Alpine Hut Goodness


Bild138.jpgSwiss architecture firm Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle H├Ąchler did this renovation of a two century old alpine hut in 1997.  They managed to bring out the beautiful existing qualities of the hut (its heavy timber beauty), while adding some gorgeous stone elementalness of their own.

Excuse The Mess

Excuse the mess; we will look pretty again in a few days, promise.

LEED Certified Buildings Not Always Saving Energy


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(Pictured: Cooper Union Building by Thom Mayne/Morphosis, which is going for a LEED Platinum Certification)

Shocker!  LEED certified buildings do not always save energy.  They never said they would be!  The New York Times gets wind of what has been known for a little while, that some LEED rated buildings, particularly the ones at the lowest end of the LEED scale, particularly the ones that got certified when the LEED rating was young, aren't saving energy.  Read this 2008 article by Henry Gifford (warning: PDF) to get a LEED critic's view on the matter.

Things to know:
1. Chad Smith is a LEED Accredited Professional, as of earlier this year!
2. LEED was developed to make owners, developers, builders, and I guess architects and engineers all happy.  Which means it is very popular yet is imperfect and has a few glaring loopholes, like this one: that LEED accreditation does not automatically mean the buildings will have lower energy consumption.
3. The whole LEED accreditation system is undergoing a revamp, to focus more on water use and energy consumption. Future buildings may be more energy efficient?  LEED won't nail this down because there still isn't a systemic demand to monitor the building's performance after it is certified by LEED.  But the two most pressing sustainability issues in buildings are water use and energy consumption, so they are on the right track.
4. One of the reasons LEED and green building is so hot right now is because LEED has been very popular.  So like Wal-Mart bringing organic food to each of their stores everywhere, LEED has brought the idea of sustainability to the world of building in the United States.  It's a huge success, but one that is not fully realized.
5. It is difficult to get a higher LEED rating without being somewhat more energy efficient.  So a LEED Platinum building: probably saving energy.  But no one actually knows!
6. The Times article implies that buildings can install a bunch of bamboo flooring and get a LEED rating.  In fact, Renewable Materials is one of the hardest points to get in the LEED system.  Basically it's bamboo anything, cork flooring, and like wool carpets...and that's it.  As a percentage of construction, you'd need to cover every surface in bamboo to make it work.  So no one is installing that much flooring in lieu of other sustainable strategies.  
7. But yes you could get most of your points saving water and putting your building on a sustainable site, and still be running a barely-OK HVAC unit.
8. I said it in February 2009: in 5 years we are going to look at LEED Silver as a ridiculously low standard.
9. Some LEED buildings are undoubtedly kicking ass on the energy consumption measure.  Let's hear about those too?

Tropolism Has Moved!


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We are officially on a new host.  Life is good.

There are probably a few rough edges around here.  PHP is difficult yo!

Pictured: 364 Crown Walk under construction, Fire Island Pines, New York, August 2009.

Tropolism Is Moving



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Tropolism is moving to a new host!  If you see us out of service, don't panic. We're simply moving to a new host.  In the coming months you'll also see T2 T2.0, as we evolve and expand.  

Tropolism has always been about the process of architecture.  You'll see us writing about that more explicitly.  

Pictured: 364 Crown Walk under construction, Fire Island Pines, New York, August 2009.

Tropolism Books: The Green Workplace

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Title: The Green Workplace: Sustainable Strategies that Benefit Employees, the Environment, and the Bottom Line
Author: Leigh Stringer
Publication Date: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230614284
Available at Amazon.


Have you ever presented a recycling plan to the superiors at your office, only to be met with blank stares? Told bewildered colleagues that the florescent office lighting they replaced with extra hot and dim halogen track lighting is burning five times more carbon? Explained yet again that plastic bottled water is a ridiculous waste of resources, from cradle to grave? Wondered if there was a resource for people who somehow missed the entirety of the factual information they were exposed to in An Inconvenient Truth?

I have.

It's a pain. In this day and age there are still folks who don't know that recycling makes a difference, certain light fixtures burn loads of power, bottled water is wasteful, and that without a reduction in carbon emissions (forget reduction in rate of emissions, which is all politicians talk about) we are going to burn ourselves out of a home. One way to get people's attention, or to clear away their stubborn ignorance, is to direct them to The Green Workplace, a book by architect and MBA Leigh Stringer (who was also a classmate of mine in architecture school).

The book is aimed at CEOs and CSOs and other C-Suite folks who may be titans in the business arena, but are painfully dumb when it comes to the tidal wave of sustainability issues that are going to affect their bottom line in the next few years. The book makes a convincing case for how sustainability can benefit the bottom line, making the case so plain that even business owners who won't spend a dime to sustain their community or environment will be forced to acknowledge that there's money to be made by going green. The least interesting thing about this book it that it sometimes feels like it's overcompensating for the C-Suite folks. Does anyone who is playing at the upper levels of business really not know about how major corporations save oodles of money by saving energy, reducing waste, and making employees more productive? The answer to this question is, unbelievably, yes, and the author is well aware of it. The flip side of this is that Ms. Stringer patiently goes over these points in great detail, and undoubtedly there are some details that those who are very trained in sustainability issues (like me!) have missed.

The book also plays double duty. It is both a how-to book for the enthusiastic in-house environmental organizer and also an eye-opener to the internet deprived business traveler who found the book on a layover in Tuscon. Like the blog from which it sprang, the book is good for grazing on the parts you are interested, and discovering new concepts and ideas that you will read about later. For me this new territory was the introduction of a few green business measuring systems I didn't' know about (Triple Bottom Line or Balanced Scorecard), none of which are new concepts. You'll find your own new territory, and undoubtedly create a new reading list as a result.

The refreshing part of Mrs. Stringer's approach is that the focus is doggedly on organizational behavior. It assumes that everyone agrees that our behavior effects planetary environmental shifts, and that no convincing on that front is necessary. It gets to work. It also feels like a work in progress, like one in a series of books, or blogs. When I chatted with Leigh about the book, she acknowledged that the metrics of environmental business are not equal to the task at hand, and will probably need updating. What ever Book 2 looks like, we admire that this one covers all the bases, for now, and is plugged into a more active blog that will continue the conversation. When you choose to tune in, Leigh Stringer will be ready for you, and she will get you up to speed in no time.

Available at Amazon.

Charles Gwathmey, Dead at 71

29293642.jpgWe don't do obituaries at Tropolism, but this death is worth mentioning. Charles Gwathmey died August 3rd in Manhattan. Mr. Gwathmey was the target of derision in my very first published article, so I like to think of him as my entree into the world of writing. His work's promise is something I still think bears repeating. One key project I was unhappy with. Some other minor works seemed undercooked. But he created some triumphs (see the New York Times slideshow for this, they hit the major ones) and his hand at renovation/additions was an important first example in how to expand a famous building without either wimping out or trying to speak over the star performer. What remains, of course, is his influence.

Poster Designers, Get Ready

CUPMPPposter.jpgCUP, Tropolism's favorite NYC urban activist group, is at it again. As you may know, they publish a smart poster every few months announcing their initiatives; the poster is called Making Policy Public, or MPP. This time around, they are partnering with some innovative groups; most interesting to us is FIERCE (or Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment; yes the acronyms are fatiguing). FIERCE is probably most known for their organizing of youngsters who hang out on Christopher Street and on the Village piers, and have been harrassed by both West Village residents and the police alike. But like the piers themselves, the crowd has evolved, is better organized, and even has its own mission statement. And, now, involved in the conversation about the development of public space. My, how the children have grown.

CUP has issued a call for designers for the next MPP poster. If you were looking for a time to get directly involved in these conversations, I am here to tell you that that time has arrived.

Tropolism: Moving Up To 7

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Tropolism made it into the top 10 of the MoPo 2009 list of most popular architecture weblogs (written in English by primarily one person, and vetted by this or that metric) again this year, except moving up to slot #7. We were thrilled last year that we got in the top-10 at all, taking the #9 slot. Except we just learned that in 2007 we were #4.

The takeaway: top-10 trifecta!

Amazon Wishes

Just so you know, we have a wishlist at Amazon.com. And, our 4 year anniversary is fast approaching. Click the button to send us stuff:

My Amazon.com Wish List

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