From the Dept. of Nice Ideas . . . turning disused Big Box stores into suburban farms.
If you missed the NYC Before Europe event last month where we brought together Eric Sanderson, author of Mannahatta, and Charles C. Mann, author of 1491, to discuss the anthropological and ecological history of the NYC region then be sure not to miss Dr. Sanderson’s talk at TED from July. Now available on their fantastic website.
It’s a remarkable testimony to the success of Greenbuild that this post needs to be written. But with over 100 sessions available at what is now a massive, sometimes overwhelming, conference I thought a few might find it useful to learn which of the sessions in Phoenix intrigue me the most. In general, I’ll be looking for subjects that relate to our work in New York and speakers that aren’t likely to pass through the Northeast.
WEDNESDAY – 8:30 am – BROWN SERIES
BR15: Mixed Mode Buildings: Combining the Best of Natural Ventilation and Mechanical Cooling
Fully passive buildings might be a realistic goal in temperate climates, but in the Northeast the extremes of our winter and summer seasons make it less viable. So mixed-mode strategies have to be in our toolkit moving forward. The west coast is way out in front on this subject (I know, they are blessed with more temperate climates), probably why the panel is loaded with folks from Berkeley and Boulder.
BR08: Re-Membering: The Patterns of Living Systems Design
Also of great interest Wednesday morning is this panel including Bill Reed. Bill gave an incredible presentation on integrated, or whole system, design thinking at our Salon last year. He’s co-authored a great book on Integrated Design and is always a great speaker to catch if you get the chance.
WEDNESDAY – 2:00 pm – BLUE SERIES
BL15: Daylighting Transparency and Building Envelope Design
Daylighting design is one of my great loves so I am always excited to panels on this very important and poorly understood topic. Even some very good architects out there think that designing for daylighting means simply adding vast expanses of glass to the exterior- a recipe for disaster in most cases. It’s also a design element for which we lack sufficient assessment tools, hampering it’s adoption by the design community.
BL07: Oops! Learning from Unexpected Results in the European Design Process
While I have some trepidation that this panel is designed to simply embarrass us with the fact that Europe’s mistakes perform better than our greatest achievements- the panel is so strong that I imagine it will include some truly inspiring projects. And Europe is leading the way in many regards on green building so we shouldn’t be shy about stealing every trick we can.
Other notables in the Blue Series:
BL04: How Bus Rapid Transit is Enabling the Rennaisance of One of America’s Grandest Avenues
BL02: iGreen: How the Web Empowers Designers to Build Sustainably
WEDNESDAY – 4:30 pm – GREEN SERIES
GR04: Urban Food Systems: From Vertical Farming to District Level Food Strategies
We held two programs on this subject in New York this year. We held a Salon on Urban Agriculture featuring Dickson Despommier from Columbia and Benjamin Linsley from Bright Farm Systems. And there was the enormously well received Hungry New York which featured Carolyn Steel and where we focused on local food systems and purveyors rather than techy subjects like Vertical Farming. So it’s a broad subject in which I feel well versed- but I have never heard of any of the speakers on this panel so I’m really looking forward to some new perspectives on a familiar subject.
GR06: Water Resource Use and Green Design
Setting aside the deep irony of any straight faced discussion of water resources in a city which has little in the way of water resources but is surrounded by imported lawns and sprawling golf courses- there are few people that know as much about water policy and resource issues as Robert Glennon. We hosted a great reading and discussion with Mr. Glennon in New York this year. He’s both funny and very smart. If this is your subject his book, Unquenchable, is your book.
THURSDAY – 8:30 am – RED SERIES
RD04: Walking the Talk: An Examination of Sustainability in Design, Construction and Urban Development Relating to Light Rail
Despite the horrible title, which is way too long and features one of the world’s most overused metaphors, I’m really looking forward to this session. We don’t do any work on transportation at Urban Green, We look to folks like the Regional Plan Association for that, but there is a lot of discussion in New York about the viability of light rail corridors vs. new subway lines (the 7 line extension, for instance, or the 2nd avenue subway.)
THURSDAY – 2:00 pm – ORANGE SERIES
OR15: The Often Overlooked Component of Sustainability: A Holistic Approach to Indoor Air Quality in Design, Construction and Occupancy
Indoor air quality is hugely important and understood by few. With all the focus on outdoor air issues many people still don’t understand how bad the air quality is in most buildings- where we spend the vast majority of our time. Glad to see a panel on this subject that appears to have a strong scientific background.
THURSDAY – 4:00 pm – YELLOW SERIES
YL15: Mount Angel Abbey Academic Center: Innovations in Daylighting & Passive Cooling
I’ve already noted my soft spot for daylighting and other passive design strategies. Charlie Brown hails from my alma mater, the University of Oregon, and the book he co-authored, Sun, Wind & Light, changes my life a little every time I open it. On top of all this the subject is Mount Angel Abbey, the site of Alvar Aalto’s unbelievably fabulous library and my earliest architectural epiphany (a whole other story.) So- not a panel I can miss.
FRIADY – 8:30 am – PURPLE SERIES
PL06: Design With Nature: The Omega Center for Sustainable Design and Biophilic Design
A strong panel discussing a truly cutting edge project. There may be only a few morsels applicable to urban buildings, but even one will make the time worth it.
PL14: Shooting the Moon: Designing a High Performance Office Building for NASA Ames
Another very strong panel on a truly remarkable project. Any time you get the chance to hear from McDonough’s office on their current work you should take it.
If you missed Carolyn Steel’s presentation at our Master Class in May this year, or if you couldn’t make it to our incredible Hungry New York event that same week you can now get a snapshot of the subject, if not the events themselves: Carolyn Steel’s talk at the superfabulous TED conference in July is now available on their site, here.
Carolyn’s remarkable book, Hungry City, explores the way in which food networks shape the development of cities and asks how a better understanding of this relationship can positively effect the way we inhabit urban places in the future.
She acted as the principal facilitator of Hungry New York (named, obviously, in honor of her book), where we gathered more than 100 people from the green building and sustainable food communities for a sustainable meal at City Bakery. Many of the purveyors whose foodstuffs we enjoyed spoke that evening about the differences between their local products and the items you might find at a supermarket chain, and about the challenges they face in what might best be described as the battle to provide local, sustainable food to our fair city. Carolyn’s work brilliantly distills this complicated issue into something, err, digestible. Take 15 minutes to watch this talk. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s the sort of project we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the coming years, the greening of a mid-century building. In this case it’s the greening of a very large icon, Willis (nee Sears) Tower in Chicago.
The scale of this sort of project is unreal. Just walking through the numbers gets your blood pumping (if you are geek like me, I mean.) Annual projections include; saving 24 million gallons of water, a 50% reduction in the heating load, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by millions of pounds.
The other part of the story that will become familiar is the disconnect between the measures that are most effective and the measures that attract most of our attention. It is lovely and wonderful that the green roofs of such a tower attract ladybugs to the 90th floor (one wonders, though, if they came with the plantings.) But the yeomans work in terms of energy and water savings will be in less photogenic projects like replacing the 16,000 single pane windows, swapping the lighting for modern, vastly more efficient units and controls, and installing high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.
It’s great to see such a signature building get the green treatment. The American downtown is a veritable sea of office towers from the same generation, wrapped in the same poorly performing skin. Here’s hoping their owners are watching.
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