June 20, 2013

On The Boards: Ursuline College Center For Creative and Healing Arts

Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, OH, is launching phase one of an exciting new campus master plan, The Center for Creative and Healing Arts (CCHA). The state of the art 30,000 SF CCHA houses Art Therapy and Nursing programs and is targeted to open in Fall 2014. The project, acting as a front door to Ursuline, blends the college’s spare modern campus aesthetic with a welcoming warmth and contemporary playfulness. Purity of form and simply crafted details has been our project team’s design mantra.

Ursuline College Campus Context Map

The design process was driven through program adjacencies creating synergy between academic programs with new spatial relationships. The entrance atrium is envisioned as a connector:  its triple height stair will create new physical relationships with the adjacent science building, Dauby Hall and nearby Besse Library while also acting as a social connector providing needed lounge, study and meeting place for students. Additional phases plan for a farther expanded grand atrium, serving to act as Ursuline’s central social hub, which will be the campus’ largest gathering space. Additionally, new chemistry, biology, nursing, art labs and offices will encourage a culture of collaboration between previously disparate programs.

Conceptual Diagrams for the Center for Creative and Healing Arts

Conceptual Diagrams for the Center for Creative and Healing Arts

The new Center for Creative and Healing Arts is designed to raise standards for healthy, comfortable environments. The building’s layout and solar orientation of the fenestration influenced the design, aiming to maximize views and daylighting while minimizing summer solar heat gain.

Interior Rendering of the Urusline College Center for Creative and Healing Arts

Precise detailing allows minimal thermal bridging, which lends to a high performing building enclosure that minimizes energy usage throughout the year. The CCHA’s building enclosure systems are designed to outperform ASHRAE 90.1 energy code metrics by 50%.  The Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC system is designed to outperform ASHRAE 90.1 by 55%, and a LED lighting package with daylight harvesting bests the code by 20%.

Urusline College Center for Creative and Healing Arts Window Sketches

The Center for Creative and Healing Arts, the first implemented phase of the Ursuline College master plan, projects a future of forward looking, contextual, well-crafted, and environmentally responsible architecture that gives physical shape to Ursuline College’s core mantra of Values, Voice and Vision.

Conceptual Interior Rendering of the Ursuline College Center for Creative and Healing Arts


April 17, 2013

New Service Department for Orange Village to Open Fall 2013

This fall, Orange Village, OH will have a brand new service department on Lander Road. The new 12,800 sf facility and 3,200 sf salt building will support the village’s service department, and provide a maintenance faculty for the service, fire and police vehicles.  Flexibility and efficiency were key design factors, which led to a timber frame pole structure. Notice in the construction photos, this structure allows the spaces to be free of columns that boast a versatile /open interior. As for sustainability, this type of pole construction also has the advantage of an energy efficient building shell, and the site itself encompasses bio-retention.


The project is now under construction alongside the city's existing Municipal Center. A few designers from office buckled up their boots, and visited the site Monday to see the large-spanning trusses installed (see the video if you couldn't visit the site).

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Trusses awaiting installation.


About half the trusses were installed Monday, with the remainder installed today.


Orange Village's new Salt Building will store winter/ weather supplies for the city.


Detail of the Salt Building's retaining wall.

March 6, 2013

What’s The Big Deal With Continuous Insulation?

What’s The Big Deal With Continuous Insulation?

Continuous insulation (CI) has been an energy code requirement since the release of ASHRAE 90.1-2004, but unfortunately is still a bit of a mystery to many designers, contractors, and building officials.  So, besides complying with the building code, why do we need continuous insulation?  Thermal bridging through framing components reduces envelope insulation performance by 15-20% in wood frame construction and by 40%-60% in metal frame construction.  This means that a typical 6” metal stud wall construction with R-19 fiberglass batt insulation actually performs at a dismal R-9.  When CI is properly installed you get the approximate full R-value of the insulation material.  So, what exactly is continuous insulation?

ASHRAE 90.1 defines Continuous Insulation as insulation that is continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings. It is installed on the interior, exterior, or is integral to any opaque surface of the building.  With further research we find that the definition of “fasteners” is meant to include screws, bolts, nails, etc.  This means that furring strips, clip angles, lintels and other large connection details are excluded from the term “fasteners”.

This is where the big problem lies, and why the industry seems to be so confused.  Many designers, contractors, and building officials are still not informed about this important aspect of CI.  For example, masonry veneer wall construction typically employs steel relieving angles and steel lintels at window and door heads.  These steel angles are usually fastened directly to the building structure, providing a significant thermal bridge from the interior of the building to the exterior.  There are a number of solutions to this issue including welding the angles to standoffs at +/- 4’-0” centers, which allows the CI to be installed behind the angles to minimize the effects of thermal bridging.  There are also proprietary clip systems being marketed to perform this same function.

Another cause for confusion is the fact that many building claddings such as metal panels, fiber cement board/siding, etc. are not approved for attachment through more than 1” of non-supporting material.  In climate zone 5 we are required to have a minimum CI of 7.5, resulting in a CI thickness of about 1 1/2".  There are proprietary systems that have been developed to deal with this issue such as the DOW-Knight CI System .  This system has been engineered to allow up to 3” of continuous insulation to pass behind the girt supports.  If you or your client don’t desire to specify proprietary systems, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) commissioned a testing report that describes a number of other fastening system options for continuous insulation.  It’s a long read but has a lot of useful information regarding this matter.

In summary, the proper use of continuous insulation is all about paying attention to the details.  There are a growing number of resources out there aiming to help designers detail buildings properly.  A few of my favorites are www.buildingscience.com and www.bec-national.org .  Happy reading, and let’s keep it sustainable.

February 4, 2013

Das Passive House: Taking A German Approach

What is a “Passive House”? A passive house comes from the concept of an ultra-low energy building, using 90% less heating and cooling than your typical built home.  First becoming a mainstream idea in the 1970’s, passive home construction is making a comeback in the United States as “green architecture” and Global Warming hit center stage in the building industry.  Wolfgang Feist, a German physicist, set the first definitive bar in 1996 with the creation of the Passivhaus Standard.  Although there are surprisingly few mandatory requirements in this German standard, the Passivhaus calls for extremely strict performance criteria. (see PH requirements below) There is little question that alternative energy and active green building systems are the future of the United States and the world as a whole.  However the journey must unavoidably begin with making more efficient buildings first and foremost.     5 Key Elements (Breakdown of a Passive House) 1. Super Insulation

  • R-value minimums:  Typical cold climate R-values =  Walls: R40-60 Roof: R50-90 Sub-Slab: R30-50  (PH requirement =  U < 0.15 W/m2K,  Uw < 0.8 w/m2K )
  • No thermal bridging:   (PH requirement =  < 0.01 W/mK )   Thermal bridging occurs when a conductive material in the building envelope "bridges" thermal heat or cold between the inside and outside of the building.
  • Continuous Insulation:  Although there are many passive house envelope options, continuous insulation serves as the primary concept/strategy against thermal bridging.

  wall_insulation     2. Air Tight Construction Air tight construction is critical for passive houses to work. Air leaks are not only the biggest contributor to loss of energy but also infiltration of moisture, which effects the indoor humidity. (PH requirement =  must be below 0.6 air change/hr at 50 pascals )     3. Highly Efficient Windows Although not cheap or easy to find in the United States, triple glazed windows are an important building block to the success of a passive house.  It's also important that the windows have "warm edge" spacers and super insulated frames. Good window U-values fall between 0.2 - 0.3 with low-e coatings and Argon gas.  (PH requirement =  3-pane glazing,  Ug < 0.8 W/m2K,  g-value = 50-55%)   4. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery Because of the strict requirements for air-tightness in a passive house, proper ventilation is critical in order to exchange stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. (PH requirement =  mechanical heat recovery > 75% ) 5.  Solar Orientation & Shading Control The building's orientation on its site in regard to window placement and shading is one of the most efficient passive strategies to maximize the control of solar heat gain.  Although building orientation is not a Passivhaus requirement, it is a strategy that can have dramatic effects on the heating and cooling loads needed to maintain interior thermal comfort.   (PH requirement =  heat energy demand: < 15 kWh/m2a,  maximum heating load < 10 W/m2, frequency of overheating < 10%) Most of the building's exterior glazing should be located within 30 degrees of true South, gaining heat passively in the winter time.  Shading control in the form of roof and/or window overhangs, louvers, etc should by designed to block the steeper sun angles in the summer.  To supplement, building elements with thermal mass such as masonry or concrete can also be used to increase the effects of the passive solar heating by absorbing the solar gain and slowing releasing it for hours.         Local Case Studies

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