Ken Collins

First Light House Third in USA - The Science of Architecture

Oct 03, 2011

A few months back I wrote about the First Light House that was too have competed at the Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. The First Light House team in front of their house in Washington DC (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon) As a quick refresher, the US Department of Energy web site summarises the competition thus — ’The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate (University to us Kiwi readers) teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. It has been reported over the weekend that the team from Victoria University has come in third place overall!! A fantastic result considering they were up … Read More

Pre-Designing Your Lab for Sustainability - The Science of Architecture

Aug 15, 2011

VUW Coastal Ecology Lab A short time ago I was reading this article in the R&D Mag online. Titled ’Pre-designing your lab for sustainability’ it makes a number of relevant points when thinking about laboratory design. Although it appears to be aimed at university type projects the points it makes is certainly relevant to all laboratory facilities of all types. Especially where it confirms that laboratories can consume up to 50% more energy than office buildings of a comparable size. As issues of sustainability, energy use, lifetime costs and environmental impact continue to increase in order of importance, the earlier these issues are discussed and incorporated into the working brief for any new or re-developed facility the easier they are to be realised in the completed building. In the article it talks about the US Green Building Council … Read More

First Light on Energy Efficient Bach - The Science of Architecture

Jun 10, 2011

A computer render of the First Light House, from the FirstLight web site Its not often that Wellington City Council allows a bach (crib to you southerners) to be built at Frank Kitts Park on Wellington’s waterfront. However, before Waterfront Watch get too alarmed, this construction was the live demonstration / test of the First Light house, developed and built by Victoria University School of Architecture students. This is their entry to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 — the only entry, ever, from the southern hemisphere. The Solar Decathlon is run every two years, held in the National Mall of Washington DC, and involves 20 university teams competing over 10 criteria to demonstrate they have created the best clean-energy dwellings, by building solar-powered houses that feature cost-effective, energy-efficient construction, that incorporates energy-saving appliances and … Read More

More Power, Less Acceleration - The Science of Architecture

Mar 16, 2011

Lyttleton's Time Ball Station from the Stuff web site Just a quick update today, following on from the theme of the last post, and the horror of the devastation Japan is now experiencing. With the NZ government announcing a Royal Commission of Enquiry into the building collapses in Christchurch, it has been interesting to observe people’s perceptions, from politicians all the way down (or should that be up?). The disconnect is partly in trying to understand why there was so much damage in Christchurch for a relatively small 6.3 magnitude quake, as opposed to the massive 9.0 quake seen in Japan. So the follow on from my last post on ’Buildings are not Designed to be Race Cars’ where I talked about Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA), I thought it would be interesting to make some comparisons. The Geonet map … Read More

How Building Standards Have Changed - The Science of Architecture

Oct 04, 2010

With the recent events in Canterbury and Invercargill it looks like the building standards in NZ will again come under close scrutiny. The suitability of our standards is a valid question and response, especially when our knowledge has recently been increased by the Earthquake and the collapse of the Invercargill sports stadium roof. The first design standards for earthquake loadings on buildings were introduced in 1935 following the 1931 Napier earthquake. Since then, significant advances in the required design standards have been made with major changes incorporated in 1965 and 1976. Even more recently the structural design standard NZS 4203:1992 was replaced with NZS 1170 in 2002, with part 3 and part 5 added in 2003 and 2004. However NZS1170 has only been mandatory in the last couple of years, with engineers able to use either 4203 or 1170 up … Read More

Initial Thoughts on the Canterbury Earthquake - The Science of Architecture

Sep 06, 2010

Deans Homestead - Photo from stuff.co.nz The big earthquake in Canterbury last weekend has certainly reminded us just how shaky our isles are, in dramatic fashion. While our thoughts are with all of those affected, and we are all grateful that there has been no loss of life, the quake has exposed — very graphically — just how buildings react to a big shake. For many years the bracing and structural requirements for buildings in New Zealand have been increasing. As new research is carried out, so the values that our buildings need to meet have increased. Our scientists have also created world leading developments. (I was going to say ground breaking developments, but that isn’t quite appropriate at the moment). Dr Bill Robinson created the base isolators used on many important buildings both here and overseas, as an example. Read More

Building Materials That Kill Bacteria - The Science of Architecture

Aug 23, 2010

In an effort to control the spread of bacteria (that are harmful to humans), the science world is always coming up with some interesting innovations. This now includes additives to building materials that will kill bacteria, including the dreaded MRSA strain. Antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal powdercoating has been available commercially for a few years, and now scientists have developed an additive for paint that targets only staph bacteria. The innovation comes in how these materials can provide lasting protection, despite some surfaces like door handles and handrails getting a lot of human interaction. In the case of the powdercoating, the manufacturers have added silver ions to the powder coating material and found a way to keep the ions distributed through the coating once it is applied and heat fused onto the (typically metal) substrate. Powdercoating is often used as the … Read More

Fit for Purpose? - The Science of Architecture

Aug 05, 2010

This recent article on The Herald web site highlights how careful we all need to be when trying to contain things in a secure laboratory environment. While I don’t know the specific details of this particular facility or the event that was investigated, it does highlight that the success of any laboratory is the interaction between the buildings features and the procedures used to operate it. All scientific buildings need to be built to minimum standards, and depending on the use of the building, those standards demand different features to be incorporated. However, to ensure that the building provides the environment needed, the management regime needs to be carefully considered to ensure the correct features are provided. A couple of illustrations to demonstrate this. The standard says all surfaces must be able to be wiped down with disinfectant. If … Read More