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)
Designing Light for a Circular Economy
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.
Active Matter Matters
For the first time in history, NSF issued a call for proposals with the requirement that architects be members of proposed project teams. The NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) Science in Energy and Environmental Design (SEED) program includes a specific track focused on Engineering Sustainable Buildings. This program funded ten projects through a peer-reviewed competition of over 200 proposals.
A singular, cross-campus collaboration at UC Berkeley, involving architecture (Maria-Paz Gutierrez), civil and environmental engineering (Slawomir Hermanowicz), and bio-engineering (Luke Lee), was among the first round of EFRI–SEED awards. The Berkeley team proposed the development of a new building technology for water recycling and thermal control based on micro-engineering principles for architecture (see figure 1). NSF awarded $2 million to this project, with Assistant Professor of Architecture Paz Gutierrez serving as principal investigator — the only architect in the nation to lead an EFRI–SEED project.1
With this major grant, the BIOMSgroup (Bio Input Onto Material Systems; www.bioms.info), established at UC Berkeley in 2008 by Professor Gutierrez, is poised to develop new models of interdisciplinary research centered on the design of multifunctional material technologies (see figure 2).2 These technologies hold the potential to introduce pioneering methods to capture, redirect, and transfer energy; to resource water supplies; and to process waste based on micro-engineering principles. BIOMSgroup is developing two other projects that center new methods to resource resources. The Self-Activated Building Envelope Regulation System (SABERS) is also supported by NSF and was developed by Gutierrez in collaboration with bio-engineer Luke Lee to establish a new self-regulated membrane for hygrothermal and light transmission control.3 The membrane is designed for emergency deployable housing in tropical regions with the purpose of decreasing energy use for spatial conditioning through controlling ventilation rates. An integrated array of reactive polymers that mechanically adapt to variable light, heat, and humidity indexes enables higher or lower ventilation rates while interacting with an internal dehumidification membrane. As with all BIOMS projects, research is developed from its inception through interdisciplinary collaborations that design building systems from the meter scale to the nanoscale (see figure 3). Another example of BIOMS multiscale research is the Detox Towers project,4 currently in the early phase of development (see figure 4), which explores a new phytoremediation building system for indoor air detoxification and humidity control through active use of microorganisms (algae/lichen).
Multifunctional Materials and Microscale Processes
The desire to selectively concentrate energy and recycle water through multifunctional building systems, interdependently across scales, led the team to conceptualize an integrated wall that links greywater regeneration to thermal control, based on micro-optics. This idea was the basis for the design of Solar Optics-Based Active Panels for Greywater Reuse and Integrated Thermal Building Control (or, as it is fondly termed, SOAP for GRIT). From early on, the challenge was to establish new solar-based technologies for light and heat flow transmission/conduction based on micro-optics and micro-fluidics that improve on greywater recycling technologies that use thicker, heavier, and often-pricey mechanical lenses or tubular systems. Through high-precision microlenses that control ultraviolent light exposure,56 the new system can work in any building form without the need for complicated mechanical infrastructures that follow sunlight paths.
Advancing methods of solar greywater recycling,7 particularly for urban, higher-density buildings, creates the opportunity to use greywater to its fullest potential before it leaves the building.8 By incorporating greywater into closed-loop building technologies, SOAP for GRIT can contribute significantly to water conservation through the use of sunlight concentration and transmission control based on micro-optics. The proposed new technology is more sustainable9 and cost-efficient, making it more feasible for real-world architectural applications. Solar-activated panels can significantly reduce space-conditioning costs, which in the average American home account for over 50 percent of energy use.10
Collaborative Scientific Research and Design Pedagogy
Teaching design students about how to use technology to maximize building performance is central to architectural education. Inventive, research-based design is critical to move the field forward while maintaining a necessary focus on the larger historical, social, political, and economic contexts of architecture. Teaching today’s design students thus involves exacting training programs that require rigorous science but that also recognize that technology is not a stand-alone solution to the pressing challenges of environmental design. From implementing biosynthesis of live and inert matter (see figure 5), to producing a self-regulated membrane for humidification in the Atacama Desert in Chile (see figure 6)11, Gutierrez’s architecture students venture into new methods to transfer and process resources.
BIOMSgroup’s projects aim to establish fundamental environmental design research that opens new frontiers to resourcing resources through self-activated matter based on microscale efficiency. Self-activated matter can matter.
Support for this research from the National Science Foundation (EFRI-1038279 and CMMI-1030027) and the Hellman Faculty Award is gratefully acknowledged.
- 1. http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=117731&org=NSF, accessed April 14, 2011.
- 2. Maria-Paz Gutierrez, “Silicon + Skin: Biological Processes and Computation,” in Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, eds. A. Kudless, N. Oxman, and M. Swackhamer (Minneapolis: ACADIA, 2008), 278-85.
- 3. http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1030027, accessed April 17, 2011.
- 4. http://www.evolo.us/architecture/detox-towers/, accessed April 14, 2011.
- 5. L.P. Lee and R. Szema, “Inspirations from Biological Optics for Advanced Photonic Systems,” Science 310 (2005):1148-50.
- 6. Jaeyoun Kim, Ki-Hun Jeong, and Luke P. Lee, “Artificial Ommatidia by Self-Aligned Microlenses and Waveguides,” Optics Letters 30 (2005): 5-7.
- 7. C. Sordo et al., “Solar Photocatalytic Disinfection with Immobilized TiO2 at Pilot-Plant Scale,” Water Science and Technology 61 (2010): 507-512.
- 8. M. Brennan and R. Patterson, “Economic Analysis of Freywater Recycling,” in Proceedings from 1st International Conference on Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Recycling (Perth, Australia: Environmental Technology Centre, Mundoch University, 2004), 3-9.
- 9. S.W. Hermanowicz, “Sustainability in Water Resources Management — Changes in Meaning and Perception,” Sustainability Science 3 (2008):181-88.
- 10. J. Kelso, “2005 Delivered Energy End-Uses for an Average Household, by Region (Million BTU per Household),” in Buildings Energy Databook (Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2008), 76.
- 11. Blue Award 2009, http://www.raumgestaltung.tuwien.ac.at/blue-award/preistraeger/lan-hu-and-jungmin-an/, accessed January 20, 2011.
Anniversaries prompt us to reflect on our past, but they also have a way of enticing us to think about our future. Arriving in time for CED’s 50th anniversary allowed me, as the new dean, to become quickly immersed in the college’s history and people, and begin to build on our legacy and traditions to sketch out future directions. Big plans are now underway, with respect to academic programs, research, and enhancements to Wurster Hall to better serve our evolving needs. Let me share them with you.
— Jennifer Wolch
Sustainable Urbanism and Design. More and more of our students clamor for the intellectual understanding and technical tools needed to build new or transform existing cities and buildings to achieve critical sustainability goals. In response, the College is designing a new college-wide undergraduate major on Sustainable Urbanism and Design that we hope will serve students interested in building science, resource efficient landscape architecture and design, and sustainable city planning.
Summer [In]stitutes. CED has launched the Berkeley Summer [In]stitutes for post-baccalaureate students interested in environmental design careers. During three [In]stitutes — [In]Arch, [In]City, and [In]Land — over 200 students will convene at Wurster for 2 months of intensive study, emerging at the end of the experience with an understanding of the fields and a real live portfolio for graduate school.
Wurster Design & Innovation Studio. With colleagues from the Haas School of Business, and others across campus, CED has established a pilot studio on the 5th Floor of Wurster Hall, to jump-start a program in “Design Thinking” — the collaborative, interdisciplinary practice that many of us are familiar with, and that is increasingly vital to crafting new business concepts, innovative products, social ventures, communications strategies, and urban places in a rapidly changing world. Work started this Spring semester, with faculty and students creating a space for planning, sketching, project reviews, and coaching. We plan to offer short-courses, encourage start-up ventures and green product development, and make the Wurster Design & Innovation Studio accessible to collaborative projects.
Cool New Minors. In response to the fact that courses on geographic information systems, remote sensing, spatial statistics, and related technologies are scattered across campus, we have collaborated with several schools and colleges to develop a new undergraduate minor and graduate emphasis in Geospatial Data, Science and Technology. This will allow us to meet the burgeoning demand for GIS, and permit faculty to teach more advanced courses. And, in partnership with others on campus — in materials science, biotechnology, and elsewhere — we plan to establish a new undergraduate minor in Biomimetic Design, with guidance from the Biomimicry Institute, whose founder Janine Benyus was just named one of the world’s 27 most influential designers. This minor will introduce students to the way in which understanding natural process, materials, and architectures can be harnessed to revolutionize the way we construct buildings and the built environment.
Green Design and Finance. With the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the Haas School of Business, CED is creating executive education programs on financing green design for real estate finance, construction, engineering, and environmental design industry professionals. The emphasis will be on how real estate finance firms can make the business case for incorporating energy efficient designs, especially for retrofits.
Two new research centers have been established over the past year. The Center for a Sustainable California, led by Professor Robert Cervero, is initially focusing on the implications of California’s landmark law SB 375. This legislation requires localities to create land-use and transportation plans that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Center seeks to understand how local governments are responding to this challenge. The Center for Resource Efficient Cities, led by Professor Louise Mozingo, is a partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and funded by the California Energy Commission. The Center conducts research on how to design urban communities to reduce automobile trips, cool the urban heat island, infiltrate urban runoff and recharge groundwater.
Wurster Hall Updates
Wurster Hall got an anniversary present: a renovated CED Auditorium. Building on Stanley Saitowitz’ original design, the Auditorium was newly carpeted and got a fresh coat of paint, advanced audiovisual equipment was installed along with new lights, and the room was furnished with comfortable new tablet arm chairs. Moreover, other classroom space got some great upgrades, especially Room 101, which was remodeled tip-to-toe, due to the generosity of a CED donor. Maintaining Wurster’s industrial feel, the classroom boasts a wall-mounted display of building materials, high-technology computer technology, bright new seating, and energy-efficient globe lighting. Our fabrication facility — designed by James Prestini many years ago — is also being redesigned with the help of EHDD Architecture and Anderson and Anderson Architecture, to integrate the CAD/CAM equipment that is now so critical to the ability of our students to learn digital design and advanced fabrication techniques. And lastly, we are creating the first permanent exhibit space for the college — a 2,200 square foot space on the first floor, where we can have major exhibits, installations, and ongoing student juries. Fougeron Architecture has done the preliminary design. So look out for an invitation to the opening of the CED Gallery!
It is especially gratifying to me, in my first year as dean, to have met so many of our alumni and supporters. I commend you for your regular attendance at events, generous support of the college and quick response to our requests. Like you, I am amazed at the energy, purpose, and sheer brilliance of our students. I am also deeply impressed by the commitment of my faculty colleagues to their teaching and research and continually heartened by the expertise, creativity, and loyalty of the CED staff. We are all committed to the same purpose — the welfare of CED and its ideals, and to the greater good of public education in California.
Navigating the Waters of Collaboration
By Jean Eisberg, Master of City and Regional Planning ‘07
During the spring 2007 semester, I traveled to Jiaxing, China with a group of students, faculty, and professionals for an interdisciplinary design studio. We were fortunate to be able to collaborate with students and professors at Tongji University, located nearby in Shanghai. The Tongji group guided us during the trip and throughout the studio.
I studied China as an undergraduate student and while visiting the country again, I was reminded of why I was initially so intrigued. This is a country whose history, politics and social structures have changed radically over the past several decades. Jiaxing exemplifies this dynamic.
Jiaxing boasts a mix of cultural and historic amenities as well as modern industry and technology. Water defines the landscape; it is, at times, beautiful, but it is also polluted and often strewn with debris. Nearly empty eight-lane roads portend the growth to come. But, today, it is difficult to differentiate Jiaxing from the many other mid-size industrial cities in China. Our group needed to enhance the existing assets in Jiaxing to bring out its unique identity and ensure its competitiveness in the region. The central government’s proposed high-speed rail station offered an incredible opportunity to make this happen.
After returning to Berkeley, it was time to get to work. But, as planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects, we did not always speak the same language. We spent several weeks sketching, arguing, and jumping in and out of scales. Out of the chaos emerged some great ideas about water, open space, transportation, energy, architecture, and urban design. Our recommendations encompassed all scales — from architectural materials and façade details to a transit plan and renewable energy resources — reflecting the range of disciplines represented among the students in our studio.
The Tongji students helped us to understand the traditions, policies, and culture that define and affect architecture and development in the region. Collaborating with our colleagues at Tongji was one of the highlights for me. With a year of college-level Mandarin muddled in the back reaches of my brain, I got a chance to practice speaking and drew laughter for my errant tones. But even better was the chance to share opinions on what planning means in our respective countries. As one Tongji student admitted, China plans and develops without always considering the repercussions or offering mitigations. I countered that in the United States, legislation and politics often necessitate intense scrutiny and lengthy processes that can prevent projects from moving forward. We both wondered about the middle
I still see opportunity in China in terms of its tremendous growth. But I also see the possibility for China to become a leader in sustainable development, something we can all learn from.
Speeding Toward a New Jiaxing
“There is an ecological apocalypse unfolding in China right now.” The statistics bear the point.
There are approximately 300,000 premature deaths each year attributed to air pollution alone. A quarter of China’s 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. China has the world’s fastest growing auto market, giving it the notorious label of the world’s leader in vehicle fatalities and second in oil consumption behind the US. Currently, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, China is on pace to surpass the US in 2008 — some researchers even argue that it already has.
During the spring 2007 semester, students at Tongji University in Shanghai, China and the University of California, Berkeley in the United States took on this challenge, collaborating on a design studio in Jiaxing, China, a second-tier city 80km outside of Shanghai. The group included undergraduate and graduate students pursuing coursework in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design, as well as faculty and professionals from both countries.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a private foundation based in San Francisco, California provided a grant to the group to explore international urban sustainability. The Jiaxing City Government partnered with our group and posed a set of urban development research questions to the students. The charge was to develop a plan for the City in anticipation of a proposed high-speed rail line connecting the Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Hangzhou, with stops in Shanghai and Jiaxing. As an added challenge, Jiaxing’s station stop was proposed in an agricultural area 10km away from the existing central city. This new rail line could connect Jiaxing to Shanghai in 15 minutes and to the airport in less than a half hour. What would this compression in time and space mean for Jiaxing?
The students identified two major challenges to address: China’s environmental crisis and connecting the proposed rail station to the central city
First, the students proposed a transit corridor between the new station and the existing city center. They recognized the opportunity to create a new hub within the City, but wanted to maximize accessibility to the new station and the central city, to encourage investment in both anchors as well as in the corridor between them.
Second, they proposed an integrated sustainable design strategy for Jiaxing. Adopting the “3 E’s” principles of ecology, economy and equity, they endeavored to improve Jiaxing’s air and water quality, expand renewable energy sources and reduce waste, while maintaining a competitive economy. Moreover, they sought to create an equitable design that would accommodate all types of people, regardless of age, income or other status.
Despite the troubling statistics, there is opportunity to make real improvements in China’s environment, if the government and citizens choose to take on the challenge. Through sustainable design and policy measures, China has the potential to emerge from environmental crisis as an environmental leader. Jiaxing could serve as a model for sustainable development in China, providing its citizens a better life and a more environmentally sound, economically strong and equitable society.
 Porritt, Jonathon. “China: The Most Important Story in the World.” Green Futures. September 2006: 3.
Solar Power Shines
No other county in the U.S. better exemplifies the thoughtful and ambitious deployment of solar power than Alameda County.
Alameda County has been at the forefront when it comes to using solar power — and demonstrates continued leadership in this arena. At the county level, Alameda is the nation’s largest deployer of solar power, with a total of 3.0 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) commissioned at nine County-owned facilities.
Alameda County was keen to deploy smart energy strategies — integrating solar generation and energy efficiency measures into county-owned and operated facilities. For years, the County has been a leader in smart energy investments; this is a direct result of the vision and leadership of the County’s Board of Supervisors and General Services Agency to reduce the County’s annual overall energy usage and costs.
A number of cost-effective energy efficiency programs were launched in 1993, when the County’s General Services Agency hired its Energy Program Manager, Matt Muniz, P.E. One of Muniz’s first projects was to retrofit over 12,000 fluorescent light fixtures with energy efficient T-8 lamps and electronic ballasts and install innovative lighting controls throughout the County’s Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin, CA. Later Mr. Muniz’s energy team replaced over 550 inefficient fractional horsepower exhaust fan motors with premium efficiency motors at a payback of less than one year. Both of these projects are part of Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) “PowerSaving Partners” demand-side management program. As a PowerSaving Partner, the County has received over $3.2 million in direct incentive payments and ultimately reduced electricity costs at its Santa Rita Jail by one-third.
Charged with the task of achieving even greater energy savings at other Alameda County facilities, Mr. Muniz and his energy program colleagues implemented a number of other energy efficiency measures that presently total over $4 million in annual cost avoidance savings. These measures included lighting retrofits in 95% of County owned-buildings, the installation of state-of-the-art building automation systems in 25 facilities, replacement of most chillers with energy efficient and CFC-friendly equipment, and installation of Variable Frequency Drives to the HVAC systems in County facilities.
In early 2000, the City of Oakland was evaluating ‘green’ electricity purchase options and met with executives of PowerLight Corporation, a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation. PowerLight’s protective insulating solar electric rooftop technology gave them a new demand reduction challenge: How could he and his colleagues continue to reduce energy costs at the Santa Rita Jail by generating electricity from an onsite solar power plant?
“I thought that we had completed all the cost-effective energy saving measures that were possible at the jail,” said Matt Muniz, P.E., Alameda County’s Energy Program Manager. “But with over a half-million square feet of unused flat roof space at the jail and the recent drop in prices for solar cells I immediately concluded that solar electricity was the perfect solution for further demand reduction.”
How could Alameda County achieve its vision of becoming a leader in solar energy? Could the economics of large-scale solar PV pencil out? How would such a large capital purchase be financed?
The answers to these questions began with the abundant solar electric incentive programs available in California — the predecessors to today’s statewide California Solar Initiative program — that made the solar electric system affordable in its own right. However, an even more affordable idea was devised: to combine on-site solar electric generation with reductions in the jail’s overall energy use by implementing energy efficiency and sophisticated energy management measures.
Soon thereafter PowerLight Corporation contracted with its strategic partner, CMS Viron Energy Services (which was acquired in 2003 by Chevron Energy Solutions), to showcase the synergy between the latest advancements in solar PV and state-of-the-art energy efficiency technology.
Alameda County, PowerLight, and Viron then crafted an integrated solar electric generation and energy efficiency plan with the goal of exceeding the County’s 10% internal rate of return threshold for energy projects. It would soon serve as a model for other local governments and large commercial customers concerned about rising electricity rates, reliability, and the nation’s increasing reliance upon polluting sources to supply electricity.
The Santa Rita Jail offers proof that solar and energy efficiency are a synergistic blend of technological innovations well suited to respond to today’s stressed power grid in California. By linking the largest rooftop solar PV system in the U.S. explicitly with energy efficiency upgrades and state-of-the-art energy management software, Alameda County is able to reduce its peak power consumption, without any expenditure from its general fund. Some of the innovations that make the Santa Rita Jail project noteworthy include:
• Solar Power Installation Provides Multiple Benefits:
PowerGuard® tiles incorporate state-of-the-art solar cells backed with insulating polystyrene foam, turning the sun’s free energy into usable power while increasing building thermal insulation and extending roof life. A key innovation of these roof tiles is that they can be installed on flat rooftops without penetrating the roof membrane.
• Applying a “Cool Roof” Membrane with High Solar Reflectivity:
By applying a “Cool Roof” reflective coating on the jail’s existing roof, the roof area not covered by solar tiles now reflects 65% of the solar energy. This effectively reduces the roof’s temperature during the hot summer months by 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Peak electrical demand reductions result from the reduced air conditioning requirement in the occupied spaces below.
• Replacing Inefficient Equipment Generates Large Electricity Savings:
Large electricity savings are garnered by replacing an old inefficient chiller with a new 850-ton high efficiency chiller that does not use CFCs that contribute to the degradation of the ozone layer. New variable speed drives attached to the new chiller, chilled water pumps, and cooling towers will respond directly to the precise real-time cooling requirements needed to deliver chilled water instead of operating at 100% speed all of the time.
• Smart Energy Management Optimizes Overall System:
Implementation of Utility Vision™, a computerized energy management system developed by CMS Viron automatically reduces peak power consumption during dips in solar power generation. These dips may be caused by normal weather conditions such as cloud cover. For example, if clouds block the sun for five minutes on a summer afternoon, Utility Vision automatically reduces power consumption proportionately so that no additional purchases of expensive peak priced electricity are necessary.
Following the installation of the solar system at the Santa Rita Jail Alameda County was so pleased that it decided to add an additional 1.8 MW of clean solar power into its energy mix. Several more solar arrays were installed at the following County venues between 2003 and 2007 — the Office of Emergency Services, the Environmental Health Services, the Winton Avenue Government Building, the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, Hayward Public Works, Fremont Hall of Justice, and the new Juvenile Justice Center.
Alameda County’s deployment of solar power has played an enormous role in bringing down utility costs. By integrating solar power generation with energy efficiency measures, Alameda County has demonstrated enormous leadership in defining both clean and cost-efficient energy solutions. The County’s cumulative 3.0 MW of solar power systems generate 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, much of it produced during peak demand times, when the utility grid is the most strained and electricity is most expensive.
Overall, Alameda County’s solar energy investments are enabling the County to meet eight percent of its electrical needs at its facilities with clean, renewable solar power. Its grid-connected solar systems help reduce the County’s electrical demand; consequently, it saves over $500,000 annually in avoided electricity purchases. These savings add to the $3.5 million annual savings associated with its energy efficiency measures.
The environmental benefits of Alameda County’s deployment of solar power and other energy efficiency improvements are considerable. Over the next 30 years, the environment will be spared from thousands of tons of air emissions such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. These emissions are to blame for our urban smog, a primary cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases and contribute to global warming. And over that same 30 years, the solar-generated electricity will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45,000 tons. These environmental savings are the equivalent to planting over 270 acres of trees or avoiding driving 71 million miles on California’s roadways.
Energy performance data is posted on the internet so that Alameda County, governmental agencies, solar customers and other interested parties can review and analyze the performance of Alameda County’s solar installations and the energy efficiency measures.
Alameda County has shown that large-scale solar systems can indeed be cost effective investments and even more cost effective if the system is integrated with the facility’s energy management infrastructure.
The solutions offered by effective deployment of solar power reflect the future of the energy industry and point the way toward stable power costs and pollution-free, local energy choices. As volatility in energy pricing continues, increasingly the public and private sector will follow Alameda County’s visionary lead.
The Impact of Energy Consumption on the Environment
Any number of events can be cited as triggering this step change in consciousness. Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, numerous cover articles by our leading weekly magazines, a continuous stream of newspaper articles, scientific reports from prestigious committees, appeals to the President by business leaders, politicians, and scientists, etc., have outlined the risks and challenges to the planet in compelling detail. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commented when he introduced Executive Order S305 on greenhouse gas reduction, “I say the debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat. And we know the time for action is now.”
The question is: where should we focus our efforts? We can begin by asking: where are the biggest culprits and what are the most immediate cost effective strategies, but the challenge is more fundamental than the idea of mitigation or conservation, as important as they are. Ultimately, we must rethink and convert our 200-year-old fossil fuel economy to renewable sources. An even more fundamental question is: can we do it in time to avoid catastrophic change and human hardship?
The recent announcement at UC Berkeley of a $500 million grant by oil giant British Petroleum (BP) to develop biofuels is not only by far the largest alliance between industry and the academies, but also the kind of investment and vision necessary to bring renewable energy swiftly to market. BP’s grant will fund hundreds of researchers in 25 teams, 18 at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and 7 at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, while BP will assign up to 50 of its own researchers to join the teams. The potential of this landmark interdisciplinary effort is planetary. LBNL Director Steve Chu has estimated that if the acreage which American farmers are currently subsidized not to cultivate were planted in “switch grass” and if ethanol from this cellulose source could be brought to market at the efficiencies demonstrated in the lab, it could provide as much as 100% of the country’s transportation fuel needs. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has characterized the effort as “our generation’s moon shot.” Charles Zukoski, Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, described it as launching “a new age for agriculture, altering the energy economy of the planet.” As essential and groundbreaking as this effort is, how big an impact will it have on the problem?
An examination of our energy consumption by broad sectors reveals the following approximate breakdown: 27% transportation, 30% industrial, 22% commercial, 21% residential. Almost all the energy consumed (90%) comes from fossil fuels, with the remainder from nuclear and renewables, including wind and hydro. When each sector is examined in greater detail, some surprising facts are revealed. Within the transportation sector, only 16% is consumed by cars and trucks, the remaining 7% goes to trains and planes. Thus, if all the transportation fuel for cars and trucks (as big a number at that is) were converted to biofuels, it would still only address 16% of the problem. So what is the biggest culprit?
As Ed Mazria has pointed out in his “2030 Challenge” to design and construction professionals, if you add up the residential and commercial sectors with the portion of the industrial sector consumed by buildings, it totals 48% of the total energy consumption! If you look at electric consumption by itself, 75% goes to operate buildings. With the projected increase in electrical demand planned to be met by coal-fired power plants, the impact of buildings is even more important. Quite simply, buildings are both the biggest problem and opportunity.
Mazria also points out that over the next 30+ years, we will build approximately half again as much new square footage as already exists and we will renovate about 50% of the existing square footage. This means that in the year 2035, three quarters of the built environment in the U.S. will be either new or renovated. This gives design and construction professionals the largest responsibility for making a real difference, but as Schwarzenegger has said “the time for action is now.”
We know from over 30 years of research and development since the last oil crisis in the early 1970s, that we can reduce the energy consumption in buildings by 50-70% through intelligent conservation and the application of passive solar heating, natural ventilation and careful daylighting. The question becomes how do we get the rest of the way to zero carbon buildings — i.e., buildings which generate all of their energy needs from renewables. This is the “moon shot” challenge to design and construction professionals.
With the loads for heating, cooling and lighting reduced dramatically by the strategies above, the remaining challenge is the electric loads for building equipment, appliances and especially the so-called “plug loads” for computers, televisions, kitchen and office equipment. Conservation in lighting and appliances, especially refrigerators, are the reason why electric consumption in California has been flat for the last 20 years in spite of population growth. This phenomenon has been called the “Art Rosenfeld Effect” because he pioneered the “energy star” rating system for all appliances, especially refrigerators. Natural competition in the market place, as a result, reduced energy consumption by 50%. His colleagues at LBNL pioneered in the development of high efficiency light bulbs with a similar result.
To achieve the goal of zero carbon buildings, the country will need the next generation in conservation technologies in all areas of electric usage, including lighting, appliances, televisions, computers, etc. Fortunately, many of these technologies are in the development phases and are on the way. As demonstrated in California by the “Rosenfeld Effect”, conservation will remain the single most cost effective first step. Nonetheless, buildings will still require electric power; even with reduced loads, and the challenge is can it be met by renewables?
Through our research at the college on the application of photovoltaics and wind technologies to buildings, we have discovered recent commercially available breakthroughs which are extremely promising. By integrating photovoltaics (PV) directly into building assemblies, like roofs and curtain walls, i.e., substituting existing materials with PV materials, the cost effectiveness of PV is already competitive in some markets, especially when compared with peak power. When the next generation of efficiency achieved in the lab (20%-40%) is brought to market in 3-5 years, the integration of PV into building assemblies should become a matter of course for designers.
The story about the integration of small-scale wind machines into building design is equally promising. A new generation of vertical axis machines, double-helix spiral-like rotors, seems to have solved many of the prior problems. Quiet, non-vibrating, effective at low speeds and multi-directional, their applications on roofs and facades offers multiple design opportunities.
When both of these technologies are combined, we have discovered that they have the potential of providing more than 100% of the total electric loads, on an annual average basis, after careful conservation. Yet, the final challenge is overcoming the intermittent timing of these renewables. What do you do if there is no sun and no wind, and you are unable to capture excess energy (when available) by running the meter backwards, i.e., using the grid as storage?
The final step to zero carbon buildings, for instance providing the backup to wind and solar, comes from a surprising source — the waste streams. In our research work on sustainable neighborhoods in China, we have discovered that food wastes, the sludge from primary sewage treatment and green wastes from the landscape, urban gardening and agriculture together generate a significant energy resource in the form of biomass. New technological breakthroughs in biogas generation use a two-stage anaerobic process to convert as much as 80% of the potential energy in the biomass into biogas — methane and hydrogen. This energy source can be put to many uses, for example: providing gas for cooking, compressed gas for gas-powered vehicles, or powering gas-electric turbines for the base or back-up electric loads.
For this technology to be cost effective, however, it needs a minimum flow of biomass material equal to about 8-10 tons per day, or the waste created by a mixed-use, high density neighborhood of approximately 5,000 units of housing (15,000 people). While the construction of such a neighborhood is the exception in the U.S., 10-15 of these kinds of neighborhoods are completed every day in China. We have discovered that the three renewable energy sources, wind, solar and biomass together can provide all the energy for such a neighborhood. Indeed, the neighborhood can be a significant energy exporter to the grid — especially at peak demand during summer afternoons. The challenge of realizing such an integrated and self-sustaining system of energy supply is that it requires a whole new way of doing business for the design and construction industry. The developer, architect, landscape architect, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, city departments of planning and public works, have to operate under a whole new paradigm of collaboration and integration. But the rewards are planetary; zero carbon neighborhoods could become a reality.
In the end, the goal of achieving a carbon neutral future in the building sector is at least several years off, at the building scale. It will take multiple technology breakthroughs in all areas of energy conservation and renewables before the building will be an appropriate scale for supplying all of its own energy needs. On the other hand, a carbon neutral future is already achievable at the neighborhood scale. The question is: will planning, design and construction professionals seize the opportunity?
At CED we are striving to provide the educational foundation for our students which will prepare them to seize a leadership role in this effort. UC Berkeley tops a short list of institutions with the unique combination of breadth and depth needed to develop innovative design solutions and approaches to public policy. It requires not only the collaboration of multiple faculty in our three disciplines, but also reaching across campus to civil engineering, the energy and resources group and anthropology, listed below. CED is the only school in the country where this new paradigm has a chance of being realized and is exemplified by:
- Elizabeth Deakin and Robert Cervario’s work in transit-oriented development and the making of walkable and bikeable cities with Michael Southworth
- Tim Duane and Randy Hester’s work to reconcile competing demands on the ecosystem on the island of Hawaii
- Judith Stilgenbauer’s work on green infrastrutures — the multi-functional and productive features of landscape
- Galen Cranz’s examination of the social and cultural bases of a sustainable lifestyle
- Our building science faculty – Cris Benton, Gail Brager, Ed Arens, and Susan Ubbelohde — work on energy conservation, daylighting, lighting controls, interfloor mechanized systems, dual mode buildings and user response to environmental quality
- Our collaboration with The Berkeley Institute of the Environment (BIE) and Energy Resources Group (ERG) faculty – Inez Fung, Dan Kammen, et.al — on renewable energy systems, solar, wind, and biomass
- Anthropology Ph.D. student Shannon May’s work on the post occupancy evaluation of China’s fact eco-village
The greatest challenge is developing the institutional structure and pedagogy to create an effective framework for this interdisciplinary collaboration to flourish. The impact that the built environment has on our planet’s future has never been more critical to our survival and presents us with our greatest opportunity for change.
Water, Oil, and Wine Regional Planning and Design for a Post-Fossil Fuel Napa Valley
The Napa River Watershed drains into San Pablo Bay, and is home to the world famous wine region of Napa Valley as well as several small to moderate sized cities. With its headwaters at Mount St. Helena, the Napa River flows from wild slopes of the Mayacmas Mountains through picturesque vineyards toward and through the City of Napa and out past Mare Island and the city of Vallejo to San Pablo Bay. One of the most memorable and well-known geographic features in California, the Napa Valley is a highly compact watershed ranging from near wilderness to rural lands, to suburbs, to cities, to industrial zones in a mere fifty miles.
Beneath the surface of this apparent paradise is a web of relationships highly dependent on fossil fuels. From the natural gas providing electricity to homes, wineries and businesses to the oil providing gasoline for vehicles, and the petrochemicals for agriculture, the valley is held captive by the fossil fuel era. Like all regions of North America, the Napa Valley will of necessity undergo a very serious transformation to a post-fossil fuel reality. A compact, thriving watershed region like the Napa Valley allowed the class a laboratory to explore the patterns of land use and landscape that may emerge in the wake of declining fossil fuel supplies and the realities of global warming. The class presumption was simple: In thirty years, everything will change. Their job was to anticipate that change and guide it in constructive, fulfilling directions for all life forms and resources.
Led by Assistant Professor Jennifer Brooke and Beatrix Farrand Visiting Professor Robert Thayer, Professors Joe McBride and Matt Kondolf, and with the cooperation of the Napa County Environmental Planning staff members, students broke into six teams to investigate a number of critical dimensions of the river valley: Water; Land and Vegetation; Energy and Transit; Housing, Urban and Industry; Parks, Open Space and Tourism; and Agriculture, Food and Wine. These analysis teams conducted exhaustive reconnaissance on the state of the Napa River watershed with a view of likely conditions, potentials, and limitations thirty years out, when transit fuels would be more scarce and expensive, weather more extreme, population pressure more acute, and natural habitat and open space more precious.
Analysis processes were immediately followed by a master planning phase wherein student teams focused their efforts on components necessary to direct the future of the region. One team hypothesized the creation of a quasi-public initiative entitled “Common Roots”, a new twist on the contemporary CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movement, proposing a multifaceted urban agricultural growing and distributing system with neighborhood markets and a centralized farmers market. With the goal of returning potentially productive but underutilized lands to the provision of local food, their presentation included a toolkit of strategies for small-scale, decentralized food production. Their work also included the addition of an Urban Agriculture element to the City of Napa zoning code, which would enable urban food production to be facilitated by local government yet run by a local non-profit board of directors.
Another team branded itself as “THINC Transit”, an acronym standing for “Transit Hybrid for an Integrated Napa Community”, and proposed a sophisticated yet highly feasible public transit system utilizing existing Wine Train rail rights-of-way and linking other potential transit corridors with existing BART and Amtrak lines to provide ferry, train, light rail, bus, and shuttle transit for the entire valley. Their final presentation included a highly detailed phasing plan for implementing the transit system, complete with a hypothetical and multi-modal schedule of arrivals and departures, including a by-reservation shuttle for the remote valley towns of St. Helena and Calistoga.
In the final design phase, individual students chose site-specific design projects that would build upon various goals and findings from the analysis and master planning efforts completed earlier. These included a complex transit center expansion on the site of the BayLink Ferry in Vallejo; an adaptive reuse plan to turn a routine industrial park into a showcase venue for local organic food production, distribution and waste management; a combined constructed wastewater wetland/regional park and trail complex for Mare Island; a mixed use affordable housing community built on the abandoned glider port in Calistoga; upgraded recreational and habitat improvements to the estuarine wetlands near the Napa airport; and dense transit-oriented development of land along the proposed light rail line through the City of Napa.
Running successfully through the entire course was the theme of “Not Business as Usual.” In envisioning the rather substantive changes anticipated with respect to climate, rising sea levels, the peaking of oil, increases in population quantity and social diversity, potential widening of income gaps, and the future need to shorten the supply chain distance between sources and end uses of energy, food, water, and materials, class members prepared themselves for a future where the skills of landscape architects and environmental planners, as some of the most logical systems thinkers, will be most sorely needed.