What was Trending | January 12-18

Okay so missed the typical post day for this – but figured I’d post it anyways. Here’s what I saw trending the week of Jan 12-18!
It would be interesting if all buildings were required to be “built-in” to their surroundings
Go Green Roofs!


Anyone else thinking this looks a lot like all his other work? (Steven Holl + check out those renderings…)


Not sure about how realistic these are, but super dramatic images!


An interesting take on the shipping container house – I think this is the best one I’ve seen


Try out this geometric necklace 



Have a good week!

5 Reasons Why We Should be Using LEED

I realized that I had mentioned LEED in my previous post and not everyone may know what that means. LEED, or “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is a Green Building certification program that certifies buildings that employ best-practices and strategies for sustainable construction and operation. It is essentially a set of requirements that a building must meet, and a checklist of sustainable practices that buildings can earn points towards, to achieve various levels of certification. There are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
LEED was one of the first programs to take on the sustainability initiative. It is a first step towards creating buildings that are either completely net-zero (meaning they contribute no pollution into the system) or even net-positive (meaning they actually contribute BACK to the system). But what astounds me is that all through my schooling the majority of my professors were highly critical of LEED. They told us it was merely a checklist and the sustainability it included was not true sustainability and it didn’t go far enough. They basically stuck their noses up at it. However, as I have been working through the study material, and working on one of our LEED projects, I am quite positive they are severely misunderstanding the point.
True enough LEED is simply a checklist for projects to gain points, but to gain those points there are many strategies AND pretty stringent requirements that a building must have incorporated all through the process of design, construction, and completion. For sure LEED could go further with the sustainability strategies it employs, but quite frankly, how can one be so critical if the alternative is to do nothing at all? At least LEED buildings are taking steps towards creating a better world, and THERE ARE additional credits you can gain for being ‘innovative’ (as my professors, and others, would have it). The point of LEED is to start getting everyone on board with what will be the future of architecture. Sustainability will become more and more important as the impacts we have on our environment are felt. And what we have to remember is LEED is not just about the environment, it is also about the health and safety of the people who occupy buildings. Of course it is not the be all, end all, and there are many things about it that could be better, but instead of dismissing it completely we should be teaching it in schools, so that the next generation of architects can improve upon it.
 So in my opinion here are 5 reasons we should be using LEED now:
1 – Sustainable Building Practices
LEED outlines 7 areas a building can improve upon to perform above the standard: Location and Transportation (how can people access public transit? how does your site and building location have an impact on the surrounding community? etc.), Sustainable Sites (talks about what you are doing on your site to renew habitat, shed water properly, avoid heat islands etc.), Water Efficiency (which has to do with plumbing, water run-off from the building etc.), Energy and Atmosphere (how good is the building envelope? what are the energy savings? how does it do its part to not pollute as much? etc.), Materials and Resources (are you using recycled materials? local materials? Reusing materials? do you have a waste management plan?), Indoor Environmental Quality (is your ventilation efficient? Are there views and daylight for occupants? etc.), and finally Innovation in Design (which allows for buildings to either show exemplary performance in one of the credits OR come up with some new way of being sustainable that is quantifiable).  I would call this pretty comprehensive – and although you do not have to achieve all the credits and we can pick and choose – not all buildings are able to afford, or can be perfect.
2 – Teamwork – LEED promotes the working together of ALL the professionals and trades working on the project. It requires coordination from the start and dedication to reaching these goals – because when going through the process of designing and constructing a building it is not easy to keep track of everything and everyone, particularly on huge buildings. Nor really is it standard practice in North America (and many other parts of the world of course), so it is often difficult to get people to move out of their comfort zone as there are definitely particular ways things are done in construction.
3 – Creates Responsibility – in this way, having everyone be aware from the beginning of their requirements to reach the LEED goals, it forces people to take more responsibility in their roles and perhaps makes them more aware of previous ways they have done things that are not very sustainable. Take the Waste Management portion of LEED for example – construction and demolition waste contributes to at least 35% of landfill waste – and if we are forced to reduce that percentage we come to realize that not everything we are throwing away should be thrown away.
4 – Promotes Awareness – this is obvious – but it is not just about promoting awareness within the field of architecture and construction, but also promoting awareness with clients and the general public. Convincing clients to have a LEED or even a more sustainable building is often difficult, as the upfront costs are much higher than traditional buildings. However, over the period of its life a sustainable building will cost less in the long run than others. Educating the general public comes in many forms, and LEED allows for credits to be gained for educational outreach programs that come directly from the building itself (i.e. real time updates on energy, water usage, etc., class tours, written material etc.).
5 – Allows for Innovation – LEED is not a static system, and neither is sustainability. Every year we come up with newer and better ways to employ sustainable practices within our architecture. Whether it be movable facades that reduce the use of energy through shading, or technologies within the building like occupancy sensors, and monitoring systems that help control electrical and mechanical systems – we are starting to see things change. These types of innovations are recognized as part of the LEED rating system.
I think that even if you do not agree with the LEED program, you should at least agree with the fact that it is trying to promote sustainability and educate architects, and other professions, on how we can begin to change the way we think about architecture. I did learn about sustainability in school, and it was fairly comprehensive BUT we should be at least giving the option for students to learn more about programs such as LEED, in order to provide a better understanding of where the profession is going. Even if professors (and hey NOT JUST IN ARCHITECTURE) used LEED as an example of how to do it better, and actually taught the material, it would be a giant step forward in the right direction for championing sustainable practices (and yes I am generalizing a bit based on my own experience – I am sure there are many architecture schools out there that do a really good job of teaching this subject). Regardless, I am determined to gain my own personal education through this program, and I am certainly glad I have started – in the short few months I have been studying, having discussions with my coworkers, and working on LEED projects, I have learned a great deal about what we can do to make things better.
Also when I looked it up – Calgary has over 300 LEED certified buildings!
Thanks for reading!
 For additional information see: The Canadian Green Building Council, The US Green Building Council (who oversee LEED certification as a whole), and an example of the checklist.

What’s Trending January 05-11

What’s Trending January 05-11

It was a fairly laid back week for me this week (at work anyways), just worked on doing some LEED documentation. It is exciting to get to participate in projects such as the one I am working on, which is going for LEED Gold as I am hugely encouraged by any project that tries to be more sustainable. Buildings are responsible for the highest amount of green house gases (yes, more than cars), so it is our responsibility as architects to help change that. I am also excited because it allows me to learn more about the process of LEED as I am looking to do my Green Associate exam, and then eventually my LEED AP.
So here is what I saw trending this week!
15 architecture projects to look forward to in 2015 (to be finished!)


I am a sucker for any sort of interesting landscape integration


This reminds me of a project we had to do in school (not to sure it works in real life?)


Interesting articles about running an architectural business


Free graphic 2015 calendar pages! To start your year off right


Here’s something fun you can make for your desk with a material a lot of Architecture Students already have!


 And look at this! A guide to current Architectural Trends! (As a whole)
trendsHave a great week!


Clean-Lined Contrast : Winter Architecture



I’m all for the traditional cozy cabins we think of when we consider a winter retreat. The fireplace, the log structure, the puffy couches, the views! Its all so quaint! But, there is something about modern or contemporary design in the wintertime that has me second guessing the traditional motif. The following ‘winter cabins’ are perfect examples of the wonderful contrast of the clean-lined geometry of modernism, against the organic and billowing nature of the winter landscape. They also just show you that despite this contrast, there is a deeper connection between the simplistic contemporary design and the stillness and crispness of a winter landscape that makes them just ‘fit-in’.

Methow Cabin – Eggleston | Farkas Architects – Winthrop, Washington (USA)


This little retreat is located in a valley that provides a number of a cross country ski and bike trails. The design is functional and minimal, and can accommodate up to 8 people (not sure if that is comfortably but) with space for communal gathering. The sloped roof sheds snow easily, but also mimics the contours of the surrounding hills, as well as opening up the views on the end to align with the end of the valley.


The interior is arranged to maximize space – with the service areas on the far side (of this image) where the road is located, and the living space towards the views with a slotted window aligned with the ski path to watch as people ski by (the few people I would think). I like that the outside appearance is understated – the colour of the wood blends in with its surroundings – and that there is warmer wood used on the inside giving the users that cozy, cabin feel.


It is the definition of a ‘sleek’ ski lodge, but still has all the important amenities you need after a cold trip on the trails.

Rolling Huts + Delta Shelter – Olson Kundig Architects – Mazama, Washington (USA)


The Delta Shelter is a 1,000 SF vacation home nestled in a floodplain valley in the Mazama region of Washington. Though it varies from other ‘cabins’ as it is constructed of metal, which is a material that contrasts highly to what architects consider ‘natural materials,’ it still maintains a connection to its surrounding landscape. The metal is the kind that patinas (like CoreTen Steel), so as the building ages the metal naturally rusts creating a beautiful texture.


This house is particularly interesting, because the metal panels or shutters can actually close when the owner is away (you crank a neat metal wheel to close the shutters). I also like two other design elements on this house – the first is the way that the building is built up on stilts – making its connection with the ground much lighter and less impactful – and the second is that the kitchen and living space is located on the top level maximizing the views of the valley.The only complaint I have about this cabin, is that there is manicured grass around the thing in the summer… it should be wild grasses that are long and tall in my opinion – really connect the building to the landscape and let it be wild!

Rolling-Hut-Mazama-WinterThese little guys were created after the Delta Shelter, and you can see a clear connection in terms of the aesthetic. However these structures utilize wood, which in a way makes sense as they are lower to the ground and therefore more connected to the direct surrounding landscape. These cabins are also very ‘sustainable’ in that they are movable (they are up on wheels!) – which was purposeful as they are intended to have a decreased impact on the site and allow for the landscape they sit upon (a former RV campground) to regenerate.

Juvet Landscape Hotel – Jensen + Skodvin Architects – Norway

700_juvet-landscape-hotel-minimal-wood-structureI really want to visit this hotel…

The design was intended to allow for guests to reconnect with nature, in these 7 small cabins each situated in a different position on the site. The views vary from the local stream and pond, to the dense forest, to forest clearing. Each of the cabins has a different layout, in order to enhance and focus those views, and each has at least one completely glass wall. Similarly to the other two the cabins are built on stilts, creating a floating effect.

700_juvet-landscape-hotel-in-norway-modern-minimalist-glass-hotel-with-viewThe interiors are also purposefully dark and spare to further highlight the views. The only parts of the cabins that are more colourful are the washrooms. Let’s just stare at this picture in awe…

Juvet-26Similarly to the first project the cladding is made of wood that closely matches the colouring of the surrounding landscape. The architecture is simultaneously contrasting through its geometry, and blending in with the colour and vertical lines of the facade. This one is going on my list of architecture to visit! (Which is getting to be a very long list ;))

Each of these projects demonstrates that you don’t have to have a large cabin to have everything you need in architecture. Views, rich materials, cozy interiors, and minimal impact on the landscape are the concepts that make these places so special.

Thanks for reading!