March 17, 2017

Why Architects should consider the use of steam energy on their next building

By Lucas Gray
In 2015, about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption was consumed in buildings. A large percentage of that energy use was for heating. Architects have a tremendous opportunity to dramatically impact our societal energy consumption by designing buildings that are more efficient. One strategy to achieve this is to look at systems on a much larger scale. Rather than thinking about one building at a time, district or city-wide heating systems could quickly and cheaply increase the efficiency of buildings, saving money and resources, and better addressing climate change.

One strategy to consider when designing a new building in a major city is to consider utilizing steam to heat the building. Cities like New York, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles, St-Louis, Denver and others have central steam plants which can be routed to individual projects. City-wide, or district-wide systems can be more efficient and affordable than having individual furnaces and heating systems in each building. Using steam along with a technology called a Vertical Flooded Heat Exchanger, has many design advantages including not needing chimneys and vents - saving space within the building on top of the energy savings. 

Cities aren't the only places you can find steam systems available. Major hospitals, big university campuses, and other institutions often have steam available on site. It is also worth considering this sort of shared system when designing and building larger scale projects, corporate campuses, new urban districts or neighborhood developments. It is important to consider this sort of technology early on in the planning phases of larger scale developments. 

Using a vertical flooded steam heat exchanger is basically using a Steam Fired Boiler - heating a complete hot water or glycol loop with high pressure steam instead of using natural gas or oil. This is a great way to move away from carbon based heating systems.

There are many advantages to using high pressure steam and a vertical flooded heat exchanger including the following:
  • Takes up to 40% less space in the mechanical room
  • The unit is built with a high pressure ASME stamp to avoid the need for a steam pressure safety valve, meaning no need for a safety vent to the roof or exterior wall.
  • The vertical flooded steam heat exchanger design (VFSHTD), does not require any condensate pump, again there is no need for a vent to the roof or exterior wall for the flash tank.
  • Because there is no combustion, there is no chimney and no gas vents needed on the exterior
  • LEED Credits: Central Steam is most often produced by burning natural gas to generate electric power through a steam turbine or gas turbine. It is a relatively green energy and qualifies for LEED points.
  • The VFSHTD requires much less maintenance that conventional steam heat exchanger designs.
  • Steam is very reliable. In particular, if there is a steam leak it is relatively safe on not considered an emergency. You can continue to run the building heat or domestic hot water system and wait for the next scheduled shut down. 
  • Because the flooding design works at a constant steam pressure, they don’t need any vacuum breaker. Meaning that they don’t inject O2 in the condensate return time, resulting in about 5 times less corrosion than a conventional design.
  • It requires much less maintenance than a natural gas boiler or domestic heater
  • EPA Rules: The Environmental Protection Agency has been increasing regulations for air pollution control. Major cities and universities are required to produce air pollution reports for every chimney they have, including smaller ones. This mean more tasks for facility managers. With a chimney free design, this can save a lot of time and money.
By integrating a steam energy system, an architect can deliver a better looking building with less demand on access to the facade or roof, saving space with a smaller mechanical room to produce building heat, and offering a system that requires less steam to do the same job, with lower maintenance than conventional steam system design. Architects often look to design their buildings with minimal interuptions on the facade and don't want to have exposed mechanical units on the roof. Utilizing a shared steam system would be a great opportunity to increase the freedom for design expression. 

Maxi-Therm offers a complete solution with easy start-up and shut-down sequencing, web access to the control panel, thus offering immediate assistance, complete custom made skid packages which are easy to install, energy savings and a complete technical support for engineers and building owners.

To learn more about Maxi-Therm’s Vertical Flooded Steam Heat Exchanger visit: www.maxi-therm.net or call (514) 351-1001

March 10, 2017

9/11 15 Years Later - Global Memorial Visions for a Global Event

In 2003, a global competition was held to design the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan – 5,201 entries from 60+ countries from architects, artists and inspired amateurs. Each entry was photographed and put into an online archive, where they exist today: http://www.wtcsitememorial.org/submissions.html .
Until 2011, no one since the jury had ever explored these ideas. I became curious, searching for memorial ideas beyond traditional greyscale structures with water, flowers and trees. After more than 7 months of review, I narrowed it down to a few hundred. They were colorful; they were “powered by” technology, they engaged and involved visitors in unique ways, a few categories that later became the book chapters.
They just made me more curious: Why did these people believe a memorial should be dramatically different? How did they come up with these designs? Was it something about 9/11? I decided to ask them…
Four years searching and interviewing enabled me to learn their stories and compile them into a book. It was a soulful journey. Some people had died and I wound up talking to family and friends. Some people I never found. Very few did not want to be involved.
So a few examples to whet your curiosity...
Stuart Math told me his inspiration was something that focused on “people, not murders” with memory represented as “ephemeral, not concrete.” Stuart’s design envisions a means for a visitor to select a victim’s name and then…
“…reads the name into a microphone…software randomly plays back the recorded names...At the same time the name is being played back, the name is highlighted on…computer monitors (as if lighting a candle). The audio is processed on playback so the playback sounds like a whisper.”
Ehren Joseph envisioned lighted vertical beacons to represent the dead, the colored lights for each being unique through their “Southern Blot DNA patterns”, using red, white and blue glass lights:
The idea mainly came from his work with the victim’s families, knowing that DNA patterns were being used to identify remains. He and they struggled with “how could they create memories” if there were no remains.
Perhaps even more interesting, Ehren told me that his family came from Iraq and he was fascinated by the use of mathematical constructs in Islamic art – the DNA patterns are similar…
Christopher Wright’s design features a “people-powered turntable” engaged by visitors to symbolize working together for “peace, hope and progress – the opposite of terrorism, grief and loss.”

“The memorial is…a symbolic tool for changing the world – pointing out that each individual plays a role in determining the direction of the world.”
My editor asked me to write an “ending” – asking “what did you learn?” Thinking about my journey, I wrote that these creative responses to 9/11 were wrestling with a few basic questions:
  • What is a memorial for?
  • Who is a memorial for?
  • What about 9/11 required a different kind of memorial?
  • What will (or should) 9/11 mean in 10 years, 50 years or more?

The 15th anniversary calls us to continue the dialogue.

February 20, 2017

Where We Stand: AIA Statement on Immigration and Travel Restrictions

As discussion on immigration continues, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) today joins with many American businesses, industries and universities in calling for fair and impartial immigration policies, and in expressing deep concern about policies that restrict immigration from specific countries or regions based on overly broad factors, including religion.

“Beyond the essential considerations of fairness and equity, restrictions targeting specific areas of the world can have profoundly negative business impacts,” said AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA. “Professional service exports are a key contributor to AIA member firms and their earnings. In fact, the entire international building development, design and construction sector relies heavily on reciprocal treatment and on the fair and ethical ability to travel, reside and work across national boundaries.”

In addition to the need for regular legal travel by employees, clients and associates, many American architecture firms—like other industries and businesses—must be able to attract and retain qualified, skilled people from other countries in order to remain competitive. Targeted immigration restrictions, particularly when applied unfairly and without warning, can thwart recruiting efforts. They can also greatly inhibit business activity.

Finally, unilateral travel restrictions can damage the future of many professions, from medicine to architecture. In higher education, international students and faculty are essential to the future of our profession. The AIA also participates in international professional bodies which sponsor programs and activities that rely on the necessary movement of all parties.


The following statistics further support AIA’s concern about the impact any newly imposed immigration or travel restrictions will have on the broader design and construction industry:
  • Immigrant labor accounts for 23% of the total construction workforce in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, American Community Survey.)
  • In 2015, billings by U.S. architectural firms for international projects totaled $1.6 billion. Projects in Middle East countries accounted for 18% of those billings. (Source: AIA Firm Survey Report, 2015.)
  • Half of U.S. large architectural firms have offices in the Middle East/North Africa, which is the largest reported share of international offices. (Source: AIA Firm Survey, 2015.)
  • In the 2014-2015 school year, 4,283 architecture students at accredited programs were nonresident aliens. This represents 18 percent of the total—up from 6 percent in 2009. (source: NAAB annual report)
  • In 2015, 889 of the 6,348 total degrees (14 percent) were awarded to nonresident aliens. (source: NAAB annual report)
  • The AIA has 1,538 members licensed outside U.S. (887 International; 651 within U.S.).

The AIA stands for values and principles that promote free movement and association. Our profession, like the entire building industry, benefits from the contributions of immigrants and others outside of the United States, and from visa and immigration policies that are uniform, transparent, fair and free from arbitrary implementation.

About The American Institute of ArchitectsFounded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects consistently work to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

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