Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to technical questions will be posted here as they come in.
Q: How much energy calculation do I need to do? I am worried that I need an engineer to help me with the technical side of the competition.
A: While we encourage entrants to work with students or professionals in other disciplines, entrants are certainly not required to have the help of engineers when designing their projects. We suggest that entrants challenge themselves to do as much calculation as possible, but recognize that the level of comfort with energy modeling and performance documentation will vary greatly from entrant to entrant.
Q: I am no longer a full-time student, but graduated this year and am currently unemployed. Can I still enter?
A: Yes, as long as you have proof that you were a full-time student within or after the 2012 calendar year.
Q: I can’t find the instructions for submitting my files. How do I submit my entry?
A: The submittal instructions will be included in the “Event Details” section of your order confirmation from Eventbrite. If you can’t find this email or are having trouble finding the directions, email us and we’ll send them your way.
Q: I want to enter the competition as part of a team. Is this allowed? How do I indicate this in my entry?
A: You are allowed and encouraged to enter as a team. Please indicate the names of your team members in the appropriate field when registering on Eventbrite. You must also include all project collaborators in your Design Team Spreadsheet. All collaborators will be credited in the case of an award.
Q: I am working on a ZNE project in my hometown. Can I submit this project?
A: No, all entries must address the competition brief and be specific to the TNDC site.
Q: I’m wondering if it is okay to make a concept plan that stretches over the boundaries of the site?
A: Please limit the concept plans to the defined competition site.
Q: There are clearly defined street grids and sites which are program specific, including street-defined parcels. Is the alteration or moving of roads, parcels and program elements restricted?
A: Yes. You will be unable to alter or move any roads, parcels, or other program elements. Please refer to the Technical Requirements page, which says “All building and program element placement should be based on the specific land use plan provided.”
Q: If we proposed a known quantity of renewables, how can we find out the watts per gross square foot (Watts/gsf), and watts per gross square foot (Watts/gsf)?
A: You may need to do some calculation to figure this out. We can only point you in the direction of useful information. In this competition, Watts/gsf is used to describe the performance targets (max demand, annual electric use, max therms, etc.) for competition buildings. Gross square feet is similar to gross square meters. While there are innumerable square footage measurements (rentable space, interior, occupiable space) this one is easy: measure to the outside walls of the buildings, i.e. the building’s footprint.
There are a number of PV production calculation tools online that you could use. On the “Online Tools” page, you will find a list of and links to a number of free modeling and design tools. One of these tools is the PVWatts Grid Data Calculator, which estimates annual energy production for solar PV based on typical weather data for an area. It gives the results in kWh, and you can subsequently get results as hourly performance data. You could also download and use the System Advisor Model tool listed on the competition site.
Q: Can you please explain therms per hour per gross square foot (Th/hr/gsf), and therms per year per gross square foot (Th/yr/gsf):
A: Therms are a unit of heat energy (look online for more details) typically used to measure natural gas usage.
1 Therm (EC) ≡ 100,000 BTU
= 105,506,000 joules
≈ 29.3072222 kWh.
Therms per hour per gross square foot is the unit for Max Therms, so that is the maximum demand for heat energy over an hour per gross square foot for that building. Therms per year per gross square foot is the total demand for heat energy for the whole year per gross square foot for that building.
Q: What is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and how is it calculated?
A: You can find a lot of information about green building terms online. The first result on Google for “solar heat gain coefficient” is an excellent resource – http://www.efficientwindows.org/shgc.cfm. This site gives a definition of SHGC and additional resources on implications of different SHGC values. Typically this value is given by the window manufacturer or, in the case of site built fenestration, calculated.
Q: On the Technical Requirements page and Assumptions for Task 1, are the buffer zones meant to incorporate the spectator seating?
A: Yes, the buffer zones are meant to house the spectator seating.
Q: Is there a DWG file for the site plan?
A: No, the PDF files of the site plans, found on the Site Information page, are fully downloadable into CAD program.
Q: During registration, there was a section about work information. I want to attend to this competition as an individual but it seems that I should provide some work information. (Company name, address, … ). Could you please let me know how can I attend to this competition as an individual designer?
A: Simply fill in the required fields as if you are the company, et cetera. This information is for registration purposes only.
Q: As a faculty member at a university, we are planning to have student teams register in the student category. How should these faculty or academic consultants be recognized with the competition entry?
A: Faculty members or others in the academic community assisting student teams should be listed as consultants to the project, rather than as teammates.
Q: Is the graphic of the board layout an example or is it required to follow the exact layout shown, including title block ?
A: You are required to follow the board layout graphic when formatting your submissions. This includes all text featured on the graphic example as well.
Q: Is there a topographic map of the site available to entrants?
A: There is not a topographic map available; however, for the purposes of this competition, please assume that the site is flat.
Q: Can we institute new programmatic possibilities within the project, addressing the lack of open space or recreational public space in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Can I share my project to locals and residents specifying a particular kind of support, such as social assistance?
A: No, we do ask that you adhere to the program outlines and criteria; however, we do encourage you to figure out creative ways to work in as much open space as possible if this is an important goal of your project. Essentially, as long as you meet the stated program requirements and stick to the parameters of the site map, you can add to the program. One way to achieve more open space is to design the units as small as allowable so as to maximize the open space.
Q: Regarding your board layout, is there wiggle room for adjustment?
A: You must adhere to the established board layout; however, if you would like to add an additional drawing or rendering to a specific section of the competition board (and it is specific in nature to the corresponding section), you may do so.
Q: Are the proportions of all units (studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom) to be calculated according to the number of units total in my project design?
A: Yes. You may deviate from the estimated total of units (150) by 5%, resulting in in a 143-158 range of total units. Within this range, you must ensure that you have calculated the appropriate percentage of studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom units.
Q: By registering for the competition will I receive additional information needed to complete the requirements of the competition?
A: No. All necessary information to complete the competition requirements can be found on the website pages.
Q: There are area requirements for unit sizes and amenity areas but there doesn’t seem to be any for the grocery store. Is the area of the grocery story left up to designer discretion?
A: Yes. The only requirement for the grocery store is that the ceiling height meet City requirements of measuring at least 14′ high.
Q: Please clarify the following statement on the Technical Requirements page under (2) Height Limits + Bulk:
“Above this height the building may not exceed a continuous dimension of more than 110′ in length of 125′ on the diagonal.”
A: This means that any “bulk” of the façade in excess of those dimensions needs to be varied (not a large flat expanse). The building needs to have some articulation and differing volumes facing the street to better blend with the prevailing character of the neighborhood.
Q: Is the minimum and maximum area for units the net floor area?
A: Yes, the area is considered the net floor area.
Q: Is the area of balcony/exterior patio (48 sq. ft.) per unit included in the total area of the unit?
A: No, it is not part of the total area of the unit.
Q: What area (+/-) do you imagine the grocery store should occupy? Can I propose more retail use in the ground floor area?
A: The primary use for the ground floor should be a grocery store; there is no specified area requirement and no restriction on proposing additional uses for the ground floor area, so long as the grocery store is the primary use.
Q: Are there minimum requirements regarding the bicycle parking:
A: Yes, for the purposes of the competition, please assume one bicycle parking space per residential unit at a minimum. Bicycle parking for residences should be reasonably secure and sheltered, although not necessarily indoors. Assume a minimum of twenty sheltered or un-sheltered bicycle parking spaces for the grocery store.
Q: In the Technical Requirements (#2F), solar electric, solar thermal and wind energy are named as potential renewable energy sources – are these systems eligible to comply with the competition task, to offset the building’s load?
A: #2F names solar electric and solar thermal because they are the most common technologies one might expect to see for this particular design; however, this does not mean they are the only ones that can be used. The acceptable renewable technologies for the competition are listed on the “Challenge” page.
Q: Can I propose a basement floor?
A: No. Current site conditions show bedrock underneath the site. This makes any below grade work – basement parking, for example – prohibitively expensive.
Q: Can the ground-coupled heat exchange system be proposed for the competition site?
A: Yes, you can use the ground-coupled heat exchange system.
Q: Can I create a lobby that connects the grocery store, and also connects to the residential entrances?
A: Yes, this design element is up to you. Your project design can have as many different entrances to the grocery store and the residential units as you see fit.
Q: Does the competition building have to be 14 stories?
A: No, as long as you do not exceed the maximum height of 130′, the building can be parsed into however many stories you see fit.
Q: What is the height of the surrounding buildings? Should we assume for all obstruction angle purposes that the height of surrounding buildings is the same as the height of our building?
A: We do not have the height information of the surrounding buildings, but judging from Google map street view of the site, you can assume that there is no direct solar access obstructions above 5 stories for this site, although the north side may fall into the shadow of a high-rise located a block away. Use your best judgment.
Q: The parking lot area to the north east, are we to consider a future building in that site? Or could we ventilate rooms towards this area?
A: The parking lot area to the NE is a structured parking lot that is already built and therefore should not be considered as either “open space” or a future building site.
Q: For the purposes of the competition, should we anticipate the potential development of adjacent sites when considering daylighting for our building?
A: For the purposes of the competition, you do not need to assume that adjacent sites will be developed.
Q: Is there a fixed proportion of affordable to market rate living units, or should the unit mix and apartment sizes for the entire building be uniform?
A:There is no fixed proportion of affordable to market rate living units, just as long as you stick within the range of units (143-158). The affordable units do not necessarily have to be smaller than the market rate, as long as you stick within the guidelines of each room type’s required square footage:
- Studio = 250 to 325 sq. ft.
- 1 bedroom = 500 to 650 sq. ft.
- 2 bedroom = 750 to 975 sq. ft
- 3 bedroom = 1100 to 1430 sq. ft.
Q: Does the 169,000 sq. ft. area of the residential spaces include the corridors and circulation areas leading to the apartments?
In case it does, does the 19.6kbtu/ft2 include the loads (cooling, heating…) of these corridors and circulation areas, considering that they might be designed as outdoor/external spaces?
A: Unconditioned outdoor spaces such as walkways do not need to be counted in the Kbtu/sf calculation (although there would be lighting that should be accounted for). Since building sizes may vary slightly per the ranges given in the technical requirements, the 169,0000 sq. ft. number is just an example.
Q: Task 1B asks for a representative floor plan of a 2-bedroom unit. However, in order to illustrate the design idea, should a “typical floor plan” be submitted instead?
A: Notations for a typical floor plan can be shown on the required site plan. The typical 2 bedroom unit is asked for in order to demonstrate the livability of the design at a slightly finer grain. The judges need to compare ‘apples to apples’, so we ask that you submit the requested drawings.
Q: How strictly will the letter of the 80-130T rule will be observed for the competition? Will there be room to provide justification for more bulk if it can be shown that the result is a better project with respect to the housing quality? Would increase energy performance be a factor influencing this judgement?
A: We are asking that entrants observe the height and bulk limits for the purposes of the competition.
Q: Can you please describe how deep we should go for design of a grocery store at the first floor? Should we only show the main functional areas in the drawings or add interior furniture?
A: The main functional area is fine. To the extent possible, please consider “back of house” functions, like storage, truck delivery loading and unloading, entry and exit path.
Q: Can you please elaborate what defines a 14-story building as different people use different norms? Is it ground floor + 13 floors above ground floor; or is it ground floor + 14 floors above ground floor.
A: It is ground floor + 13 floors above ground floor = 14 floors total.
Q: In technical requirement Tab it says, for task 1B “The floor plan should depict the typical interior conditions of a 2 bedroom housing unit. The floor plan should include basic furniture placement to demonstrate livability.” Does this task 1B need any other plans?
A: As the technical requirements state, the task is to show a 2 bedroom unit layout only.
Q: What does the competition expect in section task 1C as I feel the area provided in the presentation sheet is way bigger than other tasks?
A: The competition is looking for aesthetically pleasing visuals of the green features, which you can see examples of by looking at the competition winners from 2011 and 2012.
Q: In section “height limit+ bulks,” can you please explain more on “To provide a varied street facade, bulk dimensions will apply to portions of the building above the prevailing street wall height (no higher than 80 ft). Above this height the building may not exceed a continuous dimension of more than 110′ in length or 125′ on the diagonal.”
A: This language is lifted from the zoning requirements regarding building bulk and essentially require that the building step back above 80’. The 110’ length means that once the building steps back, the bulk area is limited 110’ wide at its widest width or 125’ in the diagonal.
Q: In open space requirement it says “48 sq. ft. of common usable open space should be provided for each dwelling unit.” Does this mean we need to design a common space on every floor?
A: The space can be consolidated on the ground floor or on multiple levels. It does not need to be on every level.
Q: Regarding the maximum building height of 130 feet: May elements like elevator over runs and stair towers exceed the 130 foot height limit? What about PV arrays and wind or water collection devices?
A: You can go 10′ above the height limit, which is measured to the roof surface, with no problem. More, if it’s code (elevator penthouses need to be 15′). They have some flexibility on this, for example a variance for a wind turbine would not be a big deal.
Q: Is it possible to use the ground below the building for gaining geothermal energy or any similar energy?
A: Geothermal, a.k.a. ground source heat pumps, can be used as an efficiency measure from the competition’s perspective. Specifically for the site, placing parking below grade was explored, but the soil’s geotechnical properties make that prohibitively expensive. The high expense suggests that digging deep below grade is problematic from a geotechnical point of view.
Q: In your CAD site drawing, it seems the north is tilted 30 degrees from the true north - but when I checked Google Maps, it seems it is only tilted 8 degree. Could you confirm which is right? It is a bit confusing. As the building orientation and angle matters a lot for the energy model, it is critical to know the exact true north to predict energy consumption of the building.
A: Reference Google Maps, which has true north built in as straight up.
Q: Is there a dollar threshold for the competition (design)?
A: No. Costing is not part of the competition design exercise.
Q: In regards to the open space requirement, does it have to be usable space if there is already usable open space just down the street?
A: The open space requirement is meant to be functioning and usable open space. You can incorporate energy saving equipment as long as the space is still usable.
Q: In regards to the competition, should entrants assume that there is no differentiation between affordable housing and market rate?
A: It is open to interpretation. The main difference would likely be the interior finishes, and the competition is not getting to that specific a level of design detail.
Q: In terms of the number of units, how does the percentage of affordable housing work?
A: When you settle on a final number of units that you would like to have in your design, 35% of those units must be affordable. Also keep in mind that some of the affordable housing units should be family size in accordance with the competition design guidelines.