Archives For architecture

international green construction codeIf the goal is to limit the overcrowding of cars on the street, is it a better solution to dilute density in order to spread people out or to foster the ability for more people to carry out more of their day via alternative transit? Is the best way to avoid excessive signage and light pollution to forcibly segregate all commercial program or might it be easier to simply regulate sizes for signage and candlepower for lighting? In an effort to limit the amount of cooking odors disturbing nearby residences, would it make more sense to remove proximity of all retail business or to set standards for the design and location of cooking exhaust?

Questions like these draw into focus the difference between two mindsets for planning and design, prescriptively restrictive vs. performative. The deeper question is whether it makes more sense to guide design and development by prescribing solutions with an (educated) guess as to how they may perform over time or by simply setting standards for testing how things should actually perform? While the former has proven to be easier for governing bodies in many cases, the latter can be built on what we actually have rather than an idea of what could occur. Continue Reading…

Center for Architecture ResiliencyContrary to the statements of some and the hopes of many, there are no silver bullets for solving challenges surrounding sustainability. Part of this is due to the complexity of the problems, some is due to the fact that there are so many points of view for problem solving and a piece of the responsibility falls on the fact that there are so many different situations around the world with unique contextual conditions, making their problems in turn unique. As a result, collaboration makes a world of sense as we approach sustainable goals and the best solutions can come from components that span cities, countries and even continents. Continue Reading…

Home energy management softwareIn the United States, sustainable progress most often takes the form of ways to engineer a more efficient version of the status quo. Products that allow for a reduction in net resource use while allowing customers to live the same way are seen as a win/win. To be fair, the small advances we can take through greener product choices are a first step and certainly better than nothing, even if course-altering impacts towards a sustainable culture will require the underlying lifestyle to evolve. If greener consumerism is one of the paths that Americans are responding to then the products need to do more than provide a promise for eventual savings. The more that people can connect choices of product usage to resource repercussions in real time, the better the chance that lifestyles can alter to maximize the use of more efficient products. Continue Reading…

Sidewalk PedestrianSince the beginning of America’s suburban experiment, it has only been recently that effort and interest has welled behind the ideas of walkability and alternatives to a car-centric life outside of cities. While movements like New Urbanism that promote re-investigating the suburban model have swelled with support over the past decade, these projects still represent a minority in development outside of urban centers. Even when aspects like tenets of New Urbanism are employed, the goal of increasing walkability in American suburbia faces an uphill battle until more substantial steps can be taken to alter the parameters for both construction and mobility. Re-orienting the suburbia we know for the pedestrian is inherently fighting against its own DNA. Continue Reading…

USGBC version 4Although the latest incarnation of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has been around for almost a year, projects have still be able to enjoy the more familiar likeness of LEED 2009. However, the window of time for the grace period of the system transition continues to close with all new projects needing to apply for Version 4 after June 2015. As designers and engineers begin to focus more on the effects of the imminent change ahead, it begs the question as to whether or not the system is simply changing or actually improving. Continue Reading…

Desert Dormitory FosterOf the many things that the Middle East has historically been known for, sustainability has not usually been at the top of the list. The clash of Western values with the harshness of the local climate can wedge sustainability between a lot of sand and a hard place. Though there is a broad critique of the unsustainable attributes of the region’s development path, for years there has still been the budding prospect of Masdar City in the heart of the United Arab Emirates. Despite years of slow progress and still having a healthy way to go, Masday City still has a wealth of potential to offer to the world of green urban planning, vying to be the planet’s most sustainable new city. Continue Reading…

indoor pool amenityMost architects care to believe that people will recognize a well-designed space when they see it and that the nuances of a successful design process will be ascribed value in the eyes of potential occupants. However, what seems to be increasingly often, there are extra features and accoutrements that are added to the package outside of the inherent quality of the living space in order to sweeten the deal for payors and entice them to cough up that little extra something. These property amenities are emerging as an interesting barometer for how our culture is ascribing value.

But of all of the glitzy add-ons to high-end real estate, how many of them are really adding that much when it comes to quality of life? How many of them are simply just wasteful pieces of program included for no other reason than an expectation that they represent an image of exclusivity– regardless of whether or not they are used once the project is actually occupied? Continue Reading…

CF Lafeyette Rendering SidewalkOur culture’s current efforts in sustainability can usually be divided into one of two groups. The first group is trying to add efficiency and/or decrease the negative impact of the way that we do things now. Given its inherent benefit of requiring minimal change to the way people are already operating, this method is unsurprisingly popular. Examples include hybrid cars, LED light bulbs or printer paper with recycled content. These products help mitigate the negative repercussions of our current lifestyle.

The second group is changing a paradigm, archetype or cultural norm in order to operate in a more sustainable way—challenging the baseline to redefine the standard rather than tweaking an existing solution. Examples of this direction would be more in the vein of transit-oriented-development, designing spaces around more natural light or entirely paperless offices. One could argue that the first train of thought is looking for a better answer, where the second one is challenging the underlying question. Do we need to universally rely on automobiles? Do we need so much artificial illumination? Do we need to print things? Continue Reading…

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 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…