Archive for September, 2010

UVA Bookstore: Thermal Readings


1. The most extreme interior heat in the diagram shown (September 25, 5:33 PM, ambient outdoor temperature: 92.1°F) was detected on the gypsum board receiving direct sunlight beneath the monitor windows (107.0°). The hottest outdoor material was the concrete strip (93.5°) bridging the brick of the courtyard and the brick of the entryway  (this is possibly a result of concrete’s high thermal mass and albedo (surface reflectivity of the sun’s radiation)).

2. The coolest interior temperature was found on the slate tiled ground (84.5°). The coolest outdoor temperature was found on the stucco soffit and the glass pane of the vestibule doors (87.0°).

3. Temperature readings taken on a cool, rainy evening (September 26, 9:53 PM, ambient outdoor temperature: 66.2°; not shown) bring into relief the thermal properties of the materials observed. The average material temperature drop (19.75°) is notably less than the drop in temperature (25.9°), suggesting the relative thermal mass of the aggregate building materials, even in the rain. The greatest temperature discrepancy was found in the courtyard brick (25.5°), the smallest in the wood door (17.0°)


1. Why is the wall interior to the corner column insulated? Was exterior space outside the vestibule was once part of the interior?

2. Is the vestibule doing its job if, as in the diagram, it is merely 1.5 ℉ cooler than the ambient outdoor temperature?

3. How might the climatic characteristics of the vestibule change if the monitor windows were operable?


Lecture 9: Engineered vs. Non-Point Systems; September 21, 2010

Fit entire world into domain of Albemarle County?

Pipes: must size for worst case scenario. When you gather it all in one pipe, however, does afford opportunity to treat it

Water moving across ground: non-point pollution. Difficult to control.

Well designed sewage system can release clean water back into river.
Healthy non-point system, when area is provided, there’s no catastrophe associated with it. Resilient.

How can be build resilience into engineered systems and control into non-point systems?

“Pollution is a resource in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Buckminster Fuller

[EUTROPHICATION: excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.]

[DENUDE: strip (something) of its covering, possessions, or assets; make bare : almost overnight the Arctic was denuded of animals.]

Whole concept of the city was closing the loops in the systems
Water: Waste water goes into a plant, biogas solids are retrieved, turned into waste, then fuel, used for heat.
Everything produced is turned into something productive.

Warren Byrd
Upper pond of dell is settling pond for primary silt and sediment of stream
Lands at threshold, skims and spills into secondary pool, finer sediment settles.
Later spills again, further filtering.

Chesapeake Bay is largest estuary in US. Shared by 6 states. Shared by 16 million people.

Skating on Thin Ice

The NYT environmental blog “Green” posted a statement yesterday evening that conservative estimates have shown the “summer minimum extent for Arctic sea ice,” that is the amount that arctic ice retreats over the summer months, is predicted to have reached the third lowest point recorded in the modern era. The ice did not retreat as much as it did in 2007, but is part of a distinct downward trend in sea ice volume, as evident in the below graph (courtesy of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign):

As the NYT reports it, the process is self-perpetuating: “As the ice melts, it causes temperatures to rise even further, because dark water absorbs more sunlight than white ice.” Head over to to see live pictures of cracks in the ice (like the one below) and to to read the full story.

LEED and the Green Building Revolution

“Green building now accounts for nearly one-third of new construction in the U.S. That’s up from 2 percent in 2005.”

So says NPR, which last week proposed a two-part inquiry into the recent rise of green building and the not-so-incidental growth of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), whose point based metric for determining the environmental efficiency of structures has become the new criterion in green design.

Proponents of LEED argue that its very existence “pull[s] the market green,” which is to say that it stimulates the demand for greener buildings, increases the availability of green materials and makes possible more eco-friendly construction methods.

Critics question whether the LEED system of evaluation, which certifies buildings before energy savings are proved, is truly helping the environment. Yeang, of “Ecodesign” notoriety, might bemoan the “illusory vision of technological salvation,” or “ecogadget architecture” that LEED encourages. One might also question the ethics of privatizing a cause – the health of the environment – that is, at its core, a global moral concern which belongs above the fray of commerce.

Whatever one’s views on LEED, the entry of green design into the public forum is something to celebrate.

SSB, Lecture 7: “Land of Milk and Honey,” and Lecture 8: “Man vs. Eagle”

SSB, Lecture 7.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010.

Climate not a static or stable thing. It is a dynamic phenomemon.
2,000 years ago the middle east was a lush and fertile land. “Land of Milk and Honey.” Mesopotamian flourish. This changed.
In the early part of the last millennium wine was grown in England, Greenland was green. relative climatic stability.
“Little ice age” 15th and 16th centuries was a period of extreme volatility. Huge storms.
In a period of relative stability over the last 100 years. In the 30s in the dust bowl there was a set of extremes. Many more hurricanes in the 50s.

North Africa: Wind catchers. Can begin to think about mapping spaces in terms of time lag, response to temperature changes.

Tropical house in East Asia, Malaysia. Up out of the ground. Ways of controlling the intake of air on the edges. Places for gathering toward the center. Very high ceiling shaped in a way to maximize breeze. Shaped by a desire to move air

Swiss barn homes: Surrounded by livestock, animals insulate. Built into hill, becomes almost earthwork when covered with snow.

American Tipi: highly adaptable. Rich responsiveness. Particularly for nomadic culture that may spend summers in hunting grounds and spent winters in more protective forests.

“These ecosystems, as we may call them, are of the most various kinds and sizes.
They form one category of the multitudinous physical systems from the universe as a whole down to the atom.”

A.G. Tansley (1935). Coinage of the term.

As we make decisions, how can we increase the capacity of the nutrient cycle by undoing what’s been done.
Ecosystem services: $44 trillion.
Analog: Understand interactions of ecosystems, can we design buildings that behave in a similar way.
Biophilia. Ecophilia. Biomimicry. Ecomimicry.

SSB Lecture 8
Thursday, September 16, 2010



Landscape Ecology
Structure: Spatial structure to the landscape that is one way of understanding it
Functioning of landscape: what are the processes at work
Change: how do we read a structure over time; ways of reading structure in terms of capacity for change

False dichotomy of Form vs. Function
Leaves out change
Speaks very reductively about function

Manahatta Map Project:
Manhattan was a landscape shaped in large measure by the activity of a particular species that then constructed the habitats for many others.
Not til humans came along was there something operating at a similar scale.

Beaver’s manipulate landscape at a landscape scale. Transformation of a landscape. Ecosystems build around this. Every stream in US was full of beaver dams at some point. Certain requirements to live. Europeans hunted beavers when they arrived to get their pelts. So many dependent structures arrive from local ecologies the beavers could construct.

Don’t truly own land that we parse. Do we design for ourselves, for the client or for whoever is inhabiting that land in years to come. Design for the future.

Our legal system is only designed to parse things into smaller units, assign value. Entire discipline is based on system that does not relate to how the world works.

Man vs. EAGLE

Patches – interior habitat vs. edge habitats
The larger the connected patches the better

Capacity for resilience within natural changes over time.
Witnessing a radical decrease in biodiversity because we are shrinking patch sizes around the world through urbanizing processes – are we going to continue to build in a way that disconnects populations.

Greater ecology of biodiversity in larger patch.

Patches are linked in a way that proximity allows communication between them.

Just as applicable in urban ecosystem as in landscape ecology

Countries – curviness and straightness of boundaries. Curvy boundaries imply condition – topographical, cultural differences that allowed natural boundaries to exist. Straight lines are more likely colonial, bear no relationship to natural human boundaries, boundaries in landscape. More likely to be at war.

Bears run in a 10 mile radius!
Stream and river corridors. When you strip away forest, get erosion, cut depth of corridor, change the way that it functions.
Networks: connectivity of corridors. High connectivity – low circuitry vs high circuitry.
High circuitry to low circuitry may result in traffic jam
High capacity for loops, alternative paths. Density makes a huge difference.
Allows for functioning of high density urban zones.

Places of crossing and communication
As patches start to disperse.

David Attenborough Termite Mounds.
Plank catches full strength of sun. Narrow edges pointing north and south. Called magnetic termites. Nothing to do with magnetism. Everything to do with heat.
Nigerian termite

SSB Class Notes, Lectures 5-6

SSB, Lecture 5
Sep 9, 2010

Ken Yeang
Understanding of behavior or ecosystems and how they may translate into design principles

Newtonian Principles
Mechanical, machine-like clarity to underpinnings of the world
New systems of mapping and measuring

Florence in 15th and 16th century a vast new set of tools emerges
World could be understood and mapped as a system with a predictable set of behaviors.

If we start to see the world through a more complex lens that involves thermal properties, instead of the timeless model of the machine, our relationship to the sun changes; predictable cycles become extraordinary opportunities for another kind of engagement.

Building mass. Takes a 30 degree temperature and reduces it to about a 10 degree spread. A building attuned to trying to do that could likely do an even better job. Rather than importing energy, air conditioning it’s the mass of the building that makes the difference. That’s the realm of architecture.
Times of peaks / valleys in temp. If you can store temp for the times you need it, displace thermal energy over time, one of the basic things we do over time with architecture.

Islamic gardens: without enclosing space, used water to generate evaporate cooling, alter climate and stabilize temperature.

[SEXTANT: an instrument with a graduated arc of 60° and a sighting mechanism, used for measuring the angular distances between objects and esp. for taking altitudes in navigation.]

Sites, Systems and Buildings
September 9, 2010

Designing buildings as if they’re completely off the grid. If we’re going to interact with the climate system, must think within the layer of the atmosphere.

Atmosphere like the skin of an onion to an onion. Provides a true sense of its fragility.

Water has highest specific heat. Takes more energy to heat up or cool down water than any other common material.

Dew point: Temperature at which the moisture in the air condenses out of the air because the air has hit the limit of what it can hold.

Lots of moisture in air? Dew point high. Can’t cool it much without dew point coming out. West? Dew-point low. Chill it and chill it and still won’t hit level.

Dew-point line forms a boundary in the middle of the country. Tornado alley. Dryline. Some form of massive energy transfer, turns into tornadoes.

Major engine of climate variance. Moving heat from equator to poles. Major global heat transfer. Convoluted with presence of land masses. Less predictable in Northern Hemisphere (more land) than SH (less land).

Campus Bookstore Facade Section and Plan, Phase 2

Campus Bookstore Facade, Section

Campus Bookstore, Plan