A New Mandate in High Performance Integrated Design: Generous Pragmatism

Who remembers the Ford Maverick? My wife had one. She fondly remembers the yellow two door, but not because it was well designed or a very good car. It was neither. Her fond memories are because it was her first car, a gift from her dad. Today she is an informed consumer and has a completely different set of expectations — which led her to the hybrid car that she drives. She is not alone. The market has changed. It wasn’t long ago that nearly every make of automobile, no matter it’s origin, had design, performance, affordability and manufacturing problems. Value was not a word with positive connotation in the automotive industry. Today that has changed. Integrated design has replaced styling and engineering. Automated manufacturing techniques have vastly improved efficiency and quality. Batteries have replaced fuel tanks and efficiency has vastly improved. The industry is transformed. Consider the evolution of the Toyota Prius. Its form and shape have balanced comfort, roominess and functionality with weight reduction, aerodynamics and efficiency. The design expresses what it does very honestly. What this car does matters as much as how it looks. This concept — generous pragmatism — aptly describes the beauty, functionality and high performance of the Prius. The real estate market is changing. What a building does and how it performs matters. The industry, too, is being transformed — though more slowly that the automobile. What was once not possible now is; what was cost prohibitive now is not. Results now matter and buildings do impact the performance of the people and the organizations that operate inside. The future of design is headed in a regenerative direction. Meaningful innovation is key to how buildings and the building industry will transform to elevate human potential, greatly reduce environmental impact and produce rather than consume economic resources through productivity gains and increased effectiveness. Exemplary buildings that prove what is possible and now practical can be found in multiple climate zones and for many different client types. Some of these are not only extremely efficient in energy, water and other resource use, but they generate renewable energy and in some cases even purify their own wastewater.

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top left: One example is the Lewis and Clark State Office Building, which operates at 75% below baseline energy use and was built for $205 per square foot, a standard state budget. Feedback measured in this buildng, the first LEED State Office Building, during the first year of operations showed that absenteeism dropped 9% and there were zero comfort complaints. top right: Another example is the Kiowa County K-12 School in Greensburg, KS that requires 70% less energy than baseline and generates all of its energy from the prairie wind.

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top left: In the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Make It Right has created a neighborhood of nearly 100 LEED Platinum homes that is powered by the sun. top right: Outside New York City in Rhinebeck, the net zero Omega Center for Sustainable Living is the first building to attain the Living Building Challenge and achieve LEED Platinum by generating all of its energy from the sun and using the sun, landscape and plants to clean all of the wastewater from the nearly 170 buildings on its campus. Recently, the New York Times reported that an urban office building in Seattle is operating at 83% below baseline and on its way to meeting the one-year performance testing in order to also achieve the Living Building Challenge. These results are testament to the benefits of high performance integrated design (HPID). Generous pragmatism: what a building does matters as much as how it looks. Buildings have performance expectations that are more complex than those of automobiles. The compelling results offered by high performance buildings are becoming clearer to building owners. 

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top left: In the Federal Supply Offices in Kansas City, processing efficiency improved dramatically — including back order reduction by 80% —after the agency moved into a renovated wing in the Bannister Federal Complex. top right: The Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Library is far and away the busiest of any library branches in the City. Patrons attribute their preference for this library to its overall comfortable feeling: daylighted spaces, great views to the Plaza and nature, as well as the overall design.

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top left: In the short time since moving into the Todd Bolender Center For Dance and Creativity, the Kansas City Ballet has experienced growth and success in both the school and professional company. Enrollment in the school has increased by 70% and ticket sales have sky rocketed at 92%. top right: The IRS Processing Center in Kansas City captures and cleans all of the storm water from the site, storing it in a serene pond that adjoins a dining terrace for the employees and elevates the user experience. not pictured: The EPA recently occupied renovated LEED Gold offices in Lenexa, allowing the EPA to demonstrate the principles that it is charged with promoting and enforcing in a practical, functional, beautiful and economical environment. HPID is a collaborative process that involves clients, designers and builders to be most effective. HPID requires intentional collaboration. At BNIM we have a saying: “no one knows as much as everyone.” It is critical that our ideas and concepts be tested and improved by our design collaborators and vice-versa. Intuitive – scientific – experiential One way that we insure an open and effective design process is by thinking about the new or renovated building and landscape as a set of integrated layers. There are layers for each of the landscape systems, the structure, each environmental system, security, water, building envelope, circulation, windows and daylight, natural ventilation, etc. The list can grow quite long. Over the last decade, our design approach has moved from what had been mainly an intuitive process to one that is now described as intuitive — scientific — experiential. Scientific tools provide accurate analysis and predictions of how a design will perform. The models account for many conditions — orientation on the site, specific location-based weather conditions, building form, insulated mass, envelope design, window size and orientation, thermal insulation performance, interior thermal loads imposed by occupants, natural ventilation and interior air flows and specific building use or species — to predict the operations and efficiency of the design. Similar tools are useful for modeling the experiences that users will have. Static and dynamic models and renderings help clients and designers gain a sense of how the space is going to really look, feel and perform. The tools simulate actual environmental conditions throughout a yearly cycle. For example one important aspect of efficient design is utilizing free energy wherever possible and practical. Sunlight has a color spectrum that is healthier and better for humans than artificial light. It is also a means of saving energy and improving overall efficiency. The tools that are used today allow designers to address issues of glare and contrast in addition to modeling the overall quantity and quality of daylight, while also incorporating supplemental electric lighting when needed. In Kansas City, and in other places in the U.S. and across the globe, these tools are being used to corroborate high performance integrated design strategies that have enormous potential to transform our built environment. HPID is resulting in a new approaches that are establishing a new model for many projects — from inner-city housing, to government projects, to leading global technology companies. 

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top left: In Kansas City, BNIM is working with Make It Right on the Bancroft School. The once abandoned school in the urban core will soon re-open with a new purpose as housing for families. Residents of the LEED Platinum housing, which encompasses renovated and new buildings, will enjoy the benefits of amenities such as childcare and a wellness center. Their utility bills will be reduced by solar panels that generate electricity and decrease annual expenses for all residents. top right: In San Diego, HPID is at work in our design for a new lab and workspace for 1400 engineers at a Fortune 500 technology company that is connected to nature and to San Diego’s climate. Natural daylight and ventilation will provide comfort and overall operating efficiency. An exterior veil shading system has been reinvented for San Diego and the needs of the interior work environment. The landscape’s walking and running trail connects to nearby Lopez Canyon, emulates its native landscape. Exercise and fitness spaces encourage healthy lifestyles before, during or after work hours. A parking garage is capped with a soccer field for company teams, pick-up games and community uses. Recently our firm was notified that the State Department Overseas Building Operations (OBO) has retained BNIM to begin designing facilities across the globe to house the foreign diplomatic operations. The OBO program is redirecting its facility strategy to employ design excellence and sustainability as part of its diplomatic mission and BNIM was sought for our ability to complement this focus. "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding." — Albert Einstein We aspire to create places that are good neighbors, a welcoming presence, and truly sustainable. Generous Pragmatism married with High Performance Integrated Design is our approach for designing facilities across the U.S. and, now, across the globe. Buildings designed in this way serve the needs of the diplomatic mission and are responsible stewards of U.S. values and principles, while being sensitive to the culture and issues of the host country. It is not just the real estate market that is changing. The State Department is now leading the way by embracing HPID as well, which could have a promising long term impact on the way that the profession designs, builds and measures performance in architecture. In the not too distant future, we may no longer have buildings designed like Ford Mavericks, but instead we could find that the architecture industry, too, is entirely transformed.