Real Estate Booms Ignoring Climate Responsive Buildings

night mumbai lightsEven as real estate markets in most of the United States are still in the early stages of recuperating from the throes of the recession, there are still developing countries that are riding an economic wave of a real  estate boom. These changing cities bring an opportunity to explore how the density of the urban environment can adapt and evolve to different environmental resources and climatic restraints around the world—what some designers would see as an inherent recipe for variability and evolution. The problem is that all too often these new versions of urban space are merely copies of western norms, lacking the site-specificity needed to link them to their surroundings.  Continue reading

Apple’s New Home Base is an iPhone

Apple headquaters cupertinoThe most recent set of flashy renderings of Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California make the goals of the building unmistakably clear. With a design from Norman Foster, the tech company’s mothership is depicted as a pristine white ring nestled in a large site strewn with greenery. When we look at the images that include different combinations of white, glass and foliage it is hard not to say “of course.” Of course this is Apple’s new corporate club house. The design is sleek and detailed for modern simplicity. Everything about the building’s appearance resonates with an image of next generation technology. It is kind of like a big iPhone. I would say that the new campus is the perfect manifestation of Apple’s entire business in almost every way, save for one thing: it is trying to be green. This new headquarters is making some strides in its attempts to be more environmentally friendly, but some key aspects still raise the question of whether it is really all that sustainable. Continue reading

In England Greener Homes are Bigger Homes

tiny NY apartment book corner

Imagine a group of dedicated architects banding together to march up to Capitol Hill and lobby for our government to create new mandates to increase the average home size in the country. It is hard to wonder what the argument would be. ‘Two car garages just are not enough.’ ‘That second guest bedroom really comes in handy once or twice a year.’ ‘The survival of the American Dream depends on more space!’ At this point, consumers are supporting purchases along those lines by themselves without the help of architects. Continue reading

Are We Decoupling from Carbon?

coal power plantCritics of proposals to make our country more sustainable often suggest that such measures would raise the prices of products and make it more difficult for the nation to do business–forcing our coveted Gross Domestic Product downward. This argument would suggest that it isn’t possible, or at least very difficult, to reduce the amount of carbon we emit while simultaneously lifting GDP. The thing is, apparently we did that in 2012. Continue reading

Green Buildings: Salem Harbor Station

Power Plant COOKFOXA Lighter Image of Power

All Imagery Courtesy of COOKFOX Architects & Terrain

Talking about the “power grid” in the U.S. can bring to mind images of high tension wires strung across massive metal towers and hefty brick buildings with large smokestacks built in the mid-20th century. For a lot of our electricity infrastructure this picture would be accurate. Our power grid is showing its age–not only in our continued reliance on a dirty fuel source, but in the plants that burn it as well. The boom of building coal-fired generation in this country spanned from the 1960’s to the 1990’s when new capacity turned to natural gas. While most of the natural gas plants we have are less than 20 years old, 71% of their coal-burning cousins have been around for over three decades. These older plants represent not only the dirtiest, but often least efficient components of our grid–sometimes with net efficiency as low as 33%.

Fortunately, we are at a pivotal point where the nature of how we produce power is changing. COOKFOX Architects along with landscape architecture firm Terrain are working together on a new breed of power facility in Salem, Massachusetts that questions many of our infrastructural assumptions not only in functionality, but urban presence and response to the local community. The Salem Harbor Station exemplifies the near term transition that we need to encourage in order to take quantifiable steps in improving the rate of pollution and carbon emissions attributed to our power supply.

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