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!

narrative 1.png
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 Series: Research and Preparation of Codes

HIEARCCHYThere’s no doubt that zoning, building codes and city based overlays are important. They serve a public need for protection from unseen disasters that can occur in our structures as well as help create and retain identities of neighborhoods. Mandates on height, frontage, plants, and even smaller details like signage more often than not challenge design decisions of the architect.  As a result, sometimes as a student of architecture there is a strong  association with codes as necessary evils that really serve to stifle the ability to create. But why is that?


conceptConceptual is comfortable

Architect students spend a lot of time developing concepts through drawings and modeling charrettes. Often in the studio these concepts become so precious to the point that  changing directions entirely is comparable to pulling teeth. Yet, through all of this they know that the project they are working on will in most circumstances remain a conceptual design. Consequentially  they can settle into a comfort zone which frames adhering to codes as an exercise for later practice.

The smart approach would be to take them seriously with the understanding that they can be challenged and may change in time. By taking them seriously it asks the idea to become a  reality. In that respect, the codes become passable obstacle that only serve to enhance the students design by pressuring them to critically problem solve.

tiedupinredtapeFear of red tape

Red tape can become complicated, appear contradictory, and cause confusion. In our initiative to design a food hub in downtown Las Vegas  we’ve discovered three primary levels of ordinances and codes: zoning and land use, the city’s centennial plan, and form based codes. When to use which one and what trumps the other, we’re common questions that arose.

Our work around? Split the work and take the time to sift through an synthesize the information into digestible chunks. There’s no use in speed reading through the material or you will simply be forced to carry a manual around. Instead, give it a thorough read so at least you become familiar with the terms and make some guidelines that indicate where to find more information.