AIA Trend Alert: Design Accents with LED Lighting

TrickHave you walked down a long, boring corridor with stark fluorescent lighting? A less than desirable experience — especially if it’s a route you take on a daily basis. Lighting manufacturer, iGuzzini showcased an interesting new product at the AIA Expo that can easily be incorporated into interior spaces to create a more inviting, memorable spaces. Its newest product, Trick, is a small, round LED light encapsulated in an extruded aluminum fixture. The product can be used to create designs that accent the wall and create a whole new movement with the light. Simply put, Trick offers endless design potential and a long-lasting, energy-efficient lighting fixture.

Sights to See While at AIA 2014

PoetryFoundationWhile there are a myriad of noteworthy buildings and architectural tours in Chicago, we turned to architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin, for a curated list of sights to see while in town. A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Kamin was a featured speaker at the Architect Live exhibit at the 2014 AIA Expo. His top recommendations include:

  • The Poetry Foundation building by John Ronan Architects
  • The Aqua tower by Studio Gang Architects
  • The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano
  • The Sullivan Center, formerly referred to as the Carson Pirie Scott Building, by Louis Henri Sullivan

Other notable projects underway include plans by legendary film director George Lucas for a Star Wars museum and the Barack Obama presidential library. Seems like we should add another visit to Chicago in our travel plans. What are your favorite buildings in the Windy City?

AIA Trend Alert: Magical Color Technology

Valspar2While it’s the result of innovative technology — not magic — we were definitely wowed by a new mobile app for Valspar paint and architectural coatings. The app allows users to scroll through an infinite color palette to find the perfect hue. If you don’t find a color you like, pick up a node device and scan an item you’d like to match. Then, the app will identify similar colors or Valspar can custom match the color — an ideal solution when architects need to carefully match interior finishes with tile, wall coverings, textiles for furniture. Valspar is also showcasing its color-shifting Kameleon architectural coating. The product features pearlescent colors that appear to shift and morph when viewed from varied angles, creating a dazzling effect for the exterior of commercial buildings.

AIA Trend Alert: Artisan Doors

RusticaThe functionality of residential doors has long been the same — they’re installed on hinges and swing in or out. However, Rustica Hardware is redefining the functionality of doors through a broad selection of “barn doors” with exceptional performance and aesthetics. A newcomer to the AIA Expo, the company had a wide array of sliding track doors on display — from wood to glass to scrap metal —  along with unique, customizable hardware. The Utah-based company uses renewable or recycled USA grown materials, and its products are proudly manufactured in the USA.

Ready for Action: AIA 2014

aia_chicagoOn the eve of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual conference, we’re rearing to go and carefully compiling our “must see” list for day one of the show. We have a full schedule of activities at the CertainTeed booth, so be sure to stop by and say hello. If you aren’t in the Windy City for the big event, we’ll do our best to share interesting insights from the exhibit hall. Drop us a line and we’ll report back to you. In the mean time, here’s what’s on our radar.

  1. Architect magazine is hosting Chicago Tribune architectural critic, Blair Kamin for a live interview session on Thursday at 11 a.m. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Kamin offers a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of urban development, public spaces and historic preservation.
  1. Bust a move at the YKK booth. The company will debut its “Do the Architect” video, offering a much-needed respite from a long day of strenuous, CEU courses.
  1. Sign the “Down with Decibels” petition to tackle unwanted noise in interior spaces. The petition was designed to rally attendees around the idea that acoustics profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment.
  1. Experience a whole new dimension of upcycling with Rail Yard Studios. The company transforms old railroad ties into coffee tables, bed frames and bookshelves that are design savvy and sustainable.
  1. Get schooled on classroom acoustics. ASSA ABLOY and CertainTeed will host a panel discussion at Learning Lounge #4067 at 1:20 p.m. From concept to installation to real-world testing, this team of experts has a compelling story to share about their work at a Pennsylvania elementary school.
  1. Ready to put your pedometer to the test? Take a walk to one of the many Chicago-area buildings designed by Perkins + Will. Check out their online map to get the scoop on all of the sites to see.

Looking ahead, there’s still two more days of exploration at AIA. What should we see and do next?

 

 

 

The Risks of Poor Acoustics in Healthcare Settings

CTC_Gyptone_Big_Curve_yellow_818x474Longer hospital stays, higher readmission rates, unnecessary medical errors, high stress among staff — these are just a few of the consequences of unwanted noise in healthcare settings. It is estimated that ambient noise levels in healthcare facilities have dramatically increased since 1972. In a UK survey conducted by the National Health Service, 40 percent of hospital patients cited noise was a major annoyance during their stay—outranking other factors such as cleanliness, quality of food, privacy and amount of staff. Additionally, new research indicates that the risk of a heart attack increases when measured noise levels exceed 65 decibels.

The good news? There are solutions. Join me on Wednesday, May 21 at 2 p.m. EST for a one-hour webinar dedicated to improving acoustics in healthcare settings. You can register for free here and earn AIA and USGBC credit.

Specifically, the Ceilings in the Healthcare Segment course will cover:

  • How evidence-based design is driving healthcare facility construction
  • Strategies for optimizing indoor environments for the best patient outcomes
  • The role of sound attenuation in protecting patient privacy
  • LEED® for Healthcare as it relates to ceilings and acoustics
  • Facility Guidelines Institute guidelines for ceilings in healthcare environments

The simple truth is that there is no excuse for poor acoustics in healthcare settings. Solutions for better acoustical control not only exist but are in reach — however, we need to ban together to truly make a difference for patients and hospital staff alike. To that end, we recently launched the “Down with Decibels” campaign and encourage you to join the movement.

 

 

 

A Celebration of Architecture

 

Eaton Center

Eaton Center

Architects are like invisible magicians. They add long-lasting intrigue, beauty, comfort and convenience to our surroundings, yet the impact of their work is rarely a topic of daily discussion. Our fast-paced lives keep us mired in chaotic schedules and to-do lists that might preclude the diurnal appreciation of our surroundings — all the more reason to take a minute and take note of National Architecture Week, April 6-12.

Spearheaded by The American Institute of Architects, National Architecture Week is an annual commemoration that aligns with the birthday of our nation’s first architect, Thomas Jefferson. It’s designed to recognize the talent and innovation of architects along with the positive contributions they make in our communities. There’s a number of ways to get involved:

  • Follow #archweek14 on Twitter. Upload pictures of your favorite home or building and add comments to posts that grab your attention.
  • Visit the CertainTeed Facebook page to see our curated list of favorite projects.

And, for ongoing inspiration — well beyond National Architecture Week — we highly recommend Architizer for its amazing photography. Of course, you are always welcome and encouraged to spend time here on our blog — we like to hear your inspirational stories all year round!

The Sound Around You

HIPHN_El Paso Corp_Cafe_1_2000Improving acoustical performance in interior spaces is part of our everyday discussion, and raising awareness of the impact of noise on people has become a leading passion of mine. In the architectural and building industries, research provides clear evidence that exposure to noise impacts healing and productivity. This research influences how we design buildings for the people who spend the majority of their time in these places — the students in a classroom, patients in a hospital, or employees in an office. However at a personal, individual level, there is great value in better understanding acoustics in our daily lives.

Most interior environments should be safeguarded against decibel levels that would harm your ability to hear, however, how does excessive noise affect your ability to concentrate and overall stress level?

Measuring the decibel level of activities throughout the day is quite easy to do by simply installing a mobile app on your smartphone, such as Decibel 10th. I encourage you to use one of these tools to monitor fluctuations in the noise around you throughout the day and take note of how you respond. Do your muscles tense while struggling to have a conversation in a loud restaurant (or does your dinner-mate wonder why you are screaming at them over a simple decision as to what wine to select)? Are you more focused at work wearing sound-canceling headphones or “squatting” in an unoccupied conference room?

As you experience different noise levels, take note of how the sounds around you measure up to these average decibel levels:

Decibel Level (dB) Activity
0 Threshold of what a healthy ear can hear
10 Soft wind
20 A peaceful apartment in the city
25-35 Leaves rustling in the wind
40 Typing on a keyboard
50 Talking in a low voice
60 Conversation
65 Sitting in a small car with motor idling; normal office noise
75-90 Traffic noise

Taking an inventory of excessive noise in our daily lives is the first step toward a more productive and healthy society. For example, a study by the Danish Cancer Society that monitored the effect of traffic noise reports that for every 10-decibel increase, the risk of heart attack went up 12 percent with increases in risk starting at only 40dB. This is one statistic of many that are shedding light on the impact of noise in our lives. How does excessive noise or poor acoustics impact your daily life? We encourage you to share your story at www.nonoisenow.com.

Acoustics – Designing Classrooms for Optimal Learning

Santa Monica Public LibraryWhat impact can you as the designer bring to a classroom setting given that you are not going to be teaching?  One of the things you potentially bring is the ability to impact the environmental acoustical value of the space.

The 21st Century classroom is a more diverse place than ever before. With the mainstreaming of children with learning disabilities, physical challenges and language barrier issues, it is more important than ever to have an acoustically efficient environment. To create a design which does not addresses the lowest common denominator just seems wrong.

This gives students a better chance of staying engaged. It is especially critical where younger students are concerned (K-5). They do not yet have the skills to fill in the words that are lost when listening to the teacher in a less-than-adequate acoustic environment.

I worked in ceiling construction earlier in my career and built hundreds of school classrooms knowing all the while that they were poorly designed spaces accountable only to the installed cost per square foot. I then moved into working with the architectural community in an effort to bring a better focus on the power of and necessity for efficient acoustic design. I have observed through numerous academic studies that the attention to acoustic design in classrooms has a significant impact on learning for all students; but especially early learners. I was also afforded the opportunity to observe this need for acoustic design close-up as the parent of an autistic child attending a public school.

Thanks to LEED taking an active part in acoustics and environmental design, this topic is now required for certification in a LEED for Schools project. It is our responsibility as designers, specifiers and advocates to put a human face on the critical importance of this topic.

I will be teaching a webinar on Classroom Acoustics on Tuesday, March 11, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. I will cover issues such as: Signal to noise ratio – reverberation time – speech intelligibility testing – how all these metrics and academic testing have shown that a quieter environment is a better learning environment – and more. 

If this is a topic of interest to you, take advantage of this free webinar by registering here: Ceilings: Classroom Acoustics (GBCI Approved)

 

Wall Assemblies for Maximum Efficiency: How Many Layers is Too Many?

SimplexOPTIMABuilding professionals spend a lot of time dealing with production construction which has dialed in efficiencies and productivity to provide the maximum assembly for the cost per square foot.  The reality is in standard construction you build things in five or six layers. This is the standard in terms of building a wall system more efficiently and we have gotten it down to a science.  Generally a six layer home will give you a solid, energy efficient, comfortable home.

Occasionally, I work with builders on projects that remind me of possibilities beyond what is the status quo.  I recently had an opportunity to work with a builder who was building a custom home whose wall systems had 13 layers.  This wall had so much redundancy and robustness built into it that I just had to ask for a chance to visit the project and see this masterpiece being built.

This was the homeowner’s instruction: They wanted a thick wall, they wanted a silent wall, they wanted a highly efficient wall for them to own.  That’s one of the key’s to this discussion- the owner is focused on what comes afterwards- not what happened before. To achieve this goal the builder is employing a combination of traditional masonry materials and cutting edge products and systems.   

In a similar fashion, a project that CertainTeed has been involved with at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia with Penn State achieves a similar goal but in a lighter and perhaps less massive assembly – to create a highly efficient wall system that can provide comfort, improve indoor air quality, better acoustics but, and here’s the rub- to still be affordable by more typical consumers.  This was done by using a 2 x 8 construction – providing a deeper wall cavity – A Blown-in-Blanket Insulation System, Weather Resistant Barrier, a Smart Vapor Retarder and Air Barrier System, a Wallboard Solution, Rigid Insulation on exterior and Insulated Vinyl Siding. This created an R30.5 exterior wall.

In both homes, products were used to address acoustics, indoor air quality and moisture control.  Do you need 13 layers?  Probably not but the pressure is certainly going to be on what layers remain to do more than they have in the past.

Thoughts?