responsibility to reduce building-related carbon emissions to respond to the climate crisis.

The paradigm of sustainable design has for decades focused on reducing operational energy, with ultimate goals of net zero or even net positive carbon. This approach has driven energy reduction goals in codes, rating systems, and even carbon mitigation plans. While reducing operational carbon is a critical component to driving down carbon emissions in the built environment, “net zero” used in this context is a misnomer. The definition of net zero in the United States only includes the carbon emissions associated with the use phase of the building, also known as operational carbon, while excluding emissions associated with all other stages of a building’s life cycle, such as up-front carbon emitted during the production of materials and building construction, also referred to as embodied carbon, and emissions associated with end-of-life.

While we have made strides in reducing the operational energy of buildings, with an average global reduction of 1.5% annually [v], the impacts of embodied carbon have been overlooked. These embodied impacts were for many years thought to be negligible; however, it has become increasingly apparent that they are not insignificant. Embodied carbon contributes at least 11% of all global carbon emissions annually—and this percentage is increasing. In fact, projections made by the nonprofit research organization Architecture 2030 show that by the year 2030, embodied emissions will account for 74% of total emissions from all buildings constructed after 2020. As buildings meet higher performance standards and the grid becomes greener, operational carbon will continue to decrease, and embodied carbon will represent an increasingly large percentage of total life cycle emissions.

Because sustainable design practices have responded to what our industry has measured to-date—operational carbon—our industry has primarily focused on new, high-performance construction. This has reinforced the misconception that new buildings are good for the environment while existing buildings are energy hogs that should be demolished and
Climate Reality
o its great credit, the American Institute of Architects recently denounced the Trump administration’s decision to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This may put the professional organization on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely to sway any hardened hearts and minds in Washington. Obviously, the executive branch is worse than useless on this issue: not just an impediment to change, but a malevolent force for willful inaction. It’s hard to see it as anything less than an enemy of the climate.

Until this odious cast of characters in changes, climate activists must turn their attention elsewhere. Fortunately there’s an under-the-radar lobbying effort underway in California, by the AIA’s state chapter, that holds the potential to totally transform the building sector. In July, the organization’s Committee on the Environment, in collaboration with Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030, persuaded the California’s AIA’s governing board to support the adoption of a statewide Zero Code as soon as possible. The organization sent a letter to the governor in September, co-signed by leading firms, virtually all of the local chapters, as well as the cities of Berkeley, Santa Monica, Fremont, San Luis Obispo, and Culver City.

Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings. Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

If enacted, a Zero Code would essentially mandate emissions-free new buildings almost immediately. (Architecture 2030 defines a Zero Net Carbon building as “a highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.”) Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings.

Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

Before we go any further, though, the logical question to ask is the obvious one: Is this even possible? Is it politically feasible? For all of the well-meaning rhetoric swirling around the idea of a Green New Deal, none of it can even begin to happen without fundamental changes in policy, primarily at the state and local level. In California, the adoption of a Zero Code is largely dependent on the strong support of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has not weighed in on the issue.

Mazria initially approached the California AIA with a bolder approach, pushing the idea of an immediate Zero Code adoption via executive order, presumably the fastest route possible. As it turns out, this isn’t an option in California, where energy codes for buildings must be vetted and approved by the California Energy Commission. (The next overhaul will occur in 2022.) The governor, however, exerts a fair amount of control over that body. In two years, Governor Newsom will have either appointed or reappointed a majority of the commissioners on the five-member governing board. If he truly wanted to kick start the Green New Deal, putting his political muscle behind adoption of the Zero Code would be a monumental first step.

In the meantime, AIA California is working on several fronts, pushing and pulling at three different levers of power. “We’re organizing opportunities to enlist Governor Newsom’s active support,” says San Francisco architect William Leddy, who with Mazria helped convince the chapter to support adoption of the clean code. “Thanks to Michael Malinowski, the AIA’s government liaison, we’ve also discovered that there’s an avenue that might be much easier to attempt right now. And that’s to introduce the Zero Code immediately as a ‘reach code’ within CALGreen, which is the California Green Building Standard. We believe this approach doesn’t require the energy commission process. It would give cities around the state the option to adopt the Zero Code now, while we continue to pursue formal statewide adoption through the lengthy code-revision process.”

The reason these considerations are even possible is why Mazria approached the California AIA in the first place. Despite the apocalyptic fires, the rolling blackouts, the somewhat predictable this-is-the-end-of-California-as-we-know-it pronouncements, the state is well under way in its eventual transitio
Jonathan Hillyer
To generate at least as much energy as it uses, a building may need more photovoltaic panels than its roof can accommodate. One solution is to extend the roof, as Seattle’s Miller Hull Partnership did when it designed that city’s Bullitt Center, a six-story building with a PV panel-laden trellis cantilevering beyond its exterior walls.

Miller Hull has repeated the strategy in Atlanta, where it and Lord Aeck Sargent, a Katerra company, have just completed the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design at Georgia Tech. The new, 37,000-square-foot, three-story building has a large steel and aluminum trellis that reaches beyond the roof in three directions with the help of thin, cable-tensioned steel columns. About 40 feet off the ground, the trellis shelters gardens that serve as gathering places for students. The main shaded area resembles a kind of front porch, a play on the southern vernacular, says Brian Court, partner at Miller Hull and that firm’s design lead for the building. The porch opens into an atrium surrounded on three levels by classrooms, laboratories, and mechanical spaces. A lower, brick-clad extension houses a 175-seat lecture hall. The facilities are “not just for those students interested in sustainability as a career,” says Michael Gamble, director of graduate studies in the School of Architecture. Instead, Georgia Tech students from a range of departments will have “access to a building that actually teaches us something.”

The lesson is that it’s possible to build a “regenerative” building even in the hot, humid southeast. That was a goal of the Kendeda Fund (created by philanthropist Diana Latow Blank, the former wife of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank). Kendeda paid for the $18.6 million building and provided millions more for programming.

While the building is expected to receive a LEED Platinum rating, it was designed to meet the more stringent standards of the Living Building Challenge. To be certified, a building must produce more water and more electricity than it consumes. Net-positive water will be achieved by collecting an estimated 460,000 gallons of rainwater each year (runoff from the PVs is collected in channels and fed into a cistern and filtered to potable standards). As for electricity, the building’s 900 photovoltaic panels are expected to generate 455,000 kilowatt hours annually, 40 percent more than it is projected to use. To make the building energy-efficient, its designers focused on occupant comfort rather than fixed temperature goals and made extensive use of ceiling fans, radiant heating and cooling, and a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS), combined with a super-efficient envelope. The building met other Living Building Challenge standards; for example, products were eliminated or reformulated to avoid chemicals on the program’s “red list.”

The building will not receive its final certification until it has demonstrated that it is energy- and water-positive for a year, notes Chris Hellstern, Living Building Challenge Services Director at Miller Hull. To achieve that, says Joshua Gassman, Lord Aeck Sargent’s sustainable design director, “Everything has to work together—it’s almost like building a Swiss watch.”

Not only will Kendeda be operationally efficient, Hellstern says, but it was designed to reduce embodied energy—the energy consumed in fabrication and construction—as well. Among other strategies, sustainably harvested wood was used for the main structural elements, reclaimed wood was used for decking, and 100-percent-recycled-content brick was incorporated into the cladding. “We used excess chunks of decking to build internal stairs, both to avoid creating landfill and to show that something that would have been wasted can contribute to both the beauty and the function of the project,” Gassman says. Speaking for the entire industry, Hellstern points out, “Unless we address embodied energy, we won’t meet climate targets.”
There was no formal agenda on Feb. 12, 2018, when Bruce King and William Kelley met for lunch at the Lotus Cafe in San Rafael, Calif. But building regulation is a favorite topic of King’s, a structural engineer devoted to reducing carbon emissions related to buildings. So it was no surprise to Kelley, Marin County’s deputy director for building and safety, that King suggested it would “be nice” to craft a low-carbon concrete building code “to rein in the profligate overuse” of carbon-intensive cement in concrete.

Kelley liked the idea of regulating concrete’s embodied carbon (EC)—the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted during production. But funding was needed to support the writing of a code for low-EC concrete.

Two weeks later, King happened to be at a meeting of an ad hoc group trying to rebuild sustainably after California’s devastating 2017 wine-country fires. There, he heard an announcement that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would soon offer grants for novel methods of addressing GHGs. He alerted Kelley. Soon, Marin County applied for a BAAQMD grant, which it received on Oct. 4, 2018.

The funds, a maximum of $206,456, set the wheels in motion for developing the model Bay Area Low-Carbon Concrete Code. If approved by Marin County’s board of supervisors on Nov. 19, the code, unprecedented in the U.S. because it would limit EC in private—not just public—projects, would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Kelley likes the Bay Area model code because it is simple to use for customers, plan checkers and enforcers. The document, only four pages long, has two sets of compliance pathways for plain and reinforced concrete: 1) limit cement in either the mix or the project; or 2) limit the global warming potential (GWP) either of a concrete mix—based on an approved environmental product declaration (EPD)—or a project, taking into account all the mix designs.

If adopted, the code would apply only to unincorporated Marin County, population 60,000. That doesn’t bother King. “We hope it will be the code heard around the world,” says the founder of the 20-year-old Ecological Building Network (EBNet).

Kelley agrees, saying, “If we can do this here, the code could serve as a template for other places.” Several other Bay Area counties are likely to follow suit if Marin County adopts it, he adds.

King is setting even wider sights on the regulation of EC—the GHG emissions associated with raw material supply, manufacturing, transport, construction, maintenance, decommissioning and recycling of a material, a building or infrastructure. He wants the Bay Area code to serve as a model for other nations, especially India and China. He also wants EC codes for other high-EC products, such as most refrigerants.

EC, formerly called embodied energy, is not exactly a household term in construction. The main focus in green building codes and certification programs—such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge—has been on reducing the operational carbon (OC) emitted by buildings.

EC plus OC make up the carbon footprint of a building. Initial or up-front EC, which accounts for most of a material’s or a product’s carbon, refers to GHG emissions from the cradle to the site gate.

“Many construction materials can be made to very similar performance standards with 50% or more carbon savings,” because manufacturing process, mix composition, recycled content and electricity or energy source have a dramatic effect on carbon emitted during manufacture, according to the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum. CLF is a nonprofit coalition of 40 construction industry sponsors, founded in 2009 by its director, Kate Simonen, also a professor at the College of the Built Environments.

“Carbon-aware specification and procurement policies, backed by a contractual requirement to deliver verified EPDs for materials delivered to sites, can drive change,” asserts CLF.

Reducing initial EC is no easy task. It has been fraught with problems—from a lack of product and material data to data too complex to evaluate. “It’s an incredibly daunting and new challenge to address in a design process,” says Victoria Burrows, director of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council.

A net-zero EC building is one that has minimal up-front carbon, with all remaining
Marsel Loermans via Studio Public
Dutch architectural practice Studio Public has carved out a slice of eco-friendly bliss in Houten, a nearly car-free suburb in Utrecht. Dubbed the Eco Villa, the 2,000-square-foot modern home slots in perfectly with its green and environmentally minded surroundings with an emphasis on natural materials, sustainability and the use of renewable energy. Powered by solar, the abode produces all of its own energy and is even complemented by a naturally filtered pool for chlorine-free swimming.

Built with an L shape to frame the outdoor garden and natural pool with a wooden walkway, Eco Villa features two bedrooms and an open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen. A slim “technical zone” divides the master suite from the living areas. The exterior is clad in a combination of Corten steel panels, plaster and wood screens and is punctuated with floor-to-ceiling, triple-pane glass to bring the outdoors in. The operable walls of glass and strategically placed skylights fill the home with natural light.

As with the exterior, the interior features a natural materials palette and a minimalist design. Timber is the predominate material that ties the various spaces together, from the cabinetry in the bathrooms to the flooring in the living spaces. Clean lines, simple forms and select pops of color — like the blue tile wall divider in the bathroom — make the home look contemporary and cozy without visual clutter.

In addition to solar panels, the Eco Villa is equipped with a heat pump. The use of renewable energy combined with highly efficient insulation and an emphasis on natural daylighting has made the home capable of generating all of its own energy — sometimes with power left over to send back to the grid.

Deborah DeGraffenreid via North River Architecture & Planning
In New York’s Hudson Valley, a beautiful new beacon for sustainable, net-zero design has taken root. New York-based North River Architecture & Planning recently added another energy-efficient build to its growing portfolio of environmentally friendly projects — the Accord Passive House, a modern home that has not only achieved PHIUS+ Certification but also boasts no net energy costs annually.

Located in the hamlet of Accord, the contemporary house is sensitive to both the environment as well as the local culture and history. The architects drew inspiration from the rural farm buildings for the design of a gabled, barn-like house that emphasizes connection with the outdoors and flexible living spaces accommodating of the homeowners’ changing needs. As with traditional farm buildings, the construction materials were selected for longevity, durability and low-maintenance properties.

Galvanized corrugated steel siding wraps the exterior, while a trowel-finished concrete slab is used for the floor inside and is visually tied to the xeriscaped pea gravel patio that requires no irrigation. “Trim materials inside and out were chosen for their adaptive reuse and low resource extraction properties, including the use of engineered lumber for trim work, salvaged white oak slats and carmelized cork throughout the project,” the firm added. “The cork was used inside and out for its sustainable harvest and broad utility for acoustics, water resistance and insulation value.”

Topped with a 9kW photovoltaic array, the impressive net-zero energy build was also created to show how Passive House design can be beautiful, resilient and comfortable without incurring sky-high costs. The firm said it has achieved “a competitive price per square foot relative to regional costs for this market niche.” During construction, the architects hosted open-house learning events to promote open-source sharing of energy-efficient design methods and solutions with the local community.

Casey Dunn
Texas architecture studio Clayton & Little has built a barn from reclaimed oil field pipes and weathering steel panels, topped with solar panels to provide power to a vineyard in California.

The Saxum Vineyard Equipment Barn is on the James Berry Vineyard – part of the Saxum Vineyard group – in Paso Robles, a town in central California known for its olive groves, hillsides and wineries. It has been longlisted in the business building category of this year's Dezeen Awards.

Clayton & Little created the simple barn to provide covered storage for farming vehicles, implements and livestock supplies, while also being a structure to hold solar panels to power the nearby Saxum Winery.

The studio describes the structure, which is made reclaimed oil field pipes, as a modern version of a pole barn – a type of agricultural building that began being built in the USA in the 1930s.

The structure is mostly symmetrical with an open central storage area and enclosed rooms for storage on either side. The building is clad with perforated Corten panels that protect the machinery from the sunlight, while allowing the wind to pass through.

On top of the barn's long roof, which is supported by the reclaimed pipes, are a series of photovoltaic panels. These laminated glass solar modules act as the barn's roof, reducing cost as there was no need for a separate structure.

The solar panels offset the electrical demand of the winery, freeing it from the dependence of grid-tied power. Energy from the panels also supports irrigation well pumps at the vineyard.

"Designed to harnesses the local climate to maximise cross ventilation, daylight and solar energy, the recycled oilfield pipe structure holds a laminated glass photovoltaic roof system that produces a third more power than needed [at the winery]," Clayton & Little said.

The roof is also designed to collect rainfall for irrigating trees and adjacent grazing meadow, which is stored in cylinders nearby.

This is intended to dramatically reduce the vineyards dependence on mains water, and combined with the solar panels, effectively take it off the grid.

Saxum Vineyard Equipment Barn was awarded as one of this year's AIA Small Projects and joins BIG'S Klein A45 cabin in the Catskill Mountains and South 5th Residence in Austin by Alterstudio Architecture.

Founded in 2005, Clayton & Little is led by partners Paul Clayton, Brian Korte, Sam Manning and Nathan Quiring. The studio has two offices in Austin and San Antonio, Texas.

Other barns include an oak-clad structure in the Netherlands, Swallowfield Barn in British Columbia and a blackened wood structure by Worrell Yeung in Upstate New York.
Nick Merrick © Hall+Merrick
The design-build project—with architects BNIM and builders Level 10—features extensive passive ventilation driven by thermal chimneys.

The delivery man was lost. He’d circled Palomar College’s campus twice already, looking for the maintenance warehouse. Finally, he pulled up to a sleek L-shaped complex located right at the campus entrance. The structure was clad with terra-cotta and surrounded by a native-species garden; the delivery man ducked into the building’s sleek, glass-walled lobby.

“He came in and asked, ‘Where’s facilities?’” remembers Dennis Astl, the southern California community college’s construction and planning manager. “When our admin told him he was in it, he turned around and said, ‘You’re kidding, it’s too pretty.’”

Astl is proud of that story—he tells it at tours of Palomar’s Maintenance and Operations complex, which opened officially on April 12th, four years after he first sat down with the project’s general contractor and architect and told them he had two goals: to win a design award and to hit Net Zero energy usage. Everyone at that initial design meeting says Astl’s clarity—along with the project’s design-build format, which fostered close architect-builder collaboration—was the key to making something extraordinary, especially on a limited, public bond–funded budget of $15.5 million.

“We didn’t take the easy path,” says Mike Conroy of Level 10, the general contractor. “What’s special about this project is we pushed ourselves outside the boundaries of what could have been just a normal maintenance building.”

The task of architect Matthew Porreca, who leads Kansas City–based BNIM’s California business (the firm has an office in San Diego), was to design a facility that would consolidate more than ten back-campus buildings, lots, and maintenance shops—one of which was nicknamed “the swamp.” Even tougher, he had to convince experienced electricians, carpenters, landscapers, operations and custodial workers that he’d meet their needs on a far smaller footprint, and without putting air conditioning in any of their new shops.

“Our team definitely absorbed a lot of feedback,” laughs Porreca now. “But we needed to be good listeners. They know what they do better than anyone.”

Porreca had worked on campus projects before, but never a maintenance building, so he was free to approach its design with a fresh perspective. His Palomar designs had a makerspace vibe, with unfinished surfaces and creative storage systems. Hoping for a green light from the workers, Porreca used virtual reality for the first time, offering them a look at their new, albeit smaller, shops though a cardboard Google headset attached to a mobile phone.

“As soon as they saw it, they were like, ‘Oh, I can work with that,’” says Porreca.

With that buy-in, Porreca and Conroy focused on tackling the Net Zero mandate. They eliminated two thirds of the facility’s mechanical systems by using tall thermal chimneys that collect the sun’s heat and—because heat rises—draw air up and out, creating a passive ventilation system. Workspaces stay cool, even when the desert’s Santa Ana winds kick in. Many of the complex’s walls are tilt-up concrete that’s padded with exterior insulation and a terra-cotta rainscreen, allowing interiors to remain as cool as a dry basement. Porreca and Conroy made ample use of daylighting, too, and are crowning the complex this summer with an array of metered solar panels. Overall, they aim to provide 105 percent of the building’s electrical demand. If they can pull that off for a year, Palomar will be the only community college in the world to be in the running for a Living Building Petal Certification.

Porreca says the best award for him has been watching Palomar’s maintenance and operations workers adapt so easily to non-traditional, carbon-positive spaces. Eddy Seckendorf, a carpenter in his tenth year working at Palomar, brags about how steady the temperatures stay in his new shop, and how fresh the air feels.

“Honestly, it’s pretty cool,” says Seckendorf. “We keep looking at each other like, ‘Wow, this does not suck at all.’”

ZGF Architects
The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission voted Monday to approve plans for a five-story office building intended to be the city’s first certified living building.

Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of the PAE Living Building, a 54,000-square-foot mixed-use office building planned for a quarter-block parcel at the corner of Southwest First Avenue and Pine Street in the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District.

The project received design advice in January, at which time commissioners praised the concept and asked for a few small changes in the fifth-floor window layout to better match the classic 19th century Italianate style found throughout the district.

Designers with ZGF Architects responded with changes including establishing a more clear delineation between floors and extending golden ratio proportions to the top of the building.

The response from commissioners was ultimately what the project team was looking for.

“I really love the building,” Commissioner Ernestina Fuenmayor said. “I think it’s a great addition; if you push yourself you can get great results and I think this is a very good example of that.”

Other small changes included the addition of larger ground-floor canopies and additional details added to the tops of ground-floor windows.

The project team includes PAE Consulting Engineers, which will occupy three floors of the building, as well as developer Gerding Edlen and general contractor Walsh Construction. The structure will feature cross-laminated timber framing and will contain ground-floor retail space along the frontages of Southwest First Avenue and Pine Street. The second through fifth floors will contain office space.

The building will be clad primarily in textured brick veneer, with custom finished aluminum panels, aluminum storefronts at ground level and fiberglass windows above.
Mischa Keijser/Getty Images
To meet the goals of the resolution, the design and construction industries will retrofit millions of structures and build many more. In the process, they could create a more just and resilient country.

Whether or not the U.S. decides to take action on climate change, the shape of the country—its towns, offices, homes, schools, roads, farms, and more—is on the brink of a radical transformation. This transformation could be borne out in two ways. The first is external: Escalating storms, floods, droughts, mass migration, food scarcity, and economic instability could dramatically alter the physical landscape and economy. The other is internal: A national effort to retrofit millions of buildings and rethink the way communities are designed could help Americans withstand the ravages of climate change and make the country more equitable.

The resolution known as the Green New Deal, published by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey in February, wants to bring about the latter. The Green New Deal framework describes the monumental changes needed to decarbonize the American economy by meeting 100% of our energy demands with zero-emission sources in the next decade. It will require overhauling major industries like energy and agriculture, but also transforming America’s buildings and construction sector.

It’s easy to miss just how destructive and inefficient land development is, given its ubiquity. Existing buildings hoover up about 40% of energy consumed in the U.S. and emit about 29% of greenhouse gases. The Green New Deal calls for retrofitting all of them—every last skyscraper, McDonald’s, and suburban ranch home—for energy efficiency within the next 10 years. It also addresses the role of the construction industry, which accounts for about 11% of all emissions globally, by recommending investment in community-led building projects oriented around decarbonization issues like resiliency, transit, and land preservation. And crucially, it demands family-sustaining wages, the right to organize, and a “just transition” for everyone affected by the transition to this decarbonized world.

House Republicans quickly declared the resolution a “boondoggle” in an official statement. It was an ironic choice of words. Whether the GOP realized it or not, that term emerged in the 1930s, when critics of the New Deal used it to characterize the project of putting broke Americans to work on hundreds of thousands of projects. It’s true that the Green New Deal’s goals—to reshape the country’s homes, workplaces, and economy, and provide equity for all—sound radical in a country ravaged by the housing crisis, worker exploitation, and stagnating wages, but from a technical, structural, and architectural standpoint, they’re entirely feasible. Despite what politicians would have you believe, we’ve done it before, and we have the tools to do it again.

As Rhiana Gunn-Wright, who is leading the creation of policy around the resolution, says, reaching them will mean thinking about transit, land use, housing, building regulations, and more. In short: “What will our cities and towns look like, moving forward?”


According to the Energy Information Administration, there are roughly 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States. Most of those are small; half are under 5,000 square feet—think of a fast food joint or a doctor’s office. There are also 138 million housing units, which includes both houses and apartment units. Reducing their carbon footprint will involve the crucial, economy-wide shift away from fossil fuels, but also tamping down the amount of energy buildings use in the first place.

Retrofitting tens of millions of houses and apartment buildings, which take lots of energy to heat, cool, and light, isn’t the Green New Deal’s most glamorous clause, but it’s one of its most pressing. As summers get hotter and the population (and thus the housing stock) grows, the urgency will only increase, as the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions reports. There will be trillions of lightbulbs to replace. Millions of HVAC units to upgrade, operable windows and automatic shades to install, rooftops to paint with heat-reflecting paint, shade-giving trees to plant and photovoltaics to hook up. Miles and miles of wiring and sensors and automation platforms to get online so it can all be monitored and controlled.

Who will do this work? Who will pay for it? How will it be regulated, in a country where building regulations are determined at local, rather than federal, l
Sebastian Ganso
Britain recently upped the ante on its commitment to fight climate change, promising to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The new governmental plan is more ambitious than its original Climate Change Act from 2008, which pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent. Prime Minister Theresa May claimed net-zero is a necessary step for Britain and a moral duty as well as a strategy to improve public health and reduce healthcare costs.

Britain is the first G7 country to propose carbon neutrality, an ambitious goal that environmentalists hope will encourage other nations to follow suit and increase their Paris Agreement emission reduction commitments.

According to Prime Minister May, Britain’s economy can continue to grow alongside the transition to renewable energy. “We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions,” she said.

Net-zero on a national level will mean that effectively all homes, transportation, farming and industries will not consume more energy than the country can generate through renewable energy. For certain cases where this is impossible, it will mean that companies and industries purchase carbon offsets.

The roll out of this plan is to be determined but must include a variety of individual- and national-level actions, including a massive investment in the renewable energy industry as well as a reduction in meat consumption and flying and a total shift to electric cars, LED light bulbs and hydrogen gas heating.

According to BBC, Prime Minister May also claimed that the U.K.
“led the world to wealth through fossil fuels in the industrial revolution, so it was appropriate for Britain to lead in the opposite direction.”

This claim erases the true legacy of the industrial revolution and the role Britain played, which includes environmental destruction, exacerbated inequality and economic exploitation of many nations — not wealth.

Whether or not Britain is a world leader, its pledge might convince other nations to increase or at least stick to their commitments to reduce emissions.
In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources, eco tourism and reforestation.

Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming, the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes.

“The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.”

The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?”

The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy.

Seattle Times
The Bullitt Foundation, an agenda-setting funder of the Northwest environmental movement, plans to wind down a quarter-century of grant-giving that has pumped more than $200 million into efforts ranging from restoration projects on the Green River to climate activism, as it pushed the region toward a greener future.

The foundation, which traces its roots to a storied Seattle family, will give away most of what’s left of its endowment during the next five years.

“The board decided, right from the start, that we did not want to be here in perpetuity,” said Denis Hayes, the Bullitt Foundation’s executive director, who also said the foundation was nearing the point when “we must pass the torch to the next generation of environmental philanthropists.”

Once the grant-giving ends in 2024, the foundation plans to continue to award its annual prize for environmental leadership, and also lease office space at its Seattle headquarters – the six-story Bullitt Center – that has gained international recognition for its ecological design.

Bullitt, which had less than $82 million in net assets in 2017, is a relatively small foundation yet has has played an outsized role in shaping the regional environmental agenda.

Much of that is due to Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day and led a solar-research institute in President Jimmy Carter’s administration. At the Bullitt Foundation, he has helped bring Northwest environmental leaders together to discuss where the movement should go, how to get there and how to diversify its ranks to include more communities of color.

“They’ve really challenged organizations to think about racial equity and racial justice,” said Joan Crooks, CEO of the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.

The foundation’s grants typically range from $40,000 to $120,000, often seed money for groups that, once they passed muster with the Bullitt Foundation, had an easier time persuading other donors to chip in.

“It’s like Warren Buffett buying stock; if they support an effort, it tends to move other money,” said Alan Durning, the founder of Sightline Institute, which received a start-up grant of $20,000 from the foundation in 1993 when he was working out of his Seattle bedroom. Today, Sightline, an environmental policy group, continues to receive Bullitt Foundation support, but that money is a now a small part of a $2.2 million budget for an organization that has grown to employ 20 people in three cities.

Early focus was conservation
Through the years, the Bullitt Foundation has spread dollars across a broad swath of the region ranging from Alaska to Oregon and east to Idaho and Montana. Since 2016, the foundation has focused more narrowly on what Hayes calls the “emerald corridor” that stretches from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland. It is a region that he hopes could become a global model for equitable, sustainable urban development – a vision that still seems far away as the Northwest grapples with an epidemic of homelessness.

Some Bullitt Foundation money has gone to groups testing new ideas in housing, energy and agriculture. In the early years there was more of a focus on conserving lands, including grants to groups campaigning for preservation of what became the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

Many of the grants have helped to fuel efforts by groups that organize protests, file lawsuits or lobby for legislation.

“I would say 90%-plus of our grants have been designed to influence policy,” Hayes said. “As a nonprofit, we cannot make a grant to hire a lobbyist or influence legislation … but all the policy development is fair game to us.”

Building Enclosure
The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has set an ambitious goal: to become a Net Zero Energy airport. One of the ways this airport is achieving this is by incorporating renewable energy technologies into new buildings, including the Consolidated Administration Campus (CAC), which is Net Zero Energy capable. The 135,000 square foot building was designed by two architectural firms, Perkins + Will and Mark Cavagnero Associates.

To contribute to sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives, more than 55,000 square feet of BENCHMARK Designwall 2000 Architectural Wall Panels from Kingspan were selected.

Kingspan’s Designwall 2000 panels contain polyisocyanurate foam core insulation that has been GREENGUARD Gold certified, so they have been third-party tested to ensure that their components are not harmful to building occupants and do not adversely impact indoor environment quality (IEQ). The GREENGUARD Gold certification can help earn credits for LEED certification, Green Guide for Health Care, Green Globes and other rating programs.

“The building is net zero energy capable with a modeled energy use intensity score of 25, so the internal systems and exterior envelope were designed holistically to support those goals,” said Sarah Rege, senior project manager at Perkins + Will.

SFO’s CAC building was awarded LEED Gold status by the United States Green Building Council. That designation is a high priority for SFO, as it is aiming to become a net zero energy campus by 2021. If successful, it will be the world’s first net zero energy airport campus.

The insulated metal panels were installed both horizontally and vertically on the exterior walls as well as soffits. The design called for an extensive use of extrusions; more than 700 were used on the base, walls, corners and parapet of the building. In addition to extrusions, approximately 4,000 feet of flashing was used to give the CAC building a finished, modern look.

“Insulated metal panels provide an ideal exterior cladding to meet a very high energy conservation target for this project,” said Kang Kiang, partner at Mark Cavagnero Associates. “Additionally, the panels provide exceptional acoustic insulation properties, ideal for a site with close adjacency to traffic and plane noise.”

The SFO Consolidated Administration Campus (CAC) houses workers from four departments – administration, landside, terminal and airside operations. The CAC is also home to the SFO Museum, common areas, retail shops and a café.

“We have a 5,000-acre campus with an asset portfolio of over 14.5 million square feet, across nearly 70 buildings that currently consume 440GWh of energy each year. If we can get to zero, what’s stopping others?” said SFO’s Chief Development Officer Geoff Neumayr.
Earthship Media
An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs.

The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb, the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside.

The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay.

The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection. After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants.

The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing.

In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature.
The Turett Collaborative
After three years of research and development, architect Wayne Turett of New York City-based architectural firm The Turett Collaborative has designed and built his long-awaited Passive House in the village of Greenport, New York. Built to the rigorous standards of the Passive House Institute, the airtight dwelling combines cutting-edge technologies with passive solar principles to minimize its energy footprint and meet Turett’s aspirations for a carbon-neutral design.

Held as an example of energy-efficient construction that doesn’t compromise on appearance, the Greenport Passive House was designed to match the aesthetic of the surrounding vernacular with a contemporary twist. The two-story home features a historical barn exterior with ship-lapped gray cedar and cement, while the roof is made from aluminum. Inside, the modern house features clean lines and a light and neutral color palette. The open-plan layout and tall ceilings bring an urban, loft-like feel to the home.

The three key aspects of the Greenport Passive House were an airtight envelope; superior insulation that includes triple-glazed windows to lock in heat and protect against cold drafts; and additions that block unwanted solar heat gain, such as roof overhangs. The all-electric home is heated and cooled with a duct mini-split system and is also equipped with an energy recovery ventilation system. By Passive House Standards, a Passive House, like Turett’s seeks to consumes approximately 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings and 75 percent less energy than average new construction, according to his project’s press release.

Turett added, “Greenport is more than just an oasis for my family; it is a living model for clients and meant to inspire others, that despite costing a little more to build, the results of living in a Passive Home will more than pay for itself in energy savings and helping the environment.”

Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG
The four-bedroom, mostly vertical units are priced from $845,000 to $900,000 and range in size from 1,868 to 2,171 square feet.

Townhomes now selling in Irvine provide one vision of California’s homes of the future.

Each unit in the three-story, multi-hued complex will generate as much power as they consume over a year, making them “zero-net-energy” homes.

But CitySquare goes a step further: It’s also one of the latest housing developments to be both zero-net-energy and all electric.

The 44-unit building — in the heart of the Irvine Business Complex — is the vision of innovative developer Meritage Homes.

It’s also another sign that all-electric homes – once a futuristic vision of the late 1950s – are making a comeback as state leaders, energy officials and environmentalists seek alternatives to fossil fuels in dwellings.

Natural gas, some energy activists say, is on the state’s endangered list.

“We are at a turning point in this state from a zero-net-energy goal … to a zero-emission building goal,” said Kristin Driskell, efficiency chief deputy for the California Energy Commission. “CitySquare shows us how we can build a clean-energy future with the homes that we are building today.”

Meritage Homes has been at the forefront of energy-efficient homebuilding, unveiling its first zero-net-energy homes in Buckeye, Ariz., in 2011 and building its first zero-net-energy community in Fontana in 2015.

But this is Meritage’s first all-electric, zero-net-energy townhome community — built, developers say, to help curb global warming.

“California and other utilities nationwide (are) looking to decarbonize,” said C.R. Herro, Meritage’s energy efficiency and sustainability vice president. “If you can source (electricity) from wind, water and solar, you can effectively power communities with no carbon footprint.”

Sales began this month for the four-bedroom, mostly vertical units with prices from $845,000 to $900,000. Homes range in size from1,868 to 2,171 square feet.

And there’s not a single pilot light in the complex. The gas line stops at the curb.

That means no more gas stoves for simmering spaghetti sauce; no more flame-generating burners in the furnace; no more gas hookups to the clothes dryer; and no more matches to relight the water heater each time the pilot goes out.

Live Better Electrically

The all-electric home seems like a throwback to the 1950s and ’60s when actor Ronald Reagan pitched “Gold Medallion” total electric homes on the General Electric Theater — long before he became governor and president.

“Live Better Electrically” was the motto of a campaign backed by organizations like the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association and the Edison Electric Institute.

Billed as the epitome of clean energy and modern living, an estimated 1 million Gold Medallion homes were built, each with a bronze “TOTAL ELECTRIC” medallion emblazoned on its doorbell, according to the electrical manufacturer’s association. They featured electric ranges and water heaters, baseboard heaters and plenty of outlets.

The 1973 oil embargo ended the Gold Medallion campaign by driving up electric rates, said Sean Armstrong, managing partner of Redwood Energy, a zero-carbon consulting firm based near Eureka.

Nearly 50 years later, electric homes are on the rise, the latest U.S. Energy Department survey shows. As of 2015, 25% of U.S. homes were all-electric, up from about 19% in 1993. They made up more than 40% of homes in the South, the latest survey showed.
The factory, which currently makes battery packs and electric motors for the Model 3, will eventually be the biggest building in the world–with the world’s largest rooftop solar array.

When it’s fully complete, Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, will be the largest building in the world, sprawling over 15 million square feet on a plot of land more than three times larger than Central Park. The building, which Elon Musk has called “the machine that builds the machine,” will eventually also be the first large-scale battery factory to run on 100% renewable energy. The factory currently makes battery packs and electric motors for the Model 3 car, along with the company’s Powerwall and Powerpack battery storage.

Designing the factory from scratch “provided some great opportunities to rethink manufacturing,” says Rodney Westmoreland, director of construction management for Tesla. “We look at challenges from first principles–breaking things down to the very basics of physics and what’s possible–since we’re doing something that has never been done before. As a result, our teams of mechanical, electrical, and manufacturing engineers have spent the last few years creatively building a sustainably powered facility with no onsite combustion of fossil fuels. This was critical to our mission of moving the world to a sustainable energy future.” A new environmental impact report released on April 15 includes a case study on the factory’s sustainable design.

On the roof–designed to accommodate solar power–a solar installation that is currently underway will eventually include around 200,000 solar panels that can provide most of the building’s energy when paired with Tesla’s batteries. When it’s finished, it will be the largest rooftop solar array in the world.

Inside the factory, high-energy manufacturing processes that would normally be powered by natural gas have been redesigned to avoid fossil fuels by maximizing energy efficiency. Waste heat from equipment like compressors or high-temperature ovens can be used both to run the equipment efficiently and to help keep the factory warm in the winter. LED lights and a lighting system designed to reduce power use means that lighting the building can save 144 megawatt-hours of energy in a month versus traditional lighting setups (the equivalent, the company says, of the energy needed to drive a Model S 480,000 miles).

The company has been working with vendors to find new techniques to make it possible to meet its goals. The process “pushes the general contractors and design-build firms to change the way that they think, hire, and construct,” says Westmoreland. “For example, Tesla engineers partnered with our equipment vendors to look at ways we could reverse-engineer air compressors to handle incredibly [hot] waste heat, which makes our factory and equipment more efficient. These have become solutions that vendors can use throughout the industry.”

Because manufacturing batteries is so energy intensive, the equipment in the factory generates so much heat that it’s necessary to pump chilled water through the building to cool it down–something that normally also takes a huge amount of energy. To solve the problem, Tesla designed a unique chilled water plant that makes use of the desert climate: When the air is cool at night, the plant generates more chilled water than needed, and that extra water can be used during the day. The system, which uses one of the largest thermal storage tanks in the world, will cut electricity used in the process by up to 40%, and cut water consumption up to 60%. “Up front, it seems quite monumental to design, construct, and estimate, but ultimately it eliminates the need for numerous chillers and the amount of energy required to run them,” Westmoreland says.

In parts of the manufacturing process that require dry air, the factory can pull in desert air to reduce the use of dehumidifiers. A heat pump helps power another process that coats part of the battery cell with a solvent. (Liquid waste from the process is also refined and recycled onsite, rather than shipping it to a separate processing center, eliminating the need for 30 tanker trucks a week.)
Integrated Studio via Neumann Monson Architects
An inspiring new church in Coralville, Iowa is lifting spirits and bringing people closer to nature — while generating all the energy it needs on site. Iowa City-based firm Neumann Monson Architects designed the church for the Unitarian Universalist Society; the solar-powered building embodies the Society’s core principles with its organic architecture emphasizing sustainability, accessibility and flexibility. The energy-efficient building is currently on track to achieve Zero Energy Building (ZEB) certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

Located on an existing open clearing so as to minimize the building’s impact on the forest, the Unitarian Universalist Society was built to replace an old structure that had multiple levels and many steps. In contrast, the new building was designed for greater accessibility to create more inclusive spaces, and it radiates an uplifting feel with its high ceilings and sloped roof that culminates into a peak in a far corner. The 133,592-square-foot church includes seven religious classrooms and six offices. It was also designed with input from the congregation’s 300 members.

Designed for net-zero energy, the church is an all-electric building powered with a geothermal heat pump system and solar photovoltaic panels located on the building’s west side. To further reduce the building’s environmental impact, the architects installed bioretention cells for capturing and filtering all stormwater runoff. The landscaping features native grasses and woodland walking trails that engage the surroundings and are complemented with accessible food gardens. Materials from the property’s existing residence — deconstructed by volunteers — were donated to local nonprofits. Visitors also have access to charging stations.

“The Unitarian Universalist Society facility harmonizes with its natural landscape to provide reflective spaces for worship, fellowship, religious education and administration,” the architects explained. “Beyond fully-glazed walls, the forest provides dappled intimacy. The sanctuary’s prow extends south, a stone’s throw from a mature evergreen grove. Services pause respectfully as deer and woodland creatures pass.”

BOMA Canada
The Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA Canada) is excited to announce year 2 of the Net Zero Challenge, supported by Natural Resources Canada and sponsored by Bullfrog Power. The Net Zero Challenge continues to recognize buildings that have achieved outstanding energy performance, have drastically improved their performance, or have demonstrated leadership through the implementation of replicable and innovative strategies that support efficiency and clean energy production.

As existing buildings and the businesses within them currently use 40% of global energy, net zero buildings are one of the key solutions to a carbon neutral world. BOMA Canada is excited to build on last year’s success and continue to recognize and celebrate forward thinking individuals, organizations and buildings that are investing in initiatives that lead to exceptional energy and/or carbon performance, as well as those that can be wholly supplied by renewable energy.

“As we move towards a zero carbon economy,” says Benjamin Shinewald, President and CEO of BOMA Canada, “we continue to see new technology, innovative ideas and simple hard work driving our entire industry forward. The Net Zero Challenge is a key element in reaching something that we can only imagine today, but that will be increasingly within reach tomorrow: a world where net zero buildings are commonplace.”

BOMA Canada already offers the BOMA BEST program, Canada’s largest environmental assessment and certification program for existing buildings, with nearly 3,000 buildings certified. BOMA BEST supports building owners in the sustainable operations of their assets, while the Net Zero Challenge is an evolution of the organization’s environmental commitment.

“Energy efficiency provides benefits for our buildings, homes, neighbourhoods, environment, and wallets,” says the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “Our government is supporting initiatives like BOMA Canada’s Net Zero Challenge to build a cleaner future for our kids, create jobs for Canadians and support our climate change goals.”

“Net zero energy buildings are the future of the industry and the future is right now,” says John Smiciklas, BOMA Canada’s Director, Energy and Environment. “The uptake of the Net Zero Challenge tells us we are headed in right direction.”

“We are excited to see continued innovation in renewable, efficient energy programs for buildings all across Canada,” says Sean Drygas, President, Bullfrog Power. “For this reason, Bullfrog Power is proud to support BOMA Canada’s Net Zero Challenge.”

The deadline for new entries in BOMA Canada’s 2019 Net Zero Challenge is July 15, 2019 in all three award categories: Best in Class, Most Improved and Innovation. Winners will be announced on September 11, 2019 at the BOMA Canada National Awards Gala held during BOMEX 2019 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, September 9-11, 2019.
Staphanie Betsill
Zeena and Shane Fontanilla both grew up on the island of Maui in Hawaii, but they didn’t meet one another until after college when they went on a blind date together. Now the couple are living the dream — their 360-square-foot tiny house is parked on a wide stretch of land on their native island, along with their young son, Maverick. The picture looks pretty perfect now, but it wasn’t an easy (or quick) road to this dream realized.

The couple, who works for a family residential construction company — Shane works in the field and Zeena works in the office — kickstarted the process in April 2015. This was after they were engaged and just eight months before their wedding date. “Binge-watching Tiny House Nation on HGTV helped us hone in our ideal design,” Zeena shares. “It took us two years to complete with only nights and weekends to work on the house.” This project was completed by Zeena, Shane, and Shane’s father. “My husband grew up in a family of builders so he always had the dream to build his own home,” Zeena begins. “I don’t think he imagined it to be this small, but I think this was the perfect size for our first build together. This project was the best premarital counseling we could’ve asked for. Prior to starting our project I knew many joint decisions would need to be made. ‘Many’ was an understatement, try one billion decisions needed to be made. Let’s just say our communication skills are top notch. One exercise that is extremely helpful in any miscommunication is choosing a number between 1-10 displaying how much this matter means to you. You quickly realize which person this matter means the most to, which diffuses the argument quite fast.”

Once the hard work was behind them and the couple moved in (now with 19-month-old son, Maverick), a whole new set of challenges presented themselves to the family. “Unlearning what ‘normal home life’ means was a challenge we faced in our first six months in the tiny house,” Zeena reveals. “My husband and I became off-grid dwellers in our mid- to late-twenties with no prior experience. We went from never questioning electricity use at night to thinking twice about turning on a switch. Even though we had our battery storage customized to our electrical output plus some, it felt scary to trust a system we didn’t quite understand.”

Setbacks and learning curves aside, they have gained a wealth of knowledge, and have much to be thankful for, including, “The financial freedom it’s given us in such an expensive state,” Zeena notes. “We spent $45,000 to build our home when ‘normal’ homes on Maui cost around $400,000+.” The home was built and then driven to and parked on less than .25 acres of pasture land, which the Fontanillas rent from a family friend.

What quickly connected the couple over that first blind date — their “mutual love for exploring the many ecosystems Maui has to offer” (“and the fact that we both LOVE Mexican food,” Zeena adds) — ended up becoming a full-circle theme for Zeena and Shane as they find themselves navigating life truly off the grid. Their shared devotion for their home, their family, and the beauty that surrounds them is so evident, it’s definitely not lost on others who set foot in their home.

“Many people have confirmed this when they’ve visited our home but I feel a wave of peace each time I walk through the door,” Zeena shares. “We are surrounded by pasture land with grazing animals and a cool breeze that comes off the mountains. The 13-foot ceilings you experience as you first walk into the house add to that peaceful, light, airy feeling.”
Philip Kamrass/New York Power Authority
On the heels of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement on Tuesday that he would devote his efforts and resources to shuttering every remaining coal plant in the U.S. by 2030, New York State revealed on Wednesday its “Buildings of Excellence” initiative to advance the design, construction, and operation of low- or zero-carbon emitting buildings on the way to a fossil fuel-free future.

The competition, which will include three rounds over the course of three years, each providing up to $10 million for projects featuring innovative, energy efficiency solutions, is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's goal to transform New York's entire building stock as part of his Green New Deal, and will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The first round is focused on multi-family buildings, which make up 40 percent of the 100 million square feet of new construction in the state each year. Applications are being accepted through June 4, 2019. Awards to eligible developers are expected by late summer 2019.

Eligible projects that will be awarded must be in one of the following four phases:
  • Early Design - Projects in the schematic design or design development phase; eligible for an award of up to $1,000,000.
  • Late Design - Design development is complete, and the construction documents are being developed, but the building permit has not yet been issued; eligible for an award of up to $750,000.
  • Under Construction - If the building permit has been issued, but the first Certificate of Occupancy, whether temporary or permanent, has not been issued; eligible for an award of up to $500,000.
  • Post-Completion Performance Optimization - Projects must show how additional proposed enhancements and/or optimizations demonstrate replicability and improve the living environment; eligible for an award of up to $250,000.
Speaking at a press conference in New York City, NYSERDA president and CEO Alicia Barton said, “Launching the Buildings of Excellence competition is setting a new bar for buildings throughout the state, and providing the support needed to recognize and advance solutions that will help building owners achieve a low-carbon or net-zero status that delivers environmental and health benefits, reduces energy costs, and provides safe, comfortable spaces for all residents and users.”
serie + multiply architects
the net zero ‘NUS school of design & environment 4,’ designed by serie + multiply architects with surbana jurong, opens in singapore. the building, a prototype of sustainable design, combines contemporary sustainable methods with a tropical building language. located on a hilltop near the southern coastline of singapore, SDE4 is a new addition to a larger campus redevelopment in the design and environment precinct. the climate-responsive building includes more than 1,500 square meters of design studio space, a 500-square-meter open plaza, workshops and research centers, and a new library. the building’s flexible design and high efficiency reflect the school’s ambitions to promote new forms of educational spaces as a scaffold for research. the rooms are designed in a variety of scales to allow for flexible reorganization for exhibitions, school-specific installations and future change of use.

awarded to serie + multiply architects with surbana jurong through an international design competition launched in 2013, the building was envisioned as a porous collection of programmatically expressive ‘platforms and boxes.’ the project was developed by the school of design and environment at the national university of singapore. as the team’s initial ambition was to challenge the idea that a high energy efficient building must be opaque, the completed SDE4 is incredibly open. the building features large platforms which to promote interaction and visual continuity. christopher lee, principal of serie architects, comments: ‘we envisioned a very transparent volume in which the outside and the inside spaces are ambiguous; where nature and landscape play an important part, as a backdrop to the building.’

the design expresses the vernacular tropical architecture of southeast asia. over 50% of the total area is naturally ventilated and most of the rooms can be opened to allow breezes. the project, punctuated by a collection of terraces and landscaped balconies, is characterized by the ambiguous boundaries between spaces for study, work and socialization. the east and west facade feature a double-skin element, introducing an interstitial gap programmatically designated for research. elements of the outer skin can be easily dismantled and replaced with new systems depending on the school’s research needs. the building therefore serves as a living laboratory for the testing and development of relevant green building technology.

Tom Ichniowski
Proposal lacks details on funding, revenue-raisers

A group of congressional Democrats have issued an outline for an ambitious “Green New Deal,” a plan that aims to slow or reverse climate change by a variety of steps, including revamping energy generation, fortifying infrastructure against storms and renovating energy-inefficient buildings.

Odds that the Green New Deal proposal will become law appear long. But, depending on how much support it eventually generates, the plan may help shape the contours of any major infrastructure legislation this year and also push climate change up the list of priority issues for the 2020 elections.

The blueprint, set down in a proposed resolution introduced in the House and Senate on Feb. 7, has the tenor of a call to political arms. And by design, its authors say, doesn’t specify how much funding it would require—though the price tag would undoubtedly be immense—or identify revenue-raisers to pay for that spending. It does set a timetable, saying that the program should be carried out through "a 10-year national mobilization."

Its prime mover in the House, high-profile, first-year Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said at a Feb. 7 press conference outside the U.S. Capitol that the resolution is an initial action. “Our first step,” she said,” is to define the problem and define the scope of the solution.”

The House version has more than 60 initial co-sponsors with additional backers ready to sign on, Ocasio-Cortez said. That’s far short of a majority but it is still early in the process.

The Senate version, introduced by Ed Markey (D-Mass.), has 11 co-sponsors as of Day One. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) isn’t among them.

But the list does include all of the senators who, to date, have declared themselves as presidential candidates for 2020. That would support Markey’s comment at the press conference that dealing with climate change is “a voting issue” in the U.S. and will be a prime topic in the 2020 election cycle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a briefing earlier in the day that she welcomed the proposal, though she hadn’t yet read the resolution. Pelosi also said that as Congress pursues infrastructure legislation, one of her stated goals, “we want to do so in a green, informed way.”

But it was a less-than-wholehearted endorsement. She called the Green New Deal “enthusiastic,” adding that “we welcome all the enthusiasm
Alberto Cosi. ImageBamboo Sports Hall for Panyaden International School / Chiangmai Life Construction
It is, once again, the time of year where we look towards the future to define the goals and approaches that we will take for our careers throughout the upcoming year. To help the millions of architects who visit ArchDaily every day from all over the world, we compiled a list of the most popular ideas of 2018, which will continue to be developed and consolidated throughout 2019.

Over 130 million users discovered new references, materials, and tools in 2018 alone, infusing their practice of architecture with the means to improve the quality of life for our cities and built spaces. As users demonstrated certain affinities and/or demonstrated greater interest in particular topics, these emerged as trends.

Below, we present the trends that will influence urban and architectural discussions in 2019, with the year-over-year growth rates (YoY) that compare to the statistics of searches from 2017 to 2018.

1. Ways of Living: Greater Interest in Small Scale Homes

The Tiny Houses (+75% YoY) concept emerged strongly at the beginning of 2018. Whether it is a movement in response to ideological or financial situations, architects have become more involved in the development of practical and innovative solutions for small spaces. We can also include the interest for- living in dense urban centers, leading to the challenge of designing basic housing programs for spaces under 40 m2. (Searches related to Small Apartments increased by 121% in 2018).

2. Inclusive Architecture: First-Rate Design for Diverse Populations

Accessibility (+108% YoY), Universal Design (+116%) and Inclusive Architecture (+132%) were some of the most searched concepts on ArchDaily in 2018. In previous years the focus was mostly on architecture for children and reduced mobility, whereas this year we saw more searches related to Architecture for the Elderly (+78% YoY) and different capacities related to mental health (Architecture & Mental Health +101% YoY; Space Psychology +210% YoY) and visual impairments (Architecture for the Blind +250% YoY).

3. The Middle-East: Underrepresented Territories in Evidence

Just as we saw increasing interest in emerging practices in Latin America (+103.82% YoY) in the last two years, in 2018 we also saw an increase in searches related to the Middle East (+124% YoY). The conflict in Syria (+93% YoY) placed architects’ focus on Rebuilding (+102% YoY). In addition, global events peaked the interest of architects due to the magnitude of the structures involved. Both the city of Dubai (+104% YoY), which will be the host of World Expo 2020, and Qatar (+220% YoY), which will host the next soccer 2022 World Cup, increased considerably in search queries. Hashim Sarkis (+236% YoY), the Lebanese architect who was appointed curator of the Architecture Exhibition for the next Venice Biennial (2020), was one of the most searched persons during 2018.
The implications of such a plan—championed by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—extend well beyond the ecological

Newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got tongues wagging this month when she championed a plan for a Green New Deal, and drafted a proposal to kickstart the committee that would create it. While she’s not the first to suggest the idea, timing and the cultural climate are apt for a renewal of the discussion.

Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, which emphasizes decarbonization, job creation, and social and economic justice, is politically audacious—it aims for 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years—but in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s most recent warning that the world has about a decade to get climate change under control if we are to thwart its worst effects. With close to half of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment, architects and designers should feel welcome wading into the conversation.

In the past, buildings were designed to hold people and things and to receive energy along a one-way artery from a faraway grid. Under a Green New Deal, that way of building would be considered outdated and obsolete. Instead, buildings would be considered mini power plants that can not only produce enough energy to supply their own needs, but also fuel vehicles and send excess energy back to the grid.

“There’s a loosening of the boundaries around things that define energy—they’re not siloed anymore,” says Jacob Corvidae, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute's Buildings Practice. “Suddenly, a building is not just a building.”

Corvidae believes all new construction should already be held to such standards. “We should stop the bleeding now,” he explains. “If you don’t build it to zero-energy now, you run the risk of being obsolete in ten years.” In other words, any building not designed to meet net-zero-energy standards is already archaic.
A Green New Deal would inject capital, job training, and manufacturing incentives into the system, accelerating the pace of a green economy. Building green infrastructure would be a major source of employment, and would help establish better social and economic equity, too; reliable, multimodal transit infrastructure to and from working-class neighborhoods would provide access to more jobs, schools, grocery stores, and other essentials they may currently be isolated from.
Better infrastructure also builds resiliency for those communities—an important element in the face of ever more ex
Real Estate Weekly
The latest climate report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) anticipates that the world will experience the more extreme effects and consequences of climate change much earlier than originally thought, all within most of the global population’s lifetime.

This news, paired with the ongoing world climate crisis, pushes us to maximize our efforts toward a more sustainable future.

As professionals in the AEC industry, we must first acknowledge the effect our work has on the environment and then focus on what steps can we take to mitigate those impacts.

Through our work, we are constantly involved in projects and policies that will have a very real effect on climate change. There have been multiple, global campaigns pushing us to “go green” and to reduce our personal waste, but what about our professional responsibility to the environment?

One organization working to advance our role in mitigating climate change is the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which is taking bold steps toward ensuring that architects understand their professional responsibility to protect the environment. Earlier this year, the AIA adopted new rules and ethical standards that makes sustainable design an imperative for its members, who must “make reasonable efforts to advise their clients and employers of their obligations to the environment. The AIA’s National Code of Ethics also expanded on what architects’ goals should be in terms of energy conservation, water use, building materials and the ecosystem. Climate change is now front and center.

We must work toward ensuring that these and other important environmental guidelines become the professional norm. We not only have a moral and ethical obligation to our clients, but to the environment as well.

Architecture 2030 is a non-profit organization committed to transforming the global built environment, from being the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution. Its focus is on lowering building energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by setting target levels for new and renovated buildings. The organization offers a comprehensive set of online tools and resources on design and planning, education and policy in an effort to promote its sustainable agenda.

We need more professionals and firms to commit to Architecture 2030’s goals. To that end, the AIA has launched the 2030
Poppi Photography
The rigorous approach to home building is becoming more affordable—and more necessary—than ever before.

New modular systems, lower-cost products, and consumer interest in energy efficiency are bringing a 30-year-old German-based construction method into the mainstream. While its early adherents may have been thought of as eco-warriors intent on saving the earth, the Passive House technique is no longer on the fringes of residential building. In fact, driven by strict energy codes, the practice is on track to become commonplace in some parts of the country like California, which faces a residential net-zero mandate in 2020.

Among sustainable building advocates, Passive House represents the gold standard for its demanding requirements and rigorous verification process. Launched in Germany as Passivhaus, the approach was inspired by energy-efficient, passive-solar homes built in the U.S. in response to the 1970s oil crisis. The first Passivhaus homes were built in 1990; since then, more than 2,000 certified buildings have been constructed worldwide, according to the International Passive House Association.

The building system uses very low amounts of energy for heating and cooling, which it achieves with a tightly sealed building envelope, high levels of insulation without thermal bridging, high R–value windows, and mechanical ventilation. The passive approach has a notably high requirement for airtightness, a maximum of 0.06 air changes per hour (0.6 ACH 50). Because of its exceptional efficiency, it makes getting a home to net-zero energy that much easier and minimizes the need for heating, which accounts for about 40% of residential energy use and causes seasonal spikes in energy consumption—making a passive home intrinsically more sustainable.

According to the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), homes built to passive standards use 50% to 70% less energy than typical houses. They are also known for their high comfort levels, since they maintain a consistent temperature while providing a steady supply of clean, fresh air. Due to their tight envelopes, the homes can also stay comfortable even during extended power outages. (Click here for more on passive's resilient benefits.)
Lord Aeck Sargent in Collaboration with The Miller Hull Partnership
Can buildings be both comfortable and energy efficient? The Kendeda Building shows how the two can go hand in hand.

User control may seem antithetical to high-performance buildings: imagine the amount of energy that might be wasted when building occupants are able to adjust the thermostat or open and close windows at will.

Occupants who have perceived control of temperature, however, tend to be more comfortable in their environment. Is it possible for architects to design buildings that are high performance and allow occupants thermal control?

Yes, but to achieve that goal, it is critical to understand a building’s use and the comfort of its occupants when designing for high performance.

The basics of thermal comfort

Thermal comfort is a subjective state. It is both psychological and physiological, and as such is one of the most complex but important aspects of building design.

There are three types of heat transfer: conduction (transfer through direct contact with solid materials, like holding a hot cup of coffee), convection (transfer through liquids and gasses, like feeling colder when it’s windy) and radiation (transfer through electromagnetic waves, like feeling hot when close to a fire).

In addition, there are six factors that influence thermal comfort:

  1. Air temperature: the temperature of the air in the space. This is the factor most think of when considering comfort (it’s too hot, too cold or just right).

  2. Humidity: the moisture in the air. With higher humidity, perspiration evaporates less efficiently, resulting in a given air temperature feeling warmer.

  3. Mean radiant temperature: the perceived temperature in an environment, created by the average of the air temperature and radiant temperature of all facing surfaces. Mean radiant temperature explains why it can feel cold in the winter adjacent to a large window, even when the room is heated to a “comfortable” 72ºF air temperature. The cool window surface radiantly cools your body.

  4. Air speed: the rate of air movement. With higher air speeds (more air movement, within limits), we perspire more efficiently and increase convective heat loss, resulting in a given air temperature feeling cooler.

  5. Metabolic rate: the rate of transformation of calories into heat and mechanical work by metabolic activities within an organism. This is directly related to activity level in an environment. With lower levels of physical activity, warmer air temperatures a
Danice O. Kus
A land of 100,000 lakes? More aptly and accurately, Finland is a nation of 100 percent literacy, a land of libraries. The country celebrated its 101st year of independence on December 6 by dedicating “Oodi (Ode),” the long-awaited new Helsinki Central Library, designed by the locally based ALA Architects, following their selection through a 2014 international competition that attracted 544 entries.

Situated in the cultural heart of the nation’s capital, Oodi’s spruce-clad, glass-topped volume bounds the eastern edge of “Kansalaistori (Citizen’s Square),” completing a civic space of cultural expression that is defined by the adjacent contemporary buildings for art, performance and information: Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art by Steven Holl, (1991); Sanoma-talo, the Helsinki news corporation’s headquarters by SARC (1993); and the Helsinki Music Center by LPR Architects, (2011). The symbolic character of the square is further amplified by the nearby Helsinki Railway Station by Eliel Saarien (1915), J.S. Siren’s House of Parliament (1929), and Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall (1974).

To this urban ensemble of collective civic aspirations, “Oodi” provides an expanded understanding of the contemporary library: both an “urban living room”—with a forum and theater for the exchange of ideas and information—and a “workshop”—an open-access studio for cultural production. Of course, there are books, too, and the intimate, reflective act of reading is still valued in “Oodi”’s opalescent top-level “Book Heaven,” only now supported, literally and figuratively, by the resources and activities available on the column-free ground-floor off the public square, and the “maker-spaces” of “the Attic” level in-between. These internal dynamics are made possible by an innovative arching steel bridge structure, spanning 100 meters, anchored into a reinforced concrete tension slab that is elegantly concealed within the tailored facade surfaces.

Part of this re-visioning of the library’s role was in ALA’s original competition entry, but much also resulted from a deep engagement with the library staff and public participation in design development. At the same time, the library’s re-design of staffing and services removed administrative offices from the program; instead there is a reliance on efficient technologies for book check-outs, returns and shelving—meant to maximize staff availability
Architecture 2030
Happy Holidays!

Amid all the sobering stories and projections about climate change in the news lately, we have some upbeat news to share. Our hard work is having a BIG impact.

Today, U.S. building sector CO2 emissions are 20.2% below 2005 levels.

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy efficiency and power sector decarbonization have reduced U.S. building sector CO2 emissions by 20.2% below 2005 levels, despite adding approximately 30 billion square feet to our building stock during the last 12 years.

And, global building sector CO2 emissions appear to have leveled off in the past few years.

That’s the good news. Of course, that’s only the beginning. There is still much, much more to do.

Consider that by 2060, total world population is expected to increase by about 2.7 billion people. At the same time, world urban population is expected to increase by 2.8 billion people, or the equivalent of adding 1.5 million people to our cities worldwide every week.

In order to support this urban migration and population growth, by 2060 global building floor area is projected to increase by 230 billion m2, or double the current worldwide building stock.

These numbers are staggering, and if buildings and infrastructure are designed and built to current standards, we will lock-in emissions that will be with us for the foreseeable future.

This week, scientists announced that 2018 will mark the highest level of global carbon dioxide emissions ever recorded, and at the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said,

We are in deep trouble with climate change… It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.”