Monday, November 21, 2011

Casio G-Shock Watch Design Offers Escapist Fun(ction)

I have four Casio G-shock watches. I buy them because they are great underwater down to 200 meters. They last a really long time and withstand lots of punishment.

Ok, I'm not a Navy Seal nor am I a deep sea diver. I'm currently wearing a bright red Rescue series watch with moon phases and tides for my location. This along with a myriad of other timekeeping features. I also can look at times adjusted for different world cities in 29 different time zones.

Something about the romance of water and far a way places! And the red color. I'm really a big kid. The red is great fun. I wear this watch everywhere, even when I put on a suit and tie.

Casio G-Shock - G7900A-4
Wearing it reminds me I'm supposed to be having fun and not be so serious. The one thing it lacks (right now) is smart phone capability where I can talk into it like Dick Tracy used to talk into his watch (acutally a two-way wrist radio)  I'd imagine it would have to coordinate with a bluetooth ear piece design wise.  Is this in the works Casio watch and technology designers?  I hope so.  Question is can you make a submersible to 200 meters phone watch with a touch screen?  Wouldn't that be something?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Keeping Posts Simple

A Simple Line -Winter's Frosting
copyright Stephen M. Frey, 2011
Is writing a blog post a good idea with an Apple iTouch? Or a similar smart device? I think so.

Here's why.

Maybe it maximizes the reader's experience of whatever I'm sharing and is respectful of their time. Writing from such a device ensures I say only so much as I am not fluent in typing on such a small screen.  Yet.  Or maybe never.  So the device helps focus the writer's attention on saying only what matters most.

The small size also means it's portable so it can go with me wherever I go.  Perhaps having it around will make it easier to post more frequently about ideas, trends, people influencing

The small form factor shapes how you respond to the urge to write about something essentially.  Here's a question; what if you adopt this mentality using a laptop or writing an email?

See the recent Email Charter or the movement to keep emails short with voluntary following of the three sentences or five sentences rule (see,,  In the interest of promoting quality time away from email you can do your best to adhere to the policy of writing and responding in 3-5 sentences.

Writing in the active rather than passive voice while using simple verbs and adjectives, energizes your text not deadens it.  Maybe this will activate the conversation?  Can't hurt?

Over the last year I have steadily seen people write emails to me with much simpler language.  Usually they    have only one or two ideas they're focusing on.  Maybe I'm a little slow but I figured out recently they're writing from a smart phone or texting from a cell phone.  Detail is out.  Brevity in.  They don't have a choice. The device drives the communication style.

They also might be using their intuition when they realize they're writing something very detailed and recognize its better to cut to the chase and call someone or visit them face to face about what you're writing about or responding to.  Try it, especially before you hit the send button, before you inflict irreversible pain on yourself and others.  Life is too short.  I have learned the hard way, believe me.

So since I'm not very bright but catch on after a while I'm thinking this is a good idea.  So look for simpler communications of all types from designcultivation, Stephen M. Frey on LinkedIN, @designcultivate or  @arocordisdesign on Twitter, or arorcordisdesign on Facebook.

I include an image from last Winter in keeping with the spirit of this post.  "A Simple Line".  That's my mantra for 2012 and beyond.  What's yours?

Do you have any communication tips and suggestions balancing the needs of short and long form online media, paper media, especially as it relates to the design fields?  Please share!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's Your Biggest Workplace Design Challenge in 2011?

Today I thought it might be interesting to reach out my Twitter Followers and other's I find interesting on the Twitters'phere to find out what's been a challenge to them in workplace design in 2011?  

So I did just that.

It's just a kernal of an idea but I thought I'd try to strike up a conversation to those I respect and follow.  I tried SurveyMonkey earlier in the year but I thought this time it might be way more fun to try Twitter.  Already folks are starting to respond back.  

@NickSloggett, a senior visual designer at Photobucket tweeted back what did I mean...Workplace furniture or Design Culture? I replied "As in workplace layout and furniture selection influencing for better or worse a work community's culture, effectiveness and morale." 

In other words, in the workplaces you frequent, either your primary workplace, other offices you visit often which may have been renovated or completed recently, what was a big design challenged faced in the process. An example might be a super short time frame, or we were forced to move out of closed private offices into open collaborative workstations or vice versa, or we downsized and had to radically reshape our space or hopefully, we had to hire due to recent growth and we were running out of room....Or we wanted to create a sustainable, eco friendly workspace but that was challenging our budget...

Other examples could be resistance from the work community to change from older style less collaborative  spaces to more open spaces?  Another could be finding better ways to more effectively integrate technology into your meeting spaces, workstations and exec offices.

Anyway, you tell me what's happening.  I'm very curious about the challenges you're facing.  Maybe we can crowd source this in a way.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Picking Up the Phone Is A Good Thing And So Is Actually Talking

I saw a link to this HBR article "Don't Send that Email, Pick Up the Phone" by Anthony K. Tjan and read it, then took a look at the dynamic discussion string following it.  Wow! The article created quite a stir.

It should.

The article is ultimately about effective communication and learning how to wade through the chaos of our over stimulated information crazy world and remember to to each other.  Not emailing, im'ing or texting your coworker sitting 3 feet away from you or hide behind polished corporatized prose in an email or lengthy voice mails outlining all of the details of what you were hoping to discuss on the call.  

Oh, how about those times you've sent an email or a tweet even though your intuition told you to not hit the send button?  It's misery right?  Often times the after effects take weeks or what seems like an eternity to settle.

I'm guilty of doing this.  Alot.  I've done all of the above. But I'm seeking to change my ways.  It may take time but I'm committing myself to trying to do a few things.  Here's some of my response on the discussion thread for the above HBR article and what I hope to practice.  Tell me what you think?  Do you have any suggestions on communication approaches you find work for you?  How do you balance all of the digital overload and still find ways to effectively connect and communicate with others. Please share!

Here goes:

....For me it's not about how you're communicating a certain way but keeping the end goal in mind to achieve a certain outcome, action etc. 

An example; In teaching years ago to college age students, a wise teacher shared in order to effectively communicate to students (read coworkers in our context) of all educational, economic and social skill backgrounds its' important to do a few things together, rather than rely on only one teaching approach (read communication approach):

- Know your audience and their communication styles: Adjust accordingly but keep the approach as simple as possible.

- Over communicate to a multiple of senses: Some engage better by hearing and listening, some do better by reading and writing, others need images, still others might need to physically "do" the something your discussing, ie demonstrating, prototyping, visualizing. And most likely, some combination of the above is required.And then I'm challenging myself here to follow the below:   

- Be brief in writing, summarizing, requesting.  Limit your email writing to three sentences or five as the maximum you'll write.  Less is more. It's infectious by the way. Try it! 

- Listen to your tummy ( I mean intuition): If you're about to write something and it makes you feel funny, or unsure, take notice! STOP yourself! Consider alternatives such as leaving it in draft to return to later or plain just don't send it. Get a second opinion.  Or better yet, make a call or set up a face to face to discuss.  

If you fail to heed your own body telling you something you'll only goof things up for you and others.  (of course like many, I'm guilty of not listening to my inner voice and I've paid for it dearly personally and professionally)

That's all.  

What do you think?  How important is a blended communication strategy to you and your team in getting things done?  Do you miss talking to people face to face?  How effective are you when you're more direct and personal?  Do you Skype or use Facetime as an alternative to physical face to face meetings?  

Other thoughts?  Please share!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Innovating Our Way Through Lunch at Tech Jam VT 2011

     Recently, just this past Saturday I ate my way through the most innovative lunch and learn session I've experienced in years.  I sat near the front of a very receptive crowd upstairs in the recently vacated Borders retail space now hosting for two days the fifth annual Tech Jam VT.
     While eating we waited for what was soon to become a very unusual and informative learning session to begin.  Even though technical difficulties delayed the start, those waiting didn't seem to mind. The added time gave us all extra moments to talk to one another and mingle a bit with nearby exhibitors.
     We were there to listen to representatives from Google and Dealer.Com to speak and share insight on "Fostering Innovation in the Workplace"and hopefully learn some things to apply to our businesses and workplaces.  Organizers designed the session to be highly interactive with panelists briefly highlighting key aspects of how innovation happens in their workplaces followed by ample time for audience Q&A.
     The panel was brought to us by the organizers of the 5th Annual Tech Jam VT.  It featured Craig Neville-Manning, engineering director for Google New York and Matt Dunne, head of community affairs for Google (a former Democratic Gubernatorial candidate from Vermont).  The panel also featured Luke Dion, senior director of product development and Mike DeCecco, director of business development both from Dealer.Com the major sponsor of TechJam.
     Craig couldn't physically be there because of family obligations and the Nor' Easter pounding at that moment the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas.  Craig joined us by live audio and video  feed.  It really didn't matter and actually added to the vibe in the room.
     Luke and Mike from Dealer kicked off the session by highlighting how key aspects of their fast growing company culture and workplace supported their work in a "Google Lite" manner.  Through a combination of open collaborative work areas, meeting spaces, common areas like cafes, wellness spaces and yes even a full-size indoor tennis court and an open door management style they set the stage for innovative interactions at the core of their innovative work culture.
     Through a seemingly extraordinary focus on people, place and process Dealer fosters a spirit of openness, creativity and trust.  Bright high intensity colors and a sparse modern feel of the spaces echo the dynamic pulse of the business and cheerfulness of their team based approach to work.
     As their space forms the physical backbone of the business their Life program supports the softer side by helping employees eat healthier, exercise more and take care of their minds and bodies in a more holistic people centered approach.  Similarly they said "Their work culture is set up so no one is more special than anyone else".  They practice an open door management style where management's job is to provide the best inspiration and resources to their teams and quickly "get out of the way and to let them do their jobs".

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dear Klout, Can You Help Me?

Dear Klout,

My Klout score algorithms must be out of wack! My badge score has gone from the thirties, forties & now in the teens in the space of days? Should I stay with you if your algorithms create daily changes all over the map? Each day it seems I'm in totally different categories with back histories & trending showing completely different patterns. If the Klout Badge is to be trustworthy this shouldn't happen. Right?

However, if you're a dynamic ever growing social media tool this might be happening.  My question is if its unstable like it has been recently will badge holders like me go elsewhere?  You might explain on your website more in detail how and why things change so much.

Here's some details.....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Steve Jobs Means to Me and Us

    Losing Steve Jobs today is sad for so many.  I grew up with Apple first as an upstart hip some would say way out of bounds computer company in the early 80's.  My dad worked for IBM and was everything Big Blue.  So of course when I read about and saw early stuff about Apple, the two Steve's, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack I was all ears.
    Steve and Steve inspired me then to think outside the box, that's its ok to innovate, heck you can even start something in your garage.  Maybe you didn't know how to run a business but if you had an idea,  ingenuity and a whole lot of chutzpah  you could imagine and act on making a better world.
     Today I am parent of 13 year and 11 year old boys and am so excited to share with them some of the interesting, game changing Apple products and tools so many of us seem unable to live without, our iPods, iTouches, MacBooks.  My boys ironically feel the same I did way back when about all of these things.  They're inspired as I am only for different reasons I think.
     Peering down into our new iTouch screen light lighting up their eyes and faces they see a world of possibilities I never dreamed of when I was their age.  As they dance circles around me showing intuitively how the iTouch works, where to find things in the interfaces and such, I say to myself under my breath, what technologies and how will they be living with them as they age and mature?
     How will they work?  Will there be "offices" as we understand them today? Will their kids when they are the same age as they are now and they're adults seem the same to them as they do to me?  Given what I've seen the answer is so far is a resounding yes.  Saying so cause the hair on my neck rise in excitement and my pulse quicken.
     Reflecting again on the passing of Steve Jobs and thinking about the world of possibilities before us, the sense of invention and inspiration surrounding us I can't think of a more fitting epitaph and legacy for this giant of technology and cultural change.  We owe so much to you and your drive to explore. We'll miss your unbounded passion, always surpassing the boundaries of the possible, seeking new places filled with invention, innovation and more gracefulness.

    Thanks Steve.  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Workplace and Innovation - Some Thoughts

     Fall is upon Vermont in its wondrous glory.  We transition from the outward focused time of summer to the more inward reflective moments we experience with the change of seasons.  Maybe this is why even in adulthood we're still wired to "back to school time".
A Fiery Maple Tree - Crimson Abundance 
     Maybe that's why I so much enjoyed a recent seminar on Innovation, Culture and Workplace issues given by Rich Benoit from Steelcase's Applied Research and Consulting group at Business Interiors, their local dealership in Northern Vermont.
     Rich started the conversation out by asking us about what innovation, an all too common buzzwords in business circles today meant to us.  A participant shared how they thought inventions are things we consumers don't buy while we willingly pay for innovations such as iPads, iPhones, Sony Walkman's from a generation or two ago, IBM personal computer and iMac's.  Similarly the Toyota Prius also comes to mind.  The phenomena of Google and Facebook were also touched on by our group.
     This ice-breaking question led Rich to share findings from Steelcase's research about different innovation types moving from the incremental betterment of an existing product to the reductive, then to the break through to expansive and self-evolving.  The earlier examples our group came up with were mostly in the breakthrough and expansive category.  These products and services all altered how we live, play and work.  In some way they acted as game changers deeply resonating with consumer culture and the marketplace.
     What then is the secret sauce for cultivating work cultures which innovate?  Everyone talks about innovation being critical to business success but how do leaders make it happen?  Surprisingly Rich said effective workplace design done well can help set the stage for work cultures to innovate.  
     First off, as Rich shared with us and as found in the illuminating white paper published by Steelcase last fall "How the Workplace Fosters Innovation", you must  understand the DNA and behavioral tendencies of your organization before proceeding to deeply into workplace design.  Essentially you must know how your work culture ticks and why it works your way rather than another.  This is critical when designing buildings and interior spaces filled with expensive workplace equipment and furniture.  Wishful thinking with miss matched design choices can short circuit best intentions for organizational change and innovation efforts.
     So how and where do you and your organization begin? It's simple.  Seek to understand what kind of innovative organization you are now and identify the culture of innovation you can realistically become over time.  By combining best practices in work process, workplace design and integration of work tools supporting work and the workplace you can build organizational muscle memory expanding capabilities in collaboration, team and individual effectiveness, and enhancing speed of ideas and products to market.
Inspiration in Sky Blue and Yellow
     Rich shared an interesting graphic which is also found in the white paper on page 5.  It shows the spectrum of Models of Innovation ranging from centralized do it from within efforts to off-site to more  decentralized examples relying on outside consultants to provide innovation to the most decentralized of them all, the network model.  Wikipedia is a great example of a service and product being built in a peer enabled user community located in the cloud.  In this model there is very little physical workspace as the service is dispersed across the internet in a virtual community.  
     These models of innovation also sync with the developmental age of the business or organization.  An early stage do it yourself garage innovator may naturally need to transition to differing models of innovation to stay successful as the company matures, takes on more employees, begins to grow into larger more independent workgroup and expanding its facitilies.  As you can imagine matching physical design to ever evolving businesses, their leadership models and work cultures can be very tricky.  I believe successful work cultures try new things, are willing to fail and "fail forward", believing in the quality of their ideas, people and their core business offer.
     Rich then showed a variety of tantilizing images aligning collaborative workspace with these different Innovation Models.  The physical design very clearly depicted the Innovation Model in design of informal, formal meeting spaces, how much openness there was versus closed broken up spaces, how furniture and tables were organized, surface heights, lighting design.  For me it was extremely gratifying to see the translation of the Models of Innovation spectrum into physical form.
     The presentation led me back to re-examining the white paper more closely as I'm working with a variety of work cultures now located on various parts of the Innovation Model Spectrum.  I want to be sure to guide them to workplace and workspace design aligning with where they are today and where they hope to be tomorrow and years to come.  This research I believe will help me help them.  Maybe it will help you too!
     Thanks Rich and the team at Business Interiors, an Office Environments of New England company for this learning opportunity.  The experience satisfied my back to school needs for learning and helped to build greater awareness how I can best help our customers in the coming months.  I say be sure to focus on understanding how they tick and why and then take this learning to work together to shape appropriate high performing work spaces helping their organizations to soar in years to come!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Choosing Office Task Chairs - Aeron by Herman Miller

     As part of what I do from time to time I try out office task chairs. I do so because I used to have an old-fashioned wooden office chair which while swiveled hurt my back while not being adjustable.  I have set off on a quest to try out various task chairs made by some of the more renowned manufacturer's in the country.  As an architect working in workspace design it's important to cultivate a real understanding of what's out there and how the chairs really work.  Good task chairs especially I believe are less about good looks and more about performance, helping us do our work more effectively.
     Ironically the chair I begin with is the iconic Herman Miller Aeron. Bill Stumph designed it.  Click on the link I provided and you can find a video of him telling the story of its design.  It's a compelling and timeless one for those seeking a look into the process of innovation, product development and market adoption.
     The local dealership, Creative Office Pavilion located in downtown Burlington lent me this seat to try out for a couple of weeks.  I've really enjoyed this chair and if you're someone who  spends a great deal of time multi-tasking in front of a computer, phones, desks, drafting tables (for me) this chair may be for you.
      It's innovative and very ergonomic, with a generationally trendsetting webbing called the Pellicle, which provides a firm yet giving, breathable back and seat to sit in. Overall the chair is fairly light weight and easy to adjust.  The yellow block you see in the back ground is the foot rest I use to accommodate my higher work surface and not dangle my legs which strains my back with nothing to rest upon.  I recommend tinkering with this with any seating you're looking at.
     I find the seat controls easy to use and understand to adjust the chair to my body type and liking.  The lumbar support you see transparently behind the seat back webbing between the two rotating arms really, really works for my back.  The wide proportions of upper part of the seatback work well with my broad back and "give" with me as I move side to side.   The armrests rounded shapes are easy on my forearms when doing heavy duty repetitive tasks such as typing.
     Environmentally the chair has Green guard certification, it's 94% recyclable and 66% of the chair's materials are derived from recycled sources.  It's a silver MBDC Cradle to Cradle certified chair. As the Aeron Environmental Summary states, "[The]...Aeron is composed of environmentally safe and healthy materials, is designed for material reuse in a closed-loop system, such as recycling or composting, and is assembled using 100% renewable energy."

For all of these reasons  I recommend this chair.

      Next month I'll write about another chair in my quest to cultivate a clearer, real world understanding of the best of the best of task seating out there.  If you have any Aeron stories or comments I welcome them. Have you had any challenges with the Aeron in your workplace or success stories to share?  Don't hesitate to let us know.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Voices of 9.11 - The Power of Story

Voices of 9.11 (excerpts) from Ruth Sergel on Vimeo.
I visited the New York Times Portraits of Grief, a Day of Reckoning - the 9/11 interactive area sharing stories from people affected by the events of 9/11.  Towards the end there were links to other sites with similar stories to tell.  These short vignettes speak to the universal power of story and of our shared humanity.

The stories chronologically march forward from dawn before the events took place through into the evening in a montage of story at different locations around the northeast.  Yes they are painful at first but somehow in their telling they create a state of gracefulness rather than grief per se.  At the end of the collage of excerpts of stories from that day those who collected them shared the reflection that no matter how apocalyptic the events seemed at the time a shared sentiment by those telling their stories was "life moves on".

Perhaps life moves on yes, but it is important to never forget.  I say channel the emotion which will no doubt well up in your throat towards positive ends. Find someone you love and tell them how much you appreciate them.  Do something kind for someone in need for no reason other than it's the right thing to do.

Together let's move forward recognizing we can't change the events of the past.  However we can channel the stormy emotions we feel toward positive ends rather than focusing on the negatives.  While much has changed due to the events of that day the strength and beauty of our shared humanity powers us forward.  That's all we have isn't it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thoughts on Design - It's People and Smiles, Not Stuff

Design is about bringing smiles to people's faces.  It's not about the stuff.  So often we lose ourselves in the details as architects, designers, planners.  Yes, the little things matter, a lot! But for me smiles power my work.

What do I mean?

I ran into someone today who I've been involved in a design project with.  He's a leader of a user group who've I've been working with together with my other team mates.  He was smiling today.  He said "I am really excited about where things are headed for my area. We've finally got things rolling in a good way."

This in turn made me smile.  As you might guess the team I'm working with has been working really hard to facilitate a positive design outcome.  After numerous meetings, seeming breakdowns in design and lots of re-design we'd finally arrived at an approved solution.  I shared this with some of my other collaborators afterward.  They smiled too!

Of course, this means we get to go to the next stage of detailed design and cost estimating.  And yes we'll be making changes.  Some will be hard to make.  We'll have to let go design elements we deem essential.  This doesn't always produce happy results but I do celebrate the positive steps along the way.

And, as I have come know, "sacred cows make the best hamburger".

As many of you may or may not know, designing places and spaces for people isn't super easy. In fact it's a pretty hard thing to do.  The design process is often a very circuitous path where clarity is absent, ambiguity reigns and logic doesn't always apply.

I live for the smiles we can create along this challenging path and at the end when what what we've done together is finally built and ready to be used.  I smile when people move in to their new spaces and start using them.  I smile when I see people collaborating in their new buildings and spaces in new and different ways at work than they've ever done before.

The places and spaces I create in collaboration with others are mere vehicles of our every day lives.  For me if what I help to shape brings smiles and laughter, productivity and focus to others I am grateful to be of assistance.

Like I said at the beginning, it's not about the stuff, the glamour, the glitz of powerful intriguing materials, ego, being "right", being the sole creator of the's about helping people live, work and play more gracefully than before.

And, it's about the smiles we give and receive along the way.  In a way, that's what we really are left with anyway.  The smiles and the memories we make together and the work we do, the satisfaction it brings

So remember, when you get caught up in the details next time in the heat of design, don't forget to smile and be grateful for where you are, who you are working with and how far you've come together.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An Artful New Sign For Montpelier's Drawing Board

Note the picture frame and paint brush blade sign
at upper left, note 4th of July banners aren't
always there!
         About a month ago, our local artist materials and framing store, the Drawing Board in Montpelier, VT installed a new decorative sign supplementing the tasteful sign band already in place above the store.  The sign intrigued me with its artful whimsy and simple yet complex design.  
         Exterior store signage design can if done right serve to really extend the brand promise of the  business.  Done wrong it does nothing but drive people and business away on the street. Your store sign is the first thing many see about your business.  It's your symbolic front door.  It should be memorable and unique while tastefully designed and communicative.
       In the case of the Drawing Board, their new blade sign protrudes out of a corner brick pier in line with their sign band further enhancing the original signage in three dimensions. 
        Being a cultivator of good design, I took pictures and promised myself I'd ask the owners about it later and share what I found out.  So I sent them a few questions which Judy Brown, a co-owner of the store with her husband Ray Brown kindly answered.  
Blade sign depicting the essence of an art
supply & framing store

So here goes....

DC: Why did you add a new sign to the front of your store?  Who designed your sign?  What was the process you and the store went through. 
DB: Ray and I always liked the idea of a blade sign but it was not an option until Montpelier changed the rules fairly recently. My decision was based on a desire to draw attention to the store from the street, particularly to pull people from the center of town down Main Street. I also wanted to add an element of action and fun to the very classical, professional look of our logo and signage.

DC: Who fabricated the sign for you and installed it.
DB: We worked with Sparky Potter and his team at Wood & Wood in Waitsfield. They are incredibly talented and professional. It was a joint design effort. The design that they first came up with felt too conservative and so we came up with the angled frame and color idea.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reviewing "Toward a Zero Energy Home"

A few months ago in late spring I read Toward a Zero Energy Home - A Complete Guide to Energy Self-Sufficiency at Home by David Johnston and Scott Gibson.  Or shall I say devoured it hungrily.  I read it on a cross-country flight in one sitting.
2010, The Taunton Press

The book begins by making a great case for the zero energy house by framing the view through the energy price bubble of 2008 and the need to shift behaviors moving forward.  Ironically in the spring of 2011 we were experiencing another price bubble seeded by political instability driven by the unprecedented democratic spring of Egypt, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.  Once again prices spiked ever higher over the course of late winter and spring.  Fairly quickly it seemed, world-wide strategic oil reserves were tapped to temper the price spikes and people's fears abated but high prices linger.  Today, the US Energy Information Agency says gas prices are up $0.91 from a year ago.

If you consult the EIA's interactive tables and build predictions out to 2035 you'll find an average yearly growth rate of 3.5% for residential fuel oil costs.  So in about ten years prices may rise 35% over today's already high rates.  With the unpredictability of the global geo-political climate and growing effects of global warming, growing population pressures and scarcity in fossil fuels, radically reducing energy consumption is urgent.  More predictable energy costs and growth in resource conservation is critical to creating a more sustainable future "softening the hard landing to come" as said by Bill McKibben in his recent book, Eaarth.

While residential delivered energy consumption has been going down historically in a gentle slope since 1990 the EIA forecasts four different scenarios showing reductions.  The reference light blue line models this continuing fall while the magenta (high tech usage) and green (best available technology) go even lower.

As energy costs continue to escalate residential users will naturally seek to conserve.  The space between the purple and green line is where Toward A Zero Energy Home plays an important role today in driving best practices  in zero energy home design into the marketplace towards consumer acceptance.

The book is organized into five chapters; The Building Envelope, Passive Solar Design, Renewable Energy, Heating-Cooling-Ventilation, Living a Zero Energy Life.  In each chapter they provide helpful overviews going over the basic components, design strategies and approaches with insightful case studies from around the country relating to the chapter focus.  The case studies provide wisdom from the field about how projects develop and mature between owners, architects, builders and energy consultants.

I recommend this book.  It tackles a very complex subject and breaks it down to basic elements where the complexity supports the big picture of why certain strategies are valuable varying by budget, climate, owner likes and dislikes, project delivery methods scalable for a variety of situations.  Whether seeking to do a custom design and build home, or hybridized process with some level of factory panelization and custom building, or finally, full out factory built and controlled modular home with quick onsite assembly the book has insights valuable for all.

The book also shows how fast moving high performance building science and knowledge truly is.  After this book came out, Alex Wilson's published a groundbreaking article in Environmental Building News on the Global Warming Potential of Foam Insulation.  Their research led to a wholesale re-evaluation of the viability of using closed expanding cell foam and related insulation materials in building envelopes because of the long-term costs of using fossil fuel as blowing agents.  Many of the case studies homes in the Toward a Zero Energy Home used closed cell insulation in some aspects of the building envelope.  The new research indicated the need to look more closely at using open cell insulation or other more benign alternatives such as cellulose insulation instead going forward.  Hindsight is 20/20 though and admittedly best practices will always be evolving to ever-higher standards.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cycle of Creation - Framing the View

Today I burned an early painting done my freshman year in College under the tutelage of professor Frank Hewitt, a noted Vermont painter who inspired me during my years at UVM where I majored in Studio Art. It's cleansing to let go of old artwork, watching it burn in a fire seeing paint strokes disappear. 

Reflecting back while watching canvas curl I remembered a time of exploration of new ideas, new friends, of learning about color, form, shape coalescing about a point of view, a framework of thinking.  Whatever the media it always seemed then to be about how to frame a viewpoint while listening to the medium speak at the same time.  

Whether painting, drawing, sculpture or later in the last fifteen or twenty years, architecture and designing environments for many people, this framework and point of view has remained critical.  It's inspirational actually watching an old painting perish in the flames knowing in my heart a new one is soon to be born with a new story to tell.  

It speaks to the cycle of creativity we all experience in our lives where endings are always beginnings.  It's not easy to always see and understand but it's a fundamental part of our existence.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Concerned about social media and technology? Maybe a good idea.

What often is missing in diving into social media activities is 'actually thinking' about what we're doing and reflecting on what our values are and why we're using these services/ tools etc.  

How is doing what we do in this space helping out at home, at work and within our community, in the grandstands watching your kids play sports?  Are you better for it? Are you sure?  Really! Just because you can use it doesn't mean you should!  That's a great phrase to take to heart especially if you haven't actually thought about why you're using these tools.

William Buist at the Societal Web posted about this issue and raised some very interesting points. As he says social media  gives us new and heretofore unforseen ways to communicate with each other, and its problematic.  Just because we can "update our status" while at a meeting, or "text friends or have long drawn out phone calls" while at our sons and daughters ball games is this multi-tasking positive behavior? The technology allows us to do this but should we do this?  

I know this dates me, but my dad and mom (pre cell phone days) actually watched me and participated in my games, or helped out coaching.  Now I do the same and watch all kinds of parents, older sisters and brothers and younger work their "smart" devices at the game. Their bodies stand facing the play but they're  far away, disconnected from the visceral present.  If this is the "positive example" my generation of parents  is truly capable of I'm thinking this isn't so good.  

Recently I plucked one such parent off of his phone he'd been wearing by the side of his face for the past five games and asked him to be a third base coach for a few innings while I umped.  The guy was super animated and really involved with his kid for the first time I remember all season.  I learned this guy has so much too offer the kids, the team and our community.  But he sits back and uses his "smart phone".  I know its tranquilizing, almost narcotic in its influence.  I want an Ipad too!  But I'm going to wait until I get my head around this issue more clearly.

And now that we're so deep into this how do sensibly tame this addictive behavior?  Or does it (meaning social media) control us, especially if we don't take the time now and again to think about it critically?  Often, we're missing the fact we can have a face to face conversation, or a phone call rather than Tweeting about something to someone or Facebooking it.  Or doing another LinkedIn update.

Why not go to someone's house and have dinner and connect..?  Or taking a walk with someone and talking.  You can't easily do a Goto meeting session or AppleFace Time while walking can you?  It's hard to do two things at once?  But yet we's exhausting to multi-task.

Part of this is temptation of the new and the cool.  It's the joyful exuberance of using our new tools, the smartphones, tablets du Jour, the apps and buying into the "lifestyle" choices being shown us in the advertising we see where ever the media source.  However, there's relatively few voices stating "let's think about this" and examine what we're doing collectively etc. leading to setting up a goals and values discussion and learning how to recognize what's missing in these new interactions.

What kinds communities are we really building, families, teams etc. when social media seems to an important aspect holding everything together?  Caring about this is important to our communal well-being.  What do you think?  How is social media impacting your life?  Think back five or ten years ago, how much time were you spending talking face to face to people versus today?  What would happen if your smart phone disappeared for two weeks? Or your iPAD?  Would it change your life for the better? Or the worse?

Remember, just because you can use the latest and greatest tech gadgets and software services doesn't mean you should.  Take a moment to think about it every once in a while.  Talk it over with  your family, your coworkers etc.  You'll find there will be lots to discuss.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mindmapping Vermont's Energy Planning, a Beginning

Brainstorming Vermont's Energy Planning c.Steve Frey 2011
I missed the VT Energy Plan June 1st workshop and information gathering session held at National Life last week. So I thought I'd contribute a mind map or visual brainstorm of my recent thoughts about the planning effort and areas of focus I see as important to ensuring a sustainable and bright future for generations to come.  Check out a link to Renewable Energy Vermont's recent interview on VPR for other perspectives.  

So often in our overwhelming information overloaded world it's helpful to find ways to distill the issues quickly.  Visual thinking offers a quick pictorial way to lay it all out there and show connections and relationships not easy to make easily in writing or speaking.  Thus I offer these two brainstorming sketches which while inherently incomplete offer a "take" on the issues and opportunities before us in our great state.

We have precious natural resources here in Vermont with first and foremost the bright passionate and well educated people in Vermont.  I wonder if there's a way to crowd source feedback to the public service board in parallel to helpful meetings being held across the state?  By using Twitter and LinkedIn and other social media sites perhaps we can collect together perspectives and ideas not easily obtained otherwise.  Last night on Twitter I started a hashtage called #vermontenergyplan to help track the conversation.  I also used the hashtag #vermont as well.  Put either of these tags into Twitter's search function and you will see this growing conversation!

By tackling this effort with an integrated and systematic planning, public and private partnerships and ultimately actions we take, we can build a more sustainable visionary Vermont. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Designing for Acoustics in a CoWorking Space or Other Open Work Areas

A recent workspace with carpet tiles, offices with sidelights
and transoms.  (Located at AllEarth Renewables)
Recently I responded to a question of the Google CoWorking Group about ways to more effectively design for acoustics yet engage the sense of community CoWorking is known for.

How can such spaces meet the needs for louder members who often talk on the phone yet still create an inclusive, collaborative work community space?  Often CoWorking spaces have open work areas with members working side by side on rolling large tables like the libraries at Colleges of yesteryear.  Working out in the open, while extremely social and collaborative can have its challenges especially if you need to make an extended phone call or someone nearby does.  

One common solution is behavioral, people talk more softly and respectfully or they take the call outside to a porch or outside area.  Sometimes taking the call in a nearby office or conference room also works.  But what if you would like to stay sitting at your work area and talk more loudly or can't move your materials so easily?  It's kind of a pain to schlep binders or papers outside if you need to refer to them etc.

So here's a few design strategies which can apply also to open work areas in more traditional office settings.  Some are fairly simple, others are more complicated and have some cost.  However if you abide by the maxim of you get what you pay for that's a good place to start.  Building awareness of using reflective and sound absorptive materials and space planning strategies is a good place to start.  Generally, consider doing a combination of solutions and trying out different ideas, "tuning" you space over time.

Wall Hanging by Joyce DiCianna, HR Manager at
AllEarth Renewables, Furniture by Pompanoosac
Mills. (AllEarth Renewables)
  • Selecting a Good Space: To promote the openness and interactivity found in collaborative environments such as CoWorking Space look for spaces to rent or buildings to buy with a fairly simple building shell hopefully with fairly high ceilings and access to daylight, parking, bus-lines, rail lines and access to the internet.  Former street front level retail spaces are often good locations having these characteristics. (Concerned about carbon footprint and sustainability issues? Then select a location easy to bike, walk, take a bus or train to.  It's counter intuitive to some, but highly dense urban areas are highly resource efficient and effective with more inhabitants per acre than more rural areas. Finding a LEED certified building is even better, but more on that another time.)   
  • Sound Deadening Floor Coverings: If you have highly reflective floor surfaces such as concrete, wood floors or floor tiles consider installing carpet squares or area rugs in open office / common work areas.  There are a number of manufacturer's such as Interface Flor, Mannington, Shaw Contract Group, Tandus to name a few who have solutions which can help treat lively areas with floor coverings.  The fibers in carpeting and carpet squares and resilient backing helping cut down sound.  These same manufacturer's all offer various kinds of eco friendly lines, recycling and financing programs attractive to owners.
  • Ceiling Treatments, Sound Clouds, Wall Panels: Another strategy is installing acoustical ceiling treatments like hanging sound clouds over work areas.  A simple version of this is installing higher performance ceiling tile from companies such as CertainTeed, Armstrong and USG to name a few.  You can use 2x2 or 2x4 or more unique tiles encased in decorative metal trim creating distinct "visual islands" and focal points within a large open spaces.  Combined the sound deadening qualities of tiles with attractive linear pendant up and down lighting zones and you can create attractive open work areas.  You can also install Tectum or other similar another sound absorbing product directly to ceilings or the underside of floor pans or on walls.  If sustainability concerns such as recycled content, sourcing and indoor air quality are strongly desired work with your architect or interior designer to select choices which provide acoustical performance while balancing these concerns.  Wall-hangings such as quilts can serve as focal points visually but also provide acoustical relief in targeted areas. 
  • Gradation of Walled Meeting, Teaming and Individualized Work areas: By providing a variety of larger to small closed walled work areas your CoWorking or open areas can integrate both the lively collaborative open areas and "away" spaces into your space.  Doing so you can build spaces suitable for small 2-3 person meetings, larger team meetings rooms for 5-12 and smaller highly focused head down quiet spaces.  To maximize the investment install sound insulation batts and run the walls all the way up to the underside of the floor or roof deck with foam insulation at the joint to limit sound transmission between spaces.  To create a sense of inclusiveness between  nearby by open work spaces install large glass sidelights next to doors into these rooms as well as consider transom windows to allow borrowed daylight in and reduce lighting usage.
  • Varying Ceiling and Wall Surface Angles:  In addition to the other strategies, you can further control unwanted echoes and noise communication by varying the reflective or hard surfaces of drywall partitions, suspended ceiling elements, wall panels.  Your designer can subtly design these moves into your space without incurring significant added construction cost. Adding this strategy to the design palette also can enhance your space's uniqueness as compared to more standard tenant-fitup approaches.
  • Avoid placing of Curved Surfaces in Key Spaces: If you want concave curved surfaces as part of the interior architecture locate the center of the arc or curve element outside of the space.  Doing this will ensure your space will not echo in these curving areas.  Echoing spaces are not great to work in.  That's why round or cylindrical interior spaces while attractive aren't necessarily great acoustically without attending to locating their center points outside of the space.
Hope this helps!  Remember, work with a seasoned architect or interior designer when designing your spaces.  Their involvement can be merely advisory with limited drawings and at a lower cost to full design services taking these and other issues into account to create the high value high performing workplace.  But they can help you look at the big picture of all these moving parts.  To optimize collaborative CoWorking style spaces or other similar open work areas think holistically about using combination of design strategies like the ones above to create more enjoyable and productive work spaces. 

Contact me if you need further advice or have other questions.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stinkin Tree Watercolor Studies

Early studies 1 & 2
About two months ago before the leaves arrived I spent alot of time
painting tree compositions.  So much so my two boys soon grew tired of the subject matter.  They called them "My Stinkin' Trees"  thus the name for this series of which I show a few here.

Wherever I looked I saw intriguing possibilities to study figure ground, the upward sweep of tree branches yearning for the sun's warmth.  Last year I spent a great deal of time sketching tiny pencil drawings in my Moleskin sketchbook which percolated for almost a year until one I needed to explore what I was walking by everyday and taking pictures of with my camera.  Call it an obsession or call it looking closely and learning to love what surrounds us.

Thus began a number of watercolor interpretations of natural and arranged scenes from the woods out behind our house to traveling on snow covered back roads in the hills around Montpelier.  I studied various color combinations with this work, along with gradations and various techniques involving intermingling of more sedimentary colors such as burnt sienna or prussian blue with transparent ones like cobalt blue for example.  Click on the individual images and zoom in to see what I mean.

Blue Yellow Study
Each image was a meditative experience for me providing a medium by which I could relax in the evening when the kids had gone to bed or on the weekend during calmer times.  There's nothing more joyful than participating in the interaction of water + color on paper and reveling in  how each image is it's own unique experience while resonating to over arching exploration of branches, figural space and implied shapes battling with abstraction.

The green blue study reads more abstractly as a series of lines or tree trunks cleared branches which were well overhead as these were larger more mature growth with more expansive trunks.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these.  More will follow from this series soon!
Green blue study

Friday, May 27, 2011

CoWorking California and Vermont Style: Comparing CoLoft and Office Squared

Storefront Entry to CoLoft - Santa Monica, California
     Walking down Santa Monica Boulevard in sunny California about a month ago I serendipitously walked by CoLoft, a trendy yet down to earth co-working space. It caught my eye as I always on the lookout for interesting workspace environments. 
Office Squared Tree Covered Courtyard (courtesy of O2) 

     Hailing from Vermont I was familiar with one in Burlington called Office Squared or 02 who I had yet to visit at that point but had mental notes to do so soon. CoLoft's easy going open converted retail storefront with high ceilings and ample day-lighting greeted me. Energized with enthusiasm to see new ideas like this at work, I retraced my steps opened the door and walked in. People typed away on laptops all around, talking on smartphones with some engaged together in quiet yet intense conversations.
     Simple workstations set up on elegant sawhorses with straightforward table tops were standard. Here and there desktop computers were set up with double screens with workers staring intently into them. Someone came up to me and there I asked If I could take pictures of the inside. He said no as it was against CoLoft policy to respect and protect the privacy of their work community. I asked if the owners were there and could I talk to them?
Front Page of the Santa Monica Daily Press! by Coloft
CoLoft Interior by Brandon Wise, Originally printed in Santa Monica Daily Press
     Shortly after Avesta Rasouli, one of the founders of CoLoft greeted me. I told him I was a vacationing architect just walking by and did he have a moment. He sighed and said, "Unfortunately I'm in the middle of a meeting where I'm looking at expanding my space. Take a look at our website and email me. We'll talk later." And so I did. That moment was a perfect diagram for the growing coworking phenomena, fitting within the "Sharing Economy" as so eloquently identified by Rachel Botswan and Roo Rogers in their exciting book "What's Mine is Yours – the Rise of Collaborative Consumption" published in 2010.
     The book talks about the rise of the sharing economy and collaborative consumption fueled by the growth of the internet and dissolving of barriers in trade and communication across geography and time. The rising fluidity of our how easy it is to communicate, organize, work together and shop manifested itself in businesses like Ebay, Craigs List among others. The sharing comes in recognizing there often is available capacity or excess capacity sitting idle of cars, sofas in apartments, hotel rooms laying empty, workers with time on their hands, money underinvested, land available for gardeners. The internet enabled unlikely new configurations of commerce and entrepreneurship impossible to envision only a generation ago. Within this larger movement of the sharing economy coworking emerged.
     Botswan and Rogers identified how this movement began with the Spiral Muse Group in 2005 or so whose founding members who ranged from at home professionals, consultants and independent contractors, who realized they "yearned for some form of working community where they could cross-pollinate ideas face to face." Up until then they worked a nomadic existence in coffeehouses and libraries and other spaces but soon found those places wanting for meaningful interactions and places to work effectively. Thus coworking as defined in Wikipedia as "a style of work involving a shared working environment, sometimes an office, yet (with) independent activity." Coworkers often share values or sets of ideals energizing their individual work yet are transformed by "synergies" of unlike but motivated professionals working together, percolating ideas and challenges off of one another.
     Coworking spaces can be full off cooperative style intentional working communities to independent businesses run by entrepreneurs who seized the opportunity to develop alternative work settings catering to this new breed of independent tech savvy workers. They realized the most critical aspect of these kind of businesses was not the space or access to shared resources but fostering a true sense of community and connection between members. They are generally not for rent larger scale Office Suites like HQ Global Workplaces or business incubator type spaces as they tend to lack the community appeal of coworking spaces while having many of the same amenities, yet in a more corporate setting.
     For those unfamiliar with this trend over the last ten years it's really taken off with coworking spaces now all around the world in most major cities. Fast Company in May published a brief article called Brave New Coworking World where they wrote about the 5M project, a four acre campus with three initial tenants serving up a hybridized version of coworking with Hub SoMa (a more traditional coworking space), TechShop (a so called do it yourself workshop) and Intersection for the Arts (an arts incubator type space). As FC says this growing campus offers both traditional office features with non-traditional options for prototyping and small scale manufacturing of business ideas and products. A veritable dynamo of entrepreneurism and as the website says "radical collaboration". 

View of Office Squared Reception Area
View of Office Squared Open Work Area

Office Squared Open Area & Conference Room

     Returning back to Vermont, I visited and had multiple conversations with Jen Mincar, the owner of Office Squared. O2's storefront is sandwiched between tall mid-rise turn of the century buildings with a beautiful tree covered plaza in front for outdoor events. Jan said her business is growing like "gangbusters" providing an integral component to help grow Burlington's creative economy saying also her business constantly evolves to match the needs of her members.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Looking for a Green College? Princeton Review Releases the 2011 Guide to Green Colleges

2011 release announcement of Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges from U.S. Green Building Council on Vimeo.

     This is really interesting!  I guess the Green Movement has really caught on and become mainstream if we're seeing a guide to green focused colleges and universities partly brought to us by our friends at USGBC.  So, if you and yours are looking for colleges to apply to with an environmental and socially responsible background this guide might be for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Community Energy Guidebook Released for Vermonters

     Earlier this month the Vermont Natural Resources Council released its long awaited Energy Planning Guidebook to help Vermont communities become more sustainable and energy independent.  Whether you live here or elsewhere but care about how your community evolves and fights climate change on a grass-roots level check out this manual and video to learn more.
     Whether involving weatherization, installing more insulation, air-sealing, replacing aging heating and cooling infrastructure in your public buildings, schools, churches and housing this information is a helpful starting point.  Many Vermont towns and cities have Energy Committees working independently of each other yet collaborating together to make a difference state-wide.  There's a statewide organization unifying all of the individual energy committees and large and small stakeholders called VECAN (VT Energy Climate Action Network.  It's an exciting group who has held numerous statewide conferences.
     This document is full of best practices culled for years of experience you and others in your community can learn from and extend forward! The guidebook covers why to do it in the first place, how to generally go about it, engaging the public in energy planning, organizing the plan, assessing community needs and opportunities among other areas.  It also shares the latest information about Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Development focusing on existing programs, planning for energy efficiency and adding renewable energy along with barriers impeding progress.
     Let me know what you think of the guidebook and if it is helpful to you and your community?

Ewaste 2011, Annual Freecycle Day helps Vermonters Rid Homes and Businesses of e-waste

     Where do you take that old analog TV or ancient five year old desktop computer hiding in your closet when its finally time for it to go?  In Vermont, we have the option to recycle them for free at the annual eWaste2011 event, this year held at National Life Group's Headquarters in Montpelier, the capitol city of Vermont.
     From 9am to 2pm long lines of cars carrying equipment to recycle queued up on the long entry road leading into the complex.  eWaste2011 was sponsored by Small Dog Electronics an Apple Specialist and National Life who donated the site.  Small Dog employees greeted drivers dropping off their goods ushering them along to the collection site.
     All of the eWaste was being collected and processed by WeRecycle in the U.S.  A small percentage of the ewaste will be salvaged intact and go on to a second life elsewhere.  The majority of the eWaste will be recycled to obtain elements such as tin, copper, silicon, beryllium, carbon, iron, aluminum to be reused.  These materials will make their way into new electronics of various kinds while staying out of landfills and posing an environmental hazard for generations to come.
     As a consumer I can't tell you how joyful it feels to rid our home of junk like this collecting dust in closets, drawers and corners of our garage.  Lightening our load while returning our eWaste back to usefullness leaves a smile on our faces.

     My wife and I wondered aloud as we drove through the line waiting to unload our materials at all of the expensive yet obsolete electronics like this pallet of TVs.  We saw possibly six to eight tractor trailers waiting for loading and thought of all the money this equipment cost at time of original purchase.  What was here was likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollar range but no longer of value to users.
     Recently I've been reading a very interesting book What's Mine is Yours, the Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Roo Rogers and Rachel Botswan which takes this to task.  You've seen my earlier post sharing Rachel's inspiring Ted Talk.  What we're doing here at the eWaste freecycle event is shifting from a  "me to we" world which is something we more typically environmentally inspired Vermonters often do anyway.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Largest Deep Energy Retrofit in the U.S. Underway - Castle Square Apartments

     I recently wrote about the Promise of Deep Energy Retrofits a few posts ago. Well today, I want to share some news about Castle Square Apartments, an existing 1960’s 192 unit mid-rise tower as part of an overall 500 unit low income housing project located in Boston’s South End, is an example of this growing trend.
US HUD Secretary Donovan is to far right of photo
Mass. Governor Menino is in the middle and congressman
Michael Capuano with glasses is in the back,  
    Today, Castle Square Apartments welcomed Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston and Congressman Capuano who toured the project to learn more about the nation's "largest and most aggressive energy savings project of its kind".  The joined members of the Castle Square Tenants Organization and WinnCompanies the co-developers and owners of this project.   They came to see for themselves the largest example yet of a Deep Energy Retrofit just beginning construction, an important foundation of a broad based strategy to fight climate change and achieve further energy independence.  It's also a great example of the Green Jobs movement in action.
After picture of Castle Square Apartments
    In a well-attended press conference, the visiting guests shared how they supported the work at Castle Square Apartments.  Secretary Donovan said, "We're proud to be a partner in delivering $6.7 million in funding to this project through our Recovery Act Green Retrofit Program that is creating hundreds of jobs and setting the standard for energy retrofits around the country.  By helping make this development more energy efficient we are also improving the quality of life for the hundreds of families who live here."
    Congressman Capuano said he "...appreciate(s) the oppourtunity to see firsthand how the Castle Square Apartments are being renovated with a specific focus on achieving energy savings. Federal stimulus money is being used to partially fund this project, which is creating jobs and improving the quality of life for tenants."
     Mayor Menino, reinforced how the project positively impacted the surrounding community by saying how it "...will create jobs for local workers, preserve 500 units of affordable housing for current and future working families of Boston, and its green design will contribute to the overall health of our City."  He went on further saying "Thanks to local residents and HUD for the collaboration and commitment to preserving Castle Square as a welcoming home for all who live here now and in the future."
    By reusing the existing housing complex and conducting a deep energy retrofit while part of an overall renovation of the apartment building, Castle Square sets a visionary example for others to learn from. With a goal to cut energy use by 72%, the project will take a deep bite out of it energy bill while dramatically reducing its carbon footprint. It also shows how non-profit organizations can continue to keep their missions viable to provide low-cost affordable housing far into the future, even with aging infrastructure.
Before picture of Castle Square Apartments
    Castle Square is the largest such project (the mid-rise tower portion) currently under construction in the U.S. at least for now. (I see this only as a good thing) The 1960’s era Byron Rogers Federal Office building in Denver by The Rocky Mountain Institute as part of its RetroFit program will likely be the largest but its a ways out for its construction. High profile examples of retrofits such as the Empire State Building while certainly an ambitious success story, with a projected 38% energy use reduction does not meet this more aggressive criteria.   
    A deep energy retrofit is broadly defined as a renovation of building producing at least 50% to as high as over 70% energy savings over existing code compliant buildings.  By heavily upgrading the building enclosure with super-insulation, high performance windows, lighting, advanced building systems and controls energy use as compared to typical buildings can be dramatically reduced.  Such efforts provide positive financial returns and savings over the long run.  Here in the U.S. existing buildings account for 40 percent(%) of the nation’s energy use and 38% if the carbon dioxide emissions. Thus we have a huge challenge before us.
        What Castle Square faced when beginning a renovation process a few years ago is what many face today around the country. Surging energy costs of almost 40% from a year ago clarifies the need to make real strides in energy efficiency to weather unpredictable ongoing operational costs not only for the next heating season but those over the next decade and beyond. Non-profits as well as colleges and universities face tough choices when facing potential renovations.  Deep Energy Retrofits offer a great strategy helping ensure ongoing viability, future affordability and predictability in energy costs.  
    But they require a commitment to integrated design process and deeper sustainability goals than typical projects which produce 30 to 40% energy savings as compared to base code case buildings.  Yesterday's "high performance buildings" getting to this level weren't necessarily short-sighted, they set the standard for their time but its time to turn up the volume on performance.