Alumna Brie Jones (’17, master’s in architecture) was one of 10 winners in the INNOVATION 2030 Competition that recognizes exceptional studio architecture projects that demonstrate designs moving towards carbon-neutral operation. The top projects were chosen from more than 1,000 entries from 57 architecture schools.
The competition was sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE) in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ASCA) and in collaboration with Architecture 2030, a think tank working on climate change solutions with building design.
Through her project, Jones examined ways that architecture could play a role in watershed management in Los Angeles, noting that the city “envisions the Los Angeles River as a bountiful oasis while also expecting it to perform effortlessly under immense hydrological pressure.”
Currently 86 percent of water in Southern California is imported. Nineteen percent of California’s total electricity consumption is used to pump, treat and deliver water. The city of Los Angeles has calculated that the cost of infrastructure to distribute recycled water distribution is $4 million per mile.
Jones’ solution was to activate “the architecture that so tightly binds the river, [so] we can start to recapture, recycle, re-stitch and reinvent watershed management in Los Angeles.”
Her 200-unit condominium complex was sited over the Los Angeles River where it could serve as a connector between two major parks, in the Lincoln Heights-Chinatown area of the city. Special features included a rooftop solar array that would provide 100 percent of the building’s energy use, rooftop swimming ponds, vegetable gardens, water holding tanks that offer an opportunity for scuba diving, living walls, and a water filtration system responsible for processing 73,278 gallons per day of LA River water, which would irrigate a rooftop wetland habitat for migrating species as well as lush park space on either sides of the River’s banks.
In order to achieve net zero energy and carbon, strategies such as high performance windows, operative shading, passive solar gains, and natural ventilation are used in each housing unit. The project’s Energy Unit Intensity (EUI) was calculated using the Sefaira energy modeling software with Revit design software.
In consideration of residents’ wellness, “every unit of this housing community has a view of either the parks or river,” Jones noted. “The elongated massing of the building allows for optimum daylighting and cross ventilation, which not only improves psychological health but increases unit value. The rooftop living machines serve as a private park where naturalized swimming ponds and vegetable gardens are fed from recycled river water. This not only promotes a healthy outdoor lifestyle, but also allows residents to partake in the sustainable practice of localized water and food production.”
According to the competition’s judges, “This project stood out for its creative use of water, discovering intelligent and creative new ways of deploying water. The student’s diagrams are strong and show a commendable view of larger environmental issues. The scuba tanks are an entertaining idea on user experience which could be expanded.”asc
Jones’ favorite part of the project is “the water conveyance system that takes on different architectural form as it travels through the stages of filtration. From a technical aspect, it was the most difficult part of the project because it took a lot of calculation and research to prove it could meet certain requirements.”
“Sustainability has always been an interest of mine,” said Jones. “I believe it is the responsibility of architects to design for not only the health, safety, and welfare of humans, but the environment as well. I wanted to see how far I could push this concept, using water as my project “medium.”
“The thesis class really challenged me to take sustainability beyond the fundamentals of daylighting and energy studies. I think the sustainability program at CPP really helped lay a strong foundation for me to be able to pursue such an aggressive idea. This project was a culmination, and abstraction at the same time, of the knowledge I had gained through my education.”
Jones is currently working as a designer at HMC Architects in Los Angeles.
The winning entries were announced on Earth Day and will be exhibited at the 107th ASCA Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh. The designers will receive $2,000 and a travel stipend to the AIA National Convention in New York City in June.
“This is really a big deal,” said architecture Professor Pablo Roche, who taught the master’s thesis class. “This is the most important sustainable architecture competition for students in the USA and probably the world.”