Friday, 11 March 2011

Depthscrapers Defy Earthquakes (Nov, 1931)

After current massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I chose this subject to indicate that we should found new methods of construction in order to prevent natural and unnatural disaster's destruction:

THE “Land of the Rising Sun” (Japan) is subject to earthquakes of distressing violence at times; and the concentration into small areas of increasing city populations invites great destruction, such as that of the Tokio earthquake of 1923, unprecedented in magnitude of property loss, as well as life.

It was natural, then, that the best engineering brains of Japan should be devoted to the solution of the problem of building earthquake-proof structures; and a clue was given them by the interesting fact that tunnels and subterranean structures suffer less in seismic tremors than edifices on the surface of the ground, where the vibration is unchecked.

The result of research, into the phenomenon explained above, has been the design of the enormous structure illustrated, in cross-section, at the left—the proposed “Depthscraper,” whose frame resembles that of a 35-story skyscraper of the type familiar in American large cities; but which is built in a mammoth excavation beneath the ground. Only a single story protrudes above the surface; furnishing access to the numerous elevators; housing the ventilating shafts, etc.; and carrying the lighting arrangements which will be explained later. The Depthscraper is cylindrical; its massive wall of armored concrete being strongest in this shape, as well as most economical of material. The whole structure, therefore, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain. As in standard skyscraper practice, the frame is of steel, supporting the floors and inner walls.

Fresh air, pumped from the surface and properly conditioned, will maintain a regular circulation throughout the building, in which each suite will have its own ventilators. The building will be lighted, during daylight hours, from its great central shaft, or well, which is to be 75 feet in diameter. Prismatic glass in the windows, opening on the shaft, will distribute the light evenly throughout each suite, regardless of the hour.

Making the Most of Sunlight

In order to intensify the degree of daylight received, a large reflecting mirror will be mounted above the open court, and direct the sunlight directly into its depths. This mirror travels on a circular track; so that it will rotate, following the course of the sun and at the same time change its angle of elevation to agree with his apparent movements. During normal daylight conditions therefore, the Depthscraper will be sufficiently illuminated without artificial lighting. When rain descends, the shaft will be quickly roofed over by a diaphragm, operating like the iris shutter of a vast camera (see the smaller detail at the lower right), which will keep the central well dry, though the rainfall would cause no detriment, other than the necessity of pumping out the water. At such times, no doubt, electric light will be resorted to, just as on dark days in buildings above the surface.

To the objection that living underground is unwholesome, the proponents of the Depthscraper reply that the sanitary conditions in a building of the type described will be identical with (when not superior to) those found in large buildings above the ground, where apartments and offices are lighted from interior courts. The conditioned air supply will be uniform and superior to that obtained by natural ventilation, and the inmate of such a building would not be able to detect any difference in conditions from those found in a skyscraper of similar construction, but built up instead of down.

The logic of the Depthscraper is convincing and, although such construction appears too costly for most residences in a district where land values are not excessive, for business buildings it offers a degree of safety against earthquakes (as well as hurricanes) not to be disregarded in a country which is subject to them in-cessantly. We understand, upon good authority, that this principle of construe-tion is therefore to be put shortly to the practical test for construction.


Saturday, 19 February 2011

10 Green Building Trends for 2011

What’s to come on the sustainability front in the new year

Green building is going mainstream, no doubt. But exactly how is building science evolving, and where are eco-minded builders and consumers likely to focus their attention in the year ahead, in light of current economic conditions? The nonprofit Earth Advantage Institute, which to date has certified more than 11,000 sustainable homes, makes some predictions for 2011 in its annual forecast of green building trends.

Affordable green. Many consumers typically associate green and energy-efficient homes and features with higher costs. However, the development of new business models, technologies, and the mainstreaming of high-performance materials is bringing high-performance, healthy homes within reach of all homeowners. Leading the charge are affordable housing groups, including Habitat for Humanity and local land trusts, now building and selling LEED for Homes- and ENERGY STAR-certified homes across the country at price points as low as $100,000 (in the case of land trusts, homeowners do not own the land their homes are built on). In the existing homes market, energy upgrades are now available through new programs that include low-cost audits and utility bill-based financing. Through such programs as Clean Energy Works Oregon, and Solar City’s solar lease-to-own business model, no up-front payment is required to take advantage of energy upgrades.

Sharing and comparing home energy use. As social and purchasing sites like Facebook and Groupon add millions more members, the sharing of home energy consumption data – for rewards – is not far behind. The website Earth Aid lets you track home energy usage and earn rewards for energy savings from local vendors. You can also elect to share the information with others on Earth Aid to see who can conserve the most energy. When coupled with other developments including home energy displays, a voluntary home energy scoring system announced by the Department of Energy, and programs such as Oregon and Washington’s Energy Performance Score, a lot more people will be sharing -- and comparing -- their home energy consumption.

Outcome-based energy codes. Existing buildings are responsible for most energy use and associated carbon emissions, but the prescriptive energy codes used in commercial remodels don’t encourage effective retrofitting. Compliance with energy codes is determined at permit time, using prescriptive or predictive models, and actual post-construction performance may never even be reviewed. Heating and cooling equipment could be faulty or improperly controlled, with significant energy and financial implications. Under outcome-based energy codes, owners could pursue the retrofit strategy that they decide is most effective for their building and its tenants, but they would be required to achieve a pre-negotiated performance target through mandatory annual reporting. The City of Seattle and the New Buildings Institute have teamed up with the National Trusts’ Preservation Green Lab to pioneer a framework for just such a code, for both new and existing buildings.

Community purchasing power. Neighborhoods interested in renewable energy will increasingly band together to obtain better pricing on materials such as solar panels and on installation costs. The Solarize Portland program was initiated by local neighborhood leaders who wanted to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in Northeast Portland by working together as a community. The program is structured so that the price of solar panel installation decreases for everybody as more neighbors join the effort. Group purchasing creates a 15-25% savings below current prices. This group discount, in addition to current available tax credits and cash incentives, gives participants a significant cost savings. In Philadelphia, the Retrofit Philly program leverages contests between residential blocks to get neighborhoods involved in energy upgrades.

“Grid-aware” appliances fuel convergence of smart grid and smart homes. While many residential smart meters have been installed, the customer interface that will allow homeowners to track energy use more accurately are not yet in place. In the meantime, manufacturers are increasingly introducing appliances that are “grid-aware.” These appliances are endowed with more sophisticated energy management capabilities and timers, offering homeowners machines that monitor and report their own electricity usage and that increase or decrease that usage by remote command. Many machines have timers and can already be manually programmed to run during off-peak hours. These developments will begin forging the convergence of a smart grid infrastructure and the control applications needed to manage energy savings in our buildings and homes.

Accessory dwelling units. Last year we discussed home “right-sizing” as a trend. However, with fewer people moving or building due to financial concerns, many have chosen to stay put in their favorite area and build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These small independent units, which can be used for offices, studios, or in-law space, are the ideal size for energy savings and sustainable construction. As detached or attached rental units, they help cities increase urban density and restrict sprawl, while allowing homeowners to add value to their property. The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California, have waived administrative fees to encourage more ADU construction.

Rethinking of residential heating and cooling. Advances in applied building science in the U.S. and abroad have resulted in homes that are so tightly sealed and insulated that furnace-less, ductless homes are now a reality. The increasingly popular “Passive House” standard, for example, calls for insulation in walls and ceiling that is so thick that the home is actually heated by everyday activity of the occupants, from cooking to computer use. Even in ENERGY STAR-certified homes, builders are now encouraged to bring all ductwork inside the insulated envelope of the house to eliminate excess heat or cooling loss, and to use only small but efficient furnaces and air conditioners to avoid wasting power. Geothermal heating and cooling, where piping loops are run through the ground to absorb warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer, are another option gaining broader acceptance.

Residential grey water use. With water shortages looming in many areas including the Southwest and Southern California, recycling of grey water – any household wastewater except toilet water – is gaining traction. Benefits include reduced water use, reduced strain on septic and stormwater systems, and groundwater replenishment. Although many cities have been slow to legislate on grey water use, some communities have increased the amount of allowable grey water use for irrigation. Systems can be as simple as a pipe system draining directly into a mulch field, or they can incorporate collection tanks and pumps.

Small commercial certification. A total of 95% of the commercial building starts in the U.S. are under 50,000 square feet, but most of the currently certified commercial buildings tend to be much larger. This is in part because of numerous “soft” costs--commissioning, energy modeling, project registration, and administrative time--can be prohibitively expensive for small building owners and developers. To encourage more small commercial projects to go green, alternative certification programs have sprung up, including Earthcraft Light Commercial and Earth Advantage Commercial, which have found significant appeal through fully subscribed pilot programs.

Lifecycle Analysis (LCA). We know quite a bit about the performance of certain materials used in the construction of high-performance homes and commercial buildings, but the industry has just begun to study the effects of these materials over the course of their entire lives, from raw material extraction through disposal and decomposition. Lifecycle analysis examines the impact of materials over their lifetime through the lens of environmental indicators including embodied energy, solid waste, air and water pollution, and global warming potential. LCA for building materials will allow architects to determine what products are more sustainable and what combination of products can produce the most environmentally friendly results.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The 'Ark' Eco Building of the Future

The housing of the future as envisioned by Russian architect Alexander Remizov could be constructed quickly, withstand environmental disasters, and house 10,000 people at a time. Not bad if you don't mind living in a place that looks eerily similar to a hamster Habitrail. The eco-friendly dome, 'The Ark,' is designed to withstand biblical flood levels and can be built on land or sea.

Ark would be built with pre-fab frame

The Ark would be built with a pre-fab frame made from timber, steel, and high-strength ETFE plastic instead of glass. The foil is recyclable, self-cleaning, lighter, more durable and more economic than glass. The multi-use material is also set up to collect solar rays and rainwater from the roof's surface.

Clear roof allows for plants to grow inside

The Ark can be built to float on water, and can withstand rising tides and floods of biblical proportion.

The basic building starts as a tube-like shape

Then the framework of steel cables is added. The housing can also be constructed in earthquake zones. Its structure of ropes and arches distributes stress from temblors across the building.

For the Ark designed to float, half the building sits underwater.

The building is self-sufficient: The basement can store wind, thermal, and solar energy for up to six months, which can then turn into electricity.

Monday, 10 January 2011

GREEN BUILDING 101: Indoor Environmental Quality

Feeling good in our homes or offices isn’t just a matter of having a beautiful space. No matter how fabulous your furnishings, a poorly designed indoor environment can literally make you sick. Building green means considering not only the environmental impact of materials and construction, but also the physical and psychological health of the occupants.
The next phase of our series covers Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) — one of the criteria of the USGBC‘s LEED-H rating system. IEQ addresses the subtle issues that influence how we feel in a space. It’s not some airy-fairy concept; these are scientifically proven facts. Companies that make the move to green buildings have employees with lower turnover rates, fewer sick days and higher productivity; schools demonstrate higher test scores, lower absenteeism and heightened academic enthusiasm among students. At home, of course, these factors are vital, since the way we feel at home affects every area of our lives.Some can argue that it is not only desirable, but also a fundamental human right to live and work in spaces with healthy indoor environments. Buildings enhance people’s lives when they permit ample air circulation, maintain clean air and comfortable temperatures, and allow individuals to have a sense of control over their own indoor experience.

1) Design a sense of control over personal space.
People generally experience a greater sense of well being when they can make easy adjustments to their immediate space, such as through operable windows, skylights and sliding doors. Particularly in shared spaces, like family homes and offices, it’s important to feel that the indoor environment can meet your own needs. Climate controls designed into multiple rooms can also promote comfort and conserve energy by allowing temperature changes only where needed.Studies show that employees are actually far more productive in an office space that permits awareness of outside conditions. Isn’t it nice to be able to look out on a tree or garden — or better yet to step out for a few minutes for mid-day stress reduction? Various parts of Europe are planning to enact ‘blue-green’ laws, which will entitle all workers to a view of the sky and landscape. Perhaps policy makers in the States could boost the productivity of the American workforce by drawing from these ideas and others described in Towards Sustainable Architecture: European Directives and Building Design.
One of the greatest examples of promoting personal comfort in shared environments can be found in Shigeru Ban’s Naked House (2000), which “gives everyone freedom to have individual activities in a shared atmosphere.” The portable bedrooms sit atop castors, and can be rolled near air conditioning units on cold days or the heaters one cold ones. The house is lit by diffused natural light on all four sides and uses doors instead of windows to turn the bathroom (above) into a covered breezeway for natural ventilation and light. Ban’s “radical” design won Best House in the World at the World Architecture Awards.
The wide open indoor-outdoor desert house from Marmol Radziner
2) Help buildings breathe better.
Spaces that are closed up like hermetically sealed boxes can cause pollutants to accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems and contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. Instead, naturally ventilate spaces as much as possible without compromising reasonable humidity levels. Variations in temperature are also important — spaces kept at a constant temperature do not mimic our natural internal fluctuations, and can cause a sense of malaise.The building envelope can provide cross ventilation through narrow floor plans and openings in floors and ceilings that allow vertical circulation. Solar chimneys and other types of stack ventilation draw heat up and move air even when there is no breeze outdoors.When using mechanical ventilation, make sure that the “exchange rate” is high, meaning that the majority of air in a space is coming from the outdoors, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants inside. Fan-powered ventilation is recommended to remove air from single rooms, such as bathrooms and kitchens, where the pollutant levels from human activity,cleaning agents and mold are high. Air handling systems use fans and ductwork to constantly remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned air to strategic spaces throughout a building.
reSEAT manufactures their furniture with compositeboards made of discarded organic matter and soy.
3) Reduce indoor air quality problems at the source.
Identify potential sources of indoor pollution that stem from design choices, existing conditions, and lifestyle activities. Moving into a new home, remodeling a space, and bringing in new furniture can expose inhabitants to abnormally high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the toxic gases, such as formaldehyde, released from everyday materials that are responsible for contributing to cancer, asthma, fatigue, and other ailments. Formaldehyde is found in household products and fuel-burning appliances, “permanent-press” clothing and draperies, and many paints, coatings and glues. The most significant source is pressed wood products for cabinetry, furniture, and subflooring.A smart designer will specify paints, adhesives, sealants, furniture, wood sealants and other products with a low or no VOC content to help ensure the health of the occupants. Last week’s Green Building 101 segment provided myriad examples of materials and resources to help create a healthy environment.
To control pollution already existing in a house, test basements for radon, and other spaces throughout for excessive dampness and mold. Prevent mold growth, which also contributes to asthma, fatigue, and other ailments, by preventing the accumulation of water at drainage systems and at areas where mechanical ventilation condensates. Also inspect the house for leaky pipes, windows, skylights and other areas to eradicate problems from mold. The Environmental Protection Agency’s website contains strategies for improving the quality of indoor air in your home.
4) Eliminate poisons and beware of harmful pest control substances
Use non-chemical methods of pest control when possible. If the roach won’t take to being led outside with a nudge from a newspaper, then be sure to ventilate the space well after using a pesticide. Natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects and break down more quickly in the environment than synthetic chemicals do. Don’t forget that they are still poisons and harmful to humans. Try Poison-Free Ant & Roach Killer, which uses food-grade Mint Oil to kill bugs in seconds. It’s also a good habit to frequently wash indoor plantsand pets, which attract bugs indoors.

Source: inhabitat