Earth Day, Architecture and being “Green”

Yesterday was Earth Day. The one day a year when people all gather round, plant trees, pick up trash that they themselves threw on the ground just the day before and generally get all “green” and junk. Even my son, who is 4, announced to me, when I asked what he did at school, that he saved the world from the litter bugs. I love my boy. He has such a simple and profound way of stating things.

But what I wonder is why is this not a part of our daily routine? I myself try and take a biblical perspective on “saving” the earth. We were put here on earth as stewards, as caretakers. God said for us to “go into the earth and subdue it”. We are meant to be lord and master over all. With this comes great responsibility, with which we have failed miserably in my opinion.

I recently read a tag line for another blog that “sustainability” as a term is dead and now considered redundant in architecture. Meaning that “of course” we’re designing to a higher “green” standard…..But the reality, I think, does not match the sentiment. In generations past there was no choice but to be “green” and “sustainable”. Buildings HAD to last more than a lifetime. Building HAD to be constructed of local materials. Buildings HAD to respond effectively to their surroundings and climate. Buildings HAD to work WITH nature, not against it.

Today, our buildings are disposable. Today, our buildings are lucky to last 50 years. Today our buildings still consume more fossil fuel energy in construction and operation than most any other source. This is a gross failure on our part. If you’re not, at minimum, designing each and every one of your projects in response to site specific conditions, you’ve failed. You’ve failed your client, your project and your community.

Even a strip mall can respond to site specific conditions to take advantage of daylighting, cross breezes, rainwater collection for toilet flushing, etc. These are inexpensive, or even free, ways to allow a building to work with it’s site rather than against it. On top of this we need to add better quality materials and more thoughtful construction detailing. The point is not to make sure water and air stay out, but rather to deal with the certainty that when air and water get in, how do we deal with it.

Buildings used to breathe. Let them breathe again.

Daily Prompt: Seven Days

You wake up tomorrow morning to find all your plans have been cancelled for the next seven days and $10,000 on your dresser. Tell us about your week.

Only one thing comes to mind – 7 Days, 7 Cities.

For years I’ve had a list of the top ten places in the US I want to visit. This list includes cities that I’ve never been to but have always wanted to visit, and if I had a week off and $10k in the bank I’d make each day count like a mo’fo. So here’s my list in order starting with Saturday and ending with Saturday.

1. Seattle, Washington (with a brief trip to Victoria and Vancouver)

Seattle-Seattle_4

2. San Fransisco, California

san-francisco

3. Denver, Colorado

Denver Skyline, summer

4. Coby, Wyoming ( closest town to Shoshone National Forest)

Shoshone-National-Forest1

5. Bellvue, Idaho (closest town to Craters of the Moon)

arches-park-014

6. Chicago

© 1999 EyeWire, Inc.

7.Alamogordo, New Mexico (outside Lincoln National Forest)

lincoln-national-forest

In case you can’t tell, I REALLY like the outdoors. I could easily spend 7 days in EACH of these places and not get my fill, but hey. So, what would be your dream week with $10k to burn?

Daily Prompt: free association

Today’s daily prompt title is free association. They give three words and ask for the first word that comes to your mind for each. This was always a fun game in grade school. You could learn a lot about a person by the associations they make instinctively without time to figure out what someone else thinks the right answer should be. Here we go.

HOME: KIDS

When I think of home I immediately think of my children. Nothing makes me happier than coming home and immediately being greeted by my two screaming little monsters. The place isn’t even important. “Home” for me is not a place, it’s a feeling. You can live in the same city, on the same street and in the same house for decades and never quite feel “home”, but then suddenly you enter a place for the first time, maybe a new apartment or a new house or a box car on a subway, and you just feel at home. There’s no rationale behind it, it just is. This is also one of the things I love about architecture – the opportunity to not just design and build a house for someone, but to create a home – that one place that my client will feel truly content and at peace.

SOIL: HIKING

I live in Arkansas now. They call it The Natural State, and after only a few months here, I know why. It’s beautiful. There are mountains and parks and lakes and rivers and streams and springs and campgrounds and horseback riding and fishing and hunting…..it’s amazing. I love it. So, when I think of soil I think of hiking and camping and all those other things. I think of being in and surrounded by nature, of digging my fingers into the cool dirt near a river or climbing mountain trails with my kids.

RAIN: PLAY

I mean, really, is there any other word that comes to mind when you think of rain? Being a kid, running outside in a rain storm, your mother yelling at you about catching pneumonia, splashing in puddles and running around until you are completely soaked. It reminds me of being young and carefree, of having the entire world in front of me, endless possibilities for my future.