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Skyscraper Sunday: SOM, Green Skycraper Firm of the Year

Jinao_tower_nanjing_1There’s just no stopping Skidmore, Owings + Merrill.  They are the (as nominated by Jetson Green) Green Skyscraper Firm of the Year.  I blogged about them in regards to the zero energy Pearl River Tower, which absolutely blows me away.  Have you seen the thing?  I also blogged about them on 9/11 because they designed the green Freedom Tower, which is going to be an architectural beacon of freedom and innovation for decades in the future.  When it comes to sustainability and architectural excellence in skyscapers, SOM is the number one firm.  That’s hands down. 

SOM has an enormous portfolio of work in China and they are working on over 15 skyscraper projects there right now.  Interestingly, it’s easier to be innovative in China because the climate lends itself to such behavior.  Firms in the US are reluctant to take on commercial/security risk.  They don’t want to tick off neighbors or trade unions either.  China on the other hand wants to push the envelope.  They have cheap materials and a desire to build green structures.  They are a command economy, so there’s not much public outcry, even if the building is outlandish.  Plus, global recognition helps their situation.  I get heaps of search queries on my blog everyday for a post I did on the Pearl River Tower–that’s global recognition.   

Nanjing_jinling_hotel_1 Nanjing_greenland Shenzhen_avic_plaza

I’ve included some pictures of buildings that SOM has designed for construction in China.  There’s too much to say about each, but one thing should be noted, however:  these buildings are all going to be done in 2007-2008.  There’s a quick turnaround time in China–they have the attitude to get things done.  Notice the delay for buildings like this in the United States and query whether that has anything to do with (in comparison) innovation, politics, determination, or drive.

Nanjing Greenland will have irregularly-spaced slots for green space that "march vertically up the facade."  Jinao Tower will be built with less steel than a traditional skyscraper.  It will be built around a diagonal grid bracing system (similar to the one used for Hearst Tower of New York).  Jinao Tower also features a double-skinned surface for solar shading and insulation.  Each SOM buildling is chock full of innovation. 

Extra Links:
SOM Company Site
Not Innovative?  SOM’s Skyscraper Projects in China Tell a Different Story [Architectural Record]

Contemporary Furniture: Going Green with Exceptionally Designed Bicycle Parts

S2_modulus_diningoffice_chair This isn’t just some ordinary, run-of-the-mill furniture, slapped together with no thought for the environment, comfort, or design.  Andy Gregg founded Bike Furniture Design in the 90s with the seminal, original bike chair.  Since then, his collection has grown to include bar stools, high-quality tables, loveseats, and more chairs.  While his furniture is made primarily from recycled steel and aluminum bicycle rims, handlebars, and frames, his collection has grown to include parts from other transportation industries such as trains and planes. 

Again, this stuff isn’t slapped together, it’s pretty darn close to artwork.  Upholstery options include leather, rubber, cork, clear + colored acrylic, and vinyl.  And his business is starting to reach a tipping point.  In 2004, revenue picked up enough to allow Gregg to focus on the business.  Growing demand has pushed him to explore the use of new materials, and he keeps coming up with great pieces.  This can be attributed to his art and mechanics background.  So if you have an idea in mind, I’m sure he’d be able to crank it out (no pun intended). 

S2_swivel_barstool_1Milano_lounge_chair_1S2_bar_table

Extra Links:
Fortune Small Business Article
Silicon Valley’s The Wave Magazine Article
HGTV "I Want That!" Episode #313

ScrapHouse Illustrates Re-use, Recycle, Repurpose Principles (aka Innovation)

Scraphouse The ScrapHouse is a "temporary demonstration home, blitz-built using scrap and salvaged material."  I looks really cool…so cool, you’d probably bid for it on ebay if you saw it.  What?  It’s not on ebay; it doesn’t exist anymore.  But it was built so cheap, you’d think it could be listed.  Buy it Now Price: under $2,000.  When you think about a 1,000 square foot house, you don’t think about building one for $2,000.  That’s exactly what a "rockstar team of local artists, engineers, architects, city officials, and builders" did in association with Public Architecture and ScrapHouse in SFC. 

Reuse is the operative word with this architectural feat.  It was built with materials collected from salvage yards, dumps, and waste piles at active construction sites.  Now, materials DO tend to walk away at construction sites, but from what I understand, there was no five-finger discounting involved with this process.  In all honesty, new building construction (non-LEED structures) generate tons of waste and scrap, and a lot of it can be used for a different project or purpose, depending on the necessity.  Again, another ebay concept applies:  "one person’s junk is another person’s treasure." 

Scraphouse_rending Of course, they used Energy Star appliances inside and low- to no-VOC/formaldehyde free materials in the furniture and paint, etc.  The key take away point is that we need to think outside the box and get creative about using already existing materials (junk that’s in abundance) in nascent, healthy ways.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you live swap-meet-style (not that that’s a bad thing), but it does mean that re-purposed, recycled stuff can be modern and swank.  We just need to get creative about finding that stuff.

Extra Links:
ScrapHouse Official Press Release 5/31/2006
Inhabitat Blog Post About Documentary Premiere

1920s San Antonio Industrial Compound Converted into Eco + Modern Residence

Lakeflato_architects_home Every project is different and depending on the circumstances, one will have a bevy of options to choose from to move forward with a green plan.  Some projects need to be torn down.  Some projects can be renovated and greened.  It depends on the economics, politics, and persuasions of all parties involved.  In this case, San Antonio architects, Lake/Flato, decided to reuse this industrial compound’s existing footprint to renovate the place into a green + modern residence, otherwise known as the Dog Team Too Loft + Studio. 

The house is well-positioned to receive natural light, so the energy requirements for lighting are minimal.  The architects used fritted panes for windows, which is glass covered with tons of tiny ceramic dots that let in light and maintain a semblance of privacy.  The glass is similar to using something like light-transmitting blinds because it allows lower-intensity light into the interior, but it also reduces the heat gain, which translates into savings for not having to use the A/C as much. 

Lakeflato_stairs Lakeflato_living_room_2 Lakeflato_saw_tooth_2

The original roof was lost due to a fire, so the saw-tooth roof visible in the above picture covers the entire residence.  Some of the interior walls are plaster, and their high sand content keeps the indoor air cool.  The architects also used various cheap, but creative, items to finish out the interior.  They used galvanized stair treads ($3 each) and treated the floor with crankcase oil from a nearby lube shop.  The interior dining room window was scrap from another project that the firm was doing, so it was put to perfect re-use.  The Lake/Flato architects definitely prove that re-use can be the perfect option when deciding what to do with that run down place.  Source via Metropolitan Home

[September] Architectural Record House of the Month: Newport Beach – Heinfeld Residence

House_front_1 Architectural Record always seems to find some of the best modern + green residences in the country:  this month’s spotlight is on Dan + Katherine Heinfeld’s home designed by architectural firm LPA, Inc., in Newport Beach, California.  LPA has a strong commitment to incorporating green concepts in their designs; they’re one of the earliest firms to get involved with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.  Mr. Heinfeld is the president of LPA, so designing his own home included the added tension of getting it right, to prove to clients that green design can be modern + luxurious. 

Green Features:
House_print The house really does include a slew of sustainable features…it’s built with a Glu-lam and composite beam structure that comprises two stories, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms.  Three sides of the house wrap around a courtyard/pool-area.  The pocket glass and screen doors open up to the solar-heated pool area (Suntrek).  The entire house was designed for efficient natural lighting, including a mostly windowless eastern orientation, an extended roof overhang on the southwestern side, an insulated, translucent skylight in the main room (Kalwall Skylight), and mechanical sunshades in every room (Lutron). 

Pool_house Kitchen Living_room

The house is powered almost completely by the 5.3 KW building integrated photovoltaics (Solar Integrated Technologies).  Also, the carpet tiles (Interface FLOR) and floor (Terrazzo) are both made with recycled content.  Of course, the paint is non-VOC, Eco-shield paint (Dunn Edwards).  LPA even provided the Xeriscaped landscaping.  Really, the Heinfelds didn’t hold anything back when putting this green + modern masterpiece together. 

Extra Links:
House of the Month Article and Project Specs [Architectural Record]
LPA, Inc. Website
Cristian Costea Photos

Skyscraper Sunday: Green Landmark Building For Sale (30 St Mary Axe)

Swiss_re_tower_london_2 Call it what you want:  "Gherkin," "The Cigar," "The Towering Innuendo," "30 St Mary Axe," or "Swiss Re Tower;" it looks like the insurance company, Swiss Re, has retained an agent to sell the place.  The 40-story building is one of the most recognizable shapes in London’s financial district.  Wanna guess the price?  600 million pounds ($1.1 billion dollars).  Now, I don’t know real estate values in London, but even for New York or San Francisco office building real estate, I think that’s a high price.  It’s worth it. 

30 St. Mary Axe:
London_swiss_re_tower_long The building was designed by Norman Foster (also architect of WTC 200 Greenwich – the "four diamonds" building) and completed in 2004.  It received the 2004 RIBA Stirling Price for Architecture and was nominated for a Bentley Award of Excellence.  It was the first skyscraper to be built in The City for 25 years and stands tall at 590 feet.  Known for its cylindrical facade and phallic shape, the building is even more revered for its state-of-the-art design features. 

State-of-the-Art Design:
Advanced parametric modeling was used to reduce wind loads + turbulence and maximize natural light + ventilation exposure.  Comparatively speaking, 30 St Mary Axe consumes 50% less energy than a traditional large office building.  The building design allows for natural ventilation (a feature that can be used about 40% of the year). 

Swiss_re_wind_model Swiss_re_color_wind_model Swiss_re_model

Interesting Fact: 
Swiss_re_dome There’s only one piece of curved glass in 30 St Mary Axe…guess where?  The lens at the pinnacle of the structure.  One could go on and on about the various technologies used in this building, but my post would get too long.  For those interested, I’ve attached a list of some sources with more information. 

Extra Links:
30 St Mary Axe [Official Website]
Modeling the Swiss Re Tower [ArchitectureWeek]
London’s ‘Gherkin’ for Sale [Yahoo]
30 St Mary Axe – Norman Foster [GreatBuildings]

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