June 12, 2018

The Science of Light: An Investigation into Color Temperature

In a previous blog post, I introduced the Bialosky Lighting Laboratory and started to investigate the science of light and its integral role in design. Today, I’d like to delve deeper into the topic of color temperature.

Color is not an intrinsic property of light or objects: it is a perceptual phenomenon that is part of the visual experience. The spectrum of the light source affects how we perceive the colors we see in the lighted environment.

Color is one of the most definitive examples of where simple lighting choices can have dramatically different effects on how space is visually experienced by its users:

  • The color of the light source – whether the appearance is warm or cool.
  • The color rendering of fabrics, objects, and finishes – whether the colors appear attractive and are rendered accurately.
  • The color appearance of skin tones – whether faces look pale, flush, jaundiced, etc.
  • Color contrast – describing the visibility of the task detail against its background.

 

The metrics used to quantify the color appearance of a light source are chromaticity, dominant wavelength, correlated color temperature (CCT) and color rendering index (CRI). We will examine CRI in a future blog, but let’s now explore the role of color temperature and its requisite role in design.

CCT is measured in Kelvins (K), a temperature metric similar to Celsius with equally sized degrees, but starting at absolute zero. 0 degrees Kelvin  =  -273 degrees Celsius. A theoretical reference source called a black body radiator is used which when heated and glowing will shift in color with heat continuously along the visual spectrum. This body is black at room temperature, but as electrical current passes through the body, it heats to a red-orange glow. As the temperature increases, the color shifts to yellow and along the spectrum to a bluish light. A temperature measurement of the body can be taken at any time and that value corresponds to the color of the light. Light sources that employ disproportionate levels of each wavelength are measured by CCT which compares to the black body radiator.

Light sources are loosely classified as “cool” (4000 K or greater – blue appearance) or “warm” (3000 K or less – yellow appearance), while “neutral” lies in the middle (3500 K – white appearance).

Warm sources include red and orange wavelengths, accentuating skin tones and enriching the appearance of red and orange in objects. Cool sources include blue and green wavelengths, enriching the appearance of blue and green objects. 

CCT plays a large role in controlling our circadian rhythm as well. The use of cooler CCT stops the production of melatonin in the body, increasing alertness. Lighting designs have used this recent discovery to improve health and wellness in the areas of education and healthcare, along with helping control the symptoms of Alzheimers and Autism.

Because the paramount purpose of lighting is to serve the needs of humans, color temperature becomes another factor designers employ to predict the impact of different sources. The importance of color to the application must be weighed by the designer. Some light sources display poor color characteristics, but higher efficacies (lumens of light output per watt of energy). Other light sources offer preferable color quality, but drive up the installation cost. Designers gauge the needs of the application and then compare light sources (weighing potential trade-offs in appearance, color, efficacy, cost and overall performance) in choosing the most appropriate source for the application.

Now when we are selecting fabrics, room finishes and colors, we can closely examine them under light with the same color temperature as the lamps being proposed for the space.

Color temperature is one of the most influential mood-setting features of a space. Our lighting laboratory allows us to explore the effects of color temperature on our design, deliberately creating moods and enhancing architecture.

December 6, 2017

The Road to VR: Our Office’s Leap into Virtual Reality

( 12 milestones of virtual reality ; https://versus.com/en/news/the-12-milestones-in-the-history-of-virtual-reality)

A Brief History of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) has been a long fascination of “techies” for decades. It began in the 1950’s with the “sensorama”. Marketed as “the cinema of the future”, it incorporated multisensory elements such as aromas, body tilting, projection of 3D imagery, and wind bursts. Falling short of its romanticized goals, the interest was largely forgotten by the public for decades.  In 1985, NASA adapted a helmet for astronauts to control robots and mechanisms outside the space station, which mitigated the hazards of the physical environs, such as radiation, space debris, and being set adrift. This innovation, called the VVED (Virtual Visual Environment Display), successfully emulated a 360 degree environment. Again, the innovation largely fell by the wayside until 2011. As cell phones became increasingly more powerful, more avenues of mobility and technology converged, which opened new (or rather old) doors of creativity. Enter the iPhone Virtual Reality Viewer. When this consumer-friendly product came to market, it re-ignited a VR craze for a third time. The popularity of cell phone viewers encouraged large corporations such as HTC, Oculus/Facebook, and PlayStation to invest serious capital into developing affordable, widely accessible systems (ensuring the technology was here to stay). Today, Virtual Reality has broad applications beyond entertainment and gaming; it has become an invaluable resource for industries such as healthcare, education, the military, and architecture.

Theory and Research in HCI: Morton Heilig, Pioneer in Virtual Reality Research; 19 Sept 2008; Break out your Nintendo virtual boy, VR is (almost) here!

Investigating VR Hardware for our Office

When our office committed to investing in a VR system, we committed hours of research and testing for the most immersive experience possible. After exhaustive research, our office established that portability, power, and expandability were the primary priorities.

As a response to portability, an Alienware 15 laptop was selected. The critical spec include the following; i7-7820HK processor, 16GB DDR4 @2667 MHZ of ram, 512 SSD(boot drive) + 1TB SATA, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 w/ 8 GB GDDR5 graphics card. We concluded that this was not only the most powerful initial build, but also the most scalable model; Alienware’s build philosophy allows for expandable computers and even provides diagrams for do-it-yourself upgrading. In our experience, the concept has been successful and still allows us to anticipate evolutions in the technology as it becomes more developed and sophisticated.

The VR hardware we chose was the Oculus headset with Oculus Touch controllers and three room-bounding sensors. Being more compact than their competitors and having their center of gravity around your hands (as opposed to in front of the users hands), the Oculus Touch allows the controllers to disappear while within the VR environment. The button locations and angles are also ergonomically based to produce the same result. Most importantly, high-use button controls are exactly where you expect and want them to be. In contrast, the menu buttons are designed to be out of the way, so they are only accessed with intention, not by accident. For the full emersion to be believed, the experience needed to be intuitive and mitigate factors that could dissolve the illusion, such as buttons being unintentionally pressed. Ideally, the goal of Virtual Reality is that the device itself should become the invisible framework, allowing creativity (or fun) to occur unabated.  With all these considerations, The Oculus became the obvious choice and has since been reinforced after their announcement that a wireless headset is in development.

We also have chosen to connect most of the assembly into the “Dell DisplayLink 4k Plug and Play”. This allows multiple USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections WITHOUT loss of signal or downgrading the signal. The added benefit is having a consolidated and cleaner setup. The displaylink also allows us to project onto a screen and/or mobile TV display in order to enhance communication to those outside of the head set. We chose our software based on seamless integration into our current workflow and quality of the output. As secondary criterion, it needed to have an intuitive interface, both in the VR environment and the software’s user interface itself. The first software chosen as our platform was intended to be the icebreaker for the firm and allow everyone to easily understand how critical it was to start our entry and participation into this community.

An important dimension of adopting VR into the office was designating and equipping appropriate areas to use it. A permanent VR workspace was established in our office, as well as a portable workspace, which allows designers to bring the device to clients, interviews, and even home to develop projects/ideas at their leisure (or as necessary).

University of South Carolina - Beaufort | Hospitality Management Center | Main Entry Section

Informing the Design Process

Virtual Reality has the ability to solve many of our contemporary problems. How do we streamline our workflow? Can this workflow incorporate 3D visuals? How do we not duplicate work to produce a rendering? Can the rendering communicate back to our initial “production” models? How can we have more productive meetings with clients? Do they accurately understand our concepts? These are just a few of the many questions the current VR technology/software has started to answer.

Informing the Design Process: Between Architect and Architect

Design is ever changing, and as a building evolves, it is a daunting task to catch and fully develop every possible detail which could arise. Virtual Reality is a quick way to actually jump into the drawings and see what hasn’t been developed, what is missing, and what hasn’t even been thought of yet. This is all possible with the pairing of Revit and Enscape through the eyes of the Oculus Rift. It is also a great platform to ensure an idea will have the intended result, without having to wait until experiencing the built product. We can become fully immersed within the new idea moments after its conception and determine if it is the best direction for the project… and most importantly, still during design. 

Revit isn’t a new software by industry standards, but Bialosky Cleveland is beginning to unlock its true potential. By enhancing Revit and creating a Virtual Reality experience, project teams can walk through their project in its infancy and easily spot potential trouble areas and conditions. Enscape allows for the team to discuss an issue, create several solutions to the problem, and even switch between these results quickly to make a decision all within a matter of minutes.

Cuyahoga Community College | Metro Campus Center

Informing the Design Process: Between Architect and Consultant

It is imperative during the design phase of a project that all members of the team coordinate their respective responsibilities in order to create a beautiful, functional end result. Virtual Reality is a quick and effective way to enhance this collaboration. When each discipline produces their drawings in Revit, Virtual Reality is able to efficiently show where conflicts arise. Coordinating the puzzle above the ceiling grid takes a lot of time and attention to detail but imagine being in the ceiling and seeing all of the mechanical and plumbing in front of your eyes. This is possible with Virtual Reality and again, allows for quick solutions. We hope to further integrate this technology to all in-house disciplines to assist in coordination meetings.

Private Office | New York, NY

Informing the Design Process: Between Architect and Client

Virtual Reality can also enrich communication with the client similar to how it aids within the design team. As designers, we sometimes forget that not everyone we work with has the same training as we do and everyone has different abilities in translating 2D drawings into a 3D space. By shifting the focus in the drawing process from 2D drawings into 3D modeling, the concept and intent of a particular form and design decision comes alive to everyone. A client can see their space more clearly, and with far fewer explanations of what a design decision will look like. Additionally, virtual models with the aid of VR can help publicize an upcoming facility to potential users, renters, and even project donors. Bialosky Cleveland recently completed a series of donor events for a private school in collaboration with the administration. Our team was able to walk the group through the vision for the space, address the school’s future, and demonstrate how their teaching aspirations would be accomplished in the space.

Joseph & Florence Mandel Jewish Day School | Beachwood, OH

Benefits Beyond Design: Construction Administration

Modeling created specifically for VR can also be useful as a communication tool during construction. A majority of the questions that arise during construction are caused by a miscommunication between team members. The virtual model allows for the designer to quickly export views to assist in clarifying or solving a given issue. This allows for timely responses to field questions and expedited, accurate solutions to keep projects on budget and on schedule.

Joseph & Florence Mandel Jewish Day School | Beachwood, OH

Not Just for Work, but for Fun

Virtual Reality can certainly enhance the workflow and outcome of the design process, but it also can be a fun team activity for staff.  We hosted a game night in mid-September for employees and their families to play diverse games together. Everything from a typical game night was there: card games, board games, console games, Oculus Rift games, and even pizza and soda for fuel. The Oculus was a big hit for every age group and let staff and family alike to gather, play, and experience this new technology together.

February 13, 2014

BPA University – Digital Fabrication + Scripting in Architecture

Last Friday I put together a small informal internal lunch and learn for the BPA staff in which we looked at and discussed digital fabrication equipment and construction techniques.  Based off of the course that I taught at Kent State University last semester, the discussion of various techniques and uses in architectural applications became very exciting.  We also began to discuss and share how the process of scripting and parametric design could impact our design.  I shared various precedent from firms such as SHoP Architects, design work by Alex Hogrefe, and even included some of my own work on a new bookshelf that is in process.  Feel free to walk through the Prezi Presentation below!

[prezi id="<http://prezi.com/jhgvwfbugqxo/macraild-dig-fab-and-parametric-modelling-lunch-and-learn/#>" width=500 height=400 lock_to_path=0]

September 10, 2013

Architecture, Sustainability, and Wet Chemistry: An Architect’s Story

By John Guzik & Jack Bialosky People often comment that the practice of architecture requires the use of equal parts art and science, so architects tend to be jacks-of-all-trades.  Certainly we do call upon experts and consultants for efforts that extend beyond our normal proficiency, but more than anything else we find that we need to be constant learners.  This is definitely true with the design and construction of high-efficiency, sustainable, green architecture. A case in point is a recently completed school in the Midwest.  The building was designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects to very high standards, employed a wide variety of sustainable strategies, and achieved a LEED silver certification from the USGBC.  While materials and systems used throughout the school were selected for their high performance characteristics and seemed to be functioning properly, there was a mystery developing.  Occasionally an unpleasant odor would migrate through certain portions of the building.  The locations were transient and the source was unidentifiable for quite some time.  Eventually it was determined that the odor was caused by sanitary gasses escaping from dry drain traps within the ceiling plenum.  The building’s geothermal system provides heating and cooling for the school with the help of heat pumps distributed above ceilings around the facility.  When operating in cooling mode these heat pumps generate condensate that must be conveyed away by hub drains attached to the plumbing sanitary lines.  The drains had the code-required trap primers to maintain an air-tight seal, but investigation revealed that an exceptionally high percentage of the trap primers had failed due to mineral deposition.  Lab testing indicated that unexpected quantities of copper, zinc, and lead precipitate on the primer valves were making them stop functioning.  This meant that when sufficient condensate water evaporated from any of the hub drain traps, sanitary gasses would escape and circulate through the return air plenum and into the mechanical units conditioning the building’s occupied spaces. The question was why the water was depositing such levels of particulates on the valves, especially in a newly opened green school.  Parts of the mystery began falling into place once it was understood that the residue on the trap primers was actually metal being dissolved from inside the water supply pipes.  Further testing showed that the water within the building’s pipes was significantly more acidic than the water being provided to the school by the public utility.  The pH of water provided by municipalities around northeast Ohio tends to fall between 7 to 7.6 due to the presence of naturally occurring limestone in Lake Erie but somehow the water in the schools lines was closer to pH of 6.1 and was actually corroding the copper pipes and brass fittings. A water chemist was engaged to help explain the situation and propose a resolution.  Ultimately a water softening and treatment system was installed to address the corrosion issues and alternate trap seals were installed on the hub drains to supplement the trap primers.  Regularly scheduled testing will confirm that the corrective actions are working as intended.  The actual reason for the water acidity in this instance appears to be a fairly frequently encountered, but little-known, case of standing water inherently decreasing in pH over time.  The use of low-flow fixtures and water saving technologies in this building resulted in significantly less water use than a building of comparable size and occupancy, but may have actually contributed to the problems being experienced.  Schools tend to have very intermittent water use.  Users may call for fairly high volumes at certain times of day, but from dusk to dawn, all weekend and holidays, and most of the summer, there is very little water use.  Couple that with new technologies intended to reduce use and virtually eliminate waste of this precious resource, and the water in those pipes can sit unused for long stretches of time.  It appears that this very scenario resulted in the mysterious series of events in this new LEED certified building. In this case, it was perhaps lucky that a specific alignment of circumstances resulted in the mysterious odor that alerted the project team to the greater issue of high water acidity before significant damage was done to building systems.  Undoubtedly similar low pH water conditions are eating away at water pipes in many buildings today – perhaps due in part to the well-intentioned use of water saving technologies.  Damage to piping, fittings, equipment, and general water quality will likely go unresolved until architects, engineers, building owners, and managers are more aware of the potential issue. Architecture is a wide-ranging and fascinating field and we learn more every day.  In addition to the practice of art and science, sometimes an architect is called upon to play the roles of chemistry student and detective as well.

March 19, 2013

Architecture in the “Walkman Phase”

Last week the online design magazine, Dezeen, published an interview with Dutch architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio on his plans to launch the world's first open-source architecture studio. Once launched, this network will hold great significance as it will begin to take the often secretive and exclusive mentality of knowledge sharing between architecture firms and reverse that thinking. As a "knowledge-based organizational" website, van Berkel describes a system "where knowledge can be shared, contributed and collected."

 Diagram illustrating how UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms reach out to external partners for collaboration - via deezen.com Bialosky + Partners Architects Cleveland Design Blog

Diagram illustrating how UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms reach out to external partners for collaboration - via deezen.com

This unprecedented system gives the profession of architecture a needed technological and collaborative leap forward. But to do so, designers must be willing to part with the exclusivity of their acquired building & design knowledge and adopt a more open-source mentality. Any creative knows the benefit of working in close proximity with other creatives, as opposed to working independently in a vacuum. Yet on a larger scale, the practice of architecture operates more independently than anything else. Understandably, business-mindedness and competition have led firms to rarely have a sort of academic, open dialog with other firms. Yet it is this same mentality that has kept practice architecture "in the Walkman phase", as van Berkel coins it.

So what does this mean for us? Spurred on by political obstacles in the Netherlands, van Berkel has realized he and his fellow dutch architects must band together to come up with creative solutions to the obstacles before them - so too must American architects, and perhaps more specifically architects in the nation's hard-hit Rustbelt of the Midwest. In times when sustainability and building performance are often leading factors in the design, construction and lasting performance of buildings, architects must be constantly advancing their own knowledge base. It is a task that is simply too great to be done internally. Instead firms must be willing to offer open seminars, write white papers, maintain blogs documenting design and construction processes. While this may seem as a monumental task, efforts are already underway to begin this knowledge sharing. Firms are establishing blogs that are beginning to informally do just what van Berkel aspires to do. Organizations such as the Building Envelope Council are gaining recognition and prominence as a resource to acquire building knowledge. Architects need to fully participate in such dialogues - not simply listen. To gain the credibility and respect of clients and critics worldwide, we must turn to each other to learn from our collective experiences.