A review of three education sessions – written by Michael Iascone (CM Club Treasurer):

Mecho Presents: Industrial Design of Automated Shading Systems

Problem: Humans spend on average 90% of their lives indoors. Evolution hasn’t caught up and humans still need to spend time outdoors to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Natural light is what maintains our circadian rhythm which tells our brain when to be awake and when to get to sleep. Without natural light during the day, our eyes will be strained causing headaches, tiredness, and lack of productivity.

Solution: Mecho Shades innovates with the intention of bridging the gap between outside and inside. The basis of many designs is to help daylight reach as much space as possible. This space is called the daylight zone, and as a rule of thumb it is calculated by doubling the height of the window. The basis of Mecho’s design intent is to optimize the daylight to maintain comfort and productivity.

The design process starts with a sun/shadow study on the 3D models of the building. This model shows where crucial locations with too much or too little daylight. The special part of their process is how they automate the control of their shades. They place daylight sensors throughout the building that are connected to raise/lower, or open/close the shades. The sensors at windows measure exterior conditions such as brightness in foot-candles, this is then compared to the sensors at the work surfaces inside the building. If the ratio is too high, meaning it is much brighter outside, then the shades will partially block the daylight and the interior lights will increase brightness to create a balance and reduce eye strain. The opposite is also true on a darker cloudy day.


The Adventures of Permitting the World’s Greenest Building

When city workers sat down to establish a plan for their new city services building, they decided to set an example as a green city by taking on the Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge is a rigorous green building certification process that requires the built environment to give more than it takes, using a flower as a metaphor. Since the idea is so new many of the extreme requirements of the challenge are unallowed by the building code. Obtaining permits for the projects was an incredible task that nearly shut the project down before it even started.

The biggest issue was with using composting toilets instead of standard ones with water to flush. The permitting department was concerned about the illnesses that could form as a result of using human waste for compost. To defend the use of the composting toilets the project team submitted the certification of the equipment and had to over-design the waste vent to include a UV light to kill any bacteria that may escape. This was all done with the help of the project team from the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington. It was crucial to include experienced individuals in the process as these are all new concepts and drastic changes from standard building methods.

The key points in designing a permissible building, and getting the required permits was to get early involvement from all parties (city, code, manufacturer’s, certification agencies), accept risk and uncertainty, and to reference similar projects. If you can manage all the hard work up front, it can allow you to build a revolutionary building like this one under construction right now in Santa Monica. One that collects all its rainwater and treats it to be potable, reuse greywater for irrigation, has an on-site edible landscape, and one that can pass the rigorous Living Building Challenge.


Invisible Buildings: Why are we still talking to ourselves?

An invisible building is one that people spend time in everyday but never really pay much attention to its features and quality, or how that can affect them. People spend a majority of their time indoors, but most never take the time measure and correct the quality of the indoor environment that they spend every day in. The consequences can be serious in health and productivity. Proving that it will save money in the long run, and potentially make the building cheaper to operate. The easiest way to get started is to ask your landlord, boss, or yourself two simple questions; What are the CO2 levels in this building?, and What is its energy star score? They may not know the answers, but it will get them to look into it and maybe even get them to realize the importance.


Written by Michael Iascone (CM Club Treasurer)


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