New Technology

This must surely be the most interesting time (in my lifetime) to be designing and developing buildings.  The new technologies that are zooming forward are truly changing the world of the built environment – and very much for the better.

Take, for instance, power sources, distribution and consumption.  Some of the technologies we’re exploring today, I hadn’t even imagined 5 to 10 years ago.  As to sources, solar generation of electricity is with us today in a big way – not only solar panels (the cost of which continues to go down) on the top of office buildings, but in large arrays being built by utilities and incorporated into our power grids.

Along with solar power (only available during sunlight hours) storage for non-sunlit times is advancing.  When I first incorporated solar panels on the roof of a house I built in San Francisco in 2001, I wanted to have a battery back-up.  This consisted of a rack of 12-volt car batteries – expensive and high-maintenance.  There were no Tesla Power Walls in 2001 nor other more efficient and less expensive storage systems.  Today there are several, with others being designed and coming to market every day, reducing cost, increasing efficiency and improving maintenance.  The only good thing then was that photovoltaic panels generated 12-volt DC current and that’s what batteries liked.  I still needed an inverter to power the lighting in my home to inefficient incandescent lamps and, although a little more efficient, fluorescent lamps.

Today, the world is being lighted increasingly by LED (light-emitting diode) amps, with much longer lamp lives and much reduced power consumption.  And color technologies with LEDs have improved greatly, with many of them being manufactured today to allow tuning to exactly the color temperature that you desire or continuously tunable to follow the circadian cycle of daylight. Very effective for healing in hospitals and for higher productivity and health in office spaces.  Take a look at recent writings on biophilia to understand why that is important.

By the way, I should also mention that LEDs operate best on 12-volt DC current.  It just so happens that 12-volt DC is what flows through your computer cables to recharge your computer and your cellphone.  And, guess what, no conduit or electrical inspections required. I’m working with one company that offers complete lighting and control solutions based on 12-volt DC power, which we’re evaluating incorporating into our project here in Reno.  This same company has done street lightning between two towns in South America that are 21 kilometers apart.  The system is off-grid.  All the power comes from solar panels mounted every so often along the route. Powers is stored in a battery system by day to be used to illuminate the route at night. By the way, Wi-Fi is flowing through these lines as well.

Now, let’s return to power. New technologies are available to deliver 12-volt DC power from a clear glass window.  We’re building several structures that have due east, south and west exposures in a bright sunlight city. We and the companies we’re talking to are also exploring electro-chromic and photo-chromic (which is used in glasses that automatically turn into sunglasses when sunlight hits them) coatings. If we can put all the pieces together, we’ll have a glazing system that will generate 12-volt DC power to LED lights, requiring neither an inverter or a transformer at the lamp end. We’ll have glass that will turn into sun shading either electrically or automatically, so I’ll actually be able to look at the views outside my windows without drawing curtains, blinds or shades.

Are you beginning to see why I’m so excited about being a designer/developer today?

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New Technology

This must surely be the most interesting time (in ly lifetime) to be designing and developing buildings.  The new technologies that are zooming forward are truly changing the world of the built environment – and very much for the better.

Take, for instance, power sources, distribution and consumption.  Some of the technologies we’re exploring today, I hadn’t even imagined 5 to 10 years ago.  As to sources, solar generation of electricity is with us today in a big way – not only solar panels (the cost of which continues to go down) on the top of office buildings, but in large arrays being built by utilities and incorporated into our power grids.

Along with solar power (only available during sunlight hours) storage for non-sunlit times is advancing.  When I first incorporated solar panels on the roof of a house I built in San Francisco in 2001, I wanted to have a battery back-up.  This consisted of a rack of 12-volt car batteries – expensive and high-maintenance.  There were no Tesla Power Walls in 2001 nor other more efficient and less expensive storage systems.  Today there are several, with others being designed and coming to market every day, reducing cost, increasing efficiency and improving maintenance.  The only good thing then was that photovoltaic panels generated 12-volt DC current and that’s what batteries liked.  I still needed an inverter to power the lighting in my home to inefficient incandescent lamps and, although a little more efficient, fluorescent lamps.

Today, the world is being lighted increasingly by LED (light-emitting diode) amps, with much longer lamp lives and much reduced power consumption.  And color technologies with LEDs have improved greatly, with many of them being manufactured today to allow tuning to exactly the color temperature that you desire or continuously tunable to follow the circadian cycle of daylight. Very effective for healing in hospitals and for higher productivity and health in office spaces.  Take a look at recent writings on biophilia to understand why that is important.

By the way, I should also mention that LEDs operate best on 12-volt DC current.  It just so happens that 12-volt DC is what flows through your computer cables to recharge your computer and your cellphone.  And, guess what, no conduit or electrical inspections required. I’m working with one company that offers complete lighting and control solutions based on 12-volt DC power, which we’re evaluating incorporating into our project here in Reno.  This same company has done street lightning between two towns in South America that are 21 kilometers apart.  The system is off-grid.  All the power comes from solar panels mounted every so often along the route. Powers is stored in a battery system by day to be used to illuminate the route at night. By the way, Wi-Fi is flowing through these lines as well.

Now, let’s return to power. New technologies are available to deliver 12-volt DC power from a clear glass window.  We’re building several structures that have due east, south and west exposures in a bright sunlight city. We and the companies we’re talking to are also exploring electro-chromic and photo-chromic (which is used in glasses that automatically turn into sunglasses when sunlight hits them) coatings. If we can put all the pieces together, we’ll have a glazing system that will generate 12-volt DC power to LED lights, requiring neither an inverter or a transformer at the lamp end. We’ll have glass that will turn into sun shading either electrically or automatically, so I’ll actually be able to look at the views outside my windows without drawing curtains, blinds or shades.

Are you beginning to see why I’m so excited about being a designer/developer today?

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Continue to Educate Yourself

 

Of all the things I can think of to recommend to fellow professionals is: “never stop learning.”

We’ve had some sensational AIA Lunch & Learn sessions in the office recently, demonstrating to me how quickly advances in technology are changing the way we build things.  A recent session presented by a large global glass manufacturer opened my eyes to the advancement of glass manufacturing and the extent of options we have as we specify glazing systems, both for energy conservation, quality and quantity of light and heat coming through the glass.

I’m currently exploring some additional new glazing systems that, in a double-glazed wall, allow the inside surface of the first glass panel to incorporate thin-film photo-voltaic making the skin of a building a generator of electricity. At the same time, the inside surface of the second panel incorporates either a photo-chromic coating like that on eye glasses that turn dark when exposed to direct sunlight, or an electro-chromic coating, allowing the glass to turn dark with an electric charge, dramatically changing the type of window covering — drapes, blinds, roller-shades — required for sun control or privacy.

On another front, the advancements in low-voltage lighting are dramatic, with manufacturers making 12-volt DC fixtures (same power supply coming from photo-voltaic panels), allowing the wiring to be the same as computer cables, eliminating the need for conduit or electrical inspections for initial installation or modifications. Along with power supply and control systems, the lamps themselves have been dramatically improved to allow greater color tunability.  In other words, the color temperature of the light can adjust during the day to emulate outdoor lighting conditions, or in the case of one application I’m investigating, to be used for indoor farming where the light can be tuned to the color temperature that will allow specific fruits and vegetable to grow optimally.

One company I’m working with has developed LED streetlights, with very low energy requirements.  That company is doing an installation in South America between two towns that are 22 kilometers apart.  Photo-voltaic panels are affixed to the top of every fifth light standard which are linked together with low voltage cable to a battery supply, allowing the batteries to be charged during daylight hours for night-time illumination. The cables can also include the ability to distribute Wi-Fi signals to become a data transmission line.

Another important step has been taken to further improve water and waste recycling systems.  We’ve been working on the development of a recycling system for our project here in Reno, a high desert climate where water is a scarce resource and evaporation is high from cooling towers and irrigation. We’ll use 50 percent less water in our project compared to hooking each user to a water meter. We’ll use the recycled water for flushing toilets, irrigation and cooling towers.  Stanford University has developed a new nano-technology filter system that can make the water potable (drinkable), which is too expensive with current systems. While this is not required for all recycled water uses, we’d like to try it in our project if and when it is commercially available.

Construction technologies are evolving rapidly.  It is our duty, as practicing professionals in architecture, interior design and engineering, to keep abreast of new products and innovative systems that are coming available on an almost daily basis. If you’ve made some interesting discoveries lately that you feel your fellow professionals would benefit from, please forward them to me, and I’ll add them to a future blog to help us all keep up with our rapidly evolving world.

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Welcome to Friedrichs Group

Friedrichs Group is a multi-disciplinary consulting organization founded in October, 2003, to help people and organizations enhance their effectiveness by defining the context in which we live, developing strategies for organizational and program success, then defining how to make those strategies actionable.

Friedrichs Group focuses on the architectural, interior design, planning and engineering professions as well as product companies that sell into the construction and design markets.

Friedrichs Group also provides strategic project consulting to optimize the effective design and development of office, retail/entertainment/hospitality and mixed use projects and communities.

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