Bridge School wins Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Bridge School (c) Aga Khan Award for Architecture / Li Xiaodong

Hanging Bridge (c) Aga Khan Award for Architecture / Li Xiaodong

The “Bridge School” bridges the two parts of the small village of Xiashi that lie on either side of a small creek that runs through the village. The structure is created by two steel trusses that span the creek with the space between them housing the functions of the school. Suspended from the structure and running below it is a pedestrian bridge for the people of the village to use.  more…

Location: Xiashi, Fujian Province, China (Asia)
Architect: Li Xiaodong (Atelier)
Client: Xiashi Village
Completed: 2008
Design: 2008
Site size: 240 m²

This combination school, public library, and pedestrian bridge is simple, beautiful, and beneficial to the community.  It is one of five winners of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.  See the video on the Aga Khan website.

Photos from Nathan Harger Opening

Nathan Harger's Opening Reception

I found out about this photography exhibit on the ArtCat website.  Nathan Harger does amazing black and white photos of architecture and urban infrastructure.  His photo below of the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island recalls Futurist paintings and Constructivist designs while allowing the object of the amusement ride to be recognizable.  The opening reception is at the Hasted Kraeutler gallery in West Chelsea on Thursday, December 9, at 6:00 pm.

Nathan Harger's Wonder Wheel, Brooklyn, NY 2009

Nathan Harger's Wonder Wheel, Brooklyn, NY 2009

Books I'm Reading

Recreating the American Home: The Passive House Approach, by Mary James

The diversity of the ten projects in this book is pretty amazing — from the restoration of an historic 19th century brownstone in Brooklyn, NY, to a large single-family home in the high desert of Salt Lake City, Utah.  The book also includes affordable housing and a house in the hot and humid climate of Louisiana.  Aesthetically, the houses are very diverse as well, although they are all fairly conservative.

Grid Rocks!, by George Duncan

chaotic exuberance, stochastic turbulence, architectural surrealism

This book is based on the art displayed in his solo exhibition at the Artistas de Santa Fe Gallery in New Mexico.

Mastering Autodesk Revit 2011, by Eddy Krygiel, Phil Read, and James Vandezande

I love this book because it’s easy to follow and contains real-world examples of how to use building information modeling (BIM) processes, not just software.

Passive House Energy Modeling




Comparison of measured consumption (statistical data) with the PHPP calculation.  It is only possible to compare average measured results from sufficiently large statistical samples  because individual consumption values fluctuate too much on account of the different user behaviours.  The average values match the PHPP results exactly.

Comparison of measured consumption (statistical data) with the PHPP calculation.
It is only possible to compare average measured results from sufficiently large statistical samples
because individual consumption values fluctuate too much on account of the different user behaviours.
The average values match the PHPP results exactly.

How accurate is building energy modeling software?  There are a lot of assumptions that go into any model.  We assume that the weather will conform to historical climate data, that occupants will use the building in a typical manner, that the building is actually constructed as designed, that mechanical equipment will perform as advertised, etc.  The chart above shows measured data—blue bars—plotted against the simulation results for Passive House and low-energy buildings in Germany.  This shows how well the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) software can predict average energy use.  PHPP has been validated with dynamic energy simulation tools as well as with measured data. You can read the US Department of Energy evaluation of PHPP here.

PHPP version 9, which is slated for release towards the middle or end of 2014, will feature two additional worksheets entitled Variants and Comparison along with other innovations. The Variants sheet gives users the option of inputting different designs and displaying the results in parallel. The Compare sheet allows two of these variants to be selected to compare their energy demand and affordability in depth.  [Passipedia]

Another tool, the PHeco external calculation tool (not integrated into the PHPP) has been developed by the working group for cost-efficient Passive Houses [AKKP42 2012]. This worksheet uses the PHPP’s findings to calculate affordability. It does so by comparing different building designs’ heating energy demand and the costs of their respective energy-saving measures. The PHI can provide this tool on request. [Passipedia]

Duncan Architect consults with architects, engineers, and contractors to provide energy modeling services, among others. As a Certified Passive House Designer, Gregory Duncan is well qualified to create accurate energy models using PHPP software.

Email for more information.


Green Building Myths

10 Green Building Myths by Green Building Advisor

1. New York City is an environmental nightmare
2. Walls have to breathe
3. Renovation is less expensive than new construction
4. Spray polyurethane foam creates an air barrier
5. Caulking the exterior of a house reduces air leakage
6. R-value tests only measure conductive heat flow
7. Air conditioned homes don’t need a dehumidifier
8. Efficiency Rating Labels On Appliances Account For All Types of Energy
9. In-floor radiant heating systems save energy
10. Green building helps save the environment

Passive House Sustainable Design

Passive House is a standard for ultra-energy-efficient, healthy, and comfortable buildings. Over 20,000 Passive House buildings, including offices, single-family houses, apartment buildings, and schools, have been constructed around the world. The standard offers a scientific approach to green building that is backed up by real-world data. Compared to typical buildings in the US, a Passive House building uses about 90% less heating and cooling energy. This dramatic reduction in energy use makes it feasible to add photovoltaics to create a net-zero or positive energy building.

Power Tower photo from Wikimedia

The Power Tower in Linz, Austria, is a 74-meter tall office building built to Passive House standards.

Urban Green Expo in New York will feature an educational program titled “The Active State of Passive House: European Perspectives on Implementation in North America” in September, 2010.

Building Green has an excellent article on Passive House buildings.

Some presentations from a Passive House conference in October, 2009 give more information about the details of construction.

See also:

New York Passive House

International Passive House Association

Passive House Institute US

Passive House Institute Germany

Passive House BKLYN

USA wins again


At 214 square meters new American homes are almost three times as large as British ones.  Average household sizes are about the same in America, Australia, and the UK, so that doesn’t explain the difference.

A post by Jayne Merkel in the New York Times talks about “When Less Was More” in American homes.