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Ivana Micic, AIA LEED AP, Principal at San Francisco based Roma Architects, talks about the Union City Intermodal Project advancing towards a more sustainable urban development. Roma, the firm responsible for the design of the BART Station shows its commitment to energy efficiency, sustainability and cutting-edge clean technology adoption such as the BIPV canopy for the Station. A model to look at.

Question: How complex has it been to develop the BART project?

Answer: The Union City Intermodal Project advances a sustainable approach to urban development, with the BART Station at the centerpiece of a new Transit-Oriented Development District.  The District was created in an area previously occupied by low intensity industrial use.  In its place, the City is creating a new residential/mixed-use district with strong pedestrian connections, public open space and improved access to transit. When we began the architectural design for the Intermodal Station, we wanted to carry forward the efficiencies created by transit-oriented development into other elements of the project and at the same time, enhance patron comfort and satisfaction and improve operations.  One of the key and highly visible features of the Intermodal Station is the transit canopy, which was designed as part of the bus facility improvements.  Photovoltaics and all associated electrical components are completely integrated with the canopy structure.  Considerable effort was put into developing the design where all the miscellaneous elements – gutters, conduits, junction boxes, lighting – fit inconspicuously within the architecture of the canopy. We designed special closures that hide the distribution cables and developed a structural design that allows for full expression of the glazed PV panels. The canopy has been met with extraordinary enthusiasm on the part of the general public. The photovoltaic cells create a very pleasant, dappled shade for patrons to wait in, while the electricity production of the canopy satisfies the entire energy demand of the Union City Intermodal Station.

 Q: Why did you decide to go for BIPV, photovoltaic energy?

A: We wanted to create a comfortable, attractive environment for the numerous transit patrons that use the Union City Intermodal Station. As you know, in addition to Bay Area Rapid Transit, this Station is served by three other regional transit agencies as well as the local paratransit and over a thousand private vehicles, and is expected to grow even further in the near future. The Union City Station is a hub for local and regional transit and is used on a daily basis by thousands of transit patrons. At the same time, Union City is known for its abundance of sun and fair weather. We wanted to provide protection for all of the patrons waiting for different modes of transit and at the same time, take advantage of the natural resource that was readily available. Our client, the City of Union City and BART were both very interested in demonstrating their commitment to sustainable and energy efficient facility design.

Q: What is your overall feeling regarding the final result?

A: The project is very successful and has been very well received.  At any given time there is a high level of activity in the public areas of the Station.  We are very satisfied with the final appearance of the PV Transit Canopy. It  provides an excellent  transition from the surrounding areas, parking and bus facility to the Station itself. The scale of the canopy (25 feet wide and 800 feet long) creates a strong visual identity for transit and makes the Station Area feel comfortable and welcoming.

 Q: What new projects do you have in mind for the coming months? Are you planning to count on BIPV or any other renewable energy source for these projects?

A: ROMA is currently working on the design for the expansion of the San Francisco Downtown Ferry Terminal, which we designed following the Loma Prieta earthquake. This project will include significant pedestrian circulation, waiting and queuing areas and it is our intention to utilize PV-glazed canopies in critical locations.

Q: What are your impressions about Onyx Solar’s performance?

A: We have been very favorably impressed by Onyx Solar’s capabilities to create innovative solutions for the building industry. Their involvement has been crucial for implementation of the Union City Intermodal Station project. They were uniquely able to meet exacting design requirements of this project and deliver a high quality product under very difficult conditions, tight budget and short schedule. They were able to create a UL listed product where others could not. It would be a pleasure to collaborate with Onyx Solar on future projects.

Q: What does sustainable design mean for you Ivana?

A: Throughout its history, ROMA has been dedicated to creating sustainable solutions for both architectural projects and larger scale urban development. We pursue sustainability at several different levels. We have always been advocates for compact, smart growth and a prominent role of transit in creating vibrant, livable communities.  Sustainable approaches to urban development offer the greatest overall impact in terms of increasing the efficiency of human activities by reducing the ‘miles travelled’, reducing the overall footprint of the development and reducing the amount of raw material and energy needed for construction.  In addition, we pursue approaches which take advantage of site conditions and key characteristics such as solar orientation, natural ventilation, topography and so on.  This creates a huge first step toward not only achieving a more sustainable but also healthier and more livable environments. We are also very interested in pursuing renewable energy sources, high efficiency technologies and responsibly extracted materials in our effort to create successful, sustainable projects. Sustainability is a core value, both personally and for ROMA Design Group. It reflects our basic responsibility to one another, and utilizes technical knowledge and skill in creating high quality, healthy living spaces while leaving as light a footprint as possible on the earth, preserving resources for future generations.

Q: Nowadays, how important is energy efficiency within the industry?

A: Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important within the industry, particularly in the context of the current economic conditions and increased awareness of global warming. As I said earlier, there are multiple levels in which this efficiency can be pursued and ROMA is always striving to work at all of these levels in order to achieve the maximum impact.

 Q: What is the trend for the architecture of the future?

A: There is no doubt in my mind that sustainability is quickly becoming a standard for any construction project. We have a very long way to go, particularly in the US, as a result of our reliance on the personal automobile and the development patterns it has produced.  But, I am very optimistic since I see a great opportunity for further development of innovation and creative growth in the field of architectural and urban design.


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