Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

1. University of Maryland Wins Solar Decathlon 2011 The University of Maryland’s WaterShed house is the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon. Purdue University’s INhome took second place, and New Zealand’s (Victoria University of Wellington) First Light house took third place.

2.  2011 Evergreen Awards Greenhouse Winner The house at 3716 Springfield is one of the most unusual spec houses in the United States. At 2,640 square feet, it is not particularly large or imposing. But in the midst of the sedate environs of Kansas City, Kan., its contemporary lines are startling—it looks like a rendering that has been magically Photoshopped onto its site. And, unlike most spec homes, it was designed to be a net-zero-energy house, with rooftop photovoltaics (PV) and a 25-foot-tall wind turbine in the backyard.

3. Designing for Design We are architects and designers. While we frequently perform many roles and an assortment of tasks, we are dedicated to the design as both activity and outcome. Maybe we’re just wired a bit differently: We don’t fit neatly into cubicles, we thrive on deadlines, we work odd hours, and we constantly look for better solutions.

4. Making It Fit If not the European headquarters of KPMG, 15 Canada Square could have been just another box. Before the accounting and professional-services firm, one of the four largest in the world, agreed with developer Canary Wharf Group to take ownership of this metropolitan London office, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates’ (KPF) base building design had not included the atrium that runs the full height of the 15-story tower. Nor had KPF conceived the signature three-story “cassettes” that march up the building’s southwestern corner. The original building had more of a traditional lobby without atriums; the cassettes were designed by KPF in response to KPMG’s needs.

5. Solar Decathlon Launches at West Potomac Park Sept. 22 marked the beginning of the fourth biennial Solar Decathlon, a collegiate green-building competition sponsored by the Department of Energy and located at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park. Over the course of two weeks, solar-powered houses from 20 teams will be judged by a panel of experts on their architecture, engineering, market appeal, hot-water generation, energy balance, and the ambiance of a dinner party that each house will host next week. For the first time, organizers will also evaluate structures by their affordability.

Credit: Charles Davis Smith - AIA Photog

6. All Systems Go For Net-Zero School districts across the country are watching a new middle school in Irving, Texas, for results of extensive efforts to design and build the nation’s largest net-zero-energy public K–12 school. So far, says the architect, those efforts have been successful as Lady Bird Johnson Middle School is exceeding expectations for on-site electricity production and performance efficiencies during its first months. The real test, however, will come in the fall of 2012 when Johnson Middle School celebrates its first anniversary. That’s when the Irving Independent School District (ISD) plans to share data on the school’s first 12 months of operation.


7. Invitation to Learn In northern San Diego County, Calif., ocean breezes work their way up through the valley to Palomar College in San Marcos. Panoramic views to the coastal mountain range, ample sunshine, and moderate weather conditions justifiably beckon students outdoors. When Irvine, Calif.–based design firm LPA set out to create Palomar’s new Multi-Disciplinary Building (MD Building), principal Glenn Carels, AIA, was determined to have nature play a prominent role.

Robert Benson

8. Preventative Measures It’s rare to find a company genuinely enthusiastic about getting its employees out of the office to enjoy the fresh air, soak up the sunshine, and find a peaceful equilibrium in the day, but BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) built its 950,000-square-foot facility with a deliberate focus on this goal. The statewide health insurer’s ingrained culture of caring for the well-being of its 3 million members extended to its 5,300 employees during the consolidation of 10 owned and leased spaces in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn.

Jonathan Hillyer

9. Architecture Aloft To many architects, the opportunity to redesign a tall, underused space in an old building would represent something of a blank slate. The instinct to fill the area would be strong—to subdivide the interior, add floors, leave some kind of indelible mark. What a team of architects did at Georgia Institute of Technology’s Hinman Research Building, however, was far more unusual—making a 50-foot-high bay functional and sustainable in a light and historically referential way.

10. Evergreen Awards Special Recognition Emerging technologies are expensive, and using them to develop an energy-positive glass house in a northern climate is certainly no exception. The underlying principles are well-established: advanced glazing and shading systems, thermal mass, building-integrated solar panels, and energy monitoring. But at its heart is a series of elaborate technology interfaces that are not exactly reproducible on a grand scale.