LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

May 16, 2018 by  
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Firefighting is consistently ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. — which is why the well-being of firefighters becomes all the more important in architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design of Seattle Fire Station 32. Located in the heart of the Alaska Junction neighborhood in West Seattle, the 18,000-square-foot fire station boasts a handsome and modern appearance that not only enhances firefighters’ wellness, but also welcomes the community. The fire station , completed last year, is crafted to be highly energy efficient, and it recently achieved LEED Platinum certification. Filled with natural light and optimized for scenic views, Seattle Fire Station 32 is set in the heart of the neighborhood at the threshold between single-family residential areas and a denser commercial zone. To mitigate the site’s small size, the architects built upward, resulting in a four-story building with a basement. The building engages the civic arena with public areas that are visible from the street, such as the beanery and station office. The entrance of the office is marked by a 25-foot-tall wall-mounted fire truck sculpture . A 59-foot-long ladder truck and the firefighters’ activities are also put on full display behind a glazed end wall along Alaska Street. Related: Seattle’s Firestation 30 is a Copper-Clad Green Community Beacon Private bunk rooms and individual offices are tucked along the quiet residential-facing side of the building. The operational and administrative areas are housed on the lower floors, while the firefighters’ living spaces are located on the third floor. This floor opens up to an outdoor terrace overlooking the green roof . “The hose drying tower acts as a visual marker for the station between the southern residential hillside and tall mixed-use buildings to the north,” the architects wrote. “With a subtle lantern effect at night, the tower acts as a beacon of safety for residents and visitors.” The project was awarded a 2018 Green GOOD DESIGN Award , and earned LEED Platinum certification this month. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Images by Nic Lehoux

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LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle

INTERVIEW: 8 Questions with Architect Tom Kundig

May 7, 2018 by  
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Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects is one of our favorite architectural firms, championing the fight for sustainable design. Founded in the late 1960s, the firm has created a collection of structures that rise from the ground as natural extensions of their sites, acting as bridges between nature, culture, and people. We sat down with principal architect Tom Kundig who shares his thoughts on his design process, what it’s like to be a Seattle-based firm, where he finds his inspiration and more. Read on for our exclusive interview with Tom, as well as a look at some featured projects that are as green as they are gorgeous! Inhabitat: Many well-known architects make it a point to establish offices in large cities, but even with your success Olson + Kundig  operations remains in the (arguably) more remote Pacific Northwest. What impact do you think being a Seattle-based firm has had on your work? Tom Kundig: Not entirely sure. I’m sure there are impacts that we are not aware of – are we ‘mysterious’ because we are remote, or are we ‘removed from the action’? My guess is that it might be both, but the most important consideration is how we do our work.  In a large landscape like the Pacific Northwest – and in a relatively large city like Seattle that is connected internationally – we might have the best of both worlds. Irregardless, our work is context based – cultural, environmental, craft, tectonics, and so forth – and we are in an ideal location where all these elements converge. Inhabitat: Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings? If so, what role does green building play into your work? Tom Kundig: I am absolutely concerned about it. And I’m not speaking strictly of the environmental, because the process of building and what’s required to maintain a building consumes not only a significant amount of natural resources but also has a huge influence on cultural and social sustainability. Ultimately architecture is cultural and social – it is shelter at its most basic human level, and within the spirit of that notion, it is a deeply humanistic endeavor. Inhabitat: What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability? Tom Kundig: The greatest challenge is designing to an authenticity that recognizes the true issues of sustainability, not just treating it as a checklist of items or simplifying it to accommodate to scorekeeping. Sustainability takes on a true, holistic understanding of all the implications of a design. Inhabitat: You were the sole N. American representative in Toto Gallery MA’s “Global Ends – Towards the Beginning” an exhibit that hopes to inspire architects to break away from the architectural uniformity resulting from past movements. Modernism has clearly been the most dominant and continues to permeate design – what are your thoughts on its value today? Tom Kundig: Modernism at its core is a humanistic value. It is about shelter , about culture, and about equality, safety, and nurturing for a better future for EVERYBODY. Unfortunately today, many of these values have been lost in stylistic fashion.  I am hopeful that the next movement will be about a meaningful search for a humanistic architecture . This is an idea that will never go out of style. Inhabitat: Why do you think sustainability remains largely outside of theoretical discussions of architecture?  Sustainability can be clever, innovative, it can justify designs, but by in large it is not a realm of theoretical review.  Themes such as space, aesthetics, and cities are constant avenues for debate, speculation, and experiment, but sustainability still seems thin. Thoughts? Tom Kundig: Sustainability has been relegated to the ‘science’ side of the practice, both by the practitioners and in academia. Architecture at its core is the  intersection of the rational and the poetic. If architecture , academics and practitioners can embrace that idea and respect the two realms of the practice, this question would not have to be asked. Unfortunately, the question is a good one.   Inhabitat: Can you tell us about the house you grew up in? Tom Kundig : It was a 1918 classic two-story bungalow with a porch facing the street. However, it was its location near a large city port that had more effect on my childhood than the house itself. Spending my formative years in and around the lake cabins of the areas probably had the most impact on my career. Inhabitat: Who inspires you? Tom Kundig: So many architects , both living and dead, inspire me. It’s difficult to list. But certainly, individuals within the architectural, art and music realm are the most inspirational. And when I speak of artists, what I’m focusing in on are those willing to truly put their souls on the line for their art.  They are working ‘out there’, many times without a net, vulnerable to the second-guessing of polite society, bureaucrats, academics, and mainstream media – it’s a lonely place to be. Inhabitat: What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for? Tom Kundig: I hope that my work is meaningful and it that it resonates in people’s lives – architecture at its core. + Olson Kundig Architects

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INTERVIEW: 8 Questions with Architect Tom Kundig

Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

April 10, 2018 by  
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At first glance, it might seem like the standard bicycle doesn’t have much you could improve on. It gets you to your destination faster, provides a great workout, and doesn’t pollute the air. And, of course, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. However, in sprawling modern day cities—Los Angeles, we’re looking at you—bikes are sometimes less than ideal as a form of transportation. Cyclists can certainly brave the crowded streets and longer commutes, but they’re far more likely to be exhausted, or at least uncomfortable, at the end of their ride. That’s where the electric bike comes in. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have been around for a few years, but a recent increase in popularity has thrust them into the spotlight—and for good reason. As more and more people move to urban areas, we’ll have to find new ways of creating urban mobility if we want to stop problems of traffic congestion and air pollution from becoming worse. The electric bikes provides an excellent solution to this problem: by making commutes less intensive, it serves as a viable alternative to cars and lets riders enjoy their time outside and explore their city. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars Here at Inhabitat, we decided to test out an e-bike for ourselves to see just how different it was from a standard bicycle. On a typically sunny SoCal day, I headed down to Electric Bikes LA in El Segundo, a small suburb south of LAX, and picked up a Porteur Faraday bike . The bike itself was gorgeous, painted bright white and mint green, with sleek bamboo fenders above the wheels. The battery, which can last 25 miles when fully charged, was cleverly integrated into the frame of the bike. At the very least, I thought as I wheeled the bike out the shop’s front door, I would be riding in style, and nobody would know the bike was electric. I took the e-bike to a nearby park, then started out on a rutted dirt path. At first, I found I had to pedal a little harder than usual. Electric bikes weigh more than standard bikes, though, at 40 lbs, the Faraday models are much lighter than other brands. Once steady, I reached down with my thumb and switched the motor to full speed. And even though I had read about electric bikes and what they could do, I was not at all prepared for what happened next. Imagine flooring it in a car—the way the vehicle leaps forward, the landscape on either side turning to a blur. It was a little like that, except all I had to do was pedal, and instead of going from zero to sixty, I felt the bike comfortably pull me forward as I went from zero to twenty. Even so, I let out a whoop as I shot effortlessly through the park, then slowed down with ease and turned onto the street. Once I joined traffic, I dropped the motor speed down a notch, but that didn’t stop me from outpacing the cars beside me. I even spotted a few of the drivers giving me incredulous glances as I sped past. Granted, I was on residential streets, but I could understand—it’s not often that you see a cyclist pass a car without even breaking a sweat. As I navigated around El Segundo, I toggled between speeds, testing out various combinations. The motor essentially functions as a gear shift, allowing you to pair each setting with gears one through eight. The bike itself uses a Gates carbon drive belt that not only means less long-term maintenance, but also no greasy pant legs and a quieter ride. I found that the bike shifted seamlessly based on whatever speed I desired, which allowed me to pedal less while maintaining momentum. But I knew there needed to be one more test: the hill. El Segundo’s elevation changes aren’t exactly staggering, but still, I figured getting a 40-pound electric bike up a hill might take some effort. I tried it twice, only turning on the motor the second time. The first time, I have to admit that I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. The next time around, I flipped on the motor and went up two gears, and I ascended the hill in about half the time, pedaling with ease. Once I got back home, charging the bike was a simple process. The adapter is about the size of a typical laptop charger and plugs straight into the battery pack. From a completely empty battery to full charge took around two and a half hours. The verdict? Faraday’s electric bike handles and rides like a dream, and it’s easy to imagine using it to commute in L.A., or any city, really. In fact, Los Angeles is just one among many cities where it can be faster to ride a bike than drive . An electric bike isn’t exactly cheap—the average retail price in 2016 was $3,000, and Faraday’s two models go for $3,499 and $2,499—but, as an alternative to other forms of transportation, it makes sense. Faraday itself offers a 24-month financing plan that knocks the price down to $104 a month, which is about the same price as a bus or metro pass in most major cities, and far less expensive than paying for gas and insurance. Plus, you have the added benefit of appreciating and experiencing your city rather than seeing it through a car window. While the concept is still relatively new, I don’t doubt that electric bikes could be on the rise as a transportation alternative —one that’s greener, faster, and much, much more pleasant than sitting in traffic. + Faraday Bikes Photos by Angela Molina and Kimberly Keller Additional images via  Faraday Bikes

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Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

This sinuous, green-roofed Media Library in France looks like it floats in mid-air

March 28, 2018 by  
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With a sinuous, meandering form that blurs the line between interior and exterior, the new Media Library in Thionville, France , is a unique  public space . Dominique Coulon & Associates designed the building by combining irregular, typically independent systems, creating tension in the space and in how it is read. The building aims to promote a new kind of media library – one that allows members of the public to create and curate their own experiences. It offers a variety of activities and spaces that blend into each other, including music studios, a café and restaurant, and exhibition areas . Related: Gorgeous LEED Gold library was designed with the help of Facebook and Twitter The façade resembles an opaque ribbon that rises and falls to conceal or reveal the building’s interior. At the point closest to the street, the ribbon reaches ground level, then rises up again at points that sit further back on the plot. This construction not only plays with the idea of interior and exterior space, but also brings natural light all the way into the heart of the project, where it’s most needed. Taken as a whole, the project questions the physical and psychological limits of what constitutes public space and follows a design that eludes the Euclidean interpretation of built space. A garden ramp offers another connection to the outside, leading upwards to a summer bar that serves as a culmination of the architectural promenade . In addition, the presence of multiple routes offers constantly renewed viewpoints. The “bubbles” within the building contain specific parts of the library, such as a storytelling area, language laboratories, places for playing video games, and a plastic arts room. + Dominique Coulon & Associates Lead photo by  Eugeni Pons

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This sinuous, green-roofed Media Library in France looks like it floats in mid-air

Solar-powered home embraces sustainable design in Chihuahua

January 11, 2018 by  
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Sustainability and stunning views go hand-in-hand at the Cima House, a striking residence in Chihuahua , Mexico. Garza Iga Arquitectos designed the spacious solar-powered home rising three stories to overlook panoramic city views. Built with a concrete shell, the home’s appearance is softened by the layering of textiles and timber. The architects describe the 465-square-meter Cima House as a building “of opposites” from the way it was constructed to its current appearance. “Built with concrete, steel I beams, and wood; it resembles the classic architecture styles of Louis Kahn and Mies Van der Rohe but at the same time it incorporates a range of technological systems not available in their time,” wrote the architects. “Water collection, treatment and reuse, and solar power technology are only some of those mentioned systems.” Related: Zaha Hadid Architects breaks ground on Mexico’s City tallest residential tower In addition, the street-facing facade is dramatically different from the opposite end. For privacy and security, the architects constructed a windowless exterior to face the street, whereas the north-facing side is completely open to take in panoramic city views. The giant windows are double-glazed with argon gas sandwiched in between to protect from harsh solar gain. Thick concrete walls contain high thermal mass. The residence is also equipped with home automation that can be controlled remotely via smartphone. + Garza Iga Arquitectos Via ArchDaily Images via Garza Iga Arquitectos

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Solar-powered home embraces sustainable design in Chihuahua

These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

January 8, 2018 by  
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The co-founder of Cloud to Street discusses the catalyst for her venture and why she organized her venture as a business, not a nonprofit.

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These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

January 8, 2018 by  
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The co-founder of Cloud to Street discusses the catalyst for her venture and why she organized her venture as a business, not a nonprofit.

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These entrepreneurs are democratizing data to predict flood risks

Renovated forever home strives to minimize its carbon footprint

January 1, 2018 by  
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Sustainable architecture doesn’t have to come at the cost of beauty. Take, for example, this lovely refurbished home in Melbourne with its elegantly exposed timber frame, modern decor, and eco-certified building materials. Foomann Architects led the redesign, titled Ballantyne Street, to meet the client’s brief for a sustainable home where they intend to live in forever. Foomann Architects preserved much of the single-story dwelling’s original structure, including the front, but replaced the 1990s extension in the rear with a more modern addition that houses an open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen, study, as well as a new bedroom. The renovation and expansion accommodates the client’s family of five and visiting guests. In contrast to the home’s original and rather unassuming frontage, the new modern addition is wrapped in full-height glazing that lets in natural light and views of a fenced-in backyard. “The design was approached in this context; to be no bigger than required and enduring,” wrote the architects. “This resonated strongly with our practice; every decision weighing up cost, longevity and environmental impact.” The modern addition features an interior mainly made of masonry and glass broken up by beautiful exposed timber framing —made of composite laminated lumber veneer —integrated with joinery, echoed in the furnishings, and extended across rooms to the outdoor spaces. The joinery is also integrated with concealed lighting for a clean and minimalist appearance. Related: Solar-powered forever home is a modern take on the rustic farmhouse The dedication to sourcing eco-certified and durable materials as well as the design of compact room sizes earned the project a Commendation for sustainability in the ArchiTeam 2017 Awards . + Foomann Architects Via Dezeen Images by Willem-Dirk du Toit

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Renovated forever home strives to minimize its carbon footprint

Natural light floods this solar-powered business school in Frankfurt

October 26, 2017 by  
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According to the World Green Building Council , students score higher on tests and learn up to 26% faster when placed in rooms lit by natural light. Danish practice Henning Larsen Architects took this report to heart when they designed the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, a light-filled academic building that officially opens today. Powered by solar and wind energy, this sustainability-minded business school takes cues from its urban surroundings while setting “new standards for transparent and open learning in the world of business and finance.” Transparency, community, and visibility are key to the design of the 32,790-square-meter Frankfurt School of Finance & Management . To open the school up the urban setting, the architects centered the development around the Street of Knowledge, a long public atrium that echoes The Zeil, one of Frankfurt’s oldest commercial streets. A wide variety of glass-fronted rooms branch off on either side of the Street of Knowledge in two north-south facing volumes that reinforce the atrium’s likeness to a real city street. Above the third floor terrace, these two parallel buildings turn into five offset towers of flexible 400-square-meter office units. Designed to the DGNB Platinum standard, the school reduces demands of primary energy by 60 percent as compared to the German energy saving ordinance (EnEV) standards. Computer simulations and calculations led the architects to optimize the building shape and facade, constructed with a mix of opaque and transparent elements, early on in the design process to minimize energy needs, solar radiation, noise pollution, and wind. Rooftop photovoltaics and a wind turbine supplement energy needs, while rainwater retention systems slow the effects of intense rainfall. The skylight and careful building orientation maximize access to natural light . Related: Frankfurt named the most sustainable city on the planet “As architects we know that light is one of the most important factors for learning,” said Partner and Design Principal at Henning Larsen, Louis Becker. “It helps improving our focus and performance. My hope and ambition is that the varied daylight-filled spaces we have created for Frankfurt School of Finance & Management will contribute to the important task of educating students that will excel within their field and give something back to the city of Frankfurt.” + Henning Larsen Images by Henning Larsen/Karsten Thormaehlen

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Natural light floods this solar-powered business school in Frankfurt

LEED-seeking brick building in Montreal hides funky geode-like courtyard

October 6, 2017 by  
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Montreal’s ADHOC Architectes  created a beautiful residential building whose ubiquitous brick facade hides a crystalline-filled courtyard—inspired by the geode. Located in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, La Géode’s many sustainable features are expected to earn the project Canada’s first LEED v4 certification for a multi-unit building. At first glance, the building looks like any other in the area. However, the brick facade – much like a geode – hides a crystalline treasure on the interior. The unique design of the five-unit residential building began with optimizing the footprint to create a layout that would be conducive to a quality living environment, based on maximum efficiency. By blending the street entry and alley space, the architects created a central entryway that leads into the inner courtyard. Related: Beekeeper built dream hexagonal house without ‘hateful’ right angles A small walkway covered in grey and white panels leads into the open-air courtyard , covered in the same facade. The space was strategically designed to create a sense of privacy for the residents as well as a pleasant outdoor space for socializing. In addition to creating a healthy communal space, the courtyard helps provide natural light and cross ventilation of the units, all of which come with private loggias that open up to the exterior. The walls were also built to have high acoustic performance, blocking out a lot of street noise, again enhancing residents’ quality of life. A large part of the design was focused on providing sufficient greenery for the tenants. Various shrub, climbing species and trees were planted to grow freely on the floor and the walls of the inner courtyard, adding to its healthy-living atmosphere. This greenery, along with the building’s high energy performance and various green features, are expected to earn the building a LEED v4 certification , a first for this kind of structure in Canada. + ADHOC Architectes Photography by Adrien Williams

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