Mar 13, 2009

Went to Build it Green convention and Expo today at the convention center downtown. A few good speakers, a lot of stuff I've already heard, mostly directed at developers. Didn't see too many architecture types out there. The first lecture was so-so. The second was interesting, more focused on green lab design, which is right up our alley. Its a shame we're really not incorporating any of the sustainable elements into this project. At least I'm getting better at understanding what we could do, and the technologies and techniques at the forefront of lab design.

Anyway, the third speaker was really good. A professor from Thunderbird School of Management, recently published in Harvard Business Journal, talking about the business side of sustainability. An odd lecture, he talked about the sweep of human history from hunter-gathers to agricultural societies to industrial, and the trade-offs we've made along the way. He used a stock portfolio analogy to describe the levels of productivity in these stages. Hunter-gathers, when the fish stocks are down, there are still deer to hunt = diversified. Agrarian states, which specialized in five grains, and three major animals to domesticate, specialized, and so stability was replaced by feasts followed by famine. Industrial societies specialized further, and so all the prehistoric knowledge of how to exist in the natural world diminished to practically nothing.

He made some other interesting points, but basically it came down to industry, in order to survive, must adopt the same rules which allowed the biosphere to exist since the advent of life on this planet. Namely, a radical simplification in the number of materials we use, which ties into his second rule, that everything must become cyclical, a value cycle instead of a value chain, where the consumer returns the product at the end of its commercial use to the producer who breaks it down and re-fabricates it. Lastly of course, is that these transformations must ultimately use solar power to do so. The lion dies and becomes food for the grass, the antelope eat the grass, the lions eat the antelope, etc. Circle of life as industrial model.

So that was fun. The expo was kind of slow. Mostly products for homeowners and developers. We got some silly putty, some recycled pencils and office supplies. And a green tote.

Mar 1, 2009

Patios, Malls, and LEED

Here are a few of the things I've been up to lately:

Saori and I cleaned out the patio yesterday and went to world market where we picked up a bunch of small colored glass cubes for candles, and another hanging moroccan lantern to go with the lanterns I picked up in Abu Dhabi. At night, with all the candles, its very nice and relaxing, s we've been spending our evenings outside enjoying the light.

Today, we drove around, went to Buffalo exchange and PV mall. Paradise Valley Mall was pretty nice as I recall back ten years ago when I lived in Phoenix. Since I've been gone, its gone downhill, probably with Fashion Square and Kierland Commons taking the wind from its sails. It feels tired and weary, weakly fighting, even with a few higher end fashion stores. Fiesta Mall actually had more energy and vitality to it, and feels like its socially climbing. Metrocenter is hitting the bottom of the barrel with many storefronts vacant.

Work: a few bugs in the system. Basically our computer program makes work very easy and occationally very hard for us. Today and yesterday (saturday and sunday) I spent two hours a day working to fix a major glitch.

Revit is great but when things go bad things go real bad, especaially for our model. If you designed a cube in CAD software, you would draw a bunch of boxes on different sheets to show the different plans and sections. If you designed a cube in Revit, you create a 3D cube and the program slices and interprets it for you. If you screw up one drawing in CAD, you've only screwed up one sheet. If you screw up part of the cube, the error propegates itself through all the interpretations of the model on all the sheets.

The latest thing is that Revit lost all the dimentions between things and gridlines, which means we now have many hours of work ahead of us to make sure things tie back to the gridlines.

LEED accredation- I'm sure many of you have heard about "green" or "sustainable" buildings. In the United States, building construction and use is second only to industrial manufacturing in terms of energy and resource use. In an effort to set an industry standard of sustainability, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) set up a system of quantifying how green a building is based on a point system, called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). There are four levels of LEED certification, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and certified, depending on how many points your building gets. Some points are very easy to get. If you are building on a site that used to have a building, you get a point because you're not despoiling new land, for example. LEED is actually pretty broadly encompasing- there are credits for making buildings that are easily accessible to bus or mass transportation routes, credits for improving air quality, efficiant water systems, etc etc. The tricky bit is where credits work against each other.

For example, there are a lot of credits based on reducing energy use, which is great. But there are also credits associated with indoor air quality. To improve air quality, you need to move more air around more frequently, which uses more energy. So you have find an appropriate balance.

Anyway, you also get a point if the project has a LEED accredited architect/designer associated with it. LEED accredited people can be anyone who passes the LEED test, a large portion of which is basic knowlege of how to use the LEED system. So it is a little self-serving. But with a lot of interest in green design and construction, individuals, universities, and municipalities have been pushed to mandate percentages of new buildings that have to be LEED certified. So, Saori and I are going to take the test and become certified to 1) increase our marketability, 2) so we can put LEED AP at the end of our buisness cards, 3) because sustainabilty and green design will become more of an issue in the future and not less so, and 4) because they're going to make the test harder later in the year.

Enough LEED for now.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.