Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kermit the Frog_It's not easy being Green

I was talking with my wife and I couldn't resist posting this video courtesy of youtube.

I threw away a bottle today I could've recycled and my wife caught me.  She accused me of being a lazy green guy.  She's right. It's not easy being green.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Organizational Ecology in the High Performance Workplace

Recently I read Workplace By Design by Franklin Becker and Fritz Steele, published in 1995 by Jossey Bass Publishers.  Organizational ecology is a pervasive theme in the book.

Frequently in high-performance building design work architects and designers find themselves looking at the big picture of how the building fits into its setting and environment, various natural and organizaitonal systems, as well inter-relationships of internal space program and building function.    Looking in this way is an ecological way of thinking.  It's also smart business and can increase competitiveness.   Also, designing within the LEED framework, whether certification is pursued, requires looking at building design from a wholistic and ecological viewpoint.   

Thus from many angles organizational ecology is an important aspect to high-performance building and workplace design.  In Workplace by Design, Organizational Ecology is defined by seeing an organization as a living organism with work processes and functions working together within a building setting and physical spaces overlaid with critical systems such as information technology,  mechanical and lighting systems.    Buildings are in themselves business resources and can and should be concieved as fundamental organizational tools to support and promote effective team work and cross discipline interactions.   

To produce high value to an organization, a building or facility must connect to and reinforce the corporate ethos, culture and ultimately it's very DNA.  Seeking a harmony of physical setting, natural resources use, work and technoloogy processes, management style intertwined with organizational philosophy and values is key to creating successful workplaces built to last.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ethical Underpinning in Green Design

I was reading my Greensource weekly newsletter email and it connected me to this inspiring and telling blog post from Greenbuilding Elements, called the 10 dumbest green buildings on earth.   The author, Adam Felsinger really socks it to you with examples which on their face value appear green, are green in fact with LEED accreditation etc., but if you just think a wee bit critically these projects are indeed laughable examples of Green building.  They may or may not be "greenwashing".  What it's called doesn't matter actually.  It's the first princpals behind the projects or lack there of which interest me.

 Of course a few examples hit close to home.  The basic idea is how "Green" can something be if the  fossil fuel usage overall premise for the project can't stand up, ie in the Green BP gas station nary a electric charging station car, sharing drop off point, proximity to a bus stop to be found.  It's his number 1 example.  But it's very cool and has nice stand-alone green features.

Looking at the big picture is critical to helping to validate green intentions.  For me it starts further back with looking at the ethics behind green initiatives and seening if a triple bottom lined approach is present in the conversation and decision making of those involved.  In 1994, this approach was developed by John Elkington and perhaps others before.  This model represents the interconnected aspects of our economies, environment and societies.  It's a vital place to begin conversations, and it's also a great mechanism to evaluate the integrity of greening efforts.

What do you think about this model as a foundation underneath green decision-making and green design?  Are there ways this can be used or is being used to support design conversations in their beginning stages? Great examples?  It seems this is what is missing in the 10 examples found in Adam's blog post.  There appear other, less positive motivations in play behind the projects.  Regardless, while there may be great intentions behind many of these projects, it's totally worth the  self-examination and questionning.  

If we don't ask these tough questions while we do our work with our customers and partners we collaborate with what are we leaving for the generations to follow us?

Necessity is the Mother of All Invention...Creativity and Seeing the bigger picture

Necessity is the mother of all invention.  Sometimes it's good not to have enough time, not enough resources, not enough education.  A challenge or problem often times fuels creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem.  Clear limitations aid creativity.  Sometimes our best work comes after we've slept on a design problem overnight, perculating on it while resting, dreaming...stretching the mind.      

I made this fibonacci diagram to remind me of how the parts and the whole are completely interconnected in the creative process.  This roughly emulates the spiral of shells we find walking on the beach and other patterns surrounding us from nature.  

Creativity is a looping, spiraling process, starting at an initial necessary point where the answering process, the doing process is more akin to a spiral than a circle or a line.  While you often come full-circle on a design problem, i.e.  you return back to the beginning, it's not really the beginning but a widening of the curving arc which is the creative process.  The circle doesn't close on itself.  It continues to open up.  The spirt of invention is a spiral.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Innovation and Dell's new Laptops

Personalized skins for laptops? Will this be attractive to buyers looking for ways to strut their individuality? I think it offers hope for the consumer public to put a little more zip into their life and build their sense of personal design taste.

Read on


Dell Bets Splashy Design Will Sell Its New Laptops
The PC maker is trying to buck a nasty economy with a line of splashy laptops. Will buyers bite?
Reena Jana
BW Magazine

See link below for more....

Friday Poem #2

To the Sky and to the Trees:

Interlacing branches reach for the sky
Wandering fingers framing the winter's day
Twisting and turning, growing thinner the higher they go
Waving and undulating with the wind's ever changing embrace

Barren in this cold time while plush in the summer
Budding in chartreuse electric glory in the spring
Stately greens of varying chroma in the summer
Firey colors in all their fall glory

Dancing slowly at night with the moon and the stars
Energetic conversations with all living creatures
Whispering of leaves and waving branches
The sighing of the living earth surrounds

Hypnotic drone of ciacadas and tree frogs 
Hoots and howls, barks and whispers of the evening
Combine together with the rhythm of the wind
Forging the music of summer

So different from Winter's slumber
Barren branches, hibernating creatures
A time of slow anticipation
The promise of summer so appealing

Coy promise of winter's quiet
Leads to joyful springtime delight
Dancing through the seasons
Eternal rhythm's of life

Better Buildings 2009, Hope in the Green Valley of Vermont

Yesterday I attended and participated in Efficiency Vermonts Better Buildings Conference 2009 held at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington, VT.  

And it was a fantastic, heartwarming event.  Here's why.  It was crowded, really crowded.  It was filled with a sense of optimism and people coming together whom are participating in the Green Design Movement in our region.  Like the USGBC's Greenbuild 2008 conference held in Boston last November, it was experiencing another bump in attendance from the already great numbers from last year.

Unlike other conferences held in the last 6 months by more normative, non-green construction related organizations, this one was healthily attended, heavily sponsored with plenty of exhibitors on the trade floor.  

 The plenary speech session was kicked off by Scott Johnstone, executive diretor for Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.  (VEIC).  He set the groundwork for the conference where he shared the results of Efficiency Vermont's efforts in helping change the energy use and efficiency game in Vermont.  Our State is now a leader in the nation with (-1.5%) negative electricity load growth rather than postive which is the norm around the U.S.  Our state is seeing a trend in electrical load decrease due to growing energy efficiency efforts in the residential and business / institutional marketplace.   For example, last year Scott said 780,000 CFL's (compact flourescent light bulbs) replaced old fashioned incadescent bulbs around the State.   By helping lower the costs to Vermonters for purchasing CFL's statewide through retail programs, more bulbs were installed.  Efficiency Vermont's Big Thinking produced Big Results.

Scott said the challenge ahead for our State is to expand or go wider with the penetration of energy efficiency and energy conservation measures and go deepr with more substantial negative load growth in the coming years.  Along with that we must continue the transformation of our fossil fuel based economy transitioning towards heavier use of renewable energy sources. Vermont, while small, has a spirited history of yankee ingenuity and rising to the occasion during tough times.  

 The keynote speaker, Fernando Paige Ruiz also reinforced this notion sharing how he sees how Vermont's innovation stacks up against other states around the nation.  He said Vermonters are amazing that we save almost 2% a year in lowered electricty usage.  Most states claim this is impossible, it can't be done, but we're showing it can be done.  

Fernando discussed his approach of building an affordable house and a practical way of thinking about design and ecology.  He discussed how homeowners want affordable construction and likewise affordable operation in their homes.  Key concerns of a majority of homeowners were energy costs, durability and flexibility of the smaller home he is building.  Building size, shape, simplicity of construction, flexible for future layout changes and a sense of thrift while maintaining quality were all important factors.  He had some very interesting ideas about marketing and for example seeing projects as "demonstration or model project" worth sharing with others along the way during construction to help spread the word about the unique qualities about green building. 

It was another great conference! Look for most posts in the coming days about the conference.   

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tide turning toward energy-efficient buildings

You have been sent an online news article from Stephen Frey as a courtesy of

Article Title:
Tide turning toward energy-efficient buildings

To view the contents on, go to:

Please see this article in the Burlington Free Press from Yesterday's Business Monday. It focused on Green Job Creation and the Green Industry. Our office was mentioned about half-way down.

What do you think?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Barriers to Innovation Video_NASA Internal Quality Project

I heard about this on NPR's All Things Considered This Morning.  I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed viewing it.  It's a little dry and wee bit amateurish but it has some solid points about management style crimping / obstructing innovative thinking and inclusion within an orgaznization.

It makes points regarding following procedures at the expense of finding effective, improved methods of getting the job done.  This of course is especially relevant given the extremely high stakes nature of space flight amidst crushing organizational oversight leading to disasters in the space program.

Watch and see how it applies to your organiztion.  How can you improve your style and be more open to change?


Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Poem # 1

Sitting in the warmth of a picture window
I gaze out to the frozen river
Warmed by the sun's embrace
Shiny water droplets from branches

Blue Sky above unbroken by clouds
The quiet of a slumbering land
Fallow, waiting for spring
Snow insulating the frozen earth

Creatures quietly going about
Momentary thaw a delight
The cycle of the season's
Offer's the promise of regeneration

A trio of deer feeding in the brush
Quietly foraging in the sun
Heads look up suddenly at my presence
eye to eye we stare

Smiling eyes of quiet co-existence
We look at one another for a while, silent
I turn with firewood in arms
Deer lower their heads to feed

Dripping water glistening in the sun...