Friday, September 19, 2014

Schools: Can the Building Be the Teacher?

For this week's Y.E.O.W we'd like to share with you the idea of the integrated learning experience and learning from the actual building students use everyday.
We will focus on Renaissance Academy Secondary School (Grades 6-12) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, architect RRMM.
This building utilizes different sustainability and design strategies to educate its students and demonstrate through building usage the importance of sustainability.



Why use artificial lighting if you can use daylight?

Daylit spaces are supplemented with dimming ballast electric lighting with photosensor and occupancy sensor controls. All classrooms provide natural daylight which optimizes the students work performance by 30% as opposed to artificial lighting.
There are 19 Light tubes pipe sunlight into interior spaces


Need more green space? Why not use the roof?

Vegetated (Green) Roof – Red in Winter & green in Summer. Insulates building,filters & holds storm water & is a pleasant sight from the second story rooms. Students take trips on the walkable green roof to explore the vegetation and view the storm water systems.


How is the building powered?

Photovoltaic power production
Solar thermal heating of kitchen and process water
Geothermal-tied Kitchen refrigerant

Solar Thermal Collectors

Students can learn how much power the building is generating at the kiosk in the main entry of the school.
Building Systems Data Public Display – publicly accessible, interactive, real-time displays of building energy use and production, water use and collection, carbon emissions, dollars saved, air quality, etc.



What happens to the rain water?

Rainwater collection used for toilet flushing, which is then dyed blue and the students can identify this is collected rain water being used now as grey water through the building. Clear pipes are located throughout the building so students can see the transformation and usage from rain water to grey water.



Wind Turbines

Converting Kinetic Energy from the Wind into Electric Power. Students can see the data from this in the kiosk information board.  

Zero Runoff Site



Students are learning all this information before even opening a textbook. Should all schools be required to incorporate integrated learning through building design? Imagine if you could learn more about a building then leaky roofs from your grammar school. Can this create a new and more enlightened generation of students?  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Could rooftop apartments transform suburban retail?

For this week’s YEOW, we’d like to share with you a recent post from Greater Greater Washington blog from writer Ryan Arnold about retrofitting suburbia. Ryan poses an intriguing question: Could rooftop apartments transform suburban retail?
Implementing the redevelopment model he proposes could completely transform our traditionally auto-dependent suburban retail strip malls into mixed use districts, without having to knock them down and rebuild them from the ground up. Certainly worth mulling over...

Here’s the post:
Suburban retail areas are redeveloping into mixed use neighborhoods all over the DC region. Usually redevelopment means mid-rises replace single-story retail, but could another model work? What if retail strips added rooftop apartments?
 Concept rendering. All images by the author. All images from GGW.
From more livable communities to less congested highways, mixed-use development has many benefits, and is in high demand. In places where market demand or zoning regulations prohibit larger scale mid-rises, maybe innovative design can help bring those benefits too.
Imagine a row of small apartments added to a big box store's roof. Let's explore how that might work, using the Safeway supermarket in Seven Corners as a test subject.
The Safeway, as it exists now. All images by the author. All images from GGW.
Since the building is so wide, a narrow second story near the back would be completely invisible from the front. Thus, the building can accommodate apartments with minimal to no effect on the store's appearance.
What could fit?
The rear wall of this Safeway is long enough to fit 10 apartments, each 25 feet long, with a gap in the middle to provide access to stairs. The paved area behind the store is wide enough to accommodate stairs and a narrow parking lane for residents, with enough room left over for two vehicles to pass each other.

All images by the author. All images from GGW.
A terrace in front of the apartments acts as a walkway, providing access to each unit. Rows of windows high on the front wall bring sunlight in without compromising privacy or subjecting residents to views of the store's roof.
All images by the author. All images from GGW.
Inside, each unit is a 300 square foot efficiency style apartment.
All images by the author. All images from GGW.
These apartments may not be luxurious, but maybe that's OK. Given rising demand for mixed-use living, apartments like these could provide scarce affordable housing to tenants who want to walk to shopping areas. Perhaps retail workers at the very stores below might be able to live here.
Meanwhile, nearly invisible apartments atop strip malls might conceivably face less opposition from surrounding communities than large new buildings. Or maybe not; that's hard to predict. But new housing has to go somewhere, and it's better if we can fit more of it in existing communities. Maybe this is a way to do that.
Is this actually realistic?
There are clearly challenges to making an idea like this work.
First, the structural challenge. Since the roof wasn't designed to support a second story, the building would likely need structural reinforcement. That's unlikely to happen in a functioning supermarket that's open to customers. But it may be practical during renovations, for adaptive reuse, or in new buildings.
Second, the regulatory challenge. Many suburban retail strips are retail-only because that's what the zoning allows. Since it often takes years to go through the difficult process of getting zoning approval for mixed-use, it's often only worth developers' trouble for large projects.
Finally, the developer challenge. Developers often specialize in one type of project. Toll Brothers builds suburban houses, Abdo builds urban mixed-use mid-rises, Macerich specializes in shopping malls. It would likely take a special case for a suburban retail developer to take on apartments, or an apartment developer to build a big box.
But people used to cite similar challenges as impediments to New Urbanism, and it's booming. Where there's a will, there's a way.
And there could be a will. Demand for convenient mixed-use living keeps growing, while our cities keep getting more and more expensive. Something is going to have to give. This idea could provide affordable housing that's walkable to convenient destinations.

It just takes a little creativity. And, maybe, a small scale pilot project or two.
Visit the GGW blog for the original post:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Clyfford Still Museum