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is green code having a negative effect on architecture?

brutalism&booze;

The current regulations in the UK for conservation of fuel and power seem to make it very difficult to make 'structurally expressive'  architecture as they encourage us to wrap the structure up and hide it away.

For smaller scale projects I notice in the last 10 years or so a tendancy for buildings to look underscaled and clunky and wonder if this isn't down to the roof, wall thicknesses etc required by the codes being oversize relative to the individual building.

Are these issues that others recognise in their territories?  Are they issues at all?

 
Sep 4, 11 5:59 pm
holz.box

hmmm... as i recall, UK buildings from the 14th c. looked pretty 'clunky' as well.

mies didn't seem to have any issues expressing his structure (even if it was a cladded lie).

i don't see how it has a negative affect - except that maybe it makes people who don't want to deal with energy modeling throw up 'clunky' elements.

if this means you can't cantilever an uninsulated, non-thermally broken steel beam through a plate of glass - then i'm all for it.

Sep 6, 11 5:14 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

Glad you mentioned Mies, as his view of structure as the 'generator' is pretty much what I was trying to articulate as being at threat from the codes, although if you have to go back to him to find a contemporary example of a structurally expressive architecture then that rather confirms my suspicions...

If the steel-beam-through-glass-plate is a no no, Holtz, would the expressed concrete frame (a la Maison Jaoul or any of its myriad offspring) also be out of bounds??

Sep 8, 11 4:16 pm  · 
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No because you can always make those double cavity walls. I struggled with this exact problem with a little exercise where I wanted to make a thermally isolated but exposed concrete structure.

Based on suggestions from Archinect, I created this:

Larger size here: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5298/5583867201_d0986b36c8_b.jpg

Sep 8, 11 5:02 pm  · 
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JsBach

 When we first started doing exposed concrete structures, it was an attempt to show an honest expression of how the building was built. So is the next big thing going to be exposed insulation. I can just see a whole city of pink fluffy buildings with gardens on the roof.

Sep 8, 11 5:25 pm  · 
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Urbanist

I'm not really sure it's fair to say that code constrains good design.  We're trained to operate within and respond to site, context, physical AND regulatory constraints with outstanding design.  I believe there's no such thing as "unconstrained" design.. that would just be a pure exercise in form-making.  

Sep 9, 11 2:15 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

I think the point is that a building's structure is such a fundamental part of what that building is that if it's not in some way available to the architect then that's quite a major compromise.  A bit like saying please form a band and make outstanding music but no bass or drums allowed.

JJR - trying to puzzle out how your concrete structure would work.  Guess the inner and outer shells connect in some way...or do they form a sort of composite with the insulation??

Sep 10, 11 11:42 am  · 
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Form a composite. The black over the pink are the steel ties. Monolithic and structurally expressive work is possible (if not astronomically expensive) with concrete at least. If you're going to be green and do work like Maison Jaoul, you just have to think of the building as and interior and exterior structure independent of one another.

However, one of the issues I've ran across with this is that sometimes some of your exterior structural work becomes "phony." That's because you get into using thermal isolation joint products that have very specific limitations.

If all else fails, throw an enormous amount of solar panels on the roof to power the heavy duty HVAC system you'll need to handle a building with steel cantilevers through glass. But even this becomes a design limitation because then you'll have to design a mechanical floor to have a mechanical-free roof.

Sep 10, 11 2:16 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

Faking it with thermal breaks is definitely an option but not one I'm particularly comfortable with. I've noticed that a lot of architects instinctively don't like cavity construction, and guess this is for the same reasons. Then the another option, as you say, is to over compensate in one area (eg solar panels) and cash in somewhere else. In my practice, which is mainly refurb and extension of Victorian buildings, this is how to add new (read large windows and skylights) to old and I assume this is what holz.box was referring to when he mentioned 'energy modelling' - ie, you have to do calcs to prove a design of this type satisfies code. But maybe this is in itself a reactionary stance and what we really should be doing is, as jsBach suggests, embracing the pink fluffy architecture of the future...

Sep 13, 11 3:55 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

speaking of which...

Sep 14, 11 7:45 am  · 
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brutalism&booze;

doh.  attaching image failure...

maybe better do it like this

120mm spray-on 'expressed' insulation by Kempe Thill in Amsterdam

Sep 14, 11 8:03 am  · 
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Janosh

As Urbanist said, I can't see anything uniquely negative about the impact of energy codes (or codes at all) on the art of architecture.  The concern that architecture should express structure is a recognition of the impact and limitation put on the discipline by gravity, which is already a pretty significant barrier to limitless form-making and a "negative effect".  Unless the proposition is that architectural form should occur (somehow) outside of culture, the recognition of energy conservation requirements within the language of building seems like a desirable thing - it grounds the building within a climatic and social place.

Sep 14, 11 10:43 am  · 
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Window to wall area ratios, to name one (NYS residential energy code).

 

Sep 14, 11 10:45 am  · 
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holz.box

miles, are there exceptions to the ratios? in many jurisdictions, you can get around it by crunching calcs. if going by prescriptive, then there are maximum ratios...

Sep 14, 11 3:39 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

'I'm not really sure it's fair to say that code constrains good design.  We're trained to operate within and respond to site, context, physical AND regulatory constraints with outstanding design. '

Well, there are constraints and there are constraints...

Here's a quote from Berlage, one of Mies' influences (for 'the pure principal of construction' read 'clarity of structure'):

'Now it is very remarkable to notice that, as regards architecture, it was exactly the pure principle of construction that led both the Greeks and those of Medieval times to a sublime architecture, whilst the Renaissance, which abandoned this principal,could do no more than approach the beautiful.'

Sep 15, 11 6:05 am  · 
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Rusty!

Thermal and moisture protection is a very boring topic but a crucial one in terms of building performance. Most offices seem to struggle with basics of wall construction (Where does the dew-point fall? If it's not continuous it doesn't do anything.etc...). When it comes to structurally expressive buildings, the detailing is typically a complete disaster. 

B&B if you are interested in doing more structurally expressive projects, I say you go for it! But you gotta learn the rules before you break them. A leaky masterpiece is a bit of an oxymoron because it compromises the most primal need for architecture: shelter.

Sep 15, 11 10:08 am  · 
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re what berlage said, greek architecture was never logical structure.  wasn't that the whole point?  that wood became stone and the structural necessities of the former became decoration in the latter?

anyway, if you want code compliance with structural expression all the brit high tech mods seem to have the style down and apparently foster and ingenhoven and that lot are good with the gree tech too.  are they the exception that proves the rule or something altogether dif'rent?

 

Sep 15, 11 12:26 pm  · 
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toasteroven

I see this chunkiness as mostly the result of people still over-relying on traditional mechanical systems in the face of increased energy efficiency standards rather than using passive system design techniques (which requires more work and expertise), and the latter can definitely be both more formally and structurally expressive.

Sep 15, 11 12:49 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

toasteroven. Can you expand a little on passive system design techniques?

Sep 15, 11 3:36 pm  · 
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Rusty!

"Can you expand a little on passive system design techniques"

Sep 15, 11 3:48 pm  · 
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toasteroven

have you not heard of passive heating and cooling systems?  there are some basic examples in both graphic standards and neufert.  anyway, it has a lot to do with utilizing convection currents, understanding the thermal mass of materials, and knowing where the sun and wind come from.  for example, in the winter you want to capture and store as much solar radiation as possible, and in the summer you want to block solar radiation and encourage air movement - basically using the environment, the landscape, and the building to either attempt to eliminate or reduce the load on traditional mechanical systems.    There are numerous projects out there you can look at - many of them quite beautiful (one of my favorites is the theoretical olivetti project by steven holl).

 

the downside of using passive heating and cooling is that you won't get as consistent indoor environment temps.  plus it sometimes requires people to physically open and close things, which is a problem because we're generally lazy.  plus there's the higher up-front cost and you often lose saleable square feet.

 

I think for most people there's really no economic incentive to be creative about addressing energy usage so they do whatever is easiest and has the least effect on their bottom line in regards to the required codes.

Sep 15, 11 4:32 pm  · 
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toasteroven

rusty - LOL

Sep 15, 11 4:32 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

jump. If you have Rogers in mind, I see him as being more constructionally expressive than structurally expressive or clear in the way Berlage intended. Foster is probably closer to it but can all that glass really be green?

Sep 19, 11 5:47 pm  · 
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 foster rogers ingenhoven and oj grimshaw if you want are all doing the structure as decoration, or did.  and they all say its green.  you will have to tell me if its really green or not, but since they are meeting the same code requirements you are worrying about i don't see the problem.  clearly it is possible to do all kinds of things if you are competent and interested in doing something difficult, but who wants to do that? 

not sure why structural expression is worth much anyway. it's nice to stay away from the normal jiggery pokery most structures turn into i suppose but beyond that what exactly is the benefit?  this is just an aesthetics question?

Sep 19, 11 8:03 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

That the skin (and form?) of a building relate to the bones beneath seems more than a question of aesthetics to me although it's interesting that generally others don't appear to share my anxieties over this issue!

Maybe what Berlage and Mies were banging the drum for is now considered an archaic form of practice.

btw here's the kind of thing I was referring to in my intial post - which pretty much defines one of the most recognisable architectural styles to emerge in the last few years (in the UK at least).  There are, of course, good and bad examples of it, but generally I feel it's a bit underwhelming compared even to the recent past and wonder if green code/building regs isn't a contributing factor?

Sep 20, 11 10:26 am  · 
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Rusty!

Contributing factor in your example is probably budget. Also developer lead housing projects are not known daring architecture. They know their customer base better than we do.

Sep 20, 11 11:49 am  · 
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it's a bit underwhelming

I'd say your expectations are a little to high (everyone's were in the 20th century). But architecture like that is more or less an extension of traditional English architecture.

More weirded out about the palm tree (cabbage palm) and how one gets one to survive a winter in England (although that picture could be from Portsmouth or Brighton.)

Sep 20, 11 1:58 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

Centralish london, so one of the warmer bits of the country although last winter was a killer. Maybe it's just not quite had time to die yet.

You're right of course about budget constraints and also maybe also about expectations being too high... in this sector at least.

rusty!/JJR - has this kind of thing appeared where you are in the world?  Anything similar?

Sep 21, 11 8:02 am  · 
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mies was not particularly honest with structural expression.  he was good at making the decoration look structural though.  famous for it, really.  personally i think there is nothing wrong with bringing structure and expression together but its just another kind of play in the end and not any more honest.

 

truly honest structure would likely look like a walmart .

Sep 21, 11 12:11 pm  · 
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Jump, I have to disagree with that. At the Seagrams Building the illusion of structure is applied – and quite successfully judging by how much that detail has been copied – but most of Mies' work is strictly honest in expression of structure, from the Barcelona Pavilion to Crown Hall and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to his furniture, which are some of the purest expressions of structure ever designed.

Your Walmart comment is simply ignorant. Try looking at some of the buildings, they are exercises in opportunism and economic frugality. That’s about the most honest thing about them.
 

 

Sep 21, 11 6:57 pm  · 
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holz.box

"if i had to build a free-standing wall in brick, plastered on all sides, so that the bricks themselves could not be seen, i would still build the brick wall in english bond" - mies

Sep 21, 11 10:41 pm  · 
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opportunism and economic frugality is all about honesty.  no money is spent on decoration.  can't get any more honest than that.  i didn't say it led to good archtiecture only that "honesty" is a bit of a loaded idea.  like the red house of william morris being authentic when it is more truthfully mannerist and elitist and completely dishonest

i find mies to be a mannerist when it comes to structure, which is why koolhaas quotes him all the time i suppose.  the work is already so exaggerated...He really left the seven lamps kind of honesty in the dust when it didn't suit, which is as it it should be.  this whole idea bout expression really goes back to that era.  i'm not sure it is something we need to worry about anymore.  morris and ruskin and their successors seem so irrelevant as the basis for contemporary theory.  at best its just a place to touch on if it interests you, but more important is what the structure enables than how it is expressed, no?  isn't that the whole point of foster's eco-work with holistic structure and cetera worked into the total?  the goal is not aesthetic at first but something more nuanced.

i feel that in the face of modern energy codes mies would simply work out an inventive response and it would still be coolio.  the schlock archtiecture example above is not about code but cash. 

Sep 21, 11 11:19 pm  · 
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brutalism&booze;

Mies certainly nailed the rhetoric didn't he! That's a great quote.

Any thoughts how this ranks on the honesty/expediency scale??? (bonus points for identifying building)

here's the section

 

Sep 22, 11 5:16 am  · 
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great quote.

my favorite stories about mies are in the lecture/article by beatriz colomina called "mies not" where she points out that the image mies created and that others indulged in, that he was a master of structure, was kind of a masterly slight of hand.  If you can get the full article it is totally worth reading.  mies talks about vomit and everything...

Sep 22, 11 6:33 am  · 
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Crown Hall

Crown hall is not structurally honey. The exterior steel "support" columns are the modernist equivalent of hollow fiberglass neoclassical columns.

Notice how the facade overhangs the foundation?

How does that work while being structurally honest? magnets?

He also pulled this same trick at Lake Shore Drive.

 

I do realize I'm toeing the line between "functional" and "structurally honest."

Sep 22, 11 9:41 am  · 
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