Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Last week Bernie Sanders chaired a Green Jobs Hearing in Montpelier, at the statehouse where he asked experts from private green oriented industry and similar Vermont public entities to speak about their work and vision integrating energy efficiency, sustainable energy and green jobs development together under the Green Collar economy umbrella. Sanders goal was to collect testimony to spread the word about clean energy job development policies happening in Vermont and how what we're doing is applicable for others nationwide.
Between Colorado and Vermont as green 'new energy economy' leaders there is a lot to learn other states can take away. The one thing that's hard to replicate however is the unique synergy of green thinking into the DNA of those who live and work in each State. This is partly due to long-held environmentally focused values, a culture awareness of the finitude of natural resources and willingness to have hard discussions together. Whether it's the lack of water for example in Colorado and rampant growth issues in metropolitan areas or stormwater versus acid rain in Vermont, aesthetic and visual impacts of Wind Energy vs. the Merits as renewable energy source and permitting reform, both States have a vital dialogue about these issues which spurs other conversations and intiatives such as the 'New Energy Economy' or 'Green Jobs' discussions.
This synergy of activism, involvement and innovation takes generations to develop. But with Colorado and Vermont's examples to follow among others, perhaps it might be easier for others to join in the conversation.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
It's such a wonderfully odd thing to consider doing business at a green Walgreen's where it is addressing numerous energy efficiency, sustainable sites, materials, water resources and indoor environmental quality issues in the design. I hope that the feedback and performance for the store is positive over the long haul and Walgreen's learns from this one, it's first in a colder climate, and builds more across the nation.
Obviously the stores are only part of the problem. It's the environments they're located in around the country which also needs alot of help. I'm talking about the suburban strip centers, mall parking lots and corner stores along major aterials where these retailers are often located. Sure, it's a complex auto based lifestyle puzzle but we've got to start tipping the scale in the other direction. Perhaps by companies like Walgreens initiating leadership such as this one store at a time, other retailers will catch on and postive effects will collectively be felt in time.
As someone who cares about high design and equitable design I also care about democratizing the green architecture movement and helping bring it into the mainstream. Doing so gives me hope for my children and the generations to follow.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Clients, Contractors and Business Partners often ask if becoming a more sustainable or green oriented organization is truly beneficial or just another buzzword which will fade in a year or so? It's a terrific question not be shied away from asking or answering. Based upon working with lots of public, private, for profit, non-profit customers I know the answer is evolving and relative to the situation of the business or organization asking. There is not one answer. First, do you have a set of core company values, a mission statement encompassing more than financial profits and success? If not, examine some Vermont examples where I live.
Working and growing up in Vermont I have luckily been exposed to some extraordinary companies with truly remarkable sustainable visions who have been models for others to follow over the last generation and mentors now for those following in their footsteps. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, King Arthur Flour, Seventh Generation, NRG Systems, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, National Life of Vermont, Small Dog Electronics, Efficiency Vermont...the list goes on an on. Year after year they show remarkable performance and a large part of their success lies in the different way they run their businesses. Their success is driven by their focus on a triple bottom lined approach to seeing the world, of focusing on "People, Profits and Planet". They are active members of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a non-profit focusing on how businesses can accumulate social and environmental capital along with economic prosperity in Vermont.
Each one of these companies believes strongly in a socially responsible vision and are leaders in their industries. As successful as they are as businesses they also are often voted best places to work in Vermont, with lots of economic data supporting or reinforcing why it's beneficial to embrace sustainability. They have extremely dynamic and vibrant work cultures or communities with a strong sense of corporate identity and shared goals. In the cases where these companies publish Corporate Responsibility Reports, they measure among many factors worker productivity, quality and types of benefits, workplace comfort, relative health and wellness, absentism, community volunteerism. These measures go beyond the ordinary business performance factors often measured in traditional end of the year financial reports.
Secondly, to support the organizational aspects of the high performance workplace a critical physical step is to provide to employees a green, sustainably oriented building or office fit-out. To be a sustainable business I feel also means embracing green building fundamentals which directly impact worker comfort and well-being and indirectly help the environment, lower organizational exposure to fluctuating energy costs. Many companies and organizations over the last five or ten years have dramatically embraced the Green Movement and are no longer beginners but rather moving on to the second or third generation of integrating green building ideas into their workplaces. Seeing what works and what does not. In the process many have facilities which are LEED certified and are walking their talk in a very open and visible way.
Here is some information from the USGBC:
Benefits of Green Building & Sustainbility in Business (adapted from the
US Green Building Council [USGBC] website, See below
1. Enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity
2. Improve air and water quality
3. Reduce solid waste
4. Conserve natural resources
1. Reduce operating costs
2. Enhance asset value and profits
3. Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
4. Optimize life-cycle economic performance
Health and community benefits:
1. Improve air, thermal, and acoustic environments
2. Enhance occupant comfort and health
3. Minimize strain on local infrastructure
4. Contribute to overall quality of life
(Disclosure, as a long term team member of Maclay Architects I have had the good fortune of working with NRG Systems, Seventh Generation and Efficiency Vermont, VBSR among others in various capacities, you can learn more about that work at our website)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Here's a few memorable sketches from a trip I took to Rome while traveling in the summer of 1991 with fellow graduate school students and instructors from the University of Colorado at Denver, College of Architecture and Planning where I graduated in 1992 with a Master's of Architecture. Examining these early sketches done almost 20 years ago I smile and hope they inspire others young and old alike to dust of the sketch books and passports and get out of dodge.
- So often we're inspired by nature and the earth. Here's a sketch from last year where I was exploring a south facing hillside site with a lifted and separated curving green roof. The house would be a two bedroom, two bath residence with an open and interconnected kitchen, dining living space with three distinct zones having an great room feel. It would hopefully be a net zero home, a residence which produces the same or more energy than it consumes.
- The living areas fronts the building volume with easy access to the continous arbor covered terrace and ample views to the surroundings. The amount of glazing must be carefully studied through energy modeling. Overglazing would result in potentially over-heating the house and having to size up the airconditioning system at a higher cost and energy use.
- The glu lam ribs of the home are akin to bones. The residence transitions from the solidity and darkness found within the earth to the lightness of a forest canopy along the continuous south facing porch. An overhead arbor with solar control helps minimize summer glare while providing a place for vines to grow over time. Solar trackers in a solar orchard are just a short walk away. Key bedrooms are organized on the ends of the rectangular volume with view windows to the outside. Interior spaces such as bathrooms are lit from overhead toplighting from triple insulated prismatic skylights.
- The building enclosure would be super-insulated done in any number of manners suitable to the local climate and building tradititons. It would follow the (R5/R10/R20/R40/R60) for windows, below slabs, walls in below grade conditions, walls above grade and the ceiling as recommended by Joe Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng. of Building Science Corporation. The windows would be triple insulated glazing with low-e argon filled units with thermal spacers set within fiberglas frames. The doors would be fiberglas frames as well to help reduce thermal bridging. The green roof could be extensive or intensive depending on clients desires and structural capabilities, cost, desire to care for the plantings etc. Agressive air-sealing standards would be followed to further reduce energy loads through minimizing energy loss through cracks and joints.
- Heating would be delivered through a radiant slab. Cooling would be from strategically placed mini-split units. A back-up boiler would be fueled by bio-mass stored in a small silo or cord wood logs.
- The exterior siding could be hardi-plank, cedar or metal siding such as metal panels, corrugated metal, 12" ribbed siding. The concrete floor would be polished concrete with artistic flourishes involving scattered stones and objects thrown into the slab and polished over to yield exciting, uniquely memorable artful surprises.
- Interior finishes would be simple, restrained such as using locally milled rough sawn lumber or if a more refined look is desired, finished hardwood standing and running trim of a contempoary nature. Door and kitchen hardware and pulls would be simple rubbed bronze. Paints would be no or low-Volatile Organice Compounds (VOC)
- Appliances would be high performance energy star models to reduce energy use.
- Lighting would be high-performance flourescent designer fixtures and a mix of LED lighting where sensible.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Today, I am in a grateful mood. I am thankful for all of the dynamic and inspiring relationships with friends, family, co-workers and business associates over the years. It's really important to cultivate them over time. I will use a metaphor here which is a little obvious and blog related. Cultivating relationships is a life long journey. It's never complete nor fully realized. Especially now in these challenging times, sometimes all we have are these relationships and not much else. What's interesting is the word relationship means in one sense to relate to one another, or between entities or things, thus communicate. The ability to communicate and interact then is the glue which connects people, organizations into relationships, be they personal, business, philantrophic, or something in between.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
- LEARNING PERSONAS - Organizations need to constantly grow and develop their knowledge base and enrich their informational context to serve their customers, thus learning personas are super critical:The Anthropologist -The Experimenter -The Cross Pollinator -
- ORGANIZAING PERSONAS - Individuals in organizations who like to pull together information, factors influencing a design or operational challenge and enjoy helping to orchestrate strategic and/or tactical interactions to achieve results and stay focused.The Collaborator -The Hurdler -The Director -
- BUILDING PERSONAS - They pull together insights gained from the Learning Personas and Organizing Personas into a rich tapestry of experience in innovative combination together and unlikely, unique value added outcomes.The Experience Architect -The Set Designer -The Storyteller -The Caregiver -