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Green Building = Buzz, but Localization = Key

Cameron_armstrong_metal_home_2 Green building articles abound, but it’s important to note the subtle differences in perspective, which may change depending on the writer’s geography.  An article may give green building advice that doesn’t make sense in your geography.  Take this Houston article for instance.  It’s a good read.  In Houston, the climate requires an innovative balance of green building techniques.  Houston is hot and humid.  I won’t say it’s the armpit of America, but it’s hard to keep dry in that place.  Here are a couple examples of localization in green building. 

  1. Passive Design – Houston architects suggest putting most of your windows in a north/south orientation because the east/west orientation draws too much heat into the home and doesn’t allow exposure to the cool breezes that blow from the southeast in the summer. 
  2. Materials – Houston architects will building with metal, as opposed to brick or stucco.  Metal reflects the sun, while brick holds in heat and stucco is prone to mold.  Unfortunately, metal doesn’t work for all applications, so you have to balance and make trade-offs. 

Rule:  Consult a knowledgeable professional to pick the optimal green building strategy that effectively considers the ramifications of the local geography and materials on your site.  It’ll pay dividends later when you actually start to occupy the building and use it.  Pictures via Cameron Armstrong Architects, a Houston architectural firm with several metal homes in their portfolio. 

LEED Platinum Sweetwater, A Model of Economics + Design

Sweetwater2  Sweetwater

Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification.  Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%.  At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually.  Plus, there’s the financial case for the building.  Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area. 

In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment."  His firm walks the talk.  About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP). 

The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system.  Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10.  I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach. 

Extra Links:
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release

2007 New American Home Goes Green in a Big Way

[Email/RSS - Click to View Images] Every year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sponsors a home project and industry experts team up to create a demonstration home with the newest technologies and products.  This year’s New American Home was unveiled at the 2007 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida last month.  The 2007 New American Home is a 3-story, 4,707 sf urban loft home with a roof plaza.  There’s also a first floor terrace, pool, and a 576 sf suite with the two-car garage.  Designed by BSB Design, the New American Home has a distinct look.  The mission of the home was to illustrate that housing performance can be incorporated into the most simple or complex homes without sacrificing aesthetics.  And as it turns out, housing performance = green home. 

Green Features:
The New American Home is a standout in green achievement: it’s designed with universal design compliance, designated to be Energy Star certified, and certified green by the Florida Green Building Coalition.  The home includes a 2.4 kw solar photovoltaic system; pre-cast, insulated structural concrete wall system; impact resistant, low-emissivity windows; residential automation and home control for all low-voltage systems; air conditioning systems between 15 + 17.8 SEER; four-foot overhangs over most of the south- and west-facing windows; and natural gas instantaneous water heaters.  Nice. 

So you’re saying, "Yeah but, this house is freakin’ huge!"  Yes it is.  It’s huge with Cribs-type amenities such as automated, built-in home theaters, an elevator, and a state-of-the-art security system. It’s a model home with tons of green features.  More precisely, it uses 73 percent less energy for heating and cooling and 54 percent less energy for water heating, compared to a comparable house in a similar climate.  For whatever reason, people build houses this big, so if you’re gonna go big, you might as well go green and energy efficient, too. 

Sky House, St. Louis Eco-Friendly, Mixed-Use Tower (S2)

Sky House St. Louis

A Fresh Perspective on Urban Living.
  Looks like we’re starting to see teasers for the newest, hottest address in downtown St. Louis: 1400 Washington.  With pre-sales beginning in May 2007, Sky House will be a 22-story building with 166 units of residential and 13,000 sf of street-level retail.  The residential units will be about 850 to 2,230 sf (1-3 bedrooms), with prices starting in the mid-$200,000.  Sky House will be built to LEED standards and have Energy Star stainless steel appliances, a green roof, energy-efficient window systems and balcony doors, and computer-controlled, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

Residents will also have access to the Sky Club on the 19th floor.  The Sky Club level includes a pool, hot tub, fitness center, green space, and a dog run.  The importance of the dog run can’t be understated either.  With a dog run, there’s less of a reason for vertical living to be at odds with dog lovers.  The project is developed by Chicago-based Metropolitan Development Enterprises and constructed by RileyWaldrop.  Looking good. 

Extra Links:
Eco-Friendly, Mixed-Use Tower to Rise in St. Louis [BDC Network]
SkyscraperPage Forums + Urban St. Louis Forums

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::

Interview: Steve Glenn – CEO of LivingHomes, by Core77

Steve Glenn Broadcast

[Run time = 26 min.]  I’ve posted about LivingHomes here, here, and here.  Well, Steve Glenn is the company’s CEO and Founder and he has some interesting things to say.  If you’re still unsure about his green cred, he built the first LEED Platinum home in the United States (with the design help of Ray Kappe).  Enjoy…

One Bryant Park, Greenest Skyscraper in the World? (S2)

One Bryant Park Rendering

If you’re going to office in what looks to be the greenest skyscraper in the country, you should also have a sustainable business strategy to go along with it.  One Bryant Park, soon to be known as the Bank of America Tower, is the perfect place for a company that just announced a $20B initiative to support environmental lending.  Designed by Cook + Fox Architects and developed by the Durst Organization, One Bryant Park is shooting for LEED Platinum certification.  It’s a 2.1 million sf, 54-story, crystalline office tower located right in midtown Manhattan and is slated for completion in 2008. 

ABC News recently ran an article on some of the more interesting green features of the building.  Interestingly, it will only cost about 1-2% extra (of a total $1.2B) to include all the green additions, but those are expected to be paid for within a 2-4 year window as a result of saved energy expenses.  That’s the business case for green building.  There will be rainwater capture, floor-to-ceiling windows for natural lighting, advanced double wall technology to allow light and block heat, air cleaned of 95% of its particle matter, a floor duct air system controllable in each room or office, three state-of-the-art natural gas fuel cells to create on-site energy, building concrete made of 45% blast furnace slag for stronger construction, and daylight dimming and LED lights for reduced electric usage.  The result:  these green additions have the anticipated benefits of reducing energy consumption by 50%, reducing potable water consumption by 50%, reducing storm water contribution by 95%, and using about 50% recycled materials in construction.  That’s a lighter footprint. 

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