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Green Home Design

In Architecture, Green Home Design, LEED, Sustainable on July 26, 2010 at 2:16 pm

This post kicks off a series of posts centered around the design of a theoretical green/sustainable home in Chicago.  The house will have enough room for a typical family with 3 beds and 2 baths and 1,200 to 1,4000 square feet.  My intent in posting these sketches is to chronicle the design process and to hopefully gain feedback from all of you.  I have high hopes of eventually modeling the entire home in Revit, but we’re a long way from the 3D computer modeling stage!

I have yet to settle on which sustainable design standard – LEED, Living Building Challenge, Passive House, etc – that I am going to follow.  In reality, it will probably end up being a mix of all three systems rather than a strict adherence to one over the other.  In my opinion, LEED is a great sustainability checklist, but does little to inspire great designs.  The Living Building Challenge (essentially LEED on steroids) has much stricter standards than LEED, though some aspects seem impractical or cost-prohibitive.  I’ve been reading more about how Passive House is gaining ground in the US, but I am admittedly uneducated on the specifics of the system (but I did just order a book about it, so stay tuned!).

The house will be designed with the following broader concepts in mind:

  • Affordability
    • Using economical design, construction & material choices and avoiding overly complex design compositions
  • Sustainability
    • Native landscaping, solar orientation, energy efficiency, thermal mass, indoor air quality, water efficiency, material sourcing, etc
  • Beauty
    • Meaning and beauty in architecture ensure building stewardship and reinforce sustainability

As of this moment, I have no idea where this design process will take me, but I am certainly looking forward to the ride.  It will be interesting to see how the successive drawings, sketches and your input inform the final product.  Feel free to comment on anything about the project going forward.  I’ve attached a few preliminary sketches, though the final product will undoubtedly look entirely different from what you see here!

Is the Pedway the Right Way?

In Architecture, Urbanism on July 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Designing systems for buildings, people and vehicles to coexist in a busy downtown like Chicago is a great opportunity for innovation and creativity in design.  The above pedway crossing over South Water Street just East of Michigan Avenue in Chicago satisfies all of these requirements quite well.  The design allows vehicular traffic to pass underneath the pedway, pedestrian traffic to flow above the traffic, and the entire structure in turn serves as the base and public plaza of the Mies van der Rohe office building above.  The perspective here illustrates one of the several entrances to the pedway on the left.

The Loop has its fair share of under and above ground pedestrian pathways intended to provide shelter to users while taking full advantage of the captive audience with shops, restaurants and business dotting the way.  Interestingly, from an urban design standpoint, the pedway itself is difficult to successfully design in city centers that are not as busy as Chicago.  They essentially divert people from the street level businesses that rely on foot traffic.  Also, in today’s car-dominated society, giving further speed and prominence to vehicular traffic in city centers can make the few pedestrians on the street feel uneasy about strolling through a potentially hazardous downtown.

Despite these common pitfalls, this pedway seems to allow pedestrians, vehicles and the surrounding buildings to coexist creatively.

Designing a Wall: Planter/Street Furniture in Prudential Plaza

In Furniture, Landscape, Urbanism on July 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

This hybrid planter/street furniture spacial divider wraps the East and North edges of Prudential Plaza in Chicago.  The “wall” structure effectively does the following:

  • Separates the public street and sidewalk from the semi-public plaza
  • Negotiates the change in elevation from street level to the raised plaza above
  • Provides seating on both the street and raised plaza side
  • Softens the impact of the wall by incorporating planters & greenery
  • Utilizes the taller, Art Deco inspired posts between planters for lighting and vertical emphasis in an otherwise horizontal composition

Street furniture and planters are important aspects of any plaza.  They provide a welcoming environment for people to enjoy, while also defining the space.  In this case, the tiered planters lessen the stark impact of what is essentially a six- to seven-foot wall around the plaza.  By stepping the planters back and incorporating seating, the streetscape and plaza become more inviting.

This structure is another example of how thoughtful design can enhance a space, even in something as simple as a wall.