APPLICATIONS >> ARCHITECTURE
Post Post Modern Architecture and Solstice Center Project DescriptionThis text and related materials were originally submitted in application for recognition with the Colorado Green Building Guild (www.bgbg.org) - Spring 2013 - but since this was the only project demonstrating sustainability oriented architecture and working within a Historic district constraint, the group declined to recognize the project. The application process was an opportunity to pull some things together and the project at 302 Pearl in Boulder has merit for various reasons, so the material is being made available for public purusal here. . . Including this 'Manifesto for 'Post Post Modern Architecture'.
RE: Creative and Cutting Edge strategies:
A Manifesto for ‘Post-Post Modern Architecture’As the Anthropocene period approaches what hopefully is the peak of impact with respect to climate change, species loss, and toxic discharges, there emerges an expectation for an appropriate and pragmatic approach to architecture. While simultaneously acknowledging the need for lower CO2 emissions, and the use of less toxic and resource conserving approaches to buildings, there is also a cogent need for structures that support the evolution of human consciousness, which encourage an unfolding of the human spirit. Collectively, we need to meet the challenges of our current and forthcoming era. Architecture can support authentic, human community, sustainable lifestyle and spiritual emergence. Post-Post Modernism demonstrates less interest in superficiality; instead there is a return to form-as-function, but with real purpose: directing human civilization into right relationship with its environment. There is a central understanding that a quantum evolution of consciousness is a requisite measure to this end.
Post Post Modern projects ‘feel great’ while protecting the inhabitants and the environment from toxins. Furthermore, there is no specific need for ‘green’ projects built from scratch with marketing angles and expensive certifications; existing structures are as important as new projects for this important conversion work. Landscapes can be nourishing for all creatures, humans included, and can provide beauty, fragrance, color, oxygen and food, all without toxic chemicals or wasteful water practices. Interiors can feel spacious and gorgeous, yet solid— expansive and inspiring. Solar resources can be utilized extensively, but not at the expense of aesthetics or human comfort.
At 302 Pearl, a historic building with poor thermal performance and mediocre heating equipment was being operated by an extremely conscious community of people, so efficiency was high despite a challenging building envelope. After several phases of remodeling, we now have a model for reworking an existing building envelope while addressing historic renovation concerns. Key features include:
A key feature of the remodel is a passive solar shed dormer, using a properly positioned overhang and hard coat low-e fenestration. This aspect alone is calculated to produce 10% of the heating requirements for the entire structure.
Previous passive fenestration projects included installation of heat mirror windows at the South end of the building, along with an embedded trombe wall.
A nine panel hydrothermal system coupled with a super efficient boiler (96+%) provides the coveted radiant floor option for most of the building, including what may be the world’s first solar heated sprung-wood dance floor.
Altogether, passive and active solar systems generate approximately 50% of the total heating load for the structure, without producing significant heat issues in summer, and this is a refurbished building with restored elements dating to 1897.
This is now a super-insulated building envelope, including captured thermal mass and VOC exclusion strategies. Unusual additional elements include reflectix behind ceiling drywall of the historic structure– a reflected energy opportunity in a low ceiling, addressing tight dimensional restrictions of a historic remodel.
Domestic hot water for the original structure is now essentially 100% solar.
Sustainable Green Materials
During construction extensive use of recycled materials, such as wood were incorporated in the project.
Additionally, materials in-situ, such as large amounts of concrete block, were retained on site, usually in-situ, and incorporated as thermal mass. In the ‘Big Room’ for instance, 3” of Styrofoam (the least toxic option) were applied to the exterior of the concrete wall and then sealed with stucco. When this was done in 1997 there were no contractors in Boulder County who could do the work or could understand why this would be a good idea. We now enjoy extraordinary thermal comfort: warmth in winter and cool in summer, because of the captured thermal mass.
Over many years we have used post-consumer recycled material carpets, but now favor harder more durable surfaces, such as bamboo flooring, porcelain tile, etc. The facility sees heavy human traffic; our understanding of ‘sustainable materials’ has evolved to include an understanding of ‘life cycle impact’ – some materials which would be fine in a lighter use situation may not be the environmental best choice in a high traffic commercial environment.
Water and resource conservation
For a historic structure combined with a structure that dates back over 50 years (recent-historic). The building incorporates various efficiencies for resource conservation, including active and passive solar heating systems, water efficient plumbing, and lower water use landscaping employing permaculture techniques and significant use of rocks and hard surfaces to minimize evaporation. Insulation levels are essentially at the highest degree allowed within extremely restrictive building code and historic landmarks requirements; the result is a rebuilt older structure that features ‘super-insulation’.
The building features a grandfathered wood stove in the ‘big room’. In previous years this was an important heat source, especially on colder days. Now because that room is heated entirely with solar heated hydronics (supplemented only occasionally with a super-efficient boiler), the discharge of wood smoke into the Boulder community is a thing of the past. And the entire building is a warmer, more pleasant, and more popular place to be!
We will release will (fall 2013?) a video documentary which provides a tour of the building and sustainability choices that were made during recent (re)construction efforts. It should be available fall 2013. Look for updates on this at: www.302pearl.com or www.sustainability.org. Videos documentating the reconstruction are also available.
Recycling and re-use strategies
By hiring a very environmentally conscious building crew, we were able to recycle a large amount of building materials on-site during construction, and instead of removing much of the structure, it has been reincorporated, such as for thermal mass (see sustainable green materials section).
All the kitchen cabinets were salvaged from a building; they would be in landfill. That salvage operation included the dishwasher, which is still inservice today, two decades later. The kitchen sink was a salvage item, and the abundant refrigerator is reused.
Because the building is used by a conscious community, we engage actively in recycling materials used during operations. For example: there is one smaller trash cart and four recycling carts which participate in the ongoing use of the building.
A Healthy Building
During construction and during operation, we are and have been scrupulous to minimize toxic materials, and address other health concerns such as EMF exposures in the building. Construction adhesives were minimized. It was necessary to use foamed polyurethane insulation; Varadaan had plastic poly film installed on the inside of the foam. This may never have been done before; it ensures the carcinogenic volatiles are vented outside the building envelope and inhabitants are protected. This part of the building is used as an Ayurvedic Healing Center.
EMF sources were reduced as much as possible: in-wall junction and switch boxes are grounded metal enclosures; in the “sky-room”, a popular studio space where many sit on the floor for meditation, yoga, etc, the electrical cable from panel to sub-panel which used to run through the floor slab has been re-routed above the roof surface as far from people as possible; DC lighting transformers have been placed in the mechanical room, again as far from people as possible; and the building has been wired with CAT-6 network cable to provide for a wifi free healing environment.
Paints used are low VOC. When new carpet is installed or floor finishing is done, this is occurs on a warm day if at all possible and these materials which are potential out-gass sources, are cooked with extensive ventilation, thus the peak out-gas profile is accomplished with maximum ventilation without exposing people or saturating the building envelope with these toxic materials.
Why this project deserves recognition
The Solstice Center at 302 Pearl Street is a community icon for Boulder County and beyond. A beacon for sustainability and non-residential intentional community since 1993, the facility has been a model for what is possible in the research, promotion and experience of the interface of community and sustainability. Many projects have been born in this spot, including the remodel based on new architectural principles, the Boulder Housing Coalition, Boulder Ayurveda, Vibrant Lotus Products, the Solstice Institute, and www.sustainability.org.
A recent chapter, which included the development of the principles of Post Post Modernism* for the built environment, and a foray into the powerful healing principles of Vedic Science and Ayurvidic medicine has included public engagement more and more into spiritual trainings, meditation classes, yoga tranings, etc— which is the expected natural evolution of the principles of Post Post Modernism; exactly what we might expect if a model building were created and offered for general access.
The project, has from day one been oriented as an act of service, and been intended as a vehicle for research, experience, and ultimately education for as many as possible. While many people enjoy events, programs and healing services at the Solstice Center, and there appears to be general appreciation for aesthetic and experiential benefits resulting from the core architectural principles, few have opportunity to learn about the underlying ecological and integrative design philosophies and the details of how they have been applied.
*See manifesto for ‘Post-Post Modern Architecture’.
Video documentation is now available - both a tour of the finished project as a full documentary, but also sketch videos documenting the construction process.