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Blog Notes From Leo Marmol Lecture in Dallas (10/14/2006): Prefab + Environmentalism

Other_front On Saturday at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Leo Marmol was kind enough to spend an hour and talk about his firm‘s work in the design-build and prefab context.  I was looking forward to this lecture for about 2 months and was not disappointed.  Marmol lectured on his firm’s work with mid-century modern residences and the four standards (Secretary of Interior Standards) for renovation:  preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, + reconstruction.  Towards the end of the lecture, he started to get into his firm’s prefab work and environmentalism. 

Here are some notes…

  • As a site-build firm, we know very intimately how inefficient and stupid architectural processes are.  We live with that stupidity everyday.  It’s a really inefficient, wasteful, cumbersome process that we use to build today.  There’s a lot of reasons why we still do it, but it’s inherently wasteful, so our goal is to build as much as possible in the factory. 
  • We’ve seen lumber + steel prices climb, and even labor is a little strained.  Materials are getting more and more scarce, more and more, therefore, valuable, and more and more expensive.  That will continue in the future. 
  • We’ve seen the rise in design with the iPod and with Target enlisting Philippe Starke to create a toothbrush.  Design is a marketing opportunity to set your firm apart from the norm. 
  • With Prefab, the goal is to provide clean, simple, modern living and do it as cost-effectively as possible.  So prefabrication is a means to deal with the rising construction costs. 
  • If you’re an architect and a builder, and you don’t have guilt, you’re not paying attention.  We put so much attention on the auto industry, but it pales in comparison to the architecture industry.  Architecture is the greatest polluting force on the planet.  There is no other industry on the earth that uses more of our earth’s resources than construction and there is no other industry to releases so many polluting, bad things back to the earth.  Prefab allows us to deal with this guilt and be more efficient. 
  • Sometimes the media gets it wrong with regards to prefab, but they are enthusiastic about this technology.  That enthusiasm can lead everyone astray.  Prefabs are not manufactured homes.  Prefabs won’t save the world or deliver homes for under $100 a square foot.  Prefab is not a magic bullet.  They are cheap in comparison to custom, architect-designed homes (LA price:  $400-600 sq.ft.), but they are not necessarily cheap.  Building homes is difficult and takes lots of money + materials. 
Back_and_pool Kitchen_1 Bedroom

It should be noted that Mr. Marmol’s prefab division is making a conscious choice to be environmental in the construction of prefabs.  The prefabs are designed to receive LEED certification, made from recycled steel, employ Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), and use FSC-certified wood, low-VOC Green Seal paint, solar panels, etc.  Each prefab is designed with the site in mind so the structure can be attentive to natural light and shading.  And if you’re interested in seeing one, there’s an open house in California (instructions below). 

Open House of the Desert House:
October 28, 1 pm – 6 pm
Desert Hot Springs, CA
RSVP NOT REQUIRED
Navigate the Website for Map

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Platinum Genzyme Center

Anton_grassl_genzyme_rendering This building is a little old hat for many of the readers here (it was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2004), but I think there are some important aspects of the projects that can be remembered and applied to new green projects.  This building is in the highest eschelon of LEED ratings, the platinum standard (LEED-NC, v2), and if you follow the links below, they’ve been generous enough to explain how they received all the points towards Platinum certification.  You can even take a virtual tour of the building if you’re interested. 

The building is the corporate headquarters for a biotechnology firm and houses 900 employees in 12 floors.  Here are some of the many green features:  high performance curtainwall glazing system with operable windows on all 12 floors; steam from local plant is used for heating + cooling; about 1/3 of the building uses ventilated double-facade that blocks summer solar and captures winter solar gains; the central atrium acts as a huge return air duct and light shaft; air moves up the atrium and out exhaust fans near the skylight; natural light is brought in from solar-tracking mirrors above the skylight and reflected deep throughout the building; the building saves water use comparably by 32% by using waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, automatic faucets, and low-flush fixtures; storm water supplements the cooling towers and irrigates the landscaped roof; partial electricity generation is provided by the building integrated photovoltaics (PV); nearly 90% of the wood is FSC-certified; and the building materials were chosen based on low emissions, recycled content, and/or local manufacturing.  Not a bad list!

Anton_grassl_layers_photo_1 Roland_halbe_interior

Really, I think this enormous achievement required the collective efforts of many different players with a similar vision.  Architect and lead designer was Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner, executive architect – base building was House & Robertson Architects, tenant improvements architect was Next Phase Studios, landscape architect was Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects, and Turner Construction Company was the contractor. 

Extra Links:
USGBC Case Study Information
Top Ten Green Projects 2004 [AIA/COTE]
Genzyme Center Building Information + Facts [Genzyme Website]

Dallas' Commerce Street Townhomes Receives Design Award

Commerce_street_front Local Dallas architect, Ron Wommack, received a 2006 Texas Society of Architects Design Award for his work on the Commerce Street Townhomes in east Dallas.  Actually, the site is located on a previously abandoned site, which was the industrial/manufacturing area east of downtown Dallas.  The neighborhood is gradually being renovated and transformed into residential living spaces.  With this project, one of the architect’s goals was to create a place that carried the baggage of location’s industrial past, so the design incorporates materials such as concrete blocks, metal, and wood (in the right colors).  I asked the architect about some of the sustainable features and wanted to relay those to the Jetson Green readership. 

Commerce_street_room_kitchen Commerce_street_bedroom

First, the buildling was designed to utilize natural light and shading (passive solar design), which is especially apparent in the trellised roof deck and the living room clerestory.  Second, you’ll notice, that the roof trellises were made with chain-link fence post pipe, which is easy to recycle and extremely low maintenance.  We’re thinking about the life cycle of the product here.  Third, the metal skins adjust quickly with the temperature changes.  And last, they used an HVAC system with a higher SEER rating (Seasonal Energy-Efficiency Rating – the higher the better…generally speaking, if you spend about $360 annually on AC with a 10-SEER, a move to the 16-SEER will save you $135 a year or so).  So, we’re seeing a little bit of green incorporated in the design, and the place is extremely striking, too.  Projects like this will help move Dallas forward into greener pastures of residential building. 

Commerce_st_condos_6 Commerce_street_roof_loft Commerce_street_roof

Extra Links:
Ron Wommack Website
Texas Society of Architects Award Article [Texas Architect]

3form Releases 100 Percent, A 100% Recycled Decorative Panel

Flakes Low impact, high design.  I just wanted to let the architects and designers know about a cutting edge material from 3form called "100 Percent."  100 Percent is made from 100% post-consumer high-density polyethylene (HDPE).  Basically, 3form collects post-consumer HDPE flakes, sorts them by color, arranges the flake material to create a pattern, and then applies heat pressure to fuse the flakes into a single panel (without using binders).  100 Percent is currently available in one pattern and four colors (shown below), and the company is waiting for Greenguard Environmental Institute certification for low indoor emissions.

Orange_slice Cut_grass Snowmelt Night_sky

While 100 Percent has yet to be installed on an actual project, it’s a very tough material and could be appropriate for high-abuse indoor applications (schools, bathrooms, etc.).  Indoor applications are limited by its UL 94 classification (HB) and outdoor applications are limited by its lack of UV protection.  3form says 100 Percent is "ideally suited for education, science, and health care environments."  This material was innovative enough to win the 2006 NeoCon Gold Award for surfacing materials at the NeoCon World’s Trade Fair.  The company is also well-known in the design world for its Varia materials line (made of Ecoresin–40% post-industrial reclaimed material).

Extra Links:
3form Website
3form Takes Recycled Content to 100 Percent [BuildingGreen.com]

Green Valley Lofts Raise the Bar for Innovative Mixed Use, Sustainable Development

Building_rendering_1 There really, actually, truly, factually, legitimately is a growing interest in living in more environmentally sensitive buildings.  Even still, whether you’re looking for a single family home, urban townhome, downtown loft, or warehouse loft, the players in the green development field are few and far between (but increasing).  I noticed an interesting developer that is building the "first ‘zero energy’ sustainable mixed-use building in Las Vegas."  This green development, called the Green Valley Lofts, is minutes from the Vegas strip and neighbors all the urban amenities one could ask for (gym, restaurants, banks, dry cleaner, car wash, etc.).  It’s lined to be LEED Certified, too. 

Green Features:
The building will have a stainless steel substructure with floor to ceiling Heat-Mirror insulated glass (benefits include improved interior comfortability, reduced fabric fading, and maximum noise control), aka the EAG Facade.  Also there’s a rooftop solar-photovoltaic system, energy-efficient (non-ozone depleting) closet-type water source HVAC system, low wattage lighting, Energy Star appliances, tankless water heaters, eco-space elevator, whole house central water filtration system, programmable thermostats, zero- to low-VOC non-toxic paints, and bamboo flooring.  The company has a nice description of the benefits of these green features online. 

The interior will include all the amenities that a modernist would desire:  imported Italian kitchens, recycled glass countertops, bamboo flooring, remote controlled window shades, and the whole house lighting system.  Note, some of these features are greener than others.  There’s a glass enclosed roof-top spa as well. 

Loft_interior Loft_bathroom Loft_balcony

As far as pricing is concerned, these lofts aren’t cheap, but that’s understandable because they aren’t built to be cheap.  Phase 1 prices seem to range from the low $400s to $1.1 million.  And some of the financial incentives that they offer include the popular energy efficient mortgage, the Nevada Power Solar Rebate Program, the usual Federal + State renewable energy tax incentives, and any other energy tax incentives.  What’s better, there will be an raffle and one lucky owner will receive the New 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.  Nice business model guys, really. 

Extra Links:
Green Valley Lofts [official website]
EAG Facade [Euro-American Glazing]

Modern LUMI Rainwater Tank Receives Sustainability Award

Evening_lumi_1 I wanted to share this modern + green water storage solution with those of you that are interested in keeping your landscape design project aesthetic.  Katrina Logan, founder of small architectural firm Katrina Logan Architects and design company Full Tank, designed the LUMI Rainwater Tank so that eco-conscious consumers could have a visually appealing rainwater storage receptacle.  LUMI is made of sculptural satin acrylic and can be made in a range of colors and sizes (250 liters – 1100 liters).  Additionally, the shape can be customized and tailored to commercial applications (graphic applications, advertising, etc.). 

Day_lumi The tank glows in the sunlight, making the rainwater reserves visible, and has internal lights that illuminate the tank in the evening.  Often, architects try to conceal and disguise water tanks on the side of the house or with various landscaping techniques, but Logan’s design eliminates the ugliness of common storage tanks.  In the LUMI, she’s successfully targeting the inner city design community.  And early in October 2006, she received The City of Melbourne Sustainability Design Award.  I’m starting to imagine one of these at Hotel Palomar or some place like that. 

Extra Links:
Daily Dose of Architecture Post
State of Design Awards, Victoria 2006

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