Blackbird is pleased to announce our new residential brochure, a portfolio of selected residential projects. Take a look!
Blackbird is pleased to announce our decision to join the AIA 2030 Commitment! The 2030 Commitment...
Blackbird is pleased to announce our decision to join the AIA 2030 Commitment!
The 2030 Commitment is an “initiative that provides a framework to help firms evaluate the impact of project design on energy performance.” The main goal calls for all new buildings, developments, and major renovation to be carbon-neutral by year 2030.
It is important to our firm’s culture and identity to continue pushing innovative, elegant sustainable design in our projects and exemplify sustainable practices within our own studio environment and workflow. So it seems only natural for Blackbird to join the AIA 2030 Commitment!
AIA’s Design Data Exchange allows each firm to report their progress toward meeting their goals. This web database is a very efficient way to track overall progress. We look forward to sharing our results and tracking our progress.
Blackbird is committed to taking steps to help ensure we meet the end goal. Some of our first steps will be to track and report energy use in the office and provide an incentive program for employees who ride share, walk, or bike.
We will be reporting back as time goes by and goals are met, so stay tuned!
Read Bbird’s post to learn more about net-zero-building.
2016 Architectours “Architectours highlights Santa Barbara’s extraordinary architectural...
“Architectours highlights Santa Barbara’s extraordinary architectural legacy and the contribution of well-designed architecture to our community. The event also underlines the depth of knowledge and expertise of AIA architects in urban design, sustainability, accessibility, structural improvements, building materials, and historic renovation. On the tours, you will observe first-hand how working with an architect can transform ordinary living spaces into responsive, tailored environments using a variety of design solutions.” – AIA SB
AIA Santa Barbara’s 2016 Architectours has come and past! Blackbird was honored to have Westmont’s Adams Center for the Visual Arts and Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics included in this year’s tour.
Architectours is an annual celebration of Santa Barbara Architecture with a tour of local architecture and cultural identity. Also, it provides a rare behind the scenes opportunity for those on the tour to see the inside of custom residential and commercial spaces- connecting the community to local architecture and culture.
This year’s tour theme was ‘Spirit of Santa Barbara – Past & Present’.
Blackbird Architects uses a variety of tools to communicate ideas. We create detailed...
Blackbird Architects uses a variety of tools to communicate ideas. We create detailed two-dimensional drawings, three-dimensional digital models, and various types of renderings of the interior and exterior spaces of our projects. Increasingly, image boards are yet another visual tool that we are finding valuable.
From inspirational reference imagery at the beginning of a project to detailed tracking tools used during construction, these boards are a great way to communicate and document design vision with our clients. We refine and refer to these boards frequently throughout the design process to remain focused on the big-picture goals for each individual project.
Below are examples of image boards from key stages of a few projects as well as discussion about how these boards develop in both content and purpose through the design process.
The Beginning: Mood Boards
In the beginning of a new project, referred to as the conceptual design phase, we make “mood boards” like the one shown below. A mood board is a collection of reference images gathered collaboratively by a client and the Blackbird team. The process of gathering photos and reviewing them iteratively fosters discussion that helps both the design team and the client focus the goals of a project from an experiential standpoint. Images may speak to spatial volume, material palette, color palette, furnishings, light quality or numerous other qualities of a place that highlight our clients’ priorities.
Often our team starts by creating a private Pinterest board and/or Houzz ideabook (public examples are linked here) with images that we would like to show our client. We then invite the client to add, remove and comment on images via this web interface. This is especially helpful for collaborating with our out-of-town clients and generally keeps the dialogue flowing before and after meetings.
As a project develops and the design is increasingly defined, mood boards transition into material boards.
Next Steps: Material Boards
At this stage, ideas have gained definition through the clients’ response to mood board reference images and physical material samples. The evolved image board now contains thumbnail photos that identify in more detail the specific materials, finishes, fixtures and furnishings that will be present in a space. At times, the sheer number of decisions in play can become overwhelming, and the material board helps to organize everyone’s thoughts. One sheet of paper represents one space that can easily accompany a visit to a material showroom or meeting. The boards provide context for increasingly detail-oriented decisions, such as selecting a robe hook or shower fixtures for a bathroom.
As a project moves into construction, the use of these material boards transitions from conceptual references to an element of the contract documents.
Finally Under Construction: Graphic Schedules
As construction nears, the material board evolves into a visual guide for tracking and scheduling the design elements of each space. Clients review the graphic schedules and provide approval before materials or fixtures are ordered. A more technical interior elevation sheet is coupled with a graphic schedule sheet that brings the drawings to life and aids to achieve the end goal: poetic design and clear documentation for a space that will exceed the client’s expectations.
After attending the sobering and inspiring lecture titled “Achieving Zero” by Ed Mazria...
After attending the sobering and inspiring lecture titled “Achieving Zero” by Ed Mazria (internationally recognized architect, author, researcher and educator on the topic of sustainability – perhaps most well known for his organization ‘Architecture 2030’) hosted recently in Santa Barbara, we got to thinking about how Blackbird has long been and continues to help our clients get closer to realizing net-zero energy buildings.
First, lets be clear on what net-zero energy building is. A net-zero energy building is one that produces as much energy on site as it consumes over the course of a calendar year. Another, and perhaps more important way of thinking about this way of building is known as zero-net carbon building. Zero-net carbon buildings are those that generate zero-net carbon emissions through significant energy use reduction and the exclusive use of renewable non-carbon generating energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, bio, etc.) produced on-site or elsewhere. The larger goal of building net-zero is to phase out all CO2 emissions resulting from building energy consumption.
Surprisingly, only a handful of buildings exist in the US that meet the definition of net-zero. A quick search of the New Buildings Institute ‘Getting to Zero Database’ (a reliable source for information on exemplary sustainable buildings) reveals a short list of just 42 buildings that have been certified by the institute as net-zero energy. This is not to say that designers and community leaders are not working hard towards buildings that consume less energy (and produce more energy!).
Santa Barbara City is a nation-wide leader in the adoption of sustainable energy building codes and regulations and Blackbird is proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking community. In 2007 the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved the Architecture 2030 Energy Ordinance becoming the first city to adopt the Architecture 2030 challenge into their building energy code.
What is the Architecture 2030 Challenge? Founded in 2002 by Ed Mazria, this organization challenged the building sector to dramatically reduce energy consumption through better design and design innovation. The challenge identified energy reduction targets for new and old construction establishing a practical path to net-zero buildings by the year 2030. Mazria and his organization are also working with local governments and building code officials to push for regulation that mandates dramatic energy use reduction.
California is a leader in this regard with the latest version of the state’s building energy code (Title 24) taking important steps towards achieving net-zero carbon goals. The 2016 version of this code mandates that all new construction in California get to within 47.5% of the 2030 goal for net-zero energy.
With sustainability always on our minds as we design a project and increasingly demanding building codes motivating us to innovate, we thought it helpful to identify some of the basic strategies Blackbird employs to help our clients get closer to achieving net-zero energy building. Our strategies are a two-pronged approach that works to create buildings that both use less energy to begin with and also, if possible, produce energy on site.
Energy Efficiency Strategies
Thoughtful Site Design
This means careful consideration of a building’s location and orientation on its site to optimize solar access. This includes consideration of desirable solar heat gain in the cooler months and shading to protect undesirable solar heat gain in the warmer months.
Access to daylight is a critical factor in laying out floor plans. With appropriate access to natural daylight, artificial lighting needs are greatly reduced.
Insulated Energy Envelope
A high-performance building envelope is an easy way to keep the interior climate right where you want it without needing to expend a lot of energy on mechanical heating and cooling.
Optimizing the natural ventilation of spaces through operable windows means that less energy needs to be consumed on mechanical ventilation of the building.
Efficient Building Systems
Blackbird pushes its electrical and mechanical engineering consultants to bring the most energy efficient systems to the table. This could mean specifying all LED lighting fixtures, radiant floor heating, ground source heat pumps or other non-traditional but highly efficient systems that result in less energy consumption. Collaborating with LEED consultants or other experts on topics such as building energy modeling are standard practice for Blackbird’s team of designers. We welcome the opportunity to engage and learn from our colleagues.
Energy Production Strategies
Solar Hot Water Heating
By heating water with solar energy first some, if not all, additional energy needed to heat the water for use (bathing, dish washing, heated pool, etc.) is eliminated. Most recently Blackbird is helping design a solar hot water system for a new dining and administration building on a boarding school campus.
Solar Electricity Generation
Many of Blackbird’s projects include solar electric generation capabilities through rooftop solar panels. See our design for the Coyote residence (photo of solar trellis below).
At a parking lot in Isla Vista (see photo below) solar panels provided shade cover for the cars below and generated much of the sites electricity needs.
Currently there is a total of 1 gigawatt of installed solar generating photovoltaics in Santa Barbara County. To put that in perspective, the average US home uses approximately 1.25 kilowatts in a year. Our county has enough solar power to serve more than 830,000 homes!
Tracking a building’s energy consumption or production allows for further improvements to building systems even after the building has been built. Below is a recent screen-capture from a real-time energy production solar log installed by one of our institutional clients. This log allows them to track their solar energy production and compare that to their energy demands.
Net-zero energy building is coming and Blackbird is well versed in the design strategies and technological innovations that can get us there. With any Blackbird designed project, context and project specific solutions are our goal. Energy efficiency is not just about crossing items off a checklist or tabulating numbers for an energy budget. Blackbird looks for energy strategies that add value to a project in multiple ways including positive contributions to the overall experience and aesthetics.
As architects in one of the most comfortable and beautiful settings in the world, we are big...
As architects in one of the most comfortable and beautiful settings in the world, we are big proponents of tensile shade sails in design. Why? With elegant and affordable forms, colors and textures that hover in mid-air while providing temperate spaces to relax and recreate, tensile shade structures have an awful lot going for them. The following is a basic primer on the topic, as well as a case study of a recently realized project.
Shade Structure Basics:
At its most basic level, a shade structure is a design solution that aims to transform and temper harsh outdoor areas into comfortable and usable space. Tensioned from multiple anchor points at a height that is optimal relative to use and solar orientation, shade sails can provide refuge from the sun while preserving nearly all other desired elements of the outdoors – the views, the breeze, and the relaxation. Given Santa Barbara’s fortunate Mediterranean climate and the general desire to spend significant time outside throughout the year, we are often asked by clients to create spaces that preserve the outdoor experience but limit over-exposure to the sun. Tempering the sun and taking advantage of natural light and shadow are site-specific considerations that Blackbird is adept at manipulating for all types of projects.
Shade Sail Materials:
Deceivingly simple in concept – a few steel posts and triangles of fabric stretched taught between them – designing and permitting shade structures like this one can be actually quite complex. Particularly in California where fire hazards are a key component of any code compliance review finding a fabric material that will meet all performance criteria can be difficult.
Shade sails can be made from various types of fabrics that have different strength, appearance (e.g. color and texture), performance characteristics and costs to consider.
At the simpler and less-expensive end is high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which you’ve seen in the form of milk jugs, hard hats, and hula-hoops. For mesh shade sails made from this, the HDPE tensile fabric forms a thin membrane that offers protection for up to 98% of the sun’s harmful UV rays while still allowing air and rain to flow through.
At the mid-level are acrylic and polyester fabrics that have lots of color options and can be treated to have good color-fastness and flame-resistant properties. The weave is denser than the HDPE mesh, meaning that less air and water can permeate through the fabric, though they are not typically fully waterproof.
At the high-end are PVC or Teflon coated fabrics, which are typically used for large structures that need to be fully waterproof and/or fire resistant (such as the Denver Airport Terminal). These are very durable, but can also be significantly more expensive.
Case Study: Crane Country Day School
What seemed like a simple request from our client, Crane Country Day School, to provide much needed shade at their frequently used 1,700 square foot lunch table and outdoor gathering space, was actually a highly technical and challenging design opportunity for our office to solve.
The Design Solution:
When selecting a fabric for this particular project Blackbird took into consideration the user criteria which included a low openness factor (high % shading) and a neutral color – no one wants to eat under a canopy that under-shades, over-shades, or tints the color of the light such that their lunch looks unappetizing (no blue, green or red sails here!) From a code perspective the criteria included compliance with various tests for fire resistance, ignition resistance, flame spread and smoke developed indices. Ultimately, a Serge Ferrari fabric called Soltis 92 was selected for its abilities to meet all the user and code criteria established for the project. This particular fabric is mesh constructed of a PVC coated polyester base cloth that absorbs and reflects up to 92% of the sun’s rays.
Our design for the shade structure steel posts took formal cues from an adjacent Sycamore tree. Arms branch out from several of the vertical posts – resembling tree branches – and allow for fabric sails to stretch past one another to create greater shade coverage. A variety of post heights and fabric connection points result in a more dynamic canopy as the fabric panels twist and angle while spanning between posts. Post heights were also carefully manipulated to increase shade coverage at particular times of the day and year. Posts are lower on the south and grow in height moving north so that the sails tilt down at the southern end and scallop upwards towards the north.
The design process included careful consideration of the site’s solar orientation and the shade coverage provided at various times of the day and year by different design options.
As seen in the animation below, the final design provides almost complete shade coverage throughout the year during the lunch time hours of 11am-2pm. This was a challenge to achieve given the relatively constrained site that limited the possible placement of support posts by existing playing fields and a fire department access drive.
September 21st 11am – 2pm
While several different designs were considered (see images below), the client’s desire for full shade coverage ultimately pushed for the selection of the final design over other options.
The end result is a comfortable outdoor dining room providing 1700 square feet of shaded seating for all to enjoy their lunch.
Switchable smart glass in action at our recently completed Hope Ranch Residence. See more photos...
Switchable smart glass in action at our recently completed Hope Ranch Residence. See more photos and information about our design for this new custom residence by visiting the Hope Ranch Residence project page.
Finding the right balance between privacy and an open view to the outside is an age-old architectural design challenge. This is especially true for California modern architecture. The temperate climate encourages blurring the line between indoor and outdoor space, and our local Santa Barbara projects often strive for complete transparency to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings.
Throughout history, architects have approached these two opposing concepts (transparency vs. privacy) in a variety of ways. When Fredrich C. Robie insisted on “seeing his neighbors without being seen,” Frank Lloyd Wright raised the floor level of the Robie House above that of the street and provided a low wall outside of the windows. This small shift in elevation, along with the view-blocking low-height wall, required people at street level to look up through the windows to see in. The steep viewing angle prohibited the ability of outsiders to see into the majority of the home’s interior, except for a view of the ceiling. Phillip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe placed the bathroom (typically the most private space in a home) in an opaque enclosure at the core of their glass house projects. Richard Neutra would place a linear light fixture outside a picture window to create a reflection that assisted in blocking views to within.
At the Hope Ranch residence, our client requested a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, which their site gloriously offers, from the comfort and privacy of a custom whirlpool bathtub.
Blackbird took an innovative approach to solve this transparency vs. privacy challenge and employed a fairly new but very reliable product known as switchable smart glass to make this request a reality. Switchable smart glass is a type of glass whose light transmission properties are altered when voltage is applied. Typically, as in this installation, the glass changes from translucent to transparent when the voltage is applied.
The technical name of this product is electrochromic glass. It is significantly more expensive, (usually three to four times more than typical glazing), but has unique characteristics that other glass cannot match. It employs a polymer dispersed liquid crystal film that is laminated between two layers of common glass. When no voltage is applied, suspended particles in the liquid are randomly organized, thus blocking and absorbing light. Flip a switch to apply voltage and the electric current forces the suspended particles in the liquid film to align and let light pass through making the glass transparent.
Et voila! Transparency and privacy achieved.
You can find more information about the switchable smart glass product used in this project and the people who helped realize its installation here:
General contractor – Leonard Unander Associates Inc.
Switchable glass supplier – Glass Apps
Glass installer – JNL Glass Inc.
Electrical sub-contractor – JR Electric
Engaging with UCSB’s Technology Management Program and assisting in the realization of a new...
Engaging with UCSB’s Technology Management Program and assisting in the realization of a new flagship space for their inaugural master’s degree curriculum was an exciting and special project for the Blackbird team. UCSB is the alma mater to many Blackbirds and all our projects at this campus give the office alumni an opportunity to enhance the facilities in which they have personally benefited from.
Our design reorganized 2,200 square feet of existing classroom and office areas into a tiered 60-seat modern learning & discussion venue with an adjacent open lobby area. The curved seating format allows optimal viewing of a presenter and also fosters student-to-student visibility and discussion. The arching shape of the back wall is reflected in the adjacent lobby, allowing the space to open up to the entries on either side. Boring and heavy concrete-block walls at the lobby exteriors were replaced with frameless glass doors and windows to provide natural light and connections to the outdoors.
The striking difference between before and after images of both the exterior and interior reveal just how transformational a smaller scale adaptive reuse project can be.
Adaptive reuse of existing spaces on any campus is both a challenge and opportunity facing most educational institutions. In this project, outdated building systems including structure, HVAC, IT infrastructure, furniture and finishes all required upgrades to meet current education goals.
During the course of any adaptive reuse project there are bound to be surprises.
In this project, our original proposal to polish the existing concrete slab for the finish floor of the new lobby was thwarted by a mid-construction discovery of undesirable staining and damage to the existing slab. An intense flurry of brainstorming, research, and mockups by the Blackbird team resulted in a multi-colored grey micro-topping finish that closely resembled the polished concrete look we were seeking. These types of projects require a nimble design team to work through challenges as they are discovered during the realization process.
Some of the unique elements of this project include the 60’ foot long cold-rolled, curving steel wall panel seen in the photo above. When not in use by the department for presentation graphics the steel wall remains an element of interest in the lobby space. Its magnetic qualities also make it easy for the department to switch out graphics at a moment’s notice.
The 3-form modesty panels at the curving desks and the radial trapezoidal ceiling clouds are also some of our favorite project elements.
For more finished photos of this exciting project visit the TMP project page.
To see other adaptive reuse projects by Blackbird visit the Design page and click on ‘Adapt’.
LA Times Architecture Critic, Christopher Hawthorne, will be giving a lecture tonight at UCSB as...
LA Times Architecture Critic, Christopher Hawthorne, will be giving a lecture tonight at UCSB as part of the UCSB Arts and Lectures series. This lecture is part of the 2015-2016 Architecture & Design Series hosted by The Art, Design & Architecture Museum. The series has been extremely informative thus far. If you’re in Santa Barbara tonight, Blackbird recommends attending Hawthorne’s lecture!
DATE: April 28, 2016
TIME: 6pm-7:30pm (reception at 5:30pm)
LOCATION: UCSB Library, 525 UCEN Road, 3rd FL
There was quite a lot going on at Palm Avenue last week for our island oak relocation- cranes,...
There was quite a lot going on at Palm Avenue last week for our island oak relocation- cranes, flatbed trucks, and other large equipment. Two island oak trees were uprooted and relocated from the Blackbird and VAI Van Atta Design parking lot to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The trees were growing too close together so moving them was imperative. Though sorry to see them go, we are happy to report that both trees have ample room at their new locations in front of SBBG’s Pritzlaff Conservation Center! The Pritzlaff Conservation Center will facilitate research in plant species preservation against extinction so it’s most fitting that the island oaks (Quercus Tomentella), a very rare relict species, now reside there.
When it comes to uprooting mature trees there is always a chance of the tree going into shock, especially if damage occurs to the root system. Both trees, moved with their root balls in 96” wooden boxes, handled the relocation astonishingly well. The island oaks were generously donated by VAI Van Atta Associates.
We recently completed construction documents for a comfort station at the Live Oak Campground for...
We recently completed construction documents for a comfort station at the Live Oak Campground for the Santa Barbara County Parks & Recreation Department. With rustic materials and a simple modern design, the station intends to provide a refuge for campers to refresh while maintaining an outdoor-focused experience. Replacing a previous structure that had walls but was otherwise open-air, the new station features large elliptical skyholes in the roof above the shower room providing bathers with sunlight and views of the sky, while the clerestory opens directly to the camp’s famous oak trees surrounding the structure. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
The Hueneme High School and Adolfo Camarillo High School Aquatic Centers have just finished...
The Hueneme High School and Adolfo Camarillo High School Aquatic Centers (Oxnard Union Pools) have just finished construction in Oxnard and Camarillo, CA. Each project features a competition level swimming pool (34 meters x 25 yards) with diving blocks, ample deck area, and a 3,800 square foot bathhouse accommodating restrooms, lockers, showers, coaches offices, team rooms, and equipment storage. School pride is celebrated in the design of each facility though the dressing of school colors with glazed concrete block and metal accent treatments. These saturated colors accentuate points of interest, and offer a unique contrast to the more muted tones of the concrete and block materials. Check out the transformation of school grounds as an idea becomes reality – you may just jump (in) with excitement.
Earlier this week we noticed that a feral bee hive had formed near our office on Palm...
The birds and the bees of Bbird!
Earlier this week we noticed that a feral bee hive had formed near our office on Palm Ave. Our office neighborhood is in a urban setting near the freeway which is not ideal for a healthy hive. We had experience with incorporating hives into residential gardens and were aware of the need for hives throughout the community. In some of our sustainable projects, hives have played an integral role in site biodynamics – one third of all food grown is dependent upon pollination by bees. We got in touch with Sweet Start – Santa Barbara Bee Keepers Association and they came to the rescue helping relocate the hive to an area in need.
To learn more about Sweet Start and other great programs through the Santa Barbara Bee Keepers Association visit http://www.sbba.org
The renovation of and modest addition to a 1950's ranch house in Ojai,...
The renovation of a modest addition to a 1950’s ranch house in Ojai, CA. The project will result in an airy pavilion characterized by calm and openness, with strong indoor/outdoor connections highlighting the site’s prominent oak trees. A yoga room, plentiful ventilation, and natural materials will contribute to the owners’ goal of a simple and healthful living environment. Take a look at the before and after!
Just as in real estate, good design for a new home is all about "location, location,...
Just as in real estate, good design for a new home is all about “location, location, location.” In this case, we don’t mean what neighborhood you’re in, but rather how best to situate a home to take the most advantage of views, topography, and available land area. For this hillside residence, a view “rosetta” (a planning tool to identify directions to all key viewpoints, above) and view panorama modeling studies (below) help guide space planning and building orientation toward key views, and site sections (far below) facilitate the consideration of ways to engage the hillside terrain for most optimal use of the site.
We are excited to report that we have a new "blackbird" in the office, though new isn't quite the...
We are excited to our newest bird in the office, though new isn’t quite the right word–we know him well. James Kyle is a Blackbird veteran who interned for 2 years after graduating from UCSB’s undergraduate Art History department with an emphasis on Architecture and Environment. He began pursuing his Master’s of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona in 2009 and returned to intern here over the summers. Following his graduation last month, we were impressed with his thesis project and thought we’d post it here so people could check it out.
For those who may not know, an architecture student’s thesis project is the culmination of months of work, and serves as a representation of the student’s vision and design process. We’ll let James speak for himself: see his diagrams, description, and renderings of his thesis project below.
Street Art Colony – James Kyle, M.Arch1 2012
The “normal” path for a young adult after moving on from High School is to pursue further education or enter the workforce. The majority, in either path, often begin co-housing with people of like minds and interests. This thesis studies the subculture and housing patterns of a group of individuals, categorized broadly as street artists. Street art encompasses mediums that take existing urban fabric and reinterpret/appropriate them for uses not intended by the original designers. Some of these mediums include graphic as well as physical expressions such as art murals and skateboarding freestyle activities.
The project form of the thesis comes as one solution to creating an environment that supports the individuals, collectively known as street artists. The architecture is designed in a way that is conducive to the methods and philosophy of the users. It is a mixed use project containing housing, galleries, artists’ studios, and other facilities. It is also an adaptive re-use project as the appropriation of an existing building to follow the spirit of the subculture. The abandoned host building was once the seat of authority as the Los Angeles City Jail in Lincoln Heights, also known as “The Grey Bar Hotel” to its frequenters. The Jail provides the carcass to inhabit/adapt while the intervention of the site provides amenities to the users/community at large. The project uses the culture to inform the design in curating the deconstruction of the Jail and creating the Street Art Colony.
We are glad to have James back again, and are excited about the unique point of view and skill set he brings to our studio at Blackbird.
The interaction between building and site is a critical design driver at Blackbird....
The interaction between building and site is a critical design driver at Blackbird. Our local Santa Barbara context has a mild climate and terrific mountain and ocean view opportunities, often prompting the design of indoor and outdoor spaces that merge building and landscape. Where possible, we are strong proponents of incorporating planted roofs into a building’s design, as they can provide numerous advantages to a building’s environmental performance, aesthetics, and available outdoor use areas.
We thought we’d share a few brief examples of recent green roofed projects as well as explain a little of the technology at work beneath the green.
Green roofs are often identified as one of two major types: extensive, or shallow green roofs, and intensive, or deep green roofs. These types have different functions and appearances and are suited to different design goals, structural requirements and roof conditions.
EXTENSIVE GREEN ROOFS
Extensive green roofs consist of planting situated in a shallow (usually 3″-4″) irrigated soil/mineral medium over a waterproof roofing membrane and drainage mat. They are relatively lightweight (usually between 15-30 pounds per square foot when fully saturated with water), and therefore require less structure to support them than intensive roofs. The green roof helps to insulate the building envelope and filters and moderates rainwater to reduce runoff. Extensive green roofs can be both site-built or can be modular, in which plants are pre-grown in trays complete with a root barrier and drainage. Extensive roof plantings are typically low-lying (in our area, native sedums and succulents are often good choices) and can have tremendous variety in terms of appearance and character.
INTENSIVE GREEN ROOFS
Intensive, or deep green roofs consist of planting situated in a deeper (usually a minimum of 6″-8″ or more) irrigated soil medium over a waterproof roofing membrane and drainage mat. They are relatively heavy (usually between 50-180 pounds per square foot when fully saturated with water), and therefore require more structure to support them than extensive roofs. The green roof provides significant insulation to the building envelope and filters, stores and moderates rainwater to reduce runoff. The deeper soil allows for a multitude of planting types and sizes (including trees!) and can support the design of garden terraces that make it difficult to perceive that you are on top of a building. Due to the significant soil depth, lightweight foam material is often used at key areas to support hardscape materials, or to create mounding or level changes where full soil depth (and corresponding weight) is not needed.
Sandman Mixed-Use Project
We hope these project images and brief technical explanation shed some light on how green roofs work and why they’re an aesthetic and technical asset in building design.
Residential renovation and addition to a modest home near the Santa Barbara...
A complete home makeover!
Residential renovation and addition to a modest home near the Santa Barbara foothills. The project aims to improve livability, reduce energy use, and give the house a fun and modern vibe.
The web is now THE place for finding the most current information and discussion on products and...
The web is now THE place for finding the most current information and discussion on products and design. While we still have plenty of design and technical reference books and a shrinking materials/product library in our office, much of our research now involves accessing information of all types online. While each product or company covers it’s own viewpoint and technical info well, few sites focus on providing broader discussion and info on the many facets of realizing good design. We’d previously identified A House by the Park as a great owner-side view, and related to that (but coming more from the architect side), BUILD Blog is one terrific portal into the world of good design. They have a good comment/dialog format to the blog, which gives people a chance to get further into key aspects of design. While the primary focus is Northwest residential, they are clearly fans of all forms of interesting modern design. A nice blog to check out.
Much of our work involves conceptualizing forms and space, and the communication of those concepts...
Much of our work involves conceptualizing forms and space, and the communication of those concepts to clients, jurisdictions, builders, and many others. Models have always been an integral part of architecture as a way to test and describe design ideas. We thought we’d show a few examples of different types of models, including 3d modeling, to give you a better idea of how we do what we do.
Though for many firms handmade models have gone the way of the dinosaur, we still value their physicality–the ability to see, hold, and manipulate them. We often use them to test specific ideas of parts of a building (the configuration of the shade sails for Casa Nueva, below), and sometimes use them to show the entirety of a project (the Ecotarium, below far). While physical models can be labor intensive to create and modify, they remain one of the best ways to communicate forms and design intent.
Digital 3D models allow for the accurate representation of site topography and building materials, as well as quick exploration of design variations. Models can be updated as the project evolves, and both interior and exterior spaces can be developed with varying levels of detail depending on need.
Digital 3D modeling partnered with rendering software can simulate forms, materials, and lighting (both natural and artificial) in photorealistic detail. The renderings below are an example of the way this technology can be used to preview and fine-tune material selections.
All of these methods can be used to visualize ideas and foster collaboration between client and designer.
Hillside residence in Santa Barbara with outstanding views to the coast....
Hillside Residence in Santa Barbara with outstanding views to the coast. An exposed timber structure with tapered beams provides an expressive framework for a simple building form. Strong indoor-outdoor connections to elegant and simple patios defines the living experience.
We do, and have done, lots of sustainable design work. We really enjoy this, and see the goals of...
We do, and have done, lots of Eco-Tech Design. We really enjoy this, and see the goals of using sound materials and less energy as no different than goals of having a project be structurally sound, functional and visually pleasing – it is simply part of what is required for good design.
Often we look for opportunities to have the technologies of the home do more than just fulfill their functional role. One example is with photovoltaic panels. Usually these are placed on the roof and operate from then on in obscurity. Integrating the PV’s into the design to reap additional benefits can expand their role and even help educate about their importance in improving energy performance and lessening reliance on fossil fuels.
To this end, we are big fans of new and emerging products like bifacial photovoltaic panels, which sandwich the active PV modules between two layers of tempered glass.
The result is a PV panel that is clearly identifiable from the underside, and uses both sides of the panel to collect up to 30% additional sunlight/electricity per square foot than conventional single-sided systems.
On the LEED Platinum Coyote House, the design incorporated these type of PV’s into a rooftop mirador trellis, where it provides dappled light and shade to make a comfortable place to take in the ocean view. From trellises to carports to facade systems, these types of new technologies can be integrated into design to help make functional and dynamic places to be.
Realizing a custom home is a tremendous effort, requiring a great team (owner, architect,...
Realizing a custom home is a tremendous effort, requiring a great team (owner, architect, contractor and many others) and clear communication. At times the process and decisions for the owner may seem daunting, as people’s previous experience in construction and design can be highly variable. We came across a great blog called A House by the Park authored by Mike – the owner of a custom residential project in Seattle, WA.
We think it is a tremendous compendium of information and a well documented owner’s side account of the process and decisions on one project from start to finish. The time-lapse video is cool as well.
While most published articles on custom homes aren’t very forthcoming about actual costs, problems/challenges, and all the other hard learned lessons that occur, the blog is complete with info and details in nearly all areas of the process, including a full accounting (with spreadsheets) of every purchase that was made and when. Interesting stuff and a great resource.
As the first post for our blog on our new website, it seemed useful to answer a question that we're...
As the first post for our blog on our new website, it seemed useful to answer a question that we’re often asked. Why Blackbird? The intent for our blog is to cover a wide array of topics that are on our mind, so while the origin of our company name is a bit esoteric, it’s one way to begin to talk about what we do.
Though song references like the Beatles “Blackbird” are a common guess, Blackbird is a reference to the poem “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. The poem is listed below for all to form their own impressions. To us, the thirteen stanzas speak toward a way of looking at life thoughtfully, and to the act of seeking and creating meaning both through our surrounding environment and in our relationships.
We feel that the practice of architecture is by nature a collaborative effort, and always larger than a single person. When principal and founder Ken Radtkey started the firm, he intentionally steered away from more conventional surname-based titles for these reasons. We’ve used our name as one means to inform our efforts and allow everyone within our practice to endeavor toward the creation of inspired, sensitive design.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.