Environmental stewardship is an enduring core value of our practice. As an integrated architectural and engineering practice, we view sustainability and design as inseparable. We seek collaborations with our clients to collectively inspire sustainable innovations. Many of our projects are seeking or have achieved certification via the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating program. Ballinger was recently named Green Partner of the Year by Johns Hopkins University for the design of a new science teaching building that is anticipating LEED Platinum Certification. Our LEED Gold science building at Furman University was honored with an AIA Committee on the Environment Award for its innovative sustainability approaches.  The USGBC bestowed not only LEED Gold certification upon our Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, but also its annual Innovation in Green Building of the Year Award. These significant acknowledgements of innovation honor our commitment as a firm to the environment and to our client stewardship.

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Location: Madison WI, Architect: Ballinger Architects

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Location: Madison WI, Architect: Ballinger Architects

We approach sustainability in a holistic manner and seek synergistic solutions between the various components of the design, integrating architecture and landscape with high performance systems.  All recommendations are evaluated against the return on investment and take into account the ongoing challenges of operating and maintaining building systems with limited staff and reduced operational budgets.  It is also important to establish goals that are not only qualitative, such as the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), but also quantitative.

These goals can include:

  • Set Performance Targets for Annual Energy Usage and Annual Water Usage
  • Target significant reduction below ASHRAE 90.1 requirements and annual BTU/gsf benchmarks
  • Create incentive and awareness programs
  • Institute programs that help create awareness of the impact that the occupants have on the energy use of the building, and formulate incentives that motivate the users to perform in an energy conscious manner
  • Identify opportunities to use new buildings or site interventions as potential didactic tools for sustainable practices

High Performance Science Buildings

While academic buildings may reach a 100+ year life cycle, the mechanical and electrical systems generally require significant renewal every 20 to 30 years.  This is especially important in science and engineering buildings, as they must accommodate ever-changing technologies for analysis, computation, experimentation, fabrication, etc.  Our approach, in both new and renovation work, is to design a core infrastructure that can accommodate a wide range of possible fit-outs as programs evolve, and which can be replaced at the end of a life cycle without major building modification.

Create a building that minimizes systems demands / requirements:

To minimize energy demands, we address the following principles in our design process:

  • Optimize daylighting while minimizing solar gain in cooling season and utilizing solar gain in heating season.
  • Minimize energy loss through high performance wall, roof and glazing assemblies.
  • Consider natural ventilation, or hybrid ventilation, especially for public spaces that can be transitional between outdoor and indoor environments.
New Jersey Institute for Food Nutrition & Health at Rutgers College: New Brunswick, NJ, Architect: Ballinger Architects

New Jersey Institute for Food Nutrition & Health at Rutgers College: New Brunswick, NJ, Architect: Ballinger Architects

Maximize flexibility to accommodate convergent science and engineering:

Systems must be able to easily accommodate intertwined lab/classroom, dry/wet, macro/micro, chemical/biological, science/engineering, multi-discipline collaboration, and student projects.

Make systems adaptable to ever changing science and technology while minimizing preinvestment: 

Providing pathways for future services and space for future equipment may be more prudent than preinvesting in equipment and capacities that may not be utilized in the initial building program.

Minimize resource impact – minimize use of energy and water:

The absolute minimal impact is a net zero energy use building.  This is an aspirational goal for office buildings that can be evaluated during the project formation process.  If net zero is not immediately achievable as is the case presently for most science and healthcare projects, its eventual fulfillment can considered for future implementation.  Water use can be minimized with storm water reclamation for mechanical makeup – to chiller plant cooling towers, toilet flushing and irrigation.  Energy use can be mitigated through alternative ventilation strategies and high performance enclosures.

Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University: Washington, DC, Architect: Ballinger Architects

Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University: Washington, DC, Architect: Ballinger Architects

Make systems choices that are cost effective:

Both first cost and life cycle costs are important system evaluation criteria.   We will evaluate utility and other operating costs, as well as first costs and replacement costs.

 

Set energy goals early in the design process:

Using the latest in energy modeling software (IES) which works from a graphic interface (Sketch Up, Rhino or REVIT), we will set up a preliminary simplified energy model at the earliest phase of design to set energy goals and for comparison to recent benchmarks.  We also model highest performance “toward net zero” scenario, which will include all possible energy reduction strategies including natural/hybrid ventilation, active/passive shading, active/passive chilled beams, ground source heating/cooling, etc.  Using progressively more detailed modeling, we will evaluate particular strategies across the range of performance and cost criteria. These will coincide with key milestones for timely decision making as the design evolves.

At Ballinger, we believe that sustainable concepts and systems efficiency are integral to the design process. Happy Earth Day!