Our May diversion included two recent green building projects that offer a nice counterpoint to each other: new construction vs. retrofit; large vs. small; outward-facing vs. inward-looking. Despite their differences, both projects had demanding design briefs and utilised very specific materials, furniture & equipment. They raise interesting questions about payback periods for green technology; how to scale demonstration projects; how to incorporate Operations & Maintenance (O&M); and issues of design intent vs. actual use.
We started at the New School University Center, a 16-story, mixed-use educational facility that includes a dormitory and academic space. Thomas Whalen, the Director of Facilities, and his Head Engineer were kind enough to take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of this high-performance building (including co-generation plant and ice storage) while it’s under construction. It will give The New School much needed classroom, auditorium and office space. A key feature are the conditioned stairways that run across the facade (seen from the exterior), the goal of which is to serve as arteries for the building, providing both communication and social space.
Next we walked down to SoHo, where Graham Hill gave us a demonstration of LifeEdited, his 400 SF transformable apartment, which offers sleeping space for 3-4, dining space for 10-12, office space and storage for a bike and surfboard. You can read more in this New Yorker article, which came out just after our visit.