Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

Masdar: A Green City Case Study

February 22nd, 2013 by

The following post is authored by student and Sherwood blogging intern, Rachel Gross.

One of my professors recently asked our class to think about what “grand challenges” face our society, and my mind immediately jumped to population growth and urbanization. As population continues to grow over the next several decades, resources will become more scarce and human impact on the environment will also grow. UN population studies project that world population will reach 9.31 billion by 2050. Where will these people live? Current and projected urbanization rates estimate that by 2050, about 6.25 billion people (67% of the total world population) will live in cities. This is almost twice the 2010 urban population of 3.56 billion people (about 52% of the current world population).

Cities are a huge source of anthropogenic impact on the environment. The large concentration of people in a city leads to increased air and water pollution, energy consumption, and biodiversity loss. Although cities contain half of the world’s population, they consume 60-80% of the world’s annual energy use and contribute to 75% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission. As cities continue to grow with population, so too will their impact on the environment. However, this impact can be mitigated through careful city planning and the creation of “green cities”. I discovered one such city during a summer internship several years ago. I was working at CH2M Hill and I got to hear a presentation about one of their projects, Masdar City. Near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Masdar City is a low carbon, low waste planned community of 40,000 that is going to be completed in 2025.

An artists’ rendering of the completed Masdar City.
Photo Credit: http://masdarcity.ae/

Masdar City was established in 2006 with the aim of becoming a world leader in renewable energy and an example of a commercially viable, sustainable city. Currently, the city consists of just 300 residents and several buildings: the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, residences for the Institute, and some food, service, and retail outlets. All of these buildings are powered by an on-site 10 MW photovoltaic solar plant. This 22 hectare plant is the largest solar plant in the Middle East. The city will also draw on geothermal and wind energy. When the city is complete, 20% of Masdar’s energy will come from on-site renewable resources and the rest will come from renewable energy resources elsewhere in the UAE.

Masdar’s 45m wind tower.
Photo credit: http://masdarcity.ae/

In addition to exclusively using renewable resources for energy, all of the buildings and the entire city itself have been designed to maximize energy efficiency. The buildings constructed in the city must adhere to strict energy-minimizing guidelines with regard to insulation, lighting, windows, smart appliances and energy meters. The city itself is oriented on a southeast-northwest axis to minimize heat gain and maximize cooling shade and breezes. The streets are fairly narrow to supply more shade from the buildings, and various water and greenery installations provide additional cooling. One of the most interesting innovations in cooling is the city’s wind tower. This 45m tower captures upper-level winds and directs them down onto the street below. The top of the tower has sensors that control the shutters that open toward the prevailing wind and close in the opposite direction to push the wind downwards. This wind tower is a high-tech version of traditional Persian “windcatchers” that date back to the 17th century. There are also windgates throughout the city to direct and regulate the flow of air on the streets. Overall, the streets of Masdar City are 15-20 °C cooler than the streets of Abu Dhabi, which is only about 10 miles away.

Masdar City’s transportation infrastructure is perhaps the largest departure from a traditional city because there are to be no petroleum-based cars in the city. The city is designed for pedestrians, with many shaded walkways. However, there will be several forms of public transportation. Right now, both electric vehicles and a personal rapid transit (PRT) system are being tested in a pilot program. The PRT system features small, fully-automated, electric “podcars” that hold two people. These podcars can travel up to 25 mph and are controlled by a sophisticated navigation system. The concept of personal rapid transit was incredible to me and I thought that Masdar City must be the first city to implement this idea. However, I found out that the PRT concept actually dates back to the 1960s and a PRT system was built in 1975 in Morgantown, West Virginia. While this concept never caught on in the 1970s, PRT is now being considered in different urban and community environments around the world. In 2010, Masdar City was the first to put a PRT system into operation, but London Heathrow airport now has PRT vehicles to take passengers to and from the parking lot and larger scale systems are being constructed in Suncheon, South Korea and Amritsar, India. Studies have shown that PRT vehicles use about a quarter of the energy per passenger per mile of a standard automobile.

Two person, fully automated, electric personal rapid transit (PRT) vehicle.
Photo credit: http://masdarcity.ae/

The city also takes water and waste management very seriously.  On a per person basis, Masdar City uses less than half of the water that an average city uses. This is achieved through the use of high efficiency appliances as well as smart meters that can detect leaks in water system. Additionally, 100% of the wastewater generated from the city is treated and reused in landscaping, which has led to huge water savings. Masdar City has also taken great efforts to manage its waste, with 96% of its construction waste reused in other ways to build the city. However, the city’s long-term landfill diversion goal is only 50%, which I thought was surprisingly low. If San Francisco can achieve 75% landfill diversion, shouldn’t a city built entirely to be green do even better?

While most people agree that Masdar City’s aims are admirable, there are some serious criticisms of the city. Originally, Masdar was marketed as a “zero-waste, carbon neutral” city, but it’s now claiming to be “low carbon” with only 50% landfill diversion. At Greenbuild, I met a sustainability consultant for Masdar City who said that he was very disappointed with how much the actual city is deviating from its original sustainable goals. He was also dissatisfied with the actual construction progress. The city was originally supposed to be completed in 2016, but that completion date has been pushed back by almost 10 years.

Despite the criticisms, I think that Masdar City represents an important step in the right direction in sustainable urban development. It is definitely on the cutting-edge of sustainability, and I look forward to seeing more cities around the world follow its lead. Masdar City is one of several green cities to start construction within the last 10 years. Other notable examples are PlanIT Valley in Portugal and Tianjin Eco-City in China. Sherwood has worked in Tianjin Eco-City, performing green infrastructure and sustainable site design services for a 350 unit residential community in the city.  This project focused on water conservation and reuse due to the heavily depleted aquifer and saline soils in this area. The $10 billion eco-city is expected to be completed in 2020.

View of the start up area of Tianjin Eco-City.
Photo credit: http://www.tianjinecocity.gov.sg/gal_2012.htm

For more information, click here for Masdar City and here for Tianjin Eco-City.

The New Packard Foundation Headquarters

November 30th, 2012 by

Photo © Jeremy Bittermann

Working on a team with lead architect EHDDTipping Mar and Integral Group Sherwood helped to design the new headquarters of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which sits in downtown Los Altos, California. Sherwood worked with the team to design multiple sustainable systems, including rainwater harvesting, green streets, stormwater infiltration and treatment, and pedestrian-friendly circulation. Sherwood was also responsible for sustainable systems integration, grading and drainage design, site utility design, and deconstruction all the way through construction. As part of this project, a 550-foot length of public street was redesigned to include rain gardens adjacent to the street that will treat road runoff, and four surface parking lots were retrofitted with vegetated swales and infiltration basins to treat stormwater runoff.

The new headquarters building is designed for net-zero energy consumption and LEED Platinum certification, and uses a diverse set of materials including reclaimed redwood, FSC-certified cedar and recycled copper. In two 250-foot long office pavilions and 50,00 square feet of space, the building provides a combination of private offices, open work areas, communal gathering spaces and conference rooms.

Photo © Jeremy Bittermann

The innovative green design of the new headquarters also extends to lighting and energy use. Windows and skylights on the northwest and southwest walls provide ample daylight. The design also includes automated interior and exterior blinds rise and fall with the movement of the sun to not only provide shade when needed, but also to help regulate the temperature within the building. Energy use is being addressed via reduced plug loads and PV production from PV panels located on-site. Employees will not have personal printers nor be allowed to have personal heaters at their desks, which will help reduce the plug loads. Through monitoring data that has been collected since the building opened to the employees, it has been shown that energy use is even lower than originally predicted. This reduction in energy use is on top of the designed annual use of 17% less energy than the 273,000 kilowatt-hours generated by the PV panels.

Photo © Jeremy Bittermann

Finally, through design by Tipping Mar, the building is seismic-braced to a level that exceeds the state building code requirements. Steven Tipping, the firm’s president explains, “The California building code is much more about ‘life safety’ than preserving the building. We tried to come up with a building that was life-safe and minimized damage to the building during ‘the Big One’ “.


Click here to watch a time-lapse video of the entire construction process.

To learn more about the building, visit the Packard Foundation website.

To read the full article from GreenSource, click here

The Living Machine® at SFPUC

August 3rd, 2012 by

This morning, a group of Sherwood engineers were given a tour of the Living Machine® wastewater treatment system at the new headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The new headquarters building is a model of innovation and sustainable design, from its energy efficiency, to water reuse, to ecological and environmental benefits. Living Machine® Technology treats and reuses wastewater by incorporating plants and beneficial bacteria with innovative engineering. Based on the principles of wetland ecology, the tidal process cleans water, making the Living Machine® extremely energy-efficient and allowing the system to produce reclaimed water that meets high-quality reuse standards.

Group Photo

Our engineers in the public café, in front of a section of the Living Machine®.

This was a unique project, according to Scott Nelles the Living Machine® Director of Sales, because the SFPUC acted as the owner, the financer, and the regulator for the project. In a building that houses around 950 employees, they consume 60% less water than other similarly-sized buildings.  The SFPUC will save approximately 750,000 gallons of water per year by using the reclaimed water for on-site irrigation and for water to flush toilets.

The system in the SFPUC HQ is slightly different than the typical Living Machine®. In the first step, the mixed grey and black water flows into a primary tank, where solids settle and can be flushed directly to the sewer. The water then moves into a separate equalization tank, before moving into Stage 1 of the wetland treatment.  Stage 1 accelerates the tidal wetland cycle to 12-16 times a day, with Cells A & B alternating between full/empty. The aggregate media-filled planters promote the development of micro-ecosystems, which efficiently remove nutrients and solids from the wastewater, allowing the plants above to thrive.

Stage 1 Planter

This planter on the Golden Gate Avenue side, contains cells A & B of the Stage 1 tidal flow wetland treatment. Though Stage 1 treats the rawest wastewater, the planter has no negative odor!

The water then moves onto Stage 2, where at the SFPUC it is treated through trickle-down filtration, in 3 different cells. Because the water is much cleaner in the second stage, different plants are able to grow, allowing for greater ecological diversity. Even if a pest infests a certain species of plant, the rest are likely to remain untouched.

Stage 2 Cells

Cell C of Stage 2 resides both inside and outside the café (left) while Cells A & B sit along Polk Street (right) . The plants will grow to be much larger; these were only planted in mid June.

The water is then transported to the Polishing stage, in which it is cleaned for reuse. At the SFPUC, the water undergoes both UV and chlorine treatment to ensure that it can be sanitarily reused for both irrigation and toilet flushing. The utility room also held the touch-screen controls and monitors for the entire system. Click here to view an animation of the typical Living Machine® process.

Living Machine Controls

Above is the touch-screen control panel, detailing the processes and current statuses of each of the 6 stages of the system (primary, stage 1, stage 2, polishing, reuse & rainwater capture).

Click here to learn more about other sustainability features of the new SFPUC headquarters, or watch it in a video!

China Southern Airport City with Woods Bagot and Hargreaves

May 23rd, 2012 by

Sherwood collaborated with Woods Bagot and Hargreaves Associates on the master plan concept for China Southern Airport City, a 400-hectare, mixed-use development integrating business, manufacturing, residential, and cultural amenities within a comprehensive open space network that supports recreational opportunity and bolsters ecological vitality. Sherwood’s role was Master Engineer for the site focusing on site energy, water, and ecological system design with goals of Zero Net energy and Zero Net water use. In addition to full site utility infrastructure design and comprehensive stormwater management, Sherwood collaborated on the design of onsite graywater treatment wetlands, and a “necklace” of lakes which serve to cleanse stormwater and repair the site ecology.

Courtesy Woods Bagot

Courtesy Woods Bagot

Courtesy Woods Bagot


April 13th, 2012 by

Sherwood worked with Nelson Nygaard to complete the design of a multi-block green streets project located at the edge of Santa Monica’s border with Venice, CA. The design implements a woonerf style livable street by incorporating multifunctional urban stormwater best management practices as well as low impact design philosophies into a pedestrian friendly design.

Sherwood focused its efforts on making this alternative streetscape a reality by working to develop the design, from concept through construction documentation, as well as determining the cost and maintenance implications for the City of Santa Monica. A highlight of this project was Sherwood’s design to manage all stormwater runoff from the site using hardscape infiltration areas and plantings with no conventional piped stormwater infrastructure. The design represents a critical component of the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan to realize a better city for its citizens.

Article: LA Streets Blog

Article: Santa Monica Daily Press

St. Pete Pier: Design Finalists!

December 5th, 2011 by

Sherwood, working as part of the Michael Maltzan team, is one of three finalists selected from a field of nine diverse semifinalists for the St. Petersburg, FL pier design competition. All three designs, which can be seen here, will be open to the public for review starting tomorrow at the “Look, Think, Share External Link exhibit at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, 335 Second Ave. N.E. The exhibit is free and open to the public from Dec. 6 to Dec. 30 and a finalist will be chosen in January 2012.

As lead civil, Sherwood came up with a number of key sustainability concepts that helped provide the foundation for our team’s leading entry. For example, the new pier and upland developments will need to be a constantly evolving landscape that will adapt to sea level rise as the polar ice caps melt and claim more coastal land areas. Our group based a number of architectural and landscaping ideas on this key underlying concept.

Another fundamental idea we brought in included that of passive solar desalination, the idea that the canopy structure of the pier could be fitted with a desalination system using solar heat energy to heat up salt water, condense it, and turn it into fresh, potable water without using any outside energy. That system as well as additional roof area could also be equipped with solar panels to harness the UV energy from the sun, providing supplemental energy. Similarly, the canopy of the pier can harvest rain water to be reused on site for toilet flushing and irrigation. For stormwater treatment, we intend to treat 100% of the runff by means of flowthrough treatment planters.

Another major idea we contributed was that of having a number of man-made fixed and floating islands with multiple uses. These could include a self-sustaining water park; an island dedicated solely to energy production, harnessing solar, wind, tidal and wave energy; a floating filtering wetland with sea grasses, oyster beds and mangroves; and a floating recreational pool that filters the bay water through passive membranes, similar to New York City’s +Pool, which floats in the East River.

Late Summer Loose Ends

August 11th, 2011 by

Wow, it’s the middle of August. How did we forget to mention the following important and interesting things?

Baietan China (Image: SOM | © Crystal CG)

1. Our Baietan Master Plan project in Guangzhou, China with SOM won the AIA 2011 Merit Award for Urban Design. Check it out.

Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design

2. The Architect’s Newsletter published a fine article about sustainable school design, including a nice shout out to Sherwood and our book “Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design.”

SPUR Yerba Buena

3. Yerba Buena Street Life Plan, San Francisco

As we mentioned last month, SPUR is having an exhibit on the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan, which Sherwood has been working on with CMG Landscape Architects. The plan is focused on improving the street life within the Yerba Buena District (Mission to Harrison, 2nd to 5th) through a combination of projects to activate social spaces, improve walkability and pedestrian safety, increase landscaping and green spaces within the district. The exhibit, which is being held at SPUR Urban Center Gallery, 654 Mission Street in San Francisco, is free and open to the public through August 24.

Project Update: Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

May 26th, 2011 by

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite Project: Sherwood Design Engineers

Within the pristine landscape of Yosemite National Park lies Tenaya Lake, a magnificent High Sierra lake surrounded by granite domes, lodgepole forests, and Yosemite’s vast wilderness. Sherwood Design Engineers was selected to work with Mithun and the Yosemite Conservancy to master plan and engineer this ecologically sensitive site in order to address goals associated with resource protection, ecological restoration, visitor use, and visitor safety. The project entails improvements to the trails around the perimeter of the lake; Murphy Creek; various beach areas, natural wetlands, visitor use areas, and parking areas; and improvements to Tioga Pass Road, a federal highway that follows the northwest side of the lake.

We recently completed Phase 1 of this project, which included GIS analysis, preliminary watershed analysis, restoration and BMP strategies, and conceptual design alternatives. Phase 2, starting this month, includes taking the preferred design alternative from Phase 1 into the design development phase and producing construction documents for the East Beach area. Phase 2 also includes working with the Federal Highways to include sustainable stormwater management into their roadway improvement plans for Tioga Pass Road. Currently road runoff is conveyed directly into the lake without filtration or any other treatment.

We’ll keep you updated on the project as it progresses!

Orange County Great Park

March 7th, 2011 by

Orange County Great Park Sherwood Engineers

The Orange County Great Park, with its 1,347-acre master plan, is the focal point of the redevelopment of the 4,700-acre former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. The Great Park is currently 27.5 acres and includes an iconic tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, providing an aerial view of Park development. A $70 million development plan to expand the Park to 200 acres is currently underway. The plan will build out a core section of the Park for the most immediate and wide-ranging public benefit, including a sports park, agricultural area and an art and culture exhibition space.

Phase 1 of development of the south lawn, includes extensions to the Ken Smith-envisioned timeline and a first of its kind large scale overland stormwater harvesting system for reuse as irrigation. Among many of the forward thinking sustainability goals of the project, Sherwood is working is to decrease the irrigation demands of the park and reuse as much water on site as possible. We will be harvesting, treating and reusing stormwater, aiming to use as little reclaimed water as possible. One of the project’s goals is to be a new model for water resources planning within the LA basin. We aim to demonstrate, for example, that it is possible to manage a great deal of water needs by capturing and reusing onsite stormwater and graywater. Stormwater reuse is clearly an out-of-the-box concept in desert conditions, with only 14 inches of rain a year!

Orange County Great Park is a groundbreaking, innovative project, and we have been pleased to work with the City of Irvine and our partners at WRNS Studio, to help push the envelope for sustainability goals and capabilities.

Greening Fort Mason Design Slam at West Coast Green Oct. 2

September 18th, 2009 by


Green building professionals from across the nation will converge at Fort Mason Center on October 2nd during the West Coast Green Conference to brainstorm design strategies and practical ideas for the continued evolution of Fort Mason Center as a leading environmentally sustainable destination. As part of a planned rehabilitation of Pier 2, Fort Mason Center plans to adopt LEED Silver standards and install a large-scale solar array, which will provide for 80% of energy consumption. The Slam will provide a medium for development of a solar conversion plan by the leading solar engineers in the Bay Area.

This ‘meeting of the minds’ is an opportunity for Fort Mason Center to benefit from the design leaders assembled at West Coast Green and to harvest the intellectual capital of its visionary participants. The Slam is set to involve West Coast Green participants and advisors, including Eric Corey Freed, Gil Friend, David Johnston, Sim Van der Ryn, Bill Reed, The education director from PG&E, and several team members at Sherwood Design Engineers.

The collaboration with West Coast Green will strengthen Fort Mason Center’s role as a model of sustainability and help to generate additional synergy with other partners including Long Now Foundation, the National Park Service, San Francisco Conservation Corps, Zip Car, Eat Well, LMS Architects, and Presidio School of Management.