Friday, July 25, 2014

Green Rating System for Public Works


From WPA to the U.S. Interstate Highway system, to ARRA and local bond initiatives, projects for public works and infrastructure keep cities and the economy humming along, but can they do even more.  Can economic, environmental and social synergies contribute even more to our communities?  The developers of Envision (TM) say "Yes!"

Envision is a "green" sustainability rating system for infrastructure projects.  Introduced in 2012, it's the result of a joint collaboration between the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI).

Public works and infrastructure projects can now receive the recognition for sustainable approaches that their architectural and development projects have received through LEED, Living Building Challenge, Green Globes and similar third-party rating systems.

Similar to LEED, the system has 60 sustainability criteria, called credits, divided into five sections: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk.  Tools include checklists and a planning guide.  The Envision process helps to identify community goals and outcome-based objectives, leverage collaboration, evaluate life cycle costs and achieve recognition for successful projects.  More detail about the Envision system can be found on the ISI website.

Projects can include stormwater management, aspects of master planning infrastructure, and roads.  Given the upcoming infrastructure development for communications and transportation, the systems' birth is timely.  According to a recent GreenBiz article by Anna Clark, "estimates for modernization of transportation, energy, and water infrastructure run as high as $3.6 trillion needed by 2020."

Rendering of South Los Angeles Wetlands Nature Park will be eventually realized           Image courtesy of City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program
An example of an a certified project is the South Los Angeles Wetland Park.  Transformed from a former bus and rail yard, this park received a  Platinum award for credit areas of Leadership, Quality of Life, Resource Allocation, and Natural World.  Specific achievements include creation of green space, stormwater management, and restoration of habitat supporting biodiversity.  Like most Envision-qualified projects, the park is an outgrowth of partnership between public works departments, private engineering and public funding.  The partners for this project include the
 City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering and Psomas, a private consulting company who provided planning, design, and management services.  According the the Envision website, funding was provided through "Proposition O, a program supported by a series of general obligation bonds valued at $500 million, whose projects were conceived to protect public health by removing pollution from the City's watercourses, beaches, and the ocean to meet Federal Clean Water Act requirements."

Sean P. Vargas, Envision Verifier and  Psomas Principal, Director of Sustainability, described "The South L.A. Wetland Park [as] a good example of an integrated engineering solution that successfully built consensus, captured and improved local urban runoff, and created a new neighborhood-revitalizing amenity. It represents what is possible when an owner and an engineer collaborate and redefine the paradigm of multi-benefit projects."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Melina Soto, Intern Architect

Melina Soto is a versatile designer with strong graphic skills and interests that span from architectural design to fine arts.  Her experience includes various tenant improvement for large Property Managers in Clark County as well as large companies such as Republic Services.

At Anne Johnson, AIA, clients’ projects benefit from Soto’s expertise in architectural design, great understanding of spatial qualities and a rich backgound in design-build process.  Melina has been with the firm since 2013.

A graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas, Soto went on to achieve a Master of Architecture degree at the University of Utah.   During this time, as a student with Studio 23, Soto completed a 1,000 square feet design-build residential project including construction with recycled and renewable materials and passive solar system to accommodate a  family on the Navajo Reservation.  Following graduation, she went on to be a project administrator with a local construction firm, completing multiple commercial tenant improvements.  As an architectural intern at Anne Johnson, AIA, Soto is applying her multiple talents and organizational skills to projects in the government and public housing sectors, including the City of Henderson security upgrades and a community center remodel for the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority.

Her positive attitude and great people skills make her an exceptional asset to the firm.  In her free time, Soto enjoys traveling, the arts and active sports like rugby.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rural Micro-Housing - Could you live in 572 SF?

Nindo House - Finland
Micro-housing can be defined by size at under 1,000 square feet of living space.  A very talented and resourceful couple in Iowa have managed to build a 572 square foot home, which they put on wheels in case they want to move.  While its small size certainly qualifies for micro, other attributes add to the livability of the design.

What makes micro-housing attractive?  Compact and efficient space management immediately come to mind along with the inherent need for a clutter-free, minimalist built environment.  Portability can also be a useful feature for rural settings.  While this home features an eclectic bohemian aesthetic, it’s easy to see how the space-saving attributes could translate into a modern style.  Special features that charm in Tim and Deb’s “Movable House” are the pushed out dining area, which can be detached and loaded inside for transport and the creative catwalk running across the ceiling.  On the green side of things, we cheer the economic and comfort value added by R40 insulation and a small footprint.
Freeberg-Renwick House - Iowa
The concept of micro-housing in a rural setting can allow more people to enjoy time immersed in nature—without stressing our natural environment.  It can inspire us to be more mindful of every choice and how we use the resources we have.  It seems to promise more freedom to engage in experiencing the outdoors, and less worry about property maintenance.

Explore more...


  • Urban micro-housing
  • Prefab cabins
  • Industrial designer Matali Crasset’s “Bird Nest” forest cabins.
  • Modern micro cabins, including the Finnish designer Robin Falk’s “Nindo.”
  • Tim and Deb’s version of micro-housing in a rural setting.
  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Earth Day 2014

    It's Earth Day today!  There were many local events to enjoy over the weekend.  Take a moment to catch up on global events at the Earth Day Network website.  Add your own "Act of Green," or take local action by supporting Green Chips, or cleaning up your own neighborhood.  Project Green is one hands-on local organization that welcomes volunteers to improve our green and waterways.  Green Chips helms a broader effort to "build community through collaborative partnerships for a more sustainable future."

    See some more Earth Day inspirations from past years here...

    Celebrate the day!

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    green CALIFORNIA - Summit & Expo 2014


    The Green California 2014 conference is just wrapping up today.  It was exciting to learn of the latest developments in California Green action and legislation.   Sessions included innovation, electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, government best practices, green schools, energy and buildings, funding strategies, water, farm to fork to fuel and an Expo with exciting new products.

    Energy policy updates are of special interest since CALGreen and the updated 2013 California Energy Code are barometers for code updates coming regionally and nationally.   Other sessions explained current developments in renewable energy production--including renewable natural gas created from organic waste.  What an incredible way to divert from the landfill!  Learn more at the CleanWorld website.  Related to the CALGreen policies, were updates on water policy related to the current drought and graywater usage.

    Our November post focused on the use of graywater in finished construction, but another sensible use is for construction itself. Why use potable water for concrete mixes? California’s Division of the State Architect (DSA) is preparing a clarification to allow this use.It seems that other construction uses could include water needed for curing, for dust control and other construction-related industrial processes. Proper training could ensure that workers only consume potable water.  Read more here...

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Convene for Green Happening This Week


    Hosted by Green Chips, the Green by Southwest Conference is a 3-day event held this week starting Thursday, April 3 and running through Saturday, April 5.  Events include:
    • leadership conferences
    • breakout sessions
    • professional education
    • expo and mixer
    • bicycling and walking tours
    It's an opportunity to re-connect, learn and be inspired.  Hope to see you there!

    Learn more at the Green Chips website and register at the USGBC NV website.

    Friday, February 21, 2014

    Global winner right here in Las Vegas!

    image by Desert Sol team

    The 2nd Place Global winner from the 2013 Solar Decathlon, Desert Sol, is now at its permanent home at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.  Admission to DesertSol is free for members or with paid general admission.

    Built by teams of UNLV students, the 754-square-foot sustainable solar-powered home took over two years to conceptualize, design and build.  Per the Springs Preserve website, its features include:
    • Solar panels
    • Low-flow fixtures and a multipurpose water system that combines plumbing and fire sprinklers
    • Remote access to temperature controls
    • Strategic window placement to promote cross-ventilation
    • A custom screen along the outdoor deck that filters sun in the summer and retracts to allow warmth from the sun in winter
    •  Intended primarily as a vacation home
    The bullet points don't begin to describe the beauty and function of this home.  See it in person to experience the textured and weathered materials, contemporary interiors, artistic shade screen and vistas.

    See our October post for the Solar Decathlon to learn more about this project and other Decathlon entries, here...


    Directions to Springs Preserve, here...