Welcome to the New Decade

There is something about the dawn of a new decade, which seems to hold out the promise of good things. We have ushered in 2010, but prospects don’t look immediately bright for the architectural construction market.

According to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, a survey of the nation’s leading construction forecasters, despite signs that the overall U.S. economy is beginning to improve, nonresidential construction spending is expected to decrease by 13.4 percent this year with a marginal increase of 1.8 percent in 2011 in inflation adjusted terms while commercial and industrial projects will continue to see the most significant decrease in activity.

The commercial and industrial sectors are projected to have declines in the 20 percent range for 2010 in most building categories. Led by the healthcare market, the institutional sector will see far less dramatic declines and should help lead the construction industry into recovery in 2011. More information on the forecast is available at on the AIA’s website (CLICK HERE to visit that site).

Also ushering in the new decade, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) recently announced the winners of its Annual Design Awards program, which brings public and professional recognition to architectural projects that exhibit design excellence.

The awards were announced during a recent AIA-NJ Design Conference at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton. A formal awards gala to recognize the winners will be held this month at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton.

The entries were divided into built, un-built and design-build categories, which all included honor and merit awards. In addition, a merit award was presented in the historic preservation category. Here are some of the winners in which architectural glass and metal played a key role.

Built Category

Honor Award

Architect: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Engineering Department, Design Division, Donald T. Fram, AIA, and Robert I Davidson, FAIA

Project: The Port Authority Ferry Terminal at The World Financial Center, New York City.

The terminal was designed as a floating pavilion with horizontal and vertical weather protection provided by 13-foot glass windscreens enclosed under an iconic fabric roof structure. The terminal, with six slips, can accommodate vessels with capacities of 450 passengers, thereby offering a mass-transit option for commuters to lower Manhattan.

What the judges said: Durable urban architecture, earthily sturdy, and playful roofscape.

Honor Award

Architect: ikon.5 Architects, based in Princeton.

Project: Hockessin Public Library, Hockessin, Del.

The challenges at the Hockessin library were to create a 10,000-square-foot addition that melded with the existing 15,000-square-foot library and to deal creatively with a site that had the advantage of overlooking a lushly vegetated county park that was restricted by a 100-year flood plain in close proximity to the existing structure. The architects solved the problems by creating a floating glass pavilion overlooking the park that cantilevers over the floodplain. The views of the park envelop the interior space, which is devoted to a children’s library, creating an exciting learning environment, as well as supplying an abundance of daylighting, which helps save on energy costs.

What the judges said: Elegant attachment without insulting the original, capitalized on complex site, and overall warm without being cluttered.

Un-Built Category

Merit Award

Architects: HDR CUH2A, based in Princeton.

Project: Headquarters for Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority tower is designed with a sleek and modern luminescent “skin” made of a silica nano-material that wraps the building, insulating it from the harsh sun. Each façade is equipped to respond to its specific microclimate and orientation. The large open interior is penetrated by a glass atrium that allows daylight to reach deep into the building as well as enhancing air circulation. Modern technologies are woven into the facility, including under-floor air and electrical systems that provide a flexible work environment that easily accommodates expanding and contracting project teams.

What the judges said: Inventive, handsome, rich diagrams, nice massing, and notable moves in envelope.

Merit Award

Architects: HDR CUH2A, based in Princeton.

Project: Georgia Institute of Technology, Carbon Neutral Energy Solution Laboratory, Atlanta.

The Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology is designed as a 35,000-square-foot facility that will house a variety of energy research programs requiring large-scale and intermediate-scale capabilities.

The building is aligned on an east-west axis, providing long north and south facades. Windows on the upper and lower northern facade, along with translucent panels, provide light deep into the facility. On the southern façade, the window is shaded with an awning clad with thin-film photovoltaic (PV) panels — arrays of cells containing a material that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity. In addition, PV panels are located on the roof and on the site to reduce the use of energy for lighting, heating and cooling.

What the judges said: Rigorous, austere, complete and thoughtful, creative concept, and thorough integration of façade to building.

CLICK HERE to read more about the awards program.