Category Archives: Architecture

Take look at the “world’s greenest office tower”



Tom Paladino’s company was on the design team for the Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh and he says the project changed his life.

The Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh is being billed as the greenest office tower in the world. It has a skin that breaths, a solar chimney, a park in the sky, wood-clad porch doors, indicators that tell you what the weather is outside, and something called The Beacon – an interactive light sculpture that broadcasts data about how much energy the building is using.

The tower is shifted on the podium and street grid for maximum sun exposure.  A double-walled “breathable” facade provides a thermal buffer while allowing air to pass through.

Operable Skin, The Tower at PNC

Operable Skin, PNC Tower

So what’s a solar chimney? It’s a vertical shaft with a rooftop solar collection panel that creates an updraft that draws cool outside air through the skin, across the floors, and up and out of the building, without requiring fans, for almost half the year.

A “living room” space links every two floors of the building, and a five-story indoor park offers views of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Park at The Tower at PNC

The Park at PNC Tower

Paladino acted as owner’s representative on sustainability and LEED management issues.  The 800,000-square-foot, 33-story building was designed by Gensler to reflect PNC’s commitment to green building, energy efficiency and innovation.

The design and systems will help reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and reduce water use by 77 percent compared with a typical office building, Paladino said.

“It was ridiculously simple, and at the same time,  a challenge in its aspiration,” said Tom Paladino in his blog post on the tower.

“LEED shifted from being the purpose of the green building program to being one of the desired results. We moved to a higher purpose, creating a headquarters that would serve PNC as another tool of the business.”

The building was designed to be “the most progressive workplace ever and to attract a highly social, digitally native, and an environmentally conscious work force,” Paladino said.

The Tower at PNC is built green for future generations to enjoy.

The tower cost $400 million.

ESI Design's Beacon at PNC Tower

ESI Design’s Beacon at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

The Tower at PNC

The Tower at PNC

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Need a building? You’ve got some new options

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

Much has been said about sustainable construction methods and how beneficial reclaimed and recycled materials can be to reduce the carbon footprint of a home or commercial construction project.  However, often overlooked are the many non-traditional building alternatives that provide an energy efficient shortcut to a complete building.

Shipping Containers

shipping container

Highly durable and too often wasted, these hulking containers aren’t just for subterranean bomb shelters anymore. DIYers and construction experts have been creating beautiful, functional, and livable buildings out of industrial shipping containers for several years now and we’re thrilled with the results.

By reusing the massive metal containers for home construction, homeowners are able to enjoy sturdy walls, cool interiors, and endlessly expandable layouts. While working with standard shapes may feel limiting, many experienced container builders have found ways to create ventilated rooftops and innovative, expansive rooms using multiple container sections, as well as beautiful outdoor decks and living spaces.

While it takes a lot of hard work and logistical planning, the benefits of designing a custom home without the need for producing additional materials will provide a level of satisfaction beyond what typical sustainable building practices often provide.

Tensioned Fabric Buildings

tensioned fabric building

Perhaps some of the most versatile structures available today, a high-end tensioned fabric building can sometimes outperform even a brick and mortar structure in terms of durability. These buildings can withstand significant snow load and high winds, will remain intact during natural disasters, and help lower insurance costs.

High-end fabrics can provide insulation and security in any climate on earth and some manufacturers go the extra mile with HVAC systems, electrical connections, and other custom options. The lightweight nature and ease of installation make these fabric buildings a great option for organizations on the move, but with so many foundation options, there’s no reason why you can’t install your fabric structure in place for good.

Worried about meeting building code? Depending on where you purchase your fabric building, the company’s engineers may be able to meet or exceed various building code requirements mandated by your city or state governments.

Modular Buildings

modular building

Shedding the misnomer of “pre-fab” buildings, modular constructions aren’t just for the temporary construction site, and are not like the double-wide trailers of 40 years ago. Entire hospitals, apartment complexes, and even hotels are being built using modular practices. By using modular methods, major projects have found success with reductions in construction time, site preparation, and shipping costs.

The production of modular buildings is more efficient, so they are a much more eco-friendly solution when compared with traditional construction. The construction industry accounts for about 40% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By using off-site manufacturing methods, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme suggests that construction site waste can be reduced by as much as 90%. Off-site construction also requires less heavy machinery use during the assembly process, further reducing emissions during the construction.

Modular buildings aren’t just greener during construction either – many modular constructions come with super efficient HVAC systems, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and glass walls/open office layouts that utilize more natural light.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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Seattle Lowrise Zones Now Have a Passive House Incentive to Add Floor Area

The following post is by Joe Giampietro, AIA, CPHC, NK Architects

11th and Republican PH Multifamily Rendering

On July 6th, the Seattle City Council passed a number of revisions to the low-rise zone land use code, including adding Passive House as a way to achieve floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses.

A FAR bonus allows for an increase in building height relative to the area of the lot. Passive House efficiency principles lead to significant energy savings, increased project value, and improved health and comfort for those that live there.

Although this was a minor addition to an otherwise hotly debated set of low-rise zoning updates, this addresses building energy use in a practical and cost effective manner. It is a big move in the right direction.

With the addition of Passive House to the other “green” incentive programs, including LEED Silver, Built Green 4-Star, and the Washington Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards for affordable housing, Seattle has started down the road of recognizing and providing incentives for truly high-performance, low energy design strategies.

Next on the list of legislative actions, the Passive House community is working with the Seattle City Council to consider expanding the Passive House incentive to include both current certification agencies, PHIUS and the Passive House Institute. We have successfully lobbied City Councilman, Mike O’Brien’s staff to include this adjustment in the “omnibus” zoning legislation. The expansion language is currently wending its way through the Council approval process and will be voted on later this summer.

We anticipate that this action will serve as a model for other changes in zoning legislation in Seattle as well as in cities and towns in throughout the Northwest. Let’s take a moment to celebrate one small step in this process!

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16 reasons you’ll want to live in a shipping container

A new website offers plans, advice and a community of container home fans.

I’m Tom Woods.  I run Container Home Plans along with my assistant Claire.  I have a background in construction and studied sustainable development at Yale. Whilst studying, I developed my passion for sustainable buildings and this is what caused me to come across the idea of making homes out of recycled shipping containers. Earlier last year, I was browsing online to try and find more information on how to build shipping container homes and was frustrated because I couldn’t find much information out there. This is how Container Home Plans was born.

So I made the site to act as a central online resource for shipping container homes and to help people who are looking for detailed information on how to build their own. We feature on our site case studies of other people who have built their own container homes and go in detail, outlining the materials they used, the length of time it took them and the cost of the build. We also run a feature called container home of the week, where we show off the very best shipping container homes as inspiration for people! It’s our hope that Container Home Plans will act as a hub for the community of container home enthusiasts so they can share their experiences with other enthusiasts and help each other as they build their own.

We run the site because we believe that using shipping containers can be not only environmentally friendly but it can also be a very affordable option that allows people to make homes they otherwise couldn’t afford to if they used conventional building materials.

I’d be delighted to hear from people, so feel free to send any questions to me at:


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Here’s a tool to help green roofs grow

The following post is by Oregon BEST:

A unique modeling tool developed at Portland State University with support from Oregon BEST is helping local green roof manufacturer Columbia Green Technologies speed adoption of green roofs to meet legislation aimed at reducing combined sewer overflows during heavy rains and thereby grow the Portland based start-up’s national market share.

The new tool is the result of a research project funded by Oregon BEST and led by Graig Spolek, a PSU professor and director of the Green Roof Design and Test Lab. Columbia Green uses the tool when working with civil engineers and architects who need accurate, quantitative data about how much stormwater a green roof in a specific geographical location will both retain and detain.

A green roof sits atop the new Apple store in downtown Portland.

“This new tool has been very helpful; it’s helped us open doors to some of the best engineering and architecture firms in the country,” said Elaine Kearney, Technical Director at Columbia Green. “Being able to generate this kind of data bolsters our reputation as being innovative and technologically very forward looking.”

Eric Zickler, an associate principal at Aecom, one of largest engineering firms in the world, said his firm uses many different tools to measure performance of their stormwater management infrastructure designs, but the Columbia Green tool stands out.

“Generally the calculators and modeling modules are generic and do not provide a high level of confidence in predicted performance,” Zickler said. “The green roof stormwater management tool developed by Columbia Green is specific to green roofs and developed using both theory and empirical data for multiple geographies across varying storm intensities, making it a valuable resource in building our confidence in the stormwater management benefits of green roofs.”

The new tool, which can generate data specific to geographic areas and weather patterns, gives Columbia Green a competitive advantage when the company interacts with potential clients.

“The ability to quantify our performance with this degree of accuracy is unique, so it’s a significant advantage for us,” said Robin Schneider, marketing director at Columbia Green.

This strategic funding exemplifies how Oregon BEST, a state-funded organization that fosters technology-based economic development, helps clean-technology companies collaborate with universities to advance and commercialize products to grow Oregon’s green economy.

“It’s been very rewarding to see Columbia Green leverage our investment in research and transform that into expanded distribution and sales opportunities,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST.

Green roofs and other green infrastructure approaches are gaining visibility at all levels of government, both in the United States and abroad, as officials try to implement policies to address aging public infrastructure.

Two years ago, Vanessa Keitges, CEO of Columbia Green, was selected to sit on the President’s Export Council at the White House.

“We greatly appreciate the Oregon BEST support that allowed us to take advantage of the PSU rain lab and develop a tool that’s helping us succeed,” Keitges said. “Local cooperation between industries and academia is recognized as a model for innovation to solve global problems.”

Oregon BEST is a state agency that nurtures clean technology innovation by transforming new ideas, research, and products into green-collar jobs, greater sustainability, and economic prosperity for Oregon.


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