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Earth Day 2019: What Will We Do In the Next 11 Years?
It has been 49 years since our first Earth Day in 1970.
Forty-nine years is quite a run. The passion and awareness ignited during those inaugural events in 1970 have driven significant positive change in our relationship with the natural environment. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and many will undoubtedly hoist up that number proudly.
This year, however, let’s focus on a different number: 11.
According to a report released in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must halve our emissions by 2030 to avoid a future defined by catastrophic climate change. That deadline is just 11 years away.
CannonDesign knows we must bring critical focus in this short span of time. Nearly ten years ago we signed onto the AIA 2030 commitment. In it, we pledged that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations we design will be carbon neutral – requiring no fossil fuel or GHG-emitting energy for operations. Instead, we’d rely on clean energy to power our built environment.
We knew then this would be a massive challenge, but one worth striving toward. Like many decades-long plans, when our commitment was signed we had the benefit of time. Today, we do not – but we do now have a few resources almost as valuable.
Our firm and industry have made great strides in advocating for low carbon building solutions. In doing so, we’ve educated ourselves, learning how to best monitor our progress and promote our most important and innovative ideas.
Ten years ago, building energy use was quantifiable by a small percentage of engineers and an even smaller percentage of architects. Technology was available but was not widely used or known.
Today, thanks to our industry’s continued leadership through the American Institute of Architects, Architecture 2030, and with help from incredible partners in the software community, we have sophisticated tools that are both accessible and integrated into our workflows.
We are fast approaching the year 2030. While we have had many successes, the transition to carbon neutrality needs to accelerate significantly. Time is not on our side, but we can use that reality to motivate us.
Of course, Earth Day, environmental awareness, and sustainability are about more than just building energy consumption. We must also think about how we’ll take action related to embodied carbon, material health, and resilience among other issues key to the building industry. While more generally, plastic pollution, air/water quality, and forest protection loom larger than ever. There are many ways we can individually recognize Earth Day 2019.
Our planet faces rapid, perilous and unprecedented threats from climate change. It has become the greatest challenge of our time. We have what it takes to meet this challenge, but we will need courage, commitment and sincere urgency to help us achieve our 2030 goals.
Time may not be on our side. But, Earth Day is a chance to look around and recognize the millions of people who do stand with us. Around the world, companies, institutions, cities, states, and nations are stepping up their commitments and demanding better. We are lucky to work with some of these organizations as they clear paths for others to follow.
We all have an impact on this planet and therefore a chance to ensure that is a positive one. This is our hope, inspiration, and potential – that together we can honor the vision of those who launched Earth Day 49 years ago, and preserve this planet as we know it for the generations to follow.
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Ben Juckes: Pushing Boundaries Through Computational Design
Surfing comes naturally to Ben Juckes, but contrary to what you’d think, he did not take up the sport in his native Australia, one of the world’s premier surfing destinations.
It wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles and began working at Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign, the in-house laboratory led by Mehrdad Yazdani with a staff of approximately 20 architects, designers, 3D artists, technical specialists and other creative thinkers.
For Ben, the sports’ appeal was always more about the surfboard, the idea of manipulating its form to maximize its performance – the architecture of it all. He plunged into the study of computational design (CD) in Perth, where he pursued a Bachelor of Environmental Science in Architecture at the University of Western Australia (UWA). There weren’t any courses in CD there, however, a one-year student exchange program at the University of Arizona introduced him to visual programming languages like Grasshopper.
“I was blown away by all the tools and technologies that people were using there,” Ben recalls. “The idea that you had the ability to harness complicated geometries through simple procedures really fit with my style of designing, and I decided that this is the way I wanted to practice architecture.”
Ben returned to UWA and earned his M.Arch, continuing to develop his skills in CD. He, along with fellow students and professors who were early adopters, established the “Hub,” a regular event for students to collaborate and share knowledge. He was also part of the team behind Augmented Australia, an exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2014, curated by the creative team known as felix._Giles_Anderson+Goad. It included apps that allowed users to visualize unbuilt modern and historic structures across the country.
After graduating, Ben transitioned from teaching evening classes on parametric modeling to taking on sessional staff positions at his alma mater. Though he enjoyed being in academia and plans to return to it someday, he felt driven to gain practical experience.
“I realized I needed to immerse myself in the industry before I (could) actually teach people!” says Ben.
Drawn back to the States, he settled in Los Angeles, which offered a similar laid-back vibe and warm climate to Perth. A friend introduced him to Yazdani Studio. Though he had been focused on computer modeling, seeing the many physical models displayed around the studio was one of the reasons he knew it was the right fit for him.
“You walk in and see it’s a playground of models,” says Ben. “That says something about the way the studio operates and that it’s a really cool, collaborative environment.”
Four years later, he is now an associate, having established himself as an expert in CD. One of his greatest strengths is creating DIY tools and custom workflows that challenge conventional practice.
The studio doesn’t have a dedicated CD team; rather, each staff member is encouraged to explore their own ideas in organic ways.“We have shaped our tools, but the tools are now starting to shape us,” Ben observes. “The term ‘computational design’ covers an extremely broad variety of roles and relationships. As it becomes more widely used across the industry, we will start to see bigger distinctions between these roles and the creation of more specialized divisions.”
“With a more diverse range of roles, coupled with advancements in technologies and applications, I think architects will retreat from outsourcing and create a new paradigm of insourcing,” Ben adds.
The first project Ben worked on with Yazdani was Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, a typology definer that hybridizes maker space and dormitory pods. The team utilized visual programming languages, like the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper, Dynamo for Revit, and other tools, to map relationships between programmatic elements. They also created a virtual reality game to help the university promote the project.
More recently, Ben has been focusing on Address Harbor Point, a set of slender, tapered residential towers on the waterfront in Dubai. By creating multiple iterations of physical models via 3D printers and utilizing Galapagos, another plugin for Grasshopper, Ben and his team have explored subtle rotations of the towers’ forms to investigate sight lines and maximize views from each unit.
These diverse experiences at Yazdani Studios have given Ben the space to dive even deeper into what excites him.
“A great thing about the style and culture Merhdad has created is that we all touch the projects in different facets, but we are encouraged to pursue and explore our own interests.” Those interests include making furniture, and, of course, surfing. He’s finally learned to surf along the coast of Los Angeles.
“I keep it practical outside of work,” says Ben. “It’s important to mix analog with digital. You have to get your hands dirty sometimes.”
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Three Important Developments at DBIA Expo 2018
The Design-Build Institute of America’s (DBIA) annual conference and expo is one of the most educational and dynamic events to attend each year. I had the great fortune of joining contacts and colleagues at this year’s event in New Orleans. Making this year’s DBIA Expo especially exciting, the event marked the 25th anniversary of the DBIA’s founding – a moment when select AEC industry leaders came together to advance design-build as a successful project delivery platform.
The team at the DBIA Conference 2018.
For those unfamiliar, the DBIA conference is an event that unites AEC professionals, building owners, leaders in design-build delivery, and relative newcomers to share the latest trends, ideas and best practices that can fuel both progressive project delivery models for the future. There are scores of educational sessions, countless novel ideas shared, and incredible energy around the built environment’s future at these events. The DBIA also announces awards and its new Board of Directors, which was an exciting moment as my colleague Deb Sheehan was selected to serve on the DBIA BOD for the year ahead.
Reflecting on this year’s conference, I wanted to share three key takeaways that will influence the year ahead:
Chart courtesy of DBIA
Further Evidence: Design-Build is Faster, More Reliable and Cost Effective
As design-build continues to gain momentum each year as an effective project delivery platform, new data and evidence to serve as proof is key. There was excitement at the DBIA conference around the organization’s new research report, “Revisiting Project Delivery Performance” that shows America’s design-build projects continue to deliver faster, and with greater reliability in cost and schedule performance, than other methods. Here are some highlights from the data:
- On average, projects using design-build cost 1.9% less per square foot when compared to construction manager-at-risk (CMR), and 0.3% less when compared to design-bid-build (DBB).
- Design-build projects also average 2.4% less cost growth than a comparably scoped project using CMR and 3.8 less cost growth than a project using DBB.
- Design-build projects see 3.9% less schedule growth than CMR and 1.7% less than DBB. They’re also 13% faster than CMR during the construction phase and 36% faster than DBB.
Design-build can continue to drive value on a project level and for our larger built environment. As Lisa Washington CAE, CEO/executive director of DBIA has said, “As our nation continues to struggle with the unmet needs of crumbling infrastructure and budgets stretched thin, it’s no surprise that most states have embraced design-build as a better way to deliver projects vital to our economic growth. Whether it’s a billion-dollar airport or small community library, this research confirms design-build continues to deliver innovative projects that save time and money.”
The report has been covered in the media and it can be read in entirety online.
Design-Build for Transportation & Aviation in 2019
During this year’s conference, I co-chaired a Market Sector Roundtable with Geoff Neumayr, chief development officer for San Francisco International Airport, Aviation which proved remarkably enlightening. Those involved shared their thoughts on design-build’s growing impact and potential in the aviation industry. It became that the potential for design-build in aviation required more than just a singular discussion at the national conference.
A chart representing how design-build functions differently than other project delivery platforms. Chart courtesy of the DBIA.
So, in 2019, DBIA will take a deep-dive focus on aviation at the first-ever Design-Build for Transportation & Aviation Conference this April in Cincinnati. The DBIA has held an event focused on transportation in the past, but it’s exciting to see the aviation industry elevated in this manner.
The Aviation Market Sector Roundtable I co-chaired with Geoff Neumayr of SFO.
Several of our most exciting current design-build projects sit in the aviation industry. We’re currently helping Los Angeles International Airport construct its new Midfield Satellite Concourse and a Terminal Cores and Automated People Mover Interface and doing work with San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Being connected to these projects day in and day has shown our team the remarkable success and potential for design-build in aviation and it’s great to see a dedicated event on the topic for 2019.
Deep Interest in Virtual Design and Construction
Our gkkworks/CannonDesign team brought more people than ever to this year’s conference, including Brian Skripac, our director of virtual design + construction (VDC). In talking with him, he was thrilled with the excitement and energy around VDC. He moderated a technology form titled, “Exploring the Value of BIM on Projects,” and told me this afterward: “One of the important takeaways from the session which really summarized things well was, ‘as BIM adoption goes up, so does group cohesion, facility quality and project delivery speed.’ – all important benefits and outcomes.
Brian also shared that “other presentations on a schedule-driven BIM approach highlighted the value of integrating trade contractors and their models early in the project delivery process while also being able to use big data from the QA/QC process,” and VDC came up when SFO’s Geoff Neumayr talked about the importance of achieving the benefits listed above (group cohesion, facility quality, etc.) which will continue to be value-adds for clients embarking on projects via the progressive design-build model.
I can’t state enough how much I look forward to the DBIA conference each year. The 2018 event in New Orleans did anything but disappoint, and I look forward to advancing design-build in new ways between now and next year’s event in Las Vegas.
Learn more about our progressive design-build team >