April 7, 2014

A Modern Farmhouse: An Introduction

The sheer variety of building systems that can be used to enclose a structure is astounding.  We’ve all come across architects or builders who believe they know the absolute best way to construct a particular building type in a particular environment, but I don’t believe such absolutes truly exist.  The appropriate design solution should be arrived at using a balance of project goals, location, efficiency, economy, skill of trades persons, budget, aesthetics, etc. Over the next few months we'll examine the building enclosure of a low-budget, low-energy-use house that my wife and I designed and are currently building for our family.

Panorama of site during excavation.


The very first CMUs are laid on the site for the Modern Farmhouse.

The design intent of this project was to create a simple, right-sized modern farmhouse.  One that is beautifully integrated into its site, filled with natural daylight, healthy, comfortable, and uses half the energy of a comparable code-built house….all while sticking to a tight budget.  To achieve these goals we had to find a cost effective high performing enclosure system, supplemented by paying careful attention to site orientation and maintaining a compact 2-story form.  Decisions were not just based on researching system performance (thank you, www.buildingscience.com ), but also became about choosing systems that our subcontractors would be familiar with.  Because we are general contracting the project ourselves and cannot be on site with the subcontractors at all times, a lot of thought was put into choosing the right foundation, wall and roof systems that subs could work with, had construction tolerance, and would still perform. Let’s start with a brief overview of the four basic control layers to be considered in every building enclosure:

1. Water:  Keep bulk-water out of the structure.

2. Air:  Keep conditioned air inside and unconditioned air outside.  Air also holds moisture, so air moving through the structure is a bad thing.  As the saying goes, build tight and ventilate right.

3. Vapor:  Control the amount of vapor permeance through the structure.  It’s inevitable that some amount of moisture will get into your walls, so you need to allow them to dry-out.

4. Thermal:  AKA insulation… Slow the transfer of heat through the structure.

Slab-On-Grade Detail

A building needs to be constructed from the foundation up, so that’s where we’ll start. We chose a fairly typical basement structure for Northeast Ohio:  12” CMU on concrete spread footings.  What’s different is the type, location and amount of insulation used.  To reduce thermal bridging from the earth through the concrete slab and CMU wall, a continuous layer of rigid insulation board was used and the insulation value of the whole system was then increased by adding a 2x4 wall with high density fiberglass insulation. The wall performs on par thermally with insulated concrete forms (a high-performing wall system Bialosky +Partners has used in the past), but is less costly to construct.

Foundation Section of Taylor Residence

Below is a list of how the 4 control layers were handled:

1. Water:  The CMU walls were damp proofed and a drainage board placed over top.  Together with gravel backfill and foundation drainage that daylights on site the basement should be dry for a lifetime (did I really just say that?).

2. Air:  The air control layer is at the interior side of the CMU.  Extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation board was attached with mastic and all joints were sealed to create this layer.  High Density closed cell spray foam was installed to seal the first floor system to the XPS.  The floor to wall juncture is a notorious air-leaker, so spray foam is a perfect product to seal this area up tight.

3. Vapor:  Polyethylene plastic was placed between XPS and concrete slab, and sealed to the CMU wall. This keeps vapor occurring in the ground from driving through the floor slab into the house. Vapor permeable latex paint over 5/8” gypsum board was used as the vapor retarder at the walls.  It’s inevitable that some moisture will make its way into the wall system, so allowing the wall to dry back to the inside is important.  That’s why we used a vapor retarder, not a vapor barrier which would not allow the wall to dry.

4. Thermal:  The XPS board used as an air barrier pulls double duty.  2” XPS (R-10) was used on the walls, and 2” XPS was placed under the entire concrete slab.  This continuity of insulation also reduces thermal bridging at the foundation wall and slab.  A wall of 2x4 wood studs at 24” o.c. with high density fiberglass batts (R-15) is used to supplement the XPS insulation.  5/8” gypsum board not only finishes the wall system, but is required to meet flame and smoke spread requirements per the building code (XPS foam is not allowed to remain uncovered within an occupiable area). Overall this foundation system is well insulated, didn’t require any special training for the subs, was easy to build, and was inexpensive.  I think it was the appropriate choice for this particular project. Next time we’ll examine the house’s wall, floor and roof systems.

February 12, 2014

Job Opening: Entry Level Graphic Designer at Bialosky + Partners Architects

Bialosky + Partners, one of the Midwest’s leading architecture / design firms is seeking a talented and motivated Graphic Designer for print and web projects that innovatively represent the Cleveland based firm. We aim to find a candidate who can balance finding creative solutions, while meeting deadlines. Weekly tasks include assisting our Marketing Director with graphically rich proposals and presentations, digital marketing initiatives, engaging website / blog content, email blasts, social media, onesheeters, promotional products and marketing collateral, including visual case-studies of our work. The Graphic Designer primarily supports the Marketing Director and Business Development Director in completing these efforts, with the ability to grow into larger design opportunities within the firm. This is a full-time paid position with benefits. Qualifications: 4 year relevant degree 1-3 years of graphic design experience Adobe CS Creative Cloud Creative problem-solving skills Precision in design execution Effective verbal and written communication skills Strengths in typography and web/print design A hearty interest in architecture / interior design / environmental design Basic Photography experience is a plus Basic Understanding of WordPress is a plus Basic Understanding of HTML is a plus Basic Understanding of SEO is a plus Strong Portfolio of Design Samples Required Contact: David Craun, Principal dcraunATbialoskyDOTcom Graphic Designer - Entry Level

January 29, 2014

So You Want To Build a Culinary School?

Dollar signs ($$,$$$,$$$) are what every College administrator imagines at the mention of a new Culinary Arts Program. Its launch may be one of, if not the most costly investment an institution of higher learning can make. For these reasons and more, its recipe must be artfully constructed with consideration given to both the end user and community’s palettes. Its conception must be artfully balanced to satisfy the institution’s curriculum needs, the technologically entrenched student user’s expectations and prospective donor philanthropic objectives. The development of such a facility affords opportunities for public outreach, rectifying existing campus master planning shortfalls, and the development of synergistic opportunities between existing internal and external College partnerships.

The May Company Building Store Front

The May Company Building in downtown Cleveland, OH is home to both Cuyahoga County Community College's Hospitality Management Centeand acclaimed restaurant Pura Vida.

At first glance, the creation of a new or revival of an existing culinary arts program appears self-contained and finite, when in fact it is quite the contrary. Many of a College’s existing facilities can and should be evaluated for their potential symbiotic relationships with your new culinary facility.  Its only when your perspective elevates to 20,000 feet do these synergies truly reveal themselves.  Performing art centers, conferencing centers, sports facilities, central food service, public programming, are all venues that can take advantage of and enhance a culinary program/facility. This new facility, in addition to fulfilling its primary use teaching the culinary arts, can provide the college with a marketable team-building outreach center, special event pre-function space, or an elegant on-campus restaurant to aid in its fund-raising endeavors.

LCCC Culinary Demonstration Kitchen

Demonstration Kitchen with smart classroom technology for distance learning at Lorain County Community College Ben & Jane Norton Culinary Arts Center

In addition, this investment must exploit the potential of each space beyond its original program and consider the opportunities to utilize its physical environs for alternate educational offerings. Flexible and well-planned teaching kitchens may convert to an A-La-Carte kitchens, with a simple equipment reconfiguration, to service gala events being held in the culinary school’s new multi-purpose lounge/lecture hall/special event space. Accessory spaces normally considered off limits to students should now be seen as invaluable educational tools in support of your new culinary curriculum. Shipping and receiving areas, for example, can serve as a working sanitation and safety labs, or prep kitchens, where students attain first-hand experience receiving, inventorying, cleaning, and prepping food product. Better yet, your new program could celebrate the locally grown food movement with the inclusion of a greenhouse/garden adjacent to or on top of your new facility showcasing the advantages of locally grown produce, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of sustainable building design.

Pura Vida Restaurant Kitchen

Cuyahoga County Community College's Downtown Hospitality Management Center shares space with noted Cleveland restaurant, Pura Vida (pictured here). Having a professional kitchen adjacent and visible to culinary school students provides additional opportunities for students to be inspired, learn, and engage.

You can now imagine that these students, your students, graduate from a program with more than just the traditional culinary education but one with innovative business practices at its core, an embedded understanding of the benefits of local sustainable food communities with a creative approach that these prospective employees associate with added value.

Ben & Jane Norton Culinary Arts Center - Exterior

Exterior View of the LCCC Ben & Jane Norton Culinary Arts Center at dusk.

This post was authored by Bialosky Cleveland Principal Mark Olson, AIA, LEED AP For more info: View this video produced by Lorain Community College with students, professors, and professionals discussing the opening of the Ben & Jane Culinary Arts Center and the launching of LCCC's Culinary Arts Program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZmZZQOJs9w Cuyahoga Community College offers a similar video with background on their program, focusing on the downtown Cleveland Hospitality Management Center and the Eastern Campus HMC programs, which were both designed by Bialosky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0iOeGQdoME

January 16, 2014

BPA Goes to Greenbuild 2013

Philadelphia Greenbuild Once a year, for about a week, all eyes in green building culture turn towards a single focus - it’s been San Francisco, it’s been Toronto, Chicago, Phoenix, and Boston.  Every year it is a new city for Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and exposition dedicated to the green building industry.  This year, its 20th year running, it was Philadelphia.  I had the pleasure of representing Bialosky + Partners Architects at Greenbuild 2013 this past November.  The international convention and expo hosted approximately 30,000 attendees from 90 different countries and touted speakers as varied and prestigious as Rich Ferizzi, President & CEO of the USGBC; Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia; Nate Silver, author of The Signal and the Noise; and the keynote address was given by former Secretary of State and former First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Greenbuild 2013 Philadelphia Convention Entry Greenbuild is more than just a world-class convention.  It is also a networking smorgasbord and showcase of all things sustainable.  This year the expo hall was packed with over 800 exhibitors of sustainable products and services.  Huge multinational corporations displayed their full suite of green products right next to small startup companies rolling-out their newest gadget or software to a captive, and captivated, audience. Greenbuild 2013 Convention Multiple parallel tracks of educational sessions provided a plethora of learning opportunities.  Lectures ranged from changes in the newest version of ASHRAE 90.1 to low energy lighting strategies, and from net-zero design to insights on the commissioning of existing buildings.  Some of the most highly anticipated and well attended sessions dealt with LEED v4, which was officially introduced at Greenbuild 2013.  It’s a lot to wrap your head around. Throughout the entire convention, a simple but powerful idea kept presenting itself to me… this is not an isolated, short-lived movement.  This is not a passing fashion.  This is not a fad. Greenbuild 2013 Philadelphia Convention Floor Whether the adjectives used to describe it are “earth-friendly”, or “sustainable”, or “eco”, or “green”… the fact is, the world is changing.  Greenbuild is one time a year when those people keeping track congregate and try to direct that change to be something manageable, and positive, and fun.  Another successful year… now on to 2014… this time it’s New Orleans.

December 17, 2013

401 Lofts

Young professional Akronites are filling the newly opened upscale apartments of 401 Lofts, in Downtown Akron, OH. Named for its address, 401 S. Main Street, the contemporary loft apartment building boasts walkable urban living in the same fashion of “22 Exchange”, its neighboring sister-building that houses Akron University Students. The two buildings, both designed by Bialosky + Partners for client Richland Properties, have started to visibly spark a new vibrancy of Akron’s downtown, and has in turn, become a highly desired location to live, work and play.

Exterior View of 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects. Photography By Scott Pease Photography.

Comprised of predominantly Studio and 2 Bedroom lofts with a handful of 3 and 4 bedroom units, 401 Lofts has spacious floor to ceiling windows, hardwood floors, and 9’ or higher ceilings to achieve the “loft” feel.

View of a typical studio unit of 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects. Photography By Scott Pease Photography.

The ground floor of 401 Lofts activates the site with 4300SF of amenities in its clubhouse, including a game/billiards room, lounge, coffee bar, fitness center, 24-hour tanning bed, and additionally outdoor swimming pool and deck.

Ground floor common space in 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects. Photography By Scott Pease Photography.

Now for the design challenge: to achieve the client’s suite / bed count for 401 Lofts, the building required an additional story of apartments above the 4 story building base (totaling 5 stories). To stay on budget, wood frame construction fit the bill, but the framing system can only be employed on buildings totaling 4 stories or less. The solution? A hybrid system of ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms) that provides for a noncombustible exterior wall construction and the needed fire rating , while still allowing wood frame construction for the building interior. Imagine ICFs as giant, EPS foam Legos which add a tremendous R value (R-22) to improve the building’s thermal performance. This naturally cuts the client’s anticipated utility bill significantly.

Construction photo of 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio, featuring the ICF walls system. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects.

This hybrid wall construction, coupled with energy-efficient, thermally broken aluminum windows and energy-efficient PTAC heating and cooling units (which have the ability to be monitored by building management) collectively work in harmony to deliver an energy-conscious design.

Exterior View of 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects. Photography By Scott Pease Photography.

The sheer length of the building is quite breathtaking – at 330’, the façade could very easily become monolithic. By taking advantage of the tapering site (north to south), the building steps at strategic intervals driven by the standard ICF sizes, reducing the need for field modifications and custom fabrication.  401 Lofts is clad in a Tuscan brick, fiber cement lap siding and champagne-colored metallic panels that fluctuate in their color based on viewing angle. By exhibiting the street names in raised steel panel lettering at the building corners, we rooted the building to its place and (geo)graphically related the building its adjacent sibling, 22 Exchange.

Exterior View of 401 Lofts in downtown Akron, Ohio. Designed by Bialosky + Partners Architects. Photography By Scott Pease Photography.

ARCHITECT:  Bialosky + Partners, LLC INTERIOR DESIGNER:  Kathy Andrews Interiors (Houston, Texas) STRUCTURAL, CIVIL AND LANDSCAPE ENGINEERING: Thorson Baker Associates MEP ENGINEER: TES Engineering SURVEYING: L.V. Surveying, Inc. CONSTRUCTION COST: approx. $12 million