To be certified, hotels must go over their operations thoroughly, taking steps such as instituting recycling programs, choosing efficient equipment when replacing heaters, refrigerators, copiers and the like, minimizing the use of disposable items, and using nontoxic cleaners. They must institute systems to ensure that the procedures they put in place survive as employees come and go. Participants say they have benefited enormously from Chicago’s monthly educational meetings with discussion of the challenges of cutting waste, training staff, and re-thinking purchasing decisions. The City has also made a staff member at the Department of Environment available as a liaison between hotels and Green Seal. In the future, the City may be able to expand its current small composting pilot projects to help hotels compost their food wastes—a practice encouraged by Green Seal, but difficult at present due to inadequate composting services. Until the last couple of years, Green Seal vice president for certification Mark Petruzzi says, hotels didn’t have enough demand for green operations to go to the trouble of overhauling their practices, but that is changing. To read more about Chicago’s hotels turning green, go to http://greensource.construction.com/news/081223GreenHotels.asp.
While 2007 and 2008 proved big years for the widespread adoption of stricter green building standards by major cities—including Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle—the coming year is expected to bring even more. And while the trend has traditionally applied to government-owned buildings, the early adopters of green building standards, such as San Francisco and Portland, are starting to build green building measures into code for all commercial buildings. But updating building codes is not an easy task. In Albuquerque, N.M., for example, a new green building code set to become effective Oct. 1, 2008, was placed on hold when the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and several distributors sued Albuquerque, alleging the code would have created energy efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters and air conditioners that were more stringent than those allowed under Federal law. About half of the nation’s built environment is expected to be constructed between 2000 and 2030, according a 2004 report released by The Brookings Institution. This means some 213 billion square feet would come online by 2030. If the numbers are correct, it’s an unprecedented opportunity to change how buildings in the United States affect the environment. “This is the biggest thing in the building code world right now,” Kornfield says. “It covers every area from plumbing to the electrical code and the mechanical code and the building code.” In the past year, a few jurisdictions and the national standards organizations started looking into updating building codes to reflect a growing interest in green building measures. And it’s no surprise that California, with its strict energy efficiency standards for appliances and ensuing cap-and-trade program for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, is leading the way. San Francisco’s new codes are thought to be the strictest green building requirements in the nation. They are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60,000 tons annually, and save 220,000 megawatt-hours of electricity and 100 million gallons of drinking water each year. The state of California’s Building Standards Commission became the first jurisdiction to approve market-wide green building codes when adopted by the California Green Building Standards Code in July. To read further about this, go to http://www.sustainableindustries.com/greenbuilding/36392989.html?viewAll=y.
Over the past few months, Perkins Eastman, one of the country’s largest firms, has let go 10 percent of its staff, or about 80 of 800 employees, according to Bradford Perkins, FAIA, firm chairman. Meanwhile, FXFOWLE cut six percent of its staff in October, leaving 185 in New York and 15 in Dubai. Like Perkins Eastman, postponed projects were a chief reason for the layoffs, according to spokesman Brien McDaniel, who didn’t provide specifics. His firm, founded in 1978, hasn’t laid off anybody since the last major recession, in the early 1990s. On the West Coast, Mulvanny G2 Architecture, a retail-focused firm based in Bellevue, Washington, has let go of about 20 percent of its staff—roughly 90 of its 460 employees, according to Mitch Smith, the firm’s managing director. Proportionally speaking, they are the biggest layoffs for the firm since its 1971 founding, Smith adds. HOK Group, meanwhile, confirmed it has let some staff go but would not specify figures. “There have been select reductions, but just a handful,” says Christopher Laul, a principal in the New York office of the 2,500-employee firm. The firm was founded in 1955 and now has 29 offices across the globe, including Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Mexico City. To read more, go to http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/081229layoffs.asp.
The lonely box of concrete plopped in the suburban diaspora, outdated and, in many cases, dying, isn’t quite what Victor Gruen, the Austrian-born Holocaust survivor largely credited with inventing it, envisioned. Instead, the regional enclosed shopping mall was supposed to be a community center—a little bit of downtown and a car-free haven that would include day care facilities, offices, and, perhaps most importantly, residential living components a stone’s throw from the building; the mall was always supposed to have housing nearby. More than 2, 000 malls currently stand in America. Back in 2001, when PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Congress for the New Urbanism conducted a nationwide survey of shopping malls, 19 percent of them could be classified as “grey-fields,” so called for acres of undeveloped parking lots and piles of underutilized concrete; some of us know these spaces as dead malls. However, a new style of mall has made its way to the market in the last decade or so, known as the “lifestyle center.” A smaller, more upscale grouping of stores hovering around what looks like an actual city street, with sit-down restaurants and theaters, maybe even park benches and streetlights. Since 2005, only three enclosed shopping malls have been built, and only one, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is on the docket for 2009. Yet thirty open-air lifestyle centers have risen. Many of these are redeveloped properties—old, enclosed malls either torn down or added to, both for financial and environmental reasons. After all, there just aren’t that many 100,000-plus acres of virgin land in good locations to go around anymore.
Originally, malls were build away from residential areas and alongside highways making them accessible from many different places. However, thanks to more development, residential areas have now closed in on these malls, making them in prime locations, and the areas of housing around them more valuable.The new idea stemming from this is to have malls “de-mall,” and become more mixed use, like they were first intended to be.
To read more about this topic, visit http://www.housingwire.com/2008/12/29/malls-the-future-of-housing/.
The latest bridge design features vertically spinning turbines that would generate an unknown amount of juice while proclaiming loudly that the Portland-Vancouver area is the sustainability center of the world. Or so says the Florida firm that did the design, now winning the affections of leaders from both cities as well as planners trying to eliminate congestion by building a new $4 billion structure. To read more about the design, visit http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/01/i5_wind_turbines.html, or http://touchstonearchitecture.com/.
The new cement, which uses a different raw material, certainly has a vast potential market. Making the 2bn tonnes of cement used globally every year pumps out 5% of the world’s CO2 emissions – more than the entire aviation industry. And the long-term trends are upwards: a recent report by the French bank Credit Agricole estimated that, by 2020, demand for cement will increase by 50% compared to today. Making traditional cement results in greenhouse gas emissions from two sources: it requires intense heat, and so a lot of energy to heat up the ovens that cook the raw material, such as limestone. That then releases further CO2 as it burns. But, until now, noone has found a large-scale way to tackle this fundamental problem. Novacem’s cement, based on magnesium silicates, not only requires much less heating, it also absorbs large amounts of CO2 as it hardens, making it carbon negative. Set up by Vlasopoulos and his colleagues at Imperial College London, Novacem has already attracted the attention of major construction companies such as Rio Tinto Minerals, WSP Group and Laing O’Rourke, and investors including the Carbon Trust. Visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/31/cement-carbon-emissions to read more about this new innovative material.
Slums, sadly, look largely the same the world over: rickety metal roofed huts thrown together on the edges of vast metropolises to provide some rudimentary shelter for the destitute who live there. A model of the new paper house was set up in Kiel in December. But if a newly designed pre-fabricated house developed in conjunction with the Bauhaus University in the eastern German city of Weimar catches on, the world’s shantytowns could get a new look. The buildings are cheap, sturdy, and made out of paper. The material used in the construction of the houses mimics the honeycomb pattern used in the manufacture of airplanes and other products for which both weight and strength are important factors. But instead of using aluminum or other alloys, Niemöller used resin-soaked paper processed to form thin, light, yet strong panels. The material is also an excellent insulator, and is flexible, making it appropriate in areas at risk of earthquakes. According to Niemöller’s business model, his company would deliver the machines to manufacture the panels along with the raw materials. Everything else would be taken care of by locals. Interest has already been large. One of the first settlements made up of the paper houses will be built in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the German aid organization World Vision. Nigeria too has ordered 2,400 of the houses.
To read more about this, visit
The American Institute of Architects’s Consensus Construction Forecast projects an 11% decline in design and construction activity in 2009. To revitalize the building sector, which accounts for about 1 in every 10 dollars of the United States GDP, the AIA developed the Rebuild and Renew Plan, which details its recommendations for the allocation of funds in President-elect Obama’s economic recovery plan.
The AIA is calling on the new administration and Congress to create policies that ensure these monies are spent on the planning, design and construction of energy efficient, sustainable buildings and healthy communities that are advantageous for both the environment and economy. If implemented correctly, the nearly $100 billion plan would create 1.6 million jobs throughout the design and construction industry. Recent reports estimate that the economic recovery package may total as much as $800 billion, with at least $350 billion dedicated to infrastructure projects. However, the AIA’s recommendations call for longer planning and design periods for projects to help ensure that they are carried out in the most effective, cost-efficient manner and that funds are not poorly spent due to the projects being hastily planned and executed. Providing funding for projects across 24 months will ensure a steady stream of funds for job creation over the likely life of the recession.
To find out more about the AIA’s new plan, visit http://www.aia.org/release_011409_stimu.
New York City is requiring that all special inspection and testing agencies associated with construction projects in its jurisdiction be accredited by IAS or an equivalent body by 2010. The recently approved rule requires third-party agencies to earn accreditation in order to test or inspect materials, equipment, construction-related activities and periodic maintenance. Testing agencies must be qualified to test and evaluate the performance of materials and equipment regulated by the New York City Building Code. Special inspection agency applicants must submit quality documentation in accordance with AC291, Accreditation Criteria for IMC Special Inspection Agencies, and IAS assessment staff will review the documentation for compliance with AC291 Sections 3, 4, and 5, as well as Appendix A. To find more on this story, visit http://www.iasonline.org/.
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, was created as a new effort at the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) called the buildingSMART alliance. Although still in its relative infancy, BIM can provide the continuity of information needed for better long term focused business decisions from the boardroom to the facility occupant. A basic premise of BIM is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information to support and reflect the roles of the stakeholders. The goal of this program is twofold. The first part of the goal is to create a facility virtually, completely analyze it prior to construction to work out problems, use it as a basis for building regulatory review and approval, and predict how it will operate. Second, BIM will use the resulting model as a repository for information about the facility that can be used throughout its life to help sustain it and ensure that it remains functioning as it was designed in addition to being a data resource for fire, EMT, and police. However, there are new processes that need to be developed or reengineered to take advantage of this new system, and will need to begin with project inception and carry through even past demolition. If this happens, businesses will save time, money, and resources by having access to such information. In addition, warranty, preventive maintenance and installation information can be pulled directly from the manufacturer’s website. The identity of the subcontractor who installs the component can also be input.
This collaboration includes efforts from everyone such as: owners, planners, realtors, appraisers, mortgage bankers, designers, engineers, cost and quantity estimators, specifiers, attorneys, construction contractors, subcontractors, manufacturers, fabricators, code officials, facility managers, maintenance, renovation and restoration, disposal and recycling, scoping, testing and simulation, safety and occupational health, environmental, plant operations, energy, space and security, network managers, CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs, risk management, occupant support, and finally first responders.
With the buildingSMART alliance, people are beginning to see some strong collaborative teams in design and construction, especially in design-build scenarios, but this needs to carry over into facility operations and sustainment and beyond. Although a lot of work still needs to be done to optimize the use of BIM, returns are already being realized, and are believed to grow exponentially.
Individuals and associations that want to be part of the solution should consider joining the buildingSMART alliance or learn more by visiting the website at http://www.buildingsmartalliance.org/.