Strategic design and financial development for individual projects, large developments anywhere in the world.

How Are Construction and Poor Code Meeting Design Costs Passed to Clients?

Posted: September 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: | No Comments »

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox News for what to do to patients.

Construction CostsMost commercial projects are using between 200 and 300 kBTU/square foot annually, while some landmarks like Seagram and Lever House use way more – closer to 400-plus.

The cost for commercial and high-rise housing over 30 years is equal to $1 million per 1,500 square feet of space – 10 times the cost for staff in offices and alike for health issues.

In my last blog about 90 percent more efficient green residential projects saving $500,000 dollars over a 30 year mortgage period (Footnote No. 1), 90 percent more efficient green passive commercial buildings can use around 40 kBtu – so between 80 and 90 percent more efficient than a regular building that is built to code.

So who is paying for the inefficiency of the code building, and why don’t we build better – especially since it only costs 7 percent more to do it?

It is the first-day sale/lease scenario for developers, or anyone leasing or building for spec.

Anyone in real-estate knows that every day a building or space sits empty, it hits bottom line heavily. Hence we have to design and build as cheaply as possible to avoid any initial cost to the last cent/penny/shilling.

The idea that a building should perform like an investment in long term for users and our nation never enters the equation as it just cannot, so our entire industry is geared to produce the least-efficient building that can be built legally.

Our codes are fought heavily by developers and builders for the same reason to be as lenient as possible.

There are no representatives for users in the process, nor are architects trained or able to interfere with the process for the reason that we are trained to stay alive to help developers do what they do.

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox news what to do to patients. It is an equally insane situation.

In my past blogs I have raised the issue of our country losing annually near a trillion dollars in GDP for this reason – almost twice the amount we spend on military each year.

The cost is obviously borne first by tenants or users, but indirectly by our nation as a whole as it is then deducted from our taxes. Never by the operator/leasing entity!

When we sell properties, be it residential or commercial, inefficiency does not equate. It is never brought up as it would make older building and cheap spec one look inferior. So the emphasis is on decor and cleanliness – The Trump way. Sometimes even “better design” by talented individuals.

So investing in green, passive building saves 7 percent within 30 years – at least the cost of the building itself (not land); in residential sometimes twice the cost of building itself, as a normal 2,500-square-foot house is about $300,000, excluding thrills like fancy cabinets and bathrooms etc.

In super tall buildings, we do not get the total cost of building back due to framing cost, but we do get a building that will be easier to “reskin” as our glass curtain walls are only meant to stay watertight and sealed for 25 to 35 years – an issue rarely discussed and dealt with.

I have developed a curtain wall system or approach that allows re doing without making tenants move away from their space for instance.

Tenant issue: The inefficiencies are particularly costly in AC and heating, as the cost of running services are in the lease agreement. They also include surcharge of 15 percent for the electrical power normally. So not only are we punished for building character, we are punished for the delivery of essentials.

If we were to pay 15 percent more taxes, we would have a revolution in our country – or anywhere else – yet we pay this blindly, as we do pay our credit percent costs, too (as we think savings on taxes will help without realizing the costs to our nation).


1) The energy loss for a green renovated 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot house is about 28000 BTU, 1/2 to new one at 0 degree, 14 BTU hour/square foot – annually about 20 kBTU/square foot.

Thank you,

Tapani Talo, AIA

Most Spirited New York: A Look at New York Architecture

Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: New York | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

New York Architecture is a working machine (a collection of high density buildings) that is made pleasant by Street Life, Culture and Skyline.

Architecture in New York is the ‘collective skyline’ and the pedestrian streets that are lined with every kind of shopping, restaurant and museum.

So it is not about architecture as people generally associate it, but more about liking our vacation destinations, like Florence, Rome and Barcelona (just to mention easy ones similar to New York with walking, shopping and museums).

How this was achieved was by ZONING. In order to keep New York a PEDESTRIAN CITY, we forget that the REAL ARCHITECTURE FOR THE PAST 60 YEARS HAS BEEN THE PLANNING AND ZONING in order to keep variety and richness in each part of the city’s streets and not allowing blank MEGA stores and banks to overwhelm the streets block after block; and thus, suffocating the city. We had wonderful brilliant well-meaning individuals in charge of all this and they saved the city as best as they could.

In the period after Seagram was built; the plazas became the ‘fashion’. But very soon the gaps (or wounds) in street livelihood was noticed. And thus the savior, the 1983 zoning law, was passed.

But alas, even with this zoning, we cannot control market forces like rents and tenants.

Midtown today has suffered from the success and is now rented for luxury (and mostly to international mega label ‘store chains’ due to the high rents that began in the 1980’s). ‘Street Life’ has moved to downtown areas like Greenwich Village, Soho, and Tribeca. These areas, along with the upper West Side, have been able to offer more New York-like diverse retail, restaurants and art scenes. The museums and music events still draw normal people to Midtown, but galleries, fun stores, and restaurants are harder to come by. An eerie silence from the locals is the result.


All built architecture buildings, in New York focus on the ability to create VERY efficient plans, and yet manage to squeeze a brief moment of a welcoming lobby (occasionally) and a beautiful elevator whisking you up to whatever meeting or apartment you wish to visit.

So Central Park and Riverside Park in the upper West side of Manhattan became the lungs for New York. Also the East Side landmarked areas made it possible to have a reasonable sky plane and a sense of normality, as without this the entire Upper East Side would have been ripped apart and built like any high density metropolis, with no character, just density.

So three miracles on top of reasonably good public transportation: Central Park and Riverside Park, Landmark Law and creative Zoning has saved New York, and allowed our City to do what we really need to do, work VERY hard these days in service related industries.

As for built architecture I would break down the categories into 3 categories, starting with the healthiest:

1. Development like Durst’s Bank of America tower at Bryant Park is as green as it can get. But Durst was in charge of most meetings and made sure everyone applied Green principals to achieve the intended results. And this is not easy. Architects and consultants are not willing or allowed to go through the extra effort to do this. It is a different kind of service and thus requires more time and effort, which is not part of standard fee.

But even Durst cannot change the rental area calculation. The rental area is measured to the exterior of glass, and thus the curtain wall has to be as thin as possible. This, by default, results in less than perfect Green building.

His building, by being green, has the ability to provide power in emergencies, use innovative thermal storage to reduce loads and water consumption, and foremost, provide extremely healthy environments to his tenants with other technologies. This in turn saves tenants more money than any of the other issues mentioned due to less turnover and days off due to sickness of any kind.

2. Normal commercial office buildings and housing have to conform so rigorously to tenant standards (to the very last 1/8th of inch / or 3 mm), zoning envelope and cost per sq. ft. The skin has to be the thinnest possible, as long as we have this incredibly detrimental law of calculating rentable space to the outside plane of the glass. Until we change this, there cannot be truly smart GREEN buildings in New York.

The less Green the buildings are, the more profitable they are to owner by using more power. The Landlord/owner gets a share of the electrical utility cost. And thus not only owners but utility companies are reluctant to promote something that has no commercial value to them. Also because of this there is no need to think differently from the past or change maintenance or other considerations.

Ever so rarely there is a site that has enough of a dimension that allows some form of massing manipulation and room to attract higher end tenants (better rent), but primary skill is in the method of trying to make a bulk feel smaller, with minimum means, in order to keep efficiency and costs down.

3. Museums and cultural buildings are the only ones that tend to have the ability to shine in artistic ways. And this is a blessing. New York truly gets the best architects in the world to do their very best. The recent MOMA addition and renovation is a shining example of an extremely difficult urban situation turned into a masterful show of talent that we should all be proud of.

The next blog about New York will be a more detailed issue that will include actual details of Built projects both in housing and office buildings. It will also explain why the buildings will last a fraction of the time by not being Green and built for immediate financial gratification rather than for the good of the country itself in the long term.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Architecture and Humanity

Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Before returning to ‘Green and Savings’, I’d like to go back to my roots – architecture and humanity, and the idea of Man and Woman and our children.

We love to be in cities, or at least visit them beyond our work for all that they offer. Varied, rich cultures of all kinds exist in larger cities like NY, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.

These days, cities are struggling to retain excitement as people move out due to cost, density, or other issues like lack of required level of education or places to play for children. This in turn changes local buying power, and creates an issue with diminishing vibrancy of street life with cafes, small stores, small intimate movie houses, etc.

So cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, try to make waterfronts and cultural institutions more accessible. Inner city has turned into day business districts with ever higher looming high rise towers and dull storefronts with mega stores – none green in ANY way due to all the restrictions for the landlord.

Landlords maximize rental income within a zoning envelope (this in turn makes curtain walls thin and are expected to last 30 years, no more! How to replace is a good question.) and there is no local population at night. But these areas too depend on local population and not just visitors. So WATERFRONTS (or PARKS) are truly important last ‘forts’ for vibrancy and for keeping active people in the city itself before they relocate to car culture suburbs (which will be addressed in a future blog).

Our (USA) public image is at stake too as businesses and tourists visit these locations more than others. The fact that our great plans for real linear parks along the water front have withered to mere strips of pedestrian and bicycle paths at most places is still better than it was before. We have access to the river at least.

The common element that keeps the waterfront out of use (by local people or tourists) is access. If public transportation is not close, both housing density changes, and also the usage of the waterfront. The success of Central Park in New York City is because of its size and excellent transportation.

Had New York City built the lower Manhattan Hudson riverfront based on our proposals in late 1988, the entire lower Manhattan would have more families living there longer than the usual early career professionals. This in turn would have created a need for new subway line, better serving waste areas in now off the beaten track areas.

No real parks have been created since Riverside Park in New York City in 1910, one hundred and ONE years ago. Thinking of our children would have been a reason enough to create some. (The attached images from my first prize winning competition serves a quiet footnote to what could have been, and what is).

Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco have also all cleaned up and enriched their waterfronts but the dream where real people stroll every day and enjoy various activities is a gone era.

As a point of reference, within the top 10 cities in the world for livability, 8 of them are on waterfronts that are highly usable. And personally I have to agree knowing most of them well.

Tapani Talo, AIA
NY Super Studio Architects
NY Architecture Firm

Why Green Building?

Posted: May 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Cooper Union - A Green Building

Why Green Building?

This seems like such an odd question to me.

Let’s use an analogy from history. About 100 years ago car companies bought canals, trams and train lines in the UK and the USA in order to shut them down as competition to roads and cars.

Today, in some European countries, the governments have decided that since water and rail is 90% cheaper than transport, the NATIONS themselves will benefit from these savings, and thus they encourage this form of transportation mode.

We can think the same about wasting 90% of energy in houses, cars, commercial buildings, factories, roads and public systems (like duplicate bus systems –school buses that can be used to transport both children and the elderly– and list goes on).

Now our ARMY is changing their entire operation to be less dependent on transported fuels and supplies, as it has proven to be an Achilles heel in dealings around the world.

For us here, we are less competitive due to waste. We depend on high power equipment and buildings and roads that suck our energy when not built or maintained with the latest technology. Every corporation looks after their EVERY expense, and where it can be eliminated, it will.

Good Green is MORE comfortable, and less worrisome as fewer things go wrong.

Green Building would employ the sector that is currently most hurt. It can also be retrained, as Green Building does require people who have at least some education.

The most effective and quickest way would be to give people in the US army a continuing 3 months course in Green Building, and thus we would have a driven and motivated people all around US with this new skill set. The army could teach them how to build 80% or better projects, rather than current method of sealing leaky windows and adding new siding or shingles with new building paper for wind break. Even college graduates should have this training regardless of their degree as Green Building affects all of us. Building codes should require builders, mechanical and electrical contractors, and even building inspectors (yes indeed, as most of them do not understand) to pass a test.

What would the value of our country be if everyone participated? With the current oil price, housing would be 200 billion a year, commercial and industrial the same. Transportation related at least the same. This does not include the huge employment and technological advancements and related competitive products that would come out of this for us that we could sell around the world. All told a trillion a year – and what was the current budget dispute? – a fraction of this.

Currently NOBODY builds the right kind of roofs, windows with shades, or walls in US. When I ask about the equipment being installed, or how much energy it consumes there is generally no answer, except on the occasional single project by a very rare architect and client combination. Even on my own projects, I have to create a WILLING construction team myself in order to make it happen.

Tapani Talo, AIA

NY Super Studio Architects, New York provides sustainable building solutions. We are proud to be a part of the Green Building movement. For more information on Green Building, contact us at 914-645-2940.

WTC-Freedom Tower

Cooper Square Hotel

Typical High Power

Gehry's Office Block

Love and How to Start Good Design

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Love (personal with couples, artists, intellectuals and general society) is the root of good design. In looking back throughout my career, only clients with this attitude created good designs. Others were projects.

No one (except one person who relocated his job) has sold or rented my residential projects. They love them so much. In commercial designs I have been 100% successful delivering what clients want in my own practice, as well as with masters like Edward Barnes, James Polshek, Philip Johnson, and others at earlier parts of my career. And this has applied to my portrait painting, and photography art.

Now at 60 – almost 61 — and having had a sort of a sabbatical during nursing my late wife through stage 4 breast cancer for 8 and ½ years up until last year, I had the opportunity take a Zen look at what is important and why I‘ve had this fortune.

So yesterday at Shakespeare and Co. Book Store it dawned on me that all my designs and art had a common root. The composition and light feel similar to the works of Rembrandt and Picasso. Because I have the desire and ability to listen to client’s wishes I am able to adopt not just one way of designing but am at ease with almost any look needed for successful designs that fit city or neighborhood – and occasionally become true contemporary art pieces.

The Zen position of design is harmonious and modest –even when the project is hard hitting and contemporary– and it requires respecting every client.

I find that it is also sometimes like a good sentence: short, snappy, vivid, and with character. In architecture,the beginning words of the sentence are “material” (one or two main materials are picked at the beginning of a project), “light” which represents color scheme, and “site” — the views upon which the client’s program gets molded.

The next step in the Pre-Design phase is the most difficult as none of the national contract forms address this correctly:

First, double check the program! Many times huge savings have occurred just by helping the client rethink the initial program.

All designs and art start with taking time to THINK (including time with key consultants). The duration of this time should be 3 months minimum (6 to 9 months or even longer for High Art).

This also applies to GREEN Building and cost effective design. Currently all software, materials, means and methods are changing so rapidly (monthly), that if one does not adopt the best and absolutely latest software in the beginning, the client will lose 20% in wasted contraction costs. For larger firms adopting the latest software is very difficult, as they have to change so many work stations and train staff. NY Super Studio Architects adopts the latest software for each job individually.

Finding the right mix of consultants and contractors who really understand GREEN Design and respect it is even more difficult, as they have to build differently from how they did in the past. Most contractors and engineers do not know how to price this thinking. They don’t know how to change and thus are unwilling to provide customers with what’s new and prefer to proceed only with known methods and suppliers.


Tapani Talo, AIA