Deep Dive into Neocon Inspiration

While wandering the Mart at Neocon this year, I challenged myself to look beyond all the cool new products and design trends to find what inspired me in a more holistic way. After all, I see the larger world through the lens of design. What parallels could I find between our industry and what is happening in the world of art and cityscape?

With my trusty iPhone at hand, I watched for opportunities to capture an essence of creativity and exploration to take home with me. What caught my eye this year was all about texture and finding parallels between what I saw at the Art Institute Chicago, the River Walk and in showrooms.

While sitting on the tarmac at O’Hare during a thunderstorm, I had the time to sort through photos in a thoughtful way. Back at home, I plan on keeping my eyes open for inspiration, which like lightening, can strike at any time!

A New Healthcare Experience for Patients, Family and Clinicians

Steelcase Health, Waiting room furniture, new trends in healthcare interiors
Steelcase Health Spaces – Transition + Waiting

By Domenica Sheets, CID, IIDA

I recently attended Neocon, North America’s premier trade show and conference on commercial interiors, products and evolving design trends. This conference, which is held at theMART in Chicago each year, allows our Interiors team to stay on top of the trends in all vertical markets, including Healthcare. As someone who has spent many years working on Healthcare projects at TLCD Architecture, I was particularly interested in how my observations matched with those of Steelcase, one of the leading manufacturers of furniture for hospitals, offices and classrooms.

This last week, representatives from Steelcase Health, and our Steelcase Furniture Account Manager gave a presentation at TLCD Architecture on new solutions for healthcare spaces. As designers and architects for our healthcare clients, they emphasized the need to create spaces that support communication and collaboration between patients, clinicians and family members so that everyone becomes a mutual participant in the patient’s health. Additionally, there is increasing need for productive and comfortable waiting or “transition” spaces for the family members whose day may have unexpectedly been put on hold while taking care of their loved one. 

Steelcase Health Spaces, Waiting room and transitional furniture, Exam rooms
Steelcase Health Spaces – Exam

As the “center” of the healthcare experience, exam rooms are not only for physical examinations, they are also used for consultations and for family members to receive instructions for at-home care. The typical exam room table is being replaced with residential-like recliners for the patient, and a comfortable lounge chair or sofa for the family member. The clinician is given an ergonomic stool and adjustable height table to remain at the same eye level as the patient and family member. Technology has also evolved and mobile carts for ipads or computer monitors can easily move to help the clinician face the patient and family member. The use of demountable walls (walls that can be relocated), and modular furniture can also support evolving technology and room uses.

Waiting or “transition” spaces are changing as well and play a significant role in improving the overall healthcare experience. Rather than row upon row of uncomfortable chairs facing one direction, today’s waiting room offers choices and supports a range of postures and activities. People waiting may need to pull out their laptop and work for a few hours, charge their phone, have a conversation, watch young children or take a rest.

It’s our role as Healthcare designers to accommodate these functions and provide furniture solutions that support a wide range of needs. I’m very excited to share and implement the new furniture introductions showcased at Neocon with my clients and the customers they serve.

Game On… Architectural Renderings Go Interactive

Angel the Office Dog, TLCD Architecture, Virtual Reality RenderingNick Diggins, Designer 

Architecture is a complex process that is integrated with massive amounts of information requiring coordination between many parties. We use software specifically developed for this type of information management (BIM), but what’s so interesting is all this information is imbedded in a digital 3D model. We are constantly finding new ways to use and extract this information throughout the design process.

The current hot trend in design visualizations is the integration of virtual reality (VR) rendering into the Revit (BIM) workflow. I’ve had a lot of fun sharing this new type of presentation with clients, staff, friends – even Angel our office dog tried it out using Google Cardboard. After showing my 9-year old son this cool technology, which literally puts the viewer in the space, I realized it’s already out of date when he said, “Dad, all you can do is look around.” It hit me that the future is here. His generation will be expecting software that enables true interactive immersion. What if we, as architects, can design workflows that allow the user to interact with a space while it’s still in development – much the same way we build physical models to critique and explore ideas?

A physical model has always been an easier tool for sharing ideas than technical drawings. A model isn’t static – you can pick it up, rotate it, move around it, and feel what the idea is in a physical solution. Models are the universal language of design and they help us understand the concept of three-dimensional problem solving. In the digital landscape it’s quickly changing how we share ideas with each other and our clients.

TLCD’s culture is very supportive of testing new software. If you follow trends in new techniques of rendering and architectural visualizations, you may have seen some examples of interactive environments taking off recently. There are many resources for starting this workflow and one that we’ve been testing recently is Unreal Engine 4. We took this software for a test drive and modeled our new office space. Rather than strapping on VR goggles, our staff can walk through our new office and experience it from the comfort of their own computer monitor (view video above).

On the more technical side, how does this type of software change our current workflow? For a current static rendering like the one shown in the first part of the video, we can prime a digital model for rendering pretty quickly. Using the power of our render farm, we usually run 80 cores (CPU’s) resulting in one render after a few hours. Not too bad considering we used to wait days for the same output only a few years ago.

Now if you want video, you are looking at a lot of time and resources to develop an in-house animation that is usually under a minute in length. At the end of multiple days of work you have an amazing video to share with clients and others (and everyone loves movies, right?) That thirty-second video loses its sparkle when you realize that you need to change something in the design as a result of meeting comments. Usually you can’t re-render a whole walkthrough because of tight schedules – but what if you could? What if it was just a part of the standard workflow and you could render the space and were allowed to change views or make a movie within minutes?

Why not turn the scripted walkthrough into a “game” and let someone else walk around and experience it in real time! This is the direction we are headed at TLCD… and virtual reality is just fuel to the fire. Integrating the visual experience with a physical/digital experience is so exciting to us as architects because we are integrating it into our early designs as a linkable workflow. Immersing yourself deeper into an environment is an architectural experience beyond the average visual.

Learning to craft a visualization to create an interactive experience is the new art of rendering. Video game developers have been doing this for years and the most current digital environments are so immersive it almost feels real. This way of sharing a design brings in thoughts of simple actions infused with realism – like adding sounds of the city when you open a door. We see so many possibilities for this in the near future. Imagine an environment that allows end users to experience the space and use it as a learning tool with interactive virtual diagrams.

Our goal is to integrate this software into our designs to create new modes of integrated thinking for clients who are looking for innovation and value for their project. At the moment, we are only designing buildings, but soon we might be creating worlds! This is too much fun to be had all alone, come join us!

Angel the Office Dog, Nick Diggins Designer, TLCD ArchitectureNo animals… or architects were harmed in the making of this blog post. Most days Angel can be found at our office brightening people’s days while stopping by their desk for a treat or pat on the head. Nick can be found any number of places…job sites, his work station, client meetings, or low crawling to sneak up on his unsuspecting coworkers!

Praxis in Action: Healdsburg’s Cerri Building

tlcd architecture, cerri building, city of healdsburg, historic building, adaptive reuse

In May we put up a post, Praxis: Practical Application of a Theory that talked about the stage in our process where investigation and critical analysis leads to idea generation and critique. We routinely tap into the collective expertise of our team for this critique process – whether it be a casual discussion or a full charrette. Yesterday we held a firm-wide design discussion of one of the more unusual projects in our office – the historic Cerri Building in Healdsburg.

tlcd architecture, cerri building, city of healdsburg, historic building

TLCD Architecture is teaming with Healdsburg architect Alan Cohen in the design of the this downtown parcel that will accommodate the City’s farmers market and additional parking. At issue is whether to preserve an existing structure on the site, or to remove it and install new shade structures with photovoltaic (solar) panels. Although very early in the design process, yesterday’s discussion yielded many good ideas that the design team will explore. The main concept is to transform the existing building into a new space that will serve many functions and add to Healdsburg’s vibrant downtown culture. We are looking at strategies that allow for a stronger connection with the adjacent street, sidewalk and most importantly, the visitor. The team also shared inspiration photos that suggest other directions for the design, such a new structure providing indoor/outdoor space for the farmer’s market, as well as alternate surfaces for the photovoltaics.

These open office design conversations are what keeps our projects fresh and the design concepts clear and focused. We refine our ideas by critiquing our work as a group and we are always fascinated by the power of sharing with each other.

Architecture Reborn: Fading Past to Vibrant Future

DeTurk Round Barn, City of Santa Rosa, TLCD Architecture, Adaptive Reuse, Historic Round Barn

By Kevin Teel, Project Architect

KevinTeel_TLCD ArchitectureTLCD Architecture has had the opportunity to work on several diverse historic projects over the last decade – from the 1912 stone Vintage Hall at St. Helena High School – to the 124 year-old DeTurk Round Barn in Santa Rosa. We are set to begin work on another storied historical structure in Healdsburg – a 1920’s warehouse called the Cerri Building. Historic projects are of particular interest to me because we each have our own way of “seeing” the character of a building, leading to unique interpretations and end results.

abandoned barns and mines, southwest, arizona, colorado, architecture, kevin feel

My personal journey began in Colorado and Arizona – places where I honed my own process for interpreting the history of buildings. Though most buildings I refer to are not historic landmarks, the process of revealing their inner character is the same.

I began to roam old mining towns and backcountry while attending college in the Southwest. There is a romance for the bucolic nature of dilapidated barns and mining structures in this area, but for me the real excitement is in imagining these places in their heyday. What was happening on any typical day? I pull each of my senses into the story and build around the experience. While none of these mental images may have happened, they help set basic parameters for how I would investigate design decisions in future projects. This same philosophy governed my thesis work in Arizona, when exploring adaptive reuse ideas of mining ruins near Prescott, Arizona.

prescott arizona mine ruins, kevin teel, tlcd architecture

Adaptive Reuse in my mind, is a process of inspiration and evaluation that allows the original building to shine, while simultaneously providing for current needs, regulations and community desires. It attempts to fuse, not separate, these elements into a lasting whole that, when done well “just seems right.” This approach doesn’t lessen the importance of the original building – it simply highlights it. It doesn’t suggest superiority of contemporary materials and methods; it attempts to show commonality of past and present construction means. This is why initial observations are so important to maintain, even in the presence of often complex and competing concerns.

DeTurk Round Barn, City of Santa Rosa, Historic Round Barn, TLCD Architecture

My first visit to DeTurk Round Barn in Santa Rosa was not unlike entering the old mining structures in the Southwest. The barn was boarded up and in quite a state of disrepair, but I felt an immediate connection. After I got over wanting it for myself (yes, adaptive reuse can be a residence), I was immediately struck by what a calming space it was. This is when I began to consider the original function – the barn was built for horses, but they were trotters, not barrel racers. I imagined a well-lit space with beautiful horses steadily moving around the inner ring, clean horse stalls around the edges and hay carefully stacked overhead. This spirit of calmness would be fundamental to the success of this project, no matter the amount of chaos in getting to the finish line!

Next, I was amazed at the light quality of the barn considering every ground floor window was boarded up and covered with plastic. The only light was from the original, dusty skylights above. Clearly this space could be light and bright again. Sometimes seemingly mundane ideas, such as seismic mitigation, take over my thoughts, but this is almost without exception an opportunity to enhance our interpretations. DeTurk Round Barn, TLCD Architecture, Historic Round Barn, For example, wooden posts carrying the weight of the loft would not be adequate to meet modern codes and would need retrofitting. These materials could simply be construction waste, or we could find a way to “carry history forward.” Spectacular old growth redwood (a huge piece of our local history) was resawn and used as interior finish in the barn, exposing its beauty for future visitors to enjoy.

With this inspiration in mind, and as a foundation, the question becomes “What is the vision for this building now and in the foreseeable future?” This is where public input and design team coordination comes into play. Although the community’s feedback reduced the project scope considerably, it didn’t reduce the challenges TLCD Architecture would face. The firm still needed to rehabilitate an extremely unique and dilapidated 8,300 square-foot round barn while maintaining its historic integrity. We were also tasked with seamlessly incorporating a kitchen, restrooms, mechanical/electrical and storage rooms, as well as integrating 21st century technology to ensure DeTurk Round Barn would become a popular event space for the City of Santa Rosa.

DeTurk Round Barn, National Registry of Historic Places, TLCD Architecture

TLCD now has another wonderful opportunity to play a role interpreting the history of the Cerri Building in Healdsburg. This is another building with a long, storied history and most certainly a quite different future. It will not be possible without community input, technical expertise and a fundamental understanding of the nature of the space and surrounding environment.

DeTurk Round Barn has been one of TLCD’s most published and recognized projects… I hope you will find the following links of interest:

AIA California Council, Adaptive Reuse Merit Award 2014

Retrofit Magazine Article “Barn Raising”

GreenSource Magazine Article “Uplifting a Round Barn”

Big Ass Fan Case Study DeTurk Round Barn

View video below for more background on the DeTurk Round Barn 

Designer’s Toolbox: Steel

metals Page 001

Concrete, steel, and wood are the fundamental building blocks of the built environment, and when possible we will try and expose them.  It is raw materials that give our buildings character:  they are direct expressions of those who designed and built the edifice.  No two pieces are alike.  We love raw materials for their character and inherent language of honesty.  They age with the building.  It is good not to overdo it, but something as simple as raw steel can convey a sense of permanence and craftsmanship.

Typically, the majority of these materials may get covered in gypsum board or other ‘finish’ materials in order to provide a level of fire protection or acoustical rating required for a particular space.  However, there are a number of opportunities in any given space to expose them.  In addition to exposing the structure of the building, items  such as furniture, hardware, lighting and stairs (among others) are all good opportunities to detail an exposed connection.  And in the end these are typically the details that become the monuments of design.

With that in mind, at TLCD we recently held a quick ‘refresh’ workshop on steel.  To fully comprehend the  materiality of steel, we decided it was important to understand the processes that are used to tool it.  Thus, the discussion for the most part revolved around the fabrication process: welding.  It was the beginning of our ‘Designer’s Toolbox’ series, a set of talks and discussions aimed at invigorating the creative knowledge in the office and educating ourselves in materials, methods, and ideas in a profession where fabrication techniques are rapidly changing.

The discussion was meant less as a ‘presentation’ and more as an informative and informal talk.  Challenging ourselves to take another look at the process was invigorating, but more importantly a reminder of why we do what we do.  Our hope is that the discussion does not end here but is a continuous living dialog that informs our projects.

Design Competition Fuses Primary Care and Mental Health Services

The healthcare landscape is always changing as providers evolve the framework for care and adjust capital plans to maximize shifting reimbursement models, stay current with medical technology and respond to shifting political priorities and societal demands. In recent years, the Affordable Care Act and the cry for improved mental healthcare services have pushed the industry to increase outpatient primary care and mental health capacities. This trend is leading some in the industry to cast away old notions and stigma – and seize the opportunity to make mental health an integral part of primary healthcare.

tlcd architecture, healthcare design, integrating primary cary and mental health, jason brabo, design competition

In a recent design competition, TLCD Architecture explored how the fusion of mental health and primary care could be supported in the built environment. The resulting outpatient campus brings primary care and mental health together in a unified, community-focused design while addressing privacy and security concerns. The concept of total patient wellbeing begins with easy access for patients and incorporates healthy opportunities of exercise, farmers markets, community activities, health education and medical care. Giving people a reason to visit the site on a regular basis for everyday activities serves to promote health and wellbeing.

tlcd architecture, healthcare design, integrating primary cary and mental health, jason brabo, design competition, outdoor plaza, food trucks, kid play areas, indoor outdoor stair

During the design process TLCD Architecture used our own healthcare experience that includes recent work on acute and outpatient mental health facilities, as well as assembling a team of designers, planners and engineers with diverse backgrounds to bring fresh perspectives to the discussion. We also used the growing body of research that brings these ideas into focus and provides motivation for healthcare providers to integrate primary care and mental health services that result in improved patient care, financial efficiencies and increased marketplace appeal.

As designers, TLCD Architecture believes that it’s our responsibility to bring design and operational innovations and new thinking to our clients so they are well informed as they make decisions that shape the future of healthcare.

For more information visit these resources.

Integrated Behavioral Health Project

Behavioral Healthcare

Article: More ACOs Look to Behavioral Health

World Health Organization

Report: Integrating mental health into primary care: a global perspective 

tlcd architecture, healthcare design, integrating primary cary and mental health, jason brabo, design competition, outdoor plaza, food trucks, kid play areas, indoor outdoor stair

PRAXIS: practical application of a theory

What is your work environment like? Does it motivate and energize you? Well it should! Each workplace has an optimum environment in which to achieve maximum functionality and purpose. As architects we are often called upon to understand and develop what this might be. Most of the time this moment in the design process is called programming, but there’s an even more important stage prior to that. Analysis! Developing a strong base of information can begin to inform designers beyond the norm and make something really unique for a client (or ourselves). This process of investigation, research and critical thought allows us to map information from all influences of a project.

Reflection is another key piece of our design process. We gather all the findings from the analysis stage and move to graphic representations as tools for idea generation and critique. For instance, the Praxis infographic below breaks down one idea to it’s simplest form by graphically telling a story. In this example, “the way we work” was a key element for developing the design of our firm’s new office. Rather than just laying out how many people and offices get implemented into a floor plate, we dove into our office culture. We really wanted to understand what would empower our designers and staff. Read on after the graphic…

tlcd architecture, design process, work environment, office design, renderings, visualization, infographicAt TLCD Architecture’s new office, which is currently in design, we are consciously surrounding ourselves with our work – a sort of demonstration space to show what we are doing at any given time. You may visit one day and see a process of design happening right in front of you… creating spontaneous interactions between people across multiple projects. Design feeds off of strong studio cultures, and to strengthen ours, we are embracing the process of design and implementing it even further into our own space.

The practice of architecture and designing space for people is an amazing experience that TLCD gets to participate in everyday. We thought our own office space should share this process and not hide it. As we move to the next phase of design, we will begin to activate the space through the use of models, renderings and other visualization techniques. Recently, our staff got together to see what the new office space could look like using a new iPhone app and a simple cardboard box.

The built environment is in constant evolution and it’s a very exciting time for architecture and technology. Having the right team to take you to new levels means that we have to constantly be able to adapt, evolve and learn from each other. Our team thrives off the mutual respect, creative energy and ideas we can generate together. We can’t wait to show you what this looks like at TLCD’s new office, but more importantly to put it into action for our clients. Stay tuned!

Revit Virtual Reality…What?!

Nick Diggins, Associate AIA

Recently, Carl, Phil and I watched a webinar about cloud rendering in Revit. I had seen this process emerge some months back and Carl and I briefly took a look at it. However, we quickly discovered a major drawback of not being able to use custom textures in the cloud. Out of the box texture mapping usually results in less than adequate representation of your design. Well guess what… you now can incorporate as many custom textures and material assets as you’d like!

Revit has been one of the slowest rendering engines out there, but I’ve always been impressed with its capabilities when it came to doing interior rendering for a native program. Time is a major factor in our business, and slow is a “no go”. A 12-20 hour rendering is not an uncommon thing with geometry heavy models, even with a render farm. Now with cloud rendering, we can send multiple views and let the magic and speed of the cloud to do its thing, while we keep working. An important thing to note is that renderings are vital for developing and sharing designs. Architects want to get their clients “into” the design, and a rendering can be great at starting to describe the space. Here’s the cool part, with Autodesk’s Cloud Rendering we are able to literally put the viewer in the space. It’s called stereo panorama (more about it here) and it’s transforming the way we use Revit with new levels of workflow for developing and sharing designs on the fly, not only with clients, but with each other.

Discussing Virtual Reality and GoggleI decided to give it a go and developed several views of 3d panoramas of a current office interior design. I had less than 6 hours for developing the scene materials, lighting and final render time, and little room for production time. I was able to fire off multiple draft renders during the process and keep working the scene similar to our backburner setup for 3dsmax. This was during normal work hours though so backburner was unavailable. Normally this type of work would have been rendered over a weekend but that was not the goal of the exercise. Once I had the developed views uploaded in the cloud, I had Autodesk sprinkle some magic over the top of them. Here’s where we take it up a few more notches, by pairing Cloud Rendering with a couple of iphones and pieces of cardboard, suddenly we were immersing the whole office into the design. You can stand and look all the way around you, with total freedom – and with your body rather than a computer mouse. Amazing!

“Holy %&$#” was the phrase we heard from most of the office as first time viewers stood up to put on the goggles. It’s an amazing experience to witness the effect of going from sharing a 2D floor plan to actually putting people in the space. We are very excited  for this new design horizon and you can bet TLCD Architecture is going to keep pushing it’s abilities and usability. We look forward to what Autodesk might throw our way in the near future…3D walkthroughs maybe? Who knows, but TLCD is ready and excited for what might be brewing.

Rapid Prototyping: Captured on Video

This was the perfect project to take a test drive of Autodesk’s Dynamo for Revit and see what we could do.  Dynamo is a new, exciting, visual programming software that is similar to Grasshopper for Rhino.  We are actively beginning our exploration into computational design, and have already begun to see its benefits as we integrate Dynamo into TLCD’s BIM design process.  In this quick exercise we were able to quickly develop eight different iterations from our design. Don’t miss the video and take a peek of us creating an addicting, generative design solution to share and discuss with the entire office and friends!

Check out an earlier blog post from December that started this conversation.  Rapid Prototyping: Exploring Multiple Design Options

 

Rapid Prototyping: Exploring Multiple Design Options

One year ago TLCD Architecture purchased an Universal LS 6.60 laser-cutting machine. This amazing piece of equipment can cut and etch wood, cardboard, plastic and metal with precision cuts to 3/1,000 of an inch. We are still exploring all the options of what this technology can do.

The laser cutter is being used primarily for producing architectural models. It can take digital files and make incredibly precise cuts at a small scale. Something very difficult to do with an X-Acto knife… and with fewer sliced fingertips!

We are currently exploring the ability to do rapid prototyping, which means we can easily explore multiple design options in model form very quickly. This process took many hours of hand cutting in the past and rarely produced more than one option.

This last week Nick Diggins and Carl Servais from our office experimented with a new workflow made possible by the Dynamo scripting software now available within the Revit modeling software that is our mainstay architectural design tool. They created eight different versions of a complex perforated 3-D form for centerpieces for our holiday party at DeTurk Round Barn. With the scripting software, Revit output can be prepared for the laser cutter quickly and design options created and manufactured with the laser-cutter.

One exciting possibility is that the models can be scaled up and architectural designs can be fabricated at large scale with CNC Routing machines for wood and softer materials, and plasma cutters for metal and other more durable materials. Forms that were nearly impossible to conceive of or too expensive to fabricate by hand are now easily accessible. The possibilities are endless!

Watch the video we produced on our GoPro of this fabrication process. Rapid Prototyping: Captured on Video

Keeping up with Architectural Fabrication Techniques

Architectural fabrication, computerized router, CNC router, Gus Dering, Sonoma Country Pine, TLCD Architecture tour
Selexx Chief CNC Router at Sonoma Country Pine

Alan Butler AIA

As architects, it’s critical to keep up with new materials and emerging fabrication techniques. The materials we use, the way they go together and their application in buildings is constantly changing. In an effort to better understand the potential of new fabrication tools, TLCD Architecture purchased a laser cutter at the beginning of 2014. Small, but powerful and precise, it’s an incredible tool for making mockups and architectural models. We can cut wood, plastics and paper up to ½” thick and and to a maximum size of 18”x 24”. We are now able to quickly produce models and look at various design options very quickly versus the time consuming process of hand cutting mat board with a utility knife. Recently, we’ve been experimenting with designs for screen elements at our new office in the Museum on the Square building in downtown Santa Rosa. We’ve been producing some beautiful prototypes of the screens, but the question arises… how do we make the full size version?

So as any curious design firm would do, we set out exploring. Last week, Nick Diggins and I visited Gus Dering’s cabinet shop in Cotati to see a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Router in action. The shop is called Sonoma Country Pine, but we didn’t see any cabinetmakers with hand planes making colonial style cabinets. Rather we saw the Selexx Chief CNC Router in action. This machine has an eight bit rotating tool head that can cut, drill and route all the parts for a cabinet body in a matter of minutes. The machine holds the plywood in place with the suction of two vacuum pumps, through a sacrificial layer of low density fiberboard. With incredible precision it can cut all the parts to tolerances of thousandths of an inch. Because of the sophisticated programming there is little waste, sometimes only the sawdust from the router bit! The machine is so precise, it can produce “miter folded” applications leaving the last 3/1000th of the veneer face in tack, so plywood sheets can be folded with seamless corners. With the CNC Router, Gus produces cabinet parts for his own shop and several others.

A few days prior, Nick Diggins and TLCD Principal, Don Tomasi visited the shop of Klaus Rappensberger, a Sonoma County sculptor and craftsman. They discussed the option of making screens from sheet steel and cutting the screen patterns with a water jet cutter. We are now considering what we can produce in-house with our laser cutter, or possible options with these other digital technologies. The possibilities and potential are endless. The more we understand, the more we can do.

 

The Emergency Department – Considerations for Innovative and Strategic Design

Kaiser Permanente, TLCD Architecture, Emergency Department Design, The Center for Healthcare Design
Kaiser Santa Rosa Emergency Department, completed 2010

By Julie Wycoff

I recently had the pleasure of attending a conference focused on Emergency Department design hosted by The Center for Healthcare Design and held at the AIA San FranciscoTLCD Architecture is a corporate affiliate of the CHC which gives us access to a wide array of seminars, webinars and conferences related to healthcare design. The topics presented at the ED Design Conference delved deeply into the current thinking of how Emergency Departments are designed and organized with an eye to better addressing long wait times, delivery of care, and responding to an ever-changing healthcare environment. The presenters were a mix of healthcare providers and designers specializing in Emergency Department design.

Over the course of the discussions, some key themes emerged:

  1. Eliminate Triage

Triage based intake practices are outdated and increase wait times and create backlogs. More and more EDs are going to “Split Flow” patient intake and rapid treatment methods whereby patients are seen immediately and are either treated in a low acuity area or are sent to an ED treatment room. Patients never return to the waiting area, but are constantly kept moving through their care.

  1. Design for Flexibility

Emergency Departments must be designed so that they can respond to all types of patients and all types of events. Rather than designing highly specific treatment rooms, all rooms should be of a universal design that can accept any patient at any time.

  1. Evaluate the Problem

The answer to the problem of overcrowding and long wait times isn’t necessarily adding more treatment rooms or space. Often a thorough evaluation of staffing and patient intake patterns can lead to changes that do not require costly changes to the physical environment.

The Emergency Department is increasingly the primary healthcare access point for many in this country not only for trauma patients but for those with chronic conditions to the mentally ill. As such, EDs must be able to rapidly adapt to these types of patients in addition to everything from an infectious disease outbreak to a natural disaster. Designers and providers can work together to create spaces that can effectively deliver care, provide an organized work environment for staff, and a safe, healing space for patients. Knowing the needs of Emergency Departments and the challenges they face allows TLCD to help our healthcare clients plan their Emergency Departments for the present and future.

Project-Based Learning: The Catalyst for New STEM Buildings

trinity university, project based learning, STEM buildings, science, technology, math, engineering
Entry plaza to The Center for Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University

By Alan Butler AIA, LEED AP

Project-based learning is at the forefront of teaching in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) disciplines in both K-12 and Higher Education. A new generation of innovative science buildings are being designed that support this new active learning pedagogy. 

This past week I attended a conference in San Antonio, Texas on creating STEM buildings for Higher Education institutions. We heard from faculty, architects and educational thinkers about the evolution of science education and laboratory design and toured the new Center for the Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University. Their new STEM building embodied many of the concepts we explored together during interactive conference sessions.

What are the hallmarks of a 21st century science teaching facility? Foremost they are about active and project-based learning. These are environments where students become agents of their own learning and work both collaboratively and individually to solve real world problems. The buildings are transparent and accommodating, making science visible and blurring the boundaries between the laboratory and the classroom. With plenty of “soft spaces” they become a magnet for students and build a supportive community of science learners. 

At the Center for The Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University we saw labs with floor to ceiling glass, making the activity of the labs less mysterious and immensely inviting. On every floor, formal and informal study spaces were full of science (and non-science) students who inhabit the building almost around the clock. Write up spaces, separate but housed within the labs, become the places where, it was pointed out, all the data from the labs is transformed into learning. These are also spaces where students can study, collaborate and meet with faculty.

While the entire building is a beacon, reaching out to the greater campus community, the highlight of the facility is the Innovation Studio, a multi-modal maker space surrounded by shops, computer design labs and meeting spaces. The Innovation Studio, which is part of the Engineering Department, reaches out to all the sciences and the greater campus as a place for students to make their projects real. This facility will have strong links to the Business and Entrepreneurship programs within the University.

Link to expanded White Paper…

 

Rainwater Harvesting; What’s the Payback?

rainwater harvesting, tanks, drought
Two Slimline tanks that will hold 1,060 Gallons of rainwater.

By Alan Butler AIA

This weekend I installed a thousand gallons of rainwater storage tanks in my side yard. I found some very nice Bushman Slimline tanks that are only 25” wide, fit neatly in my side yard, and still allow me to get by with the trashcans and the wheelbarrow. They collect roughly half of the water from my roof, and with a thousand square feet of roof area I can fill the tanks with 1 3/4 “ of rain.  They were a fair amount of work to move around – weighing nearly 300 pounds apiece and being seven feet long and six and a half feet tall, it was a real trick for three of us to unload them. Once we pushed the tanks into place, I installed piping that led from the gutters to the tanks. With piping complete and a light rain on Sunday, I finally heard the satisfying sound of the rainwater flowing into the tanks.

While installing the tanks, one of my neighbors walked by and we started talking about the concept of payback. As with my home, he installed photovoltaic panels on his roof a couple of years ago. He related the story of attending an informational meeting about solar panels just before he put in his system. One member of the audience kept asking: “But what’s the payback?.” He related to me that while a friend of his bought a new Mercedes for $50,000 that same year, he bought a new Prius and his solar panel system. Nobody asked his friend what the payback was on his new Mercedes!  My neighbor’s electric bills have dropped dramatically and in approximately seven to ten years the system will have paid for itself. He said even with economic facts in play, it was equally or more important for him to do the right thing. I won’t go into the whole argument about renewable energy, carbon dioxide and our current unsettled weather.

I looked at my utility bill for the first time in detail on Sunday evening.  I found that our household uses three to five thousand gallons a month during a normal rainy winter and an astonishing twenty-five thousand gallons a month during the warmest part of the year. A thousand gallons of water probably costs only $15 when you look at all the flat fees and related sewer charges.  If we have a really rainy spring and I’m diligent about using my harvested rainwater, my payback for the tanks might be fifteen rather than thirty years. Not a really compelling economic argument but…

I’ve already become a more conscientious consumer as the result of reading my bills carefully for the first time. My bills will likely drop as result. If we have a severe drought and have to cut back or eliminate landscape watering, I’ll be able to keep my lemon trees and vegetable garden going this summer. Unlike the luxury car, it really will pay back in both economic and less tangible, but significant ways. I feel like I’ve made the right decision.  I’ll stick with my Toyota Hybrid too!

Healthcare Design Conference Highlights

http://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/sites/healthcaredesignmagazine.com/files/conference/2013-tours/T05--FH-Orlando-Neurosurgery-moveable-MRI-OR_700X522.jpg

The annual Healthcare Design Conference was held in Orlando Florida this year, and  is put on by the Healthcare Design Magazine and The Center for Health Design.  As an attendee of the four-day conference I came away with inspiration, information and invigoration. In addition to the exceptional facility tours, educational sessions, roundtable discussions and networking events, the keynote speakers stood out as the highlight of the conference.

Debra Levin (President and CEO of the Center for Health Design) provided inspiration in her opening address and reminded everyone that we are all working toward the common goal to improve healthcare delivery. The conference was full of chatter about the  Kid President video she showed during her address.

Thomas Goetz (former Executive Editor, Wired Magazine, and Author of The Decision Tree) talked about new ideas and technologies that can mitigate failure and optimize innovation in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare infrastructure. He touched on everything from data visualization to workplace workarounds, and emphasized the opportunity everyone in the healthcare profession has to apply design thinking to their day-to-day routine.

Michael Murphy (Executive Director and Co-Founder of MASS Design Group) was the recipient of the Changemaker Award, and shared his experience  working with the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, assisting with architectural solutions to mitigate and reduce the transmission of airborne diseases like tuberculosis.

Jake Poore (President and Chief Experience Officer, Integrated Loyalty Systems and former Disney Executive) closed the conference by sharing practical examples from a 20-year Disney veteran, who is now a “human architect” driven to elevate patient experiences, how patient-driven healthcare design links directly to patient satisfaction and, consequently, the success of the healthcare organization.

Having attended several of these conferences over the years, I find myself using the information and evidence based design resources I learn about in my day to day work on projects and in discussions with clients. TLCD Architecture is a Corporate Affiliate of The Center for Health Design, and I was thrilled to participate in a focus group discussion about next years conference being held in San Diego, CA. The 2014 Healthcare Design Conference will be in an amazing venue and full of relevent evidence-based design information and is well worth attending for professions related and associated with healthcare.

Urban Sketching in the Bay Area

By Alan Butler AIA

Last week I took a three day urban sketching and watercolor class in the East Bay. It was taught by Alameda architect David Savellano, http://davidsavellano.com. He was a great teacher and it exposed me to many new concepts and techniques for both sketching and using watercolor. I have a long way to go, but had a great time sketching at various waterfront locations in Oakland including the Jack London Square Farmer’s Market and along the Alameda Estuary.

The days following allowed me to do some experiments in watercolor in Alameda, San Francisco, and Stanford. Tuesday was a visit to the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park where I took some of the photos shown below, and later sketched on the band concourse. We saw the Richard Diebenkorn show at the DeYoung which I highly recommend. Diebenkorn is perhaps the most highly regarded California artist of the Abstract Expressionist period from the 50’s to the late 70’s. The show covers his Berkeley years in the mid fifties to the mid sixties. This is his most widely liked work and is much more realistically focused work involving figures and landscapes. His use of color and forms is very exciting.

All in all a great week in our own backyard of the Bay Area. Don’t miss the lights on the Oakland Bay bridge after dark!

 
 

Connecting with Today’s Digital Students

We are witnessing a major shift in the educational environment of the 21st century. Today’s students are plugged into a digital, global learning network. More than ever before, the way they learn is evolving and our education system must adapt to support this dynamic new future in our educational environments.

The young people of today are digital natives. They have grown up with constant access and interconnectivity to digital information resources. In contrast, most educators are digital immigrants, who are learning to adjust/adapt/modify their way of teaching to better reflect the realities of how students absorb information, communicate, and critically think about the subjects they are learning. The incorporation of online learning into this teaching methodology is vital.

Good school design not only supports the current learning needs, but also prepares for change and innovation in the future. It is anticipated that by 2019, 50% of all high school courses may be available online (1). Teachers already use sites such as YouTube to share lecture lessons with students outside of class. Students can learn where they are most comfortable and at their own pace, and have the opportunity to replay a lesson as often as needed to understand the content. This, in turn, opens up class time for interactive discussions and hands on practice of concepts covered in the online lectures. As a result, students and teachers gain more time for individualized tutoring and small collaborative learning groups.

This vision for a new learning methodology is resulting in an entirely different way of looking at classroom design. The rows of organized desks  facing a singular direction are no longer applicable. Having a dynamic classroom with space that can quickly transform from individual learning space to break out groups with easy access to technology is a must. Flexibility to accommodate for varying class sizes, access to fresh air and natural ventilation, and the use of the latest in acoustical and audio visual technology are critical to the design of a successful educational environment.

For nearly three decades personal computers have been used in classrooms, yet many of those classrooms look largely the same as they did 30 years ago. The future of educational environments incorporates computers, document cameras, smart boards, etc. in the core framework of the building design to create a holistic and fully interactive atmosphere for learning.

The learning activities observed in today’s classrooms significantly impact the way we design educational spaces. Administrators, faculty, and teachers are all vital contributors towards each successful project and we build lasting relationships that will provide the tools and resources needed to support a school’s educational program and prepare its students throughout their educational journey. As a design firm, we create inspirational learning environments, where teachers have the flexibility to transform a classroom in response to subject matter, class size, student needs, and teaching styles. Our projects support a school’s educational program while responding to the needs of the students.

(1) Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Clayton Christensen, Copyright 2008

John Dybczak AIA
K-12 Practice Leader

Revit Technology Conference 2012

Guy Messick, TLCD’s Director of Design Technology just got back from the North American Revit Technology Conference (RTC) near Atlanta, Georgia.  In keeping with TLCD’s goal of being one the of leading firms utilizing Building Information Modeling tools, this conference is essential.  RTC is a unique, independent conference, covering all things Revit / BIM and the whole ecosystem that supports it. This aids TLCD in the quest for a better, smarter process, and a stronger, more sustainable AEC environment.  Guy will be bringing the conference back by presenting at the next Redwood Empire Revit Users Group as well as in-house sessions.  If you are looking to raise your BIM/VDC game, check out the 2013 conferences.  By the way, check out the picture of those cute models of the cow and elephant, they were created entirely in Revit, and 3D printed from the models. [slideshow]

How 3D Printing Will Make U.S. Self-Sufficient

Informative video (see link below) of an interview by Forbes magazine of Autodesk’s Jeff Kowalski on how manufacturing will change in five years, in fact, it already has.  Note:  I discovered this via the Linkedin group “Revit Users”, where you can access high level discussions from around the world on not only Revit, but state of the art tech info for our industry.

http://video.forbes.com/fvn/future-tech/autodesk-on-3d-printing?partner=email

KA Connect 2011 – Talks Online

KA Connect is a knowledge and information management conference for the
AEC industry.  Thought leaders from all over the world come together San Francisco to share best practices, stories, and ideas about how they create, capture, and share knowledge in their firms.  This link:here will take you to the recorded talks from the 2011 conference – think TED for the AEC industry.

AIA IPD Case Studies

The AIA, AIA Minnesota & the School of Architecture – University of Minnesota released an interactive document last February featuring case studies on the use of Integrated Project Delivery with several different project types.  The document is interactive and has excellent structure & rigor.  See link below for AIA page with downloads:

http://www.aia.org/about/initiatives/AIAB087494

Ideas Worth Spreading

Biomimicry has been one of those buzz words in the architecture community for a while now. There are many different products on the market and also many buildings that claim to have been inspired by nature in some way, but I haven’t seen very many people using the concept on a larger, regional scale. This video is a short presentation by Michael Pawlyn about several concepts from nature that can be applied to architecture that could transform how our work impacts the environment. Pretty audacious, I know.  He tells an interesting story about a beetle in the desert who comes out at night in order to create condensation on its back.  The beetle’s shell is shaped so that it can pour the condensation directly into it’s mouth in the morning for a drink of life-sustaining water.  The beetle’s resourcefulness can be applied architecturally to help reverse desertification in Africa and other parts of the world.

The video is from the TED website, where they have a collection of short presentations about all kinds of interesting topics that are worth checking out. TED is a nonprofit that does conferences and other activities and, in their own words, they are “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading”

[ted id=1072]

High Performance Whitepaper

High Performance Mechanical Systems for Institutional Buildings

When it comes to “High Performance,” are you up to snuff on the best available tools?  In his latest whitepaper, Alan Butler– with the help of Mechanical Engineers Tony Costa (Cost Engineers, Inc.) and Mike Lucas (Alfa Tech)–has compiled a careful study of the best high performance mechanical systems for institutional buildings.  The research ranges from popular displacement ventilation systems to less well-known enthalpy wheels and geothermal systems.  To learn more about today’s energy efficient systems for your latest building or project, download the whitepaper here.

Gulf Oil Spill Update

I just wanted to post a quick update on the spill. Attached is a link to the current bird list, which is updated daily (Bird list).Things are going very well and the rehabilitation effort has been very successful.

There have been some interesting comments in the news lately about the validity of rehabilitation oiled birds.

This is a debate that always comes up, especially with a spill of this magnitude. The bottom line is that this is a man-made disaster and we are responsible for the clean up and the restoration of the damage we have done to the environment. No matter the cost.

The comment this time was made by Brian Sharp, an ornithologist who has a private consulting firm in Oregon, in an interview with NPR.  His infamous 1996 report “Post Release Survival of Oiled, Cleaned Seabirds in North America” Ibis. Vol. 138:222-228

Sharp says he believes many of the cleaned birds will simply not survive after being released back to the wild. That’s because in the wake of the Exxon Valdez accident, he looked at several species of seabirds affected by oil to see how long they lived after being washed and banded with ID tags.

Based on tags that were later found, Sharp says the majority of rehabilitated birds didn’t last long after being released — just days, or weeks.

“When they’re released, they’re still incapacitated,” he says. “They’re still sick.”

The birds hadn’t been just covered in oil — they’d ingested it as they tried to preen. Sharp says he does understand how agonizing it is to see the suffering of oiled birds, and he thinks that if people want to try to clean them, that’s their choice.

“Just so that they don’t deceive themselves and the public that they’re really having great, grand results and saving lots and lots, a high proportion of the birds,” Sharp says. “Because it’s just the opposite.”

IBRRC’s response:

“The study relies on anecdotal band returns (meaning there is no daily tracking method for individuals released and no control groups observed.) These surveys are misleading because they fail to consider some important variables: the protocols used to care for the birds in question, the experience of the organization caring for the oiled birds and basic things like how the bird’s health and water proofing were assessed prior to release.” – Jay Holcomb

We have come a long way since the Exxon Valdez accident. The reality is that every spill is different and they need to be treated as such. Every species effected in a spill has different requirements and because of this we deal with every species differently. For Brian Sharp to say that rehabilitation doesn’t work is both ignorant and irresponsible.

If you are interested in learning more check out Post release survival of oil affected sea birds on IBRRC’s blog!

Professor William J. Mitchell, pioneer of urban computing, RIP

Prof. Mitchell’s work has had, and still does, a significant influence on how I approach the intersection of art, design and digital work.  A quote below from Revit Factory veteran David Conant:

The design community has lost a great thinker. One whose ideas provided foundations for the very work we are engaged in on a daily basis. Several of us on the Revit team were touched directly by Bill and his work as we started on the paths that lead us here. In the early day of Revit, we met with him several times to discuss the feasibility of our effort. He was most encouraging. As he moved on, he never lost that clarity that allowed him to be thinking 10 years ahead of the tools and paradigms used in practice. Bill’s passing will be a loss to all who are involved in the community of design.

What are Plug Loads?

You may see this device plugged into workstations, copy machines and other office equipment in the next few weeks. It is one of three of these devices I have on loan from the PG&E Energy Center in San Francisco. It measures the kilowatt hours used by any electrical device and can calculate costs on an annual, monthly or weekly basis. I have become increasingly interested in “phantom loads”, all that power that is consumed while our office machines wait to be used.  For example the Resource Station by my office has a computer, monitor and two scanners and is almost always left on 24 hours a day. Last night in the fourteen hours it was on while nobody was in the office it drew 2.26 kilowatt hours. Doesn’t sound like much but in the 6,256 hours it is left on when nobody is in the office it uses $177 dollars worth of electricity each year. This is 938 KWH per year which would probably be equivalent of  a pretty high residential monthly power bill.

There are lots of emerging technologies that I hope we will use in the new office. Some are as simple as occupancy sensors attached to plug strips which shut off all non essential power if you leave your desk for a period of time. We are  using  this at the new Yuba Center in Clear Lake.  New building wide  systems, similar to what we are using for daylight controls in our more sophisticated buildings, can sweep off circuits after hours and are intelligent enough to know if someone is working in that part of the building.

In the meantime think about all those transformers and devices sucking power around the office. If you can turn off a printer or copier on the way out as well as your computer we’d be  all the better. We are the best occupancy sensor devices. I’ll be tallying up the frightening numbers and showing some of the control systems  coming to the fore in  a Wine Wednesday presentation in coming  months.

Inexpensive 3D Printing

For those of you that have been wondering how can we get even more use out of digital models, let me introduce you to inexpensive 3d printing.  Makerbot has developed a kit for the construction of a 3d cnc machine that features a polymer melting head and plastic feeder, or a 3d plastic printer for under $1,000. This pretty much allows you to print anything with in the printer size constraints (4x4x6 inches) in 3d and we could easily print 3d models of our projects.

The software and method of preparing a 3d model file is relatively simple by saving as an .stl file and then translating in to Gcode.  I used Gcode at MIT when I (and other members of a team) made a model for an injection molding machine (see the yo-yo on my desk). The size of the objects are limited to 4x4x6 by the kit but the printer could be modified to handle larger objects. The printer and software accordingly is all open source, so if you wanted to build all the pieces instead of buying the kit it is possible.

Below is a link to a video of someone printing the statue of liberty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MidPMCnJif8

The kits from MakerBot are currently sold out, they had a booth at the CES this week and people like me who drool over things like this must have bought them all up, but if anyone else is interested in buying/sharing a kit in the future let me know.

Title 24 Standards, by Martyn Dowd

Martyn Dodd of EnergySoft, LLC will discuss non-residential building envelope & lighting requirements affecting commercial new construction under California’s 2008 Title-24 Energy Efficiency Standards scheduled to take effect Jan 1, 2010. Attend this program to learn how the latest version of the Standards will affect building design in your commercial new construction projects. Mr. Dodd will highlight aspects of the Standards that are new for 2008.  Changes for 2008 are primarily aimed at further reducing peak electricity consumption, and incorporating greater energy efficiency measures.

Topics slated for discussion include:

  • Revised Envelope Insulation Requirements
  • Fenestration U-factors for Windows and Skylights
  • Fenestration Solar Heat Gain Coefficients (SHGC) for Windows and Skylights
  • Prescriptive limitations on glazing area
  • New Cool Roof requirements
  • New mandatory Skylight requirements
  • Changes to allowed lighting in commercial buildings

3Form Wood, Wins ID Mags Best Bldg. Product

What is 3form Wood? It’s an architectural decorative panel consisting of a thin wood veneer, perforated in different patterns, encapsulated in their trademark ‘ecoresin’ (40% pre-consumer recycled content).

Why is it cool? The razor-thin veneer allows light to penetrate through, creating the potential for a beautiful glow. There are several nice crisp perf. designs, not one of which I would immediately shrug off. Good job 3form! PLUS you can do custom. Yah, I don’ t want to know how much that costs.

Speaking of… how much does it cost? The wood varies widely in cost depending on pattern and also thickness. For example at 1/8inch it starts at about $1100 per 4×8 panel and at 1inch (which is rarely ordered) it is approximately $2000. If we lazer cut it adds $300 per sheet.  (1/2inch $1500)

Specs: 48″x96″ panels, available in the following gauges: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″. Wood species available: bamboo, rosewood, walnut, white oak, zebrano slip match, zebrano chevron.

How can I get my hands on some? We have a few samples on hand. Check them out in the Martini Lounge. Let me know if you want to contact our Rep.

More info: http://www.3-form.com/materials-varia-wood.php

Side note: we’re using something similar from Veritas on Minnie Cannon Elementary. Check it out here. Scroll down to ‘wood’ on the interlayer tab.

Accessibility… It Takes “Tolerance”

You know the drill.

Friday afternoon around 4pm… the general contractor for the new college student services building phones you and says the IOR is being unreasonable and is demanding that the newly installed water closet in the accessible toilet compartment be removed and completely reworked. Why? The IOR measured the clearance between the ceramic wall tile and the centerline of the water closet and it came out to 17-1/2″… 1/2″ short of the code required dimension of 18″. Is the IOR correct? Is the dimension finite?

Please take a few minutes to read the DSA Interpretation of Regulations document IR 11B-8, “Use of Predetermined Construction Tolerance Guidelines for Accessibility” to see what their take on the issue is. Understanding the rules makes the design and documentation process easier.

http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/pubs/IR_11B-8_11-19-09.pdf

Find "Elmo" the naughty ADA clearance elf

Possible new client for the TLCD Healthcare Studio

Is this the future of healthcare? If it is someone will need to design these mobile clinics.

Challenges: Create a solar-powered, light weight, camel friendly design.

“Kenya’s camels recently started sporting some unusual apparel: eco-friendly refrigerators! Some of the African country’s camels are carrying the solar-powered mini fridges on their backs as part of a test project that uses camels as mobile health clinics. Organizers hope the eco-friendly transport system will provide a cheap, reliable way of getting much-needed medicines and vaccines to rural communities in Kenya and Ethiopia.”-inhabitant

Necessity is truly the mother of invention. This is a great, check it out!

Interesting news regarding drywall

Drywall hydrogen sulfide off gassing problem.

There has been some interesting information related drywall in the news lately.  The focus has been on the off gassing of hydrogen sulfide, which has been potentially linked to property damage and health concerns. Of particular note is the damage being associated between the hydrogen sulfide and electrical wires and metal corrosion.  This issue has developed to a point the CPSC has been involved and issued a report on the matter.  To avoid making this post too long I have linked two articles on the issue. The WSJ article also has a link to the actual CPSC report (it’s a fun read) and the second article is related to potential issues with domestic drywall.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125899409382460761.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLTopStories

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/23/cbsnews_investigates/main5752469.shtml

Adura Technologies for Office Lighting Energy Savings

Here is an interesting lighting system that can be easily retrofitted into existing lighting systems. Like may of the new systems out there it gives users more control over the lighting in the area they are working. This system gives users three options for control. They can control wireless radios that plug into florescent light fixtures through their PC, dual motion sensing-personal control system and wall switches. The system also allows you to see how much energy/carbon you are saving. It’s pretty cool!
http://greentechnolog.com/2009/11/new_technology_for_office_lighting_energy_savings.html

Theo Jansen creates new creatures

TED does it again! Where do they find these people? I was totally blown away by this TED presentation and thought I should share. Some people are really thinking outside the box, way outside. Theo Jansen has created these life forms out of “household” materials, the amazing thing is is that they get all their energy from the wind. There are no electronics in any of his designs.
http://www.ted.com/talks/theo_jansen_creates_new_creatures.html
Enjoy

Visit to PG&E Pacific Energy Center

Last Friday (Nov. 6th) several members of the High Performance Steering Committee (AKA those people who keep trying to make everything green) along with Nate traveled into the San Francisco to visit the PG&E Pacific Energy Center.  For those of you who could not join us this post will try to summarize what we learned. 

Of significant note was the presence of TLCD models at the facility as demonstration for the Heliodon and to a lesser extent the artificial sky.  In fact the Mendocino LLRC model has even made it into the PGE video displays in the lobby and on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prTjX-aCGus 

In addition to showing off our own work the PG&E Pacific Energy Center offers us the opportunity to use the Heliodon, Artificial Sky and a significant library of the additional design and measurement tools, free of charge.  The other tools include digital sun path finder, luminance meters, various data logging equipment used for temperature, humidity, light levels, and power usage.  All of these tools can provide vital information useful in all stages of design and I encourage everyone to investigate their use at any stage of design (ask if you have quesiton about something). While it probably doesn’t suit the format of this media I will not go into in-depth description of each of the tools available however if there is interest please let me know and I can create other posts dedicated to various tool. If you would like to see the tools available the list is posted here.  http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/edusafety/training/pec/toolbox/tll/    And if I didnt mention it enough the use of these tools is free, they will even ship them to us for use (we have to pay for the shipping back). 

What is also of interest to us that the Pacific Energy Center offers is help with the processing and determining of various rebates and incentives for owners and designers.  Understand opportunities to save money for clients or ourselves using these rebates is a key issue that we touched on the visit.  There are specific incentives for just about any form, shape or color of design and construction many of which could be applied to our projects.  For more on incentive programs in visit :

http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/energysavingsrebates/rebatesincentives/inc/index.shtml (general)

http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/energysavingsrebates/incentivesbyindustry/  (industry based incentives, Healthcare, Education, etc)

One of the programs which many people know about but may not take advantage of is the ‘Savings by Design’ program.  This program offers incentives on design that out performs T24, these incentives can result in incentive for both the client and directly for the designer when reaching appropriate goals.  From our discussions at PGE there is no penalty for signing up for the program and not meeting the incentive goals (just lost energy and financial incentives), so this seems like something every project we do could be part of. The only catch is it the application needs to occur early in the design phases and it requires some paperwork.  For more information see http://www.savingsbydesign.com/ 

The trip also served to enlighten us as to the wondrously wierd world of regulation governing the PG&E and how decoupled revenue influences the incentives and rate we pay for energy.  Without going to far into the technicality of it all here are the basics,  the amount of money PG&E makes is not related to the amount of energy they sell to customers hence ‘decoupling.’  The amount of money they make is actually set at rate that will allow them to recover fixed cost-plus an approved profit.  If they create and sell too much  energy the money is taken back in the next cycle (via a rate reduction)or they are allowed to charge more in the next cycle (each cycle is 3 years).  Additionally there are incentives that come with targets for conservation which can add up to additional bonus.   I think everyone present found this little bit of information intriguing and if you want a better understanding of the whole process here is an article from the Atlantic which describes the system in more in-depth manner.  http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200910/california-energy

I am sure there is some information I am failing to mention about our trip but this post is getting a little long.  Alan, Nate or Vanessa feel free to jump in and let me know what I am forgetting.  Also rumor has it there will be a wine weds about this trip in the future so stay tuned. 

Below is a link to a Flickr account of our trip.

IMG_0286

High Performance Mechanical Systems for Higher Education

DSCF1369

According to the US Department of Energy, “Energy is one of the few expenses a school can reduce without sacrificing educational quality.” Alan Butler’s white paper, High Performance Mechanical Systems for Higher Education explores this notion by analyzing several different heating/cooling systems and their use in educational settings.

Case Study: High Performance