Studio Chat: Finals are Here by Tony Saghafi

Phil Hodgin of RGD checking out Team GB's website

After a long semester and tons of hard work Team GB has a great product up on the wall.  I have worked on the Las Vegas food system for over 2 years, it is nice to see a project like this come to life.  I did not get a chance to sit in on every team's reviews, but I am sure they all did a great job.  The 5 projects were so different, but each felt like they really could make an impact in Las Vegas.  From the LBC to stereo panoramas to designing a building that applies the concept of minimally invasive infrastructure Team GB had an amazing project. 

I learned a number of techniques that I plan on using in future studio projects and in my professional career.  I really hope that I get am opportunity to refine this project even further to the point where I can present it to the City of Las Vegas. 

Big thanks to all of our reviewers:

Phil Hodgin and David Dahlquist of RDG Planning & Design

Marwan Ghandour, Mira Engler and Sharon Wohl- Professors of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture at ISU

Also a massive thank you to Ken McCown, a true mentor and friend who gave me the opportunity to come to ISU and work on this project.

Visit to see all of the boards, renderings and LBC content.

Studio Chat: The Living Building Challenge by Tony Saghafi

Biophilic Imperative Section

It has been a bit of a struggle to figure out what documentation is needed to satisfy the studio's Living Building Challenge (LBC) initiative.  Team GB broke up the petals Sean took Water and Energy, James had Place and Beauty, Paolo had Materials and I had Equity and Health/Happiness.  I believe we met all of the pre-construction requirements and if this project was going to be built, had a good chance of receiving full LBC certification. 

Big thanks to Daniel Huard of Green View Global and the International Living Futures Institute for your guidance through all things LBC.

Studio Chat: Stereo Pano by Tony Saghafi

Ken trying to Instagram one of our panos

Team GB is kicking the Food Hub project into high gear.  With help from the Autodesk Cloud, Photoshop and Sean's web coding skills we can now put people and text into the panorama renderings.  This is going to be a game changer for us and will set our project apart from the other teams.  I am a little worried about some of the old school faculty at ISU calling this a waste of time, but I think the benefits out weigh the costs.  Visit to see our work.

Studio Chat: Interior Review by Tony Saghafi

Lee Cagley visits with team GB

Team GB was visited by Lee Cagley, Chair of the Interior Design program at ISU.  Lee was a perfect reviewer for the studio because he runs his own interior design firm in Las Vegas.  He thought that the open plan and its permeability was great.  His biggest concern was our furniture and finishes were too industrial.  He felt that things needed to be more artisanal.  The market in particular did not feel high end enough, the fresh foods should be celebrated, not just stuck on a shelf.  I hope by the time the final comes around, we can give Lee exactly what he is looking for.

PS: He loves the name, it is very DTLV

Studio Chat: GB Logo by Tony Saghafi


A major aspect to these kind of studio projects is the marketing.  With that in mind I was tasked with developing a team logo that would go on all of our presentation boards and any future packaging. 

Team Logo


Studio Chat: Visiting with RDG in Des Moines by Tony Saghafi

While Ken was out of town, he set up 2 meetings with RDG Planning & Design in Des Moines.  The goal was to get feedback from some of their designers: architect, interior, landscape, lighting, urban design and code analysis.  The first day was a little rough, organization wise, but leave it to a group of creative to fix the problem over night and have a productive second day. 

Some concerns were raised about our operable PV louver system, but overall the GB Food Hub was well received.  They loved our open, flexible plan and how we addressed so many issues in such a small space.  The precedent we are trying to establish, from an urban design standpoint, was also a big hit. 

Big thanks to RDG's hospitality.

Super Bloom 2016 by Tony Saghafi

While I was visiting my friend and newest UNLV professor, Eric Gross, he told me about a crazy event that every 10-15 years in Death Valley, the SUPER BLOOM!!!  In all my time living in Las Vegas I had never heard of this, so instead of taking site photos for the Food Hub studio project I called my friend Stephanie and we drove out to check out the flowers.  With a name like Death Valley you do not expect much life popping out of the ground, but holy cow.  The floor was covered with yellow, purple and white flowers.  Truly amazing.

Studio Chat: The Studio in LV by Tony Saghafi

The view from the hotel room I never used.

The view from the hotel room I never used.

It was great being home for a few days.  Luck me I did not have to share a hotel bed with my classmates, I got to sleep in a place I called home for 8 years.  It was great seeing my mom and all of my friends again.  Everyone is moving up in the LV design community.  Of course we were in town on business, not a vacation.  While I enjoyed trying a few new restaurants that have opened up since I left, the best was returning to an old favorite, La Comeda.  The food was great, the company was better.  The class was joined by friends/community leaders like Rick Passo and Javid Butler, as well as others from the City of Las Vegas and some local growers.  It was also nice to see a few UNLV Architecture students who are interested in urban ag come and see what we are working on.

Ron Evans, Indoor Farms of America, holding a seedling tray

While I did not learn much about our team's site and the surrounding area I did have the opportunity to see one of the most innovative and efficient aeroponic growing systems in the world.  During a visit to the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, hosted by the Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby, Ron Evans approached Ken with an invitation to come see their facility and what they have been up to over the past year.  Being the only one with access to a car I was invited by default, that is a joke, maybe.  Ron is the Co-Founder/President of Indoor Farms of America.  The results were amazing, 6 months ago I was convinced that their "briefcase" system was not going to work.  Its water use was inefficient and a majority of the plants would not survive.  Now they have a product that could change the world; they already have orders for 2 large indoor farm facilities in the US.  They did such a great job that I went back and convinced my team that we needed to change our hydroponic systems to these aeroponic ones.  Hopefully we can grow 15-20 acres of food in our building. 

Aeroponic Briefcase System

Studio Chat: The Green Bastards are Formed by Tony Saghafi

After a few weeks of research it was finally time for the studio to establish teams.  Within two minutes of Ken breaking our meeting Sean Wittmeyer, James Elliot, Paolo Orlando and I turned to each other and said, "This needs to happen." 

During one of our sketch sessions I had written "Green Boxes," referring to these mobile growing systems Sean discovered called Freight Farms.  Having poor hand writing my whole life Paolo read this annotation as Green Bastards.  The name stuck, it was totally Downtown Las Vegas.

It will be interesting to see the reactions of community members and reviewers throughout the semester.   

Studio Chat: First Take on the LVFH by Tony Saghafi

Bound time charrette (2 hr) on what the Las Vegas Food Hub should be.

Using the bound time model of thinking I gave myself a maximum of 2 hours to produce an initial idea of what my Las Vegas Food Hub should look like.  My main goals were to provide ground and top floor public spaces with hydroponic production in the middle.  The visitors would be able to admire the food systems while traveling to the elevated nightclub.  My other goal was to provide processing and certification spaces for local farmers and school gardens.  The Food Hub's efforts would provide residents access to locally grow produce.

Studio Chat: Daniel Huard Discussing the LBC by Tony Saghafi

The LVFH studio talks to design consultant Daniel Huard about the Living Building Challenge.

Today the studio was fortunate enough to have Daniel Huard, a principle of Greenview Global, a leader in healthy building design, discuss one of the organization he is a part of, the International Living Future Institute and one of their top initiatives, the Living Building Challenge (LBC). 

Daniel, who lives in Las Vegas, has agreed to advise the studio throughout the semester as the students strive to get their Food Hub projects registered in the LBC database.  His knowledge about sustainable design and his connections throughout the Las Vegas community will be a valuable asset as we move forward.  In one session he has provided insights on how the energy system within the city works and how scale jumping can satisfy our potential water needs.

Studio Chat: Zoning & Overlays in DTLV by Tony Saghafi

From top to bottom, the codes found in the FBC trumps what is in the LVCP, the LVCP trumps the code in Title XIX and the city's zoning plan.

Form Based Code - A proportion based system seeking to improve the user’s experience from the street to the sidewalk and from the sidewalk to the building.

LV Centennial Plan - Further specifies land use and promotes uniformity in streetscapes.

Title XIX - Provides specifics according to each zone.

Zoning - Designates the land use.

Parcel - A plot of land.

It was interesting to see how the city handles state, county and neighborhood level codes.  From land use to streetscape design and building height proportions, Downtown Las Vegas is growing into a diverse area.