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I was honored to attend the Sustainable Cities Design Academy this past Monday to Wednesday at the American Architecture Foundation. With sponsorship from UTC, the AAF brought 12 sustainability, design and development practitioners from around the country to apply their knowledge to four city scale projects in various stages of development. Each project had four representative on hand who worked with a resource team on their respective projects. The resource members and project teams each gave a Pecha Kucha style presentation about themselves and their work and then we broke off for a day and a half of brainstorming and on the spot design. Aside from being a great way to advance challenging projects, this was an exciting and educational opportunity for all attendees to meet and learn about others advancing the field of sustainable building.

I was assigned to a fascinating adaptive reuse project from Minneapolis with a great team headed by David Frank of Schafer Richardson Inc. and a fantastic fellow resource member, Phil Esocoff FAIA of Esocoff and Associates. The site we worked on is a former grain mill located 5 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. It has an existing water tunnel in the basement formerly used to provide the mill with mechanical power. A few quick calculations revealed it could produce 20-40% of the sites total power. The team spent a lot of time discussing possible ways to reuse about 25 100′ tall, 25′ dia, circular concrete grain elevators. Possibilities included everything from adaptive reuse apartments to water storage and stack effect conditioners.

What do you think? How can they be reused? Should they be saved or are they an imposing barrier to community integration? More about the mills can be found here, and the white grain elevators can be seen here.

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cistern 860

Sherwood, working with our partners EHDD, Stantec and Oliver and Co. (who took the photo to the left), recently installed a 15,000 gallon cistern at Marin Country Day School. This cistern will be collecting around 16,000 square feet of rainwater from the roofs of a new art classroom and Learning Resource Center.

The project is also targeting LEED Platinum status which will be achieved in part by the stormwater quantity and quality benefits as well as water conservation. These new buildings are targeting zero energy use in which the cistern will play an important role. The water stored in the cistern, along with a cooling tower, will be used for mechanical heating and cooling exchange. The associated water conservation points will be achieved utilizing the captured rainwater through internal toilet use.

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I’m proud to be among this distinguished list of speakers for West Coast Green October 1-3 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!

– Bry

P.S. Click here to follow me on Twitter.

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The San Mateo County Sustainable Green Streets and Parking Lots Design Guidebook, which Sherwood coauthored with Portland’s Nevue-Ngan Associates, has just won the award for Innovation in Green Community Planning by the the California Chapter of the American Planning Association! You can read the full text of the guidebook here, and if you’re going to the APA 2009 State Conference at Squaw Creek in Tahoe Sept 13-16 be sure to say hello to us at the awards ceremony.

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The new Scientific American has a story on the AIA Top Ten award which named our Chartwell project “one of the Top 10 Earth- and People-Friendly Buildings.”

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Sidwell Friends, via Natural Systems International

Sidwell Friends School. Image from Natural Systems International.

A little noted fact about Sidwell Friends, the Obama family’s choice of school for Malia and Sasha: It’s amazingly green! Designed by Kieran Timberlake Associates, this LEED Platinum middle school is part of the Sidwell Friends School campus. Among the school’s many green features:

  • Local materials – 78% sourced within 500 miles to reduce transport costs
  • Water efficient landscaping – local vegetation reduces need for irrigation, and allows reestablishment of native ecological pathways
  • Recycled Materials – 11% + Forest Stewardship Council certified wood
  • Passive solar design – 60% energy reduction + solar panels for electricity generation
  • Green roof and natural ventilation – for health, energy, stormwater, and ecological benefits
  • And best of all, a constructed wetland that treats 100% of the school’s wastewater before returning it to the school for toilet flushing.

This is a boon for those of us seeking to sell our clients on features such as constructed wetlands, solar power etc. If they are good enough and safe enough for our first daughters, they are good enough for any facility.

Of course, once one starts to look at the many studies done on green schools and realizes the many benefits (increased test scores, decreased class disruption, increased teacher productivity, decreased infrastructure cost, etc. etc.), one starts to wonder why one WOULDN’T build this way. To build a school that isn’t green and deprive the next 25 to 50 years of kids that will be taught in the building’s lifetime these many benefits is borderline negligent.

That the Obama’s have chosen to have their daughters educated in these cutting edge green facilities has largely stayed under the radar (I only just realized myself). While the green features of the school were probably not their deciding factor, it certainly conveys a trust in the systems and a recognition of their many benefits.

You can take a tour of the school at http://www.sidwell.edu/green_tour and monitor the infrastructure systems at http://buildingdashboard.com/clients/sidwell.

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