May 15th, 2012



June 1, 2012

A quiet revolution in architectural design has occurred in Utah over the past 10 years, as architects have pushed building design from achieving “energy efficiency” to “net zero carbon”. Many architects recognize that buildings consume nearly half of all energy produced in the U.S. and feel a responsibility to lower that impact to reduce carbon emissions, save money and preserve resources for the future.

A new exhibit shows how one architectural firm tackled this challenge over the past 10 years. (See exhibit below.)

Architect David Brems, FAIA, design director for GSBS Architects, has championed environmentally-responsible design throughout his career. An exhibit featuring the firm’s work from the Olympic Winter Games Speed Skating Oval—one of the first LEED-certified buildings in the world, to Salt Lake City’s new Public Safety Building, designed to achieve net zero carbon, is on display at the Alta Club. Called “Zero in 10”, the exhibit also features key images from the “Physical Fitness of Cities” exhibition created as part of the Cultural Olympiad in Salt Lake City ten years ago.

“The exhibit illustrates our commitment to sustainability in architecture and shows the way these buildings make our communities more humane, livable and enjoyable,” said Brems.

Stephen Goldsmith, Associate Professor in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, partnered with Brems to create the exhibit. He was Planning Director for Salt Lake City at the time of the Olympic Winter Games and created the “FitCities” exhibit as it was dubbed.

“This new exhibit shows the incredible advances of the past ten years and what we can expect in another decade,” he said.

The public can view the exhibit by calling the Alta Club at least 24 hours in advance to make arrangements, 801-322-1081.

UCFA is a sponsor for the exhibit along with the Alta Club and the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning.

Utah Olympic Oval



Cities in Utah and around the world are becoming more “fit”. They provide more ways for people to get to where they want to go. They invite people to walk or bike with safer and more pleasant routes. They foster neighborhood development as ecosystems of businesses and services tailored to community needs. They develop buildings that let in natural light and fresh air, and use far less energy–in fact, may return energy to the grid. They find abundant ways to clean and use water where it falls. They set aside places for people to plant gardens and create public art.

This exhibit displays some examples from around the world—some extraordinary in form, some quite simple but no less significant in the way they make cities more humane, life-supporting and enjoyable.

In Utah, the opportunity to host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games transformed “green architecture”—a significant component of a fit city–from a niche interest to the mainstream standard for public buildings. Utah, long a backwater of architectural innovation, became a world leader, promoting advanced design thinking. As one of the first LEED-certified* buildings in the world, the Utah Olympic Speed Skating Oval defined sustainable design at that time. During this decade, Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building may well set the next high bar if it achieves “net zero” energy use as designed. Each of these ground-breaking buildings was designed by GSBS Architects and reflects the passion for environmental responsibility by the firm’s design director, David Brems, FAIA, LEED.

Brems’ major projects offer a lens through which this quiet revolution in sustainable design can be seen in Utah.  These buildings exemplify design excellence while pushing the boundaries of sustainable design. Along with GSBS Architects, a growing number of architectural firms, in partnership with innovative engineers and landscape architects, are designing the next generation of “green buildings” and contributing to the development of FitCities in Utah.


In 1998, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee formed a Sustainable Facilities Committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. Architect David Brems, FAIA, chaired the committee and assembled a distinguished group of design professionals to create the first ever sustainability guidelines for Game venues. The 2002 Winter Games would become the first Olympics to measure environmental responsibility with wide-ranging design metrics.  The International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee embraced this direction.  With sustainability a high-profile Olympics standard, public and private owners began to support green design metrics in other new facilities. Out of a chaos of various standards, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system emerged during the decade as the accepted way to measure sustainable design in Utah.

LEED certified buildings have measurable energy and water efficiencies, healthy indoor air quality, may be built from recycled and local materials, enjoy more natural light indoors, often link with public transit and trails, and promote the health and well-being of their occupants. It is now the preeminent measure of sustainable design with nearly nine billion square feet of building space participating in the various rating systems and 1.6 million feet certifying per day around the world. As a LEED pilot project, the Olympic Oval contributed to the establishment of LEED requirements for measuring building performance and provided an example and new benchmark for performance in Utah.

Today, the new benchmark is achieving net zero architecture——ultra-low energy use buildings that also produce energy to meet operational needs, thus reducing their carbon footprint to zero. The Salt Lake City Public Safety Building featured in this exhibit will be the first of its type in the world to achieve net zero.

*LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED rating systems provide “a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, and maintenance solutions.”


Utah Olympic Oval

Utah Olympic Oval Interior


The overriding goal for the Utah Olympic Oval was to create “the fastest ice on earth” within a very tight budget.

In addition, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee authorized the Utah Olympic Oval to attempt LEED Certification, submitting the design to a rigorous system of sustainability metrics created by the United States Green Building Council.  The Oval became one of 13 pilot buildings in the world to become LEED Certified. Pioneering an integrated design process, the stakeholders worked together as a team to relentlessly drive the design to meet the goals.

As it turned out, the process of making the building environmentally responsible was critical to achieving what has been dubbed, “the world’s fastest ice.” Similar to a racing sailboat, the oval enclosure and ice slab can be fine-tuned for every skating distance, humidity, ice temperature, and air temperature for optimal performance. An incredible ten Olympic records and eight world records have been achieved under that roof. Is a building beautiful if it can’t achieve its function?

Since the LEED pilot projects including the Olympic Oval, the LEED rating system has become the preeminent measure of sustainable design with nearly nine billion square feet of building space participating in the various rating systems and 1.6 million feet certifying per day around the world.


Emigration Canyon House

Emigration Canyon House


Perched on a difficult site that offers dramatic views, this family home provides year-round comfort at very little cost in dollars and environmental impact thanks to high performance design. The house incorporates passive solar heating, passive ventilation, heat exchange, day lighting, radiant heat/cool floor, xeriscape, low water use fixtures and high indoor air quality. The house will support solar thermal and photovoltaic arrays. Net Zero is currently achieved off site with renewable energy credits. The design wraps around a large, informal kitchen and every room captures a canyon view, connecting family members with the outdoors.  The home is low maintenance, fire and earthquake resistant, and designed to last many decades.


Hillside Middle School

Hillside Middle School


Students in classrooms with abundant natural light and views learn more–much more. The variability of natural light, time of day, weather change, seasonal sun angles signals our brains to be alert and pay attention: change is occurring.  Staring out the window is a good thing.  Relax the eye with a long distance view, see the beauty of our place, catch a bird in flight, see real life occur, all give small pauses, allowing ideas to assemble and creativity to occur.  All the things that make a building green also make it a great place to learn.  Green schools set examples that make students proud–examples they will follow throughout their lives including respecting our environment, recycling, conserving energy, and being more considerate.


Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, Oberlin College


Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies


Described by The New York Times as ‘the most remarkable of a new generation of college buildings’ and by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the 30 ‘milestone’ buildings of the 20th century, William McDonough + Partners’ design for The Lewis Center aspires to be as bountiful and effective as a tree.  The building operates on three fundamental principles of nature—eliminate the concept of waste, rely on natural energy flows, and honor diversity.  Day lighting and natural ventilation enhance the atrium’s feeling of an outdoor room, as well as its role and the building’s physical and social center.  In 2006, the site became a net energy exporter, producing 30 percent more energy than it needs to operate and sharing this excess energy with the community.


AIA Utah Office

AIA Utah Office


This small office in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City serves as the headquarters for the American Institute of Architects, Utah Chapter. The office is designed to achieve LEED Platinum and incorporates natural daylight as the primary source of light. Heating, cooling and LED lighting are controlled through sensors for maximum energy efficiency and comfort. The built-in reception desk is comprised of recycled trestle wood from a former Great Salt Lake railroad track.


Jordan Valley Water Conservation District Education Center

Jordan Valley Water Conservation Education Center


The JVWCD Education Center is Salt Lake Valley’s place for water conservation education.  The LEED Platinum Building is a stunning example of sustainable design excellence with unique details like a rammed earth tromb wall that absorbs heat in the working greenhouse, which is then redistributed to the classroom spaces.  This high performance building serves as the public entry to the District’s Conservation Gardens that demonstrate the beauty and variety of low-water, drought-tolerant native landscapes. The Education Center incorporates passive solar heating, solar PV and solar thermal arrays, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and radiant slabs.


Goodson Residence

Goodson Residence


This contemporary, red sandstone home fits agreeably into its established Millcreek neighborhood. Designed for a large Utah family, the Goodson residence achieves Net Zero through low energy use strategies, incorporating passive solar design, natural ventilation, a geothermal heating and cooling system, a high performance envelope, non-toxic indoor materials and low water use.




Streetcar, Portland, Oregon

Streetcar – Portland, OR


Before the National City Lines conspiracy led to the destruction of streetcar systems in 45 U.S. cities, transit mobility in our cities contributed to cleaner air, healthier citizens and economic equity for working class Americans who couldn’t afford or didn’t want a car.  In Salt Lake City, 147 miles of track supported one of the greenest transit systems in the country, since the hydroelectric plant named The Stairs Plant in Big Cottonwood Canyon generated much of its electricity.  Today we’re seeing a resurgence of streetcar lines throughout the country, with 40 cities looking to streetcars as an economic development strategy.  Among these cities is Salt Lake City, whose partnership with South Salt Lake and the Utah Transit Authority will have a new line, the Sugar House Streetcar, operational in 2014.


Center for Advanced Energy Studies

Center for Advanced Energy Studies


Idaho National Laboratory established the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in 2005. CAES is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho State University, University of Idaho and Boise State University.  The Center is high level LEED Gold (one point below Platinum), incorporating day lighting systems for public atrium spaces and all open offices.  The site utilizes bio swales to collect surface runoff, diverting it to plantings to filter out hazardous salts and oils.  Perched above the Snake River, the site allows for relaxing and mind-regenerating walks.   The laboratories enjoy long views of farms and the Teton Mountains.


Natural History Museum of Utah

Natural History Museum of Utah


The new Natural History Museum of Utah is a trailhead to Utah. The NHMU, whose mission is to illuminate the natural world and humans’ place within it, houses a collection of 1.2 million precious and fragile objects. The NHMU includes Permanent and Temporary exhibits, Administration, Research, Collection Storage, public and student visitors, summer camps, workshops, café, retail store and is a venue for many events.  The building will be LEED Gold Certified with a photovoltaic array.



Boulder Shack

Boulder Shack


A retreat in Boulder, Utah designed to provide compact luxury and comfort for a small family, allows privacy without sacrificing a sense of openness in an economical 692 square feet.  Plentiful outdoor rooms celebrate the beauty of the place while providing sufficient shelter for extended family and friends. It sits lightly on the land with its adaptable post and beam construction and recycled building materials. The family lowers its already small electric bill by using LED lights and Energy Star appliances. The passive solar design, augmented by a geothermal system, handles the heating and cooling. The retreat achieves Net Zero with 2 kW of photovoltaic power (PV) on site and by purchasing local hydro power.  The design is a tribute to the early Utah ranch houses and out buildings.


University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning

College of Architecture + Planning, University of Utah

Constructed in 1970, the Edwards and Daniels Architects’ design of the CA+P was highly acclaimed, Modernist Architecture.  The midcentury building is a raw statement of purpose, an exposed example to teach architectural students about essential form and function. Many buildings designed during this era when energy was cheap are now being lost because of high operating costs, mechanical and electrical inefficiencies and poor comfort.  The CA+P building has become one of the least efficient buildings on the U of U Campus.

A group of Salt Lake Architecture firms, mostly CA+P graduates, students and faculty, led by Dean Brenda Sheer, AIA, FAICP are studying the building, planning to save it and take it all the way to Net Zero, continuing its role as a teacher to architecture and planning students. GSBS Architects, working with the National Renewable Energy Lab, has created an energy model to guide the testing and implementation of energy conservation measures to make the CA+P the most energy efficient building on the U of U Campus.


Salt Lake City Public Safety Building

Public Safety Building (rendering)


Salt Lake City has become one of the greenest cities in the United States thanks to the early efforts of past Mayor Rocky Anderson and Planning Director Stephen Goldsmith.  Mayor Ralph Becker announced in his first term bold plans of achieving Net Zero for all city facilities, beginning with the Public Safety Building.

Public Safety Building Interior (rendering)

Mayor Becker’s vision is to add renewable energy where possible and provide a large array at the city landfill where methane harvesting is ongoing and a substation can distribute the energy.

The Salt Lake City Public Safety Building will be home to Police and Fire Administration, Salt Lake City’s data center, 911 Call Dispatch, Emergency Operations Center, Public Safety Museum, Fire Prevention Bureau and Multi-purpose public meeting rooms. The urban design of the PSB site connects through Library Square to the historic City and County Building and anticipates future mixed-use developments to the east along the mid block axis.

This unique building is designed to survive a 7.5 Richter earthquake and be immediately occupied as a self-sufficient command center. The Net Zero building is powered by solar thermal (hot water) and solar electric (PV) arrays to achieve Net Zero Carbon. The renewable energy sources will be valuable in a dire emergency when they will provide electric power and hot water to the occupants of the building working around the clock under great stress, deploying resources to solve the problems of a disaster.


Fulda Bridge, Kassel, Germany

Fulda Bridge, Kassel, Germany


This pedestrian bridge links two very different parts of the historic district of Kassel.  The western bank of the Fulda River is the heart of the city and features a castle and medieval buildings. The neglected eastern bank was underdeveloped and used primarily for festivals and parking. This bridge contributed to the revitalization of the western riverbank as a livable, positive space. Its simplicity and elegance, its bold modesty allows it to blend into the landscape as though it grows from it, rather than placed over its surroundings.  Designed by the young architect Brigitte Kochta, her bridge was selected during an international design competition conducted in Kassel. This example of how solutions grow from place was included in the FitCities exhibition during the 2002 Winter Olympics.


The exhibit, now showing at the Alta Club in Salt Lake City, will close September 3.