Energy modeling software has become quite important in the last decade, mostly because of the LEED credits involved with energy usage (and the need to reduce long-term energy use because of costs). Energy use estimations in these cases have tended to be inaccurate, for as of yet unknown reasons. The USGBC is now mandating energy use reporting periods in order to track down the problems, and I have no doubt that eventually the problems will be found.
In the meantime, what are building designers to do? A good idea is to use any results from energy modeling as a guide rather than a gospel.
Energy modeling is still a very useful process. If for nothing else it makes you think long and hard about decisions that were once hidden behind a veil of complexity. Lighting issues matter, HVAC issues matter, renewable energy sources matter. With a little bit of attention and ingenuity, our buildings can start saving money and emissions from the first day of operation.
Software that allows one to calculate the true effects of every project decision is somewhere in the region of non-existent or too expensive. But we have great reason to celebrate, because energy modeling is about to become widely available and much more accurate.
The US Dept. of Energy has been steadily working on their EnergyPlus program for several years. This program is the calculating engine behind most of the software packages today. It incorporates everything that people know about heat transfer and energy usage. The one thing missing is a Graphical User Interface. Previously there was only one option if you needed a GUI – you can purchase a commercial package such as offered by Bentley, Autodesk, or IES.
If you can can’t afford this, or are just looking to play around with some fun freeware programs then I strongly suggest everyone investigate the new SketchUp plugin IES-VE Ware. With this setup, you can draw a design in SketchUp and do limited energy analyses with the plugin. It won’t be enough to estimate your monthly bill, and certainly nowhere near the sophistication needed to qualify for LEED points, but it’s a good start. (see the plugins at SketchUp’s own site)
It’s only a rumor, but I have heard that ASHRAE believes a new user interface for the EnergyPlus engine will become available within the next year or two. This would usher in a new era of energy modeling of the people, by the people, and for the people! Keep your fingers crossed, we may get lucky.
Of special note to anyone who been working with facade connections in steel buildings is two documents from AISC. The first is their “Design Guide 22: Facade Attachments to Steel-Framed Buildings” and the other is a recent article in MSC: “Steel Framing & Building Envelopes”.
The Design Guide 22 is free to AISC members (~$60 otherwise) and is probably one of their best. It has a great amount of information about spandrel beams, connections, facade issues, and even backs it up with some FEA work.
The MSC article “Steel Framing & Building Envelopes” by James A. D’Aloisio, PE, SECB, LEED AP should be considered as an addendum to the design guide, specifically dealing with the issues of thermal bridging and building envelope thermal performance. Basically, if an engineer applies the suggestions from DG22 without considering thermal bridging effects, then the R-value of the wall assembly could be halved (!).
D’Aloisio’s has published some interesting details he is experimenting with. His recommendation is to always use a thermal break, and he shows a Fiberglass-Reinforced Plastic shim plate to isolate steel lintels and hangers from the exterior environment. As he points out, many LEED NC buildings are not meeting their expected performance levels. The reason may be because of conventional details used by the construction industry.
I am happy to announce I finished my earlier project on time and submitted it for consideration in the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. I have spent nearly every spare moment on this project for the last two months, so I am very happy to complete it. I think it turned out well, too:
: Concentrating the Power of Community for a Sustainable Future
TENSILIGHT is a tensile fabric structure with a dished rooftop that collects rainwater and concentrates solar energy. It is designed to help small communities transition from a petroleum based economy to one that accommodates growth in an era of limited resources. The goal is to create enduring communities by partnering with an NGO that will provide education in organic agricultural practices.
I had to work quite hard to find examples of this type of structure built previously, I was able to track down an expired patent for a similar idea (USPTO 4,608,964). I am not trying to claim originality for all the concepts involved, but I do think this would be the first time these concepts have been brought together.
My brother is considering sustainable agriculture projects in both central America and Western Africa. Obviously anything near the Sahara makes you think about using solar resources, and I think it would be fun to develop this project for nomadic or semi-nomadic people. A rapidly redeployable instant infrastructure. That is what originally inspired the ideas of tents (fabric structures) and solar power combined with rainwater harvesting.
We chose to focus on Guatemala because it worked out better on the timing. They needed the water collection more than the power, and that is probably the easiest function to accommodate. Overall, both locations offer a good opportunity to focus our ideas.
We chose to develop this idea as a community center in rural communities, but I think it would also have merit for other uses in developed countries. A quick check of the latest USGBC LEED program shows that it could help a project qualify for up to 23 pts when used as a parking structure, so it would be a good option for several different types of projects.
The best part of this project was the opportunity to work with my family (see Group info) to develop the ideas and see the different talents and viewpoints that each person contributed. I am hoping to continue developing our ideas past the initial design and into implementation. All three of us enjoy our work, but I think this was somehow more enjoyable because we allowed ourselves absolute freedom to create.
If anyone has comments on the design, please post them here. The rules of commenting are in this earlier entry, but otherwise post whatever you want. This design is still in the early stages of development, so criticism or suggestions could be very helpful.
The city of Indianapolis dropped two big reports this week, the state of sustainability report for 2009 and a special report from the Rocky Mountain Institute on the Greening of the CCB.
The 2009 SustainIndy Report details the efforts made to move the City of Indianapolis further towards its goal of becoming “the most sustainable city in the Midwest.” The report includes details on bike lanes, stormwater/CSO issues, and some general feel-good stuff. I think the most important part of this report is that it was produced at all. Sustainability is not an easy thing to argue for in the conservative climate of Indianapolis, so I think the city should feel proud to get this thing off the ground.
The Greening of the CCB report is also great step forward for city. This report lays the foundation for next few decades of operation and maintenance of one the city’s most expensive properties. While I don’t know what exact steps will be taken to make this a “national forerunner in sustainability,” I strongly approve of the report’s goal to make the CCB a “sustainable lab for the Indianapolis” that is “radically resource efficient.”
Looking into the future, I think that the city needs to accomplish some short-term and long-term goals to gain credibility as a green city. The current emphasis on pedestrian accessibility and mixed-mode transportation is a good start. The city needs to continue building on its success with the sidewalk policy, the bike lanes, the cultural trail, greenways, and the ICE commuter buses. Transportation accounts for 30% of emissions, so reducing the need for driving has a big effect on sustainability. Lowering VMT per capita is essential, and the city should make this priority #1 in their quest for sustainability.
Obviously, sustainability should not be an end unto itself. But sustainability efforts can produce enormous life quality improvements. One way to lower per capita VMT and make the city more pleasant and community oriented is to focus on land use reform. I wrote an entry about downtown Indy already, but since urban living is more sustainable than suburban/rural living, I think it fits this topic as well. One important update since that time is a great article “The Legend of the Skyscraper Fairy” that directly addresses the failure of city governments to proactively address urban land use (h/t to Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space).
It seems as if the first objective of every mayor is to create an enormous structure in the Indy skyline and ensure a permanent legacy. I don’t have a problem with this except when it conflicts with the principles of good urban design. A walkable downtown will have no more than 30 feet between storefronts. If the city wants a Market Square tower building, then it needs to have a ground level floor full of small storefronts. The city should concentrate on the experience of pedestrians walking on Alabama Street, not on what a driver sees from I-70.
Managing green assets should be priority #2. Coincidentally, Urbanophile posted a similar entry on this yesterday. This is a long-term priority, but Indianapolis needs to understand that Indy Parks has a much greater role to play in sustainability. The city currently has a goal of putting green roofs on park buildings. This will not provide a systemic benefit, as there is already plenty of green space in those areas. Indianapolis needs to think bigger.
Our city owned parklands can provide regional benefits. For example, the properties can provide stormwater relief and bio-diversity within the city. For this to happen, the parklands need to be proactively managed and carefully preserved. People are not the only animals in this city. Just as pedestrians and bicyclists need continuous paths to maintain a healthy population, the flora and fauna filling our city need corridors to communicate and travel.
In my own neighborhood I see foxes, deer, rabbits, hawks, and all sorts of varied trees. Each of these species has a part in our ecosystem. And don’t worry about wild animals, the most dangerous things in our city will always be the four-wheeled monsters we keep in our garages.
Unfortunately, the Indy Parks budget has been decimated over the past few years. We need the city to commit resources to help manage these lands. One way to save money for the city is to let some areas remain unmowed and untrafficked for the sake of bio-diversity. If the city is uncomfortable with the money required, then maybe a few starter grants should be applied for. To help manage these issues, I think that Indy Parks be given their own director of sustainability, because the goals for urban (human) sustainability are quite different from ecological sustainability.
The city should also use the parks as an opportunity for education and public awareness. The website of Indy Parks can feature stories about how the green parklands affects the sustainability of the city. Currently, there is just no realization that our Parks are major contributors to our welfare. There is also no long-term plan that integrates parkland management into the concept of sustainability. This is an ideal opportunity for Indianapolis to differentiate itself from other Midwest cities and lead sustainability efforts into the next decade.
The Indianapolis Midfield Terminal is a lesson in successful long-term infrastructure planning. The site of the airport was picked in the 1930′s, the “temporary” terminal was built in 1957, the upgraded control tower was finished in 2006, and the current terminal was finished in 2008. The current location was picked over 70 years ago, and the wait has been worth it.
South elevation and main entry
As is customary, I would like to refer readers to my fellow Indianapolis A/E bloggers and their thoughts on the new airport:
Urbanophile (start here and find links to all 7 pieces)
Circles & Squares (pre-construction review here, great photos too)
The new terminal is a great piece of infrastructure because it has made the Indianapolis Airport one the most convenient, comfortable, and successful airports ever. The iconic structural elements including the exposed roof trusses, vertical bowstring trusses, and eccentric braces give it an open, industrial grandeur. The structural system is easy to comprehend and the building feels safe and comfortable inside.
Interior of plaza (construction)
One of my favorite structural features is the column/brace system supporting the main roof. Depending on which direction is considered, the members will act as a column or an eccentric brace, and no moment connections were required. The trusses above did require a little bit of extra detailing, I’m sure, but everything looks great and I’m sure the system performance had to meet strict requirements with all those windows.
Brace columns and skylights
Pin connections at column base
I asked the original designers about these columns. I never got a clear answer about what seismic classification was used, but I would bet they considered them eccentric braces. The connections were designed as conventional pins per AISC specifications. They pointed out that while the trusses and braces were different from typical construction, the contractors were experienced with this type of construction and thus construction problems were limited.
Another unique element used on the airport is the vertical bowsting truss. These trusses are used on the huge expanse of glass fronting the passenger drop-off area, resisting the large wind forces that develop on this face. The open web design matches the architectural style of the interior, and the ratio of open-ness allows natural light to filter throughout the building.
Bowstring window trusses near public plaza (construction)
Vertical trusses near front entry (construction)
Much of the project was LEED registered (still awaiting USGBC confirmation), and it is clear that some sustainable thinking went into the project. A good writeup of the Airport’s efforts towards acquiring LEED certification is here, or you can visit Blackburn Architects who were responsible for managing the LEED documentation (but you must use IE not Firefox).
Roof detailing on eastern side (construction)
Braced column supports and art space below (construction)
This was the first terminal to open under the new regulations passed since the 2001 terrorist attacks. A great deal of planning went into ensuring this airport would be able to meet all of the new regulations enacted to tighten security. Several areas of the airport are hardened against natural and manmade hazards, and new technology rapidly screens problems out of the system in case anything strange is found.
Tornado shelter entry
The front approach from Interstate 70 is convenient, and the traffic arrangement on the airport property is simple yet logical. Economy and long-term parking is the first option, and it sits in a field dominated by the new control tower. The tower makes it easy for people to orient themselves, even with the tall berms obscuring any other visual landmarks.
Air traffic control tower
Next up is the parking garage. This pre-stressed concrete structure has some really cool features that raise it above the banality of most parking structures. Several locations are high-lighted by tensile membrane roofs. The corkscrew vehicle ramps add flair to the southern corners, while the central pedestrian area is covered by another fabric roof. This central pedestrian area is actually quite attractive. There are automated people movers, glass enclosed elevators, kinetic sculptures, and a ground transportation center directly across from the main terminal.
Corkscrew vehicle ramp membrane structure
Tensile membrane roof over parking structure
The bridge structure linking the parking structure and the terminal is basically a trussed pedestrian bridge. Automated people movers and a central aisle are covered with an amazing bit of public art. This multimedia installation involves sound, light, movement, and sense of awareness that makes the traverse across the bridge an interesting experience. The bridge delivers travelers to a mezzanine level with escalators heading up or down.
Pedestrian bridge and front entry (construction)
The up option delivers another great experience as the expansive main plaza opens to view as you raise up to the main floor level. This room contains all of the ticketing areas and while there is no easy way to find where each airline is but the area is small enough, and interesting enough, to encourage a bit of exploration.
Main ticketing and entry lobby (construction)
On the way towards the gates and security areas is the circular plaza that establishes a special place within the airport. The circular public area is surrounded by retail and food establishments, which is one of the best public spaces in the city. The translucent roof panels add natural light to the space, and the hanging arts offers a visual reward for looking upwards.
My favorite part, however, is the elevated catwalk that rings the public space. This links the administrative areas on the east and west wings, but it adds a new dimension of walkable space that really helps to enclose the area. It is a shame that the city has not learned how to apply these concepts to the cityscape, there are many places that could be reclaimed for pedestrians in a simlar manner.
Public space lined with shops
Upper walkway with torque-tube (construction)
Passengers can go through security at either concourse, each has plenty of queuing room and the latest equipment that speeds people through the checks. This in contrast to the previous Indianapolis security experience, and to many other airport terminals around the country which were not built to handle the new security provisions. Both security check areas have a large mosaic that adds visual interest.
View of the sky plaza and terminal from the tarmac (construction)
The A/B terminals offer a more typical experience, each gate has a seating area and the central area is taken up by automated people movers. The best part about these wings is the high ceilings and exposed structural members. The roof trusses and use of glass really shows the modernity of the airport. Once again, this is a night and day contrast with the previous Indianapolis terminal. While the overall feeling is still an industrial and impersonal one, the space is less depressing and fills travelers with confidence rather than despair.
Terminal A with Automated People Mover
Terminal structure with eccentric braces and steel trusses
Incoming passengers can easily find their way to the baggage claim. The automated baggage handling system takes up most of the space below the main floor. The system quickly routes each incoming and outgoing bag to the correct destination. It is so quick that it is possible for your bag to be waiting for you at the baggage claim before you are even on your way down the escalator. Siemens designed and installed the baggage system (more info here).
Braced steel frames and mechanical systems in lower level (construction)
One small turn within the 13,000 foot baggage handling system (construction)
The passenger pickup and dropoff area has been used to showcase even more structural elements. The cantilevered bus stops are similar to units covering the ticketing areas, tying the different areas together with a cohesive architectural style. The pickup/dropoff area has a great vista to the south, but it doesn’t feel too open because the large glass backdrop provides a sense of enclosure.
Lower level exit from baggage claim to ground transportation
In general, one of the reasons that the airport seems so large is that people move through it so quickly that there are no large crowds of unhappy travelers. The limited time I have spent in the airport has been full of the typical travel issues: tickets lost in the computer system, baggage fees, expensive long-term parking, and neck cramps after falling asleep on the plane. But, it is all much more bearable when you aren’t trapped in a building that looks as much like a military bunker as it does a functional piece of transportation infrastructure.
Baggage claim area (construction)
Baggage claim area
The airport managers realize that long-term planning allowed Indianapolis to accommodate the future growth of the airport corresponding to the growth of the city. They have further realized that expansion may be necessary in the future. This future expansion is provided for by adding extra gates in the A/B concourses. Room for an extra runway is located across the interstate.
The unused space between the parking structure and the nearest parking lot is expected to be taken up by a special-purpose hotel and convention center. I have even heard that there is an on-site location that can be used to link up to a mass transit system. If you don’t think that is the definition of long-term planning, then you haven’t spent much time in Indianapolis.
On September 3, 2009, I attended the Chamber of Commerce’s Indianapolis Hobnob (Event flyer). Typically the hobnob is a chance for people to interact with their elected/appointed representatives by sharing a social hour and listening to grandiose political speeches. This year, however, was an “off-election” year which only occurs once every 12 years, so political campaigns took a backseat.
The chamber of commerce took this opportunity to host a conference on policy issues instead. The program started off with a keynote address by Jeff Speck. Mr. Speck is one of the new urbanists working with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and along with DPZ was co-author of the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (Amazon listing here).
In addition to the keynote address, there were breakout sessions, a panel discussion, and the hobnob reception. Overall, I thought the event was very successful at bringing together people who are interested in policy changes. However, it did not appear to be successful at bringing in new people who were not already interested in such events.
The keynote address by Jeff Speck (website) was outstanding, a copy of the presentation is avaiable here. In fact, most of the presentations have been put online for public access, see the Indianapolis Hobnob 2009 for more information. The keynote really did a fabulous job of showing how policy affects cities, and why it ends up ruining our quality of life.
I ended getting a copy of his book (he was signing copies at the event) and now that I am mostly through it I can honestly say that this book deserves to be read by anyone interested in urban policy, walkability, transit/transportation issues, or real estate development. Much of the photos in the presentation are explained in detail in the book, and reading it has been a great use of my time. There are also some great quotes in the book such as “Fighting congestion by adding lanes is like fighting obesity by loosening your belt.” It is full of insight and witty observations.
Breakout session #1: Transit Oriented Development
This session focused on how transit oriented development gives an opportunity for cities to reclaim the urban dream. It also gives citizens a choice about their lifestyle. Instead of endless sprawl, people can live in dense pockets of walkable, urban environments. They are freed from the expenses of car ownership by mass transit.
In contrast to the typical nay-sayers who claim TOD is unsuccessful at its goals, this session did provide evidence that TOD residents do use their autos much less, and that the subsidies for the TOD’s do provide benefits worth their cost. There has been no presentation file uploaded on the host site, but here are two links to investigate:
Transit-Oriented Development Wikipedia
Ballston neighborhood Wikipedia
Breakout session #2: Green Redevelopment
This session focused on the redevelopment of Fall Creek Place, a formerly blighted neighborhood that is seeing a lot of redevelopment efforts. The design & construction team, along with the city of Indianapolis official in charge of the project, led the presentation discussing the challenges and opportunities presented.
I enjoyed both sessions, but it is clear that there needs to be some changes to the land-use policies currently in place before these types of developments become common. There is just so many variances and excessive red-tape involved with this construction. Even the simple act of replacing like-for-like in Fall Creek Place involves a special initiative with the city government.
The end of the conference was a 5 person panel discussion involving Jeff Speck and some local leaders. This part of the conference was unscripted, so there is no document to refer to. The questions were submitted by the attendees of the breakout sessions and of the keynote. Unfortunately, it became clear that our elected representatives did not have a thorough background or understanding of the policies being considered and debated in the conference. Being politicians, they appreciated what the audience wanted to hear but I was not convinced they knew how to get from here to there without seriously studying up on the issues.
Hobnob Social Hour
Most of the breakout sessions were lightly attended, but once the drinks and food were set up the place was instantly full and buzzing with people and conversation. I suppose if you want to attract politicians and public servants then hosting a party with free food and drinks is a good way to start.
The social event was held adjacent to the Canal in the Indiana State Museum. It was great fun, and I had the opportunity to meet and discuss the day’s presentations with many of the attendees. The chance to network and socialize with people interested in land-use policy was a great benefit of this event, and I hope that it is just as successful in the future.
The 10th Street corridor is one of Indianapolis’ best preserved commercial areas from the early 1900′s – 1950′s. This area developed as a commercial district serving the east Indianapolis neighborhoods like Woodruff Place, Cottage Home, and Pogue’s Run Trail. Urban Indy had a good post about the area last year. These different neighborhoods are mostly a part of the collective Near Eastside Community Organization (NESCO).
The 10th Street Civic Association is the main street organization which represents the economic development arm of the neighborhood. The neighborhood has been anointed as a favorite for restoration because of its size, proximity to downtown, and historic assets. They have a long wish-list of projects to tackle in the next few years, and have already started knocking out their punch-list.
A popular building type along 10th is the storefront with residential apartments above
Traveling along 10th street offers an opportunity to experience the urban fabric of Indianapolis as it once existed. The great part about this neighborhood is its unbroken character, there are very few locations where the main street feel is lost to suburban style developments. Admittedly, one of the reasons for this is that it has not seen much investment in the past few decades. But it has great potential as a solid residential and commercial tax base for the city of Indianapolis. It has not (yet) been split by an interstate, bulldozed to prepare way for enormous city-county initiatives, nor abused for heavy industrial use. In truth it is a jewel of a neighborhood.
Another storefront building, this one is in great condition with a bus stop in front
The city of Indianapolis stands to gain a huge amount of tax revenue if this area can begin attracting a broad cross-section of residents. Most importantly, the residents in the area can rebuild their urban neighborhood once investment capital begins flowing back into the corridor.
Single story shops with a front door on the sidewalk
The streets have limited parking options, and there are no destination stores for shopping experiences. Many of the operating businesses focus on the needs of the residents and so do not draw visitors from all over the city. The area has an eclectic mix of residents that befits its urban character, and unfortunately this means that many Indiana natives do not feel comfortable here. I think this says more about Indiana natives than the neighborhood, because Indiana seems to have confused pedestrians with criminals.
More mixed use buildings, these are awaiting renovation
However, the neighborhood appears to be winning some major battles. Apart from the blessing of a Superbowl practice facility, the neighborhood has been steadily acquiring grant money to put its plans into actions. The strategy for the area has been carefully worked out, and there will be a lot of effort on keeping the existing walkable infrastructure in place even when new buildings are being built.
The latest July 15th Presentation (WARNING: must view with IE, not Firefox) by Storrow Kinsella is the culmination of nearly a decade of serious urban planning. The volume of materials generated by this study filled a gymnasium during the final meeting. Every contributing property in the area has been documented by architects and a plan for restoration listed. Utilities, zoning, infrastructure, walkability, transit options, and just about anything you can imagine has been closely studied and converted into giant maps, digital overlays, or reduced to meaningful statistics. Neighborhood preferences for investments in place-making, public structures, and land-use policies have been taken into account. The plan is clearly laid out, the first steps have been taken, and everyone in the neighborhood is excited about the progress so far.
As mentioned above, this area will see the construction of the new Superbowl 2012 practice facility (which will be donated to Arsenal Tech High School afterwards). Several local buildings are getting a facelift or even major structural renovations. Many structures are now sporting scaffolds, the equivalent of cranes in historic neighborhoods. Much of the current work is sponsored by public or non-profit groups in the hopes that private development will soon follow.
E. 10th Street had the first building in Indianapolis with a green roof. As of right now, two commercial buildings have a green roof which may be a higher concentration than anywhere else in the city. The John H. Boner center (roof) and the Moonblock building (roof) both have Live Roof systems and were established as proof that the new technology of green design could mesh easily with traditional historic preservation and economic development.
The John H. Boner Community Center is the headquarters of several civic organizations
A stylized bus stop, large sidewalk presence, and green roof help create a unique area
The MoonBlock building has a green roof and has been fully renovated
Another recent development is the Pogue’s Run Grocer (Indy Food Coop). This locally owned grocer should provide residents with a great choice of quality food. I am quite looking forward to the opening this fall. I was able to volunteer for some of the demolition work, so I got to meet some of the people who will be running it as well as seeing the building they will be using as a storefront. Needless to say, it has a lot of potential and is sited in a great location.
The new Pogue’s Run Grocer location
A community owned, not-for-profit grocery store (i.e. a co-op
Salvaged wood from our demolition efforts
Homemade food from the Coop volunteers
Other historic assets include the Rivoli Theater and American Legion building. The theater has an interesting history, and I am hoping that the neighborhood can soon support a new use for it.
The historic Rivoli Theater
The signage needs some TLC, but is in good shape overall
The facade is absolutely authentic
The American Legion Building would make a great owner-occupied space. Old mixed use spaces like this are rare, especially one with a great look. IIRC The Ball State study recommended opening up the old storefront windows. It could be a great neighborhood resource.
The American Legion lodge building
The glazed windows on the upper floor are still in good condition, but the aluminum door and bricked over storefront windows should be replaced with more appropriate materials
The old Emerson Theater now regularly hosts independent bands, which seems to attract a young crowd. Before a show there is plenty of activity on the sidewalks.
The Emerson Theater with a young and enthusiastic crowd waiting for the doors to open
I took this photo because I liked the way the urban setting makes my car more hip
In several trade magazines I have seen stories written to a business manager audience arguing that green/sustainable initiatives are worthwhile because they help attract and retain young engineers. Apparently young engineers have this concept in their unstable heads that they would like to help create a world that is more enjoyable and just.
I certainly agree with that, but I think young engineers are looking for something more important than the opportunity to specify pervious concrete on a future job.
What attracts and ultimately retains the best employees is the strong leadership and proven adaptability that firms need in order to make cultural transitions. Changing policies within an organization requires an effective leadership structure. Adaptability is very attractive to young employees. Nobody wants to work in a bureaucratic nightmare of a job where their efforts to make a difference are absolutely wasted.
When companies refuse to change or refuse to adapt to the realities of the industry, then it won’t be able to attract nor retain quality employees. Hard decisions must be made, and in companies where nobody is able to make these decisions it is clear that the company is paralyzed by fear of action.
The important point here is that going green is just a tactic, but not a strategy, to compete for the best engineers. The marketing of green designs is only a fad; in 10 years from now it will be merely boring policy and yet another item on the code checklist. But innovative, bold companies will already be revising their image to adapt to the next big thing on the horizon.
My friend and colleague has just completed his renovation of a local historic schoolhouse into his residence. He and his wife worked very hard for over a year to finish the renovation and they definitely have something to be proud of.
The fully renovated schoolhouse sitting proud on a hillock
The schoolhouse halfway through renovation, geo-exchange loop being installed
The structure as initially purchased in early 2008
This structure was built in 1891 for an independent community outside of Indianapolis. It was originally a one room school but later split into a two room schoolhouse with a double sided fireplace in the middle.
The original building plaque sharing information about the structure
The small school system was later merged with a larger community, so the schoolhouse was repurposed into a fire station. Two garages were built to store the trucks. Eventually the schoolhouse was transferred to a private owner and used for different community events or as a residence, depending on the needs of the neighborhood.
Fire engines get larger as time passes, thus more garage space was needed
The eastern facade showing masonry construction, new windows, and a bathouse
My friend acquired it and acted as contractor, architect, and much of the manual labor. Key upgrades include new aluminum high-insulation windows and a state-of-the-art HVAC system. Exterior work involved new roofing for the main schoolhouse building and a lot of masonry patching. The attached garages are being used for storage at this point, but they will be converted to a game room and a car garage in time.
Vintage furniture, doors with transom windows, and high ceilings
A unique mudroom with space for washer/dryer and a pantry
The separate front doors once led to two individual schoolrooms
The interior renovations included furring out the masonry walls, installing insulation and drywall, and repairing any masonry issues. The original oak floors were sanded and refinished. A new kitchen made from all recycled materials was put in (and the granite for the island came from a prominent building downtown that was recently reclad). The 14′-0″ ceiling height gives a definite loftiness and grandness that you don’t find in many homes.
An apron farmhouse sink, cherry butcher block counters, and reclaimed cabinets were a cost-effective way to make the kitchen fit the context
A handmade island with recycled granite, vintage oven range, and plenty of storage options
The refinished floors of old-growth oak are priceless
New interior walls were installed to section off bedrooms, bathrooms, and a utility room. The bedrooms and bathrooms were furnished with vintage finds from antique shops or family pieces. The overall effect is very pleasant, everything seems to fit and there is a definite authenticity even though the building has been charged with a new life.
A typical interior door with 5 panel construction and a transom overhead
The master bedroom continues the themes presents in the remainder of the house, including tall windows, a high ceiling, hardwood floors, and vintage furniture
But as I mentioned earlier, the key upgrade in this renovation is the new HVAC system. A geo-exchange heat pump works during winter or summer, providing an efficient and inexpensive way to heat this old masonry building. The heating is distributed by a thermal radiant floor system using PEX tubing installed between the original wooden floor joists.
The basement showing wooden post and beam construction supporting the floors
Radiant floor PEX tubing was installed between joists and a reflective backing was installed to focus heat upwards
Supply and return lines feeding the tubing system
The water-to-air heat exchanger provides cooling during the summer and back-up heat during the winter
A full set of ducts were also installed for the cooling system and a back-up electric resistance heater is available for any nights that are especially cold. The heat pump is also connected to a water-to-air exchanger which can use the chilled water to blow cool air through the ducts.
The water-to-water heat exchanger provides heat for the radiant system
The final bonus is that waste heat generated during cooling months is deposited back into the hot water heater. There is very little energy wasted during the generating and distributing process, and the extra insulation in the walls and ceiling keeps most of it inside.
The potable water system uses flexible PEX tubing for distribution, and is sourced from a well next to the house
Future plans, in addition to renovating the garage spaces, include adding a full height library shelving system with rolling ladder, a circular staircase that would extend from basement (once finished) to the reclaimed attic/loft space. This will also open up room to install another bathroom in the main floor where the basement stair currently sits. But that work can wait for another day, as I am sure they are deserving of a little break from renovation work to enjoy the work they have already completed.
UDATE: The owner’s Flickr photostream is here, if you want to see even more
On August 10, 2009, the finalists for Dwell/Inhabitat‘s Re-Burbia contest were revealed. All of the finalists had invested a substantial amount of time in preparing their submissions. All looked impressive, most were interesting, and some were eminently practical.
However, I can’t even begin to explain how upset I was when I came to the Vehiforce entry. This is nothing more than a perpetual motion machine. All of the energy needs of a suburban home can now be met by installing a machine in each garage that not only keeps a vehicle’s weight bouncing up and down perpetually but actually extracts useful energy from the process.
Are you kidding me? A finalist?
Honestly, I don’t fault the “inventor”. Many people believe they can invent such machines, even famously brilliant people like Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately, the second law of thermodynamics prevents such a device. From the smallest atomic particles to the slow rotation of the Milky Way galaxy, no existing matter is capable of circumventing this law. Stephen Hawking even proved that Black Holes (singular gravity entities) follow similar rules. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.
What made me upset and caused me such anguish is that the contest jury obviously had no scientific oversight, and probably lacked any technical experts. The contest hosts should be absolutely ashamed to allow this project to have progressed this far. The fact it was not killed immediately upon arrival proves that the contest was not judged according to its stated criteria of:
- innovation and creativity
- clarity of design
- usability and practicality of implementation
- quality of solution
I can instantly see that the proposal should have been given a score of zero for criteria 3, 4, & 6. If I were on the panel and it was selected as a finalist I would have withdrawn my name from the jury, I would never allow myself to be associated with such a embarrassment. However, in the parlance of our times this can also be a good opportunity for a “teachable moment”. Allow me to explain what made me so upset, and how everyone can avoid these issues in the future.
Make no mistake that the energy crisis is serious. It will define our future as a species on this planet. We have exhausted much of the easily retrieved energy that our planet had been storing in the form of petroleum. The energy in petroleum came from the same source that all usable energy on earth does – sunlight. Photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, wave power, hydroelectric dams, and photosynthesis all come directly from solar energy. Only nuclear power, geothermal, and certain chemical decompositions at the bottom of the ocean do not involve energy input from the Sun. Any future energy source must come from sunlight (or nuclear fission if you lean that way).
To summarize the relevant laws of thermodynamics:
- Energy can not be created nor destroyed, only shifted from one form to another
- Transferred energy must pay a tax to entropy
Basically, the usefulness of energy degrades as it is used. New, useful energy must come from an outside source (e.g. the sun). Useful energy can not be found in a garage unless someone is storing plutonium.
Once an energy source is found it must be converted to useful work. The most efficient process ever created would almost achieve 100% conversion from one form of work to another. Cars with internal combustion engines achieve about 20%-30% efficiency. They are not now, nor will they ever be a viable solution for our energy needs.
This is important because the source of the energy from a device such as a Vehiforce, if built, would be the car’s engine. The design as drawn would never work. But, as suggested in the comments, it could be reconfigured as a linear system slowly lowering the car from a higher garage level to a lower one. This would be a ridiculously bad idea, however, as you would be wasting a lot of energy.
The car would drive itself up a ramp, stop on the Vehiforce platform, slowly travel downwards recapturing at most 1/3 of the energy used to get it up the ramp to begin with. The rest of the energy would be lost as useless heat out of the tailpipe and the engine. Thus, the Vehiforce would represent one of the most expensive, polluting, and inefficient ways to produce electricity.
As I stated above, our energy crisis is the most serious issue confronting our society right now. To award an important prize to such an idea as this is irresponsible.
What is needed is to break down the barriers of the design world. The innovators must combine forces with the technical experts. Design juries must involve some form of technical oversight to ensure feasibility criteria are met. This will encourage submissions from design teams that are broad based and experienced in design talent as well as technical talent.