Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Secrets to a Succesful Green Office Buildng Exposed by Termites

Since our focus today is on the earth and we are officially celebrating "Earth Day," I wanted to share how others are using nature to learn how to be more eco-friendly....

There is an office building in Harare, Zimbabwe named the Eastgate Centre that uses less than 10% of the energy of a conventional office builidng. This helps the management of the building save $3.5 million a year. It does this because it was designed and built to function like Termite mounds.

Evidently, termites survive only if the inside of their homes maintains a constant 87 degrees F. For many professionals, it would be quite a challenge to design a sustainable building to maintain this constant temperature while the outside temperature fluxuates from a frigid 35 degrees F at night to a blistering 104 degrees during the day. But, the termites have it all figured out by using openings at the bottom of their mounds that can be opened or closed to maintain the flow of air that is directed through their living areas and expelled up through the top of the mount.

In order to acheive this in the office building (but with cooler indoor temperatures), the architect and engineer designed the building with fans at the first floor that continuously draws air inside the building. The air is directed up through ducts that supply the fresh air into the spaces of each floor. Then, the air is exhausted through ports in the ceilings of each floor.

So, next time you see a bug that seems like a unwanted pest, consider how we might learn from them and they might actually become a desired guest. (Unless they are eating your picnic lunch).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ground Zero Not in Additional Danger

The New York Post had a cover story titled, "Free-Dumb Tower" on Friday, April 18, 2008. In the article, they discussed how two sets of blueprints (actually, blueprints have been broadly replaced with plots and Digital prints for at least a decade now - but I guess we should not expect the Post to get that right either) for the planned Freedom Tower were discovered in a SoHo trash bin by some homeless guy. On that same day, there were numerous reports on the TV and radio where the reporter or DJ would sensationalize the dangers of how terrorists would just "drool" over such a stupid miss-hap.

Our newsletter, titled "LAD Sketch Pad" had an article about how the architect mistakenly posted security sensitive architectural drawings of the proposed embassy to built in Bagdad. This mistake, I can see would be a dumb act to follow. But having the drawings of the Freedom Tower found in a trash can does not press my buttons the same way.

After 9-11, the security of NYC has tightened but the access of drawings at the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) still remains available to anyone with the proper identification. It is not clear if the DOB protects the sight of drawings such as this building of such publicity, but for most buildings in the city, all one needs to do is visit the NYC DOB's website to view all sorts of important data of any building in the city.

Some of these tid bits of information include: the certificate of occupancy that tells how many stories the building is, what uses are allowed on each floor, how many people can occupy each floor, what the maximum structural live load that is allowed on each floor, and the block/lot address location of the building. You can also find out what architect and/or engineer signed and sealed the drawings and forms that were filed at the DOB for each trade (plumbing, mechanical, general construction) of each building. Unfortunately, it is also very easy for a low paid draftsman at any of these architectural or engineering offices to back up computer drawings of the proposed building onto a portable thumb drive and then distribute it anyway that they see fit. So, finding the drawings in a trash can is the least of our troubles.

This latest story will profit the media and possibly the homeless man that found the drawings long before any terrorist attempts to have access to those misplaced papers.

Oh, by the way, if you are still going to be uneasy about terrorist having access to drawings of your home or office building. Then rest easy, many drawings of the existing buildings in NYC have somehow vanished in the past two or three decades. They are not anywhere to be found. The paper documents and the micorfilm copies of the drawings and forms are often of renovation projects within existing buildings. Since they are renovations and not proposed new buildings, the existing superstructure and other supporting trades are not shown in any accurate and dependable detail.

So, if someone with ill-will intensions tried to use these possibly inaccurate drawings, they might find themselves punching through your neighbor's walls with plumbing risers instead of through your apartment or office space.