Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reusing Keurig Single Serve K-Cups, A solution at last! And an innovation opportunity for GMCR!

Intrepid design innovators check out Kbrewlids a company which can help us all love coffee and the Keurig single brew system that much more.  Thanks Plasticless.com for blogging about this first.  See their blog post. Check out the end of this post for a crazy innovative idea I have about bringing a lifecycle process and mentality to the K-Cup Single Brewing System and the customer user experience.

Over Three Billion K-Cups in the Environment Next Year?  
At this point you've seen them used in offices, grocery stores and at home.  Next year Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will make another gazillion of them, actually about three (3) billion K-Cups.  Based on 4th quarter sales of +/- 800 million units.  which are responsible for 90% of GMCR's profits. You know you can't recycle plastic K-cups don't you? At least most of them.  For the plastic ones there's not a recycling solution  as of yet. Presently this is not good for landfills and our environment.

Maybe you use the Keurig system at home.  (over 6% of you do these days in the US!) The food matter and plastic material used after a brew aren't compatible with recycling centers apparently, nor are they fully and truly compostable (yet!).  At least as a stop-gap measure, now you can take matters in your own hands literally and repack your k-cups yourself with the coffee you love most using the reusable metal foil lid.  One very bright spot is the debut of paper based delivery cups for the Celestial Seasooning GPublish Postreen Tea released earlier this fall.  Perhaps it's the shape of things to come.  But for now the vast majority of their product is made of plastic which is why reusing them with lids from companies like Krewlids is an interesting alternative to tossing them in the garbage.

It's an interesting idea.  However, you can also use the Keurig reusable cup as well, it's called My K-Cup and it's available for $17.95 from Keurig.  The reality of packing your own is you actually have to handle coffee.  Remember when you used to pour coffee grounds into white coffee filters after you ground up your coffee beans?

You can go down memory lane and recreate that experience every day and get a little closer to your food and its production.  Nothing is better than the smell of fresh ground coffee beans.  It's what I remember most fondly about the original Green Mountain Coffee Roasters retail coffee shops around Vermont where I grew up as a kid.  The sounds and smell of freshly roasted and ground coffee.  Wow!  It was dark and majestic in its olfactory wonder! But maybe not realistic to fully return to.  But it was a lot of work and it took time.

The Challenges of Convenience
Perhaps what's most unique about the Keurig Single cup brewing systems is how easy it is to use them and their overall convenience.   Like anything in life there's something gained and something lost with the onset of technological progress and convenience.  In our time starved world your  schedule wins in the ease of how well you make coffee one cup at a time.  You lose with not seeing, feeling the reality of interacting with your food and the time it takes to make a good cup of joe.  Losing sight of where your food comes from lessens ultimately our humanity I think.  Our environment ultimately loses with the burden of all that plastic sitting in landfills.

Inventing a Lifecycle Process
I wonder if GMCR could buy Kbrewlids.com or companies like this and bring this sort of idea into their product lifecycle?  Building on that, I have a design and production challenge for GMCR product development specialists and marketers, why not borrow from the Netflix DVD play and return "playbook" and enhance the Keurig Single Serve user experience by designing a continuous loop into the buying, recycling and reusing process?  Customer loyalty and excitement is a key ingredient of why GMCR is so successful already and this would build upon that sustainability platform reinforcing positive good for the environment behavior.

If you want to pull those three billion plus K-cups out of the waste stream, why not develop a system developing beautiful and durable reusable k-cup box packaging with return shipping paid for by GMCR to make it easy to send your empty K-cups back to a regional manufacturing facility?  There they could be reprocessed and sent to factories for reuse in the manufacturing process with the K-cups given a second, third and even more lease on life?  Maybe if landfills charged for K-Cup disposal this would add incentive to shifting consumer and corporate behavior towards reuse.

Implementation of a Lifecycle Process
It could be built into the pricing.  Already, we're paying a premium for our pre-packaged K-cups.  Trust me you don't want to compare the cost per serving of traditional coffee brewed from a pot and K-cups.  K-cups are maybe competitive with buying coffee at coffee houses on the way to and from work, but not with brewing coffee at home.

While, you're paying a lot for the convenience already, the hidden costs are the elephant in the room.  The hidden environmental costs of having all of that waste plastic around afterwards for generations and the petroleum it takes to make them in the beginning is an aspect not often discussed.  Imagine trying to calculate the physical volume of the 3 billion estimated K-Cups to be produced next year and the impact on the environment, landfills and the amount of Oil?  Given how much air there would be between each piled K-Cup a cubic foot of them wouldn't contain as many as you might think.  It can't be good.

I know this lifecyle idea would add tons of complication to manufacturing and processing, reprocessing and maybe it's an impossible business idea.  But why not try?  We would only all benefit?  Not only now but for generations to come.  We're used to sending our DVD's back to Netflix or at least we did until we jumped onto the streaming Netflix bandwagon.  You can't stream coffee like you can video....at least not yet.  Another example is Toner exchange at your place of business.  It was inconceivable a generation ago but here we are doing this.

With all challenges there are opportunities to innovate  
Here it would be inventing and investing into an reuse and recycling infrastructure.  But given the market strength of Coffee Roasters I bet there would be any number of smaller companies and vendors willing to develop and provide these kind of services and help move along this reuse process.  I think GMCR has everything thing to gain and nothing really to lose in the trying.  It's either this sort of idea or figuring out how to make the cups fully compost-able and/ or recyclable.  I'm not sure which is easier.

Even if this kind of idea didn't work out I bet some other user experience innovations would result we can't even imagine!  I know it's a well overused cliche but we've figured out how to go to the moon, we can figure out to create an effective and competitive K-Cup lifecycle loop and make it a win win for all!  I want to continue to love GMCR for what it does best, make great sustainable coffee products.

In the meanwhile, using reusable lids seems like a great first step.  If I were GMCR I would figure out how to do this well and bring it into the product family.  Or other outside companies will on their behalf.  That would be a lot of coffee and market share not made by Coffeeroasters and their affiliated companies in the not to distant future.  Simultaneously I'd suggest working really hard  to roll-out the paper based (hopefully) compostable K-Cups.  It's great to start with Green Tea but let's see them used with Coffee.

I think it's a better business choice to innovate and create new markets and services while strengthening sales and reinforcing sustainable behaviors.

Sacred Places and Spaces - Some Thoughts and Distallations

Here are some thoughts and questions about the sacred gathered over the years. I'd like to share them with you in the spirit of this season of light, transformation and renewal. At the end of this post, I ask you to share a special place or space from your life in the spirit of giving.
The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 1994
  1. Why is it that when architects show sacred spaces they very rarely are buildings and places, but rather of nature and the natural?
  2. Can the sacred be profane and the profane sacred?
  3. Can a place be sacred if it is forgotten and no one cares for it?
  4. To be sacred, does it mean to be empty or convey emptiness?  Or is it about the revelation of architectural form and space experienced within time, coupled with the power of festal rituals?
  5. How important is collaboration and participation in the creation of sacred places and spaces?  What is the imprint of the actions and acts of people in formation and care taking of the sacred over time?
  6. Truly sacred places seem to revolve around essential human activities like birth, festal ceremonies, pilgrimage and burial among others.  Are there other experiences both sacred and essential not included here?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harder Working Homes - Some 2011 Home Design Trends

What does next year hold for homeowners, residential building and design professionals? Well there's good news for the remodeling side of the equation.  Not so good news yet for new residential construction of various kinds. However, in general, smaller is better with a strong focus on green and sustainable design features with better organized , downsized spaces.  Excessive square footages and volumes are diminishiing in importance, replaced with a focus on pragmatism and quality.

In a press release sent out today, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Joint Center for Housing Studies (www.jchs.harvard.edu) predicts "substantive growth in remodeling spending, coming off of a three decline, seems likely according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released today by the Remodeling Futures Program."

The indicator "estimates current quarterly and future home expenditures by homeowners."  Kermit Baker, the JCHS program director is also the AIA Chief Economist who assembles quarterly reports on the residential design and construction industry.  The AIA's recent reports also reinforce the growth in remodeling.  See the referenced AIA graph indicating how remodeling in general is strongest  out of all the residential categories tracked.  Among them remodeling kitchens and baths outpace other aspects of remodeling and alterations while other types of new residential construction countrywide remain in the negative.

Harder working homes
Homes are working harder than ever before.  With so many people going through work/life transitions, going back to school, the home office has become the most important special space followed by outdoor areas like porches, terraces and outdoor rooms, then mudrooms.  Home offices and expanded flexible use outdoor

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts for 2011_Vermont Business Leaders Networking Group and The Workplace

As December slips away many of us turn our thoughts to what 2011 will bring.  What a year we've lived through.  I won't elaborate but it's been a dynamic one, full of transition, transformation and definitely innovation.  Remember, be sure to look towards the end of this post for strategic business suggestions for 2011 relating to the high performing workplace.

This morning I participated at my first ever bricks and mortar LinkedIn networking event.  Vermont Business Leaders Networking Group, about a year old or so, routinely holds meetings hosted at member office locations. Renato Wakim of OM Workspace's Williston showroom hosted this month's gathering.  They're at new digs at 20 Wintersports lane.

CPA's,  Financial Services, Interior Designers, HR/ Organizational Design consultants, Architects, Online Retailers, Transition Planners all came together to meet and greet.  We discussed outlooks for 2011, and it was pretty positive.

Today we heard some positive economic signals with lower unemployment figures and rise in personal income among other factors.  Retailers are seeing higher levels of spending and activity this holiday season as compared to last.  Are we truly moving out of this miserable recession?  Leading economic indicators were up 1.1 %.  See Fox News article.  9 out of 10 indicators were moving in positive directions.  Mergers and acquisitions saw tremendous growth the most since 2007, 1.1 $Trillion. with signs this growth will continue into 2011.

The folks around the table seemed to think so from there position on the ground.   Although it's going fairly slowly right now, it seemed the consensus while muted now was pretty positive for 2011.

What does this mean for you and your business and industry for next year?  One area we discussed was how so many companies are sitting on piles of cash reserves built up over the last couple years and are beginning to make plans for spending, or at least considering it in 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Idea Paint - Leads to Creativity and Collaboration

What if you could paint your office walls with dryerase paint to enhance your visualizing and brainstorming at work, school at home?  I just recently learned about an innovative formaldehyde free water based paint product which does just this.  My brother Jim, an Osram Sylvania Market Manager in Lighting Controls sent me this link.  Thanks Jim!

It's called IdeaPaint.   It's a single application rolled on paint product which costs $30 for a home kit which covers 6 square feet or $60 for one which covers 20 square feet.  You can go to the website to learn more about installation, costs and where to buy.

Whether you paint your office walls, your menu board overhead of checkout, worktable surface or your creative studio here's an interesting way to leverage individual and team creativity.  There are galleries on the website which show uses in offices, schools and the home with plenty of ideas on how and where to use it.  

I can see applications for this for businesses which promote an innovative work culture and community valuing visual thinking, brainstorming and organizational transparency.  What a great way to cultivate a creative minded and acting work community.  And for kids, watch out! I can see elementary schools eating this paint product up applying on kids desk and tables, walls instead of blackboards etc. What fun!

Cre-8 is their product which costs $175 per kit and covers 50 square feet.  It comes in 8 standard colors.  It's not just white, but light green, an orange, beige, offwhite among others.  So it can be coordinated with interior color palettes a bit more flexibly.  

It's also environmentally friendly having achieved Greenguard certification.   It's PTPA tested as well.  It received a best of NEOCON award as well!

I haven't personally tested this yet but I will ask Santa for a test kit to try out.  I have a perfect place in mind in my home office!  Or better yet, my son's new desk we made.  I bet he may like to draw on his desk and illustrate it with his crazy pokemon characters.  Watch out Picasso!


  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Importance of Family, Thanksgiving and Skype

During special times of year like Thanksgiving, it's really great to bring family together to celebrate.  It's a time where it's really clear how much there is to be grateful for, the special people in our lives.  How it's critical to live in the moment, for the moment!

Thanksgiving is also very powerful because it's not really religious and it's apolitical, at least for me.  So many of the other holidays resonate with heavier baggage in those areas.  That's why I truly love Thanksgiving!  An example, tonight, we skyped at a family gathering with a niece, daughter, cousin on a semester abroad in Greece.  What a feeling of togetherness to reach out across the digital divide and connect, to see one another and hear each other's stories and catch up with one another. I am grateful for living in a time and place where this is possible.

To bring the very far away to be very close.

It's a phenomena, while I don't understand fully it's ramifications, I'm comfortable knowing that at least tonight it helped bring my family closer together.  What it's long term effects are unclear but I don't care right now.  I'm just excited this is possible today and my niece is a little less lonely in her faraway location.

I sense also, this application of Skyping will permeate our collective work future in ways we can't foresee in ways similar to how it's transforming our personal interactions with family and friends.  What do you think?  Do you have any stories like this to share?  Please let me know!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Green Innovation - Look to Existing Technologies, Products & Services



Stream - Rumney, Vermont. 2010
I was reading the HBR blog, The Conversation this morning and found a great post, "A New Approach to Green Tech Opportunities".  The authors Marc Gruber, James Thompson and Ian MacMillan offer a surprisingly simple yet powerful suggestion for companies and entrepreneurs seeking to come into the "Green Space".  They suggest instead of spending untold resources on R&D on innovating new ideas, products services look first at what your company is already doing for kernels of possibilities.  "Our studies of several hundred technological innovations tell us that we can benefit hugely if we stop equating innovation with new R&D effort, and instead revisit the buried potential of already existing technologies. "

So examine fallow technologies which perhaps dormant now could with a little brainstorming and outside the box thinking, be reapplied in an environmentally beneficial manner, helping both your bottom line and be a positive contribution to the sustainability conversation. If you think about it, following this course also conserves resources beyond time and money already invested in past offerings.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dream Pre Fab Home

Color Rendering  - South Elevation
Over the last few months I've been developing an idealized pre-fab ready small home.  Architects and designers are always designing their ideal home, that rustic retreat we've always wanted.

Of course, this exercise was also an excuse to do a couple of other things. First, was to provide a southward tilting roof for possible solar electric PV's to contribute towards a low energy or net zero use footprint.  The home is sited due south to maximize solar orientation for passive solar heating within the home and solar energy generation.   Second, to keep the

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Generations Together in The Workplace

This is a work in progress diagram I created with Google Docs Drawing tools.  It's purpose is to provide a three-dimensional view of the generational forces at work in today's workplace.  

Together, they cultivate a powerful and fertile ground for innovation and inspiration.  By using the big picture experience of the Vets and ever changing Boomers in combination with the action oriented, meaning seeking techy Gen Xr's and Millenials, creative ideas and innovative services can be rolled out.  By leveraging the strengths of these generations together better business can happen.

The same goes for workplace design and working together.  Recognize the various age groups in your workplace have different needs based on their business and cultural background which may or may not impact their expectations about their work setting.  For older more experienced workers you'll likely find they're used to working in closed offices or higher paneled workstations.  They've grown up in a world where the status of having those offices matter as well as their quiet spaces for focused work.  But they look out of their offices in wonder at the 20 somethings working with three displays, smartphones.

The in between workers see things a little more fluidly, haven grown more used to working out in the open and sharing meeting rooms and other common areas.  They like the idea of private offices but I think they might wonder if they would miss collaboration opportunities in the open work areas with their other team mates.  Millenials don't understand or want private offices, just give them sound cancelling headphone, instant messaging and comfortable open work stations or work areas where they have close connection with others.  They also understand social and professional media in ways the Gen Xer's and Boomers don't.  To be effective business people they need each other.  Boomers can mentor Millenials about career and work execution while the Millenials can mentor Boomers on uses of Social Media to bring ideas to market.  Gen Xer's are in between the others directing project work and keeping everybody and everything going.   Of course its important to not generalize too much as one aspect of the human condition is our ability to adapt and change to new technologies and work strategies.  Evolving is what we do!

By accommodating the various work styles of these generations with different workspace choices I think better work can happen.  By providing a variety of workspaces such as some private offices, small to large conference rooms, hotelling spaces, camp circle areas, focused team/ individual rooms and open work areas communities,  common cafe's, libraries, workout and wellness spaces healthy organizations can be cultivated and sustained, strengths can be leveraged, collaboration can happen.  Next time a conflict arises between different team members from different generations, dig deep together, resist being too stubborn and seek out the root cause of dissatisfaction.   Within it likely is the kernel of a new business and organizational process which could lead to innovation and higher performance.  Just be willing to listen and learn from each other!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Coffeeshop Design and Workshifting

I've noticed recently when spending extended periods of time at coffee shops doing work of various kinds the difficulties of staying focused with all of the acoustical distractions.

I avoid going to certain coffee shops because of their poor acoustics and lack of variety of casual seating options.  Usually there is a scattering of tables and loose chairs and coffeetables, easy chairs but there isn't much variation in regards to openness versus privacy, lively versus quiet spaces.  I find making calls very frustrating  with the barista machines sucking and whirring, people chatting and registers ringing.  Usually the floor, walls and ceilings have extremely hard, durable and cooling looking surfaces.  Then there's the sound systems pumping the sounds of the week echoing through the space.  Great for keeping the shop clean, maintaining a crisp appearance but not so great from an acoustics standpoint.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Can you hear me?   Didn't think so. What were you saying again?

The Power of Visuals on Private Sector Employment, A prime-time message which didn't

Regardless of your politics, it's interesting the powerful message of this graph never made it to prime-time somehow.  Maybe I missed it, but nobody was talking about the big picture of this bell-curve and the trend it seems to indicate.  

I include it here because it's a simple, well designed graphic illustrating a series of facts, here fairly convincingly shown.  It's baffling how underutilized this message was, but oh well.  Maybe we can all take solace that the economic situation while still grim in a sense is a bit more positive than in the last quarter of 2008.  Perhaps we can put that time behind us and focus instead on the future, trying to get back to business. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Workspring and the benefits of Third Places


Last summer while attending NEOCON 2010 in Chicago I visited Workspring just a few blocks away from the Merchandise Mart.  Prior to visiting I had been talking on and off with Mark Greiner Workspring's General Manager and the Chief Experience Officer (CXO),Steelcase Inc. and a Senior VP. 
 Entry looking into reception area 
He told me how the business developed out of an idea he and a group of  others at Steelcase's Workplace Futures consulting group had, how they found support within Steelcase and Venture Capital funding to build a functioning prototype of research work to test ideas on the value of collaborative work experiences in and  off-site from traditional workplaces.  As Mark and others I've met at Workplace Futures have said, this projects comes out the Steelcase business ethos of Understand, Observe, Synthesize, Realize, Prototype and Measure.   The purpose of the space, equipment and people providing services there are to assist businesses in having memorable and valuable collaboration experiences bettering their organization.  The space has been online for over two years now and the positive reviews are coming in as seen from customer testimonials on the website.

I'd missed seeing it the year before and wanted very much to see Workspring, "a high-performance for fee work experience".  Or saying it another way, a "Third place" to hold collaborative off-site meetings whether for an intimate group of 2 or 3, a large geographically dispersed project team working on rolling out a new product or service, or renting the whole space for a large multi-faceted multi-day work experiences. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Supporting Clean Energy_A Vermont Perspective

Here's a video I posted to the RePower America Wall about supporting Clean Energy. Like I said in the video below I see here in Vermont all around me communities shifting away from dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil to renewable, clean sources.  Shifting towards cleaner sources both benefits our local environment and promotes green jobs in our local communities.  Many Vermont companies now manufacture, install and consult on bringing clean energy, whether solar, wind, geothermal, biomass into Vermont homes, businesses and institutions.  By doing so we ensure a more stable and sustainable way of life for generations to come.
For more information about the impact of renewable energy here in Vermont I urge you to click on this link to the Renewable Energy Vermont website and it's sister entity, Efficiency Vermont, an energy efficiency utility working to bring energy efficiency and conservation deeper into households and businesses around our small state.  Another resource is the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, an organization dedicated to shifting Vermont towards clean energy and green jobs.  
What's great about Vermont is while we may be small, we have big ideas and a track record others can learn from on their journey towards shifting away from fossil fuel dependence towards clean energy and building stronger local communities.  Check us out for best practices on how to do this.  Contact me if you'd  like more information from any of these resources or if you're considering adding renewable energy sources to your building project.  I can help or if not, I will find someone who can.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Spirals and Gravel

I am a fan of sacred places and spaces.  Sometimes they are fueled by movement of the body in some kind of ritual.

Here, I explored making a spiral in a bed of gravel at a friends home. While it wasn't an exactly religious experience per se. starting out at the center and walking in a tightly spiraling path outward was both meditative and rhythmic.  Not to mention a little dizzying.

While temporary, the completed spiraling form had a beauty and appeal about it.  A few days later, it dissolved in the storm runoff from our recent heavy rainstorms.  Largely a figment of my body memory, I do pleasantly I remember the flowing feel of walking in the heavy gravel, the stones giving way beneath my feet making crunchy noises as I made my spiral shape.  What was really neat was how the low afternoon sun grazed the ridge and gullies, amplifying shape and form.  The photo captures the essence of the light and is a reminder of how fleeting such experiences truly are.

The act of turning in circles like this has a name, circumambulation.  Whether its a pilgrimage around a holy mountain, a religious monument or a May pole, the act of circling around is a primordial aspect of our lives.  The experience of being in the gravel reinforced this greater message in an aspiritual way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Vermont Perspective of the High Performance Workplace


Often times people ask what does designcultivation have to do with workplace design?  While it's the name of this blog I propose it's the also the act of cultivating awareness about unfamiliar aspects, information, best practices about designing and operating the high performance workplace. 


Many of us have experienced short-lived trends in workplace design buffeted more by the winds of fashion or onset of new products rather than focusing on what matters most, creating the high performing organization of which the physical workplace is merely a reflection.  It's not about the equipment and gadgets, how high or how low your panels are.  It's about leveraging the DNA of a company, its organizational mission, values and goals into its physical setting.  This helps to maximize the value and promise of its primary asset, its people and the workplace community they share together.

Because I live in Vermont with early adopters of corporate social responsibility like Ben & Jerry's, Chroma Technology, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Green Mountain Power, King Arthur Flour, Magic Hat Brewery, Main Street Landing, National Life of  VermontNRG Systems and Seventh Generation to name a few, I've come to realize building great companies is more than just building a great bottom line.  It's about people, planet and profits together.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class-Action Suit - BuildingGreen.com

USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class-Action Suit - BuildingGreen.com

Check out this interesting article which gets to the core of the challenge we all face in the rise in popularity and promise of Green Building. Achieving a culture of transperancy is critical to the continued success of the USGBC's LEED building rating systems. This lawsuit illuminates the core issue at stake with the green building process, is the LEED brand a proven path to energy savings and resource conservation? Or is something else going on? Thanks to Building Green for letting us know about this lawsuit and providing helpful background information. We'll wait to see how this plays out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Passive Haus in Central Vermont

Today I saw a link to this video from the New York Times site showcasing an unusual super insulated and hyper efficient home requiring no heating systems in the lovely hills of central Vermont where I live. 

The Landau family engaged a local architectural, engineering and building team to design, produce and install their home on its site to a levels of extraordinary energy efficiency and air-tightness requiring no internal heating system at all.  The family was very interested in living in a home with zero energy use to not rely upon fossil fuels. 

Their home is modeled on the European Passiv Haus model now becoming more known in the US.  There is a US Passive Haus institute, an affiliate of the original in Germany. For more projects in the US, please click this link.

Bensonwood homes, one of the building team members produced and installed the exterior building envelope including frame, walls and roof systems.  They're just over the border in nearby New Hampshire.  They are on the forefront of integrating super-high performance building design into CAD CAM aided panelized production of building elements assembled together onto the site.  It's a novel approach to construction and design build which results into more control over the building process and higher quality control with apparently minor additional costs to the project.   

A take away for me is that it is possible to design and build these kinds of homes in the chilly world of the Northeastern US.  The capabilities exist practically in our back yard.

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The original link to me to this great video is courtesy of Greg Howes from the LinkedIn Group"Net Zero Building" of which I belong as well.  Greg is CEO of ideaBuilder.com



 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Actress Ellen Page for 350.org's Global Work Party on 10/10/10

Please check out Ellen Page below, the actress from the movies Juno and Inception sharing her thoughts about joining together in 350.org's global day of action. It's the weekend after next and there's plenty of work to do to high-light positive examples working to solve or mitigate the effects of climate change and global warming. Thanks!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Promise of Green Manufacturing

When you think of green building design how often do you think of manufacturing buildings?  We hear and read about like schools, office buildings, environmental centers much more often than we do manufacturing facilities.  McGraw Hill Construction which tracks the construction industry found that today green building comprises roughly 30 percent of the market where in 2005 it had 2 percent.  This growth in market share shows the definite traction in the marketplace which now exists and will likely continue.  I especially see lots of potential and need for growth in the manufacturing and the consumer products, and retail sectors given the rise of corporate responsibility and accountability driven by better educated consumers and demanding company stakeholders.  Frankly, in these sectors, a lot of energy and resources are wasted or ineffectively used.  It seems to be a no-brainer and good business sense to find ways to more effectively manufacture, distribute and bring products to market, and if our planet can be cleaned up and our environment improved all the better!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Plastic to Oil Fantastic OW2.0

A LinkedIn contact sent this to me today, Tom Hackett an Architect from Tom Hackett Architectural and Environmental Design. It's a video showing Ako Ikonari CEO of Blest Company. His team has invented a way to turn waste plastic into oil with a small machine which processes plastic bags, bottles, wrappers into oil which can further be refined into various fuel sources. This potentially can help reduce CO2 and lessen the impacts of global warming. Ako's on a crusade to show the world you take waste plastic and converting it back to oil and obviously being helpful in the generational fight to halt global warming. Seeing is believing in this one!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Christo is Coming to Burlington, VT

View of the Gates in Central Park
The artist Christo has an exhibit at the Fleming Museum one of my favorite places in Burlington.  It's called "Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Tom Golden Collection" opening 9/21 and going through 12/18/10.   It's a collection of mixed media works assembled by Tom Golden who worked on and off with them for years.

Detail of the Fabric Hanging from "The Gates"
The last time I experienced a project by them was the Central Park project, called "The Gates" a series of curtains and gateways planted in a very interesting manner along paths and walks near reflecting ponds. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Architecture Biennale_Rem Koolhaas on History and OMA's exhibit

I had the pleasure of viewing this short interview of Rem Koolhaas held recently at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. He talks about the work of OMA and their relationship / dialogue with history in their projects. Over OMA's long history of built and built work they've consistently been in constant dialogue about what it means to be of the present while relating to the past. So often their projects offer truly remarkable reinterpretations of spatial experiences, programming and functioning of spaces. The results are works which leave you with a sense of wonder and intrigue.

There's also an interesting exhibit about life beyond Architecture called

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The sins of regurgitation and the art of rearranging

Do you ever say to yourself, "Wow, I should blog about this or maybe I should tweet this!"  You know, the moment of recognition, the aha you feel when you read, see, hear something worth sharing?  You turn to your left and no one's there, but you wish you could tell someone?  That's what it's like to participate in blogging and sometimes in the act of not blogging.  Why is this distinction worth sharing? 

Sometimes it's more important to really read that interesting blog post, article, magazine piece, explore that link and

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Slow Green, an antidote to unrealistic expectations?

Reflecting over the Labor day weekend here in the U.S., hearing all of the recent unemployment numbers, all the debate about are we or aren't we still in a recession, when will these endless wars we keep fighting end?  How can we be optimistic for our children during such challenging times?  As a Green architect and design thinker I sit here a bit broken hearted about how the Green Movement seems to be stalled in effecting positive change, helping to right this unstable economy and get America back to work etc.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Re-evaluate your driveway and consider Greener Options

Ever consider tearing up your driveway and replacing it with a "Greener" choice? I do every day I drive into mine.  Perhaps you live in cold wintry climate or dry hot climate.  Here's a few ideas which predominantly suggest examine your driving behavior and parking needs, then lead to material selection.

One thing to consider regardless of the material you choose is assess how much parking lot area you truly need.  I bought a house in Vermont with my wife with a very wide and lengthy driveway which when the kids grow up I'd love to make smaller. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lomophotography, a New Craze?

Check out the images which can be crafted from these funky Russian cameras using negative film.  It's called the Lomo Kompakt Automat 

It produces very interesting images. Check out this blog post.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

LEED Gold TI Manufacturing Facility

Check out this LEED Gold manufacturing and office facility in the Phillipines. It shows you can bring verifiable sustainable design and energy use reduction to hot humid climates to off all building type, the semi-conductor manufacturing facility. Read on Corporate Citizenship Report - News - TI's Philippines facility awarded LEED® Gold certification News

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Inner Game of Creativity Part 1: Embracing Your Creative Genius

The Inner Game of Creativity Part 1: Embracing Your Creative Genius Really interesting article on the nature of creativity, how it's defined and some prevailing issues in organizations regarding fostering creativity. I especially liked the definition of being anxious about creativity that the authors even identified a syndrome called CTPA or "creative thinking performance anxiety". I can't tell you how many people I run into that share some level of anxiety about not being "creative", can't draw or think outside the box etc. If we could just channel the fearless inner 1st grader in all of us who just barrel into design and art projects with no hang-ups. They just "do" or "make stuff", and it's generally beautiful.

Anyway, read on and enjoy learning about what it means to cultivate a sense of creativity, whether it's for personal needs or in the workplace. That's what design cultivation is all about!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vt. gas station gives back - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. gas station gives back - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports- Check out this local gem in Waitsfield, VT. Troy the owner wants to start changing the world one customer at a time. Wish him luck and better, visit his gas station and convenience store to learn more about his good work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some NEOCON 2010 Highlights

Experiencing NEOCON 2010 World Trade Fair is like no other. With its size you can only see a small portion of the showrooms, attend a smattering of educational seminars and industry events in any one year. It’s been a few weeks since I went and I am only now realizing its impact. The spirit of invention and purposeful design sprinkled with the infectious energy of innovators in design thinking and services struck me most strongly. There was an upbeat mood as well with many whom I met saying business was not as bad as last year, one of the worst of a generation. A quiet determined optimism pervaded NEOCON.

Fostering collaboration and creating high performance high value workspaces is a reoccurring theme today. This year really energized me with its emphasis on open shared informal workplace furnishings and equipment. Smart European themed compact, low, horizontal / linear workstations with open collegiality were the norm. 120 degree stations were noticeably absent as were panels of any kind. Hard, reflective surfaces with metals and woods combined with white melamine reigned in many showrooms. I was really jazzed by KI’s showroom for its creative installation of a wide variety of workspace strategies. There were open cafĂ© like areas adjacent to workstations with great access to nearby fully enclosed conference and task specific rooms. It was an unexpected find but very creatively executed. It would be one of the showrooms I would take a client to help them visualize various workplace configurations.

The Steelcase, Herman Miller and Knoll Showrooms were compelling with gradations of workplace solutions on display in mocked up variations as well. I met there with Dan Chong who directs Steelcase's collaboration with the A&D community and others.  I also had the oppourtunity to see WorkSpring a collaboration / meeting space laboratory a few blocks away from the Mart.  I'll write about that in a later post.  I especially enjoyed Steelcase’s HD video conferencing solution with one installation in a more straight ahead office environment combined with it’s Mediascape solution linked with a nearby more informal lounge like meeting space also using the Mediascape product. Steelcase also rolled out a new school chair called Node which looked a cross between metal bar stool resting a on a round shelf on wheels. It reminded me of a cross-trainer shoe for the classroom and that’s a deep compliment. Evidently the chair was borne of a research driven effort examining how students actually interacted in classrooms and used their chairs. 

Students moved around organically in their chair with their backpacks scattered on floors. This chair provides a place to store bags and backpacks below the seat and its wheels promote casual interactions and shifting collaborations. It is a little unusual looking though. I have to wonder whether this innovation will lead to further offspring in the coming years.

Herman Miller had markable screens surrounding their spirited “Ball Chairs” which reinforced the collaborative theme. Their Conivia energy and workplace management system also seems to have been more fully integrated into a desktop monitoring solution making it easy from a user’s perspective to control their workspace. Like Steelcase and KI, Herman Miller also had a full range of open to closed workspaces to tour. Their showroom ceiling was especially inspiring with it’s organic curving open ceiling system which created a really light and luminous visual effect. I was able to meet with Paul Murray their Director of Environmental Health and Safety. He shared with me Herman Miller’s recent action and commitment to get to zero over the next ten years. Zero hazardous waste generation. Zero VOC emissions in the air. Zero process water emission by 2020. They also had a very helpful visualizing tool, really a video which showed how the same furniture could be recombined and configured in multiple workspace configurations. This plainly helped make the case for the value of systems furniture as a long term investment with lots of future flexibility, all depending on the creativity of the users and their designers ability to react to changing workspace demands. I also met with a director of their affiliate Systems Furniture refurbishing program called ReVest as part of that conversation, giving second and third lives Herman Miller Systems, mainly to non-profits. It was a great story.

Any survey of NEOCON is inherently incomplete which is why it’s helpful to return another year for more.  In later posts I'll write about a few of the seminars I attended and speakers I met.  The quest for cultivating design continues!

Note: Node chair image courtesy of Steelcase Inc.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NEOCON 2010 - "Harder Working Spaces"

"Harder Working Spaces" to paraphrase from the 360 Magazine handed out at this year's annual NEOCON World Trade Fair, held at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, June 14-16, aptly sums up the vibe of this year's event.  People I meet here speak of last year as one of the worst in recent memory for the contract furnishings industry modeling much of what the greater A&D community experienced as well.  
  
With the belt tightening contractions of the last two years, therefinally seems to be a slight economic uptick, more like a steadily growing heart beat now.  The word on the trade show floor is one of cautious calculated optimism.  
At the front of Steelcase's introduction to its 2010 offerings in the 360 magazine it identifies what we already know organizations are working harder today doing more with less resources, employees working longer hours and wearing many different kinds of hats. "The agile organization must be both lean and creative."  (paraphrased) With a renewed emphasis on workplace flexibility and adaptability.  We must provide building and interior design solutions which work harder than ever for our clients and deliver value to them both in the short and long term.  Doing more with less.

Steelcase won one of two silver awards for the Best of NEOCON products 2010 with it's new FlexFrame™ workwall in the Files & Storage category which aligns with the harder working workspace theme.  

I saw FlexFrame in their showroom.  It has sleek lines and is really a wall hung tasking and storage solution for the downsized offices that is the norm today.  It has novel frame based wall system with integrated cantilvered work surfaces and very flexible, nearly invisible file and box storage below the task area.   It helps to maximize small office spaces by neatly organizing essential functions along one wall.  It has strong horizontal lines and a simple straightforward appearance.

It's just one example of many innovative task area officing solutions you can see here which align with the "Harder Working Spaces" more with less.  Ideas like this support the drive to high performing workplaces which help maximize all of the resources available to the energized learning organization.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Importance of Green Buildings and LEED

I'm inspired by how far the Green Building movement has come over the last 20 years, and yet I know how much further we have to go in furthering substantial and lasting change in our behaviors and our built environment. Practically all of the commercial and institutional buildings I've worked on at Maclay Architects are working with the LEED standards systems and for the most part going through with certification at inspiringly high levels.

But we've also come to see LEED not as the end point, but the means to a better more effective end (or is it just the beginning?) for us all, in terms of using our building sites better, managing their water and energy use and taking care to use healthy and durable materials in their construction while creating a superlative interior environment. The sum is indeed greater than the parts!

*This post references Maclay Architects, which I am involved with in a professional capacity.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

(Slow) Green

Awareness of our actions and consequences
We are awakening at last
Reading and seeing catastrophic oily substances surrounds us on the news
Chocking shorelines, habitats, livelihoods and communities
Illuminating our dependence upon oil and other fossil fuels
Revealing tragic vulnerabilities
Intensifying resolve to change behaviors
To finally make a difference
Stemming from another time and place
A different set of rules and natural patterns
No longer valid or reliable
Instead a changed world behaves unexpectedly

The idea of growth for growth's sake so anachronistic
Replaced by the need to think smaller, leaner and self-sufficient
Embracing a changed natural world
A difficult sickened place needing productive cultivation
A multi-generational effort awaits, so daunting
Achievable if together we set one foot in front of another
Beginning on the slow journey to a sustainable future

No longer just a few, but now a motivated many.

Spirals Break Away

Wandering currents swirling
Caressing solids granite masses
Intertwining together in chilly and warm sensation
Burbling patter rhythmically appealing
Lulling sounds of watery delight
Blending with clicking cicadas and cawing crows
Loamy soil wafting hints of wildflowers
Slippery stones with mossy overgrowth tickle my chilly toes
Cool undercurrent relieving my ankles

Strong summery sun warming my forehead
Rivulets of water running down my brow
Riverside boulders and brush sharply cut by shadows
Reflecting in the shimmering, glassy surface
An alter ego completing its opposite
Together both create the whole
Unifying them into a singular presence

A fleeting glimpse of perfection

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Small steps with big impacts to improve your home and your wellbeing

I recently read an interesting article in the recent April issue of Money called "Get the Most Out of Your Home" written by Elizabeth Fenner, Assistant Managing Editor at Money Magazine.

Fenner writes about the rising importance of evidence based design on shaping how we think about remodeling our homes.  As she explains, it's research "backed by science that studies the effects of built spaces on our brains and our bodies- indicate that neither tons of space nor high-end furnishings are keys to home satisfaction."

For the article, Money Magazine and Lowes jointly funded an online survey in 2009 where 2,240 Americans aged 25 to 69 who own a single family free standing house which provides a good deal of the information shared in the article.  The article covers improvements which can be made in every room of the house which can improve homeowner satisfaction and a sense of wellness. (As well as help with possible resale value).  It doesn't cover much about the energy efficiency measures and using sustainable, environmentally friendly materials in any remodeling work.  Let's just say that's an untapped aspect of this article.

Some article highlights: ( I'll cover only the living room and kitchen to spark your curiosity....to learn about the recommendations for other rooms of the house go to your local library or order a back issue) 


Many of the suggestions ring true as good solid design strategies, while some are new to me and are worth further thought.

Living Room:

  • Paint your walls soft yellow, this apparently helps make the living room more animated and comfortable to be in. (We have have soft yellow walls in our house.  My wife and I smiled when we heard this recommendation)
  • Put your sofa in the right spot with a view to the door and through windows hopefully with scenes of nature of some sort.
  • Build window seats to create social nooks.
  • Add shelves to organize your chaos more neatly.
  • Hide the TV within built-ins so you don't focus on it. Let the sun, drop the drapes or curtains.
  • Open up your dropped ceiling.  It's more dynamic and creative.

Kitchen:

  • Install a center island with built-in cook top.  We like having social connection to the rest of the room, not having our backs to people etc.
  • Put your sink under a window or at least have a picture of nature and or a mirror if you can't over the sink.
  • Use a variety of light fixtures to highlight counter work surfaces and the island.  Not just a single light fixture overhead for everything.
  • Paint the walls a cool color.  Apparently this well help psychologically turn the down the room temperature a little bit by fooling the mind.
To help with gathering some of her insights, Fenner wrote about a the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, a group which joins research scientists and design folks together to further efforts in evidenced based design and research.  So often design can seem extremely subjective.  It's hard to pin down and agree on what are indeed effective and sound design strategies when remodeling or designing homes or in other areas of architectural design. Thus identifying more objective ways to describe and study design sounds great to me. Peruse their resources pages for more insight on the ideas behind design driven research and research driven design. 

Meanwhile, dig deeper into this article and maybe stir yourself into action leading to some big impacts on your home without breaking the bank.  For more information on energy efficiency and conservation turn to my friends at Efficiency Vermont and it's residential home team.  They have some very helpful Q&A with tips on everything to do with your home and shifting towards more green behaviors.  Enjoy these resources.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Link to USGBC LEED Platinum Buildings

I was looking for a way to see all of the current LEED platinum rated buildings in all in once place.  I found a blog from a progressive green oriented residential community in Portland, Oregon called Cyan PDX which has a great list with images, project links and a brief project overview with highlights.  


Please check it out and use it as a resource.  It's really helpful for those in the design community to see these buildings all in one place.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Barre Granite Inspiration


I visited a local granite quarry in the Graniteville area outside of Barre a number of weeks ago right when the snow was finally melting.

I really appreciated the dark and light striations along with the ice sheets in the quarry image.  Fantastic patterning. The force it must have taken to separate the stone block from the mountain!

The closeup of a recently quarried large stone block received grazing sunlight to really expose all of the rough edge variations.  It's a visual feast of texture. Both images inspire on many dimensions.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cape Wind Gets Approval from the Federal Government

I read today in my local paper the Cape Wind Project gained approval from the Feds to proceed off Cape Cod. I understand there was immediate threats of lawsuits and further action. I hope this gets sorted out and this project can proceed. My guess, if this can happen, it will be helpful for other projects where clean energy, aesthetics, passion and a myriad of other issues come together. Of course, as they say in tight competitons, it's not over until it's over. Read more about it at CNET. Let me know what you think about this decision. See also the newscast found on YouTube.

It resonates close to home for me as I live in Vermont amidst a beautiful, scenic landscape with many oppourtunities for wind and solar energy and lots of challenges as well. All I want is to retain the historic, quirky character of this wonderful state while keeping our eyes and minds open to the realities of needing to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and see alternatives in the clean energy economy. I'm not sure how to get it done but examples like Cape Wind at least offers hope the conversation is continuing to the next step. This I believe benefits us all.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Downsizing Options_The Real Goods Solar Home

What kind of house can you afford when you retire and want to have more predictability in your monthly expenses when living on a fixed income? Do you remain in your rambling family home with its many bedrooms to be used by your now adult children and their family only occasionally? Do you really need that 3,000 or 4,000 square foot home any more? Can you afford to heat it when you can't predict what fuel oil, natural gas or propane will cost next year or five years from now?

A strategy many empty-nesters often consider is downsizing perhaps to an efficiently laid out 1 to 2 bedroom cottage like home. One way to make your monthly expenses more predictable is to yes move to a smaller home but on top of that consider a small highly energy efficient green home, whether built new or gently used and renovated to green standards helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. By moving up to small you will help your bottom line over the long term. Another aspect of this is moving from car dominated suburbs to the more pedestrian oriented communities. Having access to downtowns with their mix of services, people and resources is kinder to environment as well and often goes hand in hand with other strong communities.

One company filling this need for a small, affordable built new modular or plan home is Real Goods Solar Living from Boulder Colorado. As well as offering renewable energy systems for homeowners to add to their homes it now offers a solar kit home which comes in 1 and 2 bedroom sizes with various Solar electric system options, whether on the grid or off the grid. It also offer energy star appliances and an option for a composting toilet along with low-water use fixtures. The homes offer single level living within an extremely compact floor plan, essentially a 27' x 40' box. You can view more about their offerings at the product ordering part of the site. You can order it systems built which I understand as being modularized into distinct field assembled components or you can order architectural plans to modify with your own architect and builder.
From my perspective, The Real Goods Solar Home solution offers a great choice for homeowners looking to downsize, or build a first home with plans for future additions etc. Many companies offer this kind of solution like this though and I'll mention them in future posts. However, when considering buying a home like this it is important to examine the details. One area which concerns me is making sure to optimize or right size the level of building insulation, heating system and specifying the right amount of PV's to fill your solar electric and solar hot water needs.

I feel the level of insulation in the Real Goods home doesn't go far enough. The R-21 walls, R-49 ceiling and code compliant flooring insulation might be great for Colorado but they don't really help homeowners in colder climates like ours in the Northeast. In comparison other's such as Building Science Corporation recommend higher levels of insulation to further lower energy loads. See the Building Science Corporation's website for their recommendations and a little more about the European Passiv Haus an even more super insulated home concept.

"The Typical BSC low-energy home uses a minimum of r-5 (U=0.2) windows (triple glazed, low-e, warm edge spacers), R-10 sub slab insulation, and R-20 wall insulation in a conditioned basement, R-40 above-grade walls and R-60 ceilings (The "5/10/20/40/60" approach)." Both the BSC Low-Energy House and the Passiv Haus have higher insulation standards the Real Goods Solar Home, especially relevant in the cold climate region of the northeastern US. Perhaps the Real Goods folks could offer a Version 2.0 for our climate up here in Vermont.

From a practical viewpoint, installing more insulation further reduces the size of the heating system needed and the amount of PV's to provide solar electricity and hot water. PV's are expensive equipment to buy whether building new or renovating. Adding insulation isn't terribly glamorous and while largely invisible it is a more affordable choice helping to lower overall energy costs to the homeowner and optimize building systems and hopefully reduce first costs of construction and equipment. This process is called integrated building design. It takes collaboration and a willingness to work together to achieve homeowner's goals.

Please be aware buying a set of plans to build your own or a systems built home to assemble on site is only part of the story. Real Goods provides a online brochure which points out the home will generally cost up to $200,000 before purchasing land. But be wary of focusing too closely on this amount as every homeowner's situation is highly variable.

See http://www.realgoods.com/text/RG_Solarhouse_Info.pdf. The brochure identifies all of the other variables which go into building a new home, especially this kind of home. No kidding, there is a ton of complexity in building a low-energy renewably powered home. This complexity is the reason why it's important to work with an architect and a builder and their team of sub-contractors and consultants. It will pay off to you in many tangible and intangible ways.

Regardless, it is important to note how important it is for the building industry and the mainstreaming of the Green Movement to have companies like Real Goods offer the saavy green focused homeowner a turnkey concept like this with an eye to more predictable long term energy costs and reducing ecological impacts. Thanks Real Goods for offering consumers your Solar Home! And if you ask them about wanting additional insulation, I'm sure they'll at least talk with you about it.

(images are courtesy from the Real Goods Website to provide visual support to this post)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Water and renewal_On memories, architecture and biophilia

One of my favorite memories as a young man was the day I went fishing with friends in Walden, VT. We found a small trout stream and went to various places on it looking for the perfect fishing hole. It was a warm sunny summer day. The place I found vividly remains in my memory. The stream was about 10' wide and was covered in a shadowy canopy of trees offering comfort from the hot sun. You could feel the coolness of the running water and hear it burbling over rocks, fallen trees and the like. You could see trout rising to the surface nibbling on flies, rippling the water with concentric waves. After a while I lay down on my belly, setting my rod to the side and just watched and listened in a reverie of sorts. This randomly found place fully engaged my senses and feelings of wonder where at one point the hair on the back of my neck raised up in response.

Years later I have come to understand this experience as a turning point of my life and an awakening of a deep set recognition of the importance of nature and her living systems. There is even a term for it, Biophilia. EO Wilson developed a theory called the Biophilia Hypothesis, which suggests there is strong link between human beings and living systems. That there is an innate preference for things in and of nature by humans. I have come to believe there is a strong connection between harnessing natural forces and creating memorable, lasting architectural experiences. They work hand in hand to strengthen and enhance a sense of place and a lasting connection to those whom experience it. And often, quite sadly, this sense of connection is missing in our daily lives.

In the buildings and places I have been part of designing with our team and our clients we have sought to bring the out of doors indoors, bringing the kinesthetic, sensual experiences of living systems into the everyday shelter of our homes, our worklives, our places of play and community.

This stream side moment long ago was just such an experience of Biophilia. This moment of immersion speaks to the trans formative power of water and the place it has in our lives. We come from water at birth and water is fully part of our lives thereafter. This stream formed an outdoor room providing a deep sense of shelter, it activated my senses of sight, sound and touch and smell. The earthy loam of the soil, moist to the touch combined with the rough hardness of stream side stones and smell of the moss and fragrances of plants created a total kinesthetic experience. Bringing people in touch with their senses as I experienced along the stream offers a a path to follow or a potent example of biophilia to foster memorable and long-lasting experiences of place and space.

EO Wilson's Biophilia Center at Nokuse Plantation offers a nature center experience attempting to harness the theories he's developed over his career creating a physical, transcendent multi-faceted example for generations to come. Here's fourth grader's teacher's testimonial after visiting.

""Without this Center our students would not have had these chances to open their minds and spirits to nature in the most up close and spectacular ways. Just listening to their conversations sparked by these opportunities I can tell you that lives are changed. Our students are passionate about the world in which they live and for which they will, one day, be responsible. It has been a priceless time for them and one that will have far-reaching benefits for many.”

- Anna Hull, Patronis Elementary Fourth Grade Teacher

Need I say more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Green Building Advocates in Philly_Expanding Green


I read this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about green building advocates in Philly and the continuing buzz about efforts there to bring sustainability more in the forefront of doing business rather than the background. As we head further into spring and the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth day it's good news to read about the continued growth in the green movement in nearby cities and communities.

Given our Vermont perspective of small is beautiful and unique, it's important to be reminded there's a much larger world out there than what we see here in our verdant green mountains. It's large, messy and in trouble. It's easy to fall into a myopic mindset thinking and conceiving of only the scale we know here in Northern New England. It's important to expand our thinking to scales beyond our own frame of day to day understanding.

It's great to read about the large commercial real estate properties being affected for the positive by going "green" and how its starting to figure into corporate bottom lines, PR and Marketing. Maybe there is something we can learn from each other, small cities to large and vice versa? I know Vermont has been an early adopter of many aspects of the green movement but we can't rest on our laurels and extend our impact without expanding the conversation and learning from other efforts elsewhere.

Please check this article out and let me know if this has any impact on you?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Exploring tonality_Ink washes and natural subjects



Here's some recent ink wash drawings I made over the last week or so. I recently picked up a Sumie Ink Wash brush and was enjoying trying it out on some subjects close at hand. I often am painting in full color with watercolor so working only in tones was a treat and very informative to me. With the Stones image, I found the ink wash behaved very differently on the 140 lb cold press watercolor paper than on the 90 lb drawing paper. On the heavier paper it blended so nicely and moved through the sizing in very interesting and somewhat unexpected ways.

On the lighter paper, with the Flowers,the ink wash laid more on the paper surface with a more spotty, dappled light effect. I had to layer successive wash tones atop one another to achieve a greater tonal range. But very interesting still the same. What do you think? Any suggestions?

I often believe all I need are stones, trees and water as my subject matter. The compositional and conceptual opportunities with just these three are endless and continually inspiring. I find relief not to be thinking about buildings but rather get lost in elements of the landscape such as these. I spend a lot of time designing buildings and spaces. I look to natural influences like these stones and flowers to provide respite and renewal emotionally, creatively and professionally.