Thursday, November 3, 2016

Social Justice Sandcastle takes 2016 Best in Show Bronze Award

By Lotus Grenier Gleason

OCTOBER 15, 2016: This fall, Siegel & Strain Architects participated in the 34th Sandcastle Classic, an annual fundraiser benefitting LEAP Arts in Education. The event is a competition between teams from the AEC industries who pair with an elementary school to design and create a sandcastle in line with the annual theme. Our team, MakerSANDMovers, was comprised of our professional partners Clark Construction, Holmes Culley Engineers, and McMillen Jacobs Associates, and Ms. Hope Settle and Mr. Travis Kelly's fifth grade classes at Berkley Maynard Academy in Oakland, CA.

We interpreted this year's theme, Makers and Movers, through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement and the forgotten stories of the people who make history every day. At the center of our design was a tomato, representing the contemporary fight for Farm Workers Rights. Symbols of the struggle for equality radiated from the center to represent the well-known stories of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott and the Tuskegee Airmen of the first African American air force battalion, and until recently, the lesser known story of the black women mathematicians who played a critical role in developing the first NASA rockets. Fists raised in protest held signs with the name of our sandcastle, demanding just wages, and a call to vote. Our sandcastle representation of the work for social justice resonated with the judges and our team took the bronze medal! A special thanks goes to our team members and all participants.

Collecting water and sand requires a cooperative effort.

The project begins to take shape.

Sculpting hands that take a stand.

Black women mathematicians helped launch first NASA rockets.

Tuskegee Airmen are acknowledged for their role in WWII.

Berkley Maynard students and team members stand behind Rosa Park's bus boycott.

The bronze award winner is left to return to the sea; its ideals continue to move forward.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Celebrating 100 Years with National Park Service!

Siegel & Strain / NPS projects timeline

THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE TURNED 100 on August 25, 2016. The centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

Siegel & Strain is proud to be collaborating with NPS and their partners, such as NatureBridge, Yosemite Institute and Save the Redwoods League, on important park initiatives throughout the West, including the new National Environmental Science Center in Yosemite National Park and the development of new master plans that will support the growth and diversity of visitation through Park Service's second century.

National Environmental Science Center: interim dining hall (future administrative building)

National Environmental Science Center – Yosemite National Park, California
Siegel & Strain designed a seventeen-building residential environmental science center including dining hall, cabins, bath houses, classrooms, a fire station, and support facilities, to serve the 13,000 students and chaperones who visit the center annually. Innovative green design and energy saving concepts together with the site’s inherent attributes create an interactive model of sustainability in which program participants can engage firsthand. Designed to achieve net zero energy, the project also aims to save 60% over standard water use and to minimize material waste through efficient design. [See more about the project…]

Save the Redwoods League Visitor Center, Redwood National/State Parks, Orick, California

Save the Redwoods League Visitor Center – Redwood National & State Parks, Orick, California
With more than 100,000 visitors per year overtaxing the Parks’ existing Kuchel Visitor Center, Save the Redwoods League proposed to design a new, expanded visitor center on a site two-miles inland from the existing facility, and to gift it to the National Park Service. The new visitor center,  located on a former mill site with views of old growth redwoods, will serve as the gateway to the Parks, housing interpretive exhibits and administrative offices. Site amenities include an amphitheater, outdoor exhibits, trailheads and picnic areas, offering a range of experiences for diverse user groups. The project will be closely coordinated with a major site restoration effort.

Historic Hangars, Building 643, The Presidio of San Francisco, California

Presidio Historic Hangars, Building 643 – San Francisco, California
Located on the south edge of the Presidio’s Crissy Field, Building 643 is a contributing structure to the Presidio National Historic Landmark District. Originally constructed in 1923 as two hangars, it was integrated into one long building in 1943. Working with the NPS GGNRA Facilities Management South District, Siegel & Strain completed the programming and conceptual design for the rehabilitation of Building 643. Once rehabilitated, the building and adjacent site will provide space to consolidate facility management operations currently located in numerous buildings throughout the Presidio and GGNRA, freeing those facilities up for public and other uses. [See more about this project…]

Concord Hills Regional Park Joint Use Visitor Center, Former Concord Naval Weapons Station, California

Concord Hills Regional Park Visitor Center – Former Concord Naval Weapons Station, California
Siegel & Strain Architects, in collaboration with Trachtenberg Architects and PlaceWorks, prepared a conceptual design for the adaptive reuse of a military warehouse at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, as part of a long range plan for transforming the former military base into a regional park. The Visitor Center will be jointly operated by East Bay Regional Park District and National Park Service and will interpret subjects including the WWII Port Chicago munitions disaster, and the area’s natural history.

Wawona Wildland Fire Fighting Facility, Yosemite National Park

Wawona Wildland Fire Fighting Facility - Yosemite National Park, California
Designed to replace the 80-year-old structure that had previously served Yosemite fire crews, this state-of-the-art facility houses apparatus bays, work areas, offices, a training room and support spaces, and is designed to easily expand for future bunk rooms, fitness room and more offices. Designed on a very tight budget, the high performance building envelope minimizes the size of the HVAC systems and provides efficient operations. The facility was carefully sited to minimize impacts on trees and other park resources, while allowing fast response times for the apparatus.

Lodgepole & Grant Grove Visitor Centers & Giant Forest Museum – Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Siegel & Strain designed critical improvements that will improve visitor experience and energy efficiency at these three visitor facilities. Upgrades include remodeled restrooms and entrances, new finishes, weatherization, and new plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. The projects will extend the life of the buildings, each of which is listed on the historic register or eligible to be listed. Improvements were carefully designed to work with the existing building fabric and to phase construction in ways that minimize inconvenience to visitors and staff. [Read more about NPS condition assessments…]

Yosemite Valley Visitor Center – Yosemite National Park, California
The Yosemite Valley Village Store is to be re-purposed into the primary “port-of-entry” for visitors to Yosemite Valley. The space will be returned to the original glassy pavilion designed to focus on views of Glacier Point to the south. New decks and entry doors will provide access from all sides and provide ample space for outdoor kiosks and exhibits. New exhibits will be designed to orient visitors to major park sites and get them to their destinations quickly.

Fort Winfield Scott Bldg 1201 Historic Structure Report cover, The Presidio of San Francisco

Fort Winfield Scott Historic Structures Reports – The Presidio of San Francisco, California
S&S prepared Historic Structure Reports (HSRs) and site assessments for the Coast Artillery Headquarters Building and multiple Enlisted Men’s Barracks surrounding the Fort Winfield Scott Parade Ground. The architectural ensemble, constructed ca. 1910 in the Mission Revival style, is a contributing resource to the Presidio of San Francisco National Historic Landmark District. The HSRs include historic context statement, building chronology, list of character-defining features, evaluation of significance and integrity, and a room-by-room survey outlining current conditions and recommended repair and code upgrades. These reports serve as ongoing planning tools for the Presidio Trust. [Read more about the project…]

Presidio Stewardship & Sustainability Center – San Francisco, California
The Stewardship and Sustainability Center unites the Presidio Nursery with the staff and volunteers who work on natural resource issues throughout the Presidio. Designed not only to maintain the historic fabric of an existing warehouse to house offices, classrooms, and meeting rooms, S&S also designed a new education building for the Presidio’s educational programs, outdoor workspace for volunteers, and a living-machine. A translucent sloped canopy extends from the roof and collects rainwater and energy while two new shed-roofed monitors announce the building’s new entries which bring light into the center of the building, and provide natural ventilation. [See more about the project…]

Rob Hill Campground Activity Pavilion & Bathhouse, The Presidio of San Francisco

Presidio Rob Hill Campground: Activity Pavilion & Bathhouse – San Francisco, California
Rob Hill Campground , the only campground located in the City of San Francisco, offers underserved urban kids an outdoor experience in a natural setting. With four camping areas surrounding a central green, the S&S design included a new bathhouse (housing a scullery for cleaning camp dishes), a small office, and an activity pavilion to provide shelter in the often inhospitable ocean-side environment. A large stone fireplace anchors one end, providing warmth on foggy days. Large cedar doors slide open to convert the pavilion into an impromptu stage that faces an outdoor seating area. [See more about the project…]

Presidio Queen Annes
Historic Queen Annes – The Presidio of San Francisco

Presidio Historic Queen Anne Houses – San Francisco, California
Four historic buildings, originally built in the 1890s as residences, were designed with a unique combination of Army standard interiors and intricate Queen Anne exterior details. S&S served as primary architect for the rehabilitation of the buildings, each approximately 4,500 sf. New energy efficient mechanical and electrical systems were installed. Interior finishes and materials were designed to promote healthy indoor air quality. [See more about the project…]

Presidio Hill Radio Building – San Francisco, California
The Presidio Hill Radio Building is a rectangular three-story reinforced concrete structure built ca. 1941 west of an existing Radio Receiving Station at the Presidio of San Francisco. S&S was interior architect for remodeling the building into a radio repair and emergency radio facility, as part of a multi-agency radio communications project. The interiors were integral to the successful seismic upgrade which included replacing brittle hollow clay tile veneer walls with insulated framed walls detailed to meet windows and trim in the same way as the historic fabric.

Pinnacles Visitor Center, Paicines, CA (Rendering by Al Forster)

Pinnacles Visitor Center & Fire / Search & Rescue Facility – Pinnacles National Park, California (Design Architects)
The Visitor Center, which meets LEED Gold standards, houses exhibits, staff offices, and a comfort station. Energy efficiency measures include daylighting, natural ventilation, a trombe wall to passively heat and cool the spaces, efficient lighting and lighting controls, and highly efficient heating and cooling systems. Across the road, a Fire / Search and Rescue Building includes a workshop and staff facilities, and houses the PV array and battery storage that produces all the energy on site. Designed to a tight budget, this support building is a simple pre-engineered structure with a long central clerestory to provide good daylighting, improved natural ventilation, and additional surface area for south facing photovoltaic panels that provide all of the building’s electricity. This project was designed to operate entirely off the grid. [See more about the project…]

Comprehensive Plan for the Restoration & Preservation of Warner Valley – Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
The Comprehensive Plan details program and design criteria for projects in Warner Valley. The design criteria provide a long-term plan for development of the project area considering site-specific resource constraints. The purpose of the plan was to improve visitor experience through educational, interpretive, and recreational opportunities and the protection of wilderness values, the cultural landscape at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, and the historic and cultural resources in the Warner Valley.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center – Death Valley National Park, California
Siegel & Strain developed a pre-programming report and conceptual sketches for the proposed rehabilitation of the 16,000 square foot Visitor Center and Administration Office complex. The project examined energy, programmatic and ADA upgrades. The conceptual design expanded the visitor center lobby for improved visitor orientation and circulation patterns, and reduced an underutilized auditorium, incorporating an adjacent retail operation into space gained. Reconfigured, expanded and ADA compliant parking facilities support high visitation and correct hazardous traffic situations.

Historic minerals baths, Zzyzx Mineral Springs, Mojave National Preserve, California

Zzyzx Mineral Springs Historic District – Mojave National Preserve, California
Siegel & Strain assessed two contributing structures – the Zzyzx Bath House and Sunrise House – and made recommendations for their stabilization. Constructed of concrete from raw materials mined at the site, the buildings were in a seriously deteriorated state. S&S provided a current conditions survey and recommendations for repair and accessibility improvements for the Bath House. [See more about the project…]

Proposed site plan for the Indian Cultural Center, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Indian Cultural Center – Yosemite National Park, California
Siegel & Strain completed design development for the new center located near Yosemite Lodge and within the historic Wahhoga Village site inhabited by the Southern Sierra Miwoks for 3,000 years, until the late 1960s. The plan included returning the last remaining historic cabin to the site and building a new Community Building—with a multi-purpose room, catering kitchen, support facilities—for the Native American Community, along with a ceremonial Roundhouse, sweat lodge, traditional shade structures and bark houses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Building Materials and the Time Value of Carbon

When you save matters. What you build matters.
Here’s why we need to build well and rebuild better.


By Larry Strain

The Paris climate accord set a new target for global temperature rise: to keep global temperatures from rising above 2°C and thus avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change. The countries of the world came together and set a more aggressive goal of 1.5°C temperature rise. To meet that goal, emissions need to peak by 2020, and fossil fuels need to be phased out by 2055.

Given those goals, there are two critical things we need to consider when we evaluate carbon reduction strategies:
  • The first is the amount of potential savings a strategy offers.
  • The second is the time frame of those savings.
We need strategies that produce large savings quickly, and because some reduction strategies result in an initial increase in carbon emissions, we need to pursue strategies that can produce a net reduction within that critical 10- to 20-year time frame.

Over the last year, a group of us from Siegel & Strain Architects, the Carbon Leadership Forum, and Architecture 2030 have been working to build connections between individuals and organizations working on different strategies for reducing GHG emissions in the built environment. Recognizing that we don’t have much time left to address climate change, we are focusing on strategies that can deliver the largest reductions in the shortest time.

These strategies include:
  • reducing embodied greenhouse gas emissions from materials and construction
  • reusing and retrofitting existing buildings
  • building new net-zero-energy buildings
 See below for how you can get involved.

The scale of the problem

As an end user of fossil fuels, the built environment accounts for more emissions than any other single sector—somewhere between 40% and 50% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The current gold standard for reducing emissions from buildings is to build new, net-zero-energy (NZE) buildings—super-efficient buildings powered by renewable energy sources. This is an important piece of getting to a carbon-neutral built environment, but there is a problem with this strategy: building those new NZE buildings will generate a lot of emissions.

Two other sources of emissions may be even more important to address in the short term:
  • embodied emissions from building materials, products, and construction processes
  • operating emissions from the buildings we already have.

Embodied emissions (eCO2) in new construction

Embodied emissions are the first emissions a building generates.
In the U.S., we are currently building about 5.7 billion ft2 of new buildings a year, and the embodied emissions from building those new buildings is about 300 million metric tons per year.

Over the next 20 years, the embodied emissions from those new buildings will outweigh the operating emissions from those buildings. And if we manage to make them NZE, then the only emissions will be the embodied emissions. So while new buildings need be NZE, we also need to reduce embodied emissions.

Based on Siegel & Strain’s own experience with building low-carbon buildings, we know we can reduce embodied emissions by around 30% by selecting existing materials and technology, by using lower-carbon materials, and by employing more-efficient design and construction processes. But an even more effective way to reduce embodied emissions is to reuse existing buildings. Building renovation generates significantly less emissions than new construction does and creates an opportunity to reduce operating emissions from existing buildings.

Operating Emissions  (oCO2) in existing buildings

Operating emissions from existing buildings are an even bigger source of emissions. There are about 310 billion ft2 of buildings in the United States, and operating them generates about 2.2 billion metric tons of GHG emissions every year—about one-third of total U.S. GHG emissions. The majority of the buildings in use today will still be in use in 2030, so existing buildings are the buildings we need to improve.

Which brings us back to the strategy of renovating more existing buildings and building fewer new buildings.

When the renovations include deep energy upgrades—even making them NZE buildings—we address two sources of GHG missions at the same time. We reduce embodied emissions compared to new buildings, and we reduce operating emissions from existing buildings.  And the good news is, we already know how to do this:
  • Improve efficiency: upgrade the lighting, HVAC systems, equipment, controls, etc.
  • Improve the building envelope: insulation, windows, shading, air sealing, daylighting.
  • Power them with renewable energy.

NZE remodels are not as hard as we might think. We just co-authored the Total Carbon Study, a detailed case study of a two-story office remodel and upgrade that is now generating more energy that it consumes—a net-positive building. This interior remodel upgraded equipment and lighting, and added skylights and photovoltaics (PV), with only minimal upgrades to the envelope (roof insulation). The remodel generated about one-third of the embodied emissions that rebuilding the building would have.

For NZE retrofits, we need to evaluate the initial eCO2 investment against the savings from the upgrade. How much carbon was invested to get to zero, and how long will it take the savings from increased efficiency to offset that investment?

When you do this analysis, the answers may surprise you. Blowing in insulation or re-commissioning existing HVAC and lighting systems are likely good investments of eCO2; re-skinning a building with a high-performance aluminum and glass curtain wall may not be worth it. We need to start evaluating all of our reduction strategies by how well they perform within a 10- to 20-year time frame.

Shifting Priorities

It’s time to rethink our goals for reducing emissions from the built environment:
  • Make all new buildings net zero by 2030.
  • Reduce embodied emissions from new buildings to zero by 2050.
  • Upgrade all existing buildings to net zero by 2050.
  • Prioritize early savings over long-term savings.
I want to clarify a few things:
  1. Yes, we still need new buildings. Buildings wear out, priorities change, and populations shift and grow. That said, we could be reusing a lot more buildings than we currently do.
  2. Every existing building won’t get to net zero. We need to identify and target the best candidates and focus on them first. Low-rise commercial and residential buildings are high on my list. We could be retrofitting a lot more buildings to very low energy or NZE.
  3. Reusing and upgrading existing buildings makes more sense in places that are mostly developed, like the U.S. and the EU. For countries that are still building a lot of new buildings, like China and India, the focus will need to be more on reducing the embodied carbon in new construction (as well as making these new buildings NZE).

Larry Strain, FAIA, is principal at Siegel & Strain Architects. Erin McDade, program manager at Architecture 2030, and Kate Simonen, AIA, S.E., founding director of the Carbon Leadership Forum, contributed to this article.

If you are working on these issues and would like to be on the contact list this group is developing, please contact Erin McDade at Architecture 2030.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Join the growing list of safer insulation supporters

Toxic materials are an increasing concern throughout the building industry, and a coalition of design professionals, contractors, scientists, fire safety experts, and public interest groups are advocating for better options. We need to set a precedent that harmful chemicals should not be used, especially when they provide no benefit. An important proposal to update the 2018 International Residential Code would allow foam plastic insulation without hazardous flame retardants to be safely used below grade. This proposal will be considered at Committee Action Hearings in April 2016, and the proponents are collecting company logos to demonstrate support for this work towards safer insulation materials.

Click on this link to add your organization to the list of supporters by signing on to a letter of support.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Total Carbon Study

by Larry Strain, FAIA, LEED AP

Entrance to DPR San Francisco Office, 945 Front Street. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction.

Siegel & Strain Architects, in collaboration with Integral Group: Deep Green Engineering, recently completed the Total Carbon Study of the DPR San Francisco Office Building. The project converted an existing, two story office building in San Francisco into a net positive building.

Specifically, this study:
  • Signals the need for changes in climate action policy that prioritize deconstruction and reuse over demolition. 
  • Quantifies saved/avoided carbon attributed to retrofitting an existing building compared to building a new similar structure. 
  • Demonstrates nearly 70% reduction in the embodied carbon associated with building material supply chain between a new construction and significantly reused existing building structure. 
  • Quantifies the saved/avoided carbon from converting an average, two story office building into a net positive building. Net positive buildings generate more energy than they consume on an annual basis.

    We have just a few decades to stabilize and then phase out greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to avoid irreversible climate change. Carbon reduction strategies need to be evaluated on their reduction potential in the near term.There is a time value to carbon savings that we must take into account. The current "gold standard" for reducing emissions from buildings is to build new, net zero energy buildings — focusing on eliminating emissions associated with the operations phase. While this is an important strategy to reduce GHG emissions in the built environment, it does not address the two other major sources of building emissions from:
    • Embodied, upstream supply chain from building materials, and 
    • Operating emissions from existing buildings.

    Total Carbon (MTons CO2e) 50 year life comparison of Traditional Code-Compliant New Construction Office Building vs. the DPR San Francisco Net Positive Existing Building Retrofit Office.

    The Total Carbon Study makes the case for maximum reuse, coupled with deep green energy retrofits (net positive when conditions allow) as an effective strategy to produce the maximum amount of carbon savings in the shortest possible time.

    To read the entire Total Carbon Study, download this PDF