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New York, New York
United States of America

Sustainability, Green Ideas, Environment, Networking, Architecture, Engineering, Building Systems, Farah Ahmad, Farah Naz Ahmad

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My personal journal: architecture, travel, current events, New York City, & more.

Filtering by Category: Event

Energypath 2015

Farah Ahmad

What do you get when you place hundreds of students, educators, and professionals from all over the country on one campus? Energypath 2015! The week-long camps and conference, held from July 19-24th, were filled with attendees from all ages and backgrounds, creating a diversely creative environment of skills and ideas. 

Pre-conference camps focus on Sustainable Energy, including Passive House, Biomass, Micro-Hydro, Solar Power PV, and Wind Power. The camps culminate in a two-day conference with dozens of sessions on renewable energy. Industry professionals lectured on numerous topics, including energy policy, energy storage and financing, power sources, and more. Many lectures were supplemented with real case studies, launched by the presenters themselves, providing comparative and critical analysis.

Energypath 2015 at the University of Scranton was overflowing with enthusiasm for energy! I chose to participate in the Solar Camp. For the first three days of the conference, fellow campers would gather and we received a lecture on solar energy (diving into technical installation as well as political, cultural, and social implications!). Instructors Vera Cole and Bill Hennessy, both sustainability and solar professionals based in Pennsylvania, and whose work in the field is incredibly extensive, shared their passion.

At the end of three days, we had the structural racking set up, solar panel assembly complete, and the grounding/wiring finished. We tested our panels' output! Here's a snap of the completed array: twenty-four modules facing South, on the sprawling University of Scranton campus.

We split into twelve teams, measuring voltage output, current, ambient and module surface temperature, array angle, and more, while working on the assembly.  

Keynote speakers framed the context in which building industry professionals actively engage in. 

John Hanger, Pennsylvania Secretary of Planning and Policy, kicked off the conference by outlining the goals of Pennsylvania state. "Our goal is to be a top five clean energy state," Hanger said proudly. "Active citizens," he emphasized, could help bring this change, speaking directly to the audience. Hanger also stressed the need for bigger support in policy-making, better data, good science, and good analysis, citing environmental examples. While improvement is needed in these areas, Hanger pointed out that natural resources that are abundant in Pennsylvania- its gas, nuclear, and natural gas production are among the top in the country.

"Without the sun, we do not exist." The next Keynote's attention to the natural environment was clear from the start. Bill Maclay, Principal at Maclay Architects, and author of The New Net-Zero, brought many years of design experience to the table, as he listed numerous projects his firm has actively worked on. His support for renewable energy, and the role business plays within sustainability, was evident, claiming that net-zero buildings are now cheaper than "fossil-fuel buildings": "You make money the first day you shift to renewable energy," Bill exclaimed boldly. 

Click the left and right arrows below to check out some of the seminar and keynote highlights.

One of the conference highlights was meeting Keynote Speaker Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect (Building Technologies Office) of the U.S. Department of Energy! Rashkin stressed the basics of design, taking human comfort into play, and explained how we could achieve these tactics. He focused on zero-energy buildings, highlighting Risk Management (including an optimized comfort system, water protection, indoor air quality) and Differentiation (utilizing advanced technology, having health protection, and following building code). Regarding the energy industry, Sam's wise words rang loudly in my ears: "If you chase this field or it chases you, you will likely feel both the fast and slow pace." As a government professional in energy, and having worked in three city agencies in New York now, I can attest to this statement!

Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect, U.S. Department of Energy

Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect, U.S. Department of Energy

I also test drove the Nissan Leaf... loved the experience! The brake and accelerator were very sensitive, so it took me a few blocks to get used to.. but other than that, it is a very quiet vehicle and the ride was incredibly smooth. Its operation was also simple, as shifting into gears is simple and user-friendly. Verdict? I would love to own an electric vehicle. New York City, we need more charging stations!

Instructors Vera and Bill demonstrated the power of solar through fun micro-applications: the manual Solar Pathfinder to calculate cast shade on the site and determine PV placement, cooking popcorn with solar, and a solar cooker for bread! Scroll through with the left and right arrows below.

More conference snapshots! Scroll through with the left/right arrows below.

In addition to the conference, we had the opportunity to take part in two tours: one emphasizing the sustainability of the University of Scranton campus, and the other was a beautiful architectural/historical tour of Scranton! I'll blog on these next!

ACE Mentor New York: Our Future is in Good Hands

Farah Ahmad

There is nothing more heart-warming than witnessing the initiatives taken by students to grasp the practicalities of their current passion and future professions! Such was the scene at the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life this past Spring, May 27th. The ACE Mentor Program held one of a series of presentations, of which I had the pleasure and honor to serve as a juror for. Each year, ACE participants present the designs they have worked on throughout the course of their participation. I couldn't have been more thrilled to see the dedication of the confident youth who have pursued their dreams and received quite the pedagogical training through these projects.

As an ACE graduate myself, having participated in the Staten Island chapter of the program during my high school years, I recalled the delight of meeting a 'real' architect- one whose designs were taken off the drawing board and erected into an inhabitable building for the world to experience! Returning as an ACE Alumna, I was more than pleased to hear ACE students explaining the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) systems of their projects, the process they took to design their facades, the square footages they allocated to their spaces, the needs of the clients they would serve, sustainability and LEED project points, site selection, and much more! Four teams of the ACE New York chapter, spearheaded by their mentors- professionals of the building industry- captured the stages of architectural design, engineering, and construction, through interdisciplinary coordination, process in design development, and resourceful creativity. With their incredibly thoughtful presentations, it was easy, and honestly quite inspiring, to observe how much these students had grown through their ACE participation. It takes a mentor and an often immeasurable thirst for knowledge to spark a mind in the right direction, and these students possessed both tools!

For those of you who know young high school students interested in a career in the building industry, PLEASE recommend ACE to them, as it is an invaluable resource for learning the 'ins and outs' of this absolutely dynamic career path! I thank the students for showing us the drive you have to advance yourself in this industry! I am quite assured that the built environment of New York City is in safe hands!

Click below to scroll through gallery, photos courtesy of AECOM:

CCNY Corner

Farah Ahmad

Spring Rooftop Event '14

The City College of New York's Architecture Alumni Group proves its continued success in establishing a tight-knit of network of well known design and building industry professionals in and around New York City! 

The seasonal Alumni events always draw alumni of many different graduating years, ranging from recent grads to CCNY 'veterans'- those who return to the Upper Manhattan campus on numerous occasions to serve as mentors, and demonstrate their continued support for the City College Spitzer School of Architecture (SSA).

The Spring Rooftop event has become a tradition which subsequently allows the school community to celebrate the rooftop space of its newly-opened facility (2009), The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects.

In addition, the school's Solar Roofpod, The City College of New York's entry for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2011, has returned to campus. The urban prototype, a solar-powered home, is now integrated beautifully on the rooftop of SSA. The home was made available for interior tours to event attendees.

Carol Kurth's Legacy

Carol Kurth, who ran the Architecture Alumni Group for many years, handed over the 'ropes' to new President Venesa Alicea, at the Spring event. Carol and Venesa have donated much of their time and resources to mentoring students, establishing networking opportunities, and obtaining CCNY's School of Architecture the recognition its talent deserves, amongst many other contributions. Says new President Venesa, "I'm looking forward to working with the 2014-2015 CCNY Architecture Alumni Board to strengthen the alumni network connection between all the programs offered through the CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture, and continuing to create & promote career development / networking / mentoring opportunities for alumni, and for students. We look forward to highlighting the amazing & diverse paths taken by City College graduates in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and beyond."

Carol's legacy has had a lasting impact on current students and former graduates. Her leadership in the AAG for the last eight years has been incredibly memorable. Says Carol proudly, "It has been a privilege to work with such an incredible, dedicated, and talented group of people! I truly have loved and cherished leading our Group over these many years and am so proud of all we have accomplished together.... here's to inspiration for future generations of Architecture Alumni!

So many of our Alumni, current Board members, and current faculty members had such amazing remarks about Carol, that it was difficult to exclude any of them.. these sentiments paint a clearer portrait of her character:

  •   "A sincere thanks to Carol. A major step forward has been taken during your time as our active President."   
  •  "Carol is a treasure and a hero in our eyes.. Words are not enough to thank you for your service and your devotion to your Alma Mater. We are in your debt." 
  • "Thank you for your leadership these past years, it has truly been great to see the growth of the architecture alumni group over the years, and the growing relationship between the alumni, administration, faculty & students. We could not have done it without your steadfast dedication to the group.  With the relocation of the Solar Roof Pod on the roof, you have set a great example of the opportunities available when everyone works together with a common vision. We look forward to more successful years, and I thank you for leading and paving the way for us moving forward."
  • "I admire your effective leadership. You really reinvigorated the organization and made it an important part of the CCNY community."
  • "Carol, you're the very best in every which way. I feel proud and privileged to form part of this dedicated Group led by you and now by Venesa."   
  • " generously gave your loyalty, knowledge, and enthusiasm to Alumni and students. As a result of your guidance on the board, we have a much deeper fellowship as Alumni and to City College. I personally learned a great deal from you, and your involvement with the City College Architecture Alumni has continually reminded me why this college is so great."
  •  "We all thank you for your dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism that has reinvigorated the alumni, setting up a strong base from which to continue it's growth and the expanding value it brings to its membership."
  • "Carol, it is you who deserve the kudos for having been such an energetic and inspirational leader. Your dedication and selfless example has set a very positive pattern of continuity and support for our alma mater and all of the young and talented architects yet to come."
  • "I can't begin to tell you how much you meant to the college and the alumni- Job well done!"
  • "You were and remain an extraordinarily dedicated leader of our alumni group. You carry yourself with style and grace in everything you do."
  • "You've had a profound impact on CCNY's chapter both 'on camera' and behind the scenes... all the personal mentoring you have done, and that which I have witnessed towards others, has inspired me to give back to SSA in my years to come! By helping to re-launch the AIA student chapter, heavily supporting the Solar Decathlon efforts, creating networking opportunities between ALL years, and establishing what has become a 'family' of graduates, you have accomplished something truly phenomenal that cannot be merely expressed in words... but only seen by the smiles of all those who re-visit CCNY at some of the many events you have helped to organize! Your time and commitment will be deeply valued for years to come, and your legacy upon the school greatly remembered. Thank you for your dedication and showing all of us students and emerging professionals the excitement of our profession and teaching us to appreciate the gifts we gained at The City College of New York!"

For more information on the CCNY Architecture Alumni Group (AAG) and the Spitzer School of Architecture, check out the below links:

Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY

CCNY Architecture Alumni Group 

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Governor's Cup Champions

Farah Ahmad

For the last few months, students and professionals have been busy assembling 30,000 reclaimed plastic cups into a massive organic structure. Components of the structure are scattered throughout the space of CDR Studio, organized carefully by section. In this design studio of downtown Manhattan, volunteers have organized design efforts, an assembly schedule, a drive for materials collection, and a widespread fundraising campaign. Meetings and workshops are weekly highlights of the enthusiastic participants, setting targets for a pending deadline. What is the mission of these ambitious participants?

CDR Studio is the winner of the annual City of Dreams competition, a component of the public art festival FIGMENT, which will take place June 7-8 on Governor’s Island this Summer. The activity, hosted by participatory arts group FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architect Committee (ENYA) of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY), and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) is part of a larger event; FIGMENT is held in 13 cities in 3 countries, drawing thousands of participants around the world. In New York City, CDR Studio’s project was selected to be featured for the fourth annual pavilion competition by the three host organizations. The event will draw over 200,000 visitors and the project will be on display for four months.

CDR Studio’s values of “creativity, collaboration, and craft” are core design and construction concepts. Rehanna Rojiani, of CDR Studio, who worked extensively on the design and assembly team, explains the integration of teamwork and persistence that comprised the entire process. Mock-ups, testing, structural strategies, and installation logistics are just a few of the project components. However, the experience has been worth it for Rehanna and other team members. “There is a really wonderful sense that although we are designing something with a high degree of complexity it is completely accessible to anyone.”

Project logistics were no easy feat: 30,000 plastic reclaimed cups were diverted from the landfill and donated by institutions including WeWork, Google, and Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs. Depositories were also set up at public events and office spaces to expand collection efforts. Additionally, a Kickstarter fundraising campaign attracted over $14,000 and over 100 supporters! Funds have covered assembly, storage, transportation, and, have ensured maintenance of the project throughout its four month display.

The end product is the embodiment of the wise adage- “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The City of Dreams Pavilion competition calls for a net-zero design, and CDR Studio’s creative use of materials certainly presented an eco-conscious concept. The “transformed trash” is transformed into a public art installation of huge scale which will allow visitors an interactive experience- elements of light, shadow, movement and sound, enhanced by island harbor winds- will be sure to engage your senses! The structure will serve as an outdoor space for visitors and, as a shading prototype, holds potential for further application.

Their Governor’s Cup pavilion will be transported to Governor’s Island and assembled as part of the design-build experience in the coming month to be featured this Summer for public viewing. You can be a part of this collaborative effort too! Join the Governor’s Cup team today! In the meantime, be on a lookout for the next call for entries, for next year’s City of Dreams Pavilion! Want to become a part of this incredible effort? Get some amazing design-build experience and make some great friends in the process! Please reach out to David Flecha, at! 

Quick Facts:

1- Sign up here, its quick and simple!

2- Anyone looking to gain IDP credit, can earn experience hours through volunteering for this project!

Click below image to scroll through image gallery.