A few weeks ago Professor John Quale came to guest lecture about Carbon Neutral buildings.   The lecture reminded me of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  I had heard of Masdar before in my Urban and Environmental Planning Town Design class and have wanted to write a blog post on the example.  Masdar is designed as a sustainable city in the Arabian Desert.  The city was designed by Foster and Partners, which is the same firm that did the Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt I had recently discussed.  The designed involves a square plan, one mile in each direction and raised on a 23-foot-high  base.  The reason for the base is to allow for desert breezes to circulate through the city. In terms of transportation, there would be driverless electric cars navigating silently through underground tunnels, which pedestrian streets sit above ground.   The city focuses on thermal mass and shading as well through various forms of architecture.   I think the city is a great start towards carbon neutral buildings.  It proposes great sustainable ideas for architecture and for planning a city.  However, it just seems to be a bit over the top.  So much that it seems too good to be true, and very expensive for people to live and work.  Additionally, because the city is designed to be in the middle of the desert, it is seemingly cut off from surrounding environments.   On the Ecocity blog, Richard Register, Author, theorist, philosopher and 35 year veteran of the ecocity movement, argues that, “ Maybe massive solar energy, once established, could run artificially refrigerated environments on the sun’s energy, partially shaded, solar cooled greenhouses producing food, fish farms also run on solar, boats on solar electricity and on and on after massive investments. But the kind of synthetic life there would seem unbearable to anyone who loves natural animals or plants. Very weird.”  I love the idea of Masdar, but the goals seem a little farfetched for the location and technology.  I think the best attributes of the city are its ideas of mixed use, sustainable designs and research ambitions.  However, the futuristic model seems too synthetic to be truly sustainable.

What do you think of Masdar City? Do you think it will reach its goal of 100% renewable energy, 80% of water recycled, 0 waste, 0 emissions?

For more information on Masdar City you can go to:






For debates on Masdar City visit here:






I was reading SEED Magazine and I found this very relevant to our class.  The article discusses the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is the world’s largest collection of refuse. This Garbage Patch is about the size of Texas and contains approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. The largest issue of this is plastic.  The reason plastic is such an issue is because it is made from petroleum and is a material the Earth cannot digest.   The ratio of plastic to sea life ratios are 6:1 and the birds and mammals cannot distinguish between food and plastic.  This leaves the bellies of these animals full of plastic, killing off the ecosystem.  People need to remember to recycle and most definitely should not litter.  There is an organization working to fix this issue, but needs much more support considering how large the problem has gotten. I know this image may be uncomfortable to look at but it reveals the shocking truth.  The image was what prompted me to read the article on the GPGP and it’s shock may  be able to provoke others to advocate for the clean up of the Garbage Patch, before it is too late.

Photo by Chris Jordan

To see some shocking images, check out this slideshow: http://seedmagazine.com/slideshow/appetite_destruction/

For more on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (and ways to help): http://www.greatgarbagepatch.org/

Battle in his article “The Air We Breathe” from Big & Green starts the reading off discussing the importance of air and it as a “unifying substance for mankind.”  He notes that “every molecule of air we breathe has a 99% chance of having been breathed before,” yet, Battle argues, “we have not yet developed a sense of responsibility for air as a finite resource.” Battle makes his argument saying that we fail to recognize our responsibility for maintaining air quality and cleaning the air we pollute.

Battle then goes on to discuss cities as complex systems of input and output.   “Cities, like other assemblies of organisms, have a definable metabolism, consisting of flow of resources and products through the urban system for the benefit of urban populations” says Herbert Giradet in Creating Sustainable Cities.  Cities are responsible for a vast amount of waste, about 70 % of which is typically returned, untreated, to the biosphere and Battle argues that we are now in a situation in which the outputs from humans as a whole far exceed the capabilities of our planet’s natural treatment systems.  Because of this, Battle compares cities to the human body (much like Moe does in his text).  Battle argues that “cities should act as kidneys by cleaning everything that passes through them and generating clean energy.”  I agree completely with this argument.  Cities as a whole can make a great effort to clean up waste.  For example, NYC has made a valiant effort with the High-Line (as discussed before).  This is just a small step but can greatly affect the ventilation throughout the city and generate cleaner air.

Battle then narrows down from the city to the building, as a smaller step towards cleaner air. He argues that we have become too dependent on air condition and have lost the use of natural resources such as water, light and air.  These resources can be extremely useful and can help create a cleaner environment if we use them more and use them effectively.  For example, as Moe discussed more water walls.  Or even just opening up windows or creating more windows.  Buildings need to react with the environment more.

In class we were discussing the importance of insulation in energy consumption.  Battle discusses this idea further and introduces the term ‘double skin.’

Double Skin Facade Design Detail

Double skin is a ventilation device that makes use of solar energy. According to research by Battle McCarthy in association with Franklin Andrews on behalf of the UK Department of Environment, Transport, and Regions, has shown that double skin buildings can reduce energy consumption and running costs by 65%, and can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 50% in the cold temperate climatic prevalent in the UK.  “In the winter the cavity acts as a thermal buffer zone between inside and outside which reduces space heating requirements because conduction and infiltration gains are reduced. During mid-seasons the skins can be opened allowing natural ventilation. During the summer the skin is sealed and blinds within the cavity allow for solar control and exhaust air is extracted through the cavity to remove heat gains.”   I think these facades should be utilized more.  Some criticism of the system  is that the cavity results in a decrease in usable floor space and the construction of a second skin may also present a significant increase in materials and design costs.  (Joseph W. Lstibure http://www.smacna.org/pdf/ACF222B.pdf).  However, the cost of electric bill and the cost on the globe far exceed these costs.  Thinking sustainably means acting now and progressively seeing results.  They will not come easy or fast, but if we act now, the will come.

Battle uses the Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt by Foster and Partners as an excellent example of a double skin façade.

Window and heating/cooling ventillation strategies used in the typical office, Copyright Foster + Partners

Battle makes great arguments that really makes you think about the resources that we have and introduces case studies with advanced systems that make use of these resources.  I think this is the kind of architecture we should be paying attention to in order to clean the air in our environments.

Reading: The Air We Breathe by Guy Battle from Big & Green

For more information on double skin facades/building envelopes here are some great articles: 



Statement of the subject of study

After developing my energy map for four hours, the energy consumption of the ice rink and cooling systems were huge consumers in energy.  I decided to develop this further and use this study to focus on the concept of refrigeration. This assignment will help develop an understanding the history of refrigeration, new strategies that are being developed and alternative energy sources that could lead to a different set of possibilities for public life.

Outline of argument

  • I want this study to help foster better ways of using refrigeration systems.  In doing so I will begin with the history of the technology.  This will represent how refrigeration systems came about and why.
  • I will then discuss the new strategies and technologies that are being developed to make refrigeration more efficient.
  • Many new alternative energy sources are being developed as a result to high electric bills.  These new energy efficient systems could lead to a different set of possibilities for public life.  I will study how these sources can affect public life in a better way, starting from home with the ice rink.

Significance of topic, implications for design

The late twentieth century phenomenon of climate displacement has great significance towards sustainable design and energy use.  This manipulation of the environment, constructing entirely artificial climates outside of the domain of their natural occurrence, has not been around for very long in terms of refrigeration. Using refrigeration to create an artificial climate has only been around for the last 70 years.

Method of research, sources of information (prelim bibliography)

Phillippe Rahm (http://www.activesocialplastic.com/2008/04/philippe_rahm.html)



Intended form of final product, with initial sketch of graphic strategy

  • Show how refrigeration can implicate design and space
    • How it can create a new geography through climate manipulation.
  • Case Studies
  • Show sankey diagrams of how energy is being used in these types of environments
  • Show how this could work in sustainable buildings (shifting the conditions of the environment in order to affect their inhabitants, rather than using advanced technology)
  • Create a digital model of a building and show the design, social and environmental implications the advanced refrigeration system develops

In class and in the readings we learned about how buildings can use the environment to their advantage.  I immediately was reminded of the GSW Headquarters in Berlin by Saurbruch-Hutton building we learned about in ARCH 102. The façade of the building does not only look colorful, but it is also reacting to the environment.  The colored louvers can be rotated by the inhabitants to allow more or less ventilation while windows and vents on the opposite side weave together to create more operable ventilation.  This creates a thermal buffer zone between the interior and exterior.  The canopy on top the building lowers pressure between the building and the canopy, accelerating wind in that space to clear heat out of the building that is drawn upward by the stack effect.

While searching for some good case studies of reactive architecture, I stumbled upon the EPA’s website and some facts about buildings and the environment.  Hopefully spreading these around will push architects to build more sustainable architecture that reacts to the environment, instead of the letting the environment react to the building.  You can see all the facts here: http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/gbstats.pd

Here are some I thoguht were important to point out:

Buildings accounted for 38.9 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2005. Residential buildings accounted for 53.7 percent of that total, while commercial buildings accounted for the other 46.3 percent.

Buildings accounted for 72 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006 and this number will rise to 75% by 2025.  51 percent of that total was attributed to residential building use, while 49 percent was attributed to commercial building usage.

Buildings in the United States contribute 38.9 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, including 20.8 percent from the residential sector and 18.0 percent from the commercial sector (2008).

Of the 26 billion gallons of water consumed daily in the United States, approximately 7.8 billion gallons, or 30 percent, is devoted to outdoor uses. The majority of this is used for landscaping. The typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water above and beyond rainwater each year.


**Updated October 27, 2011 __________________________

We actually learned a lot about teh GSW Headquarters so I thought I’d put in my notes from class:

  • Thin slab is constructing that immediacy to the city
  • Integrated thinking*
  • Happening in concert in the rise of a new set of regulations (European Union – can’t put people in a building if they don’t have access to natural daylight)
  • Reducing energy loads
  • Exploring natural ventilation strategies
  • Example of a new urban form
  • Building form becomes a way of leveraging itself and becoming a mechanical system for it
  • Boundary between inside and outside becomes the infrastructure
    • Stack affect
    • Zone of space
      • when you don’t want the heat coming in you can block it
      • if you can heat up the louvers you can an air flow through the zone and it suctions into the space and creates a flow
      • sail-like structure
      • creates a flow, reinforces a draw
  • Windows/Louvers
    • West Side
      • Palette of color
      • Cool &Warm
      • Movable louvers, effective way to get heat gain
      • Motorized louvers
      • Operable windows
      • Not fully exposed, so when the sun hits them they heat up it increases the temperature
      • More sunprotection
    • East side
      • Opaque glass, clear glass woven together with ventilating panels (window provides a view and air à forming a façade)
      • Neutral side
      • Behind has a set of baffles that controls wind flow
  • Bufferzones
    • Building within a building
    • Outer skin is not completely closed, but it serves as a thermal buffer
    • Slows inflow across the zone
  • Winter
    • Thermal mass within the concrete floor
    • Clear, clean slab so you can use the radiating effect to operate on the people (works very directly)
  • Summer
    • Heat rises, can go across the slab
  • Heat exchanger
    • Can pull warm air within the space
    • Takes cool air, heats it up, takes it back in
  • Cross Ventilation
    • Rising air column becomes the ventilator
    • Buffer blocks strong
    • Not going to get a straight cross ventilation
    • Single banked
    • Is possible to separate the two with partitions
  • Roof
    • Sail structure
    • Expressive architecture
    • Maximum draw across and under the building  so as the air comes up it can help draw the air out


Moe argues that because water has such a high density, it makes it far better in capturing and channeling energy.  He connects this idea to the human body’s own way of conditioning.  He says, “Your body is basically a thermally active surface, it uses blood—or, essentially, water—to move heat energy from its core to its skin. Imagine how big the size of the lungs and the heart and veins would have to be if we were conditioning our bodies with air.” Moe discusses this idea of incorporating these thermally active surfaces will be more environmentally sustainable, durable, and help save money on steel products.  I think this idea should be carried out fuller.  “The body’s largest organ-about 15 percent of its mass-is its skin. Skin regulates surface and deeper body temperatures through exchanges in the hydronic circulator and the integumentary systems.” The skin is clearly very important to the building.  Thermal flows/heat flows in buildings are largely affected by material, energy, time and space/frame/geometry.  The materials that make up the skin are very important to their thermal flows and must involve layers that can deal with water, thermal issues, and interior finishes (i.e. warmth of the wood).  Moe makes a great point by connecting the body to a building in how to create thermally active surfaces.

Reading:  Moe, Thermally Active Surfaces in Architecture, pp. 42-83

energy diagram of four hours of my daily life

This diagram represents four hours in a typical day in Northern Virginia for me.  All my life I have been surrounded by ice hockey.  With a dad, two brothers and a sister who play hockey (and your classic Hockey Mom), I have gone from ice rink to ice rink across the United States watching and playing.  However, while I love hockey, the energy consumption of ice rinks is remarkable.  So, I decided to use four hours that involve me going and playing hockey.

 While beginning these diagrams I needed to figure out my sources.  I researched the different electric, gas and water companies to figure out where their plants and treatment centers are.  The water company gets water from the Potomac River.  This is a large water source in the DC metropolitan area and is very important that it does not get polluted.  I also found that the power plant for the electric company is located in North Lake Anna.  It is important to know where I am getting these sources and how my energy consumption connects to a large environment.  When Texaco was still in business in 1990, there was an oil spill from a tank farm that directly affected my elementary school and the surrounding area.   An underground leak caused about seven feet of oil to show up in private water well on the Fairfax County/Fairfax City line, according to county data. The sill totaled to an estimated 250,000 gallons of diesel oil, jet fuel and gasoline.  Some home that were built over underground oil systems had oil seeping into the ground and basements of homes.  The spill was very hazardous to live in.  It is important to recognize these tank farms and different banks of resources to understand how they are working and how they may be affecting the environment we are living in.  Though they seem out of touch, issues can bring them very close to home.

Through this diagram I concluded multiple things. One was that the activities powered by electricity were the ones I had most control over, as well as provide the most dangerous waste for the environment.  By controlling how much electricity I use I can save a significant amount of energy consumption in the world. For example, I could use less air condition if I open the windows more or live in more sustainable housing. I could also make sure to only use electric lights when I need them and not watch so much television.  All these small changes can help to reduce toxic waste and overheating.

Another issue that I noticed from the diagram was the effect of cars.  Cars produce many forms of waste that lead to the greenhouse effect such as exhaust, carbon monoxide and oil leaks.  Even electric cars produce about just as much electric energy as regular cars use oil/gas energy.  Though Hybrids save oil as a natural resource, they still contribute to a large amount of energy consumption in the world.   A solution to this issue would be to live in a more mixed use environment where you can walk or bike to places where you can live, work and play.  For example, in Charlottesville I am able to walk to almost anywhere I need or I can take public transit which cuts down on vehicles.  Cars are a huge issue in global warming and energy consumption and the only true way to cut down on the issue is to cut down on driving.  Walking/biking can also provide more exercise for me and others, creating a healthier global environment.  This has proven effective in most European cities, such as Copenhagen.  Another issue with driving is the electricity used for traffic lights.  According to research in my Urban Planning class, roundabouts are actually safer than traffic lights because it forces people to be more aware. The only problem with them is that some are very old and are not as safe as recent designs. Roundabouts save lots of money and energy and could be a possible change.

Additionally, as I mentioned earlier hockey is a large consumption of energy.  As an aspiring architect I have always been interested in ways to make ice rinks more sustainable.  Through research, I have found that there are multiple energy conservation measures that can be taken to reduce the large waste of energy in ice rinks, so I don’t have to feel so bad doing what I love.   From Brendan Lenko’s article “Keeping Recreation Energy Costs on Ice” I found multiple solutions:

  1. Install low-emissivity ceilings.   Lenko explains that a suspended foil-faced ceiling can reduce radiant heat load and reduce refrigeration energy costs.  Almost all ice rinks I have been to have been good about using the foil-faced ceiling and it is an easy fix that would not affect the structure of the building itself.
  2. Keep ice temperature in check. “Increasing the ice temperature a single degree can save 6 percent annually in refrigeration costs. Additional savings are possible by raising the temperature when the rink is unoccupied. Controls can be programmed to do this and save 5 to 15 percent of annual refrigeration costs.”  This is a small change that can clearly show great positive effects on energy consumption.
  3. Design for thinner ice. This one is rather obvious. If you have more ice, you have to use more refrigeration, which means more energy use.  According to Lenko, “two inches of ice will cost approximately 10 to 15 percent more in refrigeration costs than one inch of ice.”
  4. Incorporate pump control. “The refrigeration circulation pump can be a substantial operating cost. A variable speed pump will save energy under part-load or non-refrigerating conditions.”  A lot of sustainable architecture websites discussed the idea of a computer system that controls the pump as well to make the control much easier.
  5. Install infrared heaters over the stands. “This strategy will allow people in the stands to be heated, while not heating the entire building. Depending on usage, heaters reduce annual energy costs by 3 to 12 percent.”  I have been to plenty of ice rinks that just have overhead heaters and they work just fine.  Plus, hockey isn’t about keeping warm anyways, right?  It is unnecessary to heat an entire building that it essentially a refrigerator, when it is only heating the human.

There are other ways of reducing energy consumption in ice rinks (such as using less energy consumptive lighting), that can easily be done.  Another issue is that most ice rinks can be very old and do not use the most practically sustainable systems.  I hope a “Green” certified ice rink is eventually built.

 Through this diagram and way of mapping my energy consumption to the world I have concluded various ways to help reduce the energy consumption in the world.  Through using less unnecessary appliances I can reduce the amount of energy used and appreciate the outside world a little more.  Additionally, by biking or walking somewhere instead of driving can be a huge transition in the way we systematically go about our routines and effectively reduce a large amount of waste cause by energy consumption in cars.  Lasly, the sustainable improvement in ice rinks can make a huge change in how an entire sport culture wastes energy.  This assignment has helped me be more aware of how my energy effects the world and how I can help to reduce it, and consequently reduce the total amount of energy in the globe.

Source:  “Keeping recreation energy costs on ice” (Lenko, Brendan. American City & County, March 1999, p. 28)

Over Fall Break I traveled to New York City with school.  Our site for our next studio project is located on the High Line in Chelsea, so we spent plenty of time there. In the previous classes we had just talked about microclimates and the High Line was a great example of multiple microclimates. The High Line is a 1-mile-long section of the former elevated (30 feet above sea level) freight railroad spur called the West Side line.  It has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway.  The High Line Park sets as a great example of sustainability in the urban environment.

I first noticed the different microclimates after walking along the hot street and stepped up to the highline and it was significantly cooler.  The open wind-flow and natural plants were clearly two of the main factors in this climate change.  The landscape, though cohesive throughout the project, varies along the promenade down the High Line.  Multiple conditions of light, shade, exposure, wind and soil depth on the High Line lead to its variety of microclimates.   The second section of the highline, which was recently opened, is elevated about 7.5 feet above the original railroad track.  This allows people to be walking along the tree tops.  This was one of the coolest spots I noticed because there was shade, plant life, wind.

The High Line provides a variety of spaces in its short distance.  Whether you go up there to get some sun, shade, wind or just a sheltered space.

Here is a slideshow of images of the design for the High Line from the organization’s website.  Notice the various conditions throughout the pictures and the different construction techniques as well.


For more information on the High Line visit: http://www.thehighline.org/

The Bay Game reminded me of this project called The Learning Barge.  The barge was initiated and carried about by Phoebe Crisman, a professor here at UVA.  The barge is a tool to help kids learn about the ecosystem through the Elizabeth River.  The barge has different areas that allow for children to interact with the water, the plants and systems that make up the River.  The overall goal of the project to “have the opportunity to be on the water and experience firsthand the crucial balance between industrialized human activity and a natural estuarine environment. The Learning Barge will address this deficit as it traverses the highly polluted and urbanized Elizabeth River. The educational spaces and interactive exhibits will provide meaningful, hands-on education about the tidal estuary ecology, restoration and remediation technologies, human impact on this ecosystem, sustainable practices and the importance of environmental stewardship.” (http://www.arch.virginia.edu/learningbarge/educate_philosophy.html).

I think this project is a great example of the creative strategies that can evolve to help the watershed as well as bring the community together. I think UVa and other local universities around the Chesapeake Bay have the ability to do great things for the Bay that will help educate citizens and improve the bay.

For more information on The Learning Barge go to: http://www.arch.virginia.edu/learningbarge/index.html

When I began to play The Bay Game I was surprised at how little options I had for each round.  They were all simply yes or no answers with some numbers involved.  This made me realize how little options each of these people have.  However, a lot of the options and work come from discussing with the regulators.  During The Bay Game, I initially chose sustainable farming because I knew it would be the best for the Bay and the systems surrounding the Bay.  However, I was rapidly losing money each round because of the operating expenses.  Due to this large loss of income, I was forced to go the cheaper route.  I switched to conventional husbandry and began to gain some money back, slowly.  My regulator then asked me how I was doing.  I told him I was very much in debt and explained the large operating expenses for sustainable husbandry.  He then began to provide more taxes on conventional agriculture and larger incentives on sustainable farming.   This helped me to get out of debt immediately.  Through this experience I realized how important the governing system is on the farmers and those immediately affecting the bay.  The lack of incentives and ignorable taxes on conventional farming made it easy to switch from sustainable farming when it came down to money.  However, after discussing with the regulator I expressed my issues and he helped me get out of debt and help the bay.

The Bay Game includes a limited set of tools for the policy makers and other roles to change the dynamics of the model.

Behavior Change:

Practice more sustainably

  • This is truly the biggest way the Bay can improve.  This can be done through:
    • Nutrient management
      • “Nutrient management is a pollution prevention practice that manages the rate, timing, and method of application of nutrients and minimizes their potential losses through runoff or leaching to groundwater. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are three essential plant nutrients used in significant amounts in intensive agricultural operations. These nutrients are important for satisfactory crop production but, if not managed properly, can easily move from farmland to ground and surface waters.” (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/content/publications/cbp_12297.pdf)
    • Plant cover crops
    • Control pollution from manure
      • Cows are one of the largest producers of methane gas which causes the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming

Get more involved

  • The government needs to continue to publicize how citizens can help protect the Bay.  Whether it is a weekend cleanup or just bumper stickers, people will be willing to help out if they know about it.  A good focus would be on college students.  Through un-paid internships or school trips the bay and students would be able to benefit.


Talk with one another

  • From my experience with the Bay Game, once I started talking with others in my watershed and the regulators, we rapidly progressed.  Without discussing we were second to last on the rankings.  Once we began to work together, we remained the top watershed in the simulation.

Incentives on sustainable practices and higher taxes on harmful processes

  • Such as nutrient management and crop covering

Publish a budget

  • The government should publish a budget for each areas of the bay.  This would provide for better planning and long-term investments (such as sustainable husbandry).

Continue to publicize how citizens can help protect the Bay

  • Through marketing, advertisements, college campuses, etc.

Improvements for the Bay Game:

I would suggest that the game run longer so people can progress from their mistakes.  The game is meant to show what is wrong and the ways to improve the bay.  In the short amount of time we played, we learned a lot, but there is still much more to learn about the different variables affecting the bay.

For more information on the Chesapeake Bay and ways to help please visit: