Archives For culture

maroma resort beachWhen most of us manage to carve out the time, money and effort required to clock out of the daily grind for a while, the top priority is stepping away from the nagging mundane worries that are waiting for us every morning. Vacation spots excel at helping to push thoughts of the job, the commute, the chores and the bills to the side in deference to an image of luxury, if only to be enjoyed for a short time. Given Gallup’s recent numbers on where the environment sits in the list of priorities for Americans, chances are that sustainability doesn’t rank high on most of our vacation itineraries. Continue Reading…

single stream recycling truckBy now, most of us know the drill for washing out glass and plastic containers and placing them the blue or green bins rather than bundling them with the rest of the trash. It has been decades since residents were first able to separate out recyclables from other waste for curbside pick-up. What started out as smaller local trends are now mature municipal services in some of the largest cities across the country. However, despite the millions of tons of waste that has been diverted from landfills for a life of reuse, we have certainly not reached the point where we are recycling everywhere in the U.S. and the places that do recycle are often still trashing considerable amounts of waste that could have more life to live. Continue Reading…

Our dedication to the corporate engine that runs our consumer culture makes corporate perspectives on sustainability unavoidably important. It is not uncommon in this country to have localities where the vast majority of residents are diligently proactive on sustainability efforts (say recycling for example) while the participation of businesses remains tepid. With the amount of man hours and resources that companies use in order to do business, they have to be part of any equation that leads to a better outcome.

McKinsey & Company recently released results to a new survey searching for the pulse of sustainability within the world of corporate executives in the global economy. While the tone of the release is cast in a positive light, the survey results point to both the good news and the bad news relating to progress for sustainability in the corporate environment. 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…

Circling Sustainability

This forum continues to vet the definition of sustainability and how it differs from public perception inside and outside of the United States. For most of us, I would argue that our understanding of its underlying concept and its resulting associations is a stark divergence from its true meaning. This discrepancy is at least partly to blame for our lethargic rate of progress on environmental issues. At least part of the blame rests on the fact that we live in a age where circulating information is incredibly easy, even the wrong information. Continue Reading…

sidewalk to workThe collective American consciousness would say that aspiration is a powerful force and one that should be encouraged. I happen to agree. The modus operandi of America is built on the idea that anyone has the opportunity to aspire to their goals, dreams, or pursuit of happiness. The notion that our goals are achievable pushes us to be the innovating nation that we are. A common American aspiration is one of luxury—the hope that hard work raises one beyond attaining the necessities to the point of kicking back a little bit. Continue Reading…

architect and the client cartoonMost of us probably have a friend that is either an architect or an environmentalist. Okay, maybe not. Perhaps most of us know someone that is either in a creative design profession or cares about the natural environment–enough to know that both groups have some common threads. Both work too many hours for too little money despite being devoted to their work. Both find it difficult to convey the full range of their roles to those outside of their profession. Both struggle with the task of trying to achieve greater relevance in the eyes of American culture. Architecture and the environment; an odd pairing perhaps given that buildings and nature are not exactly best friends right now, but their similarities could result from the fact that both groups ultimately face the same uphill battle. Continue Reading…

green applianceIn its basic definition, efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought that most people treat it. As an idea, it is a component of a direction more than a solution. Continue Reading…

In our culture we have a tendency to look for new technologies that can make it easier for us to do things the same. The topic of sustainability and mitigating our effect on the environment suffers from this more than most despite the fact that the real opportunities for sustainable progress will come not from gadgets and gizmos, but a behavioral shift. Technological advancement can help us gain a bit of ground and buy us some time, but no matter how hard some innovation strives to keep the status quo intact, the realm of unexpected repercussions can be unavoidable. Our reflex needs to shift from assuming we can operate without change to one of automatic reassessment.

Over the course of modern American history we have continuously improved our ability to separate our homes from the natural environment. The exterior envelopes of our buildings can now be tighter and more efficient than ever, bringing opportunities to reduce the amount of energy and resources needed to heat, cool and clean the places we live and work. This evolution is positive in many ways, but the culture of how we build space doesn’t necessarily evolve as fast as the walls around it. Having a super tight–even airtight–envelope can bring some drawbacks if our building practices don’t evolve to respond to a new set of functional realities. Continue Reading…

home blueprintThis is a guest post by Steve Lionais, owner of YellowBlue Designs. They market green house plans and blog about all things sustainability for the home.  Steve’s not an architect, but he’s passionate about design and living sustainably by partnering with architects and designers who truly offer a higher standard of green living. 

As the goal of a more sustainable residential fabric begins to seep deeper into the quiet streets of suburban America, the finer points of how to get these greener ideas to a consumer public remain up for grabs. A new potential homeowner is left with the choice of securing the services of an experienced architect (a decidedly uncommon route for most Americans) or going it alone for a sustainable house adventure by purchasing a pre-designed plan to be constructed. Tyler Caine and I recently had a discussion on the merits of both custom house designs and stock house designs. We discuss the pros and cons of each approach here in thinking about how we can achieve our green house goals. Continue Reading…