Las Vegas Food Hub: Striving Beyond Food

In  envisioning a food hub worthwhile of Las Vegas my team has entertained the notion that ideally the food hub is representational of much more than a source of food. It should be a communal space that aspires to inspire wellness in the entire community.

In this respect, we would like to reflect this concept at every level or our program (yoga meditation, indoor agriculture, aromatherapy spaces, cooking studio, informational workshops, classes, and our retail spaces). But the question arises, what does wellness encompass? How does it manifest spatially ?

Here is how we have defined it thus far:

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Las Vegas Food Hub: Envisioning Sensory Spaces

These are few narrative drawing that I’ve created which have emerged out of my team’s discussions of what we are envisioning for the space. While I pride myself as a inspiring architect, much of my personal design senses and interests are and have been rooted in the human experience with interior spaces. This includes, both tactical and sensory interactions.

Often in the beginning stages of design I partake in these type of  narrative drawings, be them abstract or fleshed out, to serve a few different avenues. For one, much like sketching as they serve as a springboard for generating ideas. I often prefer collages,as its a fast way to add texture and color. On that note, when working with others these can easily aid guide our material choices, act as a visual cue to get feedback from respected resources, and record thought processes in which can be referenced if the project strays from any initial deign guidelines.

In regards to the Las Vegas Food hub initiative, I  fully intend to update this post as we produce a few more of these. Any feedback is welcomed!

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Abstraction of production and performing spaces
One of two main entries
narrative 3
Yoga Studio

Las Vegas Food Hub Series: Setting the Standard with the Living Building Challenge

In our initiative to create a viable Food Hub in Las Vegas we are subscribing to the design, social, and environmental parameters set by the Living Building Challenge.  The Living Building Challenge asserts itself as providing the  most rigorous performance standard for the built environment. With 5 petals and 20 imperative, they differentiate themselves from other sustainable standards in that they require a year long assessment of the the building’s actual performance to reach certification in addition to energy modeled estimates.

Some of the petals provide detailed guidelines for how you achieve them while others require a bit more research and consultation with the organization. In order to see how to apply this to our food hub project, we divided the research by imperative.

Embodied Carbon Footprint

My primary focus was number 11: embodied carbon footprint.  It requires that:

“The project must account for the total embodied carbon (tCO2e) impact from its construction through a one-time carbon offset in the Institute’s new Living Future Carbon Exchange or an approved carbon offset provider.

As you will notice it is bit vague on  how this is achieved so I performed some additional research exploring the definition of carbon foot print and its difference from embodied carbon.  Surprisingly, I found that they have evolved ubiquitously since the induction of the term ” carbon foot print” in Williams E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel’s Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth.  With various definitions that slightly regarded the same thing, we accepted that:

“The Carbon footprint is a exclusive measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly  caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product.”

How does this effect the food hub design?

I realized the relevance to our project could form in two ways: our physical building materials and also our actual aggregation, production, and distribution of our products (food).


In our preliminary designs, my team has  been considering which materials will serve best in the Las Vegas climate. Initially, we selected concrete and steel as our primary structure for their thermal and resiliency properties. But, through research have I concluded that both have high amounts of embodied energy and may not be suitable. Consequently, we are considering integrating other options like rammed earth in addition to seeing if we are able to simply source these initial material selections locally and with recycled components.



After a discussion with, Living Building Challenge’s Principal, Daniel Huard, it was made clear that its possibly  we could score some points toward certification by considering the embodied energy of the food. This  consideration could manifests itself in a a few ways: where we source our suppliers, how we choose to produce onsite, and how we choose to distribute (delivery vs in-house). We are in the process of creating a strategy. Much of the conversation surrounding this topic revolves around how much carbon is released in the delivery process, as well as the correlation of how much nutrients is lost along the process. In order to address this, we have chosen to only source locally and within the regional food shed.


  1. This is a process we can map out through estimates and modeling
  2. This is a process we will have to continually revise potential impacts as we make adjust to our design
  3. Tracking the embodied energy of food is not a required step to achieving certification but depending on our mission we may want to include



Las Vegas Food Hub: Thoughts on engaging the streetscape

After our discussion with RDG, I have been contemplating the importance of exterior facades. Considering people often walk down the street at 3-5 mph, the challenge in both architecture and urban planning for years has been designing an interesting streetscape that engages our senses at that speed. I  began by collecting images of spaces from my experience that I believed are successful at doing this very thing.

Commonalities between all these streets are that they are attractions within themselves and have some sort of historical significance, have clear indicators for their functions and entrances, are walkable due to pedestrian coverage (trees and boarders), and lastly allow for some seating.  Along those lines, corridors like Broadway, Bourbon Street, Michigan Ave, and Hollywood Boulevard could be added to the list.

Still, the question arises, how do you extract the successful qualities from these spaces into your own without making a cliche. How do these applications further apply within a place like Las Vegas which is known for imitating famous spaces?

In regards to our own project, to make the street more inviting, we’ve added comfortable benches with backs on curb extensions, facing toward the buildings (as opposed to the street) and anchored them with planters to provide a sense of place and community. On a nice day, people rest, converse or read a book. People of all ages are engaged. We’ve also both minimized the column grid  and raised the shading structure up to 12 feet to open the building up more visually to the street. Lastly, we have positioned our most active programs toward the perimeter of the building (with glass walls) so to encourage movement into the space. Collectively, we hope that efforts like these will create an active and engaging neighborhood that will attract more people and enhance economic and social sustainability.




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Las Vegas Food Hub: Consulting with RDG Architects

PrintOn Wednesday, February 17th, we (Iowa State University’s Las Vegas Food Hub Studio) were fortunate to have a consultation with two RDG Planning and Design representatives, Sustainability Strategist, Pat Boddy and Landscape Architect, Mike Bell. The purpose of this meeting was to receive critical and constructive commentary on our initial concepts and preliminary research. Occurring in two parts, it began with a larger studio presentation and question session followed by smaller conversations with our respective teams. The following is what emerged from our discussions with them:

  • As a studio they believed that we were missing information regarding the employment numbers in the city around our sites. In knowing these statistics we could better target the demographic of our potential occupants. For instance, if we knew that a large school was nearby we may consider sizing an after school program in our plans.
  • As a studio we needed to fine tune the layout of our presentation as well as consider the audience that we are presenting it to eventually. As architects, planners, and designers its very easy to get involved in the details and not clearly relate the component back to the bigger picture. So, to essentially resolve this we needed to create stronger takeaways by following the rule of thumb of explaining to our audience what we are going to talk about, talk about it, then summarize the points.

Within our smaller groups, we received more tailored feedback. Our group spoke with Mike Bell and he commented that:

  • Our wellness concept was interesting however, we may want to make sure each of our well components clearly mirror in our program. Ask ourselves how is wellness experienced?Wellness Sheet
  • Our buildings at present is a bit institutional,commercial office like and we need to incorporate things in its surrounding to make it more appealing to the streetscape, be it through landscape or facade design.
  • We should consider the circulation of our space  by expanding certain program spaces (for example, our kitchen space on the first floor).
  • We should think about how wellness is experienced not only visually, but through lighting, smell, acoustically, ect.

Overall, I walked away from this first meeting with a positive outlook that what we are aspiring to accomplish something that could truly add value to Las Vegas