Tag Archives: innovation

DMV Net Zero Coalition

On the morning of Tuesday February 12th, 2019 Hickok Cole helped facilitate the inaugural session of the DMV Net Zero Coalition. Presented by DCRA’s Green Building Division, and Arlington and Montgomery counties, the coalition was a chance for multi-disciplinary building industry professionals from across the region to share progress on achieving deep energy savings in their buildings and share best practices in designing Net Zero structures.

With over 130 attendees, the coalition was a great success and gets us one step closer to the goal of creating a grassroots regional peer-exchange network that promotes and builds capacity for net-zero energy buildings and technologies throughout the greater Washington region. This coalition will be ever more important now that DC has mandated 100% renewable electricity sourcing for the city by 2032.

A special thanks to Dave Epley, DCRA’s Green Building Program Manager, Joan Kelsh and Jessica Abralind of Arlington’s Office of Sustainability & Environmental Management, and Lindsey Shaw, Montgomery County’s Energy & Sustainability Programs Manager for organizing this coalition kick-off. If you would like to included in future events, please contact  DMV.NZE@gmail.com.

Upcoming events:

  • Wednesday, April 3rd: Montgomery County Energy Summit at the Silver Spring Civic Building register click here.
  • Wednesday May 1st: Bisnow’s Greater DC Solar and Sustainability Summit: Why Developers Should Go Green to register click here.

To learn more about Hickok Cole’s Net Zero renovation of the American Geophysical Union’s headquarters in Dupont Circle please contact Holly Lennihan or Melanie De Cola.

Be sure to follow the latest American Geophysical Union construction updates at Building AGU.

American Geophysical Union

Exploring the Advanced Sustainable Building Features at American Geophysical Union

Construction is now fully underway on The American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) headquarters renovation in Dupont Circle. As part of its mission of “science for the benefit of humanity,” AGU seeks to lead by example and is striving to create the first-ever “net zero energy” renovation of an existing commercial building in the District.

In order to realize this goal, particular strategies had to be devised and technological advances realized. We would like to present just a few of them from the architects’ perspective:

Generation

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Array
This solar PV array includes 720 solar panels making up a 250 kilowatt system. It includes 24 panels on a vertical, south-facing surface and 696 panels laid out horizontally and elevated above the penthouse roof. The panels are from manufacturer Sunpower, and at just over 22% efficiency, they are some of the most efficient on the market.

AGU's solar canopy

Reclamation

Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) with Exhaust Air Heat Recovery
The DOAS will provide a dedicated means of ventilation for the building. This system will condition the air prior to delivering it inside, while at the same time recovering the outgoing exhaust air’s heat to help raise the temperature of the incoming fresh air for space heating needs.

Hydroponic Phytoremediation (Hy Phy) Wall
While this wall looks like a standard green wall or vertical garden, it will actually work a little harder. When installed it will be an active rather than passive wall, and function as part of the building’s ventilation system. In conjunction with the DOAS, the wall will filter and improve indoor air quality, all while reducing the amount of outside air necessary. The plants, their roots, and the water filtration system will scrub air of unwanted toxins and VOCs before it recirculates throughout the building.

Absorption

Municipal Sewer Heat Exchange System
This system will tap into a combined sewer line in front of the building, which was built in the 1890s, to maximize the efficiency of the building’s mechanical systems. It will essentially function the same way a geothermal system does—as a heat sink/source—but it will be the first of its kind in the United States. The system operates by:

  1. Diverting wastewater to a settling tank located just outside of the building.
  2. Circulating the then debris-less water into a sewer heat exchanger in the underground garage.
  3. While in the garage, separately piped in radiant fluid will be pre-heated or cooled before being circulated throughout the building.

Fear not, it is a closed loop system, no sewage contamination will take place. Read more about how sewer heat exchange works here.

AGU's sewer heat exchange system

Stormwater Collection and Re-use
Rainwater will be captured from the roof and PV array and collected in a large cistern also located in the building’s garage. After filtration and treatment this greywater will be reused for all flushing fixtures and the irrigation of the green roof and hy phy wall. The cistern’s capacity is 11,300 gallons.

Reduction

Enhanced Dynamic Glazing System
The existing windows at AGU will soon be removed and replaced with dynamic glass. The curtainwall glazing will be made up of triple-pane, air-filled, 1-3/4” thick windows. The added 3rd pane gives the windows a lower U-value and solar heat gain coefficient to help reduce the transmission of heat and cold. This glazing will also utilize an electrochromic film to tint the windows on-demand. This tint twill take the place of traditional blinds as well as reduce glare and heat transmission while still allowing natural light in and views out.

electrochromic glass

DC Powered Workspace and Lighting
The US electrical grid is wired for alternating current, or AC, power distribution. However, direct current, or DC, power is used by computers, appliances, and LED lighting. Conveniently, DC power is also what will be produced by the large PV array on AGU’s roof. Creating an energy distribution microgrid which relies on direct DC to DC power will reduce the energy efficiency loss caused by power conversion.

Enhanced Envelope Insulation
The existing building envelope is brick on a CMU backup wall separated by an air gap. The exterior walls do not currently contain insulation or an air/weather barrier. 6” studs have been added along the interior of the perimeter wall which will provide space to:

  1. Install 8” of closed-cell spray-applied insulation to achieve an R-value of 53. The new insulation will also act as an air barrier.
  2. Anchor new windows which will now be in-line with the insulation, creating a continuous thermal barrier.

Radiant Ceiling Cooling System
In a radiant ceiling system temperature is controlled by radiation, a more efficient way to condition space than forced-air. Decoupling the building conditioning system from the DOAS provides the opportunity to reduce the overall energy needed to move air through the building since it’s now only needed for ventilation, not for space cooling.

radiant ceiling

“The renovation of the existing AGU headquarters provides an unprecedented opportunity to challenge ourselves to lead by example and demonstrate that we, and the Earth and space science community we represent, can be a model for sustainable design, reducing the carbon and environmental impacts of business operations in a cost-effective and replicable way.”

– American Geophysical Union

Be sure to follow the latest construction updates at Building AGU.

A Stroll through Timber City with Holly Lennihan

Over the past few months, there has been a steady stream of conversation and research around the office related to the subject of mass timber and its application in building design and construction. The stars (and wood!) aligned in mid-July when our own Director of Sustainable Design and DC CREW EDU committee member, Holly Lennihan, joined The National Building Museum’s Timber City Exhibit, Forestry experts and other industry representatives for a panel discussion on the topic as a part of CREW DC’s “Innovation” education series.

Following the program, we sat down with Holly to discuss this growing trend, its application, and the design implications of using mass timber.

Why was mass timber a timely fit for CREW DC’s “Innovation” series?
The idea for the program originally grew out of conversations I was having with people in our office. This trend represents an exciting new way to use wood in our industry, and not many firms have experience designing and building with mass timber therefore our list of potential panelists was limited. However, through CREW EDU committee members, we were able to connect with both Melissa Jenkins of the U.S. Forest Service and Nadine Block of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Lauren Wingo, structural engineer at Arup, joined the team on the heels of a presentation Arup gave on mass timber to the Hickok Cole office. She was an integral part of their presentation, and we knew she would bring a lot of value to the program.

What innovations and advancements have been made to make building with wood in urban areas safer than the approach has been in the past?
During the panel, Melissa spoke specifically about the extensive safety testing. As I understand it, when a Cross Laminated Timber column or beam burns, a fascinating thing happens where the outside layer chars and actually insulates the inside. So, counter to what you would think, the burned exterior becomes the protection for the interior. According to Melissa, everyone who watched the fire test was stunned by how well the timber performed.

In addressing seismic issues, Cross Laminated Timber is a surprisingly effective structural system due to the process of laminating in two different directions. This technique results in ductile behavior, giving the structure flexibility and allowing for energy dissipation because the timbers can move against one another.

“Why not strengthen the wood production industry through investment in mass timber material? It supports domestic manufacturing while both helping the environment and contributing to beautiful interior design. I predict we will even see productivity gains in people who work in spaces where the wood structure is visible. To me, it resonates across the triple bottom line—a win-win-win for people, planet and profits.”

– Holly Lennihan

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event at The National Building Museum

How is Cross Laminated Timber addressing established North American building codes that bar against the use of mass timber in high-rise development?
The 2015 International Building Code (IBC) allows for Cross Laminated Timber, but it has not yet been adopted by DC or Virginia. There are, however, alternate paths for incorporating mass timber in the meantime while complying with current codes. Lauren shared an example where Arup was able to use mass timber in their approach to Washington Latin Public Charter School’s new gymnasium; they walked the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) through a process to show them how Cross Laminated Timber can meet fire and structural requirements for the code. This was, of course, aided by the fact that the material is included in future versions of the IBC.

Once there is a developer on board that understands that building with this material has valid economic rationale, while also giving them an edge in terms of their product offering, we anticipate others will follow. Hines has already successfully delivered a mass timber high-rise office tower in Minneapolis. At Hickok Cole, we’re excited about the opportunity to work alongside developers who want to be at the forefront of this kind of innovative work.

Are there sustainable or aesthetic benefits to building with wood over other materials?
From an aesthetic and wellness angle, there are benefits to taking a biophilic, human-centered approach to design. We are finding more and more connections between natural building materials and productivity, health and wellness. Plus, exposing the natural wood makes for a beautiful interior.

Nadine did a really good job of explaining the role of culling to maintain healthy forests. This necessary clearing results in a supply of timber that can be used throughout the built environment. Others are using wood from forests that have been decimated by the Mountain Pine Beetle, an epidemic brought on by climate change that is currently ravaging the West. Both approaches are helping to keep forests healthy and repurpose excess wood into a useful building material.

Are there financial benefits for developers that choose to go the mass timber route?
I think people that have used it successfully point to its ease of use and the resulting increased speed of construction. Anytime you can cut down on construction time, you are going to have a net gain in terms of expenditure and budget. Additionally, the fact that it’s a lighter weight material means a decrease in foundation costs.

As a designer and architect specializing in sustainability, why do you think mass timber is something DC—and the rest of the country—should be focused on right now?
For one thing, DC’s incredibly committed to sustainability. I think design professionals like myself feel that if there’s one place mass timber could enter the market, it’s here. We are looking for clients – whether it’s a developer or a mission-driven non-profit – to see the benefits of Cross Laminated Timber and be an agent of change.

However, we do have to be realistic. I think there are design constraints which could make it difficult to convince a central business district developer who wants to do a concrete and steel building to go the mass timber route. On the other hand, people may find new ways to use it. I’m both pragmatic and idealistic. I believe the use of mass timber will ultimately result in a better building, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.

Special thanks to the DC CREW EDU committee members and to the following expert panelists who contributed to the “Timberrrr! A New Look at Wood Construction” program:

  • Melissa Jenkins, Natural Resources Specialist, Cooperative Forestry (Wood Innovation), U.S. Forest Service
  • Nadine Block, Chief Operating Officer and Senior VP Public Affairs, Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Lauren Wingo, Structural Engineer, Arup

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event

CREW Edu Mass Timber Event at the National Building Museum

Want to learn more about mass timber’s use in building design and construction? Check out these additional resources:

INNOVATION: The Intersection of TECHNOLOGY + DESIGN

We invite you to join us as we INVESTIGATE the things that INSPIRE us and transform our lives.  During the course of the year we will highlight advancements in technology, art, architecture, and design. We will explore how these innovations push the boundaries and stretch our conventional notions about the built environment, work styles, fabrication, and all things design.

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