Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

National Association recognizes Kowal Design   2 comments

National Association recognizes Kowal Design

The magazine of the American Library Association selected a Dennis Kowal Architects’ design for creating a lot of impact for the dollar.    One of a handful of projects showcased in their Library Design Showcase 2012 for “Small Projects/Big Impact”, the new Plainfield Public Library children’s room is a first of its kind.  The entire existing children’s library was re-invented by the Kowal Team from lighting to furniture to architecture (see our earlier blog on September 26, 2011).

Working closely with the Library Director, Assistant, and a Board Member with rainforest expertise, the Kowal Team shaped all of the existing liabilities into assets.  A old reading pit that the Library assumed would be in-filled became a reading pond complete with a rope bridge and foliage.   The mess of pipes concrete, and ductwork above the suspended ceilings that were assumed to remain neatly out of sight were instead exposed to create a lofty interior and painted to look like vines and the tree canopy.    And the existing wide open and “boring” floor plan was enhanced with a series of intimate spaces.  Thatched roof reading huts, a canvas teen tent, a reptile inspired computer counter wrapping around a bamboo forest, and a story room under a strangler fig tree define fun places to read without sacrificing sight lines and ease of supervision.    Even the circulation desk is a compilation of custom made cargo boxes which feature sustainable wood construction.

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Table tops and walls featured scenes from the rainforest.

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A rope bridge spans this 15’ reading pond that is a favorite of all who enter.

BEFORE photo with low ceilings and and overcrowded circulation desk.

AFTER photo with exposed concrete waffle slab construction and sinuous piping transformed into the forest canopy.

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Once again, Dennis Kowal Architects prove you can stretch your dollars when you are willing to stretch your imagination. Critics apparently agree. One impressed patron was overheard saying “I used to drag my children to the library, now my kids drag me!” The Dennis Kowal Architects design was also featured in the October 2011 issue of Library Journal and noted as “New Jersey children are wild about the rain forest-themed children’s library!”

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Lessons from Nicaragua   Leave a comment

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Lessons from Nicaragua

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designed this new health care facility in the village of Masaya, Nicaragua outside of the capital city of Managua using strategies for resilient design.  This approach allows the facility to function without electricity while relying on natural building systems.

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Designing a new healthcare facility in Nicaragua is much different than in the United States.  But the US can learn lessons from a third world country where electric is spotty, contamination is likely, and water is untreated.   When a disaster like Superstorm Sandy strands eleven States without power, many US healthcare facilities like the NYU Medical Center were crippled and couldn’t function.    However, Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) applied the principals of “resilient” architecture to their healthcare facility design in Managua, Nicaragua.  Since power failures are common, DKA designed the facility to use natural ventilation and natural lighting.  To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, another very common occurrence, DKA created outdoor waiting rooms open to the air but covered from the sun thus reducing the chance of contact and airborne contamination.  The interior walls have an application of plaster that naturally contains calcium hydroxide, a mineral that resists the growth of bacteria while providing a durable and easy to clean surface.   Kowal explained: “in essence, the facility takes care of itself, especially during a natural disaster”.

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High  window openings in the exam rooms ensure privacy yet allow light and air to naturally circulate.  A large covered, but open,  atrium at the center of the complex creates a natural ventilation stack for all of the surrounding rooms.  The atrium brings light and air into the rooms that ring the courtyard and simultaneously creates an outdoor waiting room.  A landscaped courtyard surrounds the facility to allow the families a place to play while a family member is receiving treatment; at night the same wall provides security.

 

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Some of the children that have been treated by the doctors of Caring Partners International using temporary facilities,  pose for the camera.  Others may walk all night (as did this woman assisted by her grand-daughter) to get to a care center.  Existing conditions can be dirty, dusty and contaminated by animal waste and garbage dumps.  Ubiquitous volcanic ash often covers the village in dust (see photo of girl in dress).  The new medical facility provides a clean, healthy, and resilient environment as well as a model of sanitation for the villagers to follow.

 

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Planning the healthcare facility on-site in Nicaragua is only the first step in a master plan for a new village.  Dennis Kowal Architects met with local doctors to select the site, visited with the mayor to solidify support and caucused with nurses and staff to design the facility.  Local Architectural student, Maria, helped with translation of the complex medical and architectural terms.   Since the site is near an active volcano, resistance to earthquake forces factors into all of the reinforced concrete construction in the area.

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DKA worked with local architects to assess the building materials, climate, and standards of construction.  A low impact design was desired that could operate during a disaster.    Above, Maria (a student of architecture) was also a translator for Dennis Kowal Architects as they interviewed the doctors and patients to design a facility that would meet their needs but also provide a resilient design. 

 

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While many developed countries are still reeling from the many natural disasters that have occurred, lessons can be learned from our third world neighbors who daily face a world without power, public transportation, or central air conditioning.  Beyond sustainable design which minimizes the impact on the environment, DKA understands the simple principals of natural systems that can adapt and survive during periods of stress, loss and disaster.

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“Dennis Kowal Architects designs buildings that are resilient and can take care of themselves in a disaster.”

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Posted November 26, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Health Care, Sustainability

Design wins 2013 Green Building Award   Leave a comment

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Design wins 2013 Green Building Award

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The Virginia US Green Building Council (JRGBC) honored these offices with the 2013 Green Building Leadership Award.   Last year, the United States Green Building Council certified the project LEED Gold.

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Taking a 1960’s, 25,000 square foot building in Richmond, Virginia, Dennis Kowal Architects transformed the existing building into a modern office environment and training center.   With only small additions at both ends and an imaginative infilling of an underutilized open courtyard, the total gut-renovation put back an energy efficient and low VOC office environment.

Even interior offices have views and daylight thanks to the new plan layout (see below) and use of “borrowed lights”, windows that open to adjacent rooms with natural light.  Outside offices have operable shades to control the light and glare-free indirect lighting fixtures are used in the major spaces.  The changes in lighting and equipment reduced the energy use by 15% and occupant satisfaction and comfort has risen dramatically from the pre-renovation building.

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Low-flow plumbing fixtures reduced water usage by 30% and save 34,000 gallons of water per year.   All heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment and controls were removed and replaced with a new variable system with energy recovery technology. The deteriorated single-pane window units were replaced with double-pane, thermally insulated units with low-emissivity coating to reduce solar heat gain and the skylight is made of a highly insulated translucent sandwich panel.   The existing metal halide site lights were upgraded to new light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and new vehicle recharging stations were added to the parking lot.

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The general contractor salvaged and recycled 87 percent of all construction and demolition debris, used regionally-manufactured building materials containing recycled content, and purchased wood products harvested from sustainably-managed forests.  Indoor air quality was protected from the start of construction and later by use of low-emitting building materials and furniture.  The owner is continuing with this effort using green cleaning products and equipment.

Even the old and leaking flat roof has been covered with a hipped standing seam metal roof that reflects the sunlight and lowers the heat island effect through the use of a reflective solar paint.

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The project was a team effort with Dennis Kowal Architects as the principal designer and disability expert.  DKA partnered with Mosley Architects of Richmond to provide the construction documents and LEED submissions.   Colorado Architect, John Dickerson, was the project’s hearing impaired consultant.   Together, Dennis Kowal Architects, office building designers, and specialist in the design for the blind and physically handicapped,  designed this award winning plan for the renovated administrative offices and training center for the Virginia Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired center in Richmond Virginia.

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Dennis Kowal Architects designs office environments with the occupants in mind.

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Exxon goes Green in Style!   Leave a comment

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Exxon goes Green in Style!

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The Lobby of Exxon Energy Systems uses natural Vermont slate on the floor to absorb the heat from the low angle winter sun.  The heat is redistributed to the offices by heat pumps.    Visitors get a great view inside and out and are sometimes unaware of the natural energy systems working around them.

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Who says sustainable design must be colorless and drab?  When Exxon Energy Systems wanted a 100,000 square foot office/research building at Princeton’s Forrestal Center,  Dennis J. Kowal, AIA, LEED AP,  combined a strong design with energy saving features.  The four story building is sheathed in insulated metal panels  and special window systems which are different at each sun exposure:  north, south, east, and west.   On the exposures where summer sun is not an issue, the walls are flat and the windows are in the plane of the exterior wall.   But  windows exposed to the strong summer sun are designed to allow the skydome light in and keep the solar gain out.  The windows  are permanently tipped away from the direct solar gain (see photo above which is similar to the offices) which provides natural shading in the summer.   The low angle winter sun is able to shine into the space, warm the surfaces and floors and warm the offices.

Another feature of the design includes incremental heat pumps which reduce the length of duct work runs; thereby reducing embodied energy in the manufacture process and  consumption of extra resources.  Because the window system is designed to bring in natural light without the glare and summer solar gain, the offices are less dependent on artificial lighting and thereby conserve energy.

A geothermal system was designed for both the air conditioning and heating of the building, but the Department of Environmental Protection declined the permit because it was a new concept to them.  Did we tell you…..this building was designed and constructed over 25 years ago! … ahead of its time in concept and development.  Today, geothermal permits are routine and day-lighting is all the rage, but this is one of the projects that started it all.

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The deep profile of this southern exposure allows for super-insulation and great energy efficiency. The wall section acts like a periscope bouncing natural light in and keeping direct solar gain out.   Day-lighting reduces the energy cost for artificial lighting and increases occupant satisfaction and efficiency.
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 The four story building mixes window profiles based on exposure to the summer sun. Natural light is bounced into the offices (note the bright sloped wall above the window) while glare and heat remain outside.
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Dennis Kowal Architects integrates master planning, space planning, building design and Interior Design to a variety of corporate and industry clients. 

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The site design  introduced concepts that were new at the time, such as bioswales, that used vegetation and root systems to purify parking lot runoff before returning the water to the ecosystem and pervious pavers at the entry plaza that naturally absorbed rainwater.

Also, mature trees were brought into the parking lot to provide substantial shade to the vehicles which reduced off-gassing of car fuel tanks and reduced the heat-island effect of the pavement.  The Exxon building is still a stellar example and precursor to the LEED concepts that are just starting to take hold in America.

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Dennis Kowal Architects help corporations reduce building energy costs while making them look good!

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Rainforest found in New Jersey   Leave a comment

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Rainforest found in New Jersey

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Interior Designer, Susan Kowal, was not afraid to pick vivid colors while creating a rainforest in the middle of the Plainfield Public Library.   The new Children’s Library renovation is a living example of sustainable design, where DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS reused and re-invented much of the existing furniture, shelving and building elements to create a rainforest-themed children’s library.

A teen tent, rope bridge, and cargo-crate display cases invite “touch” as well as set the scene for this child-friendly design.   The displays are intentionally at the eye-level of the smaller children adding intimacy and interest to this open plan.  The old story pit becomes a pond crossed by a rope bridge,  the existing stools are recovered in “animal skins” and the existing tables get a new photo-art rainforest makeover.  Hidden among the hand-painted murals of the rainforest are the latest technology in computers, video projection and flat screens.

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Posted September 26, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Children Spaces, Sustainability