The Green Pointe
The collection of ideas and aesthetics with The Green Pointe has created numerous ideas and ways to experience this unique place in the “land of enchantment.” As the authors, planners, and architects discuss the feeling of place, historical setting, and regional vernacular for The Green Pointe, we close in on three architectural styles:
- Mission Revival
- Modern Inspiration
The design style of The Green Pointe is based on Mission Revival, complimented with Territorial and Spanish Colonial Revival intertwined with Centre Sky Architecture Mountain style and augmented with a Modern Inspiration style. Red clay tiles adorn the roofs, while repeating rafter tails, minimal timbers, and curvilinear, scalloped parapets embellish the light-colored stucco facades commonly used throughout the campus. The brick walls and cornices of select parapets bring in texture and color while low-slung roofs and deteriorating rubble walls bridge the old with the new and the earth with the sky. Modernity, sustainability and forward thinking are conveyed through glass walls, built-in photovoltaics, wind turbines, thermal mass using autoclaved aerated concrete, and water collection to The Green Pointe Campus.
Sustainable Approach and Integration
Sustainability is a critical part of our design process and research agendas at Centre Sky. The process of sustainable design begins by outlining project goals and concepts and then continually revisiting them throughout the design process to determine if they still are appropriate or if other ideas might be more fitting. These goals can be as simple as increasing energy-efficiency or implementing a heating system to cut down on utility costs by 30% or complex like a certified LEED Platinum project or an “off the grid” facility requiring zero fossil fuels to operate. Once the goals are established, we go through systems, construction techniques, orientation, costing, tax benefits and materials to define possibilities and options to the client. As the design progresses, so do the sustainable practices that are incorporated into the design. These solutions are eventually priced, modeled, tested, and hopefully approved.
The end result is a new way of thinking – and a new way of living – whether it is in your primary residence, vacation home, a secluded ranch, or a high density resort development. Our firm is a strong proponent of sustainable design and provides services in this sphere of work.
Our first step toward creating a sustainable project is to figure out ways to minimize the amount of energy needed. Ways to do this include:
- Minimizing square footage so there is less area that needs to be conditioned and/or lit
- Siting the building within trees to shade, decreasing need for cooling
- Submerge the building into the ground for added insulation
- Locate the site near other amenities, this allows building users to walk or ride bus to get around and allows sharing of resources (heating/cooling, wastewater treatment, vehicles, etc.) between users or buildings
- Increasing building density which minimizes the impact on the surrounding environment and allows for open space.
Next we focus on the building envelope. We make sure the thermal properties of the exterior walls are appropriate for the climate it will be built in. This decreases the need for heating and cooling throughout the life of the building. We often use thermal massing, which is a concept that has been around since the beginning of civilization. This technique uses large masses of materials that store heat well, such as rocks, concrete and water. When the solar radiation hits these masses, they hold the heat in them and slowly release the heat to the other side, moderating temperature swings that would otherwise occur. This means the interior of the building is protected from the heat during the day, but by the time the sun is going down and the ambient air starts cooling, the heat will start being released into the building.
A great method of creating a thermally insulated project is using Hebel autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) which accomplishes a multitude of sustainable solutions within a single system. This product reduces the use of many other materials, including plywood which contains harmful glues and adhesives, fiberglass insulation with its hazardous chemicals, and drywall which is very susceptible to physical damage and discoloring creating a short life-cycle of the material. This product is also structural and eliminates the need for additional steel structural elements. AAC can be created using flyash, a by-product of industrial combustion processes, instead of using energy and resources to manufacture cement. This wall system is fire-resistant, eliminating the need for fireproofing chemicals. The insulating nature of this material creates an airtight envelope, preventing water penetration which would otherwise deteriorate other building materials. Hebel also helps minimize temperature variations reducing the loads on and increasing the efficiency of the HVAC system. Overall, it’s a great system and its benefits can be seen across the board.
One of our favorite integrated environmental building systems is the green roof. This system has limitless positive qualities, including the following features we find noteworthy.
- The soil acts as an insulator to the building below and insulates both sound and thermal transfer
- Can be a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife
- Reduces the Urban Heat Island Effect, which is when the environment gets hotter because the surfaces within it are non-porous or solar-attracting (darker colors, etc.)
- Can easily act as a growing medium for herbs and other small plants
- Helps manage stormwater runoff which can cause erosion and overfills sewer systems
- Protects the underlying roof from the harmful rays of the sun, requiring less maintenance and lengthening the life of the roof
- Is attractive
Our next focus is to find out which passive systems (not requiring little or no use of mechanical processes) can be integrated into the project. The appropriateness of the system is very dependent on the location of the project as climate, local amenities and nearby features can play a big part in which systems work and which would not. One passive strategy is to orient the building to take advantage of the sun’s natural heating and lighting capabilities. Artificial lighting increases both the energy use and the cooling needs since it produces heat. To temper the suns heating and lighting, roof overhangs can be used. They allow the low angles of the winter sun to bring in light and warming rays when it is needed, while blocking out the high, glaring summer sun and heat.
Natural ventilation uses natural wind paths to help circulate air and bring fresh air into a building. Stack ventilation is a natural ventilation system that applies the fact that hot air rises. A stack is created with a chimney or multiple level openings; when hot air seeks out the highest space (the chimney), a pull is created which draws the hot air out of the attached spaces which can then be vented out of the building. Night flushing is another passive strategy used to cool a building. This straightforward concept has been around since people have. It is simply opening the interior up to the outside at night when the air is cooler and allowing the cool air to filter in to cool all of the surfaces that have gained heat during the day. Once the outside starts to heat up again, the building is closed off to keep the cold air in.
Next we look into different approaches to energy and water efficiency. Some methods of energy efficiency include using occupancy sensors to turn off lights when nobody is in the room and Energy Star appliances to cut utility bills. There are heat recovery systems that use the heat in the air being vented out of the building to heat the fresh air coming into the building. Solar water heaters are another way to save dramatically on energy use. These heaters use the sun to heat up water running through solar collectors instead of otherwise requiring outside energy to heat it.
Geothermal heating and cooling can work in many different climes and requires little maintenance. Geothermal uses underground or in-water loops of thermally stabilized air or water to pre-heat and pre-cool the air used for conditioning the building. It uses electric energy only to power the fans to move the air around. With this system you can also take the heat created by any mechanical process within or near the project including HVAC systems, washers and dryers, etc. This system is non-polluting and very energy efficient.
Evaporative cooling towers are a way to cool a building using less energy than typical cooling systems. A chimney or tower above the space that needs to be cooled will have water pumped up to the top. This water uses gravity to filter down a honeycomb-like material inside the tower which allows dry air to flow through it. The dry air picks up some of the water in the form of evaporation. The process of evaporation cools the air and the cooled air falls into the space below.
Rainwater catchment and grey-water systems lower the amount of water needed, increasing the water efficiency of the project. In addition, low-flow fixtures and xeriscaping (using native plants which don’t require more water than what naturally occurs), further reduces water use.
The use and treatment of materials can play a big part in healthy design. Paints, glues and adhesives commonly found in many different newly manufactured building materials including carpet, paint, cabinetry, etc. let off harmful chemicals or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) that affect Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of the building and cause health problems. These effects can be reduced by adequately airing out the building and products or by using products that are made from renewable resources or have low- or no-VOC’s. The use of natural materials is one way to create healthy IAQ.
One of our routine ways to use material selection to assist a sustainable design is to re-use and/or re-assign the use of materials. This means new materials will not have to be manufactured, using energy and resources and the old materials will not end up in the landfill. A lot of materials might be considered waste from one system, but can be used as another benefiting material; for instance, flyash is waste from combustion, yet can be used to bond other components.
Lastly, once we know how much energy a project will use, we find ways to create that energy through use of renewable energy, preferably generated on-site. Solar energy has come a long way in the last few years in efficiency and applicability. Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) can now be incorporated into common building materials, including shingles, metal roofing, windows and building facades. Photovoltaic panels can be integrated into many common building systems such as roofs, covered walkways and building exteriors while remaining inconspicuous. Wind turbines can be used vertically to effectively, efficiently, and safely generate energy with an attractive, progressive presence.
Ecologically-responsible architectural techniques and details are considered for all Centre Sky projects to help reduce heating/cooling costs, increase indoor air quality, reduce maintenance, make the most of natural light and conserve water. Local materials from the project site are used as unique details, structural elements and landscape materials. Reclaimed materials are also used and whenever possible, construction materials are recycled. Environmentally-friendly mechanical systems, types of insulation, energy efficient windows, and use of thermal mass and geothermal heating are all considered as options for each project.