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I love the continued trend of adding ‘green’ into Architecture – green walls, green roofs, green houses – but so far we have been pretty superficial with it. What if those plants could actually feed us instead of just looking pretty? (okay I know I know they do improve air quality and mood but still) Urban agriculture is on the rise – from home-grown rooftop gardens to large scale hydroponic growing operations – and it is a really great concept. As many people may know there is growing concern over our food supply as earth’s population continues to grow, and currently one in nine people are malnourished in the world. Creating viable growing conditions within the City seems simple enough, and swaths of roof tops seem ready for reaping the benefits of food production, however, there are a lot of considerations that have to be taken into account. There are many concerns that Architecture has to contend with; the weight of soils and plants, humidity, maintenance, and of course the key ingredient for plants but the nemesis to buildings – water.

The following projects, however, have demonstrated that urban agriculture is possible and can be incorporated and even celebrated architecturally.

Pasona Urban Farm in Tokoyo | Kono Designs

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I think this is one of the coolest examples of Urban Farming currently built – it’s an office building! The building expresses green on both the inside and on the outside with a green façade and balconies planted with fruit-bearing trees. On the inside 20% of the building’s area is dedicated to farming over 200 species of food-related plants!

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The different farming types and areas not only provide a harvest for the building’s cafeteria, but also provide educational opportunities for employees and visitors alike. Plants are even incorporated into individual rooms – for example there are board rooms with fruit trees in the ceiling! The beauty is that it is a literal and visual reminder of farm-to-table and food production which is often missing from our day-to-day lives.

Vertical Farm in Romainville, France | Ilimelgo

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This project excites me as it is an example of dedicated urban agriculture but also beautiful architecture. The Vertical Farm is a 2000 square meter facility that will be completed in 2018 that brings together farming, education, and research in one place. It provides a bridge between traditional small plot gardening and technological innovation – and gives it back to the people. The space includes a variety of fixed and hanging containers, shade and full light plots, a henhouse, orchard, and mushroom farm.

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I adore the streamlined and modern look that incorporates the collection of rainwater and operable windows, with an ode to the house and farm with the peaked roof and open courtyard design. The courtyard also provides for better penetration of light and helps to promote natural ventilation.

Home Farm in Singapore| Spark

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Home Farm is a model or concept for future (hopefully) retirement living in Southeast Asia. It combines retirement communities of multi-family living, health services, and urban farming. With the large population and soon-to-be large population of seniors the creation large high-density communities that can, in a way, be self-sustaining is desirable. There would be a mix of aquaponics systems and rooftop soil planting, as well as localized planting on balconies.

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The concept is that the urban farming would provide jobs for seniors and could be used as a payment offset for living costs. Not only is the farm functional, but it provides a pleasing, calming, and enjoyable environment for the senior residents and keeps them engaged and active!

Though urban agriculture is not necessarily an answer to world hunger it is a step in the right direction and helps to educate populations on the hard work and effort that goes into raising food and hopefully makes them more aware of how to use food and reduce waste. If buildings built in the near future start to incorporate models such as the Pasona offices, or if City projects for individual urban farms can be funded and built it would certainly help put less pressure on agriculture lands. I think it would also provide a great benefit to the well-being of building users – I certainly would be interested in assisting with maintenance in order to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables all the time!

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For more information click on the images – they are linked to the articles that they came from!

Project Visioning – Banff

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As Architects we gain inspiration from the world around us. Crafted images have become wonderful sources for our visioning process, and the internet & social media have really opened up the variety of  inspiration images available. I particularly draw from both example projects, built or not, but also from ‘lifestyle’ or ‘scenic’ images that help to create a mood. These are tools that aid us in the creation of spaces and help clients visualize the feeling of the project before the project is even produced. Typically we will print a number of these images and see how a client responds or use them to augment presentations.

Recently I have been working on a project in Banff. It is a small project, and as it is not yet complete I can’t show the designs, but I wanted to share the images we used to inspire our design.

We really focused on a more clean-lined and modern design, but that still fit into the mostly forested location that the building will be built. We had to ensure the footprint would be as efficient as possible!

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We wanted to stick with something simple in its shape, but recognizable and in a way nostalgic to the Park. Thinking along the lines of Ski Chalet, or Cabin. Also have it relate back as much as possible to existing buildings in the area.

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Of course the intent was also to blend natural materials such as stone and wood, with more modern ones (albeit still somewhat natural) such as concrete and metal. In particular I have always been fond of board-formed concrete, and it appears I may get to use it in this building!

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It has been an exciting project so far, and I look forward to having it constructed. Project Visioning is one of my favorite parts of the design process, as it fun to find beautiful images but also really interesting to see what a client likes and dislikes!

Thanks for visiting!

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Disclaimer: The images shown in this post do not belong to me, and I did not produce them. Our process typically involves google searches, pinterest, tumblr, and other such social media/media websites. The header image is from http://www.thousandwonders.net/Banff+National+Park – if an image belongs to you please let me know and I can provide credit, or delete it off this post. Thank you!

Life Lately

Well hello again! It’s only been, what, a few years since last hearing from me? Every time I took a look at my blog and the 2015 date on the last post I cringed in guilt. But at the same time, I realized perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew at that time in my life, particularly after my now-husband proposed to me and I set about planning a wedding, getting married, and then taking my Architectural exams (which required an abhorrent amount of study time!) and finally feeling more or less settled so many years later.

In a way I feel alright about it considering I have so few followers at this point, and didn’t really have a guiding concept other than Architecture for my blog. To those who do follow me religiously (good friends and family) I apologize for my absence. But here I am again, refreshed and more-or-less with a determination to make this work and to enjoy it as an important element in my life.

I have, of late, been doing some “soul searching.” Everything in my life is great, wonderful in fact, but I miss having a bit of purpose or explore-time that being in school afforded me. Work also provides some great time for discovery, but as work should be, it is dedicated to particular goals and directions as dictated by the projects I get to work on. So I have decided to do something strictly for me, and for my future and goals – and hopefully as a product, of interest to my audience.

So, though the last time I made a post such as this and it didn’t necessarily keep me accountable, I have decided to post it anyways and make the attempt! As such, this is what you can expect from me in the near future of this blog:

  • I will continue to produce posts that I feel are relevant to Intern Architects, Architecture as a whole and the experiences I am having as a woman in the business of Architecture
  • I will be providing personal updates in a similar fashion, but more focused on my personal life and specific goals I wish to share in regards to fitness, food, and perhaps even fashion if I am feeling particularly “On-Trend”
  • I have decided to create a new series of posts termed “Design Dialogue” to expand my network and learn from my peers by conducting interviews with local Calgary entrepreneurs, up-and-coming individuals, and influencers in the design community in Calgary
  • I would also like to post about local events that I attend, and things I see around town – or whatever town I happen to be in at the time!
  • I will do my best to continue the “Thursday Three” posts as I so love doing research and finding more information about built projects, though depending on how life goes it may become a bi-weekly event
  • I will be posting inspiration images for projects I am working on, or just what I happen to be pinning or finding on IG as a way of amping up my week and getting excited about design – I’ve always loved these types of posts on other people’s blogs as a way of discovering new things
  • Finally, I am going to see if I can find some people around me who can do some guest posts, or as this blog develops link up with other bloggers for some joint posts – again I feel like this will help achieve some great networking (which I am absolutely horrible at!)

To everyone who follows me so far, I very much appreciate you taking time to read my posts and browse through my blog. Thank you for your patience, and I look forward to hearing your feedback or comments on the new stuff coming up!

 

What’s Trending February 09-15

Happy almost Valentine’s Day! Love has certainly been in the air this week for myself, I celebrated 7 years of dating with my boyfriend and tomorrow is Valentine’s. Luckily though, I haven’t gone over the top with the Valentines themed links today! Here’s what I saw trending this week:

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Cheesy Architecture Valentine’s day cards (o yes I did)

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This would be a beautiful place to get married

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What came 1st? the Chicken or the Egg? In this high-end chicken coop I doubt anyone is asking that question

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I love this cafe and bakery – it is the color palette of my room!

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Try out this geometric mouse-pad tutorial (because heaven knows architects need a good mouse-pad these days)

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I want this popcorn machine! Check out the gif!

Well that’s it – Have a good long weekend for those of you that have it!

5 Reasons Why We Should be Using LEED

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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.