Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dan Reicher from Google Spoke at Yestermorrow

Last night I attended Dan Reicher's illuminating lecture at the Yestermorrow Design Build School in Warren. He spoke to a overflow crowd of summer program students, area professionals and interested public. He was there as part of Yestermorrow's weekly lecture series.

As director of Energy and Climate Initiatives at Google, former Assistant Secretary of Energy under the Clinton Administration and team member on the Obama transition team he offered a wide ranging yet extremely well-informed discussion of global energy issues, how they're connected to our local context in Vermont (He used to live in the Mad River Valley) and how Google intersects with them. He participated on helping originate key ideas in the Economic Stimulus Package pertaining to Energy and spoke also about the Climate legislation before congress right now.

He had some interesting quotes for slides, one of them from Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel who said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste". He spoke to the potential for rapid transformation and change given our current systemic economic problems and how the economic stimulus package provides dramatic opportunities and funding sources to drive energy conservation and efficiency R&D to examine alternative and promising energy fuel options. What's interesting I think is how subtle and imperceptible stimulus related change is to us in Vermont. What we see is heightened activity on our local roads and highways and read about awards of grants and programs to non-profits in affordable housing, agricultural economy and health centers among a few examples. Dan spoke how the arrival of the Obama Administration really is changing the energy policy game in Washington. Their arrival and focus on these issues has released eight years of pent-up demand where alternative energy sources, energy efficiency and other key factors were routinely level funded and poorly supported by the former administration. Things really are different now and it's evident from where he sits.

As Director of energy and climate initiatives at Google, Dan is participating and shepherding some interesting projects along. One project relates to plug-in electric hybrids. He discussed Google's plug-in electric car initiatives where they modified Toyota Prius' aftermarket with additional batteries and installed plug in stations at 'Googleplex'. They made the cars readily available to staff to use as they wish. The gas mileage results were astounding for typical everyday driving at 93 MPG (Done by professionally trained drivers to model typical behavior) Googlers got 73 MPG in average googleplex short trips of 1-2 miles per day. Google envisions in 10 to 15 years possibly millions of such vehicles on the roads. Along the way, battery and electric charging technologies will in his mind no doubt improve.

He also spoke about Enhanced Geothermal Systems which I'd never heard of before. This is the kind of system which takes advantage of the earth's natural heat well below the earth's crust, kilometers below the surface. Water is pumped into the wells and run into the hot areas below and channeled back to the surface to produce electricity. He showed slides displaying the Geothermal energy potential in the U.S. at 3KM, 5KM and 10 KM below the surface. It's a promising technology getting lots of publicity and funding right now. Some issues though were enhanced seismicity (meaning prevalence for earthquakes) related to drilling deep wells although he said this is similar to oil and natural gas drilling where similar issues exist.

An over-arching theme emerged from this where he said virtually in any emerging and existing energy technology there are environmental and societal downsides which must be carefully considered. This is a pervasive theme and it's up to society and political systems to debate together the cost-benefit equations to determine the contingent 'right' answers. He did argue which ever alternative technologies are successful they would be working together and there was no magic new single transformation technology out there. No matter if it's wind, solar, enhanced geothermal, wave energy, traditional oil and gas extraction, bio-mass or cellulose fuel sources there are down-sides in to all of them. He share an anecdote about how public opinion is fickle in regards to this. He reminded us about the recent devastation near a coal plant where coal sludge literally despoiled an entire valley down south last summer and how public opinion didn't seem to get ruffled. This is in comparison to the passionate debate about Nuclear Energy and nuclear power plants and fear of plant accidents. You have two kinds of technologies both effecting the environment and people potentially disastrously with inconsistent concern and fears.

He spoke about the promise and obstacles facing deployment of industrial scale renew ables and plugging them into the smart grid. The biggest issue he said the smart grid effort faces is getting power lines to hook into future and existing generation sites. The permitting and entitlement process for power-lines is lengthy and potentially slowing of the roll-out of large scale generation. The other side to the equation is in the meanwhile, micro-grid power generation such as residential and small scale wind, solar, geothermal are very easy to deploy and likely will find success in the market place simultaneously to the slower development of the smart-grid and power transmission. Thus for all of us here in Vermont and elsewhere committed to small scale projects this is a great sign of promising times ahead.

The last thing I want to mention which was important I think to me and perhaps most importantly is Energy use of Google search at data centers behind our everyday searches. Dan mentioned how the search marketplace is extremely competitive and aware of its energy footprint and that great strides have been made to dramatically reduce power usage levels at Data Centers both at Google and with other search providers. He emphasized how Google really is focused here and as well, more importantly he hopes, on the bigger energy picture. He tried to convey how Google is committed to being involved in large scale energy related projects going forward. I think he did that very well.

Thanks Dan and Yestermorrow for a fascinating looking into global and local energy issues!
(I included an image from Google's 2006 Earthday logo to spice up the post)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

National Life Group building earns LEED-EB silver certification

I'm proud to say a local business the National Life Group of Vermont in Montpelier, VT where I live recieved silver certification in the USGBC's LEED for Existing Buildings Program. The three building campus is among the largest in Vermont and employs many in my community and the surrounding area. It's fantastic to see a large corporation plunge into the LEED-EB process and complete the journey. They demonstrate yet again why they are a model VT business, setting examples for others to follow in the state and in their greater insurance industry.

The LEED-EB program purpose is to recognize exemplary performance upgrade efforts to existing buildings in energy efficiency through lighting upgrades and mechanical system optimization, reduction of water use, internal sustainability efforts such as green commuting programs, recycling and waste reduction among many factors. A silver level is the second level in a four tier recognition system, beginning with certified, then silver, gold and finally platinum. Each step is for increasingly better performance and efforts by the building owner.

To read more about the effort and those involved, including Tim Shea who helped lead the charge internally at National Life please see the link to an article at VermontBiz. As part of the effort, they installed at 73 KW solar electric photovoltaic array making it among the largest in Vermont. NRG Systems in Hinesburg has a 141 KW installed between it's two buildings and is also among the largest in Vermont. What's great is not who has the most PV installed it's that it's happening right here in cloudy New England and it's financially viable over the long haul!

The bottom-line is National Life's continued committment to Greening their facilities is another reason to pay attention to Vermont Businesses and the Green Valley of Vermont.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reflecting on a Past soon to be our Future Again

Last summer seems so long ago now. It was a different world then. We were in the last few months of the outgoing Bush Administration, heavy into the Presidential campaign. Gas prices were still extremely high and there was a pervasive sense of urgency for change. It was especially so about energy use and moving as fast as possible towards energy independence and leaving behind a reliance on a fossil fuel based economy. Do you remember? How were you and your family behaving? We were kind of scared, spooked. We were all madly carpooling, riding bikes, looking seriously at buying hybrids and changing our daily behaviors in many other ways. Food costs were skyrocketing. Necessary staples like gallons of Milk and bread were at all time highs. Anything with corn as an essential ingredient was involved in the ethanol conversation and resource scarcity issues.

Reflect again. Now, a year later, we're in totally different place. Obama is our President. Global warming legislation passed in the House a few weeks ago and now moves to the Senate. Stimulus funding is making its way to States and local municipalities. (Who would have known a year ago any of this would be happening?) It's surreal. One thing which has changed though, is our collective sense of urgency has diminished. Gas prices at the pump have returned to pre-summer '08 costs. We're driving more, car pooling less. Prices in the supermarkets have lowered substantially. Houses are starting to sell again, albeit slowly. However, many of us are unemployed or underemployed. It's excruciating how much the economic meltdown has effected us all. Many of us are barely making ends meet. So many of the things we took for granted even last summer have all come into question. It's going to take a long while to dig out from this downturn and return back to some kind of normalcy. We are in a depression or at best an extremely deep recession.

I know it's not fun to reflect back to another time around 9/11 but remember the few days after the attack when the skies were quiet from commercial air traffic. It's was so quiet it was un-nerving. This not to subtle change in the sky signified a generational loss of innocence but I also feel that time of quiet serves clearly as a metaphor for me for how last year has been. So...

Reflect on your feelings from last summer. I bet you were behaving differently. Try to channel your memories from that time into sustained, substantive and positive action today. The time for change is as urgent as it ever was and the opportunity for change is the best it's been in a generation.

If you haven't done so already weatherize your home, your church, your business, your school. Until you weatherize your building, upgrade your insulation, service your heating and cooling systems stay away from sexy improvements such as solar panels or other advanced energy saving equipment. Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescents lighting (CFL's). Call your local congressperson, your mayor or electric utility and find out about weatherization programs, tax incentives, grants you can participate in to lower your energy bills this winter and create greater energy independence for you and your family for seasons to come. Re-examine your commuting habits, your consumption of consumer products and try your best to shift your behaviors on a personal, professional and community level. Take baby steps. Be brave and search for inner discipline to make the hard choices to change your habits. Don't be complacent and don't look back!

If you lost your job find out about green training and workforce training programs in your area. Take your existing skills and see how you can fit into the emerging green collar economy. Whether installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, replacing windows, teaching others new green skills, learning to build green, working to build the smart energy grid and local interfaces at the community level this is a time of unparalleled opportunity. Find manufacturers participating in the renewable energy economy and work for them. It is in all of our interests to do these things. Much of this will help power our new smarter more sustainable economy. For those of you in workplaces where change is needed, ask around, see if there is a sustainability or corporate responsibility committee taking every day necessary actions to make your business or organizations better stewards of the environment while also helping your bottom line.

You can't afford not to act. We must step up for the sake of the next generation to follow us and those after them.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maine Hannaford Grocery Store Earns LEED Platinum

A Hannaford's store in Augusta Maine, which is opening tomorrow, is a model example of a green grocery store in our northeastern climate. It recently received LEED for New Construction Platinum Level certification for it's efforts to redesign supermarket retailing in an environmentally, socially and financially sound manner. It has all kinds of innovative design features including a green roof, a super-insulated building envelope, 50 skylights, healthy non-toxic building materials, interior finishes, exemplary daylighting and I believe 41 KW of solar electric panels, likely including some solar hot water. For those of you who wonder if Solar panels are useful in northern climates for energy generation this is yet another example reinforcing it's possible to do so.

Hannaford's Website has alot of information about store, you can go on a virtual tour of the building to see for yourself. Please let other's know, especially your retailers in your area. You can learn about Hannaford's efforts to further it's goals in taking care of people, planet and profits, part of it's triple bottom line approach to business.

Apparently Hannaford's is using this store to be a test bed for innovation and environmental exploration for it's other existing stores and a model for new store in other locations. So if you are traveling in Maine near Augusta, perhaps check it out for yourself and patronize the store!

I will post a picture of the store once I contact Hannaford's and get their permission to do so. But remember, with all of the green features aside, the number one thing you can do to your new and existing buildings is tighten up your building envelope, reduce air leakage and upgrade your insulation. That's your best upfront investment for the best payback.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bill Strickland Jr., Manchester Bidwell Corporation and WMCAT

A few weeks ago I met Bill Strickland Jr. at NEOCON, World's Trade Fair in Chicago June 15-17th. It was at Steelcase's Green Giant's Monday Night Reception where he spoke about his inspirational work building Manchester Bidwell Craftsman's Guild and Corporation in Pittsburg over the last generation. He told the story of how he followed his passion in making pottery into an organic improv journey of creation of alternative educational programs in the inner city neighborhood of Manchester. He turned the impossible into the possible so to speak and lit up the minds and hearts of underprivileged young people and adult learners along the way. As years went by he built momentum and enthusiasm for his work by galvanizing the local private sector when public funding and support waned. He turned this into a powerful process of continual reinvention with his team of talented educators where they reached out to industry and provided needed various kinds of workforce training to fill demand in local corporations in exchange for program and operational support.

He won a Macarthur Genius grant, started the grammy award winning MCG Jazz Record label and created nurturing student centered learning environments and facilities. He also wrote a book which I recently read on my vacation to Michigan titled "Make the Impossible Possible" which is found on his non-profit website.

His message where we all have something really valuable to offer our world and to follow our dreams and our passions. By building bridges and seeking sincere relationships with others of shared viewpoints inspired me to visit a program in Grand Rapids modeled on the MBC and Bill's visionary work, the Western Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. It opened in 2005 and in 2007, I believe received it's USGBC Leed for Commercial Interiors Silver Certification signifying a strong committment to providing a quality, healthy learning environment for area high school age arts students and adult learners gaining skills in medical technologies.

I didn't have too much time for my visit but I took a look around the front lobby / reception area and ducked into various learning spaces as well as enjoyed the central commons area where there was a cafe like setting. The central downtown location was literally across the street from the City Library, other businesses, a YWCA and other services. There was a children's museum across the street. Visiting WMCAT really reinforced Bill's message of the importance of creating world class environments for learning. As I couldn't visit Pittsburg this was the second best I could do to experience the MBC philosophy in action, adapted to Grand Rapids. WMCAT is really important because it shows the adaptability of the MBC model here and for other areas of the country.

Harvard Business School has been Studying the work of MBC over the last 10 years or so updating and refining a series of case studies first examining the initial programs and ideas but now looking at the replication of the model to other communities around the country. I can think of the MBC model being useful for those in my community in Vermont as we ponder the future of education and workforce training of our children and adult learners some who are seeking alternative careers due to job cuts and other drastic effects of our economy. I bet the Green Workforce training initiatives being discussed in Washington and State Capitals around the country could learn from the public private cooperative initiatives MBC has championed over the years and create good well paying sustainable, useful jobs for the next generation. (Photo of Bill Strickland courtesy of, Building Photos by S. Frey)

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Recipe for Regeneration

Speaking of Regeneration in another field. Go see this link on Fast company's site.

A Recipe for Regeneration

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Friday, July 17, 2009

World 2.0 - Emerging Work Strategies Changing the Workplace

How to cope in today's changed marketplace? What kinds of choices may company executives make in today's harsh economic climate to help lower business costs? Can green and sustainability principles be of help for companies seeking to regenerate themselves? Steelcase's Workplace Futures Group headquartered in Grand Rapids just recently produced a fascinating Deep Dive 360 for June, How Emerging Work Strategies are Changing the Workplace: Telecommuting was just the beginning.

Here's are two lists from the Study. They summarize data gained from a joint Steelcase and CoreNet Global 2009 Sate of the Industry Report, March 31, 2009. So the data is fairly fresh and perhaps helpful. It certainly identifies the kinds of choices and behaviors organizations have made in the last year or so as the economy melted down. However, many are short sighted stop gap measures, and do not offer healthy sustainable long-term choices.


  1. Redesign office space to increase density

  2. Deferment of capital projects / Expansion plans

  3. Implement telework programs

  4. Accelerate projects that reduce ongoing expenses

  5. Restructure leases

  6. Shift work to lower cost locations

  7. Move to lower cost facilities

  8. Cancel capital projects / expansion plans

  9. Reduce / Defer maintenance

  10. Sale of owned properties

  11. Exercise early termination options in leases


  1. Telework or telecommuting in which an employee works from home, substituting telecommunications for the commute to work.

  2. Mobile work, a work style in which a person consistently uses multiple spaces, both inside and out of the office, to accomplish his/her work.

  3. Hotelling temporary workspaces assigned through a reservation system; typically used by mobile workers but also used by any worker not near his/her assigned workstation.

  4. Home office used as an alternative location to the primary office. Employees may work from home on a set schedule or on an as-needed basis.

  5. Satellite offices which are smaller spaces located in areas closer to employee’s homes for greater convenience.

Does any of this help you and your company? Are you and your team exploring other strategies which are working for you? What are they? Largely absent are longer term Green Workplace Strategies and a Triple Bottom Lined approaches putting People, Planet and Profits into the overall space strategy equation.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

World 2.0 - Regenerating Our Way Out of the Crisis

Face it. The world changed last September with the dramatic fall of the world economy. Many of us lost jobs and/ or homes and livelihoods in the worst cases, or went on reduced salary, experienced furloughs or other creative attempts at financial triage to keep organizations afloat. It hasn’t been much fun and it isn’t over yet. The building industry and the architecture profession have been hit very hard due to the drying up of traditional credit and financial markets to fund project construction. Clients reconsidered or shelved projects, or put them on long-term hold determined to wait out the current crisis. The ripple effect on our business has been telling and heart breaking. I’ve heard unconfirmed reports at least 30% of architects are out of work in the greater Boston area for example. Closer to home many firms in Vermont have downsized significantly, radically transforming themselves to respond to the economic crisis and continue in business. But there is an upside to this challenging present, it’s believing in the power of regeneration.

Recently a friend of mine, Danny Sagan, a designer with his firm Terra Firm and Associate Professor at Norwich University in Northfield, VT, said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “Finally the gravy days are over where people can make money out of thin. We have returned to a place Americans are good at; dealing with adversity and challenging times. Business people in the near future will earn success the old fashioned way, through hard work, street smarts and perseverance.” I could not agree more. The competition for what work is available is intense with at least triple the usual amount of interested firms actively seeking projects. In order to win work firms must stand out. What does this mean then? Does one give up and close up shop in the face of such adversity? Or rather, rise to the occasion, be innovative and inventive in redefining your message and business offer?

Let’s seek the innovative path. If you can’t meet and surpass the clients requirements and establish yourself as a leader with a clear message and value, it will be very hard to keep the doors open. We must work smarter than ever before. Why not ask Nature what she would do? I think she would say think about the concept of regeneration. Biologically speaking regeneration is the restoration of new growth by an organism or organs, tissues etc. lost, removed or injured. To regenerate means to re-create, reconstitute, or make over, especially in a better form or condition. This idea of rebirth, albeit in an improved form, points to a future with promise and optimism.

Looking into Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution and the idea of successful adaptation of some species at the expense of others who diminish into extinction offers a stark message. Survival and success directly relates to the ability to adapt and respond to changing and often puzzling environments. What would nature do in our place? What are the adaptive actions you can take with your business? Why not examine in our case the architects’ traditional roles and activities on one hand and compare that to a pressing short list of societal needs and demands. Does our traditional way of doing things mesh with the new realities before us. What’s out of balance? What are we missing? Find areas needing restoration of balance to the system and you are on to societal need to focus upon for your services offer.

I identify four keys areas; water, energy, atmosphere and increasing organizational effectiveness in this changed world, which are out of balance. The first three are well-documented diminishing natural resources and the last deals with organizational behaviors and interactions. I believe as an architect I can work together with our customers and team member on the first three easily. The fourth is linked to the others but is at the heart of organizational success. The smart design must be able to help their customers create buildings which radically conserve and take care of water, energy and air resources. They must also be able to create designs which naturally allow organizations be the most effective at the work they need to do and nurture employees and key stakeholders along the way. This doesn’t mean using formulaic design approaches but reaching into the well of innovation together. By using integrated and regenerative design approaches to develop unlikely yet effective solutions, the architect and designer can strengthen their value offer. By looking deeply together at the nature of the work at hand, needs of workers and the workplace through this regenerative green lens, valuable design solutions can be developed while also conserving resources such as water, energy and our atmosphere for future generations.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greening Fast Food Resturants

Sometimes reading and thinking about one subject leads into more articles and helpful information. Ecostructure a leading magazine on ecologically oriented design and sustainability has an article about trends in greening fast food restaurants around the nation. It was written by KJ Fields, titled a New Order: Fast Food Restaurants offer a range of sustainable features. It covers a trend among national fast food chain operations to move to greening the stores and operations. It's a beginning perhaps of a sea-change I hope. Imagine the energy savings and reduction of green house gases and positive effect on consumers if more retailers followed suit.

There are USGBC programs such as LEED for Retail which might also be of interest for others. See the links above.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chipolte Gurnee Store Awarded LEED Platinum

Chipolte Mexican Grill based out of Denver just received LEED Platinum Certification under the USGBC"s LEED for Retail Pilot Program announced on Chain Leader, a press release publishing site focusing on Restaurant industry. Here it's bringing into focus the movement towards Greening the retail / hospitality sector. See the link to the article is below after the text. When I lived in Denver in the late 90's, I often visited their restaurants which were always really funky, interestingly detailed spaces. They used lots of corrugated metal, natural finished wood and stained concrete floors, simple lighting and cheerful graphics. There was an emphasis on handmade and craft oriented design build process on those original stores. I haven't seen new ones in a while. Look for future posts on the store design where I will dig a little deeper.

Apparently they've gone a big more modern and glassy in the current stores with the photo above from the Gurnee, Ill store. I'm not so sure of the viability of all that glass, it must take lots of air conditioning to cool and heating unless it's all triple insulated glazing units. Which I will check on.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Net Zero Putney School Fieldhouse Well Under Construction

Construction of the Putney School Athletic Fieldhouse in Putney, Vermont is well underway this summer. Collaboratively designed by Maclay Architects and their consultant design team for the Putney School, built by Dew Construction, it's slated to be finished early fall. It also offers a continual learning laboratory in southern Vermont for zero energy buildings in the harsh northern new England climate, just a couple of hours south of the almost sub-artic climate of nearby Quebec, Canada. An essential learning tool for all to tap into is the Fieldhouse Blog available on the Putney School's website. Currently there is a post about cellulose insulation and it's installation as well as other posts detailing different aspects of construction over the last year or so. Students and faculty contribute to the blog which offers a view into the environmentally focused efforts of the school signaling it's leadership position in that area among other similar private schools in the northeast.
I've been involved in the design of the school facility led internally by Bill Maclay and Bill Gallup in our office over the last year and it's been a pleasure watching it's progress knowing how important this building is as a positive model for the young high schoolers soon to attend the school next school year and for years to come. It's amazing seeing the leadership of the school board, teachers, staff and students produce such an exciting result with our collaborative design and construction team. You can also learn more about the Putney School from our website and the current projects link. My hope is this building is but the beginning for of an energetic movement in the construction of similar net zero K-12 school buildings. Check back towards the end of summer and early fall and I'll be sure to have another post then.

(image adapted from Putney's Field house Blog)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Federal R&D Agenda for Net Zero Green Buildings

I was reading this report recently about the Federal R&D Agenda for Net Zero High Performance Green Buildings published in a variety of online sources in October of 2008. It identifies an achievable forward looking vision for federal buildings over the next generation. It comprehensively surveys the existing landscape of current High Performance Building initiatives throughout Federal Government and private sectors. What's notable is this was done before the current Obama Administration had been elected and likely represents a year or more cross agency collaboration and reflection. Hopefully this report will be updated and re-examined over the next year or so.

With net-zero buildings, buildings which produce equal or greater energy than they use within a given year, there lies hope for significant energy use reduction and potential for positively impacting greenhouse gas emissions. The report corroborates the largest potential for change is in increasing energy efficiency especially of existing buildings through retrofits and renovations rather than new construction.

This agenda in spirit hopefully will continue to drive innovation both in the public and private sectors, including higher education throughout the next 5-10 years and beyond. It identifies major R&D initiatives with various branches of government connected to the building and construction process. It also shares major implementation strategies which are also underway.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Supermarket buildings and green design_Minnestoa Cub Foods Store Receives LEED Gold

Today I was overjoyed to read about a Cub Foods Store in Minnesota to recieve LEED for New Commercial Construction - Gold level certification. This means this could be a model supermarket building of energy efficiency, effective daylighting and hopefully a great place to shop. Apparently there are only two others like this in the country. There are roughly 47,000 supermarkets including smaller independant ones around the country(from 2006 federal data). Given the high number and visibility of supermarkets around the country there is a great business oppourtunity I feel to convert existing market buildings or designing and building new ones to higher standards. Based on data from the USGBC and other sources where other building types have shown positive performance in regards to higher employee productivity, reduced energy costs, worker satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and similar factors, there is a strong case for going "green".
Here's why: I think most significantly, grocery stores and their owners have a longer time-horizon, often remaining on the same site for generations. Focusing on ways to reduce costs and ensure greater predictability in energy costs should be a priority for smart, forward looking financial and facility executives where they have more than a few stores in a region to operate. As well, it's likely, the largest cost for them is staff costs such as salaries, benefits etc. With the longer time horizon and need to control staff and facility costs, going green is extremely beneficial. Last summer's spike in food prices driven by high rises of energy costs should be a wake up call. For stores to be competitive in a unpredictable energy future, steady stating their energy costs as much as possible will only help them be more successuful than their competition.
Given there's only three stores like this in the nation, it's a fairly small number to study the effects. However, it's a great oppourtunity to make a difference and positively change the world for generations to come. In a couple of years hopefully Cub Foods or others can study the impact of this green store on their bottom line as well as their corporate brand. I wish them the best in their efforts to change their behavior. And perhaps others may follow in their footsteps...

(image from the web)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Energize the Interior Design process - Collaging and Scrapbooking

Recently a friend asked if I had any advice on ways to start their residential interior design process to assist in working with their architect. I suggested he and his wife find letter size file folders, labeled to match key spaces such as kitchen, master-bedroom, dining room, living, bathroom, study, kids bedrooms and play areas. Then over the next two-weeks or so comb through favorite magazines, websites and books and find inspiring images identifying furniture, equipment, paint colors, lighting fixtures, rugs and carpet and other key items. After doing so write a short summary overview of key qualities, moods and priorities. This is assuming you already have a program for all of your spaces selected.

Do this to define the mood of each room or space. As an extra step which I recommend, especially for those who like to make collages or scrapbook, is to make letter size collages by for each space with key furniture, paint color chips, upholstery swatches, flooring and lighting ideas with handwritten text stating why and how these items describe a mood which resonates with you. You can also skip this step yourself but have a conversation with your architect with the folders and maybe arrange items together in a collage / brainstorming session. You or your architect could then take pictures or scan the collages and put them into binder for review and use during development of more detailed design. You can also review the collages, adding to them over time as you build your understanding of the mood and quality of the spaces.

By taking this information collection step you really help clarify for yourself what you’d like your interior of your home to be, what kind of story you want to tell which expresses your unique family identity to the outside world and create a comfortable home. Your architect or designer might take your rough ideas, scrapbook thoughts and create an overall series of presentation boards, further refining your initial suggestions with their own feedback and imagery. Do this to enjoy the design process and feel connected to it and also set clear expectations and design ideas to follow so there a less surprises later. When you’re done, you can recycle the loose folders with all of their contents, holding on to the collages as records of the design process and decisions for future reference.

This process can also be adapted in a similar way to designing residential exterior and site design, just add more folders and begin earlier in the process. It actually is really helpful to do this even at the beginning stages at a more concept level.