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.
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.
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)
Students turned hallways and classrooms into impromptu print shops in the wake of U.S. military incursions into Cambodia in May 1970, producing anti-war posters now featured in graphic arts exhibitions and collected by museums from Oakland to Washington DC. Self-styled “Outlaw Builders” launched hands-on ventures in pedagogy, including a mobile lab for elementary school teaching interventions, a communal settlement built from salvaged materials, and an early iteration of ecologically sustainable, “autonomous” home technology. The story of these innovative enterprises is told in Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall, an exhibition in the Environmental Design Library showcasing the rich holdings of the Environmental Design Archives and the privately held Docs Populi poster collection.
As alternatives to postwar consumer culture, scavenging and hand-crafting combined a sense of play with the cultivation of new skills, liberated social relationships, and developed ecological consciousness. These qualities pervade the protest posters created by two CED-based graphic arts collectives, Gorilla Graphics and Kamikaze Design, in response to the expansion of the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia in 1970. CED Dean William Wheaton endorsed the appropriation of Wurster Hall’s first-floor classrooms and hallways as a “headquarters for… anti-war related activities,” as he testified in a subsequent investigation. The CED became a round-the-clock propaganda factory, with students cranking out press releases and galvanizing silkscreened images. At a donation of one cent for a poster and one dollar to silkscreen a design onto a t-shirt (supplied by the customer), Gorilla Graphics raised as much as $500 dollars daily –corrected for inflation, an amount over $3000 today. The phenomenal ease with which money was raised for student anti-war activities conveys the scale and popularity of the CED’s graphic arts insurgency.
Anti-war protest was a high stakes pursuit, however. Incensed by campus faculty and administration support for student activism, the Regents of the University of California, at the behest of Governor Ronald Reagan, launched an inquest into the “possible misuse of University equipment, facilities, funds or personnel time.” The San Francisco accounting firm of Haskins & Sells was hired to conduct a thorough audit of resources used in protest activities within three hotbeds of rebellion: the School of Law, Eshelman Hall, and the College of Environmental Design. The investigation was no shot over the bow: any diversion of resources “considered to be improper with respect to pertinent provisions of the Constitution and the Education Code of the State of California or University policies and regulations” would establish grounds for the expulsion of student activists and a purge of faculty and staff.
The inquiry failed to produce evidence supporting disciplinary action. Typewriters and mimeograph machines used by activists had been “assigned to students for their own use” or requisitioned from surplus stock. Accountants painstakingly traced the source of paper used for the production of anti-war posters back to the refuse bins of the campus Computer Center. The Regents’ expenditure of taxpayer funds for an investigation conducted by a top-shelf accounting firm did have a positive outcome: it generated a trove of detailed information on the strike of 1970 for future historians of campus counterculture.
The power of the handmade to forge a new political and social awareness also infused a series of pedagogical experiments launched at the CED in the early 1970s. In a studio course dedicated to “freeing up the classroom for learning by doing,” architecture students working with Professor Sim Van der Ryn collaborated with teachers and elementary school students to restructure classrooms and playgrounds. The standard phalanx of desks made way for flexible spaces in which to build things. Children learned geometry, measurement, and simple construction skills using salvaged materials. Jim Campe, an enthusiastic CED lecturer, spearheaded an initiative to transform a surplus mail van into a nomadic platform for one-day classroom makeovers. A handmade, self-published record of the school reform venture, The Farallones Scrapbook, quickly sold out of its print run of 5,000 copies. Picked up by Random House, it became a “West Coast lifestyle” bestseller, and helped fund the CED design collective’s next enterprise.
In the summer of 1971, Van der Ryn and Campe proposed a studio course titled “Making a Place in the Country” that would bring Berkeley students to a remote five acre site in northern Marin county for three consecutive days every week. The design/build experiment tackled the construction of a commune premised upon ecological integrity. According to a student’s journal entry, it was an opportunity to “build a house in which my physical self could exist and… a consciousness in which my spiritual self could exist.” This “living-learning experience” began with a crash course in foraging for forest mushrooms, collecting mussels at a nearby beach, and scavenging redwood from disused Petaluma chicken coops. Students designed and built sleeping platforms and tree houses, a collective kitchen and meeting room, an outdoor oven, a shower and a composting toilet. Participants received a certificate entitling them “to be known to all as [an] OUTLAW BUILDER with all the rights and privileges attached thereto.” A report on the experiment, designed and printed as an underground press-style publication titled Outlaw Building News, sold out at local bookstores almost as fast as they could be printed, providing cash for the next “outlaw building” enterprise.
A patchwork tower of timber and machine parts took shape on a patch of grass in front of Wurster Hall in the spring of 1973, the final project for a Van der Ryn studio on “Natural Energy Design.” Built of lumber salvaged from a demolished Hayward barn, the student-designed “Energy Pavilion” incorporated a small wind generator, a homemade solar collector, a stationary bike that alternately drove an electrical generator or a mill to grind grain, steel barrels as rainwater reservoirs, a greenhouse bedded with lettuce and snow peas, and a composting toilet. The odd structure was, in fact, a freestanding service core of an ecologically sustainable autonomous home. After an intensive research phase informed by the few books and journal article available on the topic, students compiled a 150-page document, The Natural Energy Handbook, which, marketed as an underground publication, funded the construction of the Energy Pavilion. Promoted by Bay Area newscasters, the quirky tower was an instant attraction, generating long lines of visitors — as well as the unwanted attention of the Campus Esthetics Committee. Disdaining the notion of “outlaw building” on campus, the Committee demanded that the structure be removed before commencement exercises. It disappeared before the visiting families of new graduates could be shocked into some semblance of ecological awareness: a task accomplished a few months later by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. By the time OPEC’s massive spike in oil prices had produced the first global energy crisis, the CED’s early experiment in sustainable building technology had come and gone like a counterculture hallucination.
Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall can be viewed from Thursday 16 October through Friday 5 December in Wurster Hall’s Environmental Design Library. See the UC Libraries website for opening hours.
As the College of Environmental Design seeks to understand and redefine how people around the world experience the built environment, we are challenged to look at the ways in which our own spaces influence how we work and learn.
CED’s facilities for studio instruction — the hallmark of a design education — are 50 years old. By rethinking the outdated design models that define our current studio environment, we have the opportunity to create 21st century studios with the technology and adaptable design systems that encourage a culture of experimentation and creative interaction. Smart classroom design solutions that are flexible and foster collaboration are critical to educating future environmental design and planning students and preparing them for a world in which cross-disciplinary team work is essential.
The Flex Studios initiative will refashion our existing studio space to provide multiple platforms for creativity, research and design collaboration, and to allow learning spaces to serve as better models for collaborative professional spaces.
The studio redesign will incorporate flexible furniture systems and increased space for collaboration and dialogue, allowing for open exchanges during the design process that reflect the challenges and excitement of professional life. that will enable students and faculty to think about the built environment through different lenses.
The new design will bring together students from multiple departments and promote a cross-pollination of ideas.
Our goal is to reconfigure and upgrade seven floors of studio space in Wurster Hall. The redesign requires replacing outdated furniture, offering ergonomic student workstations, providing functional meeting areas, and expanding digital and traditional pin-up areas. The strategy is based on a flexible “studio kit of parts” that can be reconfigured easily and adapted to any number of potential educational contexts. The kit will include height-adjustable desks, work tables, and ergonomic stools; custom fabricated metal grid studio divider system with power speedway, task lighting, shelf and pin-up space; technology facilities including rendering computers and plotters; collaboration tables for model building, group discussion and information interaction; a kitchenette; and two presentation and review rooms featuring extensive pin-up space as well as cutting edge electronic display technology.
How You Can Help
The estimated costs to update Wurster Hall’s studios will total $8–10 million. Our goal is to update all studio floors by 2020. But we are starting with a pilot program to completely renovate one floor in 2014–15. The cost of completing this pilot floor is $1.5 million.
We have a generous and willing partner in our efforts. Recognizing the importance of this studio redesign project for our students and faculty, campus leadership has agreed to provide a 2:1 match for any gifts to the College of Environmental Design’s new Flex Studio Fund.
Please join us in meeting this critical need and ensuring a first-rate educational experience for our students, by donating a new student workstation, putting your name on a new state-of-the art review room or studio bay — or even an entire studio floor. Become a part of the lasting legacy that will propel the CED studios to the forefront of 21st century innovation in design and planning education.
In May 2013, CED Architecture graduate student Antony Kim and his faculty mentor, Galen Cranz, were among 11 teams chosen from top higher-education institutions around the world for the first-ever Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship. The award focuses on the cradle-to-cradle design of products and processes, for the coming “circular economy.”
The new fellowship — a partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in Great Britain and the U.S.-based Schmidt Family Foundation — officially began in June with a series of seminars in London attended by the fellows, along with international experts from design, engineering, business and other fields. The final projects will be completed this summer. Antony Kim describes his experience thus far.
I started this journey almost a year ago and the last thing I expected was to still be on it — “the ride isn’t over yet.” From the beginning, I felt a huge sense of humility being awarded the first ever Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship (SMF) for UC Berkeley, enabling me to build on the historical leadership of the College of Environmental Design and the Department of Architecture in the area of sustainability. Though I could never compare myself to CED’s past design radicals, I’m glad to be in a position to contribute.
As a fellowship, the SMF is very different in that it looks for generalists and systems thinkers — students and faculty that are anti-archetypes; disruptors willing to challenge and define the real issue. These are the qualities I think the Department of Architecture is especially good at cultivating. Whether it is a class in social and cultural factors, building science, or history, all have collectively contributed to my specialty of being a generalist. That is to say, I see myself as a kind of specialist in not being a specialist. This interdisciplinary approach has prepared me well in taking on the challenges and opportunities the fellowship has to offer.
The experience itself began with a week-long intensive summer school held in London, where we covered topics ranging from circular economics (CE) and industrial ecology to biomimicry and cradle to cradle analysis. With direct access to the “trailblazers” themselves — like Walter Stahel, Janine Benyus, and William McDonough — I was able to engage and get immediate feedback on my thoughts and ideas. Additionally, the knowledge-sharing that occurred between the fellows, mentors, and foundation staff not only created an environment for intellectual exchange, but more importantly, it forged life-long friendships.
As I flew back from London, I felt a slight withdrawal from the past week’s excitement but also an enthusiasm for moving forward on a CE project of my own. With support pledged by CE100 partners, I mapped out a new project complimentary to my original video proposal of aligning policy to incentivize designing with daylight. This new project would integrate Philips Lighting into my present work and would apply the following design theory: that designing for sustainability is less about producing static artifacts and more to do with developing a system of continuous improvement — designing a process not a product.
To that end, my recent focus has been to assess the impacts of LED lighting within the following context: LED trends show efficacy increasing based on Haitz’s Law (similar to Moore’s Law) — some suggest doubling every 3–5 years. The useful life of an LED varies, but 15–20 years is a common advertised range. LED life-cycle assessments (LCAs) indicate that operational energy use is by far the major environmental impact category. These three areas are usually evaluated individually with occasional overlap. But if contextualized together, LEDs are being designed without consideration to innovation cycles. In other words, if environmental performance is a priority, “short-cycling” every 3–5 years is better than waiting to replace LEDs after their full 20+ years of useful life. As I move forward with this research, I am working with Philips Lighting to design with these innovation cycles in mind, which would also complement performance-driven building energy policies.
How does a rapidly growing Asian city facing issues of sustainability and quality of life also address the region’s food production needs?
This was the exciting challenge that two interdisciplinary teams of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and city and regional planning graduate students from the College of Environmental Design took up as they developed and presented their proposals for the third Vertical Cities Asia International Competition in Singapore.
The exponential speed of urban development in Asia requires new thinking around sustainable high-density solutions that reduce the potentially devastating effects of urbanization on land, infrastructure, and the environment. Vertical Cities Asia, a 5-year program organized by the National University of Singapore (NUS), each year challenges teams from 10 schools around the world, including three from the U.S., to contribute to this endeavor with solutions that address a unique theme and location in Asia.
By 2050, it is anticipated that 80 percent of the world’s projected population of 9 billion will reside in urban centers. Food production is expected to increase by approximately 70 percent globally and nearly 100 percent in developing countries. This year’s theme, “Everyone Harvests,” challenged students to create innovative approaches to urban agriculture and food production in the context of Asia’s accelerating urbanism at a site about 17km west of the city centre of Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Berkeley student teams — who participated as part of the studio course led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture and urban design, Renée Chow (who is also CED’s associate dean for undergraduate programs) — each selected an area of one square kilometer to house 100,000 people on no more than half of the land surface. Of the two teams of 15 students total, 14 traveled to Hanoi to research the project and two members from each team presented final proposals to the prestigious international jury in Singapore in July.
During their visit, students were awestruck by the transparency of the food system in the urban Hanoi environment. Food was commonly prepared, sold, and eaten on urban sidewalks, with agriculture production beginning just beyond the urban fringe. In an effort to bridge these divided realities and raise the prestige of the farmer, one team developed Farmways, which garnered an honorable mention from the competition judges. Via a three-dimensional framework of vertical farm parkways, Farmways integrates the urban and the agricultural with a closed-loop model of green market arcades, air purifiers, food forestry research laboratories, aquaponics, and clean energy cogeneration. Farmways works as an urban biofiltration system ensuring cleaner resources and healthier food production.
The second team’s Edge City proposal responded to the challenge by reconnecting fresh food production and consumption economies through a fingered interface at the edge of the urban boundary. Edge City confronts the notion that an urban edge should be defined by a highway and instead joins urban residents to the source of their food. Re-envisioning Hanoi’s outer ring highway, they created a dynamic corridor that includes production, storage, packaging, processing, and distribution, in so doing, better integrating the urban and the agricultural. The result is a vibrant place where people live and work along the urban edge, maintaining a close connection to fertile farmlands.
The Vertical Cities Competition stands out as a major opportunity for CED graduate students to gain a truly interdisciplinary experience at an international level. Working closely with fellow students from diverse disciplines gives participants a taste of their potential future where an understanding and appreciation of different urban design systems and tools, planning strategies, and multidisciplinary collaboration are essential in the creation of successful urban-scale developments.
From the perspective of a teacher, designer and architect, for Renée Chow this ranked as one of her most rewarding studio experiences. “The students were totally motivated to see and deeply understand another place. They learned to collaborate which also transforms their views. They now feel that as designers they can make a difference.”
- Niknaz Aftahi (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
- Minjae Ahn (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
- Max Edwards (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
- Luis Jaggy (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
- Gabriel Kaprielian (M.Arch/MCP) 2014 ATG
- Daniel Prostak (MLA) 2014 ATG
- Rebecca Sunter (MLA) 2014 ATG
EDGE CITY Team
- Benjamin Golze (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
- Michelle Gonzalez (M.Arch)
- Anna Konotchick (M.Arch/MCP) 2013 ATG
- Ned Reifenstein (M.Urban Design) 2013 ATG
- Jennifer Siqueira (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
- Stephen Stewart (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
- Monica Way (M.L.A.) 2014 ATG
- Xin (Leo) Zhao (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
No event demanded the application of these principles more than the disaster that occurred March 11, 2011. The most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan caused huge devastation triggering a massive tsunami responsible for meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Along with tremendous rebuilding needs, the country whose lifestyle depended on reliable electricity, was now forced to rethink its energy use.
This became the catalyst for Architecture.Energy.2011, an intensive 4-day workshop, June 23–26, 2011 in Tokyo, developed by CED Professors of Architecture Dana Buntrock and Susan Ubbelohde. Intended as a quick response to the catastrophe with longer-term follow-up, the workshop was designed to introduce advanced concepts of building energy use and occupant comfort through the lens of architectural space and material as a filter for the environment. A subsequent workshop was held in August of 2012 at Berkeley, offering participants knowledge and skills that continue to be applied today.
A different way of thinking
Having been involved in architectural research in Japan since the late 1980s, Dana Buntrock has an intimate familiarity with the country’s approach to building design and a strong affiliation with the architectural community there. She reached out to her colleague Susan Ubbelohde, realizing that while Susan and her firm, Loisos+Ubbelohde, had no prior experience in Japan, their leading-edge expertise in technical analysis and energy efficient building practices was essential.
Historically, Japan has placed little emphasis on basic energy conservation approaches, such as insulation, in architecture. Because living and working spaces are typically very small, and households are in the habit of heating only one room at a time, per capita energy use has been relatively low. Energy saving practices that we take for granted in the US — like thermal insulation, day-lighting and energy performance measurement and analysis — are rare in Japan and although a building code related to energy consumption exists, compliance has been voluntary. While Japan places great importance on environmental policy as it concerns greenhouse emissions, there was little relation to efforts to reduce overall energy consumption, especially connected to buildings.
Buntrock and Ubbelohde were not out to champion California energy policy. “We were not interested in suggesting we are better at energy conservation than Japan, but simply that we offered a way of thinking that filled out an area where Japan had not yet developed strengths,” explains Buntrock. Ubbelohde echoes the sentiment, “Japan has a challenge to maintain their current quality of life without nuclear power. Japanese architects now have the opportunity to look at building science as a means of addressing that.”
Light. Heat. Air. Energy.
The June 2011 workshop, funded through a variety of resources that Buntrock and Ubbelohde put together, including money from the UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies and personal resources, was designed to provide tools and ways of approaching energy efficiency for architects already leading the profession in Japan. Seminars on the physics of building performance based on daily themes — Light, Heat, Air, and Supplementary Energy — were followed by an Environmental Measurement segment where participants used devices to discover how metrics relate to experience, and a Design Lab where teams were tasked with re-designing a contemporary building. Energy modelers from Loisos+Ubbelohde and UC Berkeley simulated energy performance and gave feedback to the participants as they worked.
The workshops were truly a cross-cultural collaboration, with organizers and leaders from both Japan and the US. Along with Professors Buntrock and Ubbelohde, and L+U principal George Loisos, groups were led by L+U staff Brendon Levitt, Ibone Santiago, Eduardo Pintos — all CED alumni — and Santosh Phillip. CED graduate student participants included David Fannon (M.Arch ’12), Kyle Konis (PhD Arch ’11), and Jeremy Fisher (M.S. Arch ’11). Collaborators in Japan who helped with organization and logistics included Shuzo Murakami, Building Research Institute; Masao Koizumi, Tokyo Metropolitan University; Kengo Kuma, Tokyo University; Nobufusa Yoshizawa, Insitute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation; and Balazs Bognar, Kuma and Associates.
Response was overwhelming. All together, 57 individuals participated. Many firms and organizations, under pressure to respond not only to the paradigm shifts in thinking about energy, but also to the more immediate need to rebuild in devastated areas, sent different participants on different days.
The follow-up workshop the next year at Berkeley, funded by a grant from the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, focused on energy efficiency from a policy and application perspective, and concentrated on a more substantial sharing of available tools. Many of the same participants or participant firms took part in the second workshop along with first-time attendees.
Expressing her amazement at the level of engagement of the workshop participants, Susan Ubbelohde remarked, “These were some of the best designers I had ever worked with. Since the workshop, we’ve had a number of architects and engineers from Japan visiting the office and now there is an ongoing dialog that has really benefited the entire office. It’s been great.”
Making a Difference
While it may be a while before significant results are achieved, participants are beginning to put their experience to use. Norihisa Kawashima, an architect at Nikken Sekkei who came to Berkeley as a visiting scholar and worked with L+U to learn Berkeley-based simulation approaches, is now back at Nikken Sekkei sharing what he has learned.
Partners from the Tokyo-based ADH Architects, designing publicly financed homes in the earthquake region, have been working with L+U to propose upgraded approaches to efficiency. They will work with another workshop attendee, Dr. Masayuki Mae of the University of Tokyo, to do thermal testing after completion.
Not surprisingly, the workshops have also had an impact on the Berkeley student participants and faculty. David Fannon now works as a building scientist and specialist in high-performance design for Syska Hennessy Group in New York. Kyle Konis was moved after meeting young Japanese designers who, though their lives had been dramatically affected by the disasters, were driven to have a positive impact. Konis now teaches sustainability classes at USC and has incorporated his Japan experience into the themes of his teaching.
“There are social implications to energy,” explains Dana Buntrock. “Without electricity thousands of buildings in Japan became at least temporarily uninhabitable because of poor thermal and day-lighting qualities. Beyond reduced reliance on fossil fuels, which Japan now must consider, energy efficiency has larger implications for human comfort. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue working with Japanese colleagues on the energy demands of buildings.”
Apples & Wages, an undergraduate urban planning studio project, presents a program to increase food security and employment in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco with a job-training program that offers skill development and employment experience in food preparation and distribution. Taught by Andrea Gaffney and Kimberly Suczynski Smith, the students Dylan Crary, Heather Do, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, and Christina Tanouye come from a wide range of disciplines including urban studies, business, architecture, and political economy.
The Story from the Students
The final studio presentation of “Apples & Wages” came a long way from the scattering of ideas that developed at the beginning of spring semester. For the final studio project, our team tackled the broad assignment of creating an innovative economic development proposal for the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. The assignment asked us to propose a long-term plan and a short-term, immediate action in which to test our long-range plan.
Like many good planners, we started our project with extensive background research and numerous site visits. We scanned the study area for possible economic development opportunities that were not directly addressed in the planning studies that we had researched. The corner stores and street culture of the Tenderloin caught our attention as a significant economy, about which we wanted to learn more.
We recorded existing land uses in great detail, noting the businesses and organizations present in the neighborhood. We noticed a disparity in the pricing of fresh food at the corner stores, so we created a map and pricing index to reflect the community’s access to local sources of fresh food. We documented activities on the street and talked with long-time Tenderloin residents to better understand the needs and issues in the neighborhood. From census and planning research, we learned about the high unemployment rate within the working age population of the Tenderloin community. As part of our land use research, we noted Single Resident Occupancy Hotels (SRO’s) as the predominant housing type; there are no kitchens in SROs.
The site visits allowed us to think on our feet and helped us arrive at our idea to propose a job-training program that could also provide access to fresh, healthy food. The idea is surprisingly simple: we propose the creation of a central kitchen where fresh produce could be prepared into healthy meals through the jobs training program, and then sent throughout the Tenderloin on mobile food carts.
Throughout the development of our project, we looked at a variety of precedents and case studies to provide the proof-of-concept for our proposal. We found some excellent examples of programs and organizations at work in the Bay Area and California, from which we developed a kit of parts for our proposal. We also identified a series of funding opportunities and local organizations that might be interested in further developing our idea.
After the final studio presentation, our instructors encouraged us to present “Apples & Wages” to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and through this exposure, we took advantage of submitting our idea to San Francisco’s Online Ideas Competition for Food Security in the Tenderloin over the summer. Talk about good timing! The jury loved our proposal and we won an internship at the Hub, a social venture incubator space, where we will continue developing our project to turn “Apples & Wages” into a real program for the Tenderloin. Thinking back on all those late nights spent at Wurster Hall, we are tremendously excited to see how all our hard work will truly give back to the community.