Thursday, November 15, 2007

I fell in to a phallic twisted spire. I went down, down, down....

Now that the US Green Building Council's annual conference, GreenBuild, has finally wound down, I thought it might be a good time to look at the city.

Believe it or not Chicago built its first skyscraper over 122 years ago, so the city isn't new to revolutionary design (and while I'm sure there is a ton of residential work taking place, I'm going to concentrate on corporate commercial). And the city is going green crazy. Chicago now boasts 200 developments either registered or certified as LEED buildings.

So what do they have to offer?

For starters, there's 111 South Wacker. It became Chicago's first Gold LEED-CI certified tower in 2005. The 51-story, blue-glass, 1.3 million-square-foot office building has the LEED basics: energy-efficient lighting, healthy paints and carpeting, and locally sourced materials. It sits on the site of the former U.S. Gypsum Building and unfortunately, previous plans to use the existing building's supports were scrapped in favor of a full demolition.

300 North LaSalle will have 60 stories and, more importantly, LEED Gold Pre-Certification. Situated on the banks of the Chicago River, the views are sure to be amazing. The stainless steel and glass fa├žade almost dip into the water due to its proximity. There are a crazy amount of pictures available HERE.

After that, there's the 40-story tower at One South Dearborn, the second office tower in Chicago to attain LEED certification. In March of 2006, the tower received Silver certification in the LEED Core and Shell program and also won the NAIOP Award from the USGBC.

340 On the Park, completed in 2007, has 350 condominiums and two green roofs into 62 floors, making it the second tallest residential structure in the US. It was also the first residential tower in the Midwest to win silver LEED certification and has some great views of local parks, including Millennium Park, Grand Park, and the Park at LSE, all of whom helped the building earn LEED points.

330 N. Wabash Ave, constructed in 1973, lost 50% of its tenants in early 2006 when IBM moved its headquarters closer to Union Station. Fears escalated at the thought of the building losing that many people in that short of a period of time, but the owners wisely began converting the building into condominiums. Recently, the building was awarded a TOBY award for reducing their pollution by over 38,000 pounds and implementing a tenant shuttle bus program for service to the building from commuter train stations. Additionally, the building has also received recognition from the organization Clean Air Counts.

The Sears Tower and the Merchandise Mart are prepped for LEED certification, thanks to the Mayor and President Clinton. Their aim is to show that most buildings, regardless of age, can be retrofitted to accept green accessories. With Merchandise Mart laying it's foundation almost 80 years ago, this will be a project to watch. Not to mention, the building has it's own zip code (seriously, 60654). How do you green that much space?!?! Plans are already in the work to start construction on a green roof and I can't wait to see what will happen to Chicago's other landmark buildings.

The Wentworth Commons, winner of one of Mayor Daley's GreenWorks awards in 2006, uses photovoltaic panels and an integrated heat recovery system, non-toxic/recycled building materials, utilizes a light colored paving system in the parking lot and a reflective roof, and was even built on a brownfield.

McCormick Place West, which opened under budget in August is slated as the largest convention center in the US. It's original structure was finished in 1960, but burned to the ground shortly thereafter. The Lakeside Center was constructed in 1971 to replace the burned remains, until the North Building was constructed in 1986 and connected to the main structure with a walkable bridge. THEN, the South Building opened in 1997 with over a million square feet of its own. Finally, the aptly named West Building was August of 2007, adding another 2.7 million square feet. You think this might have anything to do with their bid for the Olympics in 2016?

Chicago's City Hall had a wonderful roof garden installed in 2001. I think it might be safe to say (now) that the roof was installed to test the concept for the entire city, given the technology was new(er) at the time. By the government initiating installation, it obviously sparked the interest of developers. Unfortunately, the roof is not open to the public, as it's protected by very narrow stairwells.

Last, but most certainly not least, is my favorite little phallus in the sky: The Chicago Spire. Although ground was just recently broken, I'm excite. This will be, by far, one of the most amazing views in all of Chicago (when complete in 2011). Located on the edge of the LSD, it'll peer down on every inch of the Windy City. I'd love to connect you directly to their panoramic link, but the site is drunk with flash. Go to their main site, click on THE BUILDING on the left hand side, then hit PANORAMAS. You get an awesome 360 degree view from where the site will be.

I don't know about any sustainable attributes of the building, but I'm assuming it has the basics, considering all Chi-town building now need mandatory minimum LEED credits. The base of the building, however, takes into consideration the massive amount of wind blowing on-shore. The twisting spire acts like tunnel, sucking the wind skyward instead of pushing it downward.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If there's grass on the roof...

Green roofs, while conceptually and environmentally brilliant, have been plagued with something we are all to familiar with in the Midwest: weight.

In most cases, the majority of existing buildings have the space, but can't afford the load weight. Or often times, the building can afford to hold the roofing system, but would crumble under an additional moisture load. Such added weight is even a problem with on sloping roof systems.

" roofs can retain as much as fifty to seventy percent of water that falls onto a roof. Retention varies according to climate. Hutchinson et al reported that a 10 to 12 cm vegetated roof in Portland, Oregon retained 69% of the total rainfall with peak flow reductions of 80% during a 15-month monitoring period. Investigations in East Lansing, Michigan cdompared a gravel roof and a vegetated roof with the mean percent rainfall retention ranging from 48.7% for a gravel roof to 82.8% for a vegetated roof. A similar range was seen on two roofs of different slopes in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Total rainfall retention was 55% for the sloped roof and 63% for the flat roof. Peak flow was reduced by 57% for the sloped roof and 87% for the flat roof." WEBSITE

Poundage-be-damned, green roofing companies are finally beginning to recognize that the existing market is far more available than the future market, and have consequently begun to reduce the load weight in their systems. On company that caught my eye is GreenTech, a Roswell, Georgia based company that specializes in athletic fields, landscpaing systems, golf course systems, and yes, green roof systems.

They're no newcomer to the game, though. In addition to laying claim to New York's largest greenroof and the grass at Wimbledon, GreenTech has found a way to box out the weight and open up the lane to a lighter, newer, more accessible green roof.

From their website:

The GreenTech Roof Garden System weighs less than comparable systems for a couple reasons. Forklift and drainage channels displace soil with air. But more importantly, no drainage medium (gravel) is required in the system. This feature works to reduce weight of the system as well as cost of materials and labor.


So why is this system able to shed the pounds?

The system has built-in drainage channels that allow the water to flow through the soil into open channels and directly to roof drain outlets. At the same time, each high-density polyethylene module protects the roof surface from root infiltration and damage to the roof membrane. The result is a large planting surface -- with the all-important root depth -- that's more lightweight and flexible than other green roofs. Given the fact that it still discharges the water, some might view the system as less than substantial as other systems, but it needs to be kept in mind that the grey water discharge can be stored for landscape use.

Additionally, the GreenTech allows for almost 40 times the drainage and air flow capacity of conventional drainage systems. Even the drainage channels displace soil, resulting in a 20 to 40% weight reduction. You can even remove the individual sections to replace, repair, or modify the existing system.

But this is what I like most:

The system can be installed in very unlikely places. A back patio loft in the city can suddenly transform into a mini Central Park. You drop the crates, fill with dirt, cover with sod, and finish the edge (simplified, yes, but it is undoubtedly FAR MORE basic than most systems on the market). I like.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I drink to support the environment...

Waters Winery in Walla Walla, Washington (say that five times fast) has just opened a $2 million bottle of goodness with their 5000 square foot winemaking facility and tasting room. Designed by Seattle's Boxwood Architects, the facility utilizes day lighting, insulation and a whole heap of recycled materials.

Just like the age-old tradition of winemaking, the building is wonderful in it's simplicity. It went back to the basics of construction, using simple methods to reduce heating and cooling loads by relying on sun-insulated concrete. The 80% recycled steel structure surrounding the 17" thick walls is left exposed, thus utilizing the available space. Huge linear skylights also flood the fermentation room, reducing the winery's electric bill by 60%.

Waters Winery Founder Jason Huntley (also Founder and Managing Partner of Huntley Thatcher Ellsworth, Ltd.) is banking on this venture to set him apart, considering Walla Walla has 100+ wineries throughout the area.

Boxwood Architects isn't exactly new to the vino game. They've also designed wineries for August Cellars, Brian Carter Winery, Carlton Winemakers' Studio, Carlton Winemakers' Studio II, Col Solare Winery, Distefano Winery LTD, Dundee Winery, Hightower Cellars, Nicholas Cole Cellars, Reynvaan Winery, Stillwater Creek Vineyard Visitor's Center, Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center, and Washington Wine Company.

Hell, if you're going to specialize in an area of architecture, grape facilities sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than corporate commercial.

From their website:

BOXWOOD'S APPROACH TO WINERY DESIGN is based on an inclusive process that features teamwork, strong listening skills, and collaboration. This process involves establishing a clear direction and vision during the initial stages of programming, conceptual layout, preliminary cost estimating, and project scheduling. We are committed to the exploration of alternatives combined with structured decision making, so that project participants become engaged in collaborative problem solving rather than vested in opposing solutions. We recognize that wine industry projects are often driven by tight budget and schedule parameters, and require a proven project approach, as well as effective management to be successful. A combination of setting appropriate goals, bringing the right people together for input on specific project issues, correctly sequencing project milestones, and persisting with patience and enthusiasm is critical to achieving finished solutions on time and within budget.

Boxwood's role is to help raise issues, coordinate the process, document our conclusions, facilitate discussion throughout the team, and eliminate guesswork.

What's more is that that Waters Winery is also a member of the Walla Walla Valley Vinea, a sustainable trust dedicated to responsible winemaking.

From their website:

The Winegrowers Sustainable Trust
: Is a voluntary group of winegrowers that have embraced a covenant with environmental, economic and social sustainability concurrent with their production of grapes and wine.

Sustainable Wine Growing: Is a holistic system of recognized cultural production methodologies that employ environmentally-friendly and socially responsible viticultural practices that respect the land, conserve natural resources, support biodiversity, exercise responsible relationships with workers, neighbors and the community and provide continuing economic and biological vineyard viability.

Mission: To develop and implement a sustainable vineyard management program, synonymous with the Walla Walla Valley, internationally recognized for its strict environmental standards and high quality farming practices.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Me fail English? That's unpossible!

It's nice to no were smarter then were maid out to be and stuff.

Check out your blog's readability level HERE.

I'm going to take a nap in the bath...

How do you turn a dilapidated, run-down lot like this... to a palatial, weather manipulated, sliding roofed, floating walled, mini-house in South London -- that is -- in South London for £210,000 (about $435,000 US)?

With a second mortgage from your father to cover construction costs, and around a bazillion friends to put it all together for you.

A steel-framed house is pretty difficult to construct when you can't afford a crane. But somehow, Monty and Claire made magic, constructing this beautiful dream home out of nothing (how much free pizza and beer do you need to offer to do something like this?!?!).

But really, how cool can this house be? It's sammiched TIGHT between two surrounding brick structures. There's just enough room for one bathroom? They're so close to the neighbors that side view windows wouldn't even work. They must be squeezed at the gills, right?

Well, the bed in the master slides to the side to reveal a bathtub underneath. I'd say that kind of space management can be filed under cool.

In actuality, just about everything in this house can be classified as cool, seeing as it all rotates, slides or spins to add more space.

There's the wall on the master:

The window on the upper mezzanine:

The huge, corner-positioned doors on the side of the dance studio. Yes, a dance studio. FYI: The floor is made out of a Sycamore tree that was cut from the site:

The kitchen cabinets that work at a slant to fit into the odd-shaped nooks and crannies:

And yes, once again, the sliding bed/bath:

Want to take a virtual tour?

Take your seat on the internet Routemaster HERE.

Visit the Pekham House's main website HERE.