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

Pritzker Prize for RCR Arquitectes – Wonderful and Sad News

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building | Tags: , | No Comments »

I have been involved with cutting-edge design from the very start of my career in architecture, but to me, the saddest thing is that we have not evolved.

Sustainable ArchitectureRCR Arquitectes recently received the Pritzker Prize. The firm is a remarkable manifestation of artistic and material excellence, very much like Tadao Ando with his Alvar Aalto and Pritzker prizes many years ago.

I live in a world where the United States alone wastes a trillion dollars a year in energy. I have not seen one single program – even in our Ivy League schools – where students are guided to understand the principles of the global responsibility.

Today, there is NO NEED to design a building that wastes energy – NONE. Period.

Buildings that are not energy efficient continue to exist today only because our clients insist on using current codes and standards that protect our energy suppliers’ futures. Energy suppliers sit on our boards and in our meetings to make sure that the code does not hurt their future of WASTE, and thus their stock prices.

I have yet to see one prize, whether it’s the AIA national award in the U.S., or in my home country of birth, Finland, or my adopted interim country, the United Kingdom, where I received the best energy – before it was called green and passive – and design information par none from 1974-77.

If we keep rewarding people like Ando, and all the well-meaning others whose buildings don’t give any regard to energy efficiency and conservation, how am I going to greet my children and say you are going to be OK?

We don’t have many years to go on. We have burnt the atmosphere and oceans beyond the point of a return to normality.


Tapani Talo, AIA

Real Income for USA

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building | Tags: | No Comments »

Trillions of dollars each year if we think correctly using proven methods – Think and operate like Apple does.

3,500 Foot Tall Projected Building in BeijingWe just had a political earthquake, but instead of fixing matters it is opening fissures that will hinder real innovative thinking by the brightest professionals and overall growth.

It is no one’s fault but our unique history of easy access to almost unlimited resources that has created a relaxed attitude what needs to be done in the long term. Our quarterly approach to finance and expectations of companies’ positive cash stream is not helpful for long-term change and innovation. Our new president has used the old methods of building cheap – even cheaper using every tax loophole there is. His method – and that of many developers in general – is first low cost with most glitter possible.

iPhones are innovative as the market place is brutal to Apple if they don’t. If were using the same means as iPhones that have improved energy usage each year, our buildings would not need the grid, be safer and infinitely more usable and comfortable.

Let’s just look at buildings and transportation. Since 1973, both have had green thinking on the agenda but it has been vigorously opposed by utility companies and builders. I can understand utility companies, as they are mandated to provide the best return possible for shareholders.

What I do not understand is builders objecting to green codes. For them, work is work, and they get paid by their effort. But the pressure is the developers whose wallets depend on competitive cost over competition. Our nation pays dearly for this. We complain about taxes, but these kinds of savings are equal to the annual budget of the USA, fiercely fought over on Capitol Hill in Senate and the House.

This isn’t chicken feed – it would show that we were as smart as Apple is – or better. Architects have wanted to do this for decades, but never allowed to.

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

Saving $300K to $600K Without Effort in 30 Years

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: energy policy, green building | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Plan before having children with near or full passive house savings

Now that we have a summer holiday from super-high energy costs, it is actually the best time to plan ahead as they will be returning with a bang soon enough.

Green Energy HomeBut how many of us understand the potential guaranteed savings in 30 years of $300,000 to $600,000 dollars for normal house (plus or minus 2,000 square feet)?

We plan our own education for careers (expensive these days), marriage (we manage the costs) and having children (costly but necessary for two reasons – education and housing) and a that is close to a school of choice and convenient to work and leisure.

Cars are one of the biggest variables, though. The cumulative cost for vehicles can be more than the house cost in most of the U.S.

But the house needs real forward thinking, and that is NOT in our general mental training in the USA. I find ever-so-few smart professionals who understand this. They hire SMART investors to invest smartly, they hire as good as possible lawyers to be safe and, naturally, the same applies to doctors. But almost none of them hire smart green passive architects, and with green, every client will have guaranteed savings as long as they live in the building – no ups or downs like in stock markets.

Energy Saving HomeWhy Does this Occur?

Naturally there is a cost-fixing typical American house, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 on average, but that is the cost that many people pay for a higher performance car.

The house is the same way: higher comfort, but lower cost over the period of raising a family in one school district.

But if one sells a “green house,” like my clients who have relocated, they will often find they can recover the cost in an instant and sell their homes fast – and with a premium.

In addition, when storms like Hurricane Sandy and other power outages occur, one has no need to find a friend or hotel for the weeks when there is no power. A green, self-sufficient house still has a comfortable 72 degrees inside 24/7, a working refrigerator and power for computers available.

Why We Still Don’t Understand One of the Professional-Side Largest Expenditures

Energy Conservation at HomeThe idea that we will not have economical oil, clean air and fertile soil forever – let alone for our next generation – just does not resonate in the USA. But it is the reason why Europeans have more stable life. They plan long term at the government level, and they save for those cloudy days when jobs and investments fall short.

In the next blog, I will make a similar comparison for Class A office buildings that are built right.

In Northern Europe, it hardly matters where you live. Education is equal where ever you are, and transportation is exemplary, meaning that cars are more convenience than necessity.

Thank you!

Tapani Talo, AIA

Building Better in USA, India and Globally, with Inspiration from Chef Dan Barber

Posted: June 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Talo – Green Passive Architect – since 1984

Tapani A. Talo, AIA

Building Better in USA, India and Globally, with Inspiration from Chef Dan Barber

DSC_0351-B-MThe Third Plate, Chef Dan Barber’s book on how to create new, better food systems, has a fairly simple premise for good food. To summarize, food should be grown in naturally healthy soils without chemical interventions that burn away the microorganisms that allow and create the conditions for a full range of nutrients to exist. In the U.S. today, farmers are mainly giant stakeholders employing machinery to farm monocultures like corn and soybeans on farms made possible only with the application of literally tons of fertilizers and pesticides. There is no connection to earth and no motive other than immediate profit.

The way we build is also primarily based on the profit motive, whether in the US, or, as I witnessed last week on a trip to Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in modern India. The trend means minimal greening, or, to put it in numbers, 20 to 30% improvement in energy efficiency at best. Developers and architects alike think this is ok.

Why? A few trends point the way. When I started working in New York City in 1980, the core to window wall ratio was getting larger and larger all the time, thanks to lighting and HVAC systems that could bring a facsimile of fresh air and real light deep into the heart of buildings. A perfect example was Three Nutrients on 200 Vesey Street, designed in 1982, and started in 1983. Its 40,000 square foot floor plates (200 by 200 feet) were made possible by HVAC and Lighting. Architects like myself thought at the time that this was nuts – but that’s what corporate clients and thus developers – wanted and insisted.

In Germany and Switzerland even secretaries have to have daylight, as the health issues of going without are extremely well documented (to their credit, our AIA has for years been touting this issue, to no avail), creating health bills that dwarf the cost of building itself. Not only do we demand endless hours from our staff, but with space maximizing floor plans, we deny real light and real fresh air to employees in the name of efficiency.

Building plans (and new buildings in India, China and everywhere) have followed suit. In the 70’s I remember a study where British workers were compared to Germans. In the UK they worked longer hours, but produced less than the Germans who had extremely long holidays too.

The German and Swiss (and now Austrian) buildings are extremely well insulated, with hardly any major mechanical equipment to supplement natural air, or well treated air and light, and have operable windows made possible partially due to a good climate. Passive buildings even for office space are becoming a norm, with the result that a 20 story commercial uses as much energy as a large normal private house in the states. Payback for building alone – about 8 years, with staff health near immediate.

It’s not as if larger, artificially enhanced buildings produce a net benefit either. The U.S. spends a trillion in wasted energy a year, a 1/3 more than military budget, and equal to our general annual budget as a whole. Yet the so-called efficiency of large office floor plates, lots of equipment pushing heat and cool and simple double glazed windows is still the norm.

We do not get real energy numbers from China, but it cannot be any different. And India’s electric grid is struggling to cope with demand during summer heat waves. There is no government (or people serving in their respective parties) beyond Germany, Austria, Switzerland (and Scandinavia, to a large extent) that understands even a little bit of this, or how to do something about this rather sad gas guzzling situation where we jam people like chicken farmers jam chickens into sheds, sacrificing quality of space and energy in the name of efficiency and market ‘norm’.

Our buildings are big monocultures, like corn and soybeans, stuffed with people to produce as much as possible and sacrificing air, light and working environment, like the taste and nutrients in food, for a few basic, sellable outcomes. Unlike a kernel of corn, however, the workers in these environments have to contend with health and psychological issues that extend beyond those four walls.

NY City future DSC_0171If architects, building department officials, engineers and developers were trained right from the start of their education on basic energy efficiency, we would not have this trillion-dollar monkey on our backs, and would live in a world where healthier, happier workers could produce more and better ideas. And where does that trillion go – to atmosphere – and as in India this summer, boiling pavements, roads and people without AC.

The Third Plate paints a clear relationship between soil sustainability and healthy food. Likewise, the architects of today need to think about what people and society as a whole need, and treat the environments where they live and work with the same focus on sustainability and quality.

A good architect can design anything, with the right training. But we need a lot more of it, and now.

But cannot, as there are no incentives by banks or governments as they are clueless having grown up in this system and unable to re-think the building like a gas guzzling trucks. Both products of engineering but buildings are for 50 to 100 years each.

Tapani Talo, AIA


648 Valley Avenue, 3rd floor, Yonkers, NY 10703, USA Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,

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Reimagining America’s Buildings Starts at the University Level

Posted: December 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As one of the premier zero energy architectural firms in the country, we know a thing or two about good long-term buildings at NY Super Studio Architects. Unfortunately, most of the country doesn’t follow this mindset and it all starts with the Universities in this country.

MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other universities – as a reflection of our society – cradles the USA’s complacency integrating healthy attitude to competitiveness.

If one would paint a picture of USA by walking through our universities, it would be very hard to believe that we are in 21st century; the setting is far too antiquated in look and feel.

Yet all the buildings are used by the Universities 24/7 for what seems like the foreseeable eternity. There are no buildings that are 100% passive (or even 90%) and capable of being used without external power source, WHICH is very easy to do with our current knowledge. Why aren’t we then?

Thus, we train our best to think that this Colonial 1932 or older aesthetic is the norm, and the fashionable ‘cool’ thing to do. A perfect example of those 1930 colonial look (and feel) buildings that operate alike is Scarsdale in Westchester, NY.

Scarsdale is amongst the wealthiest towns in USA, just as our Ivy League Universities are. Building review boards often want that 1932 Colonial look, because it is the ‘safe’ look for property values and neighborhood character. The idea that architects could do something contemporary and good is NOT EVEN CONTEMPLATED. In Scarsdale, it is impossible to do smart buildings either; it’s all about the look and square foot amount. Even solar panels are considered eyesores. Skylights in the deep (in plain dimension) Mac Mansions would make the interiors little lighter and happier without constant lights. Unfortunately, they are forbidden too. Construction follows the cheapest norm, and as an average new home sells around 3 million, a smart PASSIVE construction would barely register in cost, nor would it change the look in any of them. So, what is the problem here?

In my recent visit to all of these Ivy League campuses, I felt embarrassment just looking at the buildings as well as the architecture schools products. All surface and style in student presentations, and in none did I see buildings that were attempting to be GOOD long term buildings filled with sensible views and light using latest R-13 and R-20 glass. Building construction was always esoteric, and my colleges and I could never hire a student from an American University without totally retraining them. To be expected, that is an expensive proposition in today’s climate where fees are cut to the bone in buildings that are normally extremely tightly budgeted.

If Universities cannot or are unwilling to invest in GOOD buildings, how do we expect the rest of the country to do so? I mean, with all the complexities of developers needing instant return on capital, getting no aid to do passive and green for the good of our country and simply not giving a damn about the fact that the tenant will be paying for the lousy short-sighted old fashioned office/apartment building ((which translates to the entire US economy), the country will never invest in GOOD buildings. They simply cannot AFFORD to be sensible. Our society still does not believe in the fact that we are running out of cheap energy and that completion around the world is turning us into dust.

Hurricane Sandy showed us in NYC that when the power is out, we are too. Nobody climbs 70 floors to an unheated office, nor do people live in the 70th floor that has no heat, water or other services. This is a gigantic problem that we have to deal with now. The sooner, the better. However, even without such an environmental conflict, when energy costs double from present (and they will), it will create a political situation that WILL lead to a BIG and GLOBAL war. Then a Sandy-like scenario will happen over all over the developed world. We’re not ready for this. None of us is. We could have been if we had listened Jimmy Carter.

If you have any questions regarding NYC architecture or construction, or curious about zero energy architecture, contact NY Super Studio Architects today! Project by project, we will help build up this nation in a POSITIVE and GREEN way.

Tapani Talo, AIA

DOE, Energy Waste, Taxes and Average American Pocket Book – Now and In Long Term

Posted: December 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

50 years ago John F. Kennedy said: Don’t think what government can do to you, but what you can do for your country – to save our children’s future. This kind of thinking fuels green architecture and planning, especially in and around New York City. NY Super Studio Architects lives by such a philosophy. If only other institutions did the same, such as the DOE (Department of Energy).

If DOE would change its front page for residential (On the commercial built environment side, the same applies ) recommendation to match 2013 knowledge and capabilities, our nation would be on the way to save Trillion dollars a year avoiding wasted energy alone. Plus avoid a catastrophic set of climate and geopolitical events that are gathering pace within a decade.

But that’s not all.

  1. Each of us would earn more than our general life time earnings by cutting mortgage payments as we know it! Most of the cost of our purchase price goes to interest. If energy savings income is funneled to paying principal, ones saves the amount of mortgage in 20 years. No that is REAL income towards retirement. Not only income but being able to live in an incredibly comfortable house or office building that can operate without the grid power when done right.
  2. Our military presence in many parts of the world is based on our energy on our energy insecurity. It is lot cheaper to make our own country operate smartly and better, as then we are not creating more enemies by playing shifting political games around the world.
  3. Maybe Universities would produce students that understood that focusing on Wall Street careers only will ‘burn this earth’ and if actually living smartly and making money at the same time would save them…and their children.

On the residential AND commercial sector we ask builders and developers to build cheaply, but WE (the people) are the ones who pay each day, month and year enormous wasted utility costs, TAXED BY the building owners for supplying it, much like banks charge us for CREDIT cards. By and large we STILL build largely the way it would have been state of the art BEFORE the oil embargo 1973. This isn’t very green, isn’t it? Nor is it very smart!

We complain about taxes and big government, but if most of us understood how much each of us would save if our bright government agencies hired the best brains AND allow them to do what is done in other countries. For instance, NOAA’s chief scientist and head of the Earth Space Research Lab, Dr. Sandy MacDonald – has made it possible through a five-year project to save our country from an energy crisis by making our power network 93% efficient with mere 150 billion. This allows us to connect not only existing power providers, but also wind and solar power ACROSS the country anywhere. This – if implemented – could almost reverse our planetary carbon increase in the atmosphere (particularly if China did the same). This would give us time to implement 90% reduction in energy losses in buildings (and hopefully in transportation too).

Somehow we trust corporate leaders, with a grain of salt, banking leaders bit less as we have paid ENORMOUS taxes to bail them out. WE have more universities than any other country, but we don’t seem to be able to teach common sense and how to make smart collective decisions. In numerous historical phases in the past, one thing stands out: we either pull the same rope (think what is good and smart bottom line in LONG term for the country) or perish. Particularly in the USA, each state, city and school district seem to have a different agenda and pulling a DIFFERENT ROPE.

50 years ago John F. Kennedy said: Don’t think what government can do to you, but what you can do for your country. As a people, we must embrace that ideology once again. If green architects can do it, why can’t the nation as a whole?

For more information on this topic, the below books are a good place to start.

If you have any questions regarding NYC architecture or construction, or curious about zero energy architecture, contact NY Super Studio Architects today!

Tapani Talo, AIA

Toll Brothers and Trump vs. Greener USA as a Nation

Posted: November 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building, New York | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Toll Brothers housing and Trump Towers are synonymous in US of ‘quality, power and prestige’.

But neither have energy savings to talk about. Because it does not translate to IMMEDIATE income for them. The energy losses and costs are passed on to the purchaser, so why bother to go and help them or USA as a nation?? 90% improvement with 7% extra cost hurts Mr. Trump and Mr. Toll. And we cannot blame them. We can only blame our own shortsightedness for this and pay trillion dollars a year in WASTED energy, and 1/3rd larger than our US military budget or our annual Healthcare and transportation expenditure.

Until we have financial tools and incentives that Toll Brothers and Trump will use, we do NOT have the right approach.

And we architects are measured how cheaply we can make the building and still make it seem prestigious and thus sell. If we try and talk to them while designing, they find another architect who does his work without comments.

Romney (and the GOP in general) spoke constantly about drill drill drill bay, instead of let’s use our brains and knowledge.
We have known for TWO generations how to make buildings zero energy, now it is even easier with new technologies that are lighter and smarter.

It’s time that the common man and woman has right to be proud being professional, give them proper financial SIMPLE tools and use our ingenuity to produce the best and least energy hungry products. And I wish the best to our newly voted president to handle the congress in this respect.

Obama had a great speech in his first inauguration 4 years ago, except for one paragraph. He said that our way of life is our right. I challenge that our way of life before WW2 was right because we knew the value of prudence with less waste and making sure future generation can enjoy fruits of our sincerest work that leaves the planet hopefully in a healthier place rather than the current – let’s spend the resources first and worry about the results later.

Tapani Talo, AIA

US Energy savings bill – architect’s re wording of first paragraph

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building, New York | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Energy Savings bill
First paragraph:
The secretary shall support the development of national model building energy codes, including the updating of ASRAE and IECC model building energy codes and standards.

An example:

A couple came to me for help.

They had their house designed and foundations poured, but realized that it had very little insulation. Their contractor and architect had said to them, that’s ok. They said that it meets the code, but it was far from it. In their area there are no inspectors, and thus they do what they feel is expedient.

The wife wanted to fix the insulation and make it low energy and comfortable for future! Her husband doubled the incoming power and wanted to add electrical floor heat – the most expensive and wasteful method imaginable.

I have found that men are inclined to love BIG motors of all kinds. HVAC, Cars, Boats, Planes, nuclear plants… and rarely (not a statistical number) think the other way around, how to get from A to B efficiently.

Surely it is more fun to commute in a Lamborghini than an electrical car. But there is HUGE series of material, gas and labor involved in producing and maintaining a Lamborghini or most other cars, equipment, fine roads, houses, services.

In the next decade we will have 1 billion more people and if each of them use just one 60 watt light bulb for 4 hours, the world needs 50 some power stations to do the task. Just count how to multiply our standard of living and one starts to sense HOW much energy and material we are consuming (twice the Europeans alone and WHY?), and why there will be a catastrophic pressure in the world to provide for them and us. Just 2 years ago there were riots in populous parts of the world when food prices went up, and like in the past world history when this happened, nations and rulers collapsed.

The very point of this is that US energy Bill 1000 now in congress does not start with right premise. – First paragraph: The secretary shall support the development of national model building energy codes, including the updating of ASRAE and IECC model building energy codes and standards.

It should start with: NO NORMAL BUILDING (designed hopefully by professional architect) should be allowed to compensate poor old fashioned design with EQUIPMENT that requires use of energy from national grid unless deemed impossible without and if the national grid goes down, any of these buildings should be able to function in minimum way, with power source no further than nearest school or hospital – which powered by solar and wind energy, or other renewable sources, could avoid taxing our energy supply.

Good buildings and other man made items these days have no reason to be healthy, well lit, comfortable and extremely economical to run. The fact that we nuclear power stations is embarrassing. Just one of them melting in an earthquake like in Japan would wipe out huge section of United States. There is no price tag big enough to cover this sort of event, and we have 56 or so of them.

What this would do to our country would be energy security that would withstand catastrophic environmental events, or worldwide, large conflicts of any kind.

We HAVE this ability, and had it for the past 30 years, but our national economy direction is to build bigger and more, rather than smarter.

Nearly 100 years ago Holland and Germany made sure that canals were not silted over and made sure rail roads were serving every nook of their territories. Each pound of material transported with these means save the nation 90% over one done on road transport. So in a century this saving is HUGE.

The same in medical field, early detection in general and taking care of children at early age (same as well-designed building at early stage) save huge amounts in medical expenses, Canada and Europe has proven it with longer life expectancy than we have, for ½ the price.

Architecture, like all other professions can be useful, but at the moment, the way we educate architects, engineers and other consultants for building industry, is in its infancy at best in terms of helping our nation in the long term.
We architects have to please the way developers and builders operate, build as cheaply as possible now (others – our children will fix our problems later) -.

And yet we spend a fortune in university education…. What is it that we teach?

Tapani Talo, AIA

Ideal Green building pre-requisite

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building, New York | No Comments »

Ideal Green Building is possible ONLY if CODE insists on ONE EXTRA FOOT for wall thickness past zoning envelope:, and excluded from rentable or buildable foot print’ as long as wall thickness reduces usable area for tenants, no sensible building can be built in USA.

Ideal Green Building, whether it’s high, middle, low rise or a house, would not look much different from current buildings if local zoning tax credits allowed them to be ‘smart’ without penalty to the owner. The construction industry is still a generation behind being truly able to apply current technical products and thus design innovations. Innovation is thought to add to costs due to changed thinking and procedures, and thus creating some initial procedures inconvenient to all parties. It takes a special client like Durst in NY City to be in meetings himself and make sure everybody plays their part correctly. But the end product can be up to 90% more efficient, 90% healthier and thus not only saving energy and related costs forever, but keep occupants healthier – which in studies save companies many times over the cost of building healthier. Daylight is truly number one, comfort in (fresh) air and heat and cool second.

I, for instance, could redesign the Philip Johnson’s ‘Glass House’ in New Canaan to be a zero carbon one with new details and new glass products that are on the market close to same look if I had a client for it. And it would be as comfortable temperature wise as any other building. But it is very difficult to renovate masonry buildings, or classic highly detailed Shingle style buildings of any kind to be state of the art without adding a new skin hiding the masonry or other ornate materials that conducts cold and heat like electricity.

So where is the difference and what should – could be done?

The current weakest link is the windows with R-3 to R-5 at best in every building type. In the South, shading is best initially combined with insulation that has a reflecting surface, along with glass that is R=13 or better (coming on the market shortly) combined with heavy insulation + masonry exterior. R-13 glass has been around for 15 years, but it is still considered an oddity.

In the Northern U.S windows for residential lowrise should be a combination of low-E GLASS shutters over low-E regular windows (R= 13 with film also in between glass panes) or better (like mine that is R-12+ which is 4 times better than best normal residential windows today). Northern climates benefit from R=40 and R= 60 to R-80 roof insulation most.

In office buildings double curtain walls are a must, but we do not have domestic manufacturers and thus a price point to make this possible without appropriate tax incentives. This would be a huge market for US industry if we allowed it to happen.

For existing buildings in general, zoning almost never allows for a thicker NEW outer wall, as the house or (commercial) building is already built to its maximum outline. And so we need ENERGY allowances for zoning for this to happen in houses, as well as in High Rise buildings. This outer wall would also stop the rusting of existing steel, and thus prolong the life of the building tremendously. Imagine the savings of being able to reuse structure these days with steel prices going through the roof.

Each building should have a ONE FOOT + curtain wall that is not calculated as part of the rentable or zoning area. Without this, the USA cannot advance. Southern USA should be able to shade the windows without zoning penalties — for instance, with a wrap-around porch or something similar to cut down the solar heat that creates most cooling needs.

This one foot extra thickness in commercial buildings of any kind would allow them to have internal shading between glass and curtain wall inner and outer planes planes and thus create proper insulation at the edge of the slab – which is the WEAKEST link in any current commercial or, especially, residential high rise project. By eliminating the thermal bridge, a building becomes almost indestructible! The integrity of any curtain wall in current buildings will fail within 3 decades. Sad indeed. The glass seals are currently designed to last 15 to 20 years, which with proper double wall construction can be doubled.

In houses, we can make them thermally active as well as properly insulated, as mentioned above. Between solar and geo, an emergency wood burning fireplace, and with a heat wheel ventilator one can survive a total electrical blackout for weeks or months, whether they are in the Southern or Northern U.S.

Apart from the fact that Geo heating and cooling are very quiet, they are also comfortable enough to grow orchids and collect art and antiques year round without the additional cost of mechanical heating, humidifying and cooling. One is also able to walk around the house with Adam’s dress even in zero degree weather!

This kind of comfort can be described best in car terms: it is like driving the best car on the market, whether it’s a Bentley, MB, or Ferrari for speed – but for very little cost!

Green building should be safe too. In the South, in tornado areas, by using insulated concrete blocks, green buildings become shelters, with an additional secondary shell preferably at ground level and surrounding the kitchen, bath and bedroom(s).

In the Northern U.S, the same rooms should be double insulated with fire-proof separation for safety, as well as sound. This way, in extreme loss of power, one barely needs a candle or two to keep living comfortably at key areas, and a single fireplace or equal keeps the house comfortable.

Sadly the weakest link in America is not in our building industry, but in our Senate and House

of Representatives. By not supporting tax and zoning as incentives that make truly innovations and practical building possible, we will keep trotting like Neanderthals.

THE WAY and infrastructure energy suppliers in their quest to give us more energy instead

of making us use 90% less, we cannot use our ingenuity, industry and energy to change our

Country for the better. And if we don’t, we will have to fight for our share of oil in the manner that

Mankind has done for too long in our history, manual fighting and losing our boys in vain.


Tapani Talo, AIA