Tuesday, December 6, 2011

letter from a student

I wanted to share an e-mail that I received from a student (my responses in red):

Hi [name redacted],

I'm [Student X], and I am doing an EE regarding the development at [school redacted]. As part of my research (I know it's late), I really want to meet up with the contractor and ask him a few questions about the design and construction/demolishing of the buildings. (Dear Student X, please explain what an EE is if you want me to answer your questions immediately so you don't flunk your late paper.)

These are the questions I am proposing to ask him:

1. Have you taken into account the noise, air pollution and disruption that you may cause the students at school due to the construction that will be going on. If you have, how will you try to minimise the disruption to the school life? Yes, there are strict ordinances to follow regarding construction in school zones that govern construction during class sessions as well as during exam periods.  The contractor must submit an environmental management plan with noise mitigation measures for approval from the architect and environmental engineer before construction can commence. 

2. Did you predict what the microclimates are going to be like around the new buildings when they are completed   Yes.  But wait, did you want me to say anything more than that?

Student X, it seems that you are unaware of the roles between an architect, engineer and contractor.  I would suggest a simple Google search of our respective roles for clarification prior to asking the contractor who has forwarded this message to me.  Basically, the contractor builds what is proposed by the design team.  On the design team, the engineer usually undertakes the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) of the architect's design.  Architects who have specialty in environmental design can also run a basic CFD model during the early stages to help decide how to orient their designs and take advantage of the microclimate and wind conditions but the engineer will usually undertake the "official" model.  You can download a trial copy of Ecotect if you want to try it out; I find it to be a useful tool in early design stages.

3. What aspects have you included in your designs of the buildings which tries to minimize the effect that the new buildings are going to have on the existing environment once the buildings are completed? Again, this is not the contractor's job to design a building.  The architectural design team would have studied this with the assistance of a heritage consultant.  For the project you are asking about we have kept the building heights and mass in similar form with the existing site as well as using the original structure as the focal point of the new design.  We also have taken into account the microclimate so that the original buildings maintain effective ventilation and solar exposure.

4. Are there any features that you have included in your buildings which tries to minimize the carbon footprint of the building?  (grammar!) Features include recycled construction material, local or environmentally friendly building materials, solar heating, etc.  A key factor to lowering the carbon footprint is how the construction is managed.  Proper site management will reduce demolition waste, water waste, and construction waste.

5. Did you include any features in your design which tries to minimize the 'wall effect' that the buildings may generate?  The low height and massing of this new building will certainly not create a 'wall effect' but it is an interesting dilemma for high rise buildings in HK where the land is so valuable that we tend to build up every available square millimeter.  New regulations have been proposed to mitigate this problem but we have yet to see if they will take effect.  Development interests here are quite strong.

6. Did you consider what problems a building that is mostly made out of glass may bring?  I also would love to find out the marvelous technology used to create structural glass.  If you can give me any examples of glass buildings I shall try to find out.  If you are discussing this particular project, I assume you are referring to the large, operable windows in the recreation facility that are set back from the exterior balconies (thus, in shade) and take advantage of the site's local ventilation.

That's the questions that I will be wanting to ask him, but it will be fantastic if you could answer them as well! Thank you.  SHE would be happy to answer.  She also would like to suggest that when interviewing, whether it is for your late EE paper or for admission to a school, it is always pleasing for your object of interest to feel as though you really are interested, i.e. you did some research and know something about the subject of inquiry.

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