Fitting In: Appease the Nimbys with appropriate designs, and they might not even know you’re there

STOP; LOOK AROUND; CONSIDER YOUR SURROUNDINGS carefully. This is good advice in most situations in life, but in the business of in file, development it can mean the difference between a sweet margin on a hot project and a boot in the backside by a horde of naysaying homeowners. It’s all in how you approach it.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, infill projects have become a profitable niche for small- and medium-size builders. "Sites can be tough to find and approvals difficult, but there is a strong demand and little competition," says Michael Lander of the Lander Group, a builder/developer carving out his niche in the Minneapolis market. Although the NAHB doesn’t separate infill statistics, they acknowledge the trend. "It’s happening, it’s upscale and expensive, and the definition changes all the time," says Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research at the NAHB.

But there is a great deal of resistance to infill. Too many builders have set a poor precedent of ignoring context and community concerns, cramming over-scaled, inappropriate units onto tiny lots, and creating a backlash against these types of projects. As a result, zoning in many jurisdictions has gone overboard. "If you don’t start building compatible designs, you will get citizens going to city hail and saying you can’t build anything more than a 1,500-square-foot bungalow," says architect Bill Sutton who designs infill projects in Northern Virginia.

Selling the neighbors on an idea is more than half the battle, and the normal process of subdivision development is gone. "That old-school, ‘Buckaroo Bonzai’ approach is not going to get you anywhere on these projects," says Sutton. "You can’t just muscle your way in there, you have to find creative ways to address problems."

Lander prides himself on working well with neighbors. He starts meeting with them early, treats them like clients, and has even found that their input provides insightful ideas for design and planning. "They were there first, and they just want some respect," he notes, "so listening to them and addressing their concerns makes for a much less contentious atmosphere."

And, to be fair, sometimes the neighbors have a point: Although infill development can drive up land values in older areas, it can also alter the character that made the community attractive in the first place. For example, the average square footage of a new home is more than 2,200 square feet, compared with 1950, when it was 1,000 square feet. So squeezing high-end units with spacious gourmet kitchens, luxury master suites, home offices, and generous secondary bedrooms into existing neighborhoods is tricky.

Sometimes making it work requires some fast talking and true innovation. After meeting with a builder who was planning to throw up five McMansions on an infill lot and call it a day, Towson, Md.–based architect Michael Medic convinced the client otherwise. He sold him on a land plan and architecture that would blend seamlessly into the fabric of the neighborhood. "We reworked the plan to include 10 lots with an alley and both groups of houses fronting on the street," Medic notes. "It created a good looking product and doubled the density for the builder."

Portland, Ore., architect Brett Schulz advises builders and architects to set aside preconceived notions of elevations and floor plans. "It’s so obvious when they drop in a plan from some other project," he says. Builders don’t have to duplicate the existing homes, just try to complement them. "Responding to what is already happening there is what makes infill projects successful."

SEE JAKE’S RUN

WHEN DEVELOPER NICK STEARNS BOUGHT HIS CIRCA 1910 home in a historic Portland, Ore., neighborhood it came with a lucrative bonus right in the backyard. The home’s 7,000-square-foot rear yard was a separate tax lot. The site is just blocks from the shops and restaurants of the area’s now trendy 23rd Avenue, and Stearns seized the opportunity to develop a residential infill project to appeal to professional couples eager to live in this convenient, established neighborhood.

Named for Stearns’ Chesapeake Bay retriever, who used to romp in the yard, Jake’s Run is wedged into a steeply sloping site. Three, four-story townhouse units and a simple shingled carriage house, containing a pair of smaller, two-story units, flank an English Mews-like center brick court. "In Portland we say that form follows parking," explains Schulz of Fletcher Farr Ayote. The site is zoned for one parking spot per unit, and that’s what drove the plan. Three two-car garages for the townhome units are tucked beneath the carriage house, and the residents of the carriage house park in front on the street.

For design inspiration, the architect and developer compiled dozens of photos of the surrounding architecture. They also knocked on doors and visited neighbors, some of whom live in homes designed by Wade Pipes, a well-respected early Portland architect who practiced from the 1910S to the 1930s. They settled on what Schulz describes as a pure expression of English Arts and Crafts, characterized by stucco exteriors, steeply pitched roofs, square window bays, and very little overhangs. "Some mistake it for Tudor, but it doesn’t have the heavy timbers," he says.

Authentic materials provide the project with a look of permanence. Schulz wrapped the townhomes entirely in smooth, 1-inch-thick cement stucco plaster, the square bays are clad in clear-stained cedar siding with old-fashioned mitered corners, and the windows are solid fir with a clear finish. The carriage house is clad with cedar shingles on all sides, and conventional, off-the-shelf garage doors were dressed up with applied cedar and fir trim. "It added some weight, so we had to use extra heavy springs on the doors to help lift them up," Schulz notes.

Inside, hand-forged iron railings, art glass, period tiles and fixtures, quarter sawn oak floors, and custom-made, clear-stained fir jazz up the typical row house designs. Fir cabinets and slab slate countertops create a dramatic kitchen. "The finishes are a really refreshing break from the ubiquitous cherry and granite," says Schulz.

The attention to scale and detail generated positive reactions from the community, and the team was even commended by a city council member, who declared that Jake’s Run was an example for all infill builders. "I’ve done a lot of projects, but I’ve enjoyed this one more than anything in my career," says Schulz, who is proud of the enduring appeal of the design. "It was especially gratifying when passersby would stop to admire the quality of the restoration we were doing."

WELL SUITED

LIKE MOST NATIONAL BUILDERS, BROOKFIELD HOMES’ Washington division has a vast repertoire of standard plans, any of which it could have churned out and plopped on the infill parcel it acquired in Falls Church, Va., an upscale neighborhood just outside of Washington. But Brookfield didn’t.

The company acquired the site from its original owners, and the deal included the old family home, which, in its current state of disrepair, resembled the Bates Motel. "The house has a lot of history, so instead of tearing it down we sold it to someone who will restore it," says Chip Devine, vice president of operations and construction.

The wonderfully situated, 12-acre parcel is a rare find in this area, and Brookfield realized that it deserved careful attention and a unique product. Although there were no covenants or restrictions on what it could build, the designs for the new 28-unit Highland View project relate more closely to historic homes than the surrounding post-war ranchers.

"We didn’t want to duplicate those designs because we didn’t think that it was great architecture," Devine says. "Instead we chose a more classic Washington style." He explored grand old neighborhoods such as Chevy Chase, Md., and Cleveland Park in Washington for inspiration. "We drove around with our digital camera and took pictures of the details," he says. "Then we took the slide show to the architects."

The result is a modern interpretation of traditional designs. "They are a combination of Craftsman and brick Cotswold-style cottages," says architect Bill Sutton of Sutton Yantis Associates in Vienna, Va. A stone foundation, deep front porch, properly scaled columns, deep eave overhangs with extra trim, bracket details, and ganged windows create a pleasant facade that seems right at home in the mature setting. "It’s all very subtle and authentic," notes Devine. Maintaining a high quality of exterior materials is something on which the builder would not compromise, so Brookfield creates all of the custom features in its own mill.

Four-sided architecture, with fenestration on all sides, was also a priority. "On a tight lot people have to look at the house next door, and the worst thing is to face a sea of aluminum," says Devine. At $250 to $300 each, all those windows do add to the cost, but they make up for it in the sales prices that average $780,000, with some topping out at $I million with options and upgrades.

Devine and Sutton went out of their way to create an addition to the community that elevates the aesthetic quality as well as the land values. And although the neighbors’ initial reaction to development was hostile, the experience has turned out to be a pleasant one for all involved. "You have to understand that no one wants change in their backyard," says Devine. "But we kept working with them, and eventually they saw the value." Highland View has caused home prices to rise and has sparked a new wave of remodeling projects.

TWO-FACED

THE SUMMIT GROTTO CONDOMINIUMS LOOK LIKE THEY have nothing in common with each other, and that’s exactly what builder/developer Michael Lander intended. The eclectic character of the new buildings enables them to fit seamlessly into one of St. Paul, Minn.’s original neighborhoods.

The back-to-back condos turn the corner of Grotto Street and Summit Avenue, which was developed in the 1880s and is home to the Governor’s mansion and the grand addresses of famous railroad robber barons. The rest of the street is a hodgepodge of large single-family homes and small apartment buildings.

Although the district is over a century old, the 1/2-acre site where the condos now sit wasn’t developed until a church was built there in the 1950s. By the late 1990s the congregation had outgrown the church, and the president of the Lander Group in Minneapolis purchased the property.

"When we approached the historic preservation commission for a demolition permit they not only granted it, they wanted to give us an award for ridding the neighborhood of this inappropriate building," says Lander of the incongruous mid-century design.

The commission keeps a careful eye on the Avenue, and the developer had to be extra conscious of the historical significance of the site. He endured the long approvals process and several design reviews. "They liked our concept because it fits in with the historic buildings, but it’s not a re-creation," Lander notes.

The Summit is four spacious attached flats that form a single "mansion" building that complements the scale and character of the street’s notable neighbors. The square and sturdy design is quasi-Prairie style with stucco, cultured stone, and rough sawn cedar and batten. Side balconies provide outdoor space and views, and the two subterranean parking spaces per unit are accessed via elevator or stairs.

The three two-story townhouses next door face Grotto Street and reflect the small buildings and brownstones on that block. "It’s a modern interpretation of a row house," says architect Scott Mower of Progressive Architecture in Minneapolis. "We used a few tricks to break up the massing and added some real contemporary twists." The red and cream facade features brick, stucco, and touches of fiber cement siding. "On the center unit we mimicked old-fashioned cornice details, but we made them out of metal," he adds.

Zoning required detached parking, so a six-car garage that is subdivided into groups of two is on the right side of the building. The arrangement allowed extra space for a rear courtyard and a finished basement for each townhome.

History inspired the exteriors, but the market drove the plans. "We were coming into a market with a tremendous affection for the neighborhood," says Lander. "But there were no housing types here that people are looking for today." The Summit units were aimed at empty-nesters and move-down buyers attracted to a single-level living environment and the three-story Grotto row houses were aimed at younger buyers.

All seven of the units are 2,100 square feet, and prices range from $284,000 to $520,000. Because it is such a unique product in a desirable location, sales were swift, especially for the Summit flats, which went for $430,000 to $520,000, because the configuration is so rare in the market. The pre-construction prices set records for the neighborhood, and price levels rose 18 percent by the completion of the project.

Territory Treasures

THINK FOR A MOMENT ABOUT America’s luxury home communities. The merely successful evoke comfort and history. But the truly legendary communities do more than that: They simultaneously cast our memory backward while shooting our imaginations forward.

And so it is at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, a community that has staked its claim along what many consider the border between urban and rural Arizona. Superstition offers custom lots as well as ready-to-move-in luxury housing. "Each of our communities offers owners a consistent theme in a unique setting," says Tom Popa, vice president of sales and marketing for the Anderson Cos.’ Superstition Mountain Properties. "Anderson strives for imaginative design, impeccable detail, and outstanding quality in its homes and clubhouses," Popa says. Anderson Homes and Design of Scottsdale, Ariz., is building the luxury production housing at the development.

Superstition Mountain aspires to legend by building on the region’s history.

Wanderers carved history into the Superstition Mountains for 9,000 years before the Hohokam and others built the first native settlements. The Spanish "discovered" the area in 1539 and deeded the Peralta clan a land grant spanning much of the Southwest, long before these dry and desolate mountains became a stronghold for Geronimo’s Apache warriors. The Jesuits studded the area with missions, setting the tone for architecture to come. Joseph Waltz claimed a fortune in Superstition. Mountain gold but died without revealing his famous Lost Dutchman mine.

Superstition Mountain draws its architectural theme from the brief and bygone days of the Arizona Territory. Arizona had just parted ways with Mexico to join the United States. "In the 1870s," Popa says, "the railroad finally found its way through the Arizona Territory. Italianate was all the rage in the eastern United States at that time. The trains brought building materials, such as timber, dimensional lumber, and tiles previously not easily available in the Southwest."

Eager to escape the rough-and-tumble reputation of the Wild West, the new Americans seized the opportunity to build new structures in the popular Italian style and remodel old ones with the newly available materials. Unimpeded by academia or zoning, the merged these with historic Spanish styles.

Superstition Mountain embraces the traditional look of the expansive ranch house and pays homage to the hill towns of historic Tuscany. The Villas at Golden Eagle Village are new treasures in the shadows of the past. Floor plans for the luxury homes cluster village-style, literally inhaling the gentle mountain air as thermal breezes of the Superstition Mountains sweep across the landscape at dusk and dawn.

The 3,000-square-foot Cetona plan 2, winner of a Grand Awards at this year’s Gold Nuggets, epitomizes the livable delight of these plans. The Cetona exploits the velvety desert air: Every room has windows or French doors waiting to be flung wide, blurring what is indoors from out. Models boast Tuscan village names to reinforce the theme. The homes feature inviting private courtyards and loggias. Privacy is paramount throughout the plans.

The villa homes nestle neighborly near each other, lending the illusion that you have arrived at an ancient Italian village nestled in the mountains. Thorny Saguaro cactus prick that illusion, grounding the villas to the Sonoran desert well east of metro Phoenix.

The award-winning design is the result of collaboration between BBG Architects of Santa Ana Heights, Calif., and Oz Architects of Scottsdale, Ariz. At build-out there will be 65 homes sized from 2,342 to 3,460 square feet. Prices range from $445,000 tO $605,000. Add lot premiums, and prices range from $450,000 tO $920,000. The typical lot is 65 by 100 feet. Half sit on the Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, and 12 face the putting park.

The architecture of the community is seamless. Classic details include two-piece mortared clay roof tiles, exposed rafter tails, wood lintels, hewn columns, stone walls, and patinated stucco. Streets are cobblestone.

Superstition Mountain has firm architectural guidelines and a rigorous design review process governing all homes and public buildings in the community. Architecture must be four-sided, not just a pretty elevation, ensuring every view is up to snuff. All structures must be low profile and use at least three materials in the design — for example, stone and stucco walls with exposed hand-hewn wood or stone window headers.

Oz Architects designed the club and carriage houses, Superstition Mountain’s signature buildings. "We do a lot of boutique and hospitality work," says Oz president Don Ziebell, whose carefully crafted clubhouse is an allegory of the remodeled ranch house. This is a brand-new building that looks like a historic home.

"Often when buildings go up, the best day in their lives is the day they receive their certificate of occupancy. Then it’s all downhill from there," Ziebell says referring to the fact that wear and tear and changing tastes in architectural fashion rapidly date many new buildings.

Ziebell’s specialty is finding and combining materials and finishes that stand the test of time. At Superstition Mountain these include an exterior insulation and stucco system finished in a three-coat, Italian lime-wash. The illusion of age mates two color coats with a sealer and gives the building a rich patina from day one. Ziebell also uses stone-surfaced stem walls to anchor the building to the ground and banish what he calls levitating building syndrome.

Other details combine style and conspicuous practicality: Deep overhangs with projecting rafter tails not only evoke another era, they protect walls and glazing from sun and rain. (It doesn’t rain often in Arizona, but when it does it can be fast and furious.) To protect the impression of Arizona’s historic thick adobe walls, Ziebell never exposes wall ends or turns that would reveal 2X4 roots. He also specifies double-studs to give windows the effect of being installed in thick walls.

Ziebell seeks and collects old authentic details, too. One of the doors used in one of the public buildings is a 400-year-old Spanish antique, completely in keeping with the historic-inspiration age of the entire community.

Wide Open

"WHY DO WE HAVE TO CONSTANTLY fight this nickel and dime battle with the builder?" asks David Osso, garage door marketing manager for Mt. Hope, Ohio–based Wayne-Dalton. After some consideration, Osso says price is the major factor that forces many builders to settle for low-end garage doors. Susan McCormack, marketing specialist for Cincinnati-based Clopay, agrees. "For builders, it’s a price point. They just want to get the cheapest door possible."

Now garage door manufacturers are building their brands and producing wares with more marketable features. Innovations in safety, appearance, and insulation offer builders a chance to push a product they traditionally never upgrade. These innovations allow builders to offer higher quality, better-looking garage doors that improve the cosmetics of the home. Offering these products not only makes the builder stand out, it increases builder profits and satisfies buyers.

SAFETY FIRST

"Garage door safety has been a big issue," says Mike Martin, advertising director for Salt Lake City–based Martin Door Manufacturing. The Door and Access Systems Manufacturing Association (DASMA) recently passed DASMA-116–a standard that requires all new garage doors to include lift handles on both the interior and exterior of the garage door. The handles offer a safe place to grip the door for opening and closing.

As part of DASMA-116, even doors with openers must have handles in case the power goes out and the openers won’t work. "Hands can get smashed in door joints; [this] usually happens during a power outage," says Martin.

To further help protect hands and fingers, many manufacturers have designed joints that make it virtually impossible for children and adults to catch their fingers. "We’ve shielded all of the joints in all of our models," says Martin, describing the company’s pinch-resistant Finger Shield garage door system. Wayne-Dalton and Winston-Salem, N.C.–based Amarr also have pinch-resistant joints. Amarr introduced its pinch-resistant design about one and a half years ago. "It installs a bit different than the old style hinge; however, it’s been well received," notes Greg Gilmere, executive vice president of Amarr.

CURD APPEAL

Safety is important, but many buyers are concerned with aesthetics. "Considering the visual and wall space that garage doors command, looks are critical," says Osso.

Although steel doors are less expensive, they can look cheap. Wood may be an appropriate alternative. "Wood doors have been in decline for many years, but there has been a recent upsurge in high-end, carriage house specialty wood doors," notes Osso. Carriage house doors are particularly hot with custom builders. According to Gilmere, the carriage house design has gained popularity in recent years because it is more readily available. Several years ago, only a handful of companies produced carriage house doors; now dozens of manufacturers offer them.

If the carriage house design isn’t right for that high-end project, try a copper garage door. Martin Doors’ copper-coated door is equipped with its Finger Shield design, making it pretty and safe. Although copper garage doors don’t rust, which makes them easy to maintain, they are priced three to four times more than regular steel models, says Martin.

For builders and buyers who don’t want to spend big bucks for wood or copper, there is always an insulated steel garage door. In addition to its basic thermal and energy-efficiency benefits, the insulation helps keep the door quiet as it opens and closes. "You want to have a quiet door," says McCormack, who notes that the more insulation in the door, the quieter the door is. Because the noise factor is a tangible difference that many buyers will notice, insulated doors can be an easy upsale for builders who place rooms near or above their garages.

OPTIONS AND UPGRADES

"Options are tough on builders," says Gilmere, who sympathizes with the difficulties of keeping track of who wants what, when, and where. Most often, buyers are more concerned with upgrading their kitchens and baths than they are their garage doors. "They just don’t think about it," says Gilmere, who notes that garage door openers are often the only garage upgrade builders offer. Of all the possible options and upgrades in a new home, the garage door may be one of the easiest to sell because safety, aesthetics, and noise are common concerns among consumers.

RELATED ARTICLE: CARRIAGE CHARISMA: The Carriage collection of wood garage doors combines the look of swinging carriage house doors with the convenience of a sectional door design, the maker says. All panels, rails, and stiles are made of kiln-dried hemlock or fir. The doors also feature heavy-duty hardware and solid frames with no finger joints. Wayne-Dalton. 800-827-3667. www.wayne-dalton.com. Circle no. 107.

STEEL YOUR WALLET: WeatherGuard Plus insulated steel garage doors are 2-inches thick and feature a pinch-resistance door design. Insulated with CFC-free polystyrene, each door has an R-value of 8.34 and can be specified with or without DecraGlass-tempered decorative glass. Doors are available in short, long, and flush panel designs in white, almond, brown, and sandstone colors. Amarr. 800-503-3667. www.amarr.com. Circle no. 108.

WOOD WORKED: According to the manufacturer, the Plantation collection of custom wood garage doors is manufactured by skilled wood craftsmen. The collection is also available in five basic pre-designed selections, while custom designs may be specified. Each door comes standard with black powder–coated hardware and tracks. Windsor Door. 800-946-3767. www.windsordoor.com. Circle no. 109.

GARAGE MIRAGE: Reserve semi-custom garage doors are available in six designs, in three wood choices and three window styles. The wood panels are offered in cedar, redwood, or hemlock. Windows are available in rectangular, square, or arched styles. The hemlock doors can be painted, and each door can be stained before installation. Clopay. 800-225-6729. www.clopaydoorcom. Circle no. 110.

COPPER TOPPER: The company’s Copper doors feature Series II insulation, glossy black powder–coated hardware, and a 99.9 percent copper finish. In addition to adding aesthetic appeal, copper is practical because it won’t rust. Each door is furnished with the company’s Finger Shield system, which is designed to prevent accidental pinching or crushing of fingers. The doors are available in five styles and sizes up to 24-feet wide by 20-feet high. Martin Door Manufacturing. 800-388-9310. www.martindoor.com. Circle no. 111.

Style guide: Five design trends will dominate production housing in the year ahead

IT’S NO SECRET THAT INVESTING in good design makes good business sense. The popularity of the streamlined new Volkswagen Beetle, the hip discount department store Target, and the snazzy Virgin Atlantic airplanes clued us in during the 1990s, and the design and business worlds have been inseparable ever since.

Home building, as much as any industry, is in a position to benefit financially from high-quality design–even in low-end houses. Buyers, ever savvier, aren’t looking only at floor plans and square footage anymore. "The level of design quality that home buyers seem to be expecting is so much higher than it’s ever been in production housing," says architect Rick Emsiek, a partner at the California firm McLarand Vasquez Emsiek & Partners, in Irvine. "The high-end stuff competes with custom homes–even in entry-level housing."

The more you stay on top of the newest and boldest trends in home design, the more your product will appeal to this design-conscious market, which extends from the youngest Gen-Xer to the oldest boomer. To help you out a bit, we’ve talked with leading architects and market analysts to come up with the design trends that will drive production housing next year.

SMALLER, MORE PRACTICAL SPACES

Architect Sarah Susanka’s best-selling book The Not-So-Big House, which touts quality of space over quantity, was written for the custom home market. But production architects have mined the book for ideas about how to improve their own designs, and many of them believe they’ve struck gold.

"In production housing, we’re never going to get quite the level of detail that Susanka advocates," says Bob White, director of design at Scheurer Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., "but we can impact the allocation of square footage, like she suggests." To that end, industry leaders are throwing out the airy, two-story volumes that have dominated the past two decades in favor of more practical spaces.

"In the last 15 to 20 years, we put a lot of money into the foyer of the home," says Memphis, Tenn., architect Carson Looney, of Looney Ricks Kiss. "Now, the space that’s getting more attention is that space between the kitchen or breakfast room and the garage–I call it the ‘liver’ of the house. It’s where you put all your organizational stuff– your jackets, briefcases, the kids’ backpacks. That’s where we’re concentrating our efforts now, in both our custom and production designs."

Changing demographics also signal an end to the days of the formulaic, big-box production house. "The number of non-traditional households–singles, for example, or couples without children, living in this country came as a bolt from the blue," says Todd Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Volk Associates, a new urbanist consulting firm in Clinton, NJ. "It’s given builders the idea of multiple niches, of creating houses that aren’t so narrowly targeted to two-parent families. The calculation of measuring quality by size no longer makes sense.

With more market segments to appeal to, architects are tailoring their plans more specifically to certain buyer groups. For example, White and Emsiek both say they’ve been isolating the home office in a detached casita in some of their recent projects, an item that appeals to buyers who work from home.

And universal design is gaining more prominence as baby boomers age. "Universal design principles can be incorporated very subtly," says Looney. "We’re doing things like making the rise-and-run relationship of a staircase more gradual, or installing a wall oven with a side hinge instead of a bottom one." For the boomer market, especially, first-floor master bedrooms and laundry rooms promise to be more popular than ever. These configurations are certain to win out over single-story structures, primarily because of land costs. Moreover, the average lot size will shrink by 1,000 square feet in the next 10 years, according to NAHB research.

"Here in California, massive volumes have given way to nine- and 10-foot ceilings, as opposed to the extremely high volumes that we had been doing," says Aram Bassenian of Newport Beach-based Bassenian Lagoni.

It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country catches up to the trend-setting West Coast in terms of trading size for design quality. "House sizes are still getting larger," says Gopal Ahluwalia, NAHB’s research director. "The average American house size went up 30 square feet in the first quarter of 2001, to 2,305 square feet. But I think it will stabilize soon–we’ll reach a saturation point."

EMPHASIS ON COMMUNITY

It’s not enough to design an efficient floor plan and an attractive elevation anymore. More than ever, home shoppers are looking closely at the overall community before they buy. "The quality of a community is hugely important and will continue to be so," says Emsiek. "The layout of the project, the pedestrian friendliness of it, the social attitude; it’s one of those things you can’t just check off on a list. It’s more of a perceived quality."

A variety of elements–from landscaping buffers to exterior styles–will help create a sense of neighborhood. Architect Rick New, director of residential architecture at Downing Thorpe & James, says his Boulder, Cob., firm is mixing different lot sizes and garage configurations to give streetscapes more visual interest and to keep them from appearing garage-dominated. This trend of getting the garage off the street stems from the new urbanism, the neo-traditional, pedestrian-oriented planning movement that got its start in the early 1980s and has been picking up steam ever since. While conventional master planned communities still outnumber true new urbanist ones, the movement’s influence is definitely contributing to the trend of putting a home’s entrance front and center.

Next year, forward-thinking architects will stress heterogeneity among elevations and floor plans. "It’s the first time on the West Coast that we haven’t been hung up on one style," says architectural colorist Miriam Tate, of Miriam Tate Co., in Costa Mesa, Calif. "We were stuck in the Mediterranean centrifuge for 12 years! The new diversity is not just a trend, it’s a permanent circumstance."

"There’s a real variety to the streetscapes now," seconds White. And, he adds, that’s true even before you apply architectural details and styles. "It’s not just taking two boxes and calling one French and one Spanish because they have different detailing. The thing now is to have one house be completely different from the next–like the old neighborhoods of the 1920s."

Architect Art Danielian, head of Danielian Associates in Irvine, Calif., advises developers to encourage diversity by pre-matching elevations, plans, and color schemes to individual lots. "The communities that exercise the maximum amount of control over what goes where will be the most successful ones," he says.

HIGH DEMAND FOR LOW-MAINTENANCE MATERIALS

This much is certain: Time-deprived homeowners won’t be asking for more to do in the way of home upkeep. Increasingly, they’ll want low- or no-maintenance features, making easy-clean faux materials indispensable.

"All of the faux materials are getting much more refined in quality," says Don Jacobs, principal of JBZ Architecture & Planning in Newport Beach, Calif. "Some years ago you’d only want to use foam-based details up high, where you couldn’t really see them. Now, with the stucco coatings, they’re much better. Cement board siding is very popular–we’re using less and less wood." Cultured stone also gets high marks from architects for improved looks and durability.

Another reason for the increased use of faux materials, besides their low-maintenance appeal, is the cost effectiveness they lend to intricate historic styles, like Victorian or Craftsman. Baby boomers love period details, and most architects are betting that Gen-Xers, the generation that made vintage clothing and retro jazz records cool, won’t be much different in that regard. Faux materials will help make historically appropriate exteriors and interiors easier to achieve on limited budgets.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY A MUST

Sam Raskin bestowed the Energy Star label on as many homes last year as he did in the entire five-year period before.

Raskin, national director of the Department of Energy-EPA Energy Star for Homes program in Washington, D.C., estimates that he’ll have certified twice as many homes in 2001 as he did in 2000, a total of 24,000 this year. It only makes sense: Builders are pushing farther and farther out into the deserts of the Southwestern states, and their buyers don’t want to pay exorbitant air conditioning bills. Spurred by California’s energy crisis, more builders—notably Shea Homes and Morrison Homes–will step up use of solar panels and appliances next year.

Health concerns will undoubtedly lead buyers to look to new homes for the latest in air filtration systems, particularly in warm metro areas such as Atlanta and Phoenix, where climatologists have documented upward trends in asthma and other ozone-related ailments.

Sky-high land prices in many parts of the country are causing many developers to rethink the ways in which they use land. High-density, mixed-use, and infill projects, which make more efficient use of land and resources, should make up a greater chunk of the housing market in the years ahead. Developer-friendly brownfields legislation, which slipped off Congress’ agenda this past fall, would accelerate this trend.

STILL SMARTER HOMES

Smart home options, high-speed Internet access, and community intranets are standard on the West Coast, even in entry-level communities. And while broadband Internet access and computerized security, lighting, audio-video, and HVAC systems haven’t taken over the market yet, they will.

"The comfort level with home technology is not yet there for many buyers," says Ahluwalia. "But as the Gen-X segment moves into the marketplace, that will change. The demand will explode in the next three to five years." Kurt Scherf, vice president of research for Parks Associates, a Dallas-based home technology market research firm, says. "Broadband Internet access will be standard at some point–we’re seeing early adopter communities that are being wired with it now."

Smooth as glass

Process integration and a change from electromechanical to hydraulic actuators let safety glass processing machinery supplier Tamglass Tempering System Inc. cut production times to speed up shipping schedules. The change greatly simplified the design of a new glass bending system, eliminating 700 parts, reducing labor costs, and cutting assembly time. Motion controllers from Delta Computer Systems (Vancouver, WA) and hydraulic actuators from Parker (Cleveland, OH) were key components in the design.

For suppliers of curved glass panels for automotive, appliance, and architectural uses, the QSB (Quick Set Bend) Bending and Tempering System reportedly makes it easier to form glass with complex J- and 5shapes. Engineers increasingly use such curved glass panels in high-volume products such as automotive rear and side windows to balance both function and form. On the function side, for example, automotive engineers may boost fuel economy using cylindrical glass in place of flat glass to reduce the drag coefficient. While on the form side, vehicle designers can use glass with different radii to create distinctive styling cues.

The panels are typically produced in a three-stage process. First the glass is heated in an oven to make it pliable. It is then transferred to a molding station where pressure forces the glass to bend. Finally, rapid cooling with forced air tempers the glass.

“In our previous curved glass manufacturing systems,” explains Jack Sandlin, Tamglass chief engineer, “the glass was forced to bend on rollers that were positioned mechanically using servomotors. We used clutches to apply power to ball screws, and brakes to hold the rollers in place.”

The previous system wasn’t as integrated as the new QSB system, which chains the oven, bending, and tempering stations closely into a continuous, integrated, computer-controlled process. Because the glass had further to travel, and more time to cool off in the old system, it had to be heated to higher temperatures to make sure it was still sufficiently pliable to be pressed into shape by the time it reached the bending station.

Consequently, the older system used more energy. “Locating the bending station immediately adjacent to the oven not only saves energy lost from cooling,” Sandlin says, “but the new system uses gravity, rather than pressure, to bend the glass, which also saves energy and improves the optical quality of the glass.”

More than 100 axes. The simplicity of the new QSB system reduces the redesign and build time for a unit from ten to six months, according to Sandlin. And given that there are more than 100 axes on the machine, the labor savings of mounting a single cylinder instead of a half-dozen components on each really adds up. It also eliminates the hassle of aligning bearing assemblies, mounting motors, ballscrews, clutches, and brakes. The approach eliminates many small components, such as keys, set screws, and couplings.

In the QSB system, the hot glass passes out of the oven, moving on rollers across a curved roller bed, bending as it travels to conform to the shape of the bed. The rollers are mounted on a set of parallel rails (90 rollers on each of seventeen 12-ft rails), with the rolling axis of each roller perpendicular to the length of the rail.

To shape the roller beds to match the precise contour of the desired bend, two hydraulic actuators, one for each end of each rail, individually, position each of the 51 roller rails in the system. This requires a total of 102 hydraulic actuators, each with at least a [+ or -]0.003-inch positioning accuracy.

As the glass bends to conform to the shape of the roller bed, it passes into the quench station, where it is sandwiched between two sets of rollers on two more sets of rails (17 roller rails above and 17 below). Air blown through channels mounted next to each roller cools the glass rapidly, tempering it.

“To control the motion of such a large number of axes to such tight tolerances, we needed specialized motion controllers,” says Tamglass control engineer John Cecehine. In fact, engineers evaluated four different controller types over a period of six months before ultimately selecting Delta Computer Systems’ RMC100 motion controllers. In addition to precise control, Cecchine says, “the controllers had the direct interface with position transducers and variable hydraulic valves that we were looking for, and was the only one that supported failsafe operation should any sensors lose power.

The controllers are mounted in intermediate control cabinets on the machine close to the actuators. “Using position feedback from each of the two actuators on each rail, the controller monitors the difference between the two cylinders while it is traveling, and keeps the position in line with each other,” says Cecchine.

Graphical software development.

Each controller can manage up to eight motion axes simultaneously, positioning to [+ or -]0.001-inch accuracy. To program, debug, and tune the controllers, Tamglass engineers used RMCWin, a graphical software development package from Delta Computer Systems that converts high-level motion commands into sequences of operations to be performed by the controllers. An industrial PC downloads the motion commands in bursts over Profibus into function tables that are contained in the motion controllers.

The PC performs overall system control and human machine interface (HMI) functions, and stores computer “recipes” that describe how each type of glass product is processed. The PC also controls the heat of the 60-ft-long oven and the speed of the glass traveling through it. “Each piece of glass takes three to five minutes to travel through the oven,” Sandlin explains. “The computer tracks from 10 to 50 pieces of glass that may be in the system at any time.”

According to Ceechine, computer control makes the glass manufacturing system very flexible. “The types of bends and sizes of glass material can be changed quickly and easily, reducing non-productive time and maximizing throughput.”

The controllers support direct Profibus interfaces without requiring any special interface modules. The use of Profibus, a multi-master bus, solves the problem of connecting the industrial computer to multiple motion controllers simultaneously.

Profibus is daisy-chained between the PC and the array of motion controllers. Each motion controller has a unique address on the bus, which the computer references when it writes instruction sequences or interrogates status from that particular controller. “Using Profibus greatly simplifies system wiring compared to I/Ointensive point-to-point wired systems,” explains Cecchine.

One of the first installations of the new Tamglass machine is at a glass manufacturer in Sweden. The new QSB system’s flexibility allows the company to produce a wide range of glass panel sizes, up to a maximum size of 48 inches by 60 ft. “Fieldbus technology contributed to lower system manufacturing costs and easier system assembly and maintenance,” says Sandlin. “It greatly simplifies all of the wiring, so we were able to install and get it up and running faster than any other system we have done.”

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, new home of the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, recently opened to rave reviews from critics, and, most importantly, from the artists, dancers, musicians and audiences of Philadelphia.

Far more than a mere concert and recital hall, the Kimmel Center represents a rich tapestry of architecture, acoustic brilliance, and versatility, woven from the cultural fibers of the city itself, due in no small measure to the work of Theatre Projects Consultants. When the Kimmel Center was in the planning stages, TPC organized an extensive programming exercise, including many meetings with every constituent who would potentially use the facilities.

“We tried to represent everyone in Philadelphia and to achieve an environment in which their imaginations could soar — where they could expand their operations and realize their vision in a space that they felt would work for them,” says David Taylor, TPC project manager for the Kimmel Center.

“We worked with a world-class team in an organized manner, with a foot-high pile of questionnaires to learn about where they were currently and what aspirations each organization had for the future.”

The Kimmel Center houses two performing venues: the 2,500-seat concert hall, Verizon Hall, new home for the Philadelphia Orchestra; and the multiform Perelman Theatre, a 620-seat recital hall and theatre. Verizon Hall, with acoustics by Russell Johnson of Artec Consultants, is destined to be one of the great concert halls of North America. Its sophisticated acoustics and performance equipment, designed by TPC, includes a massive overhead acoustic canopy in three pans and computer-controlled doors that surround the entire hall to open the volume to the reverberation chambers beyond. In addition, TPC equipped the flexible stage with coordinated suspension points and a full stage lighting system with fibre-optic data backbone and audio-visual equipment.

The highest priority throughout the design was for the symphonic acoustics. This is a hall for one of the world’s great orchestras, noted for its lush, velvety sound. But Verizon Hall also proved its versatility in its first month of operation with performances by superstar Elton John (who used an extensive “rock-and-roll” moving light rig, live and recorded video, and a high sound pressure level reinforcement rig) and an ice show. Verizon Hall is also the first to have extensive built-in projection facilities that may be used as an adjunct to symphonic performances. The opening performance events were simulcast on public television nationally and on the web internationally.

The smaller Perelman Theatre is a unique space with two basic “modes” of operation. In “recital mode” Perelman becomes a miniature concert hall, perfect for chamber music and soloists, with the platform stage end of the room surrounded by three levels of audience galleries that provide an orchestra shell. In “theatre mode” the entire stage end of the room revolves, the shell moves into a garage behind the stage and exposes an 80 by 40 foot stage with fly tower above, on which a full set of scenery could be preset. The stage has a sprung floor to support its major constituent, the modern dance company Philadanco. The orchestra floor’s raked seating is located on a wagon that is in turn placed on an elevator. When lowered to the basement, all the seating may be removed to provide a flat floor throughout the hall. This creates a totally flexible space for arena, thrust or multiple stages, or a promenade space for experimental theatre, dance or music, or even social events such as parties, balls and cabarets. “Verizon Hall is off to a promising start,” wrote Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer in December. “The Philadelphia Orchestra played its first full concert in its new home Saturday night, and it is already apparent that Verizon’s general sound concept is a success…. the basic bones of a great hall are all there. The orchestra has resonance at home for the first time. The individual sections of the orchestra project with a one-musician-one-note evenness. When the orchestra reaches peak volume — as it did Saturday night at the end of the second suite from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe — the sound does not buckle. Musicians say they can hear one another.”

Herbert Muschamp of The New York Times wrote, “The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is precise, luminous architecture for lovers of rich cultivated sound. The building puts Philadelphia on a new cultural footing for the 21st century. Mr. Vinoly [the architect] has designed an urban ensemble, composed primarily of city views. Classical music is the architecture here, the building an instrument in which to perform and hear it.”

Stick Shift. 5 tips on doing the hustle

As if club-hopping weren’t sport enough, many chic night spots are inviting their patrons to put down their drinks and chalk up their cue sticks. At N.Y.C.’s trendy Hudson hotel, a baroque pool table graces the Library Bar where Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Paul McCartney have all racked ’em up. In Miami Beach’s Club 320, site of Puff Daddy’s birthday party and hangout of Tori Spelling, Vince Vaughn and Rod Stewart, the second-floor cue rack attracts plenty of VIPs. And in Las Vegas, the Hard Rock Hotel’s pool table has been seeing more celebrity action (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and friends) than the blackjack one. Soon L.A. royalty will have their own hip place to play. When the West Coast outpost of New York’s Moomba opens this month, it will feature a downstairs lounge with–you guessed it–a pool table. Says owner Jeff Gossett, hanging out in the low-ceilinged space “will remind people of growing up in the seventies when everyone had basement game rooms.” But it’s not just Yanks into bank shots. Across the Atlantic, the craze for baize has hit London’s posh Sanderson hotel, where you might even spot local Elizabeth Hurley. “I love playing pool although I’m quite a bad player,” says the star, who brought Brendan Fraser to his knees while sinking a few balls in Bedazzled. “For some reason, I’m way better after two glasses of wine. Make that three and I’m terrible again.” But then, it’s not how you play the game, but where (and with whom) you’re playing it.

5  TIPS ON DOING THE HUSTLE

1. Find out if others are ahead of you, and wait your turn.

2. To see if your cue stick is straight, roll it on the table (a warped stick will roll bumpily).

3. After each shot, gently twist the chalk against the stick’s tip.

4. Move quietly out of sight when it’s your opponent’s turn.

5. Get the lingo down pat. A few terms to help you pass:

barrage: a series of made shots

digging a hole: amateurishly grinding chalk against the stick

icing: psyching out a player

giving no air: not giving opponents a chance to play

rail bird: an annoying spectator

sharking: distracting a player

sweat this: watch the action

the table is leaking: when too many balls go in on a break

Worldwide Wendie

Like free Oscar frocks and great tables at hot restaurants, globe-trotting ranks as one of the perks of stardom. But while many well-known actors roam the world for movie shoots and film festivals, Just Shoot Me’s Wendie Malick packs her bags for an entirely different reason: to practice hands-on international activism in such far-flung places as Central Africa and Tijuana.

It started 10 years ago, when a friend told Malick about the need for volunteers to build houses for the poor in Tijuana. She and a group of friends have spent time there every year since, and in 1994 they decided to make their annual pilgrimage over the Thanksgiving holiday. Carving turkey? Try lifting and pouring concrete, which Malick says has its own rewards. “It’s hard, but I love it because you don’t have to be skilled. You just have to bust your butt. It’s really satisfying.” Until recently, the collective worked all day, then camped out at night. “It could be windy, and we were cooking in a tent that could go over at any moment,” says Malick. “It was insane.” Now the group has moved up to living in bunkhouses, where they feast on burritos on Thanksgiving.

Last year Malick and about 40 friends–the self-proclaimed Maverick Building Squad–built an addition to the City of Angels orphanage for children of prostitutes and prisoners (where they had constructed a bathhouse the year before). They also brought donated computers and installed an e-mail system so that donors can be alerted to what’s needed at the orphanage, from books to clothing.

The children have benefited, but so has Malick–and in more ways than one. It was in Mexico, on her first charitable visit, that she met her future husband, Richard Erickson, a fellow volunteer who invited Malick to motorcycle through Central Africa the following summer. “The idea was that we would have this great adventure, then leave the bikes for the nurses at this little medical center he knew about, because they can’t use cars in the rainy season,” she says.

For Malick, that trip marked the start of another international volunteer project. She has returned three times to Aungba, a small village in Central Africa. (As a child, her husband lived in Aungba for six years with his missionary parents; in 1988 he spent a year there building a medical center.)

Last summer the couple traveled there for the dedication of the center’s new surgical wing, which they had financed. “It’s a very remote part of Congo. All the people from all the surrounding villages come to this place for medical help,” says Malick. “They were desperate for more room.”

On each visit, Malick and Erickson meet with teachers and students in the local school to determine what could make a difference–big or small–in the lives of the young villagers. “The needs run from a piano for the choir to a basketball, because they’ve had this hoop for years but no ball,” Malick says. To raise contributions for the center and other relief projects in Africa and Mexico, Malick and Erickson set up a fund in 1997 called A Drop in the Bucket.

Today the funds they’ve collected constitute more than a drop, and Malick’s enthusiasm continues to grow. “When you look at a map and realize that you have friends in every quadrant of this giant world,” she says, “it just helps you feel like part of the great picture.”

Wolf Architecture

If you’re planning on going to Disneyland after winning your next Olympic medal, there’ll be no need to encourage your car-mate to pray for parking. While elsewhere in America, white-knuckled drivers are gripping their steering wheels in frustration as they circle the block looking for that elusive space, you’ll be sailing, so to speak, off Interstate 5 right onto the entrance ramp that leads directly into the world’s largest parking structure.

This new parking facility, designed by Harry Wolf, principal of Wolf Architecture, is the keystone in Disney’s efforts to expand their Southern California kingdom. Land previously used for surface parking has now been reclaimed for a new theme park, as well as for the new garage which houses up to 10,500 cars. As drivers enter–at a rate of 60 cars per minute–they line up to one of six booths where they are directed to a specific parking area. “In elephantlike fashion, nose to tail, the cars move up through the building and park in tandem,” quips Wolf. This “conga line” reinforces efficiency as cars empty and visitors make their way to a pedestrian zone at the east end of the building, and then down an escalator that deposits them at the tram pickup. No need to worry if the lemming or elephant in front of you loses their way–plenty of smiling “cast members” are there to keep the show going.

It was no easy task preventing a structure that is as long as the Chrysler Building is high from looking like a behemoth. Wolf didn’t want the relentless appearance of a factory, or the Pentagon. Instead, he likened the design to a ship or an oil refinery: The parts make up the whole but “explicate the intelligence of the building. There is a logic to how it works.” Each facade addresses the site through its tectonics. The mass of the west side, for instance, is broken by precast-concrete planters in deference to the residential neighborhood across the street. The north and south facades comprise a series of seismic sheer walls, each 39 feet wide and 61 feet, 7 inches tall, linked by 51-foot-long post-tensioned beams. Wolf likens them to Roman aqueducts that help make the scale comprehensible. Exit stairs are pulled out to articulate the elevations. Wolf deployed louvers on the east side, where pedestrians walk to escalators, to protect eyes from the sky’s glare as well as to help drivers adjust to the dimme r light as they make their way through the garage.

The massive new parking garage is vital to the daily operation of the Disney Resort, which now includes not only Disneyland, but the new California-themed park, a resort hotel, and a Downtown Disney entertainment center. By strengthening and centralizing parking, Disney hopes to transform frustrated road warriors into worthy citizens of the “happiest place on earth.”

The Green Machine

Over the past decade, sustainable, or “green” building design has become quite fashionable, as commercial and institutional clients have grown wise to its broad appeal among their members, or shareholders, and the public. The buzz about sustainable design leaves serious environmentalists both hopeful and worried, because for every earnest client asking for environmentally sensitive design, there is a likely poseur simply trying to impress people with dumb ideas. “Greenwashing,” says Donna McIntire, program manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., “is rampant in the industry.”

Few organizations care more sincerely about sustainability than the Chesapeake Bay Foundation: For 35 years, the CBF has led a massive effort to clean up its namesake, the nation’s largest estuary. Over the past two years, as the foundation’s directors prepared to design and build a new 32,000-square-foot headquarters near Annapolis, Maryland, they had to walk their own talk: They needed to create a building their ardent constituency would approve of, and uphold their foundation’s ideals by protecting the Chesapeake Bay, which lies 100 yards from the building, across a small beach with a couple of lonesome old trees and sublime views to the south.

Now that the building is finished, two years later, those directors should be able to sleep at night. Their new compound, designed by the Washington office of SmithGroup and a host of sustainable-design experts, has to be, as they claim, one of the “greenest” buildings of its kind. The final product–a fairly simple shed of galvanized steel, frankly articulated wood members, and three huge cisterns for rainwater–proves once again that architects needn’t sacrifice beauty for sustainability.

The CBF came to the site at the invitation of the neighbors. Before the CBF chose the 30-acre property for its headquarters, formerly the historic Bay Ridge Inn, the site was the target of a plan to build dozens of new houses, which made the relatively few people who live nearby nervous. But when the community learned that the CBF was looking for land for a new headquarters, they invited the foundation to consider the site. The parcel was perfect for the mission of the CBF, which wanted to consolidate 100 of its 200 employees from four locations around the Annapolis area. The previous landowner sold the CBF the land at a price below market value, and, as a nonprofit, the organization secured a low-interest loan and sold the site’s excess development rights to the state of Maryland.

“We didn’t think in our wildest dreams that we would get a deal like this,” says Charles D. Foster, Foundation director.

The foundation had developed a few sustainable buildings in the past–but had completed nothing on such a large scale. The CBF turned for help to Janet Harrison, an Annapolis architect who specializes in sustainable design. Harrison began looking for a suitable rating system by which to measure the project’s sustainability. She settled on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy-Efficient and Environmental Design, or LEED. The LEED system is the “strictest and most rigorous” of the various green benchmarking programs available, Harrison says (see “Degrees of Green”, page 49). “But the CBF really wanted to go up against it and see what they could do.” The CBF studied the LEED criteria, which cover everything from site preparation to indoor air quality, and developed a wish list of sustainable design features.

The budget for the building, of course, would limit the amenities the CBF could afford, so the programming phase began in October 1998 with a two-day peer-review critique led by specialists at what is now known as the Sustainable Building Industries Council (SBIC). “All these projects are individual, and you have to figure out what consultants would make sense,” says Ellen Larson, program and policy manager of the SBIC. “It’s a combination of a charette and a peer review.”

The group, which met at the old Bay Ridge Inn just before it was torn down, included representatives of SmithGroup, the Maryland Energy Administration, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, the World Wildlife Fund, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“A lot of philosophical questions came up,” recalls Harrison, who kept track of the building’s LEED adherence throughout design and construction. “Steel or wood? Do we save the trees? Or do we use the trees to encourage certification of sustainable forests?”

Several major components were removed from the design during the initial review session, such as a radiant heating system considered for the floors. “It had a lot of benefits, but was redundant with the heating system,” Harrison says. And though the building’s south elevation is mostly glazed, the original scheme included much more glazing, which the team replaced with structural insulated panels. “Every time we saved money” during the review, notes Harrison, “we rolled it back into the building.”

The cost per square foot of the building alone came out to be about $199, of which $30 to $45 went toward green elements. That figure sounds extravagant, but the foundation’s board fell in love with the LEED system and wanted its highest, or “platinum” rating (see sidebar, at right), and succeeded. As items came out during the peer review, and later, during value engineering ($30,000 was saved by leaving sheet nails exposed, for instance, rather than covering them over), “our board said, ‘Cut what you want, but don’t cut that rating,”‘ says Foster. “The LEED rating became a shield to protect the green-ness of the building.”

As a result of this adherence to the LEED, nearly every facet of the project suggests sustainability. The Merrill Center lies at the end of a two-lane road, newly painted with bicycle lanes, that stops near the water’s edge. It’s quiet out there. The drive curves through a wood to a gravel parking lot, which doubles as a “bioretention” system developed by civil engineer Greenman-Pedersen and site consultant Karene Motivans, an ecologist who works with the National Institutes of Health. The choice of gravel over asphalt paving cuts the amount of land impervious to storm water, which as a result percolates away from the parking area through a natural filter of locally native rushes, asters, irises, and wool grass to a newly built non-tidal wetland. Practically no runoff from the site ever reaches the bay.

The CBF wanted to disturb as little of the land as possible. Eighty-four percent of the site remains open, a ratio achieved by building atop the footprint of the Bay Ridge Inn’s former pool house. Initially, the CBF hoped to reuse the old building, but it was “too far gone” says Foster, so the building was picked apart and its wood recycled.

The new building boils down to two chamfered volumes: a large, rectangular office block and a smaller cube holding a conference annex. Both pieces sit atop 7- to 10-foot-high piers that open the ground beneath for 45 parking spaces (though many CBF employees bicycle or kayak to work). The form is vernacular: “We looked at a lot of fisherman’s shacks and watermen’s buildings, all raised up on piers with simple geometries and shed roofs,” says SmithGroup project architect Gregory A. Mella.

In the office block, structural bays measure 60 feet deep, the critical distance for allowing natural light to filter to the building’s northern edge. Its glassy south facade sits behind a 10-foot-wide porch running the length of the building and is delineated by a frame of engineered-wood members. The porch’s frame holds a series of brisesoleils (which baffle the summer sun) made from recycled pickle-barrel wood obtained from a disused factory nearby. has raised concerns about glare.) Photovoltaic arrays situated at either end of the porch generate only 2 percent of the building’s energy load, but CBF wanted to keep them in the design as teaching tools. At either end of the office portion, cabled X-braces stabilize the long building against high winds.

The building is framed and clad largely in structural insulated panels: Each panel consists of two thick pieces of oriented strand board sandwiching a 6- to 8-inch-thick layer of insulation. “You build the structure just like a barn,” says Mella, first assembling the walls from individual panels joined flat on the ground, then raising the walls upright. The panels remain bare on the interior except for battens covering the joints. A girdle of galvanized steel wraps the exterior “like a blanket,” Mella explains, because it has high R-values for insulation; its content is 75 percent recycled metal. The surface was left unpainted both to avoid volatile organic compounds in paint and to ensure that the steel will recycle readily at the end of the building’s life. A small volume on the building’s north side holds a locker room; it is clad in a ground-faced masonry block containing recycled aggregates and fly ash.

The open-plan interiors are a showcase for green materials. The floor of the lobby is made of 3/4-inch bamboo boards. Office floors are finished with cork beeswax, which absorbs fugitive noise in the large spaces. The bamboo, cork, and engineered wood are among the few exceptions to a design-team rule: building materials may originate no more than 300 miles from the site.

The office ceilings will stay exposed except for suspended trays of gypsum, (74 percent recycled) which hold the light fixtures.

Open offices were the only way to both ventilate and light the building naturally. Light sensors mounted throughout the offices judge when the daylight dims enough to turn up the electric lights. And temperature and humidity monitors outdoors suggest when the air is comfortable enough to activate the “Open Window” signs that hang in each office quadrant: Staff may then crank open the glass panels and let in fresh air. Roof dormers open mechanically to help draw air through the spaces. “This region isn’t the most suitable for natural ventilation,” Mella observes. “It’s a little humid. We estimate [the staff] will be able to use it about 10 percent of the year, based on our idea of thermal comfort. But knowing these people and how hands-on they are, they’ll probably use it a lot more than that.”

Although the building’s vital organs hide behind all the obvious amenities, they offer the most compelling signs of sustainability. Renewable energy sources supply about 34 percent of the building’s total load. The indoor air temperature is regulated by a “geo-exchange closed loop”: The heat pump connects to vertical wells that reach 300 feet into the ground to take advantage of the earth’s natural temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps to cool the building in summer and heat it in winter. The roof collects rainwater and directs it to one of the three 12,000-gallon cisterns for storage. From there, the water is filtered of particles, treated with chlorine, filtered again through carbon to remove the chlorine, and used for the sprinkler system as well as for hand washing, mop sinks, and laundry. (Local codes, however, prohibit using rainwater for drinking, cooking, or showering.) And in the restrooms (where occupancy sensors control the lights), the design team specified Clivus Multrum composting t oilets. All waste winds up in a large container beneath the building, where it is turned into fertilizer to be used on the site.

As the CBF staff moved into their offices in early December, Foster began verifying that all the building’s systems perform as designed. The CBF will use the “Bonneville” standards for building performance, set by the city of Bonneville, California, which are among the strictest in the nation. The U.S. Department of Energy, Foster says, has offered to monitor the building systems over the long term, which is fine with him. “We see part of the purpose of the building as providing a [teaching] tool,” Foster explains. “Green buildings as green buildings are not the CBF’s mission. Our mission is to save the bay.” And now the foundation’s staff can turn its full attention back to that majestic body of water, which slowly changes colors throughout the day.