AIA Names Top 10 Green Buildings

by | May 11, 2007

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The American Institute of Architects has selected its top ten examples of sustainable architecture and green design solutions.

The 2007 Top Ten Green Projects (write ups from AIA):


EpiCenter, Artists for Humanity / Boston, MA
Arrowstreet Inc.
The first Platinum LEED Certified building in Boston, the EpiCenter is a simple, functional building that achieves the highest levels of sustainability on a tight budget. Rainwater collected from the roof is channeled through a transparent drain pipe which runs through the gallery into a holding tank to serve the irrigation needs of the grassy recessed courtyard. Concentrated windows on the south side of the building provides for the deep penetration of warming sunlight in the winter. Large floor-to-floor heights, 12 and 18 feet, allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building. The building uses no refrigerant-based cooling.

Juror Traci Rider said, “This project is not just about design and environmental sustainability, but reaching cultural sustainability. They had a low budget, and there is something terrific about what they achieved. This infill project has this elegant photovoltaic roof, and it’s really producing for them.”

Global Ecology Research Center / Stanford, CA
EHDD Architects
Global Ecology Research Center at Stanford University is a 10,800 square-foot, low-energy laboratory and office building for the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The unique sustainable design resulted in a 72% reduction in carbon emissions associated with building operation and a 50% reduction in embodied carbon for building materials. Biodiversity is addressed through a thorough pursuit of salvaged, recycled, and certified materials. The building facing directly to the south and north maximizes daylighting, sunshading, and ventilation opportunities.

Juror John Quale said, “LEED ratings were helpful for some of our considerations, but that played out in different ways. In this project, they intentionally opted out of the LEED process to push their own agenda. We appreciated the independent thinking and the explanation about it.”

Government Canyon Visitor Center / Helotes, TX
Lake/Flato Architects
Key goals included designing spaces that respond to climate and demonstrate both active and passive green solutions. The structures have operable windows, generous open porches and a screened exhibit building oriented toward the prevailing summer breeze, while shielding the cold winter winds. Large overhanging roofs, flaps, and deep porches shield these spaces from direct solar gains, while allowing daylight to penetrate deep into the interior. The narrow footprint allows for maximum use of indirect daylight from both the south and the north in all occupied spaces, resulting in 90% of occupied space with effective daylight and views with 100% of spaces with ventilation controllability.

Juror Susan Szenasy said, “The building opens up and shades itself and fits into the landscape in an unaggressive way. There is also something really familiar and comfortable about it. The composition is very carefully controlled, from the site plan to details.”

Hawaii Gateway Energy Center / Kailua-Kona, HI
Ferraro Choi and Associates
The Hawaii Gateway Energy Center is an excellent example of the integration of passive design strategies to conserve natural resources and achieve exceptional building performance. Passive design strategies such as induced stack ventilation, daylighting, shading, and renewable cooling from deep seawater reduce initial energy requirements to an absolute minimum. A copper roof acts as the “engine” that triggers a thermo-syphon, radiating heat from the sun into a ceiling plenum. The heated air begins to rise and is exhausted through “chimneys” on the building’s north face. This hot, exhausting stream of air is continuously replenished with 100% fresh outside air that is routed across occupied space from a vented under-floor plenum.

Rider added, “We were impressed by the way they blended active and passive technologies. This project uses PV and calls attention to that, and uses seawater and condensation. It’s really using all of earth’s devices, then dramatizing that with this visible structure. This is a great advertisement for a new technology – calling attention to an ancient ‘?technology,’ the sun.”

Heifer International / Little Rock, AR
Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects, Ltd.
The fundamental goal of the design team was to create integrated building systems that maximized both energy savings and educational potential. Gray water collected from sinks and drinking fountains, condensate from outside air units, and rain water from the water tower are reused in toilets and cooling tower. The building is designed to use up to 54.9% less energy than a conventional office building. 75% of the building’s construction waste was recycled. Significant overhangs with crown like perforated metal edges reduce solar heat gain. To promote indoor air quality, materials were selected with low emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Juror Alisdair McGregor said, “This deals with water in a very demonstrable way. It takes condensation, stores it, and uses that for cooling towers and wetlands during dry periods. Energy performance is about 54% below ASHRAE 99. The sustainable features are visible, but not in your face.”

Sidwell Friends Middle School / Washington, DC
Kieran Timberlake Associates
Solar chimneys with south-facing glass are designed for passive ventilation, operating without additional energy. Sunlight heats air within the glass chimney tops, creating a convection current which draws cooler air into the building through north facing open windows. The building uses natural daylight in lieu of artificial light as much as possible. Artificial lighting consists primarily of fluorescent light sources equipped with high efficiency lamps. The green roof functions to reduce storm water runoff volume, improve the quality of infiltrated runoff, and reduce municipal water use. The roof, walls, and windows perform over 200% better than the minimums set by the energy standard.

Szenasy commented, “The building itself is a teacher. It tells the students where they are. It helps them be conscious of the water and light. There are all these cues connecting them to the natural world. This project is really comprehensive. They have a great attitude about water. They were very careful with light. It is beautiful. It is a really aggressive kind of renovation.”

Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse / Eugene, OR
Morphosis & DLR Group
This facility is a Security Level IV facility -? one level below buildings such as the Pentagon. An under floor air distribution system serves a majority of spaces, including the six courtrooms. This system provides more efficient air-conditioning, uses less fan power, and provides better air quality than a traditional overhead ductwork system. The building system minimizes potable water use and associated sanitary waste with water-saving fixtures including waterless urinals, and ultra low flow lavatories, sinks and showers. Combined with fixture sensors at public locations, these measures result in savings of more than 40% over baseline case analysis.

Juror Anne Schopf said, “The security issues are such a big challenge in a building like this, and getting the daylight in while dealing with those issues is a very smart response in a complex building type. They made a big move, getting the courtrooms raised up to the light. That’s the big story here. This addressed the issue that there are some federal requirements that work directly against sustainability goals.”

Whitney Water Purification Facility / New Haven, CT
Steven Holl Architects
The new facility provides an abundant water supply to south Central Connecticut, creates a vibrant watershed ecosystem, and includes a public park and educational facility while providing a diverse habitat and sanctuary for migrating species of birds. The 30,000 square foot green roof with glazed bubbles floods the facilities below with daylight. All electrical lighting comes from low-energy fluorescent fixtures. 100 % of staff space is day lit. The geothermal system saves 850,000 kilowatt hours annually as compared to electrical resistant heaters and air cooled chillers.

Juror David Brems remarked, “They reinvented the building type along with the programmatic understanding of a water purification facility by combining it with a park, putting some thing under ground, and being really inventive with form-making.”

Willingboro Master Plan & Public Library / Willingboro, NJ
Croxton Collaborative Architects, PC
The Public Library conserves 100% of the structural steel frame and concrete foundations of the original building. Since the building orientation could not be changed, seven major clearstory skylights were oriented on a true north-south axis to maximize the duration and traverse of daylighting. These true north/south clerestories for daylighting create a criss-cross infill of existing beams and joists which achieve 95% diffuse light with transitory “dappled light” effects. The building utilizes a gas-fired heater/chiller which can be easily retrofitted to accommodate bio fuels and various fuels presenting “cost opportunities”.

Schopf added, “It was a shopping mall that had gone defunct. The master plan kept many of the existing structures in place, renovating and transforming them. This is a tremendous example of how to make something beautiful and functional out of practically nothing A?AA¢AA¢aAA¬A?AA¦ the original Woolworth structure with a new wrapper. This is so relevant to so much of the existing building stock that exists in this country. Addressing these neglected facilities in this way is complex. This project really transformed place in a holistic way.”

Z6 House / Santa Monica, CA
LivingHomes, Ray Kappe
The Z6 House is a single family residence that was added to a multi-family zoned lot with an existing duplex. The building takes advantage of natural ventilation and has been designed to optimize passive solar heating. The heating is accomplished through a radiant heating system that is powered by a solar hot water collector. There is a 2.4KW PV array above the roof. This array acts as a shade canopy at the roof stair access. The PV array was designed to provide 60-75% of the homes energy usage. The building has a comprehensive environmental monitoring system that will track the total water, gray water and rain water usage.

Quale said, “Spatially this is a sophisticated project. There is a subtlety to the spacemaking. Also, there are a lot of prefab projects out there that have very little rigor to the sustainability, and this challenges that.”

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