12.008: Cincinnati Builds the World

The exhibition Cincinnati Builds the World: Local Designers. Global territory. opens tomorrow Tuesday June 26th from 6-8pm at the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (811 Race Street). Eleven design practices showing a total of 15 projects are exhibited at the gallery.

Hatchback Design: http://htchbck.com/

Stop into the gallery to check out the projects (participating designers at bottom of page). Directly below is text from the exhibition catalog (available for free at the gallery):

Design is a global territory. It is a universal language that becomes distinguishable with the specificities of a project. Design should be aesthetically pleasing and functionally competent on all scales, but the answers to those problems fluctuate. This territory, cannot be physically marked, “[Design] is [design]. There is no boundary.”  Instantaneous information exchange and overnight transportation enable designers to work internationally with ease and bring back “suitcases of knowledge” to their local work. The participating local designers are individual groups working from Cincinnati, which is building the world through these people, their projects, and stories.

The maps and climate diagrams in this catalog begin to create a framework for understanding the context of a project and a place relative to another. The information is only basic and broad, much like the detail of a world map. The stories share common generalities whose specificities are drastically different project-to-project. Setting, point-of-view, and plot resonate in the design projects and begin to show how design can communicate as a story.

CBTW is set in 9 countries on three continents. However, two design projects do not have a singular setting. Universal Symbols for Healthcare is environmental graphic design of symbols to communicate medical terms and specialties. These symbols began from rigorous research and were refined through proven testing standards in order to design the symbols that translate best to a global audience. Hablamos Juntos and the Society of Environmental Graphic Design recognized that visual design can transcend language barriers. However, it was difficult to achieve 85% approval goal for each symbol because of different meanings in particular cultures, such as symbols that represent medical aid with a Swiss cross in predominantly Muslim cultures.  The symbols are fully implemented at four test sites and are now freely available for use

Spaces Can Be Brands, Too recognizes that P&G’s workplaces are important symbols of the company. P&G’s headquarters is in Cincinnati, but it is a global company with workplaces around the world. Kolar’s project is 3-dimensional branding. Kolar uses brand guidelines and design principles that are adapted and successfully integrated in P&G workplaces in various cities. In order to do this, Kolar had to define the principles (color, shape, transparency, materials, visual style, and transition) that are locally inspired and executed while communicating a unified brand.  This is a global strategy that recognizes and works with the specifics of different

All other projects in the exhibition have an identifiable and specific setting. Each setting provides different opportunities. China began rapid development and urbanization early in the millennium. The country continues to plan for land development and large structures. Riverside Square is located on the airport highway and is intended to serve as one corner of a gateway to Taiyuan. The site is currently a vacant lot with little development surrounding it. Similarly, Mentougou Tower is to serve as a gateway to Beijing. Its observation deck provides views to the urbanized center of Beijing to the east and the natural environment of the mountains to the west.

The diversity of countries in CBTW shows that development is not concentrated in a single region, but is spread throughout the world. In stark contrast to the urbanization of China, two projects are isolated from a built environment and reside in a rural context. These projects continue to take cues from their local culture through building techniques or material experience. Working internationally is a trade-off between one’s own knowledge of design and construction combined with utilizes a culture’s techniques, strengths, and traditions as an advantage.

The buildings that rise in a setting are not always inspired by the physical place, but sometimes by the place’s culture or history. Sochi Park Adventureland will be complete for the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics. It is a combination of Russian history and culture manifest in the pavilions and attractions. Champlin Architecture incorporated principles of feng-shui into the contemporary design for a private residence in a single family development. The home opens to the exterior with varying levels of privacy to take advantage of site features. A day of shopping in Mexico City, especially as experienced in Liverpool Interlomas, is an all-day event. The building has to serve as an attraction and entertainment. The design team created the full-height atrium which pulls shoppers up to the roof-top park and gourmet area as a destination.

The general problems or opportunities that confront design become specific as the plot unfolds and reveals the complex nature of design projects. A359 originally received an invitation to submit a proposal for a public service hall in Zugdidi, Georgia. After being awarded the project, the site was relocated to Poti, Georgia and the design had to adapt. The building responds to Georgia’s initiatives to have centralized spaces for government services, to be more transparent, and to make interaction with government agencies easier for its

The Village Life Outreach Project began from the initiatives of a medical professional. Eventually there was a need for a medical building in Roche and the project began through dialogue with the Roche community. Emilio Fernandez designed the Liga Contra la Ceguera Hospital as a hospital for ophthalmology. His uncle, a well-known ophthalmologist, founded the hospital. He wanted a place to teach ophthalmology and provide affordable or free care for those that could not afford to pay a fee for what was, at the time, a rare specialty in the country. However, the revolution took place during construction and Emilio had to leave the country. The project was never completed as intended.

More than any other aspect, the designers’ relationships helped them secure the work exhibited. The client for the South China Botanical gardens contacted Rough Brothers, who then contacted SFA Architects. Their previous relationship with Rough Brothers led to involvement in the proposal submission for a new conservatory. Networking in different places often pays off, as it did for A359. A team member attended a real-estate conference in France and created a relationship that lead to their involvement with the service hall in Poti.

The multiple points-of-view in design are important aspects: designer, client, user, etc. Ferrari World’s client was Aldar Properties, a developer in the United Arab Emirates that received approval to use Ferrari’s brand. Ferrari produces an expensive, exclusive product experienced by few. Through Ferrari World, the brand gets to be experienced by all visitors. The brand extends to the Ferrari shield, viewed with cameras under the planes that fly in and out of Abu Dhabi’s airport. Jose Garcia Design envisioned the End of the World Spa, but is also part of the business development team. The design is closely linked to the value of the spa. The renderings and images become part of the package, portraying the quality and aesthetic of the spa to potential investors. The message and value must be communicated to a client before and after a project’s execution. The Park 5 development is intended for residents of different nationalities near the center of Beijing. GBBN’s design reflects an international culture and creates a feeling of exclusivity through ground floor retail and courtyard. The units were quickly filled after construction finished, responding to changing cultural demands.

Design’s story can cross language barriers because it asks general questions, similar amongst disparate particular problems. Design is a universal language–a global territory –with different dialects. You can understand similarities from afar, but specifics are revealed with more experience as your vocabulary expands. Some buildings stand out depending on your point-of-view, and each story is unique, even in similar settings. There are always options, but eventually you have to write the story.

 Participating Designers

A359 Partners in Architecture
Champlin Architecture
FRCH Design Worldwide
GBBN Architects
Jack Rouse Associates
Jose Garcia Design
Kolar Design
REZTARK Design Studio
SFA Architects
University of Cincinnati School of Design
Village Life Outreach Project


Bradley Cooper, GBBN
Exhibition Staff
Carmen Seger, Kolar Design
Danny Luegering, GBBN
Graphic Design
Hatchback Design
Elizabeth Schmidt, GBBN
Stefan Cornelis, GBBN
Mary Jo Minerich, GBBN



#12.007.02: EUI, ARC vs. NREL

Author: Chad Edwards

In the previous post, we took a look at the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) rating as a standard metric for a building’s  energy economy and its relationship with the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). We made a connection between these metrics and a Net Zero Energy Capable (ZEC) or NZE Ready building. Let’s take a look at how this can be applied to a built facility.

The Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region American Red Cross (ARC) needed to leave their outdated space on 720 Broadway downtown. They were interested in a highly flexible building that would remain emergency-response ready during the worst weather Cincinnati can muster. Their new headquarters needed to be a statement building, as sustainable as their budget allowed with LEED Silver as a minimum target, close to 50,000 square feet, squeezed between a park and a freeway. They needed all of these attributes while making sure to have the best value for their non-profit mission and being good stewards of their financial resources. The American Red Cross board had a great attitude regarding high performance issues, if the suggestion came with a 10 year pay back or less, then it was worthy of consideration. With this threshold, the design team developed project specific design solutions, instead of focusing on rule-of-thumb scenarios.

Energy modeling is a tool that was incorporated early. Instead of simply using the tool to document what had been designed to document the energy efficiency per the LEED Rating System, the design team used several models to help make design decisions. Duke Energy assisted with several comparisons of competing systems. This helped the design team get specific data to make better decisions. Alternate 1 included water source heat pumps with air distribution systems, dedicated outside air units using geoexchange closed loop wells, and an electronic building automation system (BAS). Alternate 2 employed water source heat pumps with air distribution systems, dedicated outside air units using roof mounted cooling towers and a BAS. Alternate 3 included two 75 or80 ton air cooled chillers, central air handling equipment on each floor with full economizer capability, VAV air distribution system and a BAS.

It is important to understand the difference between geothermal and geoexchange mentioned in Alternate 1. The design and construction industry and user culture have wrongfully merged the two terms leading to  some confusion and unintended consequences.  Geothermal taps into the heat of the earth 2 to 3 miles deep.  This heat is most often used by a utility operator or central plant for a community or campus and is considered a renewable energy technology. As architects and engineers design systems for clients with renewable energy criteria or mandates, this is a critical point.

Geoexchange uses the earth as a heat sink, exchanging the building’s heat in the summertime into the earth or pond while utilizing the lower temperatures to cool the building. Geoexchange wells are usually between 250-400 feet deep. Geoexchange is an energy efficient measure, not an energy source. Tempering from 55 degrees is less energy intensive than tempering from 10 degrees in the winter time. In the summer, utilizing the 55 degrees found in the earth is an energy bonus when removing heat from the interior spaces.

The energy models proved useful in understanding the best system for the Red Cross and their 10 year payback approach. It was widely accepted and predicted that the geoexchange system would prevail. A test well was drilled to study the conductivity of the soil. As geoexchange pipes are installed in the well, conductive grout is used to maintain continual contact and transfer of energy with the surrounding soil. This conductive grout is designed to match the surrounding conductivity of the soil. If it is not as conductive, then the grout will not transfer the maximum energy into the soil.  If the conductivity is greater than the soil, then money is wasted.  The tipping point for the Red Cross project was the price of the conductivity grout and its installation. In the end, the water source heat pumps of Alternate 2 were installed, which was counter to the team’s original assumption. The commissioning agent even ran through a second analysis to verify the findings, and a university ran through the scenario a third time for confirmation due to the counter-intuitive results.

With our upfront study, how does the Red Cross building compare with the national average as well as the top efficient structures in the country? Through systems analysis, lighting selection and controls, a strong thermal envelope, and other approaches, the building is able to achieve a greatly reduced EUI. The first year’s energy data calculates an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 35.4. We expect year two to be even better due to the facility team making adjustments and the mild winter this past year. To put that into perspective, per the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2003 national average for this building type is 90. This national average is the 2030 metric that several architects measure against as base line. Further, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy’s flagship Net Zero Energy facility, has an EUI of 35.0. It is important to keep in mind, that the NREL design team worked very closely with the user to design policies built around plug loads, for instance using laptops in lieu of PC workstations. In the 35 EUI range, plug loads can account for a quarter or more of the energy consumption of a building. While this is a significant contributor to the energy usage of a faculty, in the case of the Red Cross, plug loads were not within the scope of the design team. Looking at the costs, the NREL was built to a tune of $288 per square foot, while the American Red Cross building came in at $117 per square foot. That’s $8.23 per EUI for NREL compared to just $3.30 per EUI for the Red Cross. The end result is a very high performing building while staying within, even under, the given budget. Having a high performing building does not have to drive the costs out of control. It is important to think holistically and look for tradeoffs to maximize the budgeted dollars.

The building is not just a high performing building, the design, while award winning, has also served the Red Cross as a billboard to the community. The building also serves the community by hosting life-saving training sessions and seminars, as well as key sustainable events, such as the Green Umbrella Community Forums.  This is a great way for the general public to learn about more advanced sustainability strategies, not just energy efficiency, such as the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati funded vegetated roof and bioswale.


“(The) bottom line is that the building is doing what it was designed to do…be a green building, save on energy costs, be a training/community center and when the tornadoes hit with a flick of the switch a fully functioning Disaster Operations Center.  We are very pleased with how the building is performing and serving the community.”

Steve Drefahl, Chief Operating Officer, Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region American Red Cross


Chad Edwards is a principal of emersion DESIGN LLC which has assisted in Melink Corporation’s Net Zero Energy retrofit, created sustainability guidelines for MSD’s nation leading Lick Run Watershed Master Plan and is guiding Village Life Outreach through a Master Plan for the Roche Health Clinic Campus in Tanzania.