Resilient Design - The old way: build a wall. The new way: work with nature.


   A nice illustration of the difference between old and new approaches to resilient design:

In flood-prone Holland, the old approach was just: build a wall. The new approach is: work with nature, not against it, where you can. For centuries dikes (and natural dunes where they exist) have provided the primary defense against the North Sea for low-lying areas in the Netherlands. And while the Dutch continue to maintain, extend and elevate their system of dikes, they are also "increasingly relying on techniques that mimic natural systems and harness nature’s power to hold back the sea." The Yale site Environment 360 reports:

This is the Sand Engine, one of the latest innovations from Dutch masters of flood control technology and designed, as the national water board Rijkswaterstaat says, so that “nature will take the sand to the right place for us.” After having constructed the country’s vaunted system of sea gates and dikes, Dutch planners and engineers are now augmenting it with new technology enlisting nature to keep the water at bay.

The approach is being monitored by US flood-control experts:

The two countries have different approaches to flood control, Needham acknowledged, with the Dutch focusing mainly on prevention, while Americans emphasize emergency preparedness and recovery. In the face of an uncertain future climate, however, the objectives are now converging. The goal, as Needham puts it, is “how to get people safer without putting a big wall up there."

Posted originally by Resilient Design Institute



Urban Myth- Leaving A Fluorescent Light Turned On Is Cheaper Than Turning It Off And On

This is an urban myth that has persisted for many years. Here's what you should do...

You should turn off your fluorescent lamps if the space is not going to be occupied for more than a few minutes (3-5 minutes is a good rule of thumb). The modern electronic ballast and T8/T5 lamp combination do draw a higher level of current during startup, but it only lasts for a fraction of a second, which is negligible compared to normal current requirements of the lamps.

Leaving fluorescent lights on when you leave an area is one of those myths from the '70s that has somehow survived to this date. In fact, occupancy sensors are routinely used with fluorescent fixtures to turn the lights off when no one is in a room.

A bigger concern here may be the impact of frequent on/off cycles on the lamp's life. This does shorten the lamp life somewhat. However, leaving the lights on all the time also reduces the lamp life. In fact, it has been shown that even though occupancy sensors reduce the lamp life as measured in total hours, they actually extend the replacement cycle of the lamps because the lamps operate only during those hours that are needed.

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, not only does turning off fluorescent lights reduce lamp replacement costs, it also reduces electric bills. For example, turning off an F40 fluorescent lamp for only one-half hour a day can save about $4.00 (based on 8 cents/kWh) in energy over the life of the lamp. In fact, the money saved by this routine is typically more than the price of a new lamp.

Source: Efficiency & Demand Analysis Division California Energy Commission 1516 Ninth Street Sacramento, CA 95825 / myths / FLUORESCENT LIGHTS

Green Building Accelerates Globally through Economic Downturn


Green Building Accelerates Globally through Economic Downturn, According to New McGraw-Hill Construction Study

  • Green building has become a long-term business opportunity with 51% percent of study firms planning more than 60 % of their work to be green by 2015, up from 28 percent of firms in 2012 
  • The largest opportunity areas for green building globally are in new commercial construction and renovation of existing buildings

The study indicates a shift in the global construction market, now viewing green as a business opportunity rather than a niche market. Overwhelmingly, firms report that their top reasons to do green work are client demand (35 percent) and market demand (33 percent)—two key business drivers of strategic planning. The next top reasons were also oriented toward the corporate bottom line—lower operating costs (30 percent) and branding advantage (30 percent). In contrast, the top reason in 2008 motivating the green building market was doing the right thing (42 percent) and market transformation (35 percent), followed by client and market demand.

Other significant findings include:

  • Human factor benefits are driving green building more today compared to three years ago—55 percent cite greater health and well-being as the top social reason for green (tied with encouraging sustainable business practice), up from only 29 percent in 2008.
  • Energy use reduction tops the environmental reasons for green building—72 percent say it is the important environmental reason to engage in green building.
  • Water use reduction is more important today. 25 percent of study respondents cite reduced water consumption as the top reason, up from only 4 percent in 2008. It is particularly important in the UAE (64 percent cite it as a top reason), Brazil (39 percent), and the U.S. (32 percent), ranking as the second most important environmental factor in these countries.
  • Improved indoor air quality is also more important today—17 percent cite it as a top reason to engage in green building, up from only 3 percent in 2008.
  •  For firms not currently doing any green project work, the primary driver that they think will motivate future green activity is the desire to do the right thing. This is in sharp contrast to those involved, suggesting this market is not as familiar with the business case for green building.

For more detailed info go to the complete article here:


C02 Emissions Tied to Individual Buildings?


The Hestia Project™ will revolutionize how the world approaches and interacts with the climate change problem. The Hestia system combines diverse data about the flow and metabolism of the energy-emissions-climate nexus.

Watch this video to see how Hestia works:

Green Homes and Appraisals


Last year, single-family green home construction represented 17 percent of the homebuilding market, in effect doubling since 2008, according to a report by McGraw-Hill Construction. Researchers predict that by 2016, green home construction could comprise 29 percent to 38 percent of the market, as builders devote more time to green projects. The share of remodeling projects labeled as green is expected to rise as well. Who's creating the trend and who's following it? It's tough to say.

Simultaneously, manufacturers are coming out with better products, builders and remodelers are looking to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and homeowners are seeking healthier living spaces while keeping a lid on rising energy costs.

"It might not be for everybody," said Brandon Weiss, of Weiss Building & Development LLC in Elgin. "Some people might still want the cheapest house they can find. When I got into it six years ago, everyone had to be educated. Now I'm actually getting calls. They are looking for a green homebuilder that knows about indoor air quality or (they) want to save on their energy bills."

In addition to his other projects, Weiss recently completed a gut rehab of a foreclosure in Elgin that received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum rating. The home sold for more than its list price and appraised higher than its selling price.

Reprinted partially from

Bioclimatic Design


Bioclimatic Design is a design process that takes into account cli­mate and envi­ro­men­tal con­di­tions when designing for optimum comfort for users with minimum outside energy use reducing building’s environmental footprint. It deals with site and building design using archi­tec­tural ele­ments and techniques that will minimize depen­dence on mechan­i­cal sys­tems. Bioclimatic design was used successfully throughout ages in vernacular architecture. Examples:

  1. Thick walls with substantial thermal mass keep the building cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter
  2. Buildings are oriented so winter sun can heat them; summer sun shielded off by substantial overhangs
  3. The use of high open atrium/chimney type structure in the middle of the building in hot climates causing natural air movement pulling air from the outside through shaded, cool rooms
  4. Deep porches of the South surrounding the building, shading multiple windows located on all sides for easy cross ventilation

The bio­cli­matic building doesn’t require instal­la­tion of additional com­pli­cated and expen­sive sys­tems, but uses specific archi­tec­tural ele­ments to increase the ener­gy per­for­mance and provide nat­ural com­fort to occupants.

The main considerations of Bioclimatic Design are:

  1. The study of natural elements of the site: topography, geology, air, sun and wind and vegetation including the specific microclimate of the site to determine optimal position of the building.
  2. Consideration of complexity of form vs. building compactness and its impact on energy use; i.e. compact shape in cold climate and maximizing exterior wall area to encourage natural cooling breezes in hot and humid climate.
  3. Use of correct landscaping features and planting to minimize water use, provide shading, windbreak
  4. Designing building form to optimize natural ventilation.
  5. The use of breathable exterior wall system using breathable exterior wall finish, breathable house wrap, natural insulation and mineral-based interior paints to create synergistic effect that passively regulates interior climate.
  6. Selection of colors of exterior finishes to either reflect or accumulate heat, depending on climate; interior colors will influence the amount of artificial light required to light up a room.
  7. Solar access analysis to determine building solar orientation resulting in:
  • concentration of utility/support uses (pantry, garage, storage) on climatically most challenging side (west in hot climate, north in cold climate)
  • selection of cor­rect fen­es­tra­tion type and solar shad­ing to maximize daylighting and at the same time minimize electric loads, provide solar heat in the winter without excessive solar heat gain in the summer
  • use of ther­mal mass of solid walls and or/ floors to minimize thermal fluctuations

Next time we will look closer at bioclimatic design in hot humid climate with mild winters.

5 Ways The Smart City Will Change Our Lives


Five predictions on how smarter buildings will impact daily life and efficiency of our cities, from IBM’s Smarter Buildings division- Excerpts from blog at Fast Co.Exist

  •  US buildings account for 70% of all energy use and 38% of all our carbon emissions.
  • Smarter buildings technologies can help the government work toward its initiative by making it possible to better “listen” to the abundance of information emitted from buildings. This includes thousands, if not millions, of data points produced each week from a proliferation of embedded technologies in data centers, water delivery systems, heating and air-conditioning, security devices, and office equipment. Analyzing this data and creating new applications to access it can squeeze out building inefficiencies to reduce cost, improve energy usage, and make them better places to live and work.

As the smarter buildings market continues to evolve, I predict we will start to see five top trends come to fruition:

1. Smarter Neighborhoods

We will see groups of buildings mimic living systems.

Smart cities are highly instrumented and connected systems of systems--water, power, transportation, and so forth. Similar to a living system in nature, they can be highly complex, especially when you think about the conglomeration of infrastructure over a city’s history.

As smarter neighborhoods evolve, buildings will be addressed collectively as they relate to the ecosystem or neighborhood they reside in. This will help address health-related or sustainability issues in a city, such as carbon emissions. “”Buildings will be addressed collectively as they relate to the ecosystem or neighborhood they reside in. For example, rather than just looking at air quality in a building, we can think of the respiratory system of the neighborhood that a building “breathes” in--carbon emissions and other pollutants versus fresh air intake. This will drive measures like green roofs and corridors built to connect both horizontal and vertical surfaces, and blur the hard lines that are drawn between cities and the surrounding forests and farmlands.

A neighborhood is a microcosm of a city. If you want to make a city smarter, starting at the neighborhood level is the first step to building a more manageable ecosystem. For instance, work is being done now in Boston’s Back Bay and Roxbury neighborhoods to help the community become early adopters of smart grid technology. The systems are designed to electronically monitor, analyze and minimize power consumption in residential and commercial buildings--as well as in onsite solar and other clean generation systems. Successful neighborhood improvements can eventually be replicated and connected at a city level.

2. X-ray Vision

Occupants of smarter buildings will get new, unprecedented visibility.

What happens in your building every day? How much water and energy are you using? Today, most businesses and residents find this out by looking at last month’s utility bills.

Occupants of smarter buildings will get even more transparency into office/residential space, such as how much water and energy is being used at any given moment versus what other community members typically use. Advanced metering and monitoring enable more of a real-time view into actual usage. This transparency also allows facility managers to make adjustments and repairs before issues appear. This has the greatest impact at large facilities, campuses and cities where the potential for cost savings is enormous.

Analytics provides even deeper, X-ray vision into what is happening now. As buildings and cities continue to be instrumented, managers will rely more on analytics to flag outlying behavior and dynamically adjust for optimal settings based on changing dynamics of people, weather, air quality, heat, water and facility maintenance.

This type of work is already starting to happen at places such as Bryant University in Rhode Island. The university implemented a smarter buildings project to monitor, control and intelligently analyze energy use in its IT center as part of a larger consolidation project. Bryant was able to see a 15% reduction in energy consumption and a 42% reduction in cooling. The results generated were so substantial that the university decided to implement the same smarter buildings technologies in 50 more campus buildings.

3. Beyond Parking

New apps that connect people to the "Internet of things" will proliferate.

The “Internet of things” is the Internet representation of real-time data streaming from the sensors in the physical infrastructure around us, like GPS location, velocity, vibration, or heat and humidity. The Internet of things arms people with instantaneous information that enables smarter decision making.

We are seeing parking apps, such as Streetline, analyze this data to provide guidance to the best available parking spots. Cities can stream real-time updates on when your bus will arrive or when flu shots will be available for your neighborhood. “”Cities can stream real-time updates on when your bus will arrive or when flu shots will be available for your neighborhood. Through increasing levels of connectivity, people can also serve as sensors to provide important data and feedback that help build smarter buildings and cities.

For example, citizens can use smartphones to report potholes, graffiti, building or water issues by taking photos with GPS tags and uploading them to the city management where they can be prioritized and expedited.

Technology is an enabler, but people are the change agents that will help us realize smarter buildings, neighborhoods and cities.

4. Now Serving at the Energy Café

Making energy choices will be as easy as ordering a frappuccino.

Today, most coffee cafés offer us free Wi-Fi. Tomorrow’s energy café will provide access to what Thomas Friedman has dubbed the “Energy Internet.” The Energy Internet is a low-carbon, community-wide distributed energy system. Rather than using one form of renewable energy, it incorporates a number of forms.

Just like customers who order the type of food and beverage they want based on cost and source (such as “organic” or “conventional”), we’ll be able to do the same with energy sources.

Organizations will be able to more dynamically choose the source of their energy at their desired price based on incentives, time of use, etc. If they have green targets to meet, they might decide to source 30% of their energy from more “organic” sources like solar and wind, even choosing to buy local versus global.

5. Real Estate Management Becomes a Science

A company’s real-estate portfolio will transform the finance/real-estate team into a smarter buildings team.

In the next year, accounting changes will rock the real-estate world requiring all publicly traded companies to add billions in new assets to their balance sheets. As organizations begin to itemize all their real property assets, they’re also looking into new ways to reduce costs. “”What they’re realizing is that by better “listening” to how their buildings are wasting energy they are finding new ways to save. What they’re realizing is that by better “listening” to how their buildings are wasting energy they are finding new ways to not only cut energy, maintenance, and space costs, but to reduce their carbon footprint.

For example, the cost of energy use in New York municipal buildings totals more than $800 million each year and accounts for about 64% of the greenhouse gas emission produced by the city’s government operations. The City is committed to improving the energy efficiency of its 4,000 buildings and is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2017.

Smarter buildings will be able to use resources more intelligently, leading to reduced costs and greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately to smarter, more efficient cities. Better connected people will not only enable but demand this change. It’s time to embrace smarter buildings if we hope to build a more sustainable future

History and Lifecycle Musings

When visiting Rome, I was completely awestruck by the 2000 year old concrete dome of the Pantheon. I stood there with my jaw dropped: “What a life cycle value!”, wondering why our modern concrete with all the super technology and equipment cannot often last even one generation. I have a deep respect for the wisdom and skills of classical and vernacular designers, and as a designer today, I often draw from it; however I am not completely convinced that our modern day buildings need to last a very long time.  After all, only some of the old buildings survived this long; most did not. Will any of the buildings of our era last even a few hundred years? Do they have to?

Our society and lifestyles change quickly. New, exciting and easier to live with materials come up every day. Everything around us changes with lightning speed. And so our buildings will have to change with us. What is crucial however, is that we do not waste the materials, but reuse - and LEED recognizes that, and not only that; it is about the whole building design, where all systems and design decisions come to play together. It definitely is not perfect; it is a fairly new system but is a good start.

It would be nice to leave our architectural footprint that will tell the story of our times to future generations, but at the same time, we have to be very frugal with material resources and tread gently on the environment with our 21st century lifestyle.

International Green Construction Code


It's my pleasure to welcome the newest member to our blog team, Krystyna Bukowiecki. She will be discussing different aspects of Green Construction. This week she dives into the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC):

The newly approved IGCC  will apply to all new and renovated commercial buildings and residential over 3 stories high. The code will be published in March 2012; some municipalities have already begun officially adopting it.

The new code follows the basic Whole Building Design structure addressing site environmental impact, water and energy efficiency, indoor air quality, commissioning, building materials and waste management.

Although similar in structure to LEED, it is less stringent. It sets the minimum standards that will have to be followed in all buildings, while LEED is followed by only a small fraction of all new construction.

The code is intended to be adopted by jurisdictions on a mandatory basis and administered by building officials and is applicable to all commercial and some residential buildings.  There will be some mandatory requirements and some electives.  Local jurisdictions will have options to adopt, make some electives mandatory and add some new requirements.

Chapters which address fundamental aspects of green and sustainable building, including:

  • Site development and land use(Chapter 4)
  • Material resource conservation and efficiency (Chapter 5)
  • Energy conservation, efficiency and earth atmospheric quality (Chapter 6)
  • Water resource conservation and efficiency (Chapter 7)
  • Indoor environmental quality (Chapter 8 )
  • Building operation, maintenance and owner education (Chapter 9)