Build Boston 2010
In other cases, Kuttner added, technology now allows museum-goers to handle and even "play" with rare documents that would otherwise be out of reach behind multiple layers of security glass and alarm systems. At the Commonwealth Museum and Massachusetts Archives in Boston, prize documents such as the Declaration of Independence (one of the original 14 "authentic copies" authorized by Congress in 1777), and Paul Revere's expense report for his famous ride, are not only displayed in special cases that preserve and protect them, but also as digital copies on what appears to be a children's play table. This "table" is really a multi-touch display that allows digital depictions of the documents to be examined closely and even "pushed" over to a friend on the other side of the table.
Printing a 3D Model
If we can now build architectural buildings in the factory, it only makes sense that we can now "build" 3D architectural models that come out of a printer. Impressive models can indeed be created this way, as demonstrated by David Munson of Munson3d and Olimpio DeMarco of Z Corporation. The 3D printers by Z Corp. have long been used in manufacturing for prototyping purposes, but they are now gaining a stronger foothold in the architectural design industry. Service bureaus specializing in 3D printing are popping up, and some architectural firms are buying these 3D printers as a cost-effective alternative to the time-consuming process of building models by hand.
The 3D printing technology exemplified by the Z Corp printers uses a gypsum-powder product that is laid in layers 0.004 inches (0.10 millimeters) thick. Areas to be solidified are bound by a conventional inkjet printer head that might also add specific coloring as specified by the CAD model. An entry-level printer at about $15,000 can produce a maximum size model of 15 inches by 10 inches by 8 inches (38 by 25 by 20 centimeters). Of course, as Munson said, larger size models can built in parts, so the size of the printer need not limit the overall model size.
However, there is still quite an art to building 3D models using these printers, according to Munson. Often a consultant such as himself must take the architect's CAD model and adjust it to add hidden stiffening members, to accommodate the inherent structural limitations of the gypsum material, and to minimize modeling costs by removing nonvisible and redundant parts.
The results can be quite impressive, as demonstrated by Munson's models of the Ordos Music Hall in Ordos, China (designed by Cannon Design) and the New York City primary school P.S. 331-K (by Mount Vernon Group Architects). Even much of the entourage (cars and people) in these models was created by a 3D printer working from a CAD model. Another advantage of printing 3D models, added Munson, is that multiple versions of the same model can easily be built at different scales and for different purposes, much like hitting the "copy" button on a photocopy machine again after altering a few settings.
Another leap forward in technology has occurred with LEDs — light-emitting diodes. No longer limited to indicators or Christmas lights, LEDs are starting to be used as primary light sources and can provide up to 60 percent savings in lighting energy use if used in the right locations for the right purposes. They can now provide 100 lumens per watt — compared to 70 for compact fluorescents — and there are now even LED "bulbs" that can screw into conventional light sockets. LEDs are rapidly becoming the lighting source of choice for indoor commercial and institutional lighting (think gymnasiums) and indoor directional lighting.
Lighting engineer Kelly Cota of National Grid described the New England utility's plan to provide $5.8 billion in incentives aiming to reduce customers' electricity consumption by 13 million kilowatts over three years. A skeptic might ask why a utility company would spend so much money to reduce consumption of its own product. Cota answered that most utilities are no longer in the energy production business but rather in the energy distribution business, and by reducing overall demand, they can avoid or delay costly upgrades to existing distribution infrastructure. Also, she noted that these incentive programs are primarily funded by customers through bill surcharges (noted for "renewable energy" and "energy efficiency"), adding that by taking advantage of these incentive programs, you are actually applying to get your own money back!
Changes to Building Codes
The biggest seminar halls were reserved for the sessions on building codes, as architects and engineers made it their business to learn about the latest new codes that have been instituted and the major changes these new codes would mandate. Virtually all U.S. states with a statewide building code have now accepted as their model code the International Building Code (IBC) for new construction and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) for renovations and additions. It may vary whether they are following the 2000, 2003, 2006, or 2009 versions of those model codes but, as of this writing, 17 states are now up to the IBC 2009 level and ten are up to the IEBC 2009 level.
For Massachusetts architects, February 6, 2011, is "D-Day," when compliance with the 7th edition of the Massachusetts State Building Code gives way to the 8th edition, and use of the state's homegrown Chapter 34 for renovating existing buildings gives way to a predominant use of the 2009 IEBC, with some separately published "front-end" amendments.
Architects will now need to understand three different methods for achieving compliance: a) a prescriptive method, intended for newer buildings with significant seismic requirements; b) a work-area method, based on the level of work intended and applied to the work area only; and c) a performance-compliance method of achieving credit points for various safety provisions (such as sprinklers), much like the National Building Code from BOCA (Building Officials and Code Administrators International). In another major change, requirements for sprinklers for structures over 7,500 gross square feet (700 square meters) will now be uniformly reviewed and enforced by local fire departments in all municipalities rather than by the local building departments; all residential occupancies are exempted from this requirement.
For new buildings, Massachusetts architects must similarly learn the new provisions of the 2009 IBC, which is the model for the newly adopted Massachusetts State Building Code, 8th Edition. The state incorporates some special amendments for stricter means-of-egress requirements for nightclub occupancies.
No major new energy-efficiency requirements have been added, but architects need to watch out for local jurisdictions' option to use "stretch codes," which mandate a higher level of compliance. In this way, Massachusetts is part of a growing trend among progressive states and local jurisdictions to go above and beyond the governing building code to adopt what the U.S. Department of Energy calls "stretch codes," "above codes," or "beyond codes." The scope of such codes can vary widely from requiring 10 percent greater energy-efficiency than the current International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), to requiring compliance with a next-level IECC, to specifying that buildings meet LEED standards. There are now well over 300 instances of such programs adopted by states and jurisdictions nationwide.
And there is no rest for the weary, as the One- and Two-Family Dwelling Code for the Massachusetts 8th Edition (based on the 2009 IRC, International Residential Code) is in the pipeline for adoption in spring 2011. And the new 2012 IBC model code is also due out in 2011, which will instigate yet another round of code updates.
While seminars on such code changes may indeed invoke a Sisyphus-like fatigue in architects as we continually relearn code-compliance stipulations, there was no denying the overall inspiration and energy of the rest of Build Boston 2010.
Evan H. Shu, FAIA is an architect with Shu Associates Inc. in Melrose, Massachusetts. He is a contributor to The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice and is publisher and editor of Cheap Tricks, a monthly newsletter for DataCAD users and computer-using architects. More by Evan Shu
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