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7 new factors shaping hospital emergency departments

The era of unbearably long waits in cramped, impersonal emergency rooms may be drawing to a close. 

In response to the far-reaching requirements of the Affordable Care Act, cutthroat competition from a flood of new healthcare providers, and the demands of an increasingly discerning patient population, hospital systems are reformulating their emergency departments into more welcoming, more efficient environments.   

Solid spending increases projected for construction industry in 2015

The nonresidential building market was hamstrung by weather-related delays during the first part of the 2014, but conditions improved dramatically throughout the rest of the year to finish with greater than anticipated spending levels. The commercial construction sector is now looking at double-digit increases in 2015, led by vigorous levels of demand for hotels and office buildings. 

5 predictions for the multifamily sector in 2015

The growth in demand for multifamily housing has been nothing short of astounding over the past several years. And that demand is expected to keep growing in line with shifting lifestyles throughout America. 

But as the economy improves, will single-family homeownership once again regain its appeal, especially among younger, more mobile adults? And will pricing of luxury condos and apartments, which has been driving construction of late, reach a point of diminishing return sooner than later. 

Lego X by Gravity elevates the toy to a digital modeling kit

The people at London-based sketch and modeling studio Gravity have found a way to turn Lego blocks into a digital modeling kit.

With the Lego X system, users can transfer the forms they’ve created with Lego into real-time digital files, Dezeen reports. The system recognizes forms built with Lego building blocks, and using location-mapping and gyroscopic sensors, it plots the position and orientation of each block to create a digital 3D model.

5 crucial lessons from moving BIM/VDC workflows to the cloud

The AEC industry has made incredible advancements with parametric modeling during the past 25 years, but the BIM/VDC movement is still relatively in its infancy. Technology gaps, interoperability issues, antiquated project delivery methods, and liability concerns are among the barriers preventing the industry from achieving the full power of BIM/VDC tools on building projects.

When is a train station not a train station? When it’s a performance venue

Start with the train. Add something called “urban experience.” Turn it into a performance.

That was the thinking behind Target Field Station, which opened last May 17 in Minneapolis. The new light rail station connects the western terminus of the Metro Transit Green Line at Target Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, to its bookend 11 miles east at Union Station in St. Paul.

The 7,022-sf station, part of a 140,000-sf complex in the city’s ultra-hot North Loop, is the product of an intense design competition held in late 2011.

Bjarke Ingels' BIG proposes canopied, vertical village for Middle East media company

A Middle Eastern media company—whose identity remains unreleased—held a competition for its new headquarters. Bjarke Ingels’ firm BIG has released designs of their submission, which designboom describes as a building that “will provide a framework for international broadcasting that simultaneously seeks to remain grounded within the region’s culture.”

Nonresidential construction spending expands in December 2014

Nonresidential construction spending expanded 0.4% on a monthly basis in December 2014, according to the Feb. 2 release from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Spending for the month totaled $627.1 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis, 5.9% higher than December 2013. The government also upwardly revised November's spending estimate from $617 billion to $624.8 billion and October's figure from $623 billion to $627.4 billion.

Architects look to ‘activate’ vacant block in San Diego with shipping container-based park

A team of alumni from the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego has taken over a 28,500-sf empty city block in that metro to create what they hope will be a revenue-generating urban park that, when it opens on March 5, includes food service, retail, performance and meeting spaces, and a dog park.

Tacoma Art Museum's new wing features sun screens that operate like railroad box car doors

The new Haub Family Galleries at the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), designed by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, opened to the public last week. The galleries, together with a new entry plaza, mark the firm's first museum project and expand the museum’s existing Antoine Predock-designed structure by 16,000 sf.

BIM for safety: How to use BIM/VDC tools to prevent injuries on the job site

In early 2008, as a storm approached northern Michigan, a 19-year-old construction worker raced to the rooftop of a multifamily building to clear the area of construction debris. Unaware that a metal roof curb—which was not secured or labeled—was covering a make-up air shaft, the worker tried to move the curb onto a stack of plywood. He fell through the roof opening 69 feet to his death.

Gensler proposes network of cycle highways in London’s unused underground

Architects from Gensler have released renderings of their plan to turn unused networks of the London Underground into “a stylish new subterranean route for pedestrians and cyclists,” CNN reports.

Renderings of the project, named London Underline, were created as a submission for the London Planning Awards. The plan includes using excess space underground for cultural and retail projects.

California launches pilot program to finance multifamily retrofits for energy efficiency

The Obama Administration and the state of California are teaming with the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation on a pilot program whose goal is to unlock Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for multifamily housing.

PACE programs provide money to accelerate renewable energy and efficiency retrofits for energy and water in multifamily housing, with the intention of making that housing more affordable for low-income renters.

USGBC concerned about developers using LEED registration in marketing

LEED administrators are concerned about a small group of developers or project owners who tout their projects as “LEED pre-certified” and then fail to follow through with certification.

A report by The New England Center for Investigative Reporting cites a bronze wall plaque in the lobby of a 500,000 sf Massachusetts office building featuring a USGBC logo. The building has hallway posters highlighting the building’s green features with the logo “LEED Gold pre-certified.”

Penn strengthens campus security by reviving its surrounding neighborhood

In 1996, the University of Pennsylvania’s sprawling campus in Philadelphia was in the grip of an unprecedented crime wave.

While other universities chose to wall themselves off from their surrounding neighborhoods, Penn’s administrators, led by then-President Judith Rodin, decided that such a strategy wouldn’t work for their 280-acre campus. “The notion back then was, ‘If West Philly goes down, Penn would go down with it,’” says University Architect David Hollenberg, AIA.

Pumped-up recreation centers help build body, mind, and spirit

Sports and recreation used to be confined to dedicated, often isolated, settings. That’s no longer the case. Adopting facility layouts from Asian and European models, today’s sports and recreational buildings are becoming social hubs that accommodate a variety of community needs, whether in a city center, on a college campus, or at a suburban recreational complex.

The importance of quiet and the consequences of distraction

I’ve got to admit: There are days when I wish I could lower the “cone of silence” and get some work done in the office.

It’s not that I don’t like conversing with my neighbors or enjoy our open office design, but there are times when the bouquet of interesting distractions around me make it difficult to stay in a groove and crank out some complex analysis. As a workplace design practitioner, I know I’m not alone in my community of office dwellers whose strong need to control acoustic and visual privacy is a priority.

Edmonton considering 'freezeway' to embrace winter

When cities such as Edmonton, Canada, are below freezing for the majority of the year, it's hard to want to embrace the cold and snow. However, landscape architecture student Matthew Gibbs and city council members are considering a way to encourage residents to enjoy the cold rather than try to hide from it. According to BBC, the city is pondering the idea of a "Freezeway" and may launch a pilot project as early as next winter.

Bjarke Ingels designs geodesic dome for energy production, community use

Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG) was tapped by the city of Uppsala, Sweden, to design a geodesic dome that will use biomass cogeneration to generate heat and electricity during winter months. According to Gizmodo, cogeneration burns biomass to produce energy and has recently grown in popularity in Europe and the U.S. due to its efficiency in generation energy.

D.C.'s Dunbar High School is world's highest-scoring LEED school, earns 91% of base credits

Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., has been certified LEED Platinum, the highest distinction, by the U.S. Green Building Council. Designed Perkins Eastman in association with Moody•Nolan, the 280,000-sf school achieved 91 points, out of 100 base points possible for LEED, making it the highest-scoring school in the world certified under USGBC’s LEED for Schools-New Construction system. The new school building welcomed its first students in 2013.

Construction funding still scarce for many school districts

Financing for school construction depends primarily on local bond referenda, so it’s difficult to make a blanket statement about national trends. However, Paul Abramson, Education Market Analyst for the School Planning & Management magazine, has estimated that school spending for project completions of construction, additions, and renovations hit $14.1 billion in 2014, or 5.4% more than the previous year.

Charlotte, N.C., considers rule for gender-neutral public bathrooms

Charlotte, N.C., will consider a local building code regulation that requires all new commercial construction to include at least one gender-free, single-stall bathroom, according to the Charlotte Observer.

These accommodations would be available to transgender people and anybody else. The proposal is a compromise on another plan that would allow transgender people to use either the women’s or men’s room—whichever they feel most comfortable using.

A giant, silver loop in Dubai will house the Museum of the Future

The Sheikh of Dubai announced that construction will soon start for the Museum of the Future, the Creators Project reports.

Though details of the project’s size have not yet been released, renderings circulating online show it will be shaped like a horizontal oblong with a hollow middle. The Verge compares it to a “lopsided torus,” or an “aerodynamic donut.” 

Multifamily construction has been a boon to L.A.’s economy

In its latest Supply and Demand Outlook for the Los Angeles Apartment Market, the real estate brokerage and research firm Marcus & Millichap stated that L.A. “is in the midst of the largest housing boom in decades, as developers rush to complete projects in the county.”

Last year, 10,200 rental apartments came online in Los Angeles, and another 8,500 could be added in 2015.

Building tech breakthrough: Vacuum insulated panels keep University of Alaska students cozy in sub-zero temps

When the temperature dips to 45 F below zero, students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) are accustomed to eating their lunch seated far from drafty windows. But thanks to a recent addition on campus, they don’t have to.

Innovations in curtain wall technology now allow students in the new UAF Wood Center student union dining hall to have a warm lunch by the window with natural daylight and views, supposing they can even find a seat in this now-popular snacking spot.

The High Line’s co-designer wins contract for The Underline in Miami

A local jury in Miami has selected New York-based architectural firm James Corner Field Operations to design the master plan for The Underline bike route and lineal park.

The vision for The Underline is a 10-mile urban trail and park that would replace the underutilized M-Path, a bike path under the Metrorail tracks, from the Dadeland South Station to Brickell Station, and extend to the Miami River. It would connect communities, improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, create acres of new green space, and attract development along US 1.

Populous design wins competition for UK's most sustainable arena

Populous has been selected to design the new £90 million Bristol Arena. According to ArchDailythe firm was chosen over Grimshaw, IDOM, White Arkitekter, and Wilkinson Eyre. To realize its design, Populous is working with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Buro Happold.

The live-concert venue will seat an audience of 12,000, which the firm says will be masked by “the atmosphere and intimacy of a 4,000-seat amphitheatre.”

Drones for AEC: How every stage of a building project can benefit from drone technology

As a designer at SRG, I’m used to looking at the world from above, at least the part architects get to design. I often help create site plans using satellite photos; I work with plans that are a top down view of a building; and I enjoy constructing physical models of our projects that allow me to see the building from any angle in its context, mainly from above.

Multifamily for Millennials: Understanding what Gen Yers want in apartment design

Each generation is different than the preceding one, often in surprising ways. Unlike their parents and grandparents, Millennials, or Generation Y, are more comfortable paying rent rather than committing to a 15-30 year mortgage.

From 2006 through 2011, 25- to 34-year-olds experienced the largest decline in home ownership compared with any other age group, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Census Bureau data. Among households headed by 25- to 34-year-olds, renters increased by more than a million from 2006 to 2011, while the number who owned fell nearly 1.4 million.

Timber high-rise residential complex will tower over Stockholm waterfront

Swedish practice Tham & Videgård Arkitekter has released designs for high-rise residential blocks made out of timber that will tower over an unused transport harbor in Stockholm, Dezeen reports.

The firms say that the four 20-story apartment blocks, totalling 24,700 sm, will be made entirely out of Swedish pine, from frame to façade. 

Malaysia developer to break ground on mega resort in Las Vegas

Genting Berhad, a Malaysia-based developer, has received preliminary approval from city officials to start construction on Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4 billion project that will include 3,000 hotel rooms, 3,500 slot machines and game tables within a 175,000-sf casino, 30 food and beverage outlets, and a 4,000-seat theater, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Morphosis unveils plans for controversial high-rise hotel in tiny Alpine village

Vals is a village of roughly 1,000 people, nestled in the Alps in Switzerland. That might seem like a strange place to put a skyscraper. But don’t tell that to developer Remo Stoffel or local quarry entrepreneur Pius Truffer, who unveiled their plans to build an 80-story, 381-meter (1,250-foot) luxury hotel with 107 guest rooms and suites in this tiny rural community.

That height would make this hotel the tallest building in Europe, beating out 1,012-foot, 87-story Shard in London.

Passive House Institute launches ‘cost-effective’ passive building standard

PHIUS (Passive House Institute US) launched the new PHIUS+ 2015 passive building standard on March 25.

PHIUS says the building energy performance target is in the “sweet spot” where cost effectiveness overlaps with aggressive energy and carbon reduction. It promises to ignite tremendous growth in the application of passive building principles, the organization says.

Elevator shafts a major source of heat loss in New York City

New York City should focus on elevator shafts to improve the energy efficiency standards of its high-rise residences, according to a new report from the Urban Green Council.

A typical New York apartment building loses thousands of dollars worth of energy every year from leaky elevator shafts that vent warm air at the top of the building and draw in cold air at the bottom.

Q+A with Arthur Gensler, and advice from his new book

The Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) recently celebrated the opening of its new Gensler-designed facilities in lower Manhattan, AAP NYC. To celebrate, the school invited Cornell alum Arthur Gensler, founder of Gensler, to speak to students, alumni, and friends of Cornell, and offer insights from his newly-released book, "Art’s Principles."

Plans for a new condo tower in New York create a ‘communal ecosystem’ for residents

The conceptual plans for a 700-foot-tall, 65-story condominium tower in New York City were unveiled in early March by its architect, Perkins+Will.

The design for this 150,000-sf building, referred to as East 37th Street Residential Tower, debuted in Cannes, France, where it received the MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Award, in the Tall Buildings category, out of more than 2,400 submissions.

Facebook opens Gehry-designed headquarters: ‘The largest open floor plan in the world,’ says Zuckerberg

Employees have started moving into Facebook’s new headquarters, a 435,555-sf building in Menlo Park, Calif., whose famed architect Frank Gehry describes as “unassuming, matter-of-fact, and cost effective.”

Gehry says he and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, had been working on this project for more than three years. The building sits on 22 acres within Facebook’s complex, the former campus of Sun Microsystems that the social media giant acquired in February 2011. The new headquarters is the 20th building to be constructed on that campus, hence its nickname MK20.

Historic Cabrini Green church to be demolished for tech-focused multifamily development

The Cabrini Green neighborhood in Chicago’s Near North side has had a rough history. Back in the mid-19th century, Swedish and Irish immigrants constructed shanties in the area. The nearby gas refinery gave the neighborhood the nickname “Little Hell.”

The neighborhood's current name comes from the Federal Housing Agency's now demolished projects in the area. Though the neighborhood’s demographic makeup shifted drastically throughout the years, violence and poverty was a staple to the area.

Energy benchmarking law helps make D.C. top ranked Energy Star city

Washington, D.C. topped the annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ranking of U.S. cities with the most Energy Star buildings.

The nation’s capitol was propelled to the top spot by its new benchmarking law requiring large private buildings to measure and publicly report their energy and water performance using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager online tool. D.C. is the first city in the U.S. to adopt this law.

Georgia may ban use of LEED on state buildings

Georgia's state legislature is considering a measure to require all state buildings to only use green building standards that permit the use of Georgia's lumber.

If passed, the law would effectively ban the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED program, which only permits lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council on all state building projects.

Other sustainability programs certify forests in Georgia, but most are not certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Unique test facility will help make wind power more feasible

The U.S. Energy Department wants wind power to provide at least 20% of the nation’s energy needs by 2030, compared to 3.5% in 2013. Until recently, manufacturers have not been able to replicate on a sufficiently large scale the stress forces that offshore wind turbines must be able to endure.

In 2009, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy awarded $45 million—its largest single wind-power grant—to Clemson University to build a facility capable of full-scale, highly accelerated testing of the next generation of wind turbine drive-train technology.

How one team solved a tricky daylighting problem with BIM/VDC tools, iterative design

Picture this: it is an uncommonly clear December morning in Corvallis, Ore., and a student is working hard on a white paper in the new Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering Building at Oregon State University. His workspace is on the south side of the building and, therefore, the low winter sun is beaming onto his computer screen, making it difficult for him to work.

Construction begins on Goettsch Partners-designed Nanning China Resources Center Tower

Goettsch Partners (GP) announced the start of consturction on the 445-meter-tall mixed-use Nanning China Resources Center Tower. The tower is located in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Province, and is situated along Minzu Avenue in the heart of the city's Fengling District. 

The 255,000-sm tower is linked to public transportation through underground connections at the B1 level, and to adjacent buildings via indoor and outdoor pedestrian corridors at the ground and sixth floors, respectively.

Trends driving airport construction

American airports remain some of the busiest in the world, with nearly half of the world’s 30 busiest airports within the U.S. and domestic air travel at an all-time high of 743 million passengers taking flight in 2013. However, upgrades to aviation infrastructure have not kept pace with the increase in airport traffic or even at a level sufficient to accommodate the life cycle of our many dated terminal facilities. Until now.

Check out Ralph Johnson's stunning nature-inspired Shanghai museum

The Shanghai Natural History Museum, designed by Perkins+Will’s Global Design Director Ralph Johnson, houses a collection of more than 10,000 artifacts in a building designed with biomimicry—a design modeled on biological entities and processes.

The building is the museum’s new home after moving out of the 1920s-built Shanghai Cotton Exchange, where artifacts ranging from dinosaur remains to mummies from the Ming Dynasty had to share a space so small that no more than 1% of the museum’s entire collection could be displayed at a given time.

The construction industry isn't rushing to hop onto the cloud: study

The majority of construction companies currently aren't using cloud software, and fewer than two-fifths plan to move their takeoff, estimating, or project management functions onto the cloud within the next four years, according to a survey of estimators, executives, and project managers conducted by Houston-based On Center Software, which provides technology solutions to construction professionals.

Among the survey’s 921 respondents, 42% were estimators, 22% managers or chief estimators, 22% project managers, and 13% executives.

Designs for earthquake-resistant New Central Library in New Zealand unveiled

The Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects won the competition to design the New Central Library in Christchurch, New Zealand, which will replace the old building damaged by devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

According to Inhabitat, the new library will be earthquake-resistant and energy efficient. The design covers an area of 129,166 sf, nearly double the original building.

Self-piloting drone maps out construction sites in Pennsylvania

A company called Identified Technologies wants to make mapping a job site an easier task by using drones.

The company’s founder, Dick Zhang, says his product allows project managers, contractors, architects, and anyone else on the Building Team to send a quadcopter around the site and create a topographical map, DIY Drones reports.

The drone is completely autonomous, and batteries can be “hot-swapped” as it maps the area.

Hackathons and RFCs: Why one developer killed the RFP

Lisa Picard is tired of the RFP process. As a seasoned real estate developer currently heading up one of Seattle’s most exciting new developments, Skanska Commercial Development’s 2&U tower, Picard has spent countless hours sifting through proposals for architectural services—feeling unimpressed.

The issue isn’t the caliber of the firms, nor the quality of the proposals. The problem, says Picard, is the overly formal nature of the RFP process for evaluating key partners.

Megadeals drive mergers and acquisitions in engineering and construction industry: FMI report

The impact of large, transformational deals by integrated engineers and constructors (E&C) last year will spur continued M&A activity this year, as the largest firms use acquisitions to drive growth and enter new markets, according to the latest edition of FMI’s Mergers & Acquisitions Trends.

Salt Lake City on track to build first protected bicycle intersection in the U.S.

The first protected intersection for bicycling in the U.S. is on track to open in Salt Lake City this summer, Streets Blog USA reports.

Salt Lake City planners are using a template from towns and cities in the Netherlands, which minimizes potential conflicts between people cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. For example, cyclists can make a left turn in two stages without crossing against oncoming car traffic.

DTZ to acquire Cushman & Wakefield for $2 billion

DTZ, a leading global commercial real estate firm, has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Cushman & Wakefield from Exor for $2.04 billion. The merger would create a commercial real estate services company with over $5.5 billion in annual revenue, 43,000 employees, and more than 4 billion sf in its global real estate management portfolio.

The combined company intends to keep the Cushman & Wakefield name. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The museum of tomorrow: 8 things to know about cultural institutions in today’s society

Last year, Gensler London’s Education and Culture practice area hosted its first roundtable debate on "The Future of Museums." It explored how museums, galleries, and cultural intuitions are evolving to develop new ways of attracting and energizing visitors.

The discussion brought together a diverse range of delegates to stimulate a varied and, at some points, controversial debate into the challenges cultural institutions face. It also highlighted eight key themes cultural institutions should embrace in order to thrive in today’s society. They are:

Quick service restaurants evolving brand strategy to compete with fast casual: JLL report

There is a new secret sauce at quick service restaurants (QSRs), but according to JLL research, you won’t find it in the food. The fight for market share has led Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and other QSRs to adapt new development strategies to compete with fast-casual restaurants that are threatening fast food’s traditional heavyweights.

5 ingredients of successful mall design

When The Village at Westfield Topanga, a $350 million, 444,744-sf retail complex, opens in September, it will become the third shopping mall that developer Westfield has built at Warner Center in Century City, Calif.

The three malls—the other two being Topanga and Promenade—will have a total of 350 shops. The open-air Village will feature home-furnishing tenants, 15 restaurants, and a 146,000-sf Costco Wholesale as an anchor.

AIA design competition creates portable, temporary housing for the homeless

The American Institute of Architects Small Project Practitioners Knowledge Community held a design competition that asked architects and architecture students to design a descreet, compact, and efficienct shelter for the homeless. The goal of the competition, called "A Safe Place," was to develop a simple, safe, and secure place for an individual to sleep and secure their belongings.

Applying modern energy codes to building envelope retrofits [AIA course]

The model energy codes, in their various forms, have been at the forefront of the discussion regarding building design in recent years. These codes include the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which was first issued in 2000, and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, which dates back to 1974. Together, these model codes provide the basis for the state and local building codes that govern the required energy efficiency of newly constructed and altered buildings.

SHoP Architects unveils dual-glass-box scheme for Uber HQ

The ride-hailing startup Uber continues to grow, and, as the Huffington Post reports, the company wants an office to match its soon-to-be $50 billion value.

Renderings and photographs of the design’s models have been released online. Designed by New York-based SHoP Architects and Studio O+A in San Francisco, the office will be two glass structures linked by criss-crossing bridges hanging over a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard. 

The offices will be located near Uber’s current headquarters in the up-and-coming Mission Bay neighborhood.

Chicago’s 606 elevated park opens

After 10 years in the making, Curbed Chicago reports that the Bloomingdale Trail, also known as the 606, opened to the public last weekend.

The 2.7-mile stretch repurposes an abandoned elevated train track that snakes through Humboldt Park and Bucktown.

Funded partly with a $50 million federal grant, the project cost near $100 million.

To celebrate the opening of Chicago’s very own High-Line-inspired park, a ribbon cutting and art programs were scheduled last weekend. 

Diamond Schmitt Architects creates tool to compare energy use data across building types

Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects is taking a leadership role in the development of a sustainable design databank focused on energy-use reduction. The firm's new ecoMetrics tool allows for a comprehensive analysis of data from energy simulation models across a wide range of the company’s building types

First building-specific earthquake warning system installed in North Portland, Ore.

CoreFirst LLC, a producer of seismic retrofit systems for commercial and institutional buildings, has partnered with Vancouver, B.C.-based Weir-Jones Engineering Consultants to commercialize Weir-Jones’ ShakeAlarm earthquake early warning system (EEWS) in the U.S.

The first U.S. installation of ShakeAlarm was recently completed at the Radiator Building, a 36,000-sf, five-story, wood-framed office building located in a densely populated neighborhood in North Portland, Ore.


Fuel cell technology makes its way into energy generation

Fuel cells have emerged as a small but potentially significant piece of the world’s energy puzzle. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated worldwide fuel cell system sales in 2013 at $1.3 billion, the first time the billion-dollar mark had been topped. Stationary power systems with an aggregate capacity of 150 MW were shipped in 2013, a 24% increase over the previous year.

Why reality capture is essential for retrofits

Retrofits present a multitude of problems. One of the largest pain points is establishing an as-built condition. Older buildings are a hodgepodge of minor and sometimes major undocumented "improvements" that can alter the accuracy of the so called "as-built drawings." 

Even accurate drawings become inaccurate as the structure settles and materials begin to drift from the orthogonal perfection assumed in the drawings. It is fair to say that most as-built drawings do not represent the as-built conditions.

Arup report predicts future of manufacturing

Global engineering and design consultantcy Arup launched "Rethinking the Factory," a report exploring the emerging trends, processes, and technologies that are transforming the manufacturing landscape. The report examines how the introduction of new technologies such as 3D printing, self-cleaning and self-healing materials, human/robot collaboration will lead to faster, more efficient and environmentally friendly production.

Cornell Tech breaks ground on world's first Passive House residential high-rise

Cornell Tech announced last week that the first residential building on its Roosevelt Island campus, developed in partnership with the Hudson Companies, will become the first high-rise residential building in the world built to Passive House standards. Passive House (PH) is the strict international building standard that drastically reduces energy consumption while creating a healthier and more comfortable living environment for a fraction of residents’ usual energy costs.

How tech firms use real estate for competitive advantage

Just last month, online travel company Expedia announced that it will be moving its headquarters to Seattle from its current location across the water in Bellevue, WA. By 2018, the company plans to relocate its 3,000 employees in the region into a complex along Elliott Bay, formerly owned by biotech giant Amgen. Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi referred to the new location as “a magnet for top talent,” and ultimately sees the new Seattle address as a positive change for the goliath company.

Moreau Kusunoki's 'art in the city' scheme wins Guggenheim Helsinki design competition

It’s been a little more than a year since the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation launched an open, international competition for the design of a proposed Guggenheim in Helsinki, back on June 7, 2014. Today, the foundation announced that the winning design—selected from more than 1,700 entries—is the one by Parisian firm Moreau Kusunoki Architectes.

If film directors designed homes, what would they look like?

Illustrator and graphic designer Federico Babina imagined what architecture would look like if it was designed by famous film directors, and then transferred his designs from thought to paper (or digital pixels) in a collection titled Archidirector.

"Star Wars" creator George Lucas’ home looks like a futuristic, R2D2-esque robotic home, while Alfred Hitchcock’s home is depicted as an eerily botched midcentury edifice.

Why does an American city of 400,000 feel more compact than a European city of 2.4 million?

I have recently returned from a visit to Paris. I was lucky enough to find an inexpensive hotel one block from the Louvre in the heart of the downtown core. Never visiting Paris before, I was impressed by how much Paris had to offer in the way of pedestrian fare: cafes on every corner with the seats pointing toward the street; open paved squares; beautiful gardens; graveled areas for bocce ball and timber toss; quaint allées  and narrow streets with small-12 person restaurants bookended by tiny shops with cheeses, breads, meats, wines and other gastrological faire.

Construction spending, despite some slowing, stays on healthy growth path

The United States is on track to end this year with its highest level of construction put in place since 2008, a total that, if achieved, would represent nearly 7% of the country’s GDP.

However, construction has slowed of late, according to FMI Corporation, the management and investment consultant. In its Q2 Construction Outlook, FMI estimates construction in place this year would rise 5% to $1.012 trillion. In the first quarter, FMI had projected an 8% annualized gain.

Getty Foundation announces second series of ‘Keeping It Modern’ grants to conserve 20th century architecture

The Getty Foundation announced a second series of grants for exemplary 20th century buildings as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative.

The latest grants for 14 projects in eight countries extend the program’s reach to new regions, ranging from Brazil to India. Each project is a model that reinforces the initiative’s focus on the conservation of modern architecture around the world.

Arcadis report: Errors and omissions in contract documents leading cause of disputes in North America

For the second consecutive year, the leading cause of construction contract disputes in North America was errors and/or omissions in contract documents. And while the value of disputes fell by nearly 14% in 2014, the time it took to resolve them lengthened substantially last year.  

'What’s the latest trend in workplace design?': How architects and designers should answer this hot-button question

“What’s the latest in workplace trends?”

We hear this question on a daily basis in our industry. Often, the responses from workplace designers, media and consultants mention “benching,” “task-based work settings,” “smaller spaces for individuals,” “allocating space for group support and providing choice within the work environment.” These “solutions” certainly coincide with what we see in the most progressive work environments which are emerging from the tech and creative sector.

New documentary shows Legos as touchstones of creativity

Over a five-day period last month, as part of the Milan Expo 2015 in Italy, a slim tower made from more than 500,000 Lego bricks rose to 35 meters (114.8 feet), setting a new Guinness World Record as the tallest structure built with those familiar acrylic bricks.

Denmark-based Lego Group donated 7 Euros (US$7.752) for every centimeter of the tower to Urban Oasis, an urban protection and development project connected with the World Wildlife Fund.

BIM/VDC training is more than learning the features

We have all been there: Huddled in a dark room, watching the glow of a projector while an instructor shows us the features, commands, and hotkeys in the new software. Learning the keystrokes is one thing, but that alone is unlikely to teach us about how we can use these tools in practice.

Many things will drift through the minds of those in the class: Where is this exercise going? What does this mean for how I work? Is this relevant to my current project?

St. Petersburg Pier’s dramatic makeover gets green light from city officials

St. Petersburg, Fla.'s city council today formally approved funding and contracts for the redesign of the city’s iconic landmark, the St. Petersburg Pier.

During the meeting, $5.2 million was approved for the finalized design, demolition of the current pier, and initial contracting services. The council approved $1.1 million to finalize design details and another half-million to fund pre-construction work. Demolition work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

7 parking facilities first to earn Green Garage Certification

Parking garages are no longer just nondescript concrete slabs. Earlier this month, the Green Parking Council (GPC) announced the first seven parking facilities in the country to achieve Green Garage Certification.

The title is determined by a rating system that factors in 48 elements of garage operation, structure, and technology, and recognizes sustainable practices in parking structure management.

Oregon to spend $300 million for seismic updates on public buildings

Oregon will spend $300 million in construction bond funding for seismic updates on public buildings.

The funds are included in the legislature’s $1.2 billion capital construction budget. Sen. Peter Courtney, the state’s Senate president, said the allotment for seismic updates is more than lawmakers have ever put toward such projects, according to the Portland Business Journal.

Minneapolis relaxes parking requirements on new multifamily buildings

The Minneapolis City Council voted recently to ease parking requirements for new multifamily buildings.

The council cut the number of spots required for large developments by half. It also will accept plans with no parking spaces for buildings of fewer than 50 units if they are located no more than a quarter-mile from transit with pickups at least every 15 minutes.

SET Architects wins design competition for Holocaust Memorial

A seven-person jury representing the Jewish Community of Bologna, Italy, has chosen Rome-based SET Architects as the winner of a competition to design a Holocaust memorial in Bologna.

According to a posting on Facebook, the jury evaluated 284 entries, which were whittled down to five finalists. The jury reconvened at the Bologna Association of Architects offices on June 29 to chose the winning design, which is called Shoah Memorial.

Finally! There's a workplace trend that’s worth embracing

In my previous blog post, I examined the question of what are the current workplace trends? I discussed why the typical responses we hear are, frankly, dangerous. To sum it up, when the question is posed, we hear about various progressive workplace solutions. These solutions are great for some, not great for others. So, which workplace trend is worth talking about?

Best of healthcare design: 8 projects win AIA National Healthcare Design Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected the recipients of the AIA National Healthcare Design Awards program, a showcase of the best healthcare building design and healthcare design-oriented research. Projects exhibit conceptual strengths that solve aesthetic, civic, urban, and social concerns as well as the requisite functional and sustainability concerns of a hospital.

Recipients were selected in four categories: 

NASA: U.S. headed for worst droughts in a millennium

The United States is primed for the worst droughts recorded in the last 1,000 years due to climate change.

Projections by climate scientists at Columbia University show the U.S. will experience droughts throughout the 21st century that are much more severe than the one currently impacting California.

Data from NASA shows carbon emissions could be the driving force behind these devastating water shortages.

Office bust hits suburban Washington D.C.: metro area awash in vacant office buildings

There are 71.5 million sf of vacant office space in the Washington D.C. region. The national real estate brokerage Marcus and Millichap expects one-fifth of metro D.C.’s total office space to be empty by the end of this year. And another 1 million sq of office space could come onto this market over the next several years as businesses vacate older buildings once their leases expire.

Miami developers are designing luxury housing to cater to out-of-town buyers and renters

Miami’s real estate market has long been a magnet for foreign investors. But developers now report that out-of-town buyers, both foreign and domestic, are seeking homes they can live it, rather than just park money into. The influx of these buyers is having a noticeable impact on how apartments, condos, and townhouses are designed, especially at the luxury end of the market.

Perkins+Will imagines new opportunity for Atlantic City

Casinos have been closing in Atlantic City, N.J., despite Governor Chris Christie’s visions to make it “Las Vegas East.” Five years ago, the governor said “Atlantic City is dying,” but not much progress has happened since.

Perkins+Will believes it has a solution that could put Atlantic City’s existing infrastructure to good use—by turning the Jersey Shore city into a research center for climate change and coastal resiliency.

MUST SEE: Zaha Hadid's latest museum project is built into a mountain

Fitting that a museum dedicated to legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner has been built into a mountain.

The Architect's Newspaper reports that the Zaha Hadid-designed Messner Mountain Museum Corones has been opened to the public.

The museum is embedded within Mount Kronplatz in northern Italy. At more than 7,000 feet above sea level, it provides breathtaking views of the Dolomites region, a Unesco World Heritage Site.  

Work begins on KPF's 'flared silhouette' tower in Manhattan

Construction has commenced on the tapered tower at 111 Murray Street in Manhattan, according to Architizer.

Designed Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the 480,000-sf, 62-story tower is located in the middle of Tribeca, near One World Trade Center. 

The 157-unit condominium building will certainly be elegant. Architect David Rockwell's plans for the lobby include anodized steel walls and travertine floors, while bathrooms will have Calacatta Lincoln Marble walls and floors.

Plans to make over New York’s aging LaGuardia Airport are revealed

The Board of Directors for Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to give its final OK early next year to start the first half of construction on the rebuilding of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side, unveiled the airport’s comprehensive redesign, devised by a panel of architects, engineers, planners, and lawmakers that was chaired by Dan Tishman, vice chairman of AECOM Technology and chairman and CEO of Tishman Realty and Construction.

Tenn. startup uses freeform 3D printer to build full-size walls

While 3D printing technology has gone from novel to practical in many realms, the construction industry has been a little slow in adopting it and using it in a meaningful way.

Branch Technology, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based startup, is going all-in on 3D printing. According to 3DPrint.com, the company is the first to successfully construct full-size building walls using the technology.

Design plans for Fannie Mae’s new HQ revealed

Earlier this month, Clark Construction, on behalf of the owner Carr Properties, filed applications to raze four buildings in Washington D.C., which include the headquarters of the Washington Post, which is moving to a new location.

That demolition—of two seven-story office buildings, one 10-story building, and a 12-story office building—isn’t scheduled to occur until next year at the earliest.

The Lego Architect: Book offers simple how-to steps for recreating iconic buildings with Legos

Not long ago, the Danish toy giant Lego released a line marketed exclusively to architects, and much of the architectural community online lamented it for being bland and monochromatic.

But you don’t need a special set of Legos to play architect, as author Tom Alphin shows in the monograph The Lego Architect, published by No Starch Press.

AIA, International Code Council reach collaborative agreement on building codes

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and The International Code Council (ICC) have reached a formal agreement to collaborate across a wide range of initiatives including code development, compliance, sustainability, energy conservation, and increasing building code knowledge among architects.    

Among the common objectives under the five-year pact:

Funding needed for Washington's Desert Storm memorial

Plans have been drawn up for a memorial for the nearly 400 service members who died during the Gulf War. Now, all the display needs is a location and, above all, funding.

According to the Military Times, construction cannot begin on the CSO Architects-designed memorial until fundraising is completed. The National Desert Storm Memorial Foundation has a $25 million goal, and the project will not use federal funds.

London set to have world’s tallest and longest slide

The city of London recently approved a proposal to add a slide to the Anish Kapoor- and Cecil Balmond-designed ArcelorMittal Orbit.

With a 591-foot tube connecting the observation deck on top of the 376-foot sculpture to the ground, it is poised to be the world’s tallest and longest slide.

The project is based on the vision of the London Legacy Development Corporation, My Modern Met reports, in the hopes of creating a new tourist attraction for the city.

FacadeRetrofit.org: A new database for tracking commercial and multifamily façade upgrades

Add to a growing list of buildings databases FacadeRetrofit.org, whose goal is to provide information about large commercial and multifamily buildings that have undergone or are undergoing building façade retrofits from 1950 through the present.

Currently in beta test, the site was developed by the University of Southern California School of Architecture and the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos, a façade design and engineering contractor.

Augmented reality app provides step-by-step help for repairing equipment

Ever guide someone through even the simplest computer issue over the phone? There's a good chance the experience didn't go well.

You can't see what the person is looking at. He or she can't understand what you're referencing. It could get really frustrating to even just guide someone through printing a document. Command 'P!' "What's that?"

8 cities win Bloomberg's 'open data' award

The first eight winning cities have been announced for a $42 million, 100-city data-use program. 

The competition, called "What Works Cities" and is sponsored by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation, promotes innovation in city government by making the massive amounts of city operations data more publicly accessible to better improve issues like job creation, public health, and blight.

ConsensusDocs releases new CM agency contract standard agreement

The ConsensusDocs Coalition published a new construction management agency standard agreement, the ConsensusDocs 840 Agreement Between Owner and Design Professional.

The new owner, architect/engineer agreement provides an off-the-shelf contracting document for CM agency contracts. The new agreement is for owners who contract with an architect or engineer who serves as the designer. The design services agreement is intended for use when the owner acts as the construction manager, hires a construction manager, or uses multiple prime contractors.

BIM GIANTS: Robotic reality capture, gaming systems, virtual reality—AEC Giants continue tech frenzy

The AEC industry is in an all-out tech frenzy, and the giant firms are at the leading edge. Given their size, these firms possess the resources and scale to research and test the bevy of software and hardware solutions on the market. Some have created internal innovation labs and fabrication shops to tinker with emerging technologies and create custom software tools. Others have formed R&D teams to test tech tools on the job site.

Here’s a roundup of BIM/tech-related innovations reported by AEC giants as part of the Giants 300 survey:

GREEN BUILDING GIANTS: Green building movement hits a new plateau, but the underlying problems remain

Green building seems to have settled into a holding pattern. Achieving LEED Silver certification is pretty routine these days. Yet LEED-certified buildings still constitute only 2–3% of the annual U.S. production of commercial and institutional stock.

Certain classes of building owners—colleges and universities, foundations, high-profile corporations, and owners of showcase buildings—still want the plaque on the wall. But many commercial building owners are telling their Building Teams to make the project as green as possible within the budget, but forget about LEED.

RECONSTRUCTION AEC GIANTS: Restorations breathe new life into valuable older buildings

A year ago, the University of Maryland–Baltimore County, in partnership with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, unveiled a 5,500-sf renovation within its 1970s-era Meyerhoff Chemistry Building.

Now called the Science Learning Collaboratory, the space serves two purposes: as chemistry, biology, and nursing classrooms during the school year; and as a training and research facility for HHMI staff in the summer. The institute provided $1.7 million for the renovation.

UNIVERSITY SECTOR GIANTS: Collaboration, creativity, technology—hallmarks of today’s campus facilities

The State University of New York at Buffalo’s 628,000-sf, $375 million medical center, which is scheduled to open in August 2017, is the single largest medical education building under construction in the U.S.

University officials are hardly being coy about their intent to use this facility (which was designed by HOK) as bait to attract more than 100 physician-scientists and medical specialists, to say nothing of the 100 students who are expected to enroll.

MULTIFAMILY AEC GIANTS: Slowdown prompts developers to ask: Will the luxury rentals boom hold?

ZINC Apartments, in West Cambridge, Mass., which opens in September, could be the poster child for the latest trends in multifamily, notably:

Smaller living spaces: Its 392 residential units average 793 sf.

Transit-friendliness: The 15-story, 531,900-sf building borders the future elevated Green Line and is across from a planned train station.

K-12 SCHOOL SECTOR GIANTS: To succeed, school design must replicate real-world environments

When Intrinsic School, a 60,000-sf public charter school, opened last August, it represented a first for Chicago: a school designed from the ground up to blend instruction, collaboration, and technology. Each grade (7–12) is separated into a STEM and Humanities pod. Each pod has its own isolated space, either a lab or a Socratic seminar space.

GOVERNMENT SECTOR GIANTS: Public sector spending even more cautiously on buildings

AEC firms that do government work say their public-sector clients have been going smaller to save money on construction projects. Last December, the GSA issued an RFP for the FBI’s new headquarters, which, at 2.1 million sf, would be 300,000 sf smaller than the FBI’s current digs at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, which opened in 1974.

Calatrava's Turning Torso wins CTBUH's 10 Year Award

Malmö, Sweden's Turning Torso is this year's winner of the 10 Year Award from The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

The 623-foot, 57-story tower was the world's first twisting skyscraper. Completed in 2005, the building, designed by Santiago Calatrava, rotates 90 degrees along its height.

As Scandinavia's tallest building—and the 48th tallest in Europe—Turning Turso has become the highlight of Malmö's Western Harbor.

Best of Education Design: 9 projects named AIA Education Facility Design Award winners

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) has selected nine educational facilities for this year’s CAE Education Facility Design Awards. 

The program honors educational facilities that the jury believes should serve as an example of a superb place in which to learn, furthering the client's mission, goals and educational program while demonstrating excellence in architectural design.

Research indicates major earthquake looming for Pacific Northwest

Recent research indicates that the Pacific Northwest is due for an earthquake of historic proportions and the area’s building stock is not expected to fare well.

The Cascadia subduction zone runs from northern California to Vancouver Island. Researchers in recent years have determined that the area has the potential for a more powerful tremor than had been previously believed. There was a similar situation in Japan a few years ago.

New York City may allow affordable housing developers to ‘double dip’ in subsidies

In a change from last year, the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would let some residential developers double or even triple-dip into affordable housing subsidy pools for the same projects.

This is a reversal of a policy that would have eliminated double dipping. It came to light as two affordable housing measures were being debated.

Pei Cobb Freed designs ‘glass sail’ tower for Shenzhen

New York-based Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, which designed the iconic US Bank Tower in Los Angeles, released designs for a new tower in the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen.

The 29-story tower won’t be the tallest, but it is designed to grab attention and set itself apart from surrounding, glimmering towers with gently curved façades, resembling sails blown by the wind.

Despite dip, architecture billings remain strong

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reflects sustained demand for design services in nearly all nonresidential project types over the nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the July ABI score was 54.7, down a point from a mark of 55.7 in June. This score still reflects an increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

The new projects inquiry index was 63.7, up slightly from a reading of 63.4 the previous month.

Post-Katrina roofing codes creating more resilient buildings on Gulf Coast

New research by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) indicates that stronger building standards and codes have contributed to stronger roofs in the Gulf Coast region.

In the 10 years after Katrina, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, have also added tougher requirements for inspections, building permits, and contractor licensing. Combined with beefed up codes, this is good news for the resiliency of buildings in the region, IBHS says. 

Good design can combat open-office issues

As a workplace strategist and senior interior designer at GS&P, I’m no stranger to the open-office controversy that’s taken hold recently. For many, open offices are considered to be a hallmark of progressive companies, replacing the infamous, isolating “cubicle farms” with open desking-based systems. Twitter, Virgin and Facebook are among the most high-profile companies to embrace the concept, but businesses of every size are relatively quick to jump on board.

5 brand-building strategies in the outpatient environment

Reputation won’t get you very far—at least on its own. That is one of the key findings coming out of the Advisory Board’s 2014 Primary Care Consumer Choice study which found that attributes related to “reputation” ranked surprisingly low out of a range of the factors that patients rely on to make decisions about their healthcare. What topped the list? Attributes related to access/convenience, cost, and service.

Innovation districts + tech clusters: How the ‘open innovation’ era is revitalizing urban cores

If you live in the Philadelphia area and work in a newly constructed or recently renovated office space, chances are your place of employment is located in a burgeoning neighborhood on the west side of the city, called University City. The district represents just 0.02% of the region’s office market landmass, yet it is where 82% of all office construction work occurred in 2014.

Architects propose shipping container tower to replace slums

CRG Architects, which has offices in China and Nigeria, revealed its plans to make multistory multifamily dwellings made out of brightly painted shipping containers.

According to Dezeen, the firm proposed recycled shipping containers to be used for the project, stacking them to create high-density, cost-effective housing in urban areas. The design was a runner-up in a Mumbai housing competition. 

Shhh!!! 6 ways to keep the noise down in new and existing hospitals

Hospital executives, healthcare system boards, and clinical staffs have never been more aware of the relationship between noise and patient wellness, says Kurt Rockstroh, FAIA, FACHA, President and CEO of Boston-based Steffian Bradley Architects & Planners. On every one of his firm’s hospital projects, says Rockstroh, “noise reduction is a focus.”