Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Green Infrastructure_Fixed Solar Arrays at Logan Airport Economy Lot 2

22 Panel fixed solar arrays sitting atop Economy Lot 2 Parking Structure (20 of them
at 3-4 kw each )  Not sure what they're tied into yet but what a great way to use a
parking surface!
It's been a while since I've flown out of Logan airport and the first time I've parked at the new 3000 space economy lot 2 which recently opened last November.  I'm always on the lookout for signs of hope, however small or large in this case.   I know I drove to park here but at least I smiled when I drove atop of this structure.  (of course there was barely any parking on this new economy lot...with cars parked intruding into drive lanes allover)

This urban solar orchard is impressive and can serve as an example for others around the country and world looking for ways to bring solar into widespread use.  A lonely piece of infrastructure like this garage is a perfect location for adding such renewable energy sources.  Like rooftops in many urban locations parking structure upper decks can provide ample solar exposure with minimal sun shading to reduce panel efficiency and output.  The twenty fixed 22 panel solar arrays produce approximately 60+ KW of electricity (my visual estimate) about 12 percent of the garage's energy needs.  Ultra low energy use LED lighting is installed throughout the parking structure further reducing the energy footprint of the new structure.

I understand from my research into MassPort's overall sustainability efforts they use an award winning Sustainable Design Standards and Guidelines on all of their projects.  The (SDSG) is an authority-wide strategy initiated at the direction of soon to retire Executive Director and CEO Thomas J. Kinton, Jr. "to integrate sustainable technologies and practices into all of Massport’s capital projects, reflecting Massport’s long history of achievements in sustainability."  I called Massport's Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing and they were happy to send me a link to a press release about the project.

It was apparently built to provide a centralized economy parking option at ($18/day and $108/week) relieving pressure on numerous nearby over capacity surface parking lots.  However, given how this lot was over capacity during a normal non-holiday midweek I have to ask whether the vision for this lot falls short, ie not enough parking deck levels in the first place?  I hope MassPort and its design team had the foresight to build into the structure the ability to expand upwards with enhancements in structural design to allow future additions.  

Another visible potential green measures was the addition of four story tall screens which someday may hold vegetation and act as living walls buffering the heat-island effect of the sun beating down on the massive concrete parking structure.   These screens were installed on the corners of the garage facing the heaviest traveled roads, likely more of a signpost of "green-ness" than really being effective.  I say may someday hold vegetation as there was no visual evidence of planters and irrigation systems installed (yet I hope!). They are usually installed in planters on the ground level and given the height at midpoints up the structure. The living wall panels could also be lit up a night from hidden LED light sources installed in the ground below the frames to accentuate the green message and enhance visibility.   (MassPort, if you need help in designing these additional green upgrades please give me a shout out.  The structure needs it!)

Doing so would be extremely functional and by using the cooling albedo effect of plants (climbing ivy's and such) the area parking area immediately near the green living wall would be more cool and comfortable.  The bottom line, adding these screens can help reduce the global warming impact of this structure by dampening the heat island effects.  However, the lack of green vegetative ground cover around the base of the structure reduces the opportunity to make a difference.  The monotonous expanse of 3" stone rubble rip rap is alienating from a pedestrian scale however productive it might be from a storm-water filtration standpoint.  I hope MassPort installs some kind of green ground cover there down the road.  Hopefully this is a work in progress!

Maybe that's asking too much of such a back of house building.  The challenge is this element needs cultivating and stewardship over time and access to water.  Storm water run-off from the parking garage roof deck (which must be considerable!) could be stored in cisterns below and pumped up and provide an easy grey water source to nurture the living wall growth which could potentially climb the wire screens.  Those cisterns could also be installed near the upper decks and grey water could gravity feed down the screen. The Solar panels likely could also power the pumps as well as the lighting, elevators and other electrical systems in the building.  

Of course the greater issue is I drove by myself to the parking garage rather than taking the T (Boston's subway and above ground train system)  I called my sister in law who told me there wasn't really a great way to catch a ride to the T off of Interstate 93 north of Boston with adequate long-term parking at the T station.  I could have planned a little more in advance and maybe I could of made this happen.  I'm sure I missed a golden opportunity to do so but I ran out time.  What I wish for is next time I come down, I can park at the Anderson Transportation Center off of 93 and ride a train in to Logan.  I can do this so easily in Chicago with the L and their larger regional trains out of the city core to O'Hare airport.  By riding the train from 15 miles outside the city I would have not added my car's exhaust to the mix of downtown drivers, diverting my ugly CO2 from the mix over the city.  

But, I'm psyched about seeing the roof top solar trackers though! However, if there is a next time for designing and building additional structures like this at Mass Port or other locations around the world I recommend:

  • Ensuring flexibility for later deck additions by building into the design beefier structure and footings.
  • Build actual living wall screening systems watered by gray water retention from roof top storm water run-off.  Not just on a few corners, but over substantial wall surface areas, imagine a "green ivy covered" parking structure?  Talk about branding and messaging green measures!
  • Beef up the solar array coverage on the roof structure.  Why stop at 12% renewable needs?  
  • Invest in more robust green ground cover at the base of structure rather than easy to maintain hard to look at stone rip rap.  Or at least up the ground cover plantings near parking structure corners and entry / exit locations where pedestrians and visitors frequent.
  • Its unclear from the press release whether fly-ash was used in the concrete parking structure but it's certainly an option and resonates with the LEED System.
However, Great job in general and may this be just a beginning for MassPort's journey towards deeper sustainability efforts!  But, consider hardy travelers next time you fly in and out of Logan seek alternatives such as taking the train or buses into the airport rather than even parking here.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting to Zero - White Paper on Zero Energy and Net-Zero Buildings and Homes

Happy Earth day! I hope you're finding interesting ways to celebrate it in your community.  Here's a way to celebrate online.  Check out this interesting white paper from Building Design and Construction.   For readers in the building industry, architects, homeowners, building committee members, facility planning professionals, construction professionals, building owners and engineering consultants it covers an important trend towards zero energy or low energy usage buildings helpful in fighting global warming and green house gas emissions.

Is Net-zero energy the next frontier in green building?  I'm not sure about that.  But the BD+C paper addresses this by sharing an overview of what does zero energy mean and how it can be applied to various situations.  There are numerous complex definitions which it takes into account and some very useful graphics which make it easier to understand.  It doesn't necessarily talk about the Passive House movement from Europe also penetrating the green building discussions but it's an important addition to the conversation of moving towards energy independence!

Bill Maclay, a leader and inspiration in net zero design (and my former boss) was quoted in the white paper as well and their work with the Putney School was mentioned on page 14 for the Putney Fieldhouse  a fabulous example of a net-zero LEED platinum private school athletic building really changing the game on campus facilities.  I was part of the design team on that project and am really proud of being part of it.  If you're ever in southern Vermont and are curious about seeing the building contact the Putney School to arrange a tour.  It's a game changer, leaping out of the pages of the white paper into everyday experience showing the way towards a more energy independent future along with the other case studies mentioned.

Take a look at the white paper and let me know what you think.  Do you have any examples where you live of similar zero energy buildings you'd like to share with readers?  Any great experiences related to them to share with us on this special day?  This is important work to help out the generations who will follow us.  With net-zero energy buildings we can make a difference for tomorrow and beyond!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Haworth Center, a Transcendent Experience

In late March I toured One Haworth Center located in Holland, Michigan, the global headquarters of the Haworth Inc. one of the big five workplace solutions / systems furniture companies here in the U.S. Office Environments, the local Haworth Dealer, located in Williston, Vermont organized the day long tour for local facilities personnel, architects and interior designers.

I joined in because, while very familiar with other Michigan furniture heavies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase, I knew next to nothing about Haworth.  As an architect engaged in the design of high performance workplaces and buildings among other kinds of work I do, it's critical for my clients I have a working knowledge of these companies, their key personnel, cutting edge research, product lines and corporate social and environmental actions organization wide and in their facilities.

I do this so I may best advocate on their behalf on project work collaborating with local dealerships so the companies I work with can best optimize investments in their workplaces, workers and the work they do together there.

What I found at Haworth really surprised me! Dick Haworth, Chairman Emeritus greeted us in the beginning of the day.  Having Dick speak with us emphasized that while this company was a global brand it was family run with a deep green conscience and pragmatic yet creative design heritage.  Matt Haworth, current Haworth CEO closed the day for us.  However, the LEED Gold Certified One Haworth Center was a star unto itself with its compellingly beautiful yet environmentally motivated heart just like the company perhaps.  And with the vibrant vision of its leaders and other team members we met with that day Haworth is poised for continued success in the marketplace.
Dick Haworth sharing welcoming remarks with visiting Vermonters 
Our Goals for the Day!
Whether visiting Haworth, Herman Miller or Steelcase in Michigan I am gratified by all of these companies efforts to walk their talk in design, innovation and sustainability in their facilities and the visitor experience.  It is a common thread in my experience with these companies.  It is the back story for another time though.

During our day long trip we met with workplace strategists sharing with us cutting edge human factor and environmental design trends, facilities leaders who were intimately involved in the renovation and transformation of One Haworth Center and then product area experts sharing with us the latest in seating, workstation design and architectural systems.  All in all, it was a fabulous experience helping me better understand Haworth, their areas of strength and how they fit into the workplace design universe I work in.

Looking back at my filled up sketch book pages here are a few highlights.

Workplace Strategies & Trends:
We met with Chris Neuheus from Haworth and Brian Scott, of Haworth's Ideation Group, a workplace and communications strategist.  Brian shared a framework for thinking about Organizational Culture Types, how to best assess them with a variety of tools and then create self-evolving collaborative environments which suit them best.  We also learned about a Change Framework to apply within fast moving dynamic organizations.  Brian shared with us the importance of fostering adaptive physical and technological environments which help such organizations continue to transform and innovate.

Chris  reiterated some trends many of us have been experiencing over the last ten or so years with our aging workforce with multiple generations at work together, competing expectations and workstyles of younger millennials, gen-Yers and gen-Xers and aging baby-boomers.  The workplace plainly isn't a one size fits all world where entitlement based space design hierarchies and strategies will continue to apply. To attract younger workers, retain and groom more experienced performers and leaders a multi-faceted organizational design approach is critical with a more open attitude towards collaborative spaces, lower bench style desking with ever lower smaller workstation footprints.  Also, today and especially into the future, there's a greater need for a greater diversity of common spaces accommodating vastly different work patterns such as teaming, head down work, training and workforce development, long-distance collaboration and the like as well as providing an intrinsic adaptability to future work style changes.  This openness leads us to the next helpful takeaway from the visit, the "Chassis" design at One Haworth Center which was used by Perkins +Will and their design team to breath life into the iconic original factory updating it with some serious sustainability and innovative workplace design chops.

Diagram adapted from Haworth with added circulation arrows.
New atrium showing circulation with outcroppings
Interior work areas looking out into the atrium and shared daylight
The Chassis Design:
Conceived to bring new life to existing work areas with the addition of a new airy atrium bar and common circulation it's a clever way to update older space with a clear diagram and cohesive vision.  Divided into three zones of dynamic, temporal and place elements it offers an organizing mindset useful for an ever changing organization.  The shared common areas and circulation spine were extremely inviting and dynamic places served by the varying degrees of fluid and fixed workspace behind.  More interior linear circulation flow parallel to the exterior circulation balcony reinforce this open structure for change.   The executive leadership area was located well inside the shared daylit balcony spine in keeping with the more democratic nature of the atria common space.  It was great to see architects and space planners put common lounge spaces immediately adjacent to the this fabulous unifying spine.  The photos and diagrams above and below give a sense for this powerful idea and its execution at various levels of detail.
a conferencing collaboration area with white board wall surfaces
located deep within the floor plate in deference to workstations
accessing natural light directly.
Updated lounge/ cafe seating in cafeteria

panelized workstations of varying heights with dropped floating
ceiling and linear pendant up/down lighting - very comfortable!
workstations with view windows to atrium

furniture groups set up in the atrium to showcase
various collaboration concepts whether a womb like 
seating with felt covering or open table like settings with
overhead space defining rail system.
a delightful mobile ottoman

We also took a tour of the manufacturing floor and saw great implementation in best practices in green manufacturing principles, lean thinking and automation.  Here's a picture of the automated robot delivery vehicles which were really interesting to watch move around the floor spaces.
mobile robots at work hauling product in stages of production.
For a more indepth and informative tour direct from Haworth of the One Haworth Center about Take the tour here.  For specific info about its LEED Certification and Sustainability highlights click this Link.