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

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

Best Protection From Storms, Winter, and Natural Disasters: Extra Insulation and Fixed Windows

Posted: November 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, New York | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


The other day I was driving from New York to Boston while listening to news about the freak storm that hit the North East 10 or so days ago.  The complaints were about how long it took to get power back after the storm.  And yet, North America is the location of the cheapest power in the world.  As a NYC commercial architect, this surprised me.

This reminds me of the relationship between citizens and their government; we want everything our way, but never want to pay for the staff and services that make the system more robust.

One simple solution for the best protection from storms is having twice the code insulationCode insulation is a generation behind what is useful now and in the future.  Therefore, insulation that is merely up-to-code is less than ideal.

Solar panels, wind generators – local or school district-based ones – geothermal heat and cooling, heat and AC recovery ventilators for fresh air are all important.  This is especially true for Westchester NY.

With the proper insulation, a NYC home could come across any storm or natural disaster without any loss of comfort at home.  An NYC office is the same way. Transportation is another issue, but at least it’s an issue that does not cause us to freeze in the winter and boil in the summer.

Lighting in NYC homes can now be LED lighting, therefore directly fed from batterys or PV solar panels.

Geothermal Architect NYC

Try putting extra insulation in place along with a few primarily fixed windows (there is only a need for so many operable windows). Fixed windows are much more efficient and do not leak air.  The placement of these windows in your NYC home can lead to a great decrease in the loss of heat or AC.

Geothermal heating and cooling–which uses the free energy from the earth’s crust–coupled with solar electricity, has been around for decades (most people gasp at this due to amazement) .  The technology can be compared to that of a hybrid car.  Yet, it is the least utilized technology, as normal NYC architects, contractors, heating and cooling engineers, and suppliers do not want to change.

The end result is that a small wood burning fire place in the winter will suffice for heat and some cooking when all else fails. In the South, solar panels take care of electricity and hot water 90% of the days, providing cooling and hot showers – both of which are the most expensive items on the utility bill.

Welcome to the 21st century in style!

Tapani Talo, AIA


11 Heatherbloom Road, White Plains,

New York 10605, USA. Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,

Fax; 1-914-313-1641


Green Architecture Produces Green PROFIT – 85% More Efficient Than Current Buildings

Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, New York | Tags: , , | No Comments »

From a very green architect’s desk:


Today’s architectural income was not dependent on market gyrations, or the usual fluctuations in stock evaluations– just smart bottom line directive. “Green” as it is called these days, was called smart, and just plain savvy in the past. One thing for sure, this type of investment returns profit many times over when compared to the return on Wall Street.

Today the press their publications are too open, glossing over an overused term in US.  While the name has changed, the services have not.  Green is not always what companies claim it is. Instead of 15 to 20% improvement, those of us in the architecture and engineering field want to see and provide an 85% improvement.  We truly wish to create HIGH return on investment now and in the future.

Most corporations lack an overall view, which combines health, lessening absenteeism, diminishing the hiring of new people (hugely profitable but almost never included in building design evaluation) efficiency in all buildings (easier to quantify without the health aspect), transportation, and production (which is the most scientifically studied aspect). The Bank of America tower in NY City is perhaps one of the only buildings trying to it all.

I propose to give a short overview evaluation in about one month’s worth of hours.  This means 150 or so spread over 4 months time.  This leaves a decent amount of time to think things through thoroughly (very economical to say the least).  This can then be followed by precision consultants in each sector identified as potential for both immediate and long-term profit.

From my website one can see a few green architectural projects ranging from 1000 sq ft to 10 million, all of which I have single-handedly been in charge of in terms of high designer and project architect. What cannot be shown are the professional services that I have done during and before these architecture projects.  Those professional services have enhanced my ability to understand and provide a quality green architectural service to my clients, with the consistent approval of each client.

Many of the high-end architectural projects (even when done with a tight budget) were ended right at the time of full documentation due to markets collapsing.  Of course, that is something that is beyond our control.

Tapani Talo, AIA

Architecture and 9-11, and the Lack Raw Materials for Green Building

Posted: September 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, green building, New York | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Last week was the 10th anniversary of the terrible day when many things shifted and changed, most of it unknown to most people.

But very quietly we had also passed a major point in the world without any fanfare or alarm. It was roughly the date when we exceeded the use of raw materials as what the earth can supply to us at a time when the planet was growing in population at alarming rate.

As I recalled that bright beautiful day and the moment my sister called from London to say that a plane had hit World Trade center tower, and I just said: Oh, it must be a small plane and no worries.

On the train at 125th street station, a conductor ran through the train and said this train stops here.. as the first tower collapsed. We still didn’t believe that it was serious and so I joined two UN in a cab, and so were off and running as usual.

Until 14th street. I saw this wall of dusty and bloody wall of people heading our way and I said to the cab, I guess I won’t make it for the meeting in Down Town after all.

The floors at World Trade center had pancaked one after the other from the tremendous heat and so the weight of one hitting the other created a cascading collapse.


Conceptually it is very similar to the last century. The 20th century started with tremendous explosion of industry, transportation, science, and everything was turning better, like the blue sky I saw September 11 morning. Until the 60’s when first alarming notes of impending global heating, seas losing their fish, unusable rivers, water shortages, presented by few people who saw this happening and making a very simple equation that if this goes on, there will be a cascading event like the World Trade center Towers collapse.

And here we all thought, oh well, just a small event, nothing to worry about: we can fix things. But things are 100 times more difficult and dangerous geo politically than the 70’s oil embargo nuisance, and we still think that way, but we cannot afford to change the course. The world is suffering from ever increasing prices for raw materials, energy, and commercial competition. Our way of living cannot go down we think, and so we do more each year, consume more.

During WW 2 there was an interesting parallel during and after Normandy landing: the MOST important commodity was oil. Nothing moved without it, so the highest efforts for the central command were to make sure oil and gasoline shipments went to front line. Everything else was secondary, bridges were built for this purpose, police made made sure the supply was not interrupted.

Single tanks consumed 8000 gallons of fuel per week. One Division needed 125000 gallons to move 100 yards.

Today in the USA we are like this army division. We need unreal amounts of energy to do simple things. Small disruption, the doubling and then quadrupling of energy and raw material costs has a dis-proportioned adverse effect on our economy as we have BLOWN it by not protecting ourselves in any way. 150 years ago each farmer knew that if he hadn’t stored grain, grass, firewood etc, he could not survive the winter. They knew that self reliance was the key.

The saddest of all, it was Jimmy Carter who put it bluntly that saving energy and raw materials was moral equivalent of WAR, and since we didn’t take to heart, we surely will have one as we all compete for the same – raw materials. We would have had almost 40 years to change our ways.

Instead we build cheaper, more temporary energy hungry buildings, and cars etc. And architects and engineers fees are made completive in bidding instead of being based on levels of professionalism. Hence there is no real long term training for young architects and engineers to do better, as we have to hire and fire at will to cut down on cost.

For instance, when we do Green, it comes out of our overhead, making us truly even poorer each year. And thus very little in effect is done to green our country. Building a little bit more expensively and making buildings save the nations’ future is a very poor calling card to present to future clients.

In my previous blogs I have pointed out means and methods for the Government to address some issues, as developers cannot change their habits until there is a tax or other incentive to DO so.

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