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The Humanitas University of Milan project comes to a conclusion with the student residences designed by architect Filippo Taidelli of FTA studio based in Milan, Italy. Research, education, and hospitality combined with sustainability become a model of excellence in education.

Pieve Emanuele (MI) –The opening of the Mario Luzzatto Student House residences completes the Humanitas University Campus, the renowned international school of Medicine and Surgery, Nursing and Physiotherapy that promotes an innovative teaching system. The new residences, built in just one year, were designed by FTA studio’s architect Filippo Taidelli, who is also responsible for the design of the Humanitas University campus that was inaugurated in 2017. FTA studio managed all aspects of architectural, interior and landscape design, creating a location where energy saving and environmental sustainability rule.

Milan, Italy-based architect Filippo Taidelli of FTA studio designed the Mario Luzzatto Student House at the Humanitas University located outside of Milano, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

The Architectural Project
The student residence buildings are located southeast of the main square of the Humanitas University campus. In line with master plan directives, to make the most of the occupation of space without building too high, the structure was split into two compact staggered volumes: two 5-storey towers are connected by a lower central body that houses the main access. The lower height and transparencies of the central volume ensure visual permeability through the building towards the park and the surrounding fields. It consists of the first floor study room and an open-air extension of the communal kitchen while its roof accommodates a large green terrace.

The ground floor is dedicated to public and communal functions (bar, restaurant, fitness room, games room) with the signature French windows overlooking the park, while the upper floors house the private student lodgings consisting of 62 apartments and 23 rooms. A variety of arrangements – double and single rooms as well as mini-apartments – offer a total of 240 beds for international students, researchers and visiting professors. Outside by the entrance, the offsetting of the two buildings gives life to a large square, animated by the tables of the bar and other public activities that spill on to it.

The transparent common areas provide a nice connection to the outdoors at the Mario Luzzatto Student House at the Humanitas University located outside of Milano, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

The student residence is part of a broader university project, which adds hospitality and training and study support services to the educational model based on the integration of teaching, research and clinical studies. The aim is to offer students a comprehensively integrated reception, multiplying the opportunities for engagement and amalgamation between different fields of knowledge and giving all-round support not only to training, but to the entire educational experience, promoting integration and exchanges between young people of different cultures. The residences offer students, of which 44 percent are foreign students, numerous communal areas: laboratories, study room, gym, library, TV room, cafeteria, laundry, parking, Amazon locker, terrace and an outdoor futsal pitch. Additionally, student support services include orientation and tutoring sessions, cultural and recreational initiatives, an internal career counseling service, study support, and language courses.

The “living room” of the Mario Luzzatto Student House at the Humanitas University located outside of Milano, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

The Facades
In the same tones as the stoneware of the other campus buildings, the facade of the student residence consists of rustic plaster studded with deep asymmetrical windows of the rooms. The doors and double glazed windows of the apartments are aluminium with a brass-like oxidized finish, as are those on the ground floor. The metal blinds and room windows are irridescent and reflective, and the effect is to accentuate the dynamism of the façade when hit by direct light.

The front of the buildings is softened in the ground floor public areas by the interspersing of large glass openings and opaque backgrounds with a light marmorino finish. The rear of the buildings consists of “service/back of the house” volumes underlined by a casing of metal panels of varying sizes. In addition to focusing on the buildings’ energy consumption aspects, particular attention has been paid to the ease of maintenance of both the external façades and the furnishings, ensuring maximum comfort for users and staff.

The central building connecting the two building masses of the Mario Luzzatto Student House provides a pleasing indoor/outdoor relationship. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

The residences are classified – like the Campus – as green buildings, having obtained an A3 energy certification. Spaces have been designed to the most modern standards in terms of technology and environmental comfort, with the use of renewable energy sources (both roofs of the buildings accommodate highly efficient photovoltaic panels) and controlled mechanical ventilation systems.

Active systems such as groundwater heat pumps, low-temperature radiant panel heating and the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof have made it possible to achieve CENED A3* class, while the orientation and form of the buildings make a decisive contribution to reducing heat loss in winter and, at the same time, increase the amount of solar energy in summer. *(An A3 class is the highest rating of CENED, an energy performance certification system for the region of Lombardy, Italy.)

A living room shared by multiple bedrooms in the Mario Luzzatto Student House at the Humanitas University located outside of Milano, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

The Green Campus
The student residences are part of the University’s context and are connected with the other structures by way of a connective tissue of local green systems. Respecting the pre-existing conditions and leaving the nearby South Park clearly visible, the green areas are conceived as an integral part of the architectural project. Poplar trees, ploughed fields, and spontaneous greenery contribute to offering students and teachers a pleasant environment in which to study, relax and socialize.

A typical bedroom in the Mario Luzzatto Student House at the Humanitas University located outside of Milano, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Martiradonna)

Established in 2005 by Filippo Taidelli, FTA is a multidisciplinary architectural and design firm based in Milan, Italy. Operating both in Italy and abroad, FTA develops integrated design projects in collaboration with a team of carefully selected network of specialists. FTA has realized renovation and ground-up projects of various scale, spanning residential and commercial to office, service and mixed-use spaces, exhibition and industrial design. FTA’s activity is focused on research and innovative intervention in the urban retrofits of existing buildings and energy-requalification as well as in the healthcare area.

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The What: The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute will soon be presenting its seminar – From Sustainable to Circular: How the Right Materials Choices Can Make Green Buildings Greener in city near you in the upcoming months.

Global support for the circular economy is gathering momentum — and the building industry is quickly beginning to embrace its principles. But what is it? And how can your material choices transform the concept of a circular economy into a practical proposition for green buildings? Join us to learn how choosing and using safe, healthy, sustainable materials made to remain in perpetual cycles of use can help transform a green building into a circular building.

This “Circular Economy 101” will cover the basic principles of circular economy and emerging best practices for applying these principles to the built environment. Learn how to maximize the positive impact of your materials choices and address multiple client goals (from material health to zero waste to resiliency) by prioritizing Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products; hear from manufacturers about the way they’re using the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard to develop safe, healthy materials and products for the circular economy, and find out how LEED v4.1 BD+C, ID+C, O+M, and the WELL rating systems are prioritizing safe and circular materials.

The When and Where:

  • May 7th, 2019, Tuesday, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm – Shaw Contract Showroom, Atlanta, Georgia
  • May 8th, 2019 Wednesday, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm – U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.
  • June 17th, 2019, Monday, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Who: Anyone who wants to learn about circular economy and believes that it is a critical strategy in pushing the building industry forward in achieving holistic sustainability.

The How: For Atlanta, register here. For Washington D.C., register here. For more information on upcoming seminars, write to info@c2ccertified.org.

The Details:

  • Katie Rothenberg, Vice President, Sustainability & Innovation, HITT
  • Kendra Martz, Corporate Manager of Sustainability, Construction Specialties
  • Rachel Berman, Sustainability Program Manager, Mecho
  • Dustin Heiler, Global Sustainability Strategy, Steelcase
  • Marisa Guber, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute
  • Troy Virgo, Director of Sustainability and Product Stewardship, Shaw Industries, Inc.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the principles of the circular economy and how circular design principles are being implemented in innovative building design and construction strategies in LEED v4.1 and WELL rating systems.
  • Learn how Cradle to Cradle Certified products can help transform a green building into a circular building (plus address a variety of critical green building concerns).
  • Discuss how C2C can apply to the materials and resources requirements in LEED v4.1 and the requirements for safe materials in WELL v1 and WELL v2.
  • Get up to date on the latest in materials strategies considered by LEED v4.1 and the WELL rating system

Lunch will be provided! The seminars are approved for 1.5 LEED & WELL-specific CE hours for the LEED BD+C, ID+C, O+M specialties & the LEED Green Associate credential, and WELL AP credential!

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Congratulations to the 2019 winners of the COTE Top Ten awards program for sustainable design excellence. The winning projects not only met the AIA Committee on the Environment’s rigorous criteria for social, economic, and ecological value but also demonstrated that good design is more than just pretty looking buildings.

Many of the winning projects live on university campuses, which are the some of the best places to serve as living laboratories, and range from brownfield development to historic preservation. Some projects such as the Frick Environmental Center and Oregon Zoo Education Center offer their visitors active learning opportunities about the environment while others such as Lakeside Senior Apartments and St. Patrtick’s Cathedral offer comfort to the community. A high school in Kenya is less about high-performance technology but more about “respecting the beauty of place and people by providing design that is simple, durable, and of its place.” A waste management facility in Seattle is unobstrusively elegant and not afraid to showcase its functions. Let’s continue to create beautiful and meaningful architecture while we strive to create the best sustainable buildings.

Integrated, performance-based thinking guided major architectural decision including the customized skylights running the length of the building and sinuous roof monitors animate the roofline and improve daylight quality at the Amherst College New Science Center. (Photo courtesy Payette/AIA)

The Amherst College New Science Center provides state-of-the-art facilities and a flexible space to support the college’s science programs and students through the next century while reducing energy usage by 76 percent compared with a typical research building.

  • Location: Amherst, Massachusetts, United States
  • Architect: Payette
The Commons’ roof at Amherst College New Science Center monitors integrate architectural and mechanical elements that provide an overall comfort conditioning solution: chilled beams, radiant slabs, acoustic baffles, and a photovoltaic array. (Photo courtesy Payette/AIA)

The Asilong Christian High School – this is the story of a community imagining a different future for itself, beginning with seeking peace in the region through access to clean water and then enhancing educational opportunities for the primary school graduates.

  • Location: Asilong, West Pokot, Kenya
  • Architect: BNIM
The Asilong Christian High School’s building design focuses on flexibility and durability while responding to local conditions related to water scarcity, harsh sun, acoustic disruptions, local labor opportunities, community input, and construction innovation for the region. (Photo courtesy BNIM/AIA)
The Asilong Christian High School’s simple and flexible spaces are framed by local materials crafted and installed by the local community members. (Photo courtesy BNIM/AIA)

The Daniels Building at One Spadina Crescent, University of Toronto, embodies a holistic approach to sustainable design and strove to distinguish itself in its renovation in utilization efficiency, energy/water/material efficiency, properly insulated building fabric, indoor environmental quality, landscape, and urbanity.

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Architect: NADAAA with Adamson Associates Architects and ERA Architects
The renovation and expansion of One Spadina Crescent for the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design (DFALD) embodies a holistic approach to sustainable design. (Photo courtesy NADAAA with Adamson Associates Architects and ERA Architects/AIA)
The project objectives were twofold: (1) rehabilitate the landscape, historic Knox College architecture, and urban significance of Spadina Crescent (2) demonstrate DFALD’s objective of overt sustainability through the deployment of materials and systems to accommodate a program for studio space, workshops, classrooms, offices, a library, a cafe, a gallery, an auditorium, a Living Lab, a Fab Lab, a public amphitheater, and an event terrace. (Photo courtesy NADAAA with Adamson Associates Architects and ERA Architects/AIA)

The Frick Environmental Center, a living learning center for experiential environmental education and exemplifies principles of equity, experiential learning, and public engagement. (2019 COTE Top Ten Plus honoree – project team gathered exemplary performance data and post occupancy lessons.)

  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
  • LEED: Platinum
  • Living Building: Certified
The LEED Platinum and Living Building-certified Frick Environmental Center demonstrates the conservancy’s mission to restore the Pittsburgh’s deteriorating parks and reestablish a cycle of stewardship. (Photo courtesy Bohlin Cywinski Jackson/AIA)
Biophilic design strategies used throughout the Frick Environmental Center both beckon and shelter, gently nudging park visitors from the adjacent neighborhoods toward the heart of the wooded park beyond. (Photo courtesy Bohlin Cywinski Jackson/AIA)

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex leverages passive elements to reduce energy demand and employs high-tech energy recovery systems to further reduce energy use at this Northeastern University cutting-edge research facility.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Architect: Payette
  • LEED: Gold
The building form of Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex is intrinsically linked with high performance architecture through parametric design and energy modeling to achieve an integrated design. (Photo courtesy Payette/AIA)
The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex is organized as a community of faculty neighborhoods surrounding the atrium, replete with nooks and lounges for informal conversation. (Photo courtesy Payette/AIA)

The Lakeside Senior Apartments provides 92 permanently affordable homes for low-income and special-needs, formerly homeless seniors, many of whom had been displaced by rising Bay Area housing costs.

  • Location: Oakland, California, United States
  • Architect: David Baker Architects
  • LEED: Platinum
Lakeside Senior Apartments’ building design begins with a tight envelope and massing articulation that responds to orientation; and care was taken to step the building massing down toward the lake, emphasizing the proximity to this wonderful urban resource and protecting neighbors’ light and views. (Photo courtesy David Baker Architects/AIA)
The community room at Lakeside Senior Apartments opens widely to the central courtyard, creating a flexible indoor-outdoor gathering space. (Photo courtesy David Baker Architects/AIA)

The North Transfer Station replaces an out-of-date waste facility with one that was larger and more efficient while meeting the demands of two abutting residential communities.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
  • Architect: Mahlum Architects
  • LEED: Gold
The new facility at the North Transfer Station generates 68 percent fewer CO2 emissions than the average U.S. building of a similar type, just shy of the 2015 70 percent reduction target set by the 2030 Challenge. (Photo courtesy Mahlum Architects/AIA)
The North Transfer Station can process up to 750 tons of waste, recycling, and compost per day from both commercial and self-haulers. (Photo courtesy Mahlum Architects/AIA)

The Oregon Zoo Education Center provides a home base for thousands of children who participate in camps and classes annually and serves as a regional hub, expanding the zoo’s youth programs through collaborations with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other partners.

  • Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
  • Architect: Opsis Architecture
  • LEED: Platinum
The Oregon Zoo Education Center creates dialogue between the built and natural environment, with each interior space offering a corresponding visible and connected outdoor space. (Photo courtesy Opsis Architecture/AIA)
The Oregon Zoo Education Center’s sustainable elements, including solar panels, native plants, bird-safe windows, and rain gardens, are designed to educate the public. (Photo courtesy Opsis Architecture/AIA)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a prominent 1870s religious landmark by James Renwick Jr., which was last renovated in 1949, achieved a 29 percent reduction in annual energy use and stabilized significant historic fabric while each year welcoming 5 million-plus visitors.

  • Location: New York, New York, United States
  • Architect: Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects
St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s design solutions combined stringent conservation methods, ten geothermal wells, fully integrated new mechanical systems, and strategic architectural interventions to enhance worship and functionality. (Photo courtesy MBB/AIA)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a successful example of integrating sustainable strategies with restoration of a historical building. (Photo courtesy MBB/AIA)

The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center is a multi-functional public education facility that provides learning opportunities for children and adults about the lives of bees and other pollinators, their agricultural and ecological importance, and the essential, fascinating, and delicious ways our human lives intersect with theirs.

  • Location: Chaska, Minnesota, United States
  • Architect: MSR Design
The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center at the University of Minnesota is the first building of a new campus focusing on sustainable farm-to-table education. (Photo courtesy MSR/AIA)
The discovery space at the Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center frames its exhibits within the context of the beautiful landscape arboretum. (Photo courtesy MSR/AIA)
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Neuen Schule Port, an energy-plus building and MINERGIE-A rated elementary school, is located in a residential neighborhood in the Swiss village of Port. With its distinctive folded roof structure, the school’s roof design references the pitched roofs of the surrounding houses, the rural history of the region and the smooth hills of the Jura Mountains. Placed on a gentle slope, the building takes advantage of the topography and links various outdoor spaces according to the different access routes of the school children.

Neuen Schule Port, designed by Skop – Architektur & Städtebau, gently settles into the site’s topography and reflects the slopes of the surrounding Jura Mountains. (Photo by Simon von Gunten)

While the ground floor is used for faculty administration, workshops, a school kitchen and back-of-the-house rooms, the first floor comprises of nine classrooms and three kindergarten units that can host a total of 280 children. The rooms on the upper floor naturally benefit from the spatial qualities of the folded roof. Each classroom is like a small independent house which creates a cozy and home-like atmosphere for the children.

Floor plan of classroom spaces on level one of Neuen Schule Port, designed by Skop – Architektur & Städtebau. (Image courtesy Skop – Architektur & Städtebau)

Adjacent classrooms are linked with each other through large doors as well as having direct access to group working spaces and a generous multifunctional middle zone. This layout allows maximum flexibility for current and future teaching and learning methodologies. Large parts of the interior walls are developed as floor to ceiling magnetic blackboards which provide easy access to the students to express themselves. A series of roof-level “courtyards” defined by clerestories provide daylight to the internal spaces while the rooms along the exterior walls receive daylight from two directions due to their angular orientation.

An aerial view of the Neuen Schule Port roof, designed by Skop – Architektur & Städtebau, highlights the solar PV panels and shows the rooftop courtyards defined by clerestory windows. (Photo by Julien Lanoo)
A transitional open space showcases plenty of natural daylight streaming from the clerestory windows in Neuen Schule Port designed by Skop – Architektur & Städtebau. (Photo by Simon von Gunten)

The school can be seen as a large carbon storage unit due to the extensive installation of wood inside and outside the building. The building’s structural system utilizes prefabricated timber construction. Wood, the only construction material that stores carbon, also plays an important role in the school’s façade design as well as interior finishes and furnishings. Pressure-treated white fir from Switzerland, the Black Forest in Germany and the Alsace Region in France was used as the exterior finish. Three-layer fir veneer was used for interior wall finishes while oak was used for interior door frames and fittings. All wood installed in Neuen Schule Port was sustainably harvested.

The fun folding of the roof structure and the warm fir paneling can be experienced in the classrooms at Neuen Schule Port designed by Skop – Architektur & Städtebau. (Photo by Julien Lanoo)

Aside from wood products, other installed construction materials are products with low environmental impact and meet high ecological building requirements. The project specifications followed the policies, standards and regulations of MINERGIE’s ECO rating.

A section of Neuen Schule Port shows its integration into the surrounding topography with minimal cut and fill. (Image courtesy Skop – Architektur & Städtebau)

A smart combination of sustainable building measures ensure that Neuen Schule Port’s building achieves energy-plus status. 

  • The building’s rating of MINERGIE-A certifies that it has a high-grade, air-tight building envelope and continuous renewal of air in the building by using an energy efficient ventilation system. These features in turn provide thermal comfort and good indoor air quality for the building occupants.
  • Natural daylighting, energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems, and passive systems help the school keep energy usage minimal.
  • Operable windows are placed for natural cross ventilation and removes the need for active cooling, also keeping energy usage minimal.
  • Passive night cooling during the summer can be achieved by manually opening the exterior windows and clerestory windows that allow a transverse air flow through the rooms.
  • The underfloor heating system is connected to district heating, which means that the school obtains heat from a waste recycling plant located in the nearby city of Biel.
  • 1,102 solar photovoltaic panels integrated with the building roof design produces around 300 kWp and an annual production of 275,000 kWh. This not only covers the school’s entire electricity needs and guarantees energy independence, but also can provide additional energy to fifty households. (Average household consumption in the village is 4,000 kWh.) The school’s generated electricity is fed into the municipality’s power grid. Household residents, companies, and institutions of the community then can acquire a 20-year right-to-use to buy renewable energy generated by the school’s photovoltaic system.
  • The school children learned about sustainable design during their construction site visits. Post-occupancy, they can learn about the building’s energy-plus achievements via displays of real-time electricity production.
Neuen Schule Port is an energy-plus building and MINERGIE-A rated elementary school located in Port, Switzerland. (Photo by Simon von Gunten)

The Zurich, Switzerland-based firm Skop – Architektur & Städtebau (Architecture and Urban Design) won the design competition for Neuen Schule Port in 2013 and construction was completed in 2017.

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Futurebuild’s main focus this year was on Circular Cities and Circular Economies. Circular Cities/Economies is an economic theory based on the finite resources of the planet and how all things have a dollar value. According to Circle-Economy.com, “Circular Cities believe the built environment should be a ‘living’ system in which building materials and products are optimally used and reused–a system that operates within the boundaries of our planet, preserves the (business) value of its resources, and ensure the wellbeing of its inhabitants.”

Carolyne Orazi meets up with Adam Davies, current President and Sue Illman, past President of the Landscape Institute, which is the British equivalent of ASLA, at Futurebuild 2019. (Photo courtesy Carolyne Orazi)

Seeing all organic and inorganic materials in our world with a monetary value will help us see the value in what these objects have. Purchasing building materials locally will help the economy, reduce transportation costs, and hopefully, reduce pollution. Providing cost benefit analysis to politicians on how much it will cost to retain trees, plant new trees, and the overall cumulative benefits to those living in these environments willcreate healthier cities and a new mind set.

Futurebuild 2019 featured plenty of expert speakers, thought-provoking discussions, and engaging exhibits. (Photo courtesy Futurebuild)

Panel discussions at Futurebuild Conference included topics on the Future of Energy, Materials, Interiors (including the Well Program), and Urban Infrastructure. The emphasis was on the future of small housing units, the continuance of environmentally friendly products, and the reuse of existing materials and reducing our impact on the earth.

Futurebuild 2019 - Check out highlights from day one - YouTube

The event floor was cleverly designed to fit the lecture facilities into the noisy floors through the use of headphones and sound mitigation.  All stages and lecterns were created with recycled products.

The event has scaled down but the impact of the programs and lectures was big.  The annual event was free and held at the ExCel Centre in London, United Kingdom. Next year’s Futurebuild will take place on March 3rd– 5th, 2020 at the same location in London.

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The AEC Hackathon 6.2 – Seattle will take place on April 26th – 28th, 2019 in Seattle at University of Washington’s Center for Research and Education in Construction. The Hackathon was created to give those designing, building, and maintaining our built environment the opportunity to collaborate with cutting edge technologies and its developers and designers. All around the world, it has quickly become a community of innovators that include all professionals working in the built environment, not just the architects, engineers, and contractors (AEC).

We are building real momentum. This year, local leaders in real estate have been added to our panel discussions so our AEC Hackathons are now where AEC, Tech and Real Estate all converge. We will have workshops presented by Unity and Magic Leap; and Saturday panels will focus on The Future of Real Estate and The Future of Digital Construction.

AEC Hackathon @ BLOXHUB - YouTube
The 39th AEC Hackathon in Copenhagen, The Netherlalnds in January 2019.

Unity is a Community Sponsor of our Hackathons and their AEC Team will be available as mentors and advisors at the Hackathon. Shaan Hurley from Autodesk Research will also participate in the Hackathon as a mentor. Autodesk and Unity announced a partnership at Autodesk University: the gaming, CAD and AEC industries are converging as the building industry becomes a technology industry and the built environment evolves into an innovation platform.

The AEC Hackathons have become THE event for creating innovation for these industries so get engaged today! Our world faces fresh new problems that urgently need brilliant minds to solve them and this is the community that is improving how our world is designed, built, and operated.

AEC Hackathon 2018 - YouTube
The 37th AEC Hackathon in Berlin, Germany in the summer of 2018.

For an introduction to our AEC Hackathon global community, we highly recommend you read this LinkedIn post, “Hacking the $10 Trillion Construction Industry: 40 AEC Hackathons in 25 cities in 10 Countries,” the above short video from our 37th Hackathon in Berlin last summer, and this post from Mignon O’Young on our 40th AEC Hackathon held in February, 2019 at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Seattle will inevitably become a global leader in making the built environment itself an innovation platform and the city where the AEC, Real Estate, Technology, Fintech, Proptech, Gaming, Metaverse, Spatial Computing, Robotics and Industry 4.0 all converge. Let’s hack these industries together to make it happen faster – and connect to our partner AEC Hackathon communities across the globe.

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Editor’s Note: Each award-winning team contributed to this article by providing a description of its product.

Last month, fifty plus people gathered to geek out for two days to attend the AEC Hackathon 6.1 Silicon Valley, the fortieth hackathon that has taken place since 2013. The AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) Hackathon was created to give those involved with designing, building, and maintaining our built environment the opportunity to collaborate with cutting edge technologies and their developers and designers.

This Hackathon brought together students and professionals from the fields of architecture, engineering, construction, and software programming. Seven teams were formed and each team was tasked to identify a real issue that repeatedly occurs in the day to day workflow of architecture, construction or their related fields, and then create a technology-based solution to address it. Some teams worked on finetuning their project from a previous AEC Hackathon or office project, while others started from scratch. Team presentations on the final day gave everyone the opportunity to hear about all the projects and an Award Ceremony concluded this event with collegiate vibes and professionalism. The judges of the presentation were: Anthony Jones, CEO of Mosaic Document Solutions, Christopher Peri, Sr. Director at Samsung (VR/AR), and a representative from Unity.

Team Urban.Insights addressed a routine issue that cities have to face all the time – distributing information regarding new building projects to citizens for review and comments. The team’s solution of creating a web application simplifies the process for citizens to visualize the project and communicate their comments. (Image courtesy: Urban.Insights)
Team Urban.Insights’ web application makes it effortless for citizen engagement in any design review process. (Image courtesy: Urban.Insights.)

Product: Urban.Insights
Award: Best Overall Project
Team: Urban.Insights
Team Members: Matthias Tweddell Levinsen, Mikkel Esrup Steenberg, Mathias Sønderskov Nielsen, and Ptar Mitev

The project Urban.Insights is a communication tool which allows citizens to visualize and comment on nearby building proposals in their local neighborhood. Through a web app, the neighbors are able to see proposed projects placed in their context on their phones and tablets. A 3D viewer featuring augmented reality makes it possible to see the proposed projects from your home, so you can determine if it might cast shadows on your porch, or ruin your view to the sea, or visualize other physical conditions. The user can capture these views, add comments and upload that feedback to the project teams. By having a tool like this, there is a higher likelihood that citizens become engaged and show up at community meetings; and the tool empowers citizens with the opportunity to visualize their feedback. The community hearing process just went from monologue to dialogue.

Urban.Insights’ Team Members Matthias Tweddell Levinsen, Mikkel Esrup Steenberg, and Mathias Sønderskov Nielsen flew in from Copenhagen while Ptar Mitev flew in from Columbus, Ohio to participate in the AEC Hackathon 6.1 Silicon Valley. (Photo by Mignon O’Young)

Product: AR Drone Flight Monitor
Award: Best Hack from a Past Event
Team: No Fly Zone
Team Member: Lauren Winter

Professional drone piloting requires line of sight visual monitoring of the drone. Because drones are small and difficult to see at any distance greater than 200 feet, an AR-based assistant that uses drone telemetry, altitude and GPS location, to locate and track the drone is of great value. My project integrated the Apple AR Kit into our autonomous drone piloting app to show the flight path and location in real time, giving the pilot a tool to visually locate and track the drone at any distance and altitude.

Lauren Winter from Team No Fly Zone is a veteran AEC Hackathon hacker and came up with a product to supplement an autonomous drone piloting app with real time flight path and location of the drone. (Photo by Mignon O’Young)

Product: Mission Control AEC
Award: Best Mashup Project
Team: SFCDUG (San Francisco Computational Design User Group)
Team Members: Alberto Tono, Danny Bentley, Dennis Eldridge and Daniel Clayson

Soon to be a non-profit organization, the San Francisco Computational Design Users Group’s mission is to help the adoption of programming languages and new techniques such as generative design machine learning and others. We are now giving back to the community the prize that we received in order to promote and facilitate the participation to these events. We started our Hackathon Project, Mission Control AEC, in 2016 while working at HOK and just released its open source based on the mission that Carl Galioto, FAIA, President of HOK, put forth:

SFCDUG February 2019 | AEC Hackathon - YouTube

At HOK, we’re pushing for these changes through our support of groups like buildingSMART International and a particular focus on:

Modernizing the HOK buildingSMART virtual design and construction initiative with a host of initiatives to help it better serve the industry.

Supporting open-source software projects.

Developing an industry consortium to help fund and seed future open-source projects for the industry.

Mission Control AEC is a web management tool that allows for better quality control of all our BIM Models without the need to open each model one by one, which saves an incredible amount of time, and assures the data integrity and performance stability in the environment. Furthermore, the tool can track the progression of every event and operation that happens in the Model. Thanks to the Forge and Design Automation API, Mission Control is also capable of performing the changes in the BIM environment.

During the Hackathon, the SFCDUG Team further developed Mission Control AEC to create a predictive model based on Time-Series that would help to not only forecast failures and corruptions, but also increase the liability of the models. The Proof of Concept developed during the weekend was strictly focused on monitoring views in relationship with the sheets. The goal was to integrate BIM Level 3 and Building Knowledge Modeling with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning so that they could quickly become part of the ecosystem and help the development of the project, forecasting and preventing errors and corruptions.

Team SFCDUG members Alberto Tono, Danny Bentley, Dennis Eldridge and Daniel Clayson provide a time-saving solution to time-consuming viewing processes that designers encounter every day while interfacing and managing BIM drawings. (Photo by Mignon O’Young)

Product: Quality Assurance/Quality Control Augmented Reality Tool
Award: Best Project That Solves a Big AEC Problem
Team: Spam Shake LLC
Team Members: Devin Baldwin, Melissa Frydlo, Logan Smith, and Leo Nyugen

There are many potential risks during the lifecycle of a construction project. The team quickly agreed upon the need to develop an easy, user-friendly document control tool for the field. With Logan Smith’s expertise in augmented reality and Rivet and his background in architecture and spatial relations, Logan modified a 3D model for our presentation and created a prototype in less than sixteen hours.

The resulting model serves as a 3D as-built drawing and references back to the original contract drawings. This product also serves as a fully-functional-real-time-multi user-friendly quality assurance / quality control augmented reality tool by bringing the field office even further into the field. It allows timely decisions and approvals required by the engineers and architects. Furthermore, this solution allows the owner to observe progress in a way that has never been so easily presented to them.

Team Spam Shake members Devin Baldwin, Melissa Frydlo, Logan Smith, and Leo Nyugen provide an augmented reality tool to simplify the day to day processes in managing construction jobsite issues such as inspections and documentation. (Photo by Mignon O’Young)

Product: Powered Paddleboards
Award: Best Challenging Our People Pipeline
Team: Where’s My Drill?!?!?!
Team Members: Brett Young and Sons

The inception of our project was a practical need – I was looking for a solution to power my kids’ paddleboards so they could keep pace with me when I train. In my research, I found that commercial off-the-shelf tech from power tools used incredible battery technology. Putting together a “hacked” drill solution then became a fun way to engage my kids in construction technology and the joys of building. The secondary benefit for me was the experience of our plan, despite being simple, encountering multiple failures and the resulting insights into engineering innovation. Testing is critical, simple is better than complex, and execution can’t be rushed. The team name came about because one of my sons dropped a hammer drill into San Francisco Bay; which was not a user error but a system design problem.

Team members Brett Young and his sons proudly represent Team Where’s My Drill?!?!?! (Photo by Mignon O’Young)

The AEC Hackathon consists of an amazing community of building environment and tech innovators. If you have the opportunity, join in on the fun but at the same time help find solutions for the many issues that we encounter over and over again in the field of architecture, engineering, and construction. The next upcoming AEC Hackathons in 2019 are listed below:

  • March 29 – 31: San Antonio, Texas, United States
  • Summer – London, United Kingdom
  • TBD – Seattle, Washington, United States
  • TBD – Shanghai, China
  • TBD – Helsinki, Finland
  • TBD – Austin, Texas, United States
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The What: The International Mass Timber Conference is the largest gathering of cross-laminated timber and other mass timber experts in the world, with a special focus on manufacturing and mid- to high-rise construction. Over 1,200 experts from 22 countries attended in 2018.

Explore the supply chain for cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber, glulam beams and panels, mass plywood panels, dowel-laminated timber, and laminated veneer lumber; and the opportunities and obstacles for mass timber in global manufacturing and construction.

University of British Columbia’s Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, Canada is the world’s tallest mass timber building. (Photo courtesy naturallywood.com)

The When: March 19th – 21st, 2019, 6:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland, Oregon 97232, United States

The Who: Anyone who believes that a greater use of cross-laminated timber and other mass timber products in mid- to high-rise building construction is the innovative, disruptive, modern, and sustainable choice necessary for building in a fast-growing world.

The How: Click here to register as there is still time to participate.

The Details: There will be four event tracks: Reimagining Our Cities; Project Delivery With Mass Timber: New Product, New Process; Building Performance: Design & Implementation; Overcoming Barriers & Growing the Market. There will be an exhibition as well as various building tours.

If you’ll be attending the conference, be sure to check out my friends at Cut My Timber. They will be hosting a building tour of their shop. Talk to them about how software, data, CNC machines and robots make very innovative mass timber building possible and cost effective. The technology tools to transform the industry already exist and are improving rapidly. The challenge is to bring together the right teams on the best projects.

The future is here – let’s build it out of wood here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

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The What: There will be an open house of the UCSC Multi-use Micropod at a new location in the Bay Area. The UCSC Tiny House Design Lab serves as an applied science hands-on, project based learning environment. The course gives students the opportunity to practice and apply the concepts of design and engineering. In the process of practice, a diverse set of practical skills are learned.

The UC Santa Cruz team for the UCSC Multi-use Micro Pod Tiny House. (Image courtesy UCSC Tiny House Design Lab)

Completed in 2018, the 50 square foot UCSC Multi-use Micro Pod Tiny House emphasizes flexibility and portability as a key feature for sustainable design. It has been designed to be portable so that it can be easily installed in a variety of locations and its light-weight structure allows for transportability by a common passenger car. It has been designed in panels for assembly and disassembly and its multi-purpose design allows for it to be adapted to current needs.

The project development from concept to completion allows students to experience a variety of integrated project-based hands on training in architecture, engineering, applied sciences, construction and electronics as well as soft skills in team collaboration and project management.

The course’s specific project tasks include hands-on learning of: project management; architectural design; sketching and drafting; physical scale modeling; 3D modeling; structural engineering; construction management; renewable energy integration; and micro-controllers.

The UCSC Multi-use Micro Pod Tiny House can be used for: temporary housing; job-site utility trailer; renewable power source; field research station; secure storage; sound and media booth; educational net-zero tiny house display; and mobile greenhouse.

The When: Saturday, April 6th, 2019, 12:00 – 3:00 pm

The Where: Uvaosos Ranch, San Jose, California

The Who: Anyone interested in creating adaptable and sustainable design.

The How: Please contact Thomas Rettenwender at trettenw@ucsc.edu for specific directions.

The Details: The UCSC Multi-use Micro Pod Tiny House has been installed on three acres of land and is now the central hub for the 4000 gallon water catchment system. This spring, the process of planting the lavender fields will begin. UCSC students and faculty will give tours and answer questions. Bring sturdy shoes, a snack to share and your sketch pad. This gathering will be like a walk in the park.

Tiny House Design Lab - Giving Day 2018 - YouTube

Key Design Features include: portability; built on an 4’ x 8’ utility trailer; light-weight; net-zero renewable energy system; used recycled, reclaimed, and donated materials; water storage; bamboo siding grown, harvested and processed at UC Santa Cruz; and modular design.

The power system consists of: three Solarworld, 315W, Sunmodule Pro-Series XL, Silver Mono, WSS Battery Bank UPG 200ah @ 24VDC 4,800 watt hours; Midnite Solar Classic MPPT Charge Controller 150; Magnum Energy MMS1012G Inverter; Wind generator back-up; Smart Systems Integration; Central Controller (such as Arduino and RaspberryPi) remote control and access; Renewable energy system monitoring; Home security monitoring; Air quality monitoring (for IAQ and eld research); Automated shading; Automated lighting; Ultra-sonic distance monitoring; and Water level and solar thermal monitoring.

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With Socio-Technical City, UNStudio – in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of experts – has created a new urban vision for the ‘Central Innovation District’ (CID) test site in The Hague. The CID test site covers a 1 x 1 km area in the centre of The Hague.

Currently the test site is a major infrastructure hub within the triangle of the Hague Central Station and two nearby stations. But in the future vision of the Socio-Technical City, it becomes a green, self-sufficient double-layered district, where a new urban layer of housing, offices, urban mobility and park-like public space is composed over the existing train track infrastructure.

What a city of the future could look like: living, breathing and connected to its surroundings. The Hyperloop Station in the Socio-Technical City. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

The City of the Future
How can the major social transitions taking place in the fields of energy, food and mobility be realized in our cities in a way that is both future-proof and attractive? This is the question that underlies the design vision of the Socio-Technical City.

The Hague’s City of the Future: the Socio-Technical City envisioned by UNStudio. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

UNStudio’s vision for The Hague is one of the studies made for ‘The City of the Future’, a joint initiative by BNA Research (the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects), the Delft University of Technology, the Delta Metropolis Association, the municipalities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven, the Directorates-General for Mobility and Transport, the Environment and Water, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Interior.

The Hague’s City of the Future: the Socio-Technical City envisioned by UNStudio. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

The project started in January 2018, when ten multidisciplinary design teams were tasked with investigating new ways of city-making using five test locations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven. These teams included landscape architects, urban planners, mobility experts, experts in the field of circular economy, energy transition, future strategies, big data, smart cities etc. The teams worked on a level playing field together with municipalities, stakeholders and experts in the field of important innovations.

The integration and intersections of the environment, economy, technology and society serve as the conceptual basis of the Socio-Technical City by UNStudio. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Socio-Technical City: a Response to Key Transition Issues for the Future
UNStudio’s concept for the Socio-Technical City combines the two largest challenges facing the future of cities – urbanisation and sustainability – and focuses specifically on the questions: how can an area like the CID, despite extremely high density in the future, be self-sufficient and energy-neutral? What does such an urban district look like? And how can you connect the technology that is required with the people who live and work there.

UNStudio’s Socio-Technical City consists of physical architectural interventions that serve as gateways to the city. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Gateways: Catalysts for Encounter and Innovation
With the elevated urban layer covering the existing railway tracks, UNStudio’s urban vision distinguishes a number of technical ‘domains’, which refer to the major transition issues of our time: energy, circularity, mobility, climate adaptation / water management and food production. These domains are then each envisioned as ‘gateways’: physical architectural interventions that offer practical solutions to the problems as well as functioning as attractive symbols for the specific themes – a geothermal power station as an icon for energy transition, a (Hyperloop) station as a landmark for mobility, a Biopolus water treatment plant as a symbol for circularity.

The Hague’s City of the Future: the Socio-Technical City envisioned by UNStudio. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

In this way, the Socio-Technical City bridges the gap between infrastructure and technology on the one hand, and quality of life and social well-being on the other. The model of the gateways is based on the idea that interaction is a requirement for innovation. The gateways form catalysts for meeting; they connect neighbourhoods and people and thus form breeding grounds for innovation.

The Socio-Technical City is located in the ‘Central Innovation District’ (CID) test site in The Hague. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Gateway Mobility: the Metropolitan Superhub
The concept for the gateways is inspired by the location itself. The existence of three intercity stations within walking distance of each other presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform this area into one Metropolitan Superhub; a system of closely linked terminals, comparable in size to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. It also provides an opportunity to create space for new forms of sustainable mobility such as the Hyperloop, with a free floating system of electric scooters, and possibly self-driving pods, interlinking the different modes of public transport.

The Socio-Technical City as a Metropolitan Superhub. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Following the construction of the elevated urban layer, the Metropolitan Superhub can gradually become a city centre. The city can grow all around it and connect to this layer, while creating a level of density that is unprecedented in the Netherlands.

Gateway Geothermal Energy Plant: An Energy Cathedral, City Bridge, Winter Garden and Co-working Space for Start-ups
The geothermal energy plant is the central location of the energy supply and as such is an important gateway for the CID. Research shows that the use of heat pumps, heat and cold storage systems, optimum insulation and solar panels are not enough to fully supply a compact area such as this. In order to make the district self-sufficient and energy-neutral, a solution was found by way of a system of ‘energy exchange’ with the surrounding districts. The geothermal energy plant draws energy from a hot water reservoir that is 2.5 kilometers below ground and supplies it to the surrounding low-rise districts. In return, the low-rise districts generate a surplus of energy via roof-mounted solar panels that can be delivered to the new high-rise buildings.

Socio-Technical City’s geothermal plant and its relation to its surrounding districts. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

The energy gateway is not only a geothermal power plant, but also a bridge that connects neighbourhoods, a winter garden and co-working space for start-ups. But above all, it is a symbol for energy transition: an energy cathedral.

A section through a building hosting the geothermal plant above the train tracks in the the Socio-Technical City. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Gateway the Biopolus: Urban Irrigation System with Wadis, Water Squares, Canals and Waterfalls
In the Socio-Technical City, the Biopolus forms another gateway, a circular system that provides local food and water supplies. The Biopolus ensures that the waste water from the new part of the city is purified and the nutrients that are released are used for the cultivation of crops. Waste water is pumped through tubes to the highest level, after which it flows to the lowest level via various purification processes, producing drinking quality water which then enters the system again. The localised cycle is complete.

The Biopolus is however not merely a water purification plant, it is also an urban farm, a vertical park and an emblem of the circular economy. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

Gateway Climate Adaptation: Water Plazas
Climate change presents significant risk factors for the area, such as flooding and overheating. Currently, rainwater, waste water and grey water are all disposed of through one drainage system. In the Socio-Technical City, these are separated into different systems. Waste water is drained through underground pipes. However, the relatively clean rain water is re-used and made visible in the form of water features in public spaces: an irrigation system of canals, water plazas and waterfalls.

The Hague’s City of the Future: the Socio-Technical City envisioned by UNStudio. (Image courtesy UNStudio; renderings by Plompmozes)

The Socio-Technical City Team:
The urban vision for the Socio-Technical City was designed by UNStudio with UNSense (urban technology), Felixx (Landscape Architects), DGMR (Energy), Metabolic (Circularity), Nelen Schuurmans (Climate Adaptation) and Here Technologies (Data Mobility).

The results of this and the other visions created for The City of the Future project will be collected in a publication in the spring of 2019.

Ben van Berkel is a member of the Bouwagenda Taskforce in the Netherlands – a collaboration between commercial parties, the government and knowledge institutes tasked with accelerating innovation in construction. This development and construction platform, part of the Bouwagenda and led by Ben van Berkel and Carolien Gehrels, works with multidisciplinary teams, including contractors, to develop scenarios to improve cities. The project ‘The City of the Future’ designs and speculates, while the studies carried out by the Development and Construction Platform are drawn up and calculated and the contractors are part of the discussion. Ultimately the proposals for ‘The City of the Future’ should reach this level of implementation.

UNStudio: Ben van Berkel with Lars van Hoften and Dana Behrman, Maria Zafeiriadou, Ren Yee, Chen Shijie, Qiao Xu, Nina Soltani, Takumi Kozuki,
Model Team: Patrik Noome, Bart Bonenkamp
Gateway Visualisations: Plompmozes

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