Ken Collins

Intelligent Buildings? - The Science of Architecture

Jul 12, 2010

Modern buildings have a lot of technology that goes into them. From the development of the products they are built from, to the systems that allow us to live, work, and play in them. The rate of technology uptake into our new buildings is surging up every year, especially when it comes to entertainment systems and power control. However one area where the uptake has been lagging, is automation of the building itself. There are many — mainly commercial buildings — that have computers to control heat and ventilation, opening or closing louvers automatically, not to mention air conditioning systems with some advanced control systems. But it was this article on an “Intelligent house” that caught our eye in the office. Extending the technology interface between building and control system where it features a prototype climate control system with … Read More

Houston — You have a problem….. - The Science of Architecture

Jun 25, 2010

It’s nice to know, well actually a little worrying to know, that New Zealand building owners aren’t the only ones to neglect maintenance work on their buildings. A recent article in New Scientist Magazine (15 May 2010) had a small piece on the problems faced by NASA. Yes, even the best let their major assets deteriorate. With NASA again expected to develop new technologies for space flight, a report to the US National Research Council identifies that may of their labs, including wind tunnels, need repairs and upgrades. With the exception of a new science building at Goddard, over 80 percent of the research laboratories at these facilities are more than 40 years old and need significant annual maintenance and upgrades. Some apparently don’t even have adequate electricity or heat. Clearing the overall repair and maintenance backlog is estimated at … Read More

Leaky Buildings — Part 2 — What we now know - The Science of Architecture

Jun 08, 2010

Following on from my blog on Leaky Buildings – Part 1 -and how we got to where we are, this blog covers some of the science and research that has gone into the building industry as a result. At this stage I must point out that there are other people with specialist areas of knowledge and research, in what is now quite a wide topic.  So, as blogs tend to be, this is more of an overview from my experience, rather than a detailed technical paper. With all buildings that have ’leaking’ issues, the problem is that water gets into an area it shouldn’t be (most commonly the structural timber frame), the water stays there because it can’t drain or evaporate away. When the timber remains wet (typically above 30% moisture) and relatively warm, these conditions allow fungi to … Read More

Earmuffs in Pre-school? - The Science of Architecture

Jun 01, 2010

I had promised the next blog would be my second part to the Leaky Homes blog, and it is on its way. However, this article in the Dominion Post caught the eyes of the team in our office. Do we really need to put earmuffs on our pre-schoolers when they are at Playcentre or other Pre-school facilities? While the intentions are admirable, to minimise any hearing damage to our wee youngsters in noisy environments.  The people in our office thought earmuffs in pre-schools was going a bit far. We have recently been involved in refurbishing some pre-schools and assessed the issue of noise as a part of the design solution. As a result we had sound absorbing materials installed on the ceiling and on walls. Sound absorbing vinyl flooring is also now widely available, not to mention that carpet … Read More

Leaky Buildings — Part 1 — How did we get here. - The Science of Architecture

May 20, 2010

With the government announcing it’s (our) package to help solve the leaky homes crisis this week, it has brought the spotlight back onto what is now a highly emotive subject. While the emphasis is rightly on getting peoples homes safe and fit to live in, it should be remembered that the leaky buildings problem is wider spread than just domestic buildings. Recent reports have shown that it includes schools, commercial and community buildings. The politics of it is complex and controversial with blame-storming rampant. The reality is that there are so many aspects to obtaining a completed building, from design to move in, that you can’t just point your finger a one person or organisation.  Additionally the physical causes, effects and remedies are only now becoming well known and well understood. So how did we get here?  In effect … Read More

Timber treatment: what are the best options? - The Science of Architecture

May 11, 2010

Some time ago there was a lot of media coverage on the use of CCA (Copper Chrome Arsenic) timber preservative. This caused a number of our clients to ask for alternatives, so we did a little research into what the implications are. Pine needs to have large amounts of preservative to stop it rotting when in contact with water, and especially in ground. There are two alternatives to CCA commercially available: Copper Azole based (CuAz) and Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ). Both rely on very high concentrations of copper to act as an agent against fungal and insect attack, and as such both are strongly alkaline. Unfortunately this also means that these products are very aggressive to mild steel and even galvanised steel. The Building Research Association of … Read More

Energy creep…more energy efficient homes don’t necessarily mean people use less energy - The Science of Architecture

Apr 23, 2010

New Scientist magazine ran a brief report on research into energy use in houses after they were made more energy efficient. Conducted in the UK, it highlights that after insulation, double glazing and energy efficient heating is installed the amount of energy used is still close to the old levels, prior to the improvements. The article says that some people who have made their houses more energy efficient are more likely to indulge in small excesses — turning up the heating or keeping it on for longer. Kevin Lomas of Loughborough University, UK — who was part of the research team that carried out the surveys — is quoted as saying: ’…..often they are more concerned about comfort than saving energy.’ Or, perhaps they think that because their house is … Read More

Should we be reducing building insulation to improve energy efficiency? - The Science of Architecture

Apr 22, 2010

I recently read an article on the cost of reducing our carbon footprint to pre-1990 levels. It suggested that the actual cost to consumers would be minimal, adding only a few percent to daily consumables. That is except for air travel, which would jump 150%. In effect they tried to debunk the myth that taxing the use of carbon and reducing the amount of carbon used is highly costly. Reading towards the end, their assumptions were based on two significant developments. First that all vehicles would be electric powered. And second that almost all power worldwide is generated by renewable or nuclear sources. i.e. no gas or coal fire stations. This got me thinking about assumptions we all make when it comes other things, like the energy use in buildings. Conventional … Read More