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Brian Court to speak at Architectural Record Webinar on December 3, 2020
Eco Terrace: Creating the energy blueprint for a more equitable future
Challenge & Change: Miller Hull’s Living Building Practice
Blur inside and outside.
To extend residents’ enjoyment of indoor/outdoor living in a hot, arid desert climate–courtyards, broad overhangs and covered outdoor spaces create a comfortable micro-climate between the five clustered buildings. Native plants and regionally sourced self-weathering exterior materials naturally settle the architecture into its Sonoran Desert locale.
Originally conceived of as a multi-wing facility connected by an enclosed atrium, a major design breakthrough happened as a result of the exceptionally active construction climate during which this facility was designed and materials pricing was at a premium. Given the temperate climate, it was deemed unnecessary to enclose transient activities like departmental receptions and circulation corridors that could happen outdoors. Vast expanses of curtain wall, smoke exhaust systems and make up air systems were eliminated, while a “porch roof” and “windbreak” of monumental operable glass doors protects gatherings during inclement weather. Circulation between the two wings is covered, but unconditioned, resulting in a more intimate connection to the landscape – a simple move that accomplished all of our client’s goals for a fraction of the cost.
Introduction of natural light, interior vegetation and views to the exterior make for a more humane work environment. Space planning was designed according to a European office model, where no desk is more than 30 feet to a window. Enclosed office pods containing the individual offices and conference rooms slash through the open office “tail” of the building and define the various departments while providing visual transparency through the structure. These office pods, or “chimneys”, serve as the primary structure allowing the office interior to be virtually column-free. They also admit natural light, provide locations for interior planters, and are instrumental in the mechanical system design. A raised floor air distribution system reduces the size and energy consumption of the mechanical system, improves indoor air quality, provides for future flexibility, and gives individuals direct control of their immediate environment.
Fiercely innovate sustainable strategy.
The Steilacoom aggregate mine and processing site on the Puget Sound, south of Tacoma, was one of the largest sand and gravel operations in the United States. The site was mined for more than a hundred years, heavily transforming the local topography. The property also contains the tidal estuary of Chambers Bay, the heavily treed Chambers Creek Canyon, 2-1/2 miles of Puget Sound frontage, miles of creek frontage, and a variety of county services and operations. This project began the process of reclaiming the site, transforming seven acres on top of the bluff to a public amenity, including play fields, ponds, pedestrian trials and other amenities along with the Environmental Services Building.
To take full advantage of the mild Puget Sound climate and to save energy during appropriate outdoor conditions, the design eliminates the use of air handling and refrigeration equipment with fan assisted natural ventilation. Appropriate outdoor air conditions are based on a combination of outdoor air temperature and solar/internal building loads. In natural ventilation mode, north-facing operable windows can even be manually opened by occupants following email notification and a red/green light system signaling suitable conditions. Air enters through window openings and is relieved through internal louvers located near the skylights above the interior offices at the back of the floor plate. Space temperature and carbon dioxide (CO²) levels are monitored at all times and natural ventilation mode is supplemented or terminated by forced air as required.
We were charged with developing a high performance building envelope to both decrease building cooling load and control glare in all daylit spaces. With labs almost exclusively in cooling mode, and offices that require preheating, solar gain on all glass is controlled through orientation-specific façade design. A mix of shading devices, i.e. exterior, motorized blinds and vertical fins, allow early morning gain and eliminate low west solar gain where needed. This system offsets direct visual contact with the sun and balances perceived brightness of spaces with appropriate lighting design, creating balanced illumination. The range of efficiency measures reduced building energy use by 24% more than the level prescribed in California Title 24 in place at the time.
An eco-charrette with students at project onset established guiding sustainability principles incorporated in this high performance building. An 11,900 gallon cistern collects rainwater from the roof to be reused for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. Energy use is reduced by 50% from the LEED baseline and 70% from the 2030 baseline through daylighting, passive cooling, and high efficiency HVAC which includes a radiant ceiling system and VRF heat pumps. The south façade brings abundant daylight, controlled by exterior sunshades and interior automated blinds. Automated and manually operable windows promote natural ventilation and night-flush cooling throughout.
60+ years as an oil off-loading terminal facility left the site with an incredibly stressed marine habitat and contaminated shoreline. Soil was removed and properly disposed of, and a new 290-foot pier replaced an existing creosote-laden structure. Pier design was researched in cooperation with local, state and federal agencies as well as marine biologists. A NOAA Habitat Restoration Grant funded research through design resulting in a new prototype for over-water structures sensitive to the marine ecosystem. The discovery process included exhaustive sun/shadow studies to determine optimum pier size and the lowest impact design, which included extending the wide ship’s berth out beyond the habitat zone and adding reflective panels to the underside of the structure to reduce shadows.
Resource efficiency is especially critical in this part of Africa. All wastewater is treated on site and recovered to provide 87% of the irrigation needs for the already very water efficient landscaping. The site will also include 700 KW of photo voltaic panels, with an expected production of 1083 MWh/year—one of the largest arrays on a U.S. embassy compound. High performance interiors also contribute to overarching eco-diplomacy goals to demonstrate sustainable strategies. LEED Platinum.
Encourage interaction to build community.
Del Mar Civic Center is located directly adjacent the Pacific Coast Highway (aka Camino Del Mar), the Village’s main pedestrian, bike, transit and vehicular artery. The Center creates the civic anchor at the south end of the 6-block village core, with the primary commercial anchor on the north end. The introduction of much-needed public space along the otherwise commercial corridor encourages more pedestrian activity between the two major draws at each end and gives Del Mar its public heart after decades with very little civic identity. The new Town Hall Commons and Overlook Terrace on the Civic Center site have quickly become a prominent meet-up spots and support community activities throughout the day and during all seasons.
Good Bones – An overarching goal was to create a statement building, enhancing community character and pedestrian experience now, and also supporting growth in the neighborhood over time with an adaptable design. Being the first structure in an emerging area of downtown San Diego requires it to be nimble and adaptable to evolving market conditions. A Conditional Use Permit (CUP) allows residential units to be mixed with active commercial uses at the ground floor for up to 10 years. Research into the anatomy of a storefront was conducted to dissect the critical proportions and fundamental elements of a retail storefront. The bones of this future condition were designed into residential unit facades including structural bay dimensions, and slab breaks to allow easy transition of use, one bay at a time. As the building evolves with the neighborhood, its cohesive character will continue, and its mission to drive change will provide increasing incremental impact.
With sustainability an important part of the Epiphany School’s curriculum, the school expressed interest in integrating visible and experiential sustainable strategies throughout the building and site. Classrooms are naturally ventilated with operable windows and solar fans at the top of air “chimneys” that operate when the sun is out and ventilation is desired. At the bottom of the chimneys inside classrooms, whirligigs move with the airflow indicating that fans are operational. Students actively engage in the thermal control of their classrooms by opening windows and seeing the motion of the whirligigs. Other sustainable strategies include a visible PV array, vegetated roof and school vegetable garden irrigated with rainwater collected on site.
Setting the building back from the street at mid-block opens up a generous public courtyard, the backdrop for a neighborhood café and elevated walkway over a large stormwater garden. This big move enables the building facades to remain relatively simple and cost-effective while positively impacting the space, foregoing more expensive façade modulation typically required by the City of Seattle to discourage large blank-walls at the sidewalk level.
Programmatic requirements to expand Pike Place Market’s functions, character and history include additional housing, non-franchised retail and public services for homeless and low-income populations. Initially, the substantial space required to accommodate all of these desired elements seemed destined to literally overshadow the desire for a low-profile building that would protect exceptional panoramic views from the existing market—making it a non-starter in the minds of the market community. The success of the MarketFront project depended on deep and continuous stakeholder involvement and support throughout the design process. In two years of design development and approvals process, our team participated in hundreds of public and civic meetings and working sessions with a far-ranging group of stakeholders and multiple constituencies to seek comment on design direction and development.
Forge new territory, inspire others.
Petal certification under the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge addresses elements related to Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. As a single-floor tenant improvement project it was not possible to obtain the Net Positive Energy or Water Petals. However, we reached a significant milestone in energy savings which surpasses both 2012 and 2018 Seattle Energy code limits for offices.
While relatively modest in scale, this project has created a ripple effect. To meet the LBC Materials Red List requirement to avoid the use of 22 toxic ingredients, several manufacturers and suppliers eliminated prohibited chemicals from their products and practice, leading to re-engineered LBC Red List-compliant products as a result of this project.
PROJECT QUICK FACTS
New EUI: 45 (68 metric tons CO2e) 38% better than 2030 baseline / 88% savings in lighting electricity use / 25% savings in plug load electricity use / 22% overall savings in electricity use / 19% overall savings in energy use / Lighting power density from 1.05 watts per square foot down to around .3 watts per sf / Energy Star Score: 85
Efficient heat pumps and improved distribution and reduced energy use. Office energy savings is now at 38% over the 2030 Challenge baseline.
ELECTRIC LIGHT & CONTROLS
Pre- renovation, office Energy Use Intensity (EUI) was55 kBtu/sf/year. After replacing lighting with LED’s, adding daylight and occupancy sensors controlling all new receptacles, EUI is now 45 kBtu/sf/year. The studio went from an installed lighting capacity of 15.7kW (1.05W/sf) to 3.7kW (.3 W/sf). In context of the 2030 Challenge, we have already achieved the 2025 target.
To the south, three new skylights illuminate a previously daylight-starved area giving light to a large gathering area and working spaces ensuring that all staff have access to daylight.
Seattle’s Aurora/Dexter corridor represents a significant opportunity as a next-generation work location in an underutilized area that has effectively been hidden for decades. After years of planning and concerted involvement from developers, organizations, planners, and state and local agencies, the greater South Lake Union area is on the rise as a vibrant community. This office building and outdoor courtyard continues the wave of positive development along Dexter Avenue, setting the tone and standard for an emerging neighborhood that is transitioning from an inhospitable car-centric traffic zone to a vibrant, walkable district with green streets.
The ‘dump’—a high traffic and unpleasant facility containing a city’s refuse—is generally not a public facility that is celebrated, although it is probably visited by the public as often as many city halls, library or fire stations. The visibility of the site and the size of this facility did not make concealment a reasonable approach. Additionally, the City’s leading sustainable waste management practices suggested a facility honoring that leadership. Attention to landscape design dramatically improves the experience of navigating the transfer station, softening the encounter wherever possible. The power of material re-use is exemplified through a public art piece using a remnant of the neighborhood’s recently demolished and beloved South Park Bridge, and through surplus street signs from the south end of Seattle used as cladding at the administration entry.
Prior to architect and landscape design involvement, original intent called for individual plant buildings scattered throughout the site surrounded by a fence. By examining the purification process and growth capacity the site area was determined to be much larger than needed for the project. In the end, this public works site accommodates a public park and pleasing landscape, an interpretive display, and 800 foot concrete and stone “garden wall” securing the plant from the public park and neighbors. The long wall forms a backdrop for interpretive displays and for sheltered picnic areas. Also included is an administration building housing a laboratory, community meeting room and support offices. Neighborhood use of the park, trails and meeting room has been extensive, which is especially heartening as original plans made no accommodation for public amenities.
Two classrooms included in the program experiment with a new model of teaching and learning space. There is no teaching station at the front—students sit in round “pods” and work together while an instructor moves between groups. Open 24 hours a day, the classrooms include sliding glass partitions and movable furniture so rooms can double as night time study space, rather than remain closed and locked. Detailed assessments of the success of these spaces are now providing guidance for the next generation of learning spaces on campus.
The building includes a WET (Water Education Technology) Center with classroom for programs and interactive interpretive exhibits, appealing to people of all ages. The goal of the WET Center is threefold: 1) to educate customers about the wastewater treatment services that LOTT provides, 2) to illustrate the cultural importance of water in the Pacific Northwest, and 3) to inspire visitors to recognize importance of protecting natural water resources. LOTT’s $2m investment in the WET Center has already paid handsome dividends as exhibits have been an overwhelming success, raising the bar for wastewater treatment agencies throughout the country.
Educational outreach about the building’s environmental story is at the core of the Bullitt Foundation’s mission with this project. Didactic in and of itself with exposed systems on display, the Bullitt Center houses a ground floor interpretive center and hosts public tours to explain its unique characteristics. Thousands of visitors to-date include government officials, developers, design / engineering / construction professionals, students of all ages and the general public–making it a vital resource where people can learn about green building and urban sustainability that can be replicated or incorporated elsewhere.
Embrace constraints as opportunities.
To satisfy State funding criteria, the renovation had to be delivered within an extremely tight timeline—while keeping the building operational 24/7. The team held a pull-planning session at the outset to collaboratively craft a project schedule reducing the typical UW project from 44+ months to less than 24 months, including a summer building closure window. A number of strategies were used: concurrent tasks, extremely early bid packages, shortened client reviews, as well as design team co-location with client and contracting teams. The group also crafted a scorecard to encourage integrated team work and a sense of shared mission in order to achieve ambitious schedule goals.
The original structure, while iconic, could not be built over a river today given current environmental restrictions. Planned improvements were required to respect those restrictions by avoiding impacts to the habitat below the existing structure. With code upgrades requiring additional foundation work, our team was faced with balancing significant constraints. We creatively found a way to buttress the structure landward of the existing pilings—both streamlining the construction process and protecting sensitive habitat.
Metro Vancouver engaged an interdisciplinary team of designers, engineers, experts, staff and the public through an Integrative Design Process utilizing Whole System Thinking. Typical boundaries between disciplines were eliminated, resulting in synergies that define new conventions for infrastructure projects. Project Definition Phase discussions emphasized the potential transformational impact of desired outcomes. This included determining how a range of goals–including exemplary secondary treatment, innovative sustainable design strategies, strong community connections and integrated resource recovery–can truly be harmonized.
Find innovative applications for available technologies.
This project provides chilled water and emergency power to the University of Washington’s rapidly expanding west and south campuses, cost effectively, while creating an architectural gateway to campus. The Progressive Design- Build Delivery Method (PD/B) is relatively new to Washington State and selected for this project based on the belief that it would accelerate the overall project duration required to complete the project. Chilled water services were required by a fixed date to a building already in construction. PD/B allowed a large and diverse group UW stakeholders to participate with the design-build team throughout the development of the project. Engineering needs and solutions, driven by years of campus systems experience from the Facilities representatives, were balanced with architectural and planning goals with the University Architect, while budget and scope were being constantly monitored by the Capital Projects Office. The major lessons learned:
Although bordered by two freeways in an industrial area, the SPU South Transfer Station is also not far from a residential neighborhood. It was SPU’s desire for this facility to be a significant operational and aesthetic improvement for its South Park neighbors. A community task force was established to work with the design-build team throughout the process. Concerns expressed included traffic flows and patterns, illegal dumping as well as the impact of another, large industrial facility in the community. Design enhancements resulting from this process include visibility through the site edges to discourage illegal dumping, meeting room availability for public use, and a trail along the east edge of the site that will ultimately connect to a wider trail network being developed.
To say that power and technology needs have changed since the original library was constructed over fifty years ago is an understatement. Our team was challenged to integrate current technology and provide future flexibility, all while not disrupting the structure’s floor which is essentially a “bridge deck” over a salmon spawning bed. Our solution embraces the systems, with a network of exposed overhead conduit and cable trays, all carefully arranged to distribute power and data where needed in an artful and visually attractive way honoring the character of an information-age library.
Allow the forces of place to drive solutions.
Kitsap County was renting multiple offices and using an overcrowded courthouse for administrative functions resulting in procedural and cost inefficiencies. The first step in planning a new Administration Building was a survey of all administrative functions and spaces to determine the best allocation of uses among two existing buildings, proposed new buildings to house public functions, and City Council Chambers. A second critical step was to identify an appropriate site. A community based planning process led to selection of a site that while technically challenging, with a 45 foot grade change, was very well-located to create a centralized County identity.
Construction of a large, institutional building was of great concern to the school’s residential neighbors. Already frustrated by disruptive daily activities of student pick-up and drop-off, they were suspicious of any perceived expansion of the school, viewing school growth as increasing negative impacts to their neighborhood. Our team worked with the school board and administration to proactively lead a series of community meetings. As a result, the scale of the building was broken down to reflect the scale of neighborhood residences, and play areas within the campus were made available for neighborhood use after school hours. Artwork by a local artist was included in green space visible to neighbors. Ultimately, the process resulted in a stronger ongoing relationship between the neighborhood and the school that has lasted beyond construction.
At the intersection of the Victorian town’s historic district of brick buildings and working waterfront with wood clapboard structures, the Center respects both elements while being true to its function. Rooted in the town’s rich maritime history, it borrows cues of transparency, color, and relationship to the street from the commercial core, and materiality, form, and relationship to the shoreline from the historic boat shops and sail lofts. The result is a new, yet authentic center of community life for Port Townsend.
This infill building situated on a small lot reflects the urban lifestyle expressed by the housing, bars, restaurants, and galleries populating the neighborhood where it is located. The aesthetic is firmly embedded in the Chicago steel and glass I.I.T. School.
Particularly relevant to this design were stakeholder goals to retain the unique character and feel of the existing Market. It was important to maintain and enhance pedestrian qualities, build visual connections between the adjacent park and Elliott Bay, and to complement surrounding historic buildings. Toward these goals, the team developed a unique utilitarian architecture that differentiates new buildings from the historic. All while maintaining compatibility in massing, scale, size, granularity, and structure of the existing Market’s simple, utilitarian facades. And which includes use of authentic elements such as concrete post and beam structures and heavy timber elements found there.
Discover the core principles.
In spite of the owner’s conscious decision to not pursue LEED Certification, the team incorporated aggressive sustainable strategies and post-occupancy evaluations validate the building operates 30% more efficiently than a typical office building. The owner’s decision to reallocate funding that would have been required for LEED certification to a series of interpretive exhibits in the building and on site has had a strong impact on the people who come to the building. By demonstrating the benefits of sustainable water strategies through their own facilities, public agencies can inspire their constituents to adopt practices leading to changes in civic approach to infrastructure in the built environment.
The community’s deep connection to its much loved icon was a significant factor in the project’s particularly lengthy public involvement process. The design team navigated numerous lively public meetings and charrettes to explain design constraints and opportunities, while respectfully fielding citizen concerns and ideas. Successful brokering of opposing views and resolution of design challenges led to retention of the library’s original character while bringing it forward to be a flexible, adaptable and resilient community resource.
In the office, ‘A Bob Sketch’ is a term to refer to a drawing that conveys the quintessential idea of a project. ‘A Bob Sketch’ — coined for Bob Hull’s remarkable ability and use of hand sketches — can explain a whole project in a single image, artfully balancing a level of imagination and reality accessible to clients and fellow architects.
Bob hardly spent a day when he did not draw something. He drew to make sense of things and he could “bang out,” as he used to say, a quick sketch that would give life to an idea. A design discussion with Bob could not begin without his Niji stylist pen, the medium for having a conversation. When someone couldn’t quite find the words to explain their idea, the pen would be passed as an invitation to speak through sketching.
On any given day, there is always someone in our office doing a hand sketch. And we ask all potential employees to share sketches during the interview process. In this age of computer graphics and sophisticated technical design and modeling programs, we still look to our roots and the power of simple diagrams or sketches to provide clarity during the design and discussion process internally and with our clients and project partners.
Public safety touches all of our lives. Whether it is the people serving in the justice system, or in our local police and fire departments, we rely on them to be there when we need them and tend to forget about them until we do. They provide largely invisible services that become visible only in times of greatest need. One of the goals for this building was to increase the public awareness of the importance of the facility and for it to be a more engaging, welcoming and positive presence in the community it serves.
This project makes invisible infrastructure visible through design, open space and public art–building awareness of the treatment process while reintroducing people and beauty to an industrial zone. Founded on an exchange between knowledge, economic, ecological and social forums, the resulting plant will revitalize a currently blighted area in a prime urban location. Taking a bold approach to engage and educate the region it serves through a public design process, the facility is an urban catalyst declaring this municipality treats water with reverence.
The Bullitt Center is a significant step forward in the design of high performance buildings. The audacious goal of net zero energy use was set for this six-story urban office building in cloudy Seattle. In addition to net zero energy, the project has reached the broader goal of achieving full certification under the Living Building Challenge, which takes a holistic approach to sustainable building design.
The design for the Bullitt Center, and for any building with high performance goals, requires an integrated process—seeking to reduce energy consumption through a balanced contribution of high efficiency envelope and mechanical system, passive systems such as operable windows and exterior blinds, lighting power reductions, reductions in plug loads through technology and controls, and operational changes by building tenants.
The resulting building was designed to use as much energy as can be produced on site by a rooftop PV array: approximately 230,000 kWh/year, for an EUI of 16 kBtu/SF. This extraordinarily low energy use is less than 20% of a typical Seattle office building. It is well below the level of any comparable North American office building and is consistent with what we know about the highest performing buildings in Europe.
Bullitt’s heating and cooling energy use only about 5% of the building’s energy use, and the biggest end uses in the proposed project are office equipment—computers, monitors, servers, printers, copiers, appliances, elevators, control systems, and other miscellaneous devices (typically called plug loads)—and electric lighting. Together, these account for almost 2/3 of the building’s energy budget. One of the reasons the building has been performing better than predicted and become a net exporter of energy is due to the rapid pace of energy efficiency improvements in all things we typically plug in.
What we also take away is that we can work collaboratively to advance the industry and culture around low-energy and net-zero buildings. We have been lucky to work with a visionary client, forward-thinking developers and other design consultants, and a contractor willing to look at different ways of doing things. We have sought advice from local, national, and international practitioners engaged in high performance buildings. We are enjoying the opportunity to see how other projects in the Northwest are approaching similar challenges. In turn, we hope some of the lessons we have learned and passed on will be useful for others.
The concept should read through.
The community college system in Washington State provides educational opportunities through smaller branch campuses in outlying areas. This first building on a new campus is designed as a multi-use structure–a classroom, administration center, social space, physical plant and cafeteria. It also stakes out an institutional identity. Although new buildings have been added since, this initial campus building remains the recognizable image of Olympic College in North Kitsap County.
The Wharf at Point Loma marina incorporates a materiality and aesthetic unique to the San Diego waterfront. The combination of marina and commercial space feels a working waterfront, with an honest expression of structural framing and simple forms, materials and clean details. A heavy timber structure assembled with galvanized steel fittings is borrowed from the Northwest maritime trade and adapted to San Diego’s climate and waterfront. Its open frames provide large expanses of glass for visibility and views. The warmth of the wood and the crispness of the building forms make this a popular waterfront destination for both locals and tourists.
While libraries remain the center of many communities and a true testament to the spirit of inclusion and public access, their function is continually evolving and keeping up with technology is never-ending. Embracing the spirit of change, this library is designed with a minimal amount of “fixed” elements. Structural bays (columns) are based on modular shelving layouts and spaced as far as apart as possible to create flexible open areas that can be reorganized or subdivided over time. All collection areas, computer spaces, and meeting rooms are on raised access-flooring, enabling easy reconfiguration and even easier technology upgrades.
Eliminate the unnecessary.
Designed in the wake of the Bullitt Center, this fire station was seen as an opportunity to integrate state-of-the-art, but low cost sustainable design strategies. One of the simplest and most cost efficient ways of saving energy is to design an airtight building envelope. Lessons learned on envelope design from the Bullitt Center were applied here, resulting in a measured infiltration rate of 0.1cm/sf, a 75% reduction from code allowed levels and providing enhanced thermal comfort for the firefighters.
Create powerful experiences.
New ideas welcomed throughout the design process resulted in a mix of playful and distinctive elements that define the character of this new place and uphold IDEA District principles promoting innovation and creativity. Examples include:
Recognizing that many federal buildings constructed in previous decades were lacking in appropriate civic character, the GSA Design Excellence Program has dramatically improved the design of federal buildings and citizens’ positive perception of their government. A primary goal is working through collaborative partnerships to design and construct facilities that reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the Federal government; avoid a cookie-cutter official style; and incorporate the work of living artists in public buildings. In 1998, Point Roberts Border Station was recognized in the GSA Design Awards program as being one of a handful of projects nationally demonstrating the program’s success.
Responding to changes in contemporary pedagogy incorporating both arts and sciences, formal learning environments and informal project-based workspaces within the new SAAS STREAM building facilitate problem-solving, innovation and collaboration skills. The building includes state-of-the-art science laboratory classrooms while interior surfaces accommodate a wide variety of student art. Importantly, the building is designed to support the school’s ‘culture of performance’. As the new heart of the school, vertically linked space through the communicating stair and overlooking mezzanine provide a variety of overlooks and function as informal performance space.
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