Building Performance

Weather's Impact on Buildings

Heavy rains have soaked the Chicago area in recent weeks and some long-range forecasts point to above-normal temperatures through the fall followed by a snowy, frigid winter. These weather patterns have definite impact on building performance.

As the AIA shares on their website: "Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative." As temperatures and weather become more extreme, regular building envelope evaluation, repair and preservation become key to maintaining that resilience.

The accumulated impact of Chicago’s wind, rain and snow can present in many ways during the life of the exterior of a building. Often, deterioration may have already occurred to masonry and supporting steel by the time effects are obvious. Regular examination is one way to ensure problems are identified before they become severe.

The pictures at right show our team in the midst of a recent inspection high above downtown Chicago. Is your building prepared to stand the rigors of a harsh winter? Drop me a note if you’d like to know more.

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Climate Change Mitigation

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

The high temperatures of recent days has, for some, brought back memories of the deadly July 1995 heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people. While our recent high temperatures don’t come close to breaking records, it should prompt another conversation about our changing climate and our industry’s response to mitigating the impact of a warming planet. In recent weeks, the Royal Institute of British Architects made news by declaring a state of climate emergency.

Last December, 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA issued an open letter detailing the AIA's stance on climate change mitigation, steps the Institute has taken to confront the issue, and how architects can get involved. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Climate change and the heightened severity of weather events will cause increased loss of human life, more frequent crop failure, and more displaced people. This will destabilize governments, increase the risk of conflict, and hurt the global economy…The science is irrefutable.

The building sector accounts for roughly 40 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions. By achieving significant emissions reduction in our own sector of the economy, we can contribute a large portion of the solution.

As architects, we have unique skills to explain the challenge to a wide audience, and the design knowledge to find more ways to reduce building emissions. We are equal to the task. But we must not wait.

Buildings are major producers of carbon, so climate change poses both major obstacles and opportunities for architects around the world. I am proud to be a part of an industry that is taking a stand. You can read the entire call to action here.

Healthy Buildings

Source: Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment

Source: Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment

The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) was officially launched last month at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. At the opening event, the Center's Director Gina McCarthy said “C-CHANGE will ensure that cutting-edge science produced by Harvard Chan School is actionable—that the public understands it, and that it gets into the hands of decision-makers so that science drives decisions.” Such science includes research on healthier buildings.

ArchDaily reported that C-CHANGE's Healthy Buildings team have released a list that "details the simple foundations of making a building healthy." The 9 foundations for healthy buildings include ventilation, air quality, thermal health, moisture, dust/pests, safety/security, water quality, noise and lighting/views. The team created these foundations as a standardized, holistic approach to understanding how buildings impact the people inside them. In their report, the team explains that these nine factors can be assessed using performance metrics to show how a building’s health functions can be improved or optimized. Such assessments are among our expertise.

The Center's full 36-page report is available here.

Earth Day 2017

April 22 is Earth Day, the annual effort to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The date was originally chosen (47 years ago) in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what the organizer conceived as an "environmental teach-in" for students. Today the event is global, and various sectors use the occasion to mark their commitment to a healthy planet - including architects!

Thanks to the work of organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, the AIA and others, building owners and architects are finding ways to design, build, restore and maintain structures that allow people, communities, and our planet to thrive. Today seems like an appropriate time to share a portion of AIA's statement on sustainability:

What is sustainability? 

Sustainability is about positioning current and future generations for prosperity by reducing buildings’ impact on the environment, restoring our natural resources and creating safe and vibrant communities.  When architecture is sustainable, it performs to its highest design potential: producing not consuming; providing resilient structures and communities that withstand the onslaughts of both natural and man-made disasters; and fostering opportunities for health and well-being. 

Why is sustainability important?

Sustainability is a key element of the architecture profession’s approach to design in the 21st century as it tackles the compounding global challenges of resource availability, water quality and increasing pollution. It is part of an architect’s approach to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Community sustainability goals are fulfilled in large part by an architect’s ability to create practical solutions to the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and the pursuit of more connected, healthier communities.

To read more about the AIA's commitment to sustainability, click here. Of course, I'm happy to chat about the topic with you at any time.