Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Getting Real About Climate Change: Vermont Climate Economy Summit

Paul Costello introducing the Summitt
 Today the Vermont Council on Rural Development hosts a summit on "Creating Prosperity and Opportunity Confronting Climate Change" at Vermont Technical College. It's an issue we face around the world with impacts from our changing climate confronting us daily where we live, work, go to school, play and recreate. While Vermont is a small state we have a big impact in the national discussion about leading ideas, programs and infrastructure to combat climate change and increase long term community resiliency.
      Today over 450 Vermont entrepreneurs, business people, local and state government officials gather together to discuss how to continue making real progress in creating a more resilient, prosperous and sustainable state. Governor Peter Shumlin opened with remarks saying how "Important it is to weatherize, install solar, get off oil and become energy independent." He highlighted how there's a reason for optimism with Vermont leading the nation in the following ways moving towards a sustainable energy independent economy.
  • 15,000 jobs in a renewably focused green economy
  • Highest per capita solar jobs in the nation
  • Real movement towards a microgrid dominated utility grid with support
  • Substantive efforts in weatherization and energy efficiency improvements in commercial and residential buildings around the state.
      Shumlin said "While we have a lot to be proud of yet we have a lot of work to do in getting more younger people to come back home to Vermont, start and grow businesses and families. Our transportation infrastructure is out of date, we need to increase use of electric cars and other alternatives to using fossil fuel."
      Something I think which Shumlin touched on but worth elaborating on why Vermont offers so many positive examples confronting climate change and moving towards a more sustainable future. We have a strong three legged stool supported by our sustainable agriculture, green and renewable energy businesses and innovative emerging high technology sectors. "We have one foot in the pasture and one foot in the future." says Matt Dodd, Chief Brandthropologist of Burlington based Brandthropology. I wholeheartedly agree with Matt and Peter.
      Our extremely strong sustainable agriculture economy system is with a resurgence of small farms and businesses focused on organic farming, craft food products and beverages such as world famous cheese, craft beer, maple syrup industries. Forbes recently voted Burlington, Vermont one of the Top Ten Innovative Tech Hubs" in the U.S. joining cities such as San Jose, Boulder, Austin, Corvallis, Ft. Collins and nearby Boston. In our growing green economy, companies like AllEarth Renewables, Renewable NRG Systems, Sun Common join together with innovative non-profits such as Efficiency Vermont and regional community based weatherization efforts along with the State of Vermont to increase adoption and use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and green economy efforts.
      To continue this work, the Vermont Council on Rural Development brings us all together today participating in breakout sessions because the solutions are very complex and require an integrated, holistic approach. No pun intended, it's important to get us out of our silos of expertise and come together pooling our creativity to move this work forward. We'll meet in our sessions, brainstorming key issues impacting the following areas and opportunities for improvement and cross-fertilization.
Those Climate Economy Breakout Sessions include:
  • Marketing Vermont as the Innovative Climate Economy Destination
  • Advanced Community Based Climate Action
  • Promoting a Vision for Transportation Renewal
  • Developing Ubiquitous Distributed Energy
  • Improving Education, Workforce Development, and Youth Entrepreneurship
  • Strengthening Farm and Forest Carbon Sequestration and Profitability
  • Seeding a Vermont Climate Investment Strategy
  • Spurring Research and Development in New Technologies in Vermont
  • Supporting Smart Growth, Reuse, Preservation, and Downtown Redevelopment
  • Coordinating State Government Policies and Regulations
  • Advancing Next Stage in Efficiency and Conservation
  • Adapting Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
      With all of these topics you see it's a complex and interwoven list of sessions with many critical questions and lots of opportunities for creative cross-pollination. After the Summit which you can see trending on Twitter at #VTClimateEconomy with posts by attendees, outcomes from the sessions and recommendations for each of them will be posted online by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. It should be a fascinating and wide ranging set of solutions hopefully impacting public policy, entrepreneurship and innovation efforts here in the years to come.
      Combating climate change is in all of our best interests. Learn from what we're doing here in Vermont. Bill Truex, retired architect, one of the galvanizing forces behind the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT said it well. "Doing this kind of work requires patience and perseverance and working together."
       Let us know your thoughts, comments, ideas. Do you have any examples from your community actively working to combat climate change and global warming? I know these are wide ranging topics but look around you, you'll probably find positive examples to share. Please do. I'm counting on it!
#Design #Innovation #Energy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Making and Doing Art Reinforces Our Architecture

Making Art helps fuels our Architectural Work by the repetitive acts of doing, making and seeing carried out over time. By doing so we immerse our self in painterly space, studying composition, color, the power of light and dark to transform everyday experience, capturing moments lived along the way.  See this link to our new Arocordis Art Work section under Projects and Experiences. We hope you enjoy it. The way we see it making art reinforces conceiving and designing architecture by our engaging curiosity and sense of beauty and wonder.  

Do you make art? How does doing so fuel your creative process personally and professionally? We'd like to know. In the meanwhile, we'll be adding to the page on our site over time as we continue to do and make art. Enjoy!

Upper St. Regis, Watercolor, 7 x 11, c.2013

Monday, December 15, 2014

We have updated our Residential Works page on our Website

Carport view towards porch and main entry, with rain garden
in the foreground.
      We've added the speculative Net-zero Tiny House / Cabin to our residential works page. Here.
We updated some of the renderings from our news post from a few weeks ago. We added a rain garden between the carport and house capturing and redirecting the rain and snow melt towards the site.
      Obviously a lot is left to the imagination still with this updated rendering. We can imagine luscious plantings, walking stones and perhaps a small zen garden here to set the mood entering the home and marking the land on the site.  Let the views be left to your imagination and your own home site. We would love to collaborate with you adapting this modernistic green home to the needs of you and your family.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Revitalizing State and Main: Vermont League of Cities and Towns Renovations

State and Main open collaborative meeting space
Completed in April of 2014, Arocordis Design provided the League strategic workplace design services, Furniture Fit-up and Equipment design and construction administration services for a 15,000 square foot renovation in place fast-track project for 50 workers in three primary work neighborhoods served by shared common areas and meeting spaces tailored to their needs. 

An open office collaborative neighborhood
We helped the VLCT develop appropriate workplace strategies by facilitating an all hands meeting early in the design process reviewing best practices in high performance more open workplace design helping them move from a completely private office setting to fully embracing a considerably more open office collaborative work environment.  

In all of our work together, we helped the League focus on building a stronger, more collaborative and effective work culture dedicated to serving member Vermont cities and towns in their municipal services consulting, insurance products and legislative support services.

View of the Work Cafe
We led the furniture and workplace solutions procurement and implementation process. We wrote the RFP, developing the design and specs for selecting furniture and workplace solutions providers, space plan and detailed furniture layout design and coordination. We worked with VLCT to select branded and integrated colors and finishes for interior surfaces, furniture and equipment.  We led the effort in interior lighting design, reviewed fixture selection and detailed layout to provide the desired end result, choices of light levels and functionality.  We enjoyed collaborating with Jeff Norway, owner of Norway Electric who helped facilitate the final lighting layout and offered excellent suggestions for final lamping and placement. 
A more focused work area with adjustable
height work surface for wellness
We helped VLCT with leveraging existing branded artwork from their former office layout repurposing them for a new life in their refreshed space.  We helped select the artwork to reuse, find new locations and help create a renewed more powerful story. VLCT hung the art and graphics and adjusted final locations. With our prompting to develop a meaningful for their most heavily trafficked area, VLCT also came up theidea to leverage their "State and Main" customer focus by installing the street signs in their primary hub social space. Shared meeting spaces have branded names relating to Vermont and local themes. There will no doubt be more to coming in the storytelling arena.

Red Thread, the Winner of the furniture RFP, A workplace solutions provider from the Chittenden County area of Vermont, provided excellent and proactive interactive design services using 3-d design technology within meetings of executives and staff groups.  They helped guide VLCT and ourselves through detailed choices of furniture layout and configurations as well as helping warehouse existing furniture to be reused and the eventual setting back up again along with all of the new furniture and equipment. The end result was truly the product of an extraordinary collaboration with all parties involved.
An informal backyard area for solo or group work
Arocordis Design on behalf of the League collaborated extensively with Doug Nedde, the City Center owner and his design build team which included Scott + Partners Architects led by Joel Page on this project, They provided core and shell design, interior wall layout and space planning.  We worked closely with them and the League in developing a space plan and layout which provided both needed open office work and common area settings along with supporting private meeting and collaboration areas 

Contact us if you would like more information or specifics about this project.

A small meeting room

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cultivating A Sense of Creative Wonder: How Buildings Meet the Sky

Cornice Curving - copyright 2014 Stephen Frey
      Recently I visited Boston to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. When I travel there I often bring my camera and have a hard time putting it down. I am always seeking to cultivate my appreciation of the architecture and great places around us.
      You see the built environment fascinates and stimulates my creative energy and what better way to capture it at times than with photography? Of course it doesn't make me the greatest conversationalist when walking around with others as I am always looking up and down and all around for interesting moments, materiality, grazing sunlight and shadows and more.  Oh, did I say I often run into inanimate objects like parking meters, trees and more. Such curiosity can hurt actually!
      Here's one such moment found looking up at the cornice of my nieces' apartment building in a suburb of Boston called Brookline.  The rounded engaged tower "bump" made this fabulous transition of a curve meeting a straight line.  I really appreciate the textured shade and shadows of the stone dentil brackets supporting the overhanging parapet edge. Small repetitive dentils set back within providing an interesting textured line in between helping the vertical and horizontal planes cojoin.
    Looking in this way, creative arts such as architecture require cultivating a design sense and constantly honing perceptions of our physical environment. In short, it's important to engage in the act of wonder and reflection, to ask why, how and what and when.
      Doing so ensures constant lifelong growth of one's skills and artistry.  Plus, as a cultural creative, once you have the "bug" to look around so, it's next to impossible to suppress. My clients and our public depend on me to be at the top of my game creatively. This is one important way I do so. Consider it working out architecturally speaking.
      What do you think about this creative process?  Do you think it benefits your work?  How so and why? What's your favorite training activity that you "practice"? How does the act of "Wondering" work for you?

Monday, December 1, 2014

NetZero Cabin Live Work Studio: Meadow House 2

Southwest View
Birdseye view showing home and solar carport

First floor plan 
Southeast View
      See this small single story 750 square foot netzero ready high performance home under currently under development. A nature inspired small home with rugged simple materials and uplifting roof forms connects with its surroundings.
      Two volumes offset from one another comprise the house with a very generous south facing terrace. An outside dining area in front of the main common area with a more private area fronting the master bedroom.  A sloping carport could be the location for future solar electric and hot water panels to be installed.
      Suitable for a year round home for an empty nester couple or single adult, a second small home capable of being rented and used for overflow accommodations during heavy entertaining at a nearby primary residence. Could be an AirBnb style rental as well.
      A deep overhang will help shade the interior in the summer months while letting in sunlight in the winter time.  An open frame garage with a covered porch leads to the main entry door. Danish inspired narrow horizontal wood siding graces the common living area volume.  Galvanized corrugated metal clads the private sleeping volume. Timber roof brackets support the south overhangs while connecting metaphorically to a nearby forest.
      Radiant heating in the concrete floor slab provide an optional way to heat the small living area spaces.  R40+ dense packed cellulose double stud walls combined with R6-7 triple insulated wood fiberglass windows, an R62 dense packed cellulose in 18" truss joist complete the above ground high performance enclosure. 4" of  R15 EPS foam rest below the 4" concrete floor slab along with optional radiant floor lines.  Baseboard radiant heating is also a strong option. A two zone tankless on-demand water heater in a centrally located mechanical / electrical and washer / dryer space provides hot water for domestic uses as well as radiant heating.
      Operable windows at vision level coupled with operable high transom windows ensure extensive natural ventilation and cooling in hot spring and fall swing seasons and summer. Ceiling fans in the living area such as from Big Ass Fans might be used to additionally circulate air as needed.
View to ktichen & island
      Given the small size of the studio live / work home, easy to maintain durable materials are a necessity to help maintain low operational costs and ongoing maintenance. Optional artisanal cast-in place concrete countertops could be added at kitchen counters and the eat-in peninsula. Modern spirited glass fronted cabinets could be lit from within to dramatically highlight glass and dishware.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Porch and Sunroom Renovation in Central Vermont

View of new porch and sunroom addition
Another recent project nears completion in Central Vermont.  Here a retired couple sought us out to help them design a custom porch renovation and sunroom expansion.  The couple wanted to create protected four season sunroom on their south facing front porch to entertain and enjoy their house more fully.

Work also included reconfiguring the entry doors into the living room and dining room area to improve spatial flow. The faceted form of the sunroom partly partly was derived from the homeowners desire to stay within their existing footprint. The faceted area on the interior room long built-in bench.

The owner, a retired couple, have done a wonderful job doing the work themselves. For before and after photos and a little more information click on this link to our residential page.  Adjacent to their home, the couple recently installed ground mounted 10 KW of solar electric panels. Slowly they are upgrading much of their house and building ystems to become less reliant on fossil fuel while increasing the livability of their home by renovation projects like this.

Photo by Arocordis Design - Steve Frey 2014