UVa | A R C H 2013

Archive for October, 2011

The Architecture of Air

This week, we have learned about how we can manipulate air to create different conditions in a building. Before air conditioning existed, many different types of vernacular architecture was designed in order to manipulate the flow of air. For example, Malaysian houses are raised on stilts in order to capture and cool air from below and has vents in the roof to let the warm air escape. As buildings became more complex and closed off to the external environment, there was a demand for ventilation systems and air conditioning systems. First developed for textile mills, air conditioners were designed to remove humidity in the air with chilled water. As the popularity of air conditioners grew, architects were able to create a comfortable environment within a building, no matter where it was located or how it was built.
Although air conditioning gave some freedom to architects, it also wasted a lot of energy. As the demand to save energy grows, architects and engineers are now looking back to before air conditioning to see how they can create comfortable, yet sustainable interior spaces. One building that is following this track is my case study, the New York Times Building. Instead of having the ventilation system in the ceiling, the air comes out of the floor. This allows the air to naturally flow from the ground to the ceiling as it warms up. This saves energy because air doesn’t have to be at such a low temperature to be comfortable.

source: “The Air We Breathe” by Guy Battle


New York Times Building

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Statement of Study/Argument

The New York Times Building, designed by Renzo Piano, is the first building in the United States to have a curtain wall with a “ceramic sunscreen.” The framework of ceramic tubes covering the building not only reflect light and change color, they serve a greater purpose.  The ceramic tubes absorb heat and screen the windows, creating a comfortable work environment without putting a strain on a cooling system.  This system is coupled with double-glazed windows also preventing heat from entering the building.  The curtain walls of the building allow sunlight to flood the office spaces, reducing the amount of lighting needed during the day.

This energy efficient design was part of a collaboration between the New York Times Building, Renzo Piano, the Thornton-Tomasetti Group and the Berkley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD).  The end product not only created a building that followed the newspaper’s philosophy to be transparent and open to the world, but also created office spaces that do not rely on air conditioning and lighting systems, reducing the energy demand.  The New York Times building also uses innovative technology to save energy throughout its buildings. such as in its elevator system, which I plan on exploring further in this assignment.

Method of Research

The New York Times Building website, http://newyorktimesbuilding.com/, has much more information on the building, its design, and systems.  It also includes a link to the study on the ceramic tubes conducted by the Berkley National labs. (http://windows.lbl.gov/comm_perf/newyorktimes.htm) There are also several articles on the recent construction of the building and its sustainable features.  These include:

“Shedding Light on ENERGY” in Sustainable Facility by Michael Jouaneh

“The New York Times sign of the times” in Engineered Systems by Joanna Turpin

“SolarTrac System” brochure: http://www.mechoshade.com/SolarTrac/SolarTrac_Brochure.pdf

“The New York Times Building” in Architectural Record by Suzanne Stevens

Intended Final Product

I intend to explore the daylighting systems of the New York Times building through a series of diagrams of heat, light, and ventilation systems.  I will analyze a section of the building and the flows of air, heat, and light through its materials.  I also plan to examine the data that has been collected in the research done on the systems in the building as well as similar systems.

The race to zero energy on Roosevelt Island

Mayor Bloomberg has put on a competition for a university campus for the sciences on Roosevelt Island in New York City.  The mayor has set high environmental standards for the competition and as a result, the two frontrunners, Cornell and Stanford have created designs which incorporate almost all types of sustainable infrastructure.

Both universities have plannned to implement of geothermal systems, which employ the temperature of the ground to cool and heat the buildings.  Cornell has plans to use solar panels to generate up to 1.8 megawatts of energy.  Some of their campus’s structures would even be able to put energy back into the grid on some days.  Stanford University plans to filter storm runoff in a marsh and recycle the greywater of the buildings.

Both universities have taken numerous steps to make their designs the most sustainable.  The Roosevelt Island campus would not only inspire the students who would use it, but other engineers and architects to think in sustainable systems.  But is it realistic?  The New York Times states that it would take a “generation” to build either of the designs and would cost over $1 billion dollars.  During phases of construction there are bound to be new developments in technologies and changes in plans.  It is worth it to dream so big?



sustainable heating and cooling systems

Today in class, we learned about how we can use the built environment to manipulate the power of the sun to create a comfortable climate.  Instead of using air conditioning or heating systems, by orienting the windows and shading systems.  Le Corbusier used this method in the design of the Unite d’Habitation.  In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, the sun’s ray point directly into each unit, warming the interior space.  In the summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, the sun’s rays hit the horizontal shade instead, allowing the unit to be in the shade.

In Switzerland, and much of Europe, many buildings use their structures to manipulate the sun rather than rely on heating and cooling systems.  While I was in Switzerland, I stayed in the school’s historic villa.  Instead of installing an air conditioning system, the villa utilized its windows to cool the building.  By opening several windows, breezes would flow throughout the building.  The villa uses shutters to allow the moving air, but not the sun’s heat from entering.

It is not only the vernacular architecture which utilizes the systems, but many of the modern buildings design their facades in reaction to the path of the sun.  Many apartment buildings use blinds on the exterior of the building to prevent heat from permeating through the windows.

I think the US could benefit a lot from using this system because of our excess use of air conditioning.  We can still live and work in a comfortable, controlled environment without relying on electricity to provide it.

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Energy Systems | From the Body to the World

In class, we have been studying energy and the systems that connect our daily lives with it.  To investigate this, I analyzed a four hour period during a typical day at home on Long Island, NY.  I woke up, took a shower, had breakfast, watched TV, drove my brother to school and went to the gym.  In such a short period of time and a seemingly simple set of actions, I actually used several different forms of energy.  It is clear from my diagram, that I, along with most americans, rely heavily on the power grid and coal plants to receive my electricity.  I also use a car more than I probably need to, increasing my use of fossil fuels.

There are many ways in which I can reduce my impact of energy use.  I can open windows instead of using an air conditioning system.  I could also reduce my car use and fossil fuel consumption by walking my brother to school or take public transportation and running around the block instead of going to the gym, which would also reduce my use of electricity.  I could also reduce the transportation of my food by buying locally produced goods.  I think the biggest step that could be made to reduce my impact would be to seek other energy sources for electricity other than coal.  By using wind and solar energy, it would reduce the burden placed on the power grid and be a cleaner source of electricity. 

Assignment 2: The Bay Game

Last week in class, we played the Bay Game, which is a simulation on the roles of farmers, developers, policy makers, and watermen have an effect on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  I was assigned to be a cattle beef farmer.  Not only was I surprised that there were cattle beef farmers in Virginia, I was also curious to know how the actions of the farmer would have an effect on the health of the bay.  After reading about my role on the Bay Game’s website, I learned that the manure from cattle contains high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus from the fertilizer used on the farms.  This nitrogen and phosphorus ends up in the Chesapeake Bay through runoff throughout the watershed.  The high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus create an imbalance in the bay and effect the health of all of the living organisms in it.

As a beef cattle farmer, I had the ability to choose between conventional and sustainable farming and how to deal with waste treatment.

I think the most surprising experience I had with the Bay Game was my attempt to switch to sustainable cattle farming practices.  It took several years after switching to sustainable practices to see results in profits and in nitrogen/phosphorus reduction.   This showed me that there can be a significant lag and that it is hard to keep moving in a certain direction without receiving the benefits immediately.

One thing that policy makers can institute to improve the bay health is a policy which requires farms operating at a specific size to use certain sustainable practices on a part of their land.  This requirement wouldn’t put a significant burden on the farmers, but it would give them the opportunity to explore the benefits to sustainable practices.  I also believe the ability farmers to use both methods of farming in the bay game would allow the players to find a balance between conventional and sustainable methods of farming.

What it means to be local

When I am in Charlottesville, I always try to get my produce from the local markets.  When I came home I told my dad that he should start buying local  at home, he asked me “Why should I, when it’s more expensive?”  I told him that buying local not only keeps his money in the local economy, but it is much more sustainable; the little effect a single piece of fruit can have adds up and can have a big effect on the environment.

If he buys his strawberries from California, they have to travel from thousands of miles away to reach the grocery store.  That involves shipment on a truck, if not multiple, using diesel and refrigeration on the truck.  This emits gases and depletes the ozone layer.

Buying local also cuts out the travel time from the field to your home, meaning it is much fresher.

The explanation of the systems involved with buying local produce that I gave him definitely changed his mind about buying local and I think once other people learn about it, it will change their minds too.  I definitely believe that making small changes everyday can allow us to become more sustainable.