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The Architecture Lobby
The relationship between the business of architecture and the nature of architectural work is fraught. Many celebrated firms have been built on the backs of young and often unpaid labor. To call this practice an open secret would be inaccurate. It isn’t a secret at all; for some firms, it’s standard operating practice.

The Architecture Lobby, founded in 2013 by Peggy Deamer, has begun the long and laborious process of addressing these issues. Today, the group has 16 chapters and 450 dues-paying members. (Yearly dues amount to 0.2% of total income, or about $100 for a $50,000 salary.) Recently, I spoke with the Lobby’s national organizer, Dexter Walcott, about the group’s recent efforts, its campaign to unionize the field, the Green New Deal, and the future of work.

MCP: Martin C. Pedersen
DW: Dexter Walcott

MCP: What’s the Lobby working on right now?

DW: The top three initiatives are the unionization campaign, the socializing of small firms, and the Green New Deal campaign. We’re also working to expand the “Not Our Wall” campaign to focus on the detention infrastructure, beyond the physical barriers and surveillance infrastructures.

MCP: So there are both national and local Lobby initiatives?

DW: Yes. There are chapters that are working on issues that are purely local. And then some chapters blur a lot, where there will be a national campaign that has a strong presence in our regional chapters. The “Not Our Wall” campaign, for instance, had a strong presence in the California chapters. The Green New Deal is a national campaign, but the New York chapter has a very strong presence with that.

MCP: Let’s pull a few of these issues out for closer examination, starting with union recognition. What’s your goal here, and how do you see that playing out?

DW: The end goal is to form unions of architectural workers. There are a number of ways that it can play out. One type of union we organize would be a single-issue union, where we would begin to organize architectural workers around a single problem within the profession and organize workplaces to form collective bargaining units around that issue. For instance, something like the eight-hour workday would be appealing in the profession. That covers a lot of the issues with one broad stroke, whether it’s the culture of overwork or the inability of people to have time to take care of themselves or their families outside of the profession. We could organize workplaces under a contract that only has one clause in it that would say, “We’re going to work for eight hours, five days a week.” That’s something that is appealing to the Architectural Lobby at the moment. And it’s so necessary in the profession right now.

MCP: Is your goal to go through the actual process of becoming a legally recognized union?

DW: Not necessarily. We’re more interested in helping workers build collective bargaining units. At the end of the day, the Lobby isn’t so concerned about being the legal entity. We want to see the sector have unions. The unionization working group has put together an amazing pamphlet on the steps to do this.

MCP: So some chapters might, ultimately, be purely local?

DW: Yes. Right now we’re organizing ourselves and trying to understand where the organization has power, and where we can leverage that power. It starts with a belief that we need to get tight around an argument, if we’re going to start organizing other people to commit to it. We don’t want to build an organization that just brings together like-minded people. We must become good at winning contentious arguments. You can’t organize a workplace by assuming, “Oh, everyone who already thinks like me will automatically join my group.” You have to engage in discussions with people who say, “I don’t think unions are going to help our industry”; or ask questions like, “Will that cut my pay?”; or say, “My boss is really good to me right now.”

It’s also important to have conversations with people about preserving things that are good about the profession. We need to reinforce the idea that unions aren’t just for times when everything’s falling apart, but are a way to ensure that things stay great and can get better. But the Lobby’s core position is
Arup
Arup, a global consulting engineering firm, recently welcomed clients and partners to its 65,000-sf, four-floor Toronto offices to unveil two new ‘incubators,’ the Maker’s and Pegasus Labs.

Maker’s Lab (pictured above) facilitates modelling, production, assembly and prototyping. The open collaboration space is equipped with a laser cutter, 3-D printers, manual tools and common materials like wood, composites, plastics, light metals and cardstock. Arup encourages using discarded materials for sketch models and early concepts or prototypes.

Pegasus Lab, meanwhile, is dedicated to experiential design through digital engineering workflows and visualizations of operational processes and designs. It features virtual reality (VR), gesture recognition, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, video analytics, augmented reality (AR) and Arup’s own Neuron ‘smart building’ platform.

“Arup was the first firm to embrace digital engineering in 1957 during the design of the Sydney Opera House by using the Pegasus computer,” explains Justin Trevan, the company’s digital technology consulting and advisory services leader for Canada. “Today, the firm continues to innovate for efficient, sustainable and economical solutions.”

In addition to live demos in the two new labs, guests experienced such installations as Motion Platform, which allows users to feel the vibrations of a building while it is still on the drawing board, and Mobile Sound Lab, an immersive audiovisual (AV) environment with simulations of both existing and as-yet-unbuilt spaces.
MIT
MIT has developed M-blocks, a set of robotic cubes that can roll, jump, spin, and self-assemble into different shapes. the robots, called M-blocks 2.0, have a barcode-like system on each face that helps them recognize and communicate with other blocks.

the cube robots were developed by MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory (CSAIL). they are actually the second iteration of an original design that MIT showed off back in 2013. the latest version features algorithms designed to help the robots work together more effectively.

inside each modular ‘M-block’ is a flywheel that moves at 20,000 revolutions per minute, using angular momentum when the flywheel is braked. on each edge and every face are permanent magnets that let any two cubes attach to each other.

each module can move in four cardinal directions when placed on any one of the six faces, which results in 24 different movement directions. without little arms and appendages sticking out of the blocks, it’s a lot easier for them to stay free of damage and avoid collisions.


‘M stands for motion, magnet, and magic,’ says MIT professor and CSAIL director daniela rus. ”motion’, because the cubes can move by jumping. ‘magnet,’ because the cubes can connect to other cubes using magnets, and once connected they can move together and connect to assemble structures. ‘magic,’ because we don’t see any moving parts, and the cube appears to be driven by magic.’

‘the unique thing about our approach is that it’s inexpensive, robust, and potentially easier to scale to a million modules,’ says CSAIL PhD student john romanishin, lead author on a new paper about the system. ‘m-blocks can move in a general way. other robotic systems have much more complicated movement mechanisms that require many steps, but our system is more scalable.’

essentially, the blocks used the configuration of how they’re connected to each other in order to guide the motion that they choose to move. in MIT’s experiements, 90 percent of the M-blocks succeeded in getting into a line.

while the mechanism is quite intricate on the inside, the exterior is just the opposite, which enables more robust connections. beyond inspection and rescue, the researchers also imagine using the blocks for things like gaming, manufacturing, and health care.

Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects
UEA Institute of Productivity submitted for planning approval

Location: University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK

Design: Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects

Uncovering the past to reveal the future – UEA’s Institute of Productivity

In creating a home for UEA’s new Institute of Productivity, Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects have removed later additions to reveal hidden details of Denys Lasdun’s original building – creating a state-of-the-art home for a new generation of “Visible Engineers” – a space where engineering activity and its ability to help solve the problems of today are made proudly visible.

Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects have just submitted an application for planning approval and listed building consent for the refurbishment and extension of Building 6 of Denys Lasdun’s Grade II listed Teaching Wall at the University of East Anglia. The refurbished space will provide a home for the new Institute of Productivity, part of the School of Engineering.

The Institute will be located in the former undergraduate Biology Labs in Building 6 and the adjacent single storey Biology Annexe Building. A key element of the scheme is the provision of a new entrance to the Institute at the end of a new pedestrian link from Chancellor’s Drive, the main route through the campus.

The new entrance has been made possible by the removal of a later 1970’s corridor which was added over the original Lasdun façade, obscuring many interesting details, including concrete columns recessed from the blockwork façade to create small window reveals with a sculptural base detail. New canopies help to announce the entrance and to provide covered cycle storage; rationalizing and improving the landscaping and public realm in this part of the campus. In so doing, our design helps to resolve the complex junction between the original Lasdun and later Rick Mather masterplan which has led to convoluted and confusing circulation in this part of the campus.

The new route and entrance will improve visibility for the Institute and assist with the delivery of robots, materials and machinery. A new window will be punched through the blank east façade of the former Bio Annexe to allow passers-by to look in to a state-of-the-art robotics workshop inside.

Internally, the former labs will be reconfigured to provide a studio space and digital design laboratory, a CAD studio, an additive manufacturing workshop to house 3D printers and a subtractive manufacturing and robotics workshop.This project, like our other schemes at UEA, has involved working closely with Norwich City Council, Historic England and the Twentieth Century Society, to ensure that the Grade II listed fabric of Lasdun’s original design is protected and to discern how his original vision for the campus can be maintained as it develops to meet the needs of today’s staff and students.

The scheme involves the removal of paint from the pre-cast concrete structure to return the soffits to their original condition and re-cycling the original lab bench tops as fixed furniture within the new Institute of Productivity.

The scheme has been submitted for planning approval and a decision is expected in January 2020.
Gensler
When Gensler employees come to work at the company’s new downtown offices, they’ll be able to set up in one of at least six workspaces. If they’re feeling stressed out, they can step into a “wellness room” to decompress. Those who bike to work will be able to take an elevator straight into the office, which will have its own bicycle storage.

“A lot of people ride their bikes to work and it seems like we’re getting even more, so we decided to accommodate a large number of bikes in the work area,” said Gensler’s Vince Flickinger, who was part of the team that designed the company's new space in 2 Houston Center.

The architecture firm signed a lease earlier this year for 50,000 square feet on two floors of the building at 909 Fannin, part of the larger Houston Center office complex on the eastern end of downtown. The company will relocate from Pennzoil Place once construction on the new space is complete.

San Francisco-based Gensler is known for its high-end corporate interiors. In recent years, its Houston office has implemented more of the design trends it studies and carries out for its clients, which include some of this region's top law practices, financial institutions and energy firms.

The new space will bring even more forward-thinking design.

About 70 percent of the Houston 288-person office will focus on so-called agile working, where employees can choose from a variety of workplace settings, whether it’s outside on a patio, in a huddle room or at a stand-up desk.

One section of the office will house mobile work stations that can be fully reconfigured. All workspaces throughout the office will have sit-to-stand capabilities.

“We like to see our office as a testing ground,” Flickinger said.

A design lab will include a makerspace with 3D printers, a virtual reality testing space and a shop area for making architectural models. The firm’s materials library will be twice the size of its current footprint in Pennzoil Place.

Employees will have access to a “sensory-lined wellness room” with adjustable light and sound systems to create a calming atmosphere. Gensler designers also plan to use the room for research on how sight, smell, touch and sound affect the workplace. Other quiet areas will encourage employees to relax without electronics.

“As you have more open areas some times some people just need to get away,” Flickinger said. “Not focus rooms or huddle rooms, but rooms for you to separate yourself from the working environment to get refreshed.”

Houston Center has its own amenities for tenants, including a fitness center, shops and restaurants. The complex is in the throes of its own renovation, which Gensler designed for landlord Brookfield.
KTGY Architecture + Planning
With a rapidly aging population, an inward flux of new urban residents, and developmental pressures forcing displacement and homelessness on growing numbers of people, housing design finds itself at a critical nexus in the United States.

And while many architecture firms are surely working on innovative housing projects, few have dedicated teams focused on pursuing housing innovation from an integrated, transformational perspective. KTGY Architecture + Planning is one such firm, however. The R+D Studio at KTGY exists to "explore new and emerging ideas related to building design and technology," with an eye toward integrating new housing developments into their surroundings, re-thinking existing design paradigms, and prototyping cost- and time-saving construction approaches all the while expanding the realm of housing design to include co-living arrangements, contemporary senior housing models, and supportive housing.

We talked with Marissa Kasdan, director of KTGY's R+D Studio, to discuss how well-designed housing can serve more people, the changing nature of domestic spaces, and to highlight innovations coming out of her team's work.

What is the focus of KTGY’s R+D Studio? And of your position?

KTGY’s R+D Studio was created as a dedicated effort focused on furthering KTGY’s vision, “to move the discourse of architecture forward by continuously searching for better.” With that goal in mind, the R+D Studio explores new and emerging ideas related to building design, shifts in residential demographics, and trends in the way people live. My role, as director of the R+D Studio, is to maintain the focus of the studio in a way that also supports the design efforts of the various studios within KTGY. I coordinate with studio leaders from KTGY offices across the country and look for opportunities to develop design concepts that support the building types and market segments we serve.

The R+D Studio seems to pursue an integrated approach that considers design, urban-scale considerations, and constructability issues simultaneously. Can you share an example of a project (or an approach/idea) that has most benefited from this arrangement?

The Skytowns concept considers how townhome unit plans in a high-rise configuration could maximize building efficiency while minimizing elevator stops and shared circulation space, all while providing multi-level unit layouts in an urban setting. On every other level, the townhome units recapture the corridor area as unit area, increasing the overall building efficiency to nearly 90%. The inherent nature of the multi-story units creates a unique opportunity for vertical variation along the high-rise façade.

One of your research focuses revolves around expanding the definition of co-living. How is the research coming out of the R+D Studio informing the design of unit plans for this type of housing?

Initially, we developed a co-housing concept to address urban affordability for young professionals trying to manage their rents, leading to the development of an 11-bedroom, 11-bathroom prototype unit. Since then, we have discussed with many of our clients and other interested individuals the opportunity to apply the benefits of shared living in new ways to help address a variety of issues and serve a wide range of demographics.
John Apicella
In his third post analyzing project delivery, Phil Bernstein discusses its tenuous nature as well as the unrealized potential of BIM.

This is the author’s third post in a series covering an Autodesk project delivery workshop series that explored the relationship between emergent digital collaboration technologies and the AECO sector. The six workshops were held worldwide over 18 months in 2018 and 2019.

Can a given set of data be trusted by both its creator and its users across the complex transactions that comprise the delivery of a construction project? Information reliability was a core theme that emerged throughout our project delivery workshops series. Technical, procedural, and cultural roadblocks combine to interfere with opportunities for substantial improvement in building this trust. In this article, I investigate the underlying causes of these roadblocks.

In modern design and construction, almost all information is developed on digital platforms. It is not surprising, then, that an underlying anxiety about technical problems and their root causes exists among designers, builders, and building operators. Multiple incompatible platforms for generating data in a variety of formats proliferate in the industry. Given that the building industry is one of the last enterprises to digitize, the development of these tools and their outputs seems to be moving far faster than users can adopt them—much less keep track of them and their subsequent updates. Developing “industry standard” formats for compatibility and interoperability, however, would slow necessary innovation. The Tower of Babel continues to grow accordingly.

The potential of BIM, touted since the approach reached widespread adoption in the U.S. market in the years following the global financial crisis, has hardly been realized. Everyone has a lot of interesting 3D data and accompanying metadata, but hardly anyone knows how to share the information in a meaningful, safe, and profitable way. Even when model-based data is generated in the same software tool, significant effort is required to establish the workflow protocols, sharing approaches, and levels of resolution necessary for trustable exchange. Digital deliverables derived from models are infrequent. As a result, BIM is often reduced to a sophisticated drawing management system, as drawings are well understood and present few technical challenges—their lack of detail, fidelity, and precision notwithstanding.

Even when model-based data is generated in the same software tool, significant effort is required to establish the workflow protocols, sharing approaches, and levels of resolution necessary for trustable exchange.

The real question posed here is one of chicken and egg: the generation of digital data and its proper use. As Barbara Heller, FAIA, president of Washington, D.C., firm Heller & Metzger, described in a 2008 DesignIntelligence article, buildings are delivered by an “immense aggregation of cottage industries,” where developing standard workflows, protocols, or even compatible business models is a challenge. Procedural incompatibilities at all levels are the result: Architects, builders, and facility managers have different needs and uses for data, making its coherent flow from design to operation almost impossible. This challenge is traditionally “solved” by re-representing that information in each subsequent interaction of the design-to-build process: concept drawings, construction documents, shop drawings, and then whatever hybridized or bespoke format a building owner creates to manage the resulting information flow after construction completion and the departure of the design-build team.

Further calcifying information flow is the structure of typical delivery itself, presupposed to be a strictly linear process of phases that accompany each of the deliverables described above, from schematic design through construction administration. Process loops—where insights from, say, construction logic might inform a design strategy—do not exist, so important information has no route to swim upstream against the current. While iteration of alternatives does occur within each phase “process silo,” opportunities for design strategy to inform construction or for technical insight to improve cost estimating are made almost impossible by both procedural and technical incompatibilities.

At the foundation of this tower of process-disconnects is a misalignment of management approaches. The overarching goals of a given project, establ
Banana Leaf Technology
Plastic pollution negatively impacts the health of our planet. Waste management has led to an irreversible environmental crisis that is felt by wildlife, especially in the oceans. One organization, called Banana Leaf Technology, is helping to address the stark reality by proposing banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic.

Using 100 percent organic banana leaves as raw material, the novel, eco-friendly preservation technology transforms the cellular structure by enhancing its properties so that the leaves remain green for an entire year without any chemicals. Plus, their shelf lifespan is extended to up to three years.

After the preservation process, the enhanced leaves have increased load-bearing capabilities, resistance to extreme temperatures, durability, elasticity and flexibility. Banana Leaf Technology’s website additionally states that the processed leaves are more pathogen-resistant with antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. How does it do this? The technology fortifies the banana leaves’ cell walls and prevents pathogenic agents from degrading the processed biomaterial’s cells.

Currently, Banana Leaf Technology offers 30 products that utilize its preservation methods. These products include plates, cups, cones, boxes, writing paper and envelopes. Because the patented Banana Leaf Technology is customizable, other products are expected to be developed in the future, such as natural packaging alternatives.

Banana Leaf Technology products provide several advantages. Besides curtailing the destructive damages to wildlife and landfills, using preserved banana leaf products decreases the risks of plastic leaching byproducts and toxins into food and beverages, making them a far healthier cookware, dinnerware and food storage alternative to plastic. Moreover, after their primary use, they can, in turn, serve as animal fodder or garden fertilizer to make soil more arable.

First formulated in 2010 by Tenith Adithyaa, a precocious 11-year-old who was working in his homemade laboratory, the now-patented Banana Leaf Technology has since received seven international awards. The company’s mission, according to its website, is “to solve the global climate crisis without compromising the economy.” Adithyaa’s vision is to make Banana Leaf Technology “available to all human beings, regardless of their geographical and economical boundaries.”

Interestingly, the company’s current business model is to “sell the tech license worldwide to any company” that shares in Adithyaa’s vision. The website elaborates further, stipulating that “any commercial or non-commercial company can purchase the license to this technology by technology transfer. The license will be granted for lifetime to operate worldwide.”
Christopher Barrett.
Here’s a bold statement that we all need to be reminded of. Pinterest has altered the design world—but it hasn’t replaced the need for a designer.

In a fascinating report on Evidence-Based Design (EBD) from The Center for Health Design, the company defines EBD as “the deliberate attempt to base building decisions on the best available research evidence with the goal of improving outcomes and of continuing to monitor the success or failure for subsequent decision-making.” In short, purposeful design isn’t just a compilation of pretty pictures, but it’s backed by results, best practices, experience, trial and error, and years of research all curated into an expertly planned space centered around the end user's functionality and with inspiration in mind.

Mark Hirons FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, design principal for CannonDesign, explained it best: “Informed design at the onset of a project leverages baseline comparisons to offer the client context and an enriched design consultancy experience. Design should be behavioral-focused and use relevant data as a means to explore ideas. Each project is unique. Ultimately, it’s a fine-tuned process that, while working with the client over time, results in a meaningful environment and often a portfolio of thoughtfully designed spaces.”

Understanding the Value of Design

The value of design exists in its ability to support two of the client’s most valuable resources: people and place. “While oftentimes clients initially may have preconceived notions, we seek to listen to their vision, understand their culture and explore new ideas that will best position them for the future. We look at behaviors and focus on efficiency and, even more importantly, effectiveness. While everyone wants a space that works well and is budget-friendly, the most important question is how do we purposefully design our client’s second-most-expensive asset in their portfolio (real estate) to make their first-most-expensive asset (people) more effective.”

By overlaying well-being, collaboration, privacy, and meaningful interaction, Hirons explains, great design can do both.

Want vs. Reality

Hirons notes that often the first endeavor is deciphering the difference between a client’s wants and needs within a space to best achieve their goals. “Our job is to take a step back and analyze how best to translate ideas and choices, authentically, to our client,” he says. “They may express an impact, characteristic, or mood desired for their space and our goal is to translate that with their brand and story to craft the environment for which they are aspiring.”

He continues, “Design is taking the desired behaviors and matching them with an array of purposeful settings that support concentration, collaboration, comprehension, and social connection and creating them to express each client’s mission and culture. We come back with a list of design choices that offer both the feel they want and the functional environment we know they need. For example, we’ll provide a list of things to consider—perhaps multi-functional spaces, art, gardens, enhanced technology, etc.—then the client can decide to pull different levers or accentuate certain choices to make the space more engaging and experiential.”

Design as a Catalyst, Space as an Innovator

As a well-illustrated example of this EBD principle, Hirons shared a recent client experience where a leading biopharmaceutical company in Korea wanted an environment that spoke to its brand reputation of being a global leader. After meeting with the client, CannonDesign realized the company needed to provide a space that supported its employees throughout their entire day.

“They wanted a work environment that infused the elements of collaboration, innovation, reflection, and a holistic perspective,” explained Hirons. “We delivered more than 50 different settings—from a living forest and micro-kitchens to seminar rooms and sleeping pods—that spoke to the idea of being the only one. We looked at each experience a person could have throughout the day and how the spaces could support productivity and infuse innovation. Ultimately, design was the catalyst to create a completely unique environment to enrich their staff members’ lives everyday.”

To clarify, Pinterest and the use of imagery has a place in the conte
OMA
What is a social stair? Remember back in 2001, when OMA/Koolhaas and Scheeren completed the Prada Boutique (now called Prada Epicenter) on lower Broadway in Soho? It features an amphitheater-like stair leading from the ground floor down to the basement. This stair can be used as a stair, taking you from one level to the next. It can also be used as bleacher-like seating. And when it is not accommodating seated human beings, the amphitheater part of the stair can be peopled with ranks of mannequins outfitted in Prada fashions. Though not the first of its kind, the Prada stair is the archetype of the 21st-century social stair. The social stair connotes a style of 21st-century sociability: cool; hip; spontaneous; diverse, yet connected; and youthful. As such, it has been transformed into a symbol: an icon of collective identity that suggests it has the power to make you cool, hip, awesome (and maybe even young) — just by being in its presence. The 21st-century word associated with this phenomenon of implied magical bonding is “meme” (rhymes with “mean”). My authoritative source on 21st-century forms of knowledge, Wikipedia, tells me that “meme” means a unit of conduct that you can internalize and imitate in order to represent yourself to others as embodying the desirable associations — cool, hip, awesome, young — affiliated with the meme/form. So now you know: The social stair is a magical meme. It possesses the power to confer a social identity, linking you to a community that you want other people to see you as belonging to.

The Wikipedia entry on memes has a whole section on architectural memes, an indication of the potency that buildings possess to shape the attitudes, opinions, and conduct of the people who occupy, or simply pass by, them. The Wikipedia entry also identifies the foremost theorist of architectural “meme-ology” as Nikos A. Salingaros, professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and author of “A Theory of Architecture” (2006).

Houston, in the past four years, has experienced a population explosion of high-profile social stairs. The expansion and reconstruction of the University of Houston Student Center South (2015, EYP and WTW); the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (2015, Studio RED and Lake|Flato); the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University (2017, Michael Maltzan); the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2018, Steven Holl and Kendall/Heaton Associates); and the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (2019, Gensler) all have public spaces configured around social stairs. Do the people who frequent these buildings actually hang out on the social stairs, embodying the forms of contemporary sociability depicted in architectural renderings? Or is this even a relevant question? Doesn’t the very existence of the social stair demonstrate that the building comes equipped with the necessary spaces for shaping cool, awesome, etc., subjects and bonding them into a community?

In his book “The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance” (2016), the British architectural historian and theorist Douglas Spencer decodes such memes as the social stair; long refectory-like communal work tables; internally exposed trusses, ducts, tile block walls, and concrete floor slabs; and interior glass partitions to argue that these are not simply constituents of a currently fashionable style of architecture but the material and spatial building blocks of a social system based on the exaltation of economic markets. What Spencer finds notable about the effort to shape people’s (and especially architects’) self-conceptions and their ideas about community is how often Neoliberalism operates through soft means (and soft memes) — architecture, fashion, advertising images, architectural renderings — rather than through rules, creeds, and the formation of political or religious belief structures. The rhetoric of self-direction and workplace democracy, the absence of hierarchy, the ability to bring your pet to work — are visually portrayed in memetic images of happy, attractive, racially and ethnically diverse groups of young people working at their laptops or texting on their cellphones, spontaneously generating innovation even as they break from their co-work perches on social stairs to grab a healthy fusion snack at the nearest
Wanda Lau
Building professional connections is a skill not taught in many architecture programs, but it is a necessity in practice, Evelyn Lee writes in her first column for ARCHITECT.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (Back Bay Books, 2002), I would be considered a “connector.” I’ve been in the industry nearly two decades, with about 15 years serving on different AIA committees at all levels. As a business school graduate and contributing writer to several publications, I seek out individuals and organizations thinking about the future of architecture and how practice needs to adapt. I enjoy connecting people within my network because, while the design profession is relatively small, the number of us thinking about the evolution of practice is even smaller. Relationship building has been critical to my own growth, professionally and personally. My best connections keep me excited about the industry, challenge my viewpoints, and have become incredible mentor and advocates—and I take pride in cultivating my network.

Which is why I was taken aback by the flurry of cold emails and messages I received from firm principals and senior designers almost immediately upon updating my LinkedIn profile with my new role as the inaugural senior experience designer at Slack, the fast-growing tech company in San Francisco. Since I had moved to the client side three years ago, my ability to hire architects was nothing new. So why the widespread attention? Perhaps it was Slack’s recent IPO?

The myriad mindless messages I received in response to my new position truly left a bad taste in my mouth. Business school graduates know that networking is fundamental: Universities want to promote what percentage of their alumni have gone on to find successful jobs, and building relationships enhances that stat. Literally, Networking 101 is built into B-school orientation.

But designers could certainly do much better when they reach out. To make the process more palatable to both you and your networking target, I offer five recommendations for developing professional relationships.

Look for Mutual Connections
Regardless of your age or experience, leverage the resources that exist in your network. People are more receptive to an email that comes from someone they know—or even someone who knows someone they know—than from a stranger. This validates a good connection and assures the recipient that the contact will be deeper than a superficial ask for new work. The architecture world is not that big.

It’s Not About You
The first outreach should never be about your needs: It’s always about theirs. Do not fish for information in the first contact; instead, be specific about why you want to talk or, at the very least, if you’re requesting their particular experience and viewpoint on your own work. If you explicitly want to talk about my new job, then I will shelve your request.

Simplify Your Ask
Most people will be happy to talk for 15 minutes on a topic they are passionate about—just make sure you know what that topic is. I have had more success asking for a 15-minute phone conversation than an in-person sit-down. Even a coffee meetup means you are asking someone to take time out of their day, go to a place out of their routine, and commit to a conversation that they may not be excited about. Fifteen minutes first. Then maybe coffee.

Be Patient
Relationships take time, trust, and nurturing. A milestone in a person’s career is a good reason to reach out or pick up a conversation with a connection you haven’t talked to in a while. As with personal relationships, it takes time to develop professional confidantes.

Google Yourself
Leverage technology but be mindful of your own profile. Whether you are building your own network or on the receiving end of a cold email, people are going to research who you are. Clean up your public personas and make sure they reflect your professional self.

About 10 years ago, I picked up a great book on social media marketing for AEC professionals. I wanted to meet the author and was excited to discover she was running a workshop at the local AIA component. I made the workshop but had to run immediately after the event without speaking with her. My few shared connections with her on LinkedIn were merely acquaintances to me—so I took a chance and messaged her directly. In my email, I explained that I had attended her workshop, had questions about specific points she made, and was interested on her take on the profession’s
Cody Pickens
The special sauce behind Google’s breakout hardware products is its one-year-old Design Lab. We’re the first publication to go inside.

There’s a building on Google’s Mountain View, California, campus that’s off-limits to most of the company’s own employees. The 70,000-square-foot Design Lab houses around 150 designers and dozens of top-secret projects under the leadership of vice president and head of hardware design Ivy Ross, a former jewelry artist who has led the company’s push into gadgets ranging from the groundbreaking Google Home Mini speaker to the playful line of Pixel phones.

Inside the lab—and away from the cubicle culture of the engineering-driven Googleplex—industrial designers, artists, and sculptors are free to collaborate. “Google’s blueprint for how they optimize is great for most people [at the company],” says Ross. “Designers need different things.”

In any other setting, Ross’s upbeat, bohemian demeanor would evoke that of a high school art teacher or perhaps the owner of a crystal shop more than a design director at one of the most powerful companies in the world. Today she walks me, the first journalist ever allowed in the building, through the space—which she calls “a huge gift” from Google’s executive team. Google was always an engineer’s company, rarely recognized (and sometimes ridiculed) for its hardware and software design. But recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been forthright in articulating just how crucial design has become to Google’s business. In the past few years, Google has developed gadgets—from phones to smart speakers—that are some of the most desirable in the world. Yet before doors opened to the lab last June, the growing Google hardware design team ran many of their operations out of a literal garage—not the best setting for such an important of part Google’s operations.

So Ross collaborated with Mithun, the architects behind many Google buildings, to create something new: a space that is meant to be a backdrop to Google’s soft, minimal industrial design aesthetic. “This framework, it has fairly neutral colors. There’s nothing so ingrained that we can’t evolve,” says Ross. “But being a blank canvas, what changes it is the products we’re evolving, the materials, their color, and their function.”

Each space in the lab was constructed to help Ross’s team marry tactile experiences (understated, fabric-covered gadgets that feel at home in the home) with digital ones (Google’s unobtrusive UX). “Essentially the first thing I said was, ‘We need light,'” recalls Ross. “Where in some buildings, [programmers] need darkness for screens, we need light.” The lab’s entrance is a two-story, skylit atrium, filled with soft seating and cafe tables for casual meet-ups.

A birchwood staircase leads upstairs to a library filled with the design team’s favorite books—each member of the team was asked to bring in six texts that were important to them, and inscribe a message as to why. “We’re the company that digitized the world’s information,” says Ross, “[but] sometimes, designers need to hold things.”
In other instances, the lab is set up so designers can window-shop. The second story walkway around the atrium feels something like a high-end mall. On one side, I see a glass wall to the color lab. On the other side, a glass wall to the material lab. The color lab features an ever-changing array of objects, collected by Google hardware designers on their travels. It’s a hodgepodge of items that seems less about color than what I might call a vibe. I see a paper radish, a green stack of stones, and an ivory jewelry box—all evoking a certain handmade minimalism. The display is the best reminder of a simple fact of Google’s hardware design team. Just 25% to 40% of the group has ever designed electronics before. The rest designed everything from clothing to bicycles in a previous life.

At a large white table inside the color lab, under carefully calibrated lights, Ross’s team debates the next colorways for upcoming Google products. Once a week, designers from across categories—from wearables to phones to home electronics—gather around the table with scraps and samples in hand, to make product line decisions together. I’m treated to a show of last season’s products and colors to demonstrate a point: that Google designers, making more than a dozen products that could be in your home at once, want them to look good next to one another, even if they were produced a few ye
Shutterstock
Maria Saxton studied the habits of 80 recent tiny home buyers

Tiny house proponents have long lauded the compact dwellings as an environmental savior. The smaller the home, the smaller the footprint, right? That argument has helped boost the popularity of tiny homes, but until now, there wasn’t much in the way of actual research on the topic.

Maria Saxton, a PhD Candidate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech, spent a year studying the environmental impact of people who moved into tiny homes, and she found that most tiny home dwellers reduced their energy consumption by 45 percent upon downsizing.

How did she get to this number? Saxton lays out her methodology in The Conversation:

To do this, I calculated their spatial footprints in terms of global hectares, considering housing, transportation, food, goods, and services. For reference, one global hectare is equivalent to about 2.5 acres, or about the size of a single soccer field.

I found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the United States, the average ecological footprint was 3.87 global hectares, or about 9.5 acres. This means that it would require 9.5 acres to support that person’s lifestyle for one year. Before moving into tiny homes, these respondents’ average footprint was 7.01 global hectares (17.3 acres). For comparison, the average American’s footprint is 8.4 global hectares, or 20.8 acres.

After surveying 80 downsizers, she learned that a change in square footage often leads to a change in lifestyle habits. People living in tiny homes were more likely to grow their own food, buy less stuff, recycle more, and generate less trash. On the flip side, some tiny dwellers traveled more often and ate more meals out due to the constraints of the tiny home lifestyle.

Saxton hopes that the information will be useful to cities considering how to zone for tiny homes. It’s also a wealth of information for tiny home designers, who can start to think about how to build a kitchen that inspires downsizers to cook their own meals.
Architect Magazine
From 89 submissions, the jury picked eight entries that prove architects can be at the helm of innovation, technology, and craft.

Do we control technology or does technology control us? Never has that question seemed more apt than now. The use of computational design, digital manufacturing, and artificial intelligence, if mismanaged, can have frightening consequences, the implications of which society is just beginning to comprehend. But the jury for ARCHITECT’s 13th annual R+D Awards was determined to accentuate the positive side of these advancements, seeking the best examples that “melded technology, craft, and problem-solving,” says Craig Curtis, FAIA.

The eight winners selected by Curtis and fellow jurors James Garrett Jr., AIA, and Carrie Strickland, FAIA, prove that designers can remain solidly in the driver’s seat despite the frenetic pace of technological developments in the building industry and beyond. “Architects are anticipating the future, helping to shape it, and giving it form,” Garrett says. “Moving forward, we are not going to be left behind. We are going to be a part of the conversation.”

JURY

Craig Curtis, FAIA, is head of architecture and interior design at Katerra, where he helped launch the now 300-plus-person design division of the Menlo Park, Calif.–based technology company and oversees the development of its configurable, prefabricated building platforms. Previously, he was a senior design partner at the Miller Hull Partnership, in Seattle.

James Garrett Jr., AIA, is founding partner of 4RM+ULA, a full-service practice based in St. Paul, Minn., that focuses on transit design and transit-oriented development. A recipient of AIA’s 2019 Young Architects Award, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, a visual artist, a writer, and an advocate for increasing diversity in architecture.

Carrie Strickland, FAIA, is founding principal of Works Progress Architecture, in Portland, Ore., where she is an expert in the design of adaptive reuse and new construction projects and works predominantly in private development. She has also taught at Portland State University and the University of Oregon, and served on AIA Portland’s board of directors.
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
Research on the connections between green space and criminal activity finds that park design and programming determines their impact on crime and safety.

The relationship between parks and crime remains the subject of debate.

Some scholars say parks and other urban green spaces prevent violence. When vacant lots and deteriorating urban spaces are transformed into more appealing and useful places for residents, violence and crime typically decline in the immediate vicinity.

In a study of public housing developments in Chicago, researchers found 52 percent fewer crimes reported near buildings surrounded by trees and other vegetation. In New York City, neighborhoods with higher investment in public green space see an average of 213 fewer felonies per year.

Similar relationships between green space and crime have been observed in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Portland, as well as in cities outside the U.S.

In many cities, however, people see parks as dangerous—magnets for illicit activities like drug dealing and places for criminals to access potential victims who, while engaged in recreation, may be less vigilant about their belongings and personal safety.

Research supports this idea, too. One 2015 study of multiple U.S. cities found that property crime rates are two to four times higher in neighborhoods near parks. Violent crimes rates were up to 11 times worse.

So do parks make cities safer or more dangerous? The short answer is: It depends on the park.

Green space leads to lower crime

One reason that evidence on the relationship between parks and crime is so mixed is that most studies on this subject have focused on a single city or location.

In an effort to identify nationwide trends, our team of researchers at Clemson and North Carolina State universities in 2017 began gathering information on crime, green space and parks in the 300 largest cities in the United States.

Unlike many studies that use the terms “parks” and “green space” interchangeably, our analysis distinguished between these two urban environments.

Green space was measured by the amount of grass, plants, tree canopy cover, and other greenery on the landscape. We defined urban parks as designated open spaces managed by a public agency —a subset of green space.

To distinguish the impact of green spaces from social factors typically linked to crime—population density, income, education, diversity, and social disadvantage—we controlled for those factors when evaluating crime data.

We learned that more green space was associated with lower risk of crime across neighborhoods in all 300 cities we studied.

Burglaries, larceny, auto theft, and other property crimes occur less often in greener neighborhoods in every city in our sample. Violent crimes like murder, assault, and armed robbery were also less common in greener neighborhoods in nearly all the cities we studied.

Only three cities in our sample did not benefit from green space. In Chicago, Detroit, and Newark—all places with notoriously high and stubborn crime rates—more green space was associated with higher levels of violent crime.

Scholars have identified several reasons why the presence of green space may lead to lower crime.

Contact with nature reduces precursors to crime like stress and aggression, making people feel happier, and less inclined to engage in criminal acts. By giving people a place to participate in outdoor activities together, parks also promote positive social interactions and neighborly connections within diverse urban communities.

And when people gather in parks and other green spaces, it puts more “eyes on the streets,” exposing criminals to constant community surveillance.

Finally, there’s some evidence that more green space makes nearby areas safer simply by pushing crime into nearby neighborhoods—not outright eliminating it.
Squint/Opera
Plus, Katerra offers an update on its K90 project in Las Vegas, Google pledges $1 billion toward affordable housing in the Bay Area, and more design-tech news from this week.

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and UNStudio are working with digital agency Squint/Opera on the development of Hyperform, a design platform that facilitates collaboration in 3D augmented reality. Initially prototyped last year, Hyperform allows multiple users to work in scale models as well as immersive 1:1 environments. Users can also create still renderings as well as video recordings. "In the future every physical object will be connected to one another, sensing each other and everything in between," BIG founder Bjarke Ingels said in a press release. "For every physical object there will be a digital twin. For every physical space a virtual space. Hyperform is the augmented creative collaborative environment of the future which will allow an instantaneous confluence of actual and imagined realities—the present and the future fusing in our augmented sense of reality." [Squint/Opera]

In its latest project, New York–based SoftLab has created a "circular constellation" in Manhattan’s Seaport District that features 100 sensor-enabled glowing poles that emit different colors and sounds based on visitors' touch. [ARCHITECT]

This week, tech giant Google pledged to invest $1 billion in land and money to construct houses to help ease the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Over the next 10 years, the company has promised to convert $750 million of its land that is currently zoned for commercial development into residential property for some 15,000 new houses. Additionally, Google will establish a $250 million investment fund to assist developers in creating 5,000 affordable housing units. "In the coming months, we’ll continue to work with local municipalities to support plans that allow residential developers to build quickly and economically," the company writes in a press release. "Our goal is to get housing construction started immediately, and for homes to be available in the next few years." [Google]

Menlo Park, Calif.–based technology and construction company Katerra has released an update on K90—its ambitious garden apartment project in Las Vegas that the company is aiming to complete in 90 days. While slab-up construction typically takes 120 to 150 days, Katerra is believes it can deliver in a little over half the time using proprietary tools such as a material auditing app that alerts construction teams to incoming materials—which are delivered directly to installation point rather than a general project-site drop-off—wall panels that have pre-installed electrical wiring, and its bath kit that includes carpet, tile, plumbing fixtures, hardware, wood trim, light fixtures, light sources, and mirrors. [Katerra]

Researcher from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan published findings that adding a "self healing" protective layer of epoxy resin to perovskite solar cells (PSC) helps reduce leakage of pollutants, helping to push the technology toward commercial viability. “Although PSCs are efficient at converting sunlight into electricity at an affordable cost, the fact that they contain lead raises considerable environmental concern,” said OIST professor Yabing Qi in a press release. “While so-called ‘lead-free’ technology is worth exploring, it has not yet achieved efficiency and stability comparable to lead-based approaches. Finding ways of using lead in PSCs while keeping it from leaking into the environment, therefore, is a crucial step for commercialization.” [OIST]
Seon-Yeong Kwak
Sheila Kennedy and MIT researchers team up to introduce bioluminescent plants into architecture.

Even without the billion-plus people who still lack access to electricity, global electrical networks are under considerable stress. The aging and unreliable U.S. power grid strains to keep up with Americans’ increasing appetite for electricity. Gretchen Bakke, author of The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future (Bloomsbury, 2016), has argued that the grid's near-obsolescence makes it the “weakest link” in achieving our energy aspirations.

One of the more taxing demands on the grid is lighting. Despite recent improvements in energy efficient sources, such as LEDs, lighting consumes 15 percent of worldwide energy and is responsible for 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Department of Energy report.

Such concerns have long motivated the work of Sheila Kennedy, FAIA, of Boston-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture. Kennedy’s experiments with materials as vehicles for low-power light sources have resulted in innovative solar textiles, sunlight-delivery systems, and the Portable Light project, a mobile, solar-powered illumination solution for communities lacking access to electricity. Her latest effort, developed in collaboration with MIT chemical engineering professor Michael Strano, utilizes plants as the light delivery mechanism.

Currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt 2019 Design Triennial, the Plant Properties project utilizes biocompatible, GMO-free techniques to generate ambient lighting with live plants, transforming living foliage into a zero-energy light source. Kennedy has long been exploring the implications of this biodesign approach to illuminating the constructed environment. According to the project statement, “The Plant Properties installation demonstrates the architecture of a post-electric, vegetal future when people depend upon living plants for oxygen, water remediation, and ambient light.” Plant Properties depicts the reconfiguration of an New York City brownstone to support the cultivation of light-emitting plants.
KRJ Architecture
The US Green Building Council has recognized the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology (MARET) Center at Crowder College as a LEED Platinum facility. The building, which itself acts as a hands-on training tool for student learning, is one of very few LEED Platinum buildings that produces more energy than it consumes, making it “net-positive.”

This efficiency was achieved through significant modeling, planning and research by KRJ Planning & Research, who utilized renewable energy sources (solar heat, wind, biomass, solar electric), together with an exceptionally well-planned and constructed building envelope with an internal energy distribution system. Daylighting is utilized throughout the entire facility, keeping use of electric lighting to a minimum. Solar cells on the roof produce energy, as does a wind turbine on the site. HVAC is provided through geothermal means, in addition to hydronic heating and cooling that utilizes roof-mounted solar collectors. The building is cooled by groundwater alone. Even rainwater from the roof is collected and reused for plantings surrounding the facility.

The building is utilized by the college as a teaching facility to demonstrate how energy can be collected, stored and distributed, so accessibility to the facility’s mechanical systems was paramount for educational purposes. Likewise, the facility was organized to allow ease of building system modifications, allowing students to run energy use experiments. Finally, the facility was built with modular construction, allowing students and building prefabricators to participate and learn with these systems. Overall, the entire facility is an incubator for student and industry learning.

Of key interest to instructors and students alike, is how a facility in the Midwest, with high temperature extremes and high humidity levels, can be so comfortable and energy efficient year-round. Students involved in STEM projects, those interested in renewable energy businesses, and those seeking training and certification in alternative energy processes are all drawn to the facility.

“When we conceived of the idea to build a facility that would itself be used in teaching energy efficiency, we knew we needed to work with an architectural planning group that went well beyond the norm,” said Dr. Kent Farnsworth, former President of Crowder College. “We had worked with KRJ Architects in the past, and they had recently formed an innovative planning group to allow the types of in-depth planning and research that we required for this project.”

The 10,000-square-foot building was conceived in 2003, built in 2011-2012, and has been utilized as a teaching facility by Crowder College for several years. The facility itself has been tested, improved and modified, allowing students to take full advantage of cutting edge technology. Awarding of the LEED Platinum certification came in 2018, after the college renewed their interest in securing the USGBC certification.

David Kromm of KRJ Planning & Research stated, “we were thrilled to be selected to plan and develop this outstanding facility for Crowder College, and are honored that our work is being used as a teaching model for tomorrow’s leaders. The MARET Center is a great example of how innovation can lead to an efficient, functional, delightful and culturally meaningful facility.”

In addition to being used as a teaching facility, the MARET Center also houses a small business incubator.
Construction Dive
As U.S. contractors deal with the rising costs of both material and labor, the latter of which is driven partially by a shortage of skilled workers, three of the country’s biggest construction industry players — AECOM, Tutor Perini and Jacobs Engineering Group — reported their most recent quarterly earnings this week, proving that despite these challenges, there are still plenty of opportunities.

March saw the end of the second quarter of Jacobs’ fiscal year 2019, and company executives reported that the firm’s gross revenue for the quarter was $3.1 billion, up 7.7% from the same period a year ago. Net revenue increased 8.7% year over year, from $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion.

Q2 gross revenue for the company’s Building, Infrastructure and Advanced Facilities (BIAF) business was more than $2 billion, up from last year’s Q2 figure of $1.9 billion, delivering $172.7 million in segment operating profit. This growth was driven, in part, by the "further optimization of CH2M integration synergies,” said Steven Demetriou, company chair and CEO. Jacobs purchased CH2M in a $3.3 billion deal in 2017.

The company’s second-quarter backlog grew 11% year over year to $13 billion. Big wins for Jacobs’ BIAF segment this quarter included contracts for a vaccine manufacturing plant in the southeast U.S.; IDIQ contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and the MetroLink in Toronto.

Tutor Perini's first-quarter 2019 revenue fell a bit from the same period last year — $958.5 million from more than $1 billion — mostly due to new projects not starting in time to make up for the lower revenues of projects that are either complete or nearing completion. Bad weather in some areas of the country also had a negative impact on revenue in the company’s Q1.

However, income from construction operations was $22.9 million in Tutor Perini's first quarter, up from a loss of $900,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

Tutor Perini also broke some company records in its first quarter — $3.2 billion of new awards and upward adjustments in current contracts, as well as an $11.6 billion backlog. New awards for Q1 included the $1.4 billion Purple Line Section 3 Stations project in Los Angeles; the $253 million Culver Line Communications-Based Train Control project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City; and the $200 million Southland Gaming Casino and Hotel project in West Memphis, Arkansas, through its subsidiary Roy Anderson Corp.

“As these and other recent awards progress and contribute more meaningfully as the year develops,” said Ronald Tutor, chairman and CEO, "we expect to report significantly improved financial results.”

AECOM also had good news for investors this week, reporting revenue of $5 billion for its 2019 Q2, up 5% from the second quarter of last year, with positive contributions from all of the company’s construction-related segments.
Rice University
For nearly the past 100 years, Houston has been proud to be a world leader in the oil and gas industry. However, despite the recent fracking boom, there seems to be a growing sense among its entrepreneurial and political elite that this economic model is going to fail at some point, or at the very least drastically contract, just as the manufacturing economy did in the Rust Belt. FOMO is writ large in their minds. The fear is Houston will be left behind. That Houston was the largest city not to be included in the top 20 choices for Amazon’s new headquarters, for example, stung badly. A concerted attempt to reorient the city is evident in such initiatives as the ambitious push to enhance its major parks and bayou green spaces and the expansion of public transportation, both of which were seemingly inconceivable a generation ago, when the only thought by those in power was how to get more cars on the freeways.

Prestige institutions that can’t just up and move want their physical and intellectual investments in the city to remain viable as well. The president of Rice University, David Leebron has made it a centerpiece of his administration to increase both the stature of the school and its influence beyond the hedges surrounding the campus. To this effect, he has initiated a nonstop building campaign and increased student body. In 2009, there was serious discussion of acquiring the Baylor College of Medicine to get a foothold in the Texas Medical Center. Several interdisciplinary institutes have appeared. The latest effort to move beyond the campus includes Rice’s plan to reclaim the old South End as a hub for tech workers.

Rice was endowed with $4.6 million in 1904. In 115 years, that endowment has grown to $6.3 billion by means of Rice’s varied investments, a little more than 10 percent of which are real estate holdings. One highly visible property is the tract at South Main Street and Wheeler Avenue a couple miles south of downtown that houses a New Deal-era Sears department store building much in the local news due to its recent closure. In January of this year, Rice publicly re-christened this building “The Ion.” It will be repurposed as the centerpiece of what Rice is variously calling an “innovation hub” or “innovation district.” The stated intention is “to support businesses at all stages of the innovation lifecycle and provide resources for Houstonians seeking to participate in the innovation economy.” Outside institutional project partners include the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, San Jacinto College, and the South Texas College of Law.

Originally the site of the expansive gardens around the Walter B. Sharp House (1895), a rambling Queen Anne building in what was then the almost rural outskirts of Houston, this tract, along with two adjacent city blocks, was later acquired by Rice. In 1938, the house was demolished to make way for a new suburban Sears, Roebuck and Company store (1939), designed by Chicago architects Nimmons, Carr & Wright. This store was one of five locations across the country designed by the firm that was profiled in Architectural Record in September 1940 as being “planned for the motor age.” The $1 million retail complex, which opened in November 1939, encompassed four city blocks. It included the 195,000-sf, four-level store, parking for 700 cars, a super-service station with 16 gas pumps (demolished), and a freestanding building selling farm supplies (still standing). The upper floors of the store were windowless and fully air-conditioned; the escalators connecting the floors were the first of their kind in Houston. Local reports at the time of its opening also remarked on the extensive interior art program of murals depicting scenes from Texas history, painted by Texas native Eugene Montgomery. In 1945, Sears, then highly profitable, entered into a 99-year lease with Rice. Fast-forward to 1962, when the building’s street-side windows were bricked-over and the upper parts of the building were clad in a slipcover of corrugated metal panels. (Ironically, this preserved the building, and today it is one of only a handful of relatively intact prewar, early suburban Sears stores left in the country. Houston’s first auto-oriented Sears building (1929) on Allen Parkway, also designed by Nimmons, Carr & Wright, was demolis
John Medina/Getty Images for New York Times
Salesforce chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff has dedicated a lot of energy, and money, to the homeless crisis in his hometown of San Francisco. In 2018, he poured $2 million into the Proposition C ballot initiative campaign for a new business tax that promises to raise around a quarter billion dollars per year for housing and homeless assistance. (It passed, but has been tied up in the courts.)

Today, he and his wife, Lynne Benioff, have pledged $30 million to create a new program at the University of California San Francisco focused on studying causes of and possible solutions to homelessness across the country. (This comes on top of about $30 million donated to other housing projects, such as $6.1 million last November to lease a renovated hotel.)

It’s a common joke in public policy to say something like: What this urgent problem really needs is … another study. And at least some aspects of the homeless crisis in San Francisco and other U.S. cities are obvious. The rent is too damn high–due to an influx of well-off people bidding off constrained housing stock. Growing income inequality exacerbates the problem.

“We know for sure that the solution to this crisis is going to involve a massive investment in deeply affordable housing or subsidized housing. We don’t need to do research on that,” says Margot Kushel, director of UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, and now also director of its Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.

But details of solutions are still foggy, she says. Rent subsidies can keep people from falling into homelessness in the first place, for instance; but it’s not obvious which people are most at risk and the best candidates for aid.

There’s also more need to understand subsets of homeless people, says Sam Lew, policy director at the nonprofit Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. (The Coalition is unaffiliated with the Benioff Initiative. Lew learned of it the same day I did–yesterday.) “We have very little data on undocumented [immigrants] who are homeless or LGBTQ-identifying people who are homeless, or other marginalized populations,” says Lew. (There’s now a generational split, too, says Kushel, between homeless people in their 30s and 40s and a new elderly contingent.)

The coalition is preparing its own research project, together with San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley, to survey the shelter, mental health, and substance abuse treatment systems used by the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

But Lew knows and values Kushel’s work, such as research showing that homeless people in their 50s have health problems like the general population in their 70s and 80s. Data like that bolster the case for better assistance programs and funding, says Lew.

Making information more accessible is a goal for the Benioff Initiative, says Kushel. That can be a combination of conducting new research, evaluating other research, and presenting data in a user-friendly way for the public, journalists, politicians, and program managers. The goal, she says, is that, “when they act, they can act with confidence, and they can make sure they’re spending the money the best way possible.”

There are reasons for optimism already. “Of the [homeless] people who get engaged with permanent supportive housing, about 85% stay housed long term,” says Kushel. But that statistic raises new questions. How many people never make it into those support programs in the first place, and why? And of those who do get help, “How about the other 15%?” says Kushel “What do we need to do to get them to safety?”
ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart
Blaine Brownell reviews recent applications of carbon fiber technology and assesses its utility in environmentally conscious construction.

To market the design for his Dymaxion prototype, Buckminster Fuller famously asked: “How much does your house weigh?” Composed of a lightweight sheet metal aluminum skin held in tension by a single, central mast, the Dymaxion weighed only about 1.5 tons—about 10 percent the weight of an average house.

Fuller's emphasis on weight is even more critical today, given the ever-increasing environmental impact of shipping raw and processed materials around the planet. The automotive and aerospace industries have made significant advances in the strategy known as "lightweighting" by employing new and lighter materials and reducing the weight of components. Such an approach enabled U.S. airlines to significantly increase fuel efficiency by 125 percent between 1978 and 2017.

Carbon fiber is increasingly employed in the fabrication of many ultralight structures, from Formula One car bodies to bicycle components. Made from carbon filaments that are typically woven together into a cloth, carbon fiber is often coated with resin or thermoplastics to create composites with a very high strength-to-weight ratio. The result is a material about five times stronger and five times lighter than steel—and twice as stiff—that can readily tolerate heat and corrosion, making it ideal for extreme environments.

Despite the relatively high cost of carbon fiber, architects and engineers have started using it to construct buildings and infrastructural projects. For example, researchers at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) utilized carbon fiber as a prominent construction material in their latest work: the 2019 BUGA Fiber Pavilion at Bundesgartenschau Heilbronn in Germany, a dome made of glass- and carbon-fiber ribs clad in a transparent ETFE membrane. The team programmed a robot to deliver more than 492,000 feet of fibrous filaments in a spatial arrangement whereby fiber type and density could be varied based on structural loads. Designed to mimic biological systems, the carbon fibers surround the transparent glass fibers to form bundled structure members resembling flexed muscle tissues. According to the team, a single fibrous component can support “around 25 tons or the weight of more than 15 cars.” The dome, which has a free span of around 75 feet and shelters a floor area of 4,305 square feet, is composed of 60 of these components, each of which weighs only 16.8 pounds per square meter.

Although the ICD/ITKE work assumes the form of bespoke demonstrations, another research team has been deploying carbon fiber broadly in public infrastructure. The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has developed a composite arch bridge system made of carbon fiber–reinforced concrete. Designed for single-span bridges up to 65 feet, the system consists of a series of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) tubes that are filled with concrete on-site and then topped with steel-reinforced concrete decking. Similar to inflatable rafts, the CFRP tubes are transported to the site in a compact, folded state—hence the nickname “Bridge-in-a-Backpack.” According to the center’s website, “The arches are easily transportable, rapidly deployable, and do not require the heavy equipment or large crews needed to handle the weight of traditional construction materials.” In addition to their lightness, the CFRP tubes serve as the concrete formwork, thus eliminating the need for additional materials. They also function as noncorrosive concrete reinforcing, a clear advantage over rust-prone steel. Based on these many benefits, the system has been used to build 23 bridges to date.

These examples demonstrate how lightness—among other material attributes—gives carbon fiber an advantage in construction. But how does this lightness perform when a project also calls for enhanced sustainability?

In a December 2019 Industry Week article, Ray Boeman, director of the Scale-Up Research Facility at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tenn., explains, “Carbon fiber has the best potential for lightweighting, but takes a lot of energy.” According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a typical CFRP composite requires 800 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) of p
Sean O’Neill
The partnership between the artist and the firm goes back more than a decade. Together, they aim to predict the behavior of light in relation to materials, weather, humidity, existing daylighting, and other factors.

Waxing transcendental on the abstract sublime in the color-field paintings of Mark Rothko, the critic Robert Rosenblum once wrote that the artist’s canvases seem to “conceal a total, remote presence that we can only intuit and never fully grasp.”

On the western side of Philadelphia’s City Hall, a similar thing could be said of the public art piece by sculptor Janet Echelman, who has conjured up her own take on the sublime. Pulse renders Echelman’s ethereal sculptural work in suspended netting into a kinetic cloud of mist rising from fountain-dotted Dilworth Park. Referencing Pulse’s lights, which reflect the movement of trains under the plaza, Echelman calls the work “a living X-ray of the city’s circulatory system.”

Commissioned in 2009 within a larger activation of the city’s central plaza (construction of which wrapped in 2011), and opened last fall, Pulse is the fruit of a close collaboration between Echelman and a team of engineers from Arup. To achieve the quality of color that the group had in mind—“the Rothko effect,” Brian Stacy, Arup’s global lighting leader, calls it—Echelman and the firm devised a lighting system that illuminates the water mist from multiple angles, which adds depth and layers of color. On top of that, they had to account for variable outdoor conditions of daylighting, humidity, and wind.

In the decade between Pulse’s conception and launch, Arup and Echelman collaborated on a number of other installations, both indoors and out. Among these was the artist’s 2015 work for Washington, D.C.’s Renwick Gallery, 1.8 Renwick, a suspended expanse of polyethylene and polyester lit by LEDs. To dial in the piece’s pulsing, jellyfishlike quality, Arup enlisted a 3D model to investigate not only “light on the piece but also the light that goes through the piece,” Stacy recalls.

Arup relies heavily on this intensive digital and physical modeling to predict the behavior of color. But even with top-of-the-line equipment, Stacy says, “you can only get it so accurate on screen.” As with many works of art—Rothko’s among them—Echelman’s true colors are best experienced in person.
Aalto University
With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology, developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste.

In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals.

While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life.

Sourced from birch trees, the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric.

Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well.

The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020.



Gensler
Amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

When we think of workplace amenities, only the truly extraordinary or extremely whimsical tend to stand out: the ping-pong tables, the nap pods, the pinball machines, the chef-driven lunches.

While these kinds of office perks can be useful signifiers of a company’s culture and values, the amenities that support effective work habits tend to go quietly unnoticed, despite their crucial contribution to the office’s overall productivity.

As the office landscape continues to evolve and companies grant their employees more freedom and choice to work where they like, our 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey research shows that the amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

Not all amenities are created equal, however, and the most meaningful amenities are those that really speak to the business and the employees’ expertise, while also offering a variety of workspaces and modes.

Amenities with a non-work focus like lounges and break rooms only create a minor improvement in an employee’s experience at work—and they have an even smaller impact on employee effectiveness. On the other hand, employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.

What’s more, we’re seeing that choice itself can be an important amenity. What should be obvious now in our work-everywhere culture is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how and where people do their best work. Take, for example, the work café. Compared to a breakroom or lounge, a work café borrows elements from hospitality and co-working spaces to offer a productive environment, as well as a change of scenery from one’s regular desk. According to our findings, having a variety of workspaces to choose from is directly connected to a great workplace experience.



‘Employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.’
— Amanda Carroll, IIDA, CID, LEED AP, Gensler

Likewise, an innovation hub or makerspace can offer employees the resources they need to work in a different mode. When you’re a spirits company, installing a bar in your office might seem like an obvious way to embrace the culture, but at Campari Group’s new North American headquarters in New York, four distinct bar-like experiences offer more than just a place for employees and guests to blow off steam. In Campari’s completely open workplan, these spaces provide employees with an alternate setting away from their workstations and conference rooms, while also fully immersing them in the brand.

The Concierge bar, for instance, pulls double duty as a reception area where guests can enjoy an espresso with stand-up service like traditional coffee shops in Italy. The Café bar is where employees gather for meals while enjoying striking views of New York City and Bryant Park below. Additionally, the office space features the “Campari Academy,” which serves as an innovation lab where master mixologists and visiting brand ambassadors can experiment and create new craft cocktails.

The Boulevardier lounge, with its nearly 100-year-old reclaimed wood bar, vintage chandelier, and hand-sketched portraits of master bartenders, speaks specifically to Campari’s place in New York's cocktail culture and provides the ideal setting for more engaging business meetings.

When evaluating which workplace amenities are worth the investment, there’s one key factor to remember: the most effective amenities aren’t designed to escape work—they’re designed to support the employees’ freedom to work where they like while instilling them with a sense of pride for the values, heritage, and future of the company.
Wikimedia
Also included in the staff report to the authority was the fact that California state law allows a public agency to require a PLA. Lawmakers in many other states, however, don't. Last month, Kentucky became the 25th state to enact anti-PLA regulations mandated by state and local government agencies. Kentucky’s new law keeps its public agencies from requiring that bidders sign on to PLAs, although it does not ban the agreements altogether nor does it prevent contractors from entering into voluntary PLAs.

One of the arguments that opponents of PLAs use is that these agreements raise the cost of construction because higher union wages, fringe benefits and other perks that open shop contractors don’t always pay are written in. If nonunion contractors want to work on a PLA project, they must agree to abide by the agreement's terms.

However, on a $35 million wastewater treatment plant project in Ogdensburg, New York, using a PLA is projected to save taxpayers about $900,000, the Watertown Daily Times reported. An engineering and consulting firm hired to study the impact of a PLA on construction found that the city could save money by negotiating the end to some breaks, reclassifying some types of work and exempting the project from a local law that requires general, electrical, plumbing and HVAC work to be bid separately. Critics of the company conducting the study have criticized its methodologies and have accused it of pro-union bias.

Groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors have consistently fought against PLA mandates imposed by public agencies, claiming that they restrict participation by open shop contractors.
Carrier Johnson
Aside from equipment innovations, the building industry has remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years. Beginning about 10 years ago with building information modeling (BIM) software that began to change, said Daniel Reeves, president of the San Diego–based community and government affairs consultancy Juniper Strategic Advisory, who served as moderator of a ULI San Diego/Tijuana event in March.

Like other business sectors, innovative technology is having a disruptive impact on building construction, operations, and management, according to event presenters, who discussed new technology used to cut time for project due diligence; make cost estimates accurate and construction more precise; improve building operations and efficiency; and enhance tenant engagement, comfort, and satisfaction.

Scoutred

San Diego–based Scoutred offers software that simplifies and speeds up early-stage due diligence for real estate developers and their associates, reducing time for research from days to a few minutes, said founder Alexander Rolek. He explained that Scoutred organizes property information on millions of parcels in San Diego County and visualizes the data in a report designed to help parties make informed decisions.

Simply put in the parcel address and receive an immediate report that details property and zoning information, including subdivision name, parcel size, legal description, the owner’s name and address, tax assessment, map location, use type, building height limits, floor/area ratio (FAR), and setbacks. This information is exported to a PDF format, which also includes the following: a high-resolution aerial photo; zoning and other applicable overlays, such as parking and mass transit; a description of the community plan; details on the property’s attributes and any improvements; and all permits pulled on the property on record with the city.

Willow

Based in Sydney, Australia, Willow, a global software developer, is focused on creating easy-to-use systems that facilitate smart building construction, optimize building performance, enhance user experience, and open new streams of revenue by turning data into value.

The company has partnered with Microsoft to create Willow Twin, a scalable platform that leverages the power of the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence to create 2-D or 3-D digital, geometrically accurate replicas of real estate assets that contain all asset information and live operational data.

“Data is the new gold,” said Casey Mahon, digital coordinator, Willow North America, explaining that the program collects building data and uses them to transform a structure into a living, evolving asset that learns from experience. The program harnesses building data, tracking user behavior and building performance to improve the tenant experience and drive savings through actionable insights and predictive maintenance.

Five years ago, Willow partnered with Investa, one of Australia’s largest developers, owners, and managers of commercial real estate, to develop Willow Twin 2.0, an intelligent digital twin that integrates 3-D visualization with data to allow a building to learn to operate itself efficiently.

Over time, the system learns to effectively manage energy and other resources used by assets: using data analytics and intuitive reporting, it improves assets’ triple bottom line by increasing their cash value while reducing their impact on the environment.

Since then, Willow and Investa have used Willow Digital and Willow Twin to innovate multiple areas of building development and operations, ranging from complex digital design and construction management to use of intelligent digital twins to manage buildings efficiently and enhance the tenant experience.

Mahon noted that Willow Digital 2.0 identifies which assets to track long-term, and lessons learned can be applied across an entire portfolio using Willow Scan, an OR, code-driven solution designed to identify and manage all assets in a portfolio.

​It also provides a completion tracker and model auditor that validates subcontractor and data, including operations and manuals, asset registers, and warranty information and gathers and stores operational manuals for the building or infrastructure network, which Mahon stresses is especially important when handing off building management to a n
MIT Mediated Matter Group
the aguahoja pavilion — this tall, honey-skinned cocoon structure — is composed of the most abundant biopolymers on the planet. molecules found in insect exoskeletons, tree branches and yes, even components found in our own bones were printed by a robot, shaped by water and formed into this organic tower by MIT media lab’s mediated matter group — a team of researchers led by neri oxman.

it looks sort of insecty, sort of leafy, orange, yellow and brown, with milky white bones hugging it all together for now… but heat, humidity, light and time will of course run their course on these water-based materials. programmable or not, fabricated-digitally and printed robotically or not — from dust to dust and from water to water, these organisms will serve their purpose then vanish to create something else — unlike the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. only about 10% of that will vanish.

aguahoja was created by researchers at the MIT media lab’s mediated matter group, led by neri oxman. within this project: a pavilion and a wall of artifacts. what you’ve seen thus far, the tall leaf-like cocoon, is the aguahoja pavilion, which replicates nature in its appearance and, more impressively, its life-cycle. ‘[aguahoja’s] environmentally responsive biocomposite artifacts are composed of the most abundant materials on our planet – cellulose, chitosan, and pectin. these components are parametrically compounded, functionally graded, and digitally fabricated to create biodegradable composites with functional, mechanical, and optical gradients across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. in life, these materials modulate their properties in response to heat and humidity; in death, they dissociate in water to fuel new life.’

‘in old growth forests and coral reefs, waste is virtually non-existent,’ says the mediated matter group. ‘within this framework, matter produced by one member of an ecosystem, living or nonliving, inevitably fuels the lifecycle of another. the result is a system fueled by water with unparalleled efficiency in the use of energy and resources. this cycle of birth, adaptation, and decay allows ecosystems to use materials in perpetuity’. the environments we build are rarely as natural or as efficient as coral reefs. instead, we extract materials from earth faster than they can grow. we build things that outlive their functions, then throw them under a rug of land or dump them in the water as we turn the other way to begin looking for more materials to prematurely extract and use for a short while.

adjacent to the pavilion, environmentally responsive biocomposites line the wall in a crescendo of color: ‘the aguahoja artifacts.’ glossy, dense, soft, brittle, strong and tough as leather — each material responds very differently to environmental factors, but all of them respond nonetheless. some get cold and hot easily. others darken and lighten as the seasons change. humidity is a catalyst for all of them in life, and in death they all dissociate in water and return to the ecosystem. chitin, for example, may go on to compose the exoskeletons of crustaceans, or the cell walls of fungi.

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.
Ivar Kvaal
Snøhetta has completed Under, the "world's largest underwater restaurant", which plunges from a craggy shoreline in the remote village of Båly, Norway.

Designed by Snøhetta to resemble a sunken periscope, the 495-square-metre restaurant is fronted by a huge panoramic window that gives visitors a "unique view" of marine life.

The building on Norway's southern coast, which can seat up to 40 people and will also be used as a marine research centre, is Europe's first underwater restaurant.

"For most of us, this is a totally new world experience. It's not an aquarium, it's the wildlife of the North Sea. That makes it much more interesting. It takes you directly into the wildness," Rune Grasdal, lead architect of Under, told Dezeen.

"If the weather is bad, it's very rough. It's a great experience, and to sit here and be safe, allowing the nature so close into you. It's a very romantic and nice experience."

Under was designed to be as simple as possible. It takes the form of a monolithic "concrete tube" that is 34 metres in length.

The walls are slightly curved and half-a-metre thick, providing optimal resistance against the forces of waves and water pressure.

"The idea was to make a tube that would bring people from above sea level down under the sea," Grasdal added.

"That transition is easy to understand, but it's also the most effective way to do it. It also feels secure, but you don't feel trapped."

The concrete has been left with an exposed, rugged texture to encourage algae and molluscs to cling on. Over time this will create an artificial mussel reef that helps purify the water, and in turn naturally attract more marine life.

Fortune
If you dream, dream big. That mantra has helped drive Nancy Seruto and the 4,000 creative personnel in 20 countries that comprise Walt Disney Imagineering. It’s also delivered a big win for Disney in a market where many firms have failed: China.

“The response has been fantastic,” Seruto said of the Shanghai Disney Resort, the 963-acre theme park that has drawn huge crowds since opening two years ago. (Don’t miss Michal Lev-Ram’s 2016 Fortune story about the making of its Tomorrowland.) Ten years in the making, the Shanghai park has also been an important learning experience for Disney, she said, and it will inform the Imagineering team as the company contemplates building more attractions in China.

“Nothing we have ever done before has been as adventurous in scale and in invention,’’ said Seruto, who serves as executive producer of Walt Disney Imagineering. She spoke at Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore earlier this month.

The Imagineers did face some cultural challenges. Disney asked Chinese artisans to recreate from photos a 19th century Caribbean island town for its Treasure Cove attraction. But the locals were reluctant at first to construct buildings that looked old, crooked, and downright strange to their sensibilities.

Shanghai Disney Resort is also the first theme park that Disney localized. Seruto said that they decided to work in Mandarin from the start, and learning how to tell Disney’s stories in ways that are distinctly Chinese was a “magnificent journey.”

“There is something to the strength of the storytelling that gives Disney international appeal,” Seruto said. “The stories resonate with families, and contain universal elements that have been built over decades. From that strength you can modify them and still have your core brand.”

Some companies dream of succeeding in China; Disney has done it. Imagine that.
Building Enclosure
It was supposed to usher in the next generation of high-performance projects—where silos would be destroyed, building information modeling (BIM) would be harnessed, and both risk and reward would be shared across all major stakeholders.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) has been touted for its many potential attributes. As a collaborative project delivery method, IPD utilizes the talents and insights of all project participants through all phases of design and construction. It fosters early goal definitions, collaborative innovation and decision-making, shared risk and reward, and (in theory) positions project teams to have greater success toward realizing high-performance outcomes.

IPD Basics

One can find plenty of resources exclaiming IPD's philosophical underpinnings. For instance, see Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2007.

In fact, the AIA has done an outstanding job of defining specific structures between Owner, Architect, and Contractor with regard to IPD. Through AIA Contract Documents, one can preview any AIA model contract for IPD free of charge. In general, the AIA has defined three "levels" of integrated project delivery:
  • Transitional Forms (e.g., Documents A195–2008, A295–2008, and B195-2008) are modeled after common/traditional construction manager agreements and offer a comfortable first step into integrated project delivery.
  • The Multi-Party Agreement (Document C191-2009) is a single agreement that the parties (i.e. Owner, Architect, Contractor, plus any additional Parties) can use to design and construct a project utilizing integrated project delivery.
  • The Single Purpose Entity (SPE) creates a limited liability company (LLC) for the purposes of planning, designing and constructing a project. The SPE can be comprised of Owner/Architect/Contractor (per Document C195-2008) OR Architect/Contractor (per Document C196-2008) in which case, the A/C SPE would need to enter into a contract with the Owner). The SPE allows for sharing of risk and reward in a fully integrated collaborative process.
If the case is compelling, then where are all of the IPD projects?

However, for all of the model contract documents; for all of the guides and other publications that highlight the potential benefits of IPD, one may struggle to find a resource of considerable substance with regard to the execution of IPD on actual projects. Perhaps this is because structured IPD agreements have not taken to the market quite as much as we would care to admit. According to the AIA Firm Survey Report 2018, basic design services continue to dominate as the top source of firm revenue at 64.5 percent; while IPD-related services were reported at 2.6 percent. This data may under-report IPD utility as architects could provide "basic design services" within an IPD Multi-Party Agreement or SPE, for instance; in which case such work may not be reported as IPD-specific services. Nevertheless, IPD has not exactly taken the market by storm over the past decade.
Kieran Timberlake
As a partner at US practice Kieran Timberlake, Billie Faircloth leads the firm’s research group, a dedicated team of individuals leveraging methods from diverse fields such as environmental management, urban ecology, chemical physics, computer science, materials science, architecture and sculpture. Here she reflects on the firm’s commitment to shaping and supporting research culture in everyday architectural practice.

A conversation on research in architectural practice begins by making the word “research” more approachable. Research is a purposeful and intentional state of mind. It is the daily action of “searching and searching again,” and thus has the very real chance of manifesting as a bold design philosophy and a foundation for design practice and culture. An architectural practice considering the creation of a research process, group or program must first determine how far they are willing to go to promote this culture. Is a practice willing to invest in research by reinvesting its profit to fund the exploration of hunches? Can it support the precept that failure teaches and shapes our work, especially when structured inquiry sometimes yields unexpected, disappointing and inactionable results? Will a practice cultivate research projects that are proactively instigated by its strategic aspirations rather than by a paying client? Will it impart to its staff the agency to ask questions and provide the resources necessary, such as materials, tools, research partners and leadership, to answer them? Will an architectural practice share the products of its research externally when it recognizes that a perceived competitive edge is eclipsed by the greater need for transformation in the profession? A practice will need to rigorously debate answers to these questions. Dare to answer “yes” to each one, simply for the sake of proceeding to the next step. Imagine how you will implement these decisions. Consider your practice’s portfolio, design philosophy, organization and interests, and conspire to nourish research culture as an expression of your mission.

Thirty-plus years of building research culture at Kieran Timberlake have transformed the question “How can we afford to research?” into the retort “How can we afford not to research!” We’ve answered “yes” to each of these essential questions and have affirmed design research through planning, implementing, testing and maturing a platform accessible to each member of our firm that allows us to rigorously search and search again. The critical developmental milestones are numerous and include: our commitment to return profit to our practice to support proactive research (2003); the declaration of an ISO-certified design research process that is audited annually (2005); the decision to hire a dedicated, transdisciplinary research group (2008); the codification of a research query process for data collection, analysis, modelling and simulation, physical prototyping and original experiments (2011); the strategic growth of the research group to 10 percent of our overall staff (2012); the first successful public release of an internally developed architectural tool for use by the profession (2013); the further articulation of a design computation platform as a companion to our more established research platform (2015); and, most recently, the formalizing of a collective intelligence model in which every architectural project begins with a complementary team of architecture, research and communications staff (2016). We are not finished or aiming for stasis. We’ve learned that our design practice is thirty years in the making and still forming. It requires thoughtful reflection in order to learn from what we do.

And what exactly do we do? Quite simply, we ask and answer questions. And we expect questions to beget actions, actions to beget findings and findings to support design. For instance, the simple, direct question “What’s going on up there?” led to the creation of a novel green roof survey method. Implementation of this method on five previously completed green roof projects provided actionable insight into the time-based dynamics of vegetation and challenged our internal discussion about green roof design, composition and performance on other projects. We’ve completed hundreds of queries in all phases of design, which loosely fall into the c
David Goldman/AP
No matter the nature of the locale—urban, suburban, or rural—differences stem more from who we are than what we want in our communities.

Our images of life in urban, suburban, and rural America are dominated by clichés: urban hipsters living in loft apartments, suburbanites mowing their lawns, rural Americans hunting and fishing.

Now, a fascinating new survey explores many of these long-standing tropes and finds that urbanites, suburbanites, and rural residents are much more alike than different in what we want from our communities. The survey, conducted in January of this year by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy in conjunction with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, covers a random sample of more than 1,000 Americans across all 50 states.

Not surprisingly, more Americans identify as suburbanites than urbanites or rural dwellers. Almost half of survey respondents (46 percent) say they live in a suburban area, 27 percent in rural areas, and a quarter in urban communities. This is a slightly smaller share of suburbanites than identified by the U.S. Census, which cites 52 percent of Americans as living in suburban neighborhoods.

Even though Americans’ mobility has declined, two-thirds of survey respondents say they currently live in a different community from where they grew up. And many have moved to different kinds of places: More than half of those who have moved say they have lived in a suburb (53 percent) or urban area (51 percent) before, while only a third (35 percent) say they have previously lived in a rural community.

The graphic below summarizes the key findings from the study, detailing the key factors urban, suburban, and rural Americans say they consider to be extremely or very important where they live. Some of the things on the list confirm intuitions, others are more surprising. But most of all, we are surprisingly similar in what we desire from our communities.
flick user Brian Godfrey
It could be a new day for labor relations in New York City with the announcement that developer Related Cos. and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) have struck a deal, in essence, to play nice.

Related and the BCTC announced Wednesday that they had entered into an "historic accord” that, among other things, would end nasty litigation, protests, and the media war of words that have characterized their relationship over the last few years.

The latest dustup between the two stemmed from construction at Related’s $25 billion Hudson Yards development in Manhattan and questions around which unions would participate. Related ended up filing a lawsuit claiming that it had been cheated out of $100 million during the first phase of construction by corrupt unions and that the BCTC was trying to include those companies in the labor agreement for the second phase.

The BCTC accused Related of engaging in union-busting behavior and filed a complaint against the developer with the National Labor Relations Board. The trade council also filed a lawsuit against one of Related’s concrete subcontractors alleging that the company, at Related’s urging, was formed to operate outside of the collective bargaining agreements that governed other contractors at Hudson Yards.

Related followed up with a second lawsuit against the BCTC claiming that the council was intentionally impeding progress at Hudson Yards and that its members were refusing to make concrete deliveries to the project. Related also struck a deal with the New York City District Council of Carpenters independent of agreements with the BCTC.

But all of that is in the past, according to Related and the BCTC.

"Together we have put aside our differences and come to an historic agreement that will benefit the city’s economy and our workforce with good, middle-class construction jobs for years to come,” said Gary LaBarbera, BCTC president. "This new agreement is a win-win and the start of a renewed partnership to move the industry forward with joint commitments to modernization and competitive models.”
“This agreement is good for Related, good for the union construction industry and good for New York City," said Lou Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association.
Connie Zhou/OTTO
Designed by ZGF Architects with Arup, the striking 48-story tower in Seattle features an innovative diagonal mega-brace system.

Between Amazon’s expanding vertical campus and the in-progress replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a promising waterfront park, Seattle continues to undergo a rapid transformation. Among downtown’s newest jewels is the Mark, a 48-story hotel and office tower designed by the local office of ZGF Architects that rises from a quadrant of a city block.

The 750,000-square-foot faceted structure rises between two centenarian neighbors, the Beaux-Arts sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church and the Jacobean-style Rainier Club, cantilevering over the former by up to 20 feet. As a part of the project—developed by Kevin Daniels, president of Daniels Real Estate and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation board of trustees—the sanctuary was restored for use as an event space.

Constrained to a footprint of just 15,000 square feet, the tower's floor plates had to be extended to achieve the desired square footage. Daniels also tasked ZGF with creating an iconic structure to reflect Seattle’s aspirational spirit.

ZGF used paper models and the classic proportions of the human anatomy to explore dozens of designs that satisfied the constraints. Early concepts featured more “rudimentary” cantilevers or “heavier, more geometric" forms, says ZGF partner Allyn Stellmacher, AIA. “Ultimately, we came back to a disposition of the parts of the building in a way that we thought was more artful, but that also was melded with a more effective [line] for the bracing.”

The final form is an asymmetrical obelisk, with exposed diagonal steel braces that zigzag up each elevation, emphasizing the tower’s verticality. The architects used the long, clean lines of the steel members to differentiate each facet of the façade, whose subtle shifts are enhanced by the reflective glazing. Unlike some exoskeletons, the bracing’s stainless steel cladding recedes 11 inches into the Mark, as if the zigzags are etched into its skin.

The diagonal mega-brace system—among the first of its kind in a seismic zone—derives from ZGF’s close collaboration with Arup, the project’s structural engineer. The tower structure consists of a central concrete core with steel-framed, concrete-infilled floor plates supported by beams spanning up to 50 feet, and four steel columns slightly inset from each building corner on each elevation, leaving the interiors and the corners of the tower column-free.

The perimeter bracing system “acts like a closed tube that engages the axial stiffness and strength of the perimeter steel columns,” according to text supplied by Arup. As a result, it transfers wind and seismic load requirements from the concrete core to the building perimeter, where the diagonal members transfer the loads to the columns. Arup estimates this system uses 10 percent, or 750 tons, less steel than alternative designs.

The 200- to 325-foot-long diagonal braces (inboard of the cladding) consist of approximately 30-foot-long wide flange beams with a depth of 2 feet and flange thickness exceeding 4 inches. At building corners, the X-shaped intersections created where the diagonal braces meet—dubbed “knuckles” by the design team—were among the hardest to detail.

Each shop-fabricated knuckle is uniquely made to accommodate the various incoming angles of the four intersecting diagonal braces, in addition to three floor beams. The brace members were initially bolted to the knuckle during fit up and erection, and then all connections were made permanent via full penetration welds.
Two roundtable discussions with representatives from nine of Australia’s largest practices provoked lively, frank and revealing discussion about how and why those practices organize and fund research, and how they disseminate its findings.

What research is actually happening in large architectural practices in Australia? How are practices pursuing research and what are their motivations? What do they see as the benefits and how are they justifying the cost? What are the challenges and constraints? More importantly, what are the big-picture opportunities for how research could be increased, in quality and quantity and effect, across the entire sector? Furthermore, how could the large-scale research happening in practice, and that in academia, be brought into closer alignment for the mutual advantage of the profession, the academy and the built environment itself?

These questions seem timely. Australian practices are doing more research than ever before and in a more organized and systematic way. They are also sharing their findings – certainly within their own internal cultures, but also in industry forums and symposia and often with a broad public audience, via their websites and other means. But conceptions of the role and value of research in large practice are far from settled – indeed, they appear to be in a state of rapid flux. We knew something of what research such practices were doing, but did not have a full sense of whether and what sustained, ambitious programs of research – the kind that are fuelled by data gathering and analysis, that require time, equipment, software and specialized knowledge – are being pursued.

To find out more, we invited a number of large practices operating in Australia to participate in a roundtable discussion about how they frame and prosecute research. We had two separate discussions, in February 2018, with representatives from nine large practices across Australia: Rob Asher, design and research and development lead, Cox; Christian Derix, director, Woods Bagot Superspace; Michael Hegarty, national practice leader, GHDWoodhead; Caillin Howard, managing director, Hames Sharley; Diane Jones, director, PTW; Ann Lau, director, Hayball; Ninotschka Titchkosky, principal and strategic lead of digital innovation ground, BVN; Kellie Payne, director, Bates Smart; and Michaela Sheahan, researcher, Hassell.

With such a mix of practices, the conversation was less about the (sometimes commercially sensitive) detail of the research each was presently doing and more about how and why they were doing it. At this level, and even given the challenge of collaboration between direct competitors, there are clearly opportunities for cooperation, as the participants themselves observed. Sheahan noted that “for some reason this year’s the sweet spot for research in practice; everybody’s talking about it. I’ve been waiting for this year for ten years and it’s great to have an opportunity to talk about it. I think there’s momentum in academia and in practice for research to have a higher profile.”
Canadian Architect
The third in a series of pavilion projects at the University of British Columbia tests the limits of robotic wood fabrication technology.

Wood is a fascinating material. From an early age, we become familiar with its smell, texture and warmth, yet we are seldom challenged to re-invent how to work with it.

Since 2016, the three of us have led a team of researchers, students and professionals in creating full-scale pavilions at the University of British Columbia that explore new ways to design, fabricate and assemble wood. Wood is a natural partner for digital fabrication technologies because of its ability to be easily milled and shaped. These experimental structures demonstrate the capabilities of digital technologies to be used with wood in innovative ways that celebrate the material’s unique properties and potential for formal complexity.

Wander Wood, the third of these pavilions, completed last fall, is sheathed with rows of overlapping wood tabs, which change in shape to create a rounded form that rises to a peak. The pavilion implements the structural principle of a stressed skin, a system used in airplanes, where internal ribs form a template covered by thinner members elastically bent to form (or compute) the final shape. A public bench along the inner edge of the curved pavilion invites passersby to come inside for a closer look.

The individual pieces of the Wander Wood pavilion were milled using a state-of-the-art industrial robot, interlocked into place, and fastened together with metal rivets. Each individual component is embedded with enough assembly information to ensure exact placement of every subsequent piece, allowing for quick assembly on site. The geometric processing power of visual scripting was key in the design in order to define and manage 40 ribs, over 200 overlapping skin elements and 2,200 rivet perforations. The first step was to craft a robust workflow that enabled design iteration while ensuring the rapid output of precise geometry for fabrication. The result achieves the design vision while accounting for the material’s maximum bending radius and load transfer capacity, and the fabrication envelope of the CNC robot.