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"Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, says architect Michael Green, and build it out of ... wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it's not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it's necessary."
Vancouver’s Michael Green Architecture, a firm specializing in timber buildings, has been acquired by Silicon Valley startup Katerra.
Timber is trending. Earlier this year, Azure wrote about the proliferation of plyscrapers around the world: thanks to the possibilities of cross-laminated timber, which is fire-resistant and as strong as concrete, wood construction is being considered for 70-storey buildings in Japan, 80-storey residential projects in London and mid-rise college campuses in Toronto. And one of the most prominent champions of timber construction is Vancouver-based Michael Green, whose firm has been pushing wood buildings – and indeed wood cities – since 2012.
Green, who authored The Case for Tall Wood Buildings and won a 2017 AZ Award for Environmental Leadership for his T3 Minneapolis office building, promotes timber as an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. Earlier this week, Michael Green Architecture (MGA) was acquired by Katerra, a Silicon Valley construction startup that received $865 million from Japanese venture capital giant Softbank Vision Fund. Reportedy valued at over $3 billion, Katerra is run by former Tesla interim CEO Michael Marks; it lists itself as a tech company, though it aims to disrupt the construction industry.
Green says that, after the acquisition, he will remain the president and CEO of his firm – it will be called Michael Green Architecture, a Katerra company. In an email, Green says that its parent company will help “advance our agenda on design, quality, sustainability and affordability.” MGA and its two dozen employees will remain in Vancouver.
Katerra, Architectural Record notes, wants to vertically integrate all aspects of construction, from design to subcontracting. Founded three years ago, it, like Green, focuses on affordability through efficiency: Katerra has created market-rate multi-family housing and student and senior housing, with projects focused on mass-timber construction. The acquisition of MGA, it seems, is a step towards making its architecture division more environmentally friendly – and could provide Green with wider resources, both human and financial, to achieve his wood-built ambitions.
The terms of MGA’s acquisition by Katerra were not disclosed.
Green said the acquisition allows him to make a bigger impact on the North American market – though his reach already extends beyond his Gastown office. MGA’s recent projects include the OSU College of Forestry building at Oregon State University, a proposal for the world’s tallest timber tower in Paris, and Riverfront Square, a 2,000-unit residential project in New Jersey.
Though the acquisition is a victory for Green, it’s also a promising step for the future of timber construction. Silicon Valley’s embrace – and investment – in architecture, green design and wood construction could have a lasting impact on the built environment. For a glimpse of what the future may have in store, watch Green’s influential TEDxTalk above.
Source: AZURE / Written By: Mark Teo
VICTORIA BC– The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) has published a follow-up to its Innovation Report (February 2016), which revealed BC’s construction sector lags behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation. The new report is called “Procuring Innovation” and lays out the case for the sector to recognize the procurement process as the key for driving innovative projects and sector development...
“The culture of lowest bid does not drive innovation in our industry”
“The culture of lowest bid does not drive innovation in our industry,” observes Chris Atchison, President of the BCCA. “Margins are tight and businesses have to operate profitably, yet if we don’t innovate we’re in danger of undermining our collective ability to compete. The sector has to introduce whole-life value to the process.”
The “Procuring Innovation” report acts as a comprehensive overview of the types and methods of procuring construction services, assesses emerging procurement practices being developed elsewhere, and offers recommendations for different approaches based on the unique circumstances of the project.
“We hope readers will gain a new sense of the key role that the approach to procurement plays in setting the foundation for a project,” says report author Helen Goodland of Brantwood Consulting. “There are tremendous benefits to incorporating new technologies, processes and solutions into construction projects, but innovation has to be championed by clients and owners who are committed to achieving the best value for their project.”
The report is intended to offer owners and clients best practice examples, and help architecture, engineering and construction firms set up their competitive response processes, so they can bring their best to projects that push technical and logistical boundaries.
Using mass timber as a case study, the authors demonstrate how the procurement process can be best deployed to accommodate project specific R&D, allow for new technologies and processes, and encourage project team creativity.
A full copy of the Construction Innovation Project Report can be downloaded Here »
Source: British Columbia Construction Association Report Author: Helen Goodland
Design decisions are increasingly directed not by architects but by marketing executives, writes Crystal Bennes...
IS DESIGN [ARCHITECTURE] OR MARKETING
We tend to think of marketing as something of the mind, the 21st-century equivalent of Satan’s whisperings to Eve in the Garden of Eden, rather than as something which has physical form. But of course marketing is often rooted in tangible objects, and nowhere is the relationship between product and advertisement more distempered than in the built environment. We must ask the question, where does architecture end and marketing begin?
Take the housing industry. While the familiar marketing apparatuses of print adverts and occasional video commercials still make an appearance, the primary tricks of the trade are construction hoardings and mocked-up sales showrooms. In most instances, both of these tools themselves require planning permission and effect visible change in the built environment. They are of course pop-ups - here today, gone tomorrow - but when read as a now-requisite extension of many major building projects, these forms take on new power.
For one thing, not all temporary marketing remains temporary. Despite a 1909 circular published by the American Institute of Architects stating that ‘advertising tends to lower the standard of the profession, and is therefore condemned’, Californian property developer Harry Chandler had no such qualms. In 1923, Chandler erected a giant billboard in the hills of LA to market his new housing development: Hollywood. Chandler’s sign has become so famous as a landmark in its own right that we’ve forgotten it was originally a pop-up advertisement. Indeed, in many respects it continues to function as shorthand for a glamorous lifestyle many associate with the Hollywood Hills.
What the example of the Hollywood sign illustrates is the extent to which the construction of new housing has historically gone hand in hand with marketing. In today’s car-centric western USA, large billboards are often found on the edges of motorways or other busy roads. Targeted at domestic buyers, these billboards don’t push an aspirational lifestyle to those sat in their cars, stuck in traffic. ‘If you lived here, you’d be home by now’ exemplifies the US approach. It’s not the aesthetics of luxury, but a shorter commute that seals the deal. Or think of the vogue for Hollywood-esque X-marks-the-spot signage on everything from FAT’s Villa in Hoogvliet to Will Alsop’s Peckham Library: Chandler’s legacy lives on, enfolded within contemporary building design.
"Increasingly, hoardings begin to function as a kind of architectural cross-section - where the Platonic ideal of the interior architecture, as an expression of lifestyle, is made publicly visible on the building’s exterior before it is built..."
Occasionally, entire cities, such as Milton Keynes, and more recently Gurgaon (India’s version of Silicon Valley) have been designed and built with marketing tactics almost as first principles. In Milton Keynes, an initiative to market the project as a ‘city in the trees’ resulted in planning guidelines which stated that no building was to be built taller than the tallest tree, leading to a low-rise mat plan. In Gurgaon, new homes for India’s emerging middle classes are sold on hoardings and billboards which explain why nearly all new housing in the vicinity takes the form of giant, gleaming towers: ‘Let the Skies Sense Your Arrival. Live. Every Moment’, reads a vast poster for the Upton-Hansen Architects-designed Michael Schumacher World Tower, depicting a hovering helicopter about to land. Another boasts ‘360 Degree Living, 100% Privacy’. In Gurgaon, towers have come implicitly to promise privacy and luxury - the lines between the built form of development and its simplistic marketing narratives are blurred.
Of course, such iconography is primarily aimed at the luxury housing market where often the only difference between what is being sold is the marketing itself. Like many goods in the luxury market, brand, perception and desirability are more important (and easier to manipulate) than intrinsic value, something the developers are well aware of. ‘Many residences can pamper you with luxury. Only the rarest few can refresh the soul,’ reads an advertisement for The Cascade, a tower built in Bangalore by Tata Housing, subsidiary of one of India’s largest multi-national conglomerates. What marketing enables there is to turn the architecture inside out, flipping traditional notions of public and private architecture as a sales tool. Increasingly, hoardings begin to function as a kind of architectural cross-section - where the Platonic ideal of the interior architecture, as an expression of lifestyle, is made publicly visible on the building’s exterior before it is built. Marketing showrooms, by contrast, take this inversion of public-private architecture to its logical conclusion by building the ‘lifestyle’ of construction hoardings in physical form. An apt example is the marketing suite of Neo Bankside, the £275m Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners development for the Duke of Westminster’s property company, Grosvenor. A stand-alone two-storey mini tower-cum-marketing suite, it is built using the same cross-bracing and exterior cladding as the development itself. Elsewhere in London, marketing suites for the mid-market have seen the conflation of the showhome with longer-lasting amenities. At the construction site for Bellway Homes’ Pembury Circus development, large arrows on the hoardings lead the way to an oddly shaped, double-height marketing suite and sales showroom. While you might assume that these poorly constructed showrooms finish up on the slag heap of sales-suite history, at Pembury Circus, the marketing suite is billed to be ‘transformed’ into a long-term community centre. Its marketing becoming architecture in the most literal sense.
"While you might assume that these poorly constructed showrooms finish up on the slag heap of sales-suite history, at Pembury Circus, the marketing suite is billed to be ‘transformed’ into a long-term community centre. Its marketing becoming architecture in the most literal sense..."
If marketing suites and showhomes represent selling housing through the cracked lens of lifestyle, we can see the same thing happening elsewhere with the turn to statement architecture by luxury fashion brands and tech companies as a form of brand promotion. That Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim is now synonymous with the regeneration of Bilbao suggests that architecture and marketing were tethered long before the fashion pack caught on. Architecture has always been about creating narratives, which has perhaps made it all too easy to be co-opted by the narrative-weaving of marketing executives.
Consider luxury brand LVMH’s commissioning of a 54-metre-high UNStudio-designed flagship store in Japan, or the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris by Gehry (AR Nov 2014). The brand isn’t interested in a high-quality built environment: rather, LVMH understands how a futuristic architectural aesthetic can be used to peddle expensive perfumes and bags. Similarly, the Neo Bankside suite isn’t about selling the quality of design but a perceived lifestyle through carefully staged interiors perfectly pitched to appeal to the income, race, gender and tastes of the small group identified as target buyers.
Architecture and marketing have blurred into an unproductive muddle, detrimental to all but those who profit from uninformed consumer choices. But if marketing and its highly effective tactics could be harnessed for the good of the urban realm, they might become powerful allies for better cities. This would not be unprecedented: think of Bruno Taut’s utopian exhibition pavilions of the 1920s, which inspired a generation to build in glass - and which doubled as marketing suites for the German steel and glass industries. If we do not recalibrate the balance between commerce and public good, the future of design holds little more than lowest common denominator-driven showhome architecture for all.
Source: The Architectural Review
Alfred Waugh, the principal of Formline Architecture in Vancouver, presented the "Indigenuity in Architecture" session at the Wood Design and Solutions Conference held on Feb. 28 in downtown Vancouver...
First Peoples House UVIC
Waugh detailed the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, based in Merrit, B.C., as the basis for his firm's further work on wood projects.
It was decided at first to have two separate entrances, but a First Nations elder pointed out "we've been going through separate entrances for 200 years" so the design changed to one large entrance, along with a circular space in the middle of the structure.
Teepees were used in the Nicola Valley for hunting and fishing which are natural air funnels, and the climate elements of the building used that methodology as a design inspiration. Yellow cedar was also used in the building envelope.
Waugh also designed the First People's House at the University of Victoria, and he said the building's quadrangle shape is meant to integrate and blend in with the surrounding land.
"It's one of the few heavy timber buildings in the centre of the campus, surrounded by concrete buildings," Waugh said.
The building is meant to be a celebration of water, Waugh said, which is an important element to the Coast Salish people. Stormwater is handled on site and the lower roof is a green roof.
The idea of the building is to share culture as students and others walk through the building, Waugh said, and as such has been a success, with both First Nations and other students using the structure.
Longhouse design was another key point of inspiration, but it also worked as a way to enable displacement ventilation. The design allows for passive cooling and uses "100% fresh air." Computer fluid dynamic modelling was used to calibrate ventilation requirements to occupant load.
The main air supply is provided through a "ventilation totem" outside the building, which sends air down to the mechanical ventilation systems.
Wood, Waugh said, was used in the Nicola Valley structure through glulam columns supporting concrete structure.
"A forest of columns replaced the forest of jack pines we had to displace," Waugh said.
Waugh also worked on the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre, which is designed similarly to longhouses, and he said the building was meant to be inviting and a way to share culture rather than a "black box."
"We wanted it to be a plank house, but a transparent one," he said.
A hybrid post and beam system inspired by the plank house theme meant using paired glulam columns and beams joined by steel connectors and glulam rivets. It also used a suspended glazing system, which allowed for "shingled glass."
The First People's House on the UVic campus used an interpretation of the slotted post and beam connection for the Coast Salish Long House part of the structure, using glulam columns and beams.
Waugh highlighted the O'Siyam Pavillion in Squamish, which uses curved glulam to create a bandstand.
"It's an expression of the locale, where the mountains meet the sea," Waugh said, and the roof reflects that with its undulating shape.
Waugh also pointed to the Liard River Hot Springs in Liard River, B.C., a project where they were not allowed to use any electrical or mechanical elements. The project was a replacement of existing change room facilities and washrooms, but they made minimal impact during construction to preserve endangered snails in the area. There we no lights allowed, so the structure made use of natural light.
The Indian Residential School, History and Dialogue Centre on the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus is a building meant to highlight a dark period in Canada's history. The idea for the building was for the landscape to "penetrate" the structure, so that it blends with the land and provides areas for outdoor learning.
Source: Journal of Commerce / Blog
According to The Architect's Journal's first Women in Architecture Survey the percentage of women in architecture has fallen over the past few years. When searching for a solution to the current situation, it's best to look back to see how far women have come and better understand where we go from here.