Article Type: Student Feature
The Oakland Ghost Ship Community Development Studio
Transforming Coastal Infrastructure
DCRP Students’ Dissertations Continue an Award-Winning Tradition
A Winning Proposal: CED Students to Reclaim Strawberry Creek
Art + Village + City in the Pearl River Delta
How to (Re)-Build a City: An International City Planning Studio in Talca, Chile
Capstone Studio: Exploring the Potential of Our Practice
At the culmination of four years study and two masters degrees — through which I had the privilege to learn from some of the best minds in our field — I was frustrated. The practical difficulty of coming to terms with the vast existential challenges of our era, many of which may come to challenge our cultural survival, often pushes design to opt for myopic, more easily marketed, or unrealistic solutions. My thinking is preoccupied with the reality of accelerating inequality, rampant environmental injustice, and design stasis in the face of climate change that demands tactical adaptation.
In the Spring 2014 Advanced Project Design Studio I was fortunate to benefit from the wise mentorship of Professor David Meyer, who gave me free reign to explore the potentials of our practice in a tradition of art through rigor. The result was simultaneously a design project, a study through painting, and perhaps, humbly, poetic.
Landscape architecture must help our communities confront the coming challenges of our era with ever decreasing resources. Respect, restraint, and honesty should be valued above the panacea solutionism which has been a trend of practice in recent years. The 16th Street Station studio project addresses a site in a neglected corner of poverty-stricken West Oakland. Here, disenfranchised communities are being displaced to accommodate a growing high income workforce while sea level rise and particulate pollution disproportionately affect the same neighborhoods. An abandoned and collapsing historic (1912) Beaux Arts train station sits in an empty field upon toxic bay fill, aside one of the largest freeways in the country (I-80). How can Oakland remediate this building, declared too expensive to repair, while also improving air quality in heavily impacted neighborhoods, and creating a park that pays homage to this grand building? Minimalism and a preference for maintenance before formal design strategies, guides the project.
Currently, the existing site is guarded 24/7 by a city funded private security guard. The project inverts this defensive approach and instead proposes that a caretaker live on site, acting as an advocate for the landscape. The site is thus maintained in an early French agrarian tradition of productive forests, but is wholly modern in its planting approach and intents.
The project seeks to ameliorate the major environmental and social challenges to West Oakland. Sustainability is found in the mitigation of particulate pollution, phytoremediation of the soil, and the preclusion of scheduled high-end development which would irreparably change neighborhood character. The plan acknowledges demonstrable shifts in the landscape over time, with a drainage plan that assumes an eventual marshland landscape where mature trees become rampikes and a living clock for a community threatened by rising tides. The plan encourages community participation with elements constructed by local craftspeople using materials found on site.
The 16th Street Station proposed design has been well-received and hopefully contributes to the expansion of the perceived limits of our practice. I was honored to receive recognition from the American Society of Landscape Architects with an Honor Award in General Design, 2014. I remain indebted to the faculty at the CED who challenged me to expand the limits of my practice and encouraged me to remain true to the larger philosophies I hold as a designer.
Bringing Dynamic Indoor Environments to the Mainstream
As we look for new ways to improve building performance in our efforts to reduce energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions from commercial buildings, we must also recognize that occupant comfort cannot be sacrificed. While people’s attitudes towards indoor comfort are complex and dynamic, building systems are not designed to respond to these needs.
A new research collaboration at Berkeley focuses on opportunities to use advanced computing to enable “intelligent” building infrastructure. This has primarily been a partnership among researchers from CED’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). In just a short time a number of fruitful projects have come out of this collaboration.
One of these initial projects is sMAP (Simple Measurement and Actuation Profile), an open-source protocol to easily integrate data from different sources in buildings — such as energy and building system operations data — into a uniform and accessible platform. Buildings usually have little data on comfort levels and operational efficiency. sMAP has helped by creating a method for gathering these data efficiently. The platform has been deployed in buildings across the UC Berkeley campus as well as at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Based on this work done while they were Ph.D. researchers in computer science at Berkeley’s LoCal Group, Andrew Krioukov (M.S. Computer Science ’13) and Stephen Dawson-Haggerty (Ph.D. Computer Science ’14) developed Comfy, a learning thermostat designed for commercial buildings, and the first product to come out of their Oakland-based startup, Building Robotics. While currently working on my PhD in Building Science at the CED, I also co-lead Building Robotics — along with co-founders Andrew and Stephen, and VP Design & Communications Beau Trincia (M.Arch ’06) — guiding an interdisciplinary team focused on re-inventing building controls with advanced computing and thoughtful user experience.
The Comfy software works on the philosophy that is central to CBE: preferences for temperature vary considerably over time, in different climates, and across populations. In other words, there is no “one size fits all” for temperature. Some of CBE’s most current work looks at the related principle of alliesthesia, explained in this recent paper.
Currently, buildings are not run dynamically — most buildings typically condition spaces between 70–73 degrees throughout the day. The Comfy software enables dynamic and demand-based conditions, providing both an immediate response from the building (either warm or cool air, temporarily) and machine learning to optimize zone temperatures based on user preferences, time of day, day of the week, and the temperature of the space. When no user feedback is seen, the space is left less conditioned to save energy. The software also provides the ability to control lights in a similar fashion.
One interesting aspect of our work is the direct interface between people and the dynamic building space around them. Figure 1 shows the Comfy interface, designed to be more understandable than a typical control. In this way, Comfy has become a wonderful field study in thermal comfort.
Supporting previous CBE findings, we’ve found that people use Comfy to set temperatures in a far broader range than normal — as cold as 65 degrees and as warm as 80 degrees. We see seasonal preferences change as well, especially in the summer when many office buildings tend to be over-cooled. As we dress for the summer, so we prefer our work environments to be warmer. Figures 2 and 3 show our initial data on these issues, showing how people’s temperature preferences can vary significantly more than we may imagine. Importantly, we’ve found a strong persistence over time in the use of the tool, indicating that people build a lasting relationship with the building through this interface.
Technologies like Comfy will increasingly redefine how people experience and interact with buildings in the coming years, allowing a much deeper relationship between the human body and the world around us. What other possibilities will this capability allow? We are looking forward to seeing how this growing field evolves into this new exciting frontier.
4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition: Nest We Grow
On April 25th 2014, at the final screening of the 4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition in Tokyo, the team from the CED won top honors for their proposal, Nest We Grow. The project will be built in November 2014 at Memu Meadows in Taiki-cho, Hakkaido, Japan. Below, the student team reflects on their experience.
This past summer we traveled as a team to Tokyo, Japan to complete our design and start construction for our winning competition proposal, Nest We Grow. Earlier this year under the leadership of Hsiu-Wei Chang, a recent graduate of CED, and Professors Dana Buntrock and Mark Anderson, we developed a concept and design that we submitted to the LIXIL International University Architectural Competition. The competition, now in its 4th year, is held annually by LIXIL, a Japanese firm known internationally for its expertise in the built environment.
Established by LIXIL JS Foundation, the competition strives to inspire next-generation sustainable architectural solutions by inviting universities from around the world to submit designs in response a unique theme. This year’s theme, Productive Garden — A Space for Enjoying Hokkaido with All Five Senses, solicited proposals from UC Berkeley, along with 11 other universities from a total of 9 countries.
“These students ranged from first-year graduate students to those who finished thesis projects and graduated only a few weeks after winning the competition. They handled a myriad of tasks associated with an overseas award with professionalism, aplomb, and in fact, outright delight. In order to get the best from each other, they worked together and valued their complementary skill sets. We’ve got a lot to be proud of. This team really demonstrates what CED students can do!”
— Dana Buntrock, Professor of Architecture at CED
Our team’s proposed design, Nest We Grow, creates a holistic garden capable of connecting members of the community with the cyclical nature of food. We achieved this by designing spaces in the Nest to pragmatically respond to each element of the cycle, from planting, growing, harvesting, cooking and dining, to composting, which restarts the cycle. Using a 3 dimensional wood frame for the main structure we incorporated all of these elements into our Nest and created a productive garden typology. The Nest is capable of being replicated in size or scale and in many different contexts but with the same goal, to bring people closer to the production, consumption and decomposition of food.
We were honored that the completion jury awarded first place to Nest We Grow. This set the stage for our summer in Japan where we became responsible for the project from the design phase to completion. In order to do so we worked closely with project architect Takumi Saikawa, of Kengo Kuma and Associates, and Masato Araya of Oak Structural Design Office. With their help and expertise, along with many others, we were able to take our idealized vision of the Nest and turn it into a reality.
Through the period of intense design leading up to the construction of the Nest we learned two very important lessons that we will carry with us into our design careers. First, work in the built environment needs to be done with a considerable amount of cooperation across many different professions, including structural engineers and contractors, and in our case a composting toilet manufacturer. These discussions each require a different set of tools, ranging from drawings to languages, and are critical to a successful project.
The second major lesson is having the ability to re-design or re-purpose a part of the design in order to meet the requirements of these discussions, and to do so quickly enough to keep the project moving towards completion. During our schematic design phase, we focused on how to approach and develop the concept through architectural language. However, when it came time to move into the construction design phase, we switched our focus to meet the demands of the budget, the construction methods, and deadlines, in order to maintain the desired building function. In several cases the concept was reevaluated in order to meet these new demands, allowing for unique solutions that were not at first considered.
This competition is an incredible opportunity for any group of young designers, and with the construction phase now under way we look forward to seeing the completion of the Nest, and to future enhancements in the years to come.
The Nest We Grow team included:
Hsiu-Wei Chang (M.Arch 2014)
Fanzheng Dong (M.Arch 2014)
Hsin-Yu Chen (M.Arch 2015)
Yan Xin Huang (M.Arch 2016)
Baxter Smith (M.Arch 2016)
Max Edwards (M.Arch 2014)