Posting on Posting: Legal Challenges to Green Building


…It’s true that there’s a lot of horn-tooting involved with LEED, that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular. But are lawsuits like this good or bad for green building?…

beyond the buzzword: legal challenges to green building

image credits: will scullin, taramisu, beau-foto
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Posting on Posting: LEAN vs NEAT

i was asked a really interesting question recently about
efficiency : sustainability : activity

can sustainability make us fat?


image credits: jim crocker, grahamc99, jekert gwapo, adam nfk smith
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Thoughts On Passing My LEED Exam

Yesterday I sat for and passed my LEED Green Associate exam on the very last day before my registration expired. That’s right folks, literally one full year of procrastination (not that I haven’t been busy).

I’m proud but also wary. This felt like something I had to do professionally. There are so many job postings that request LEED accreditation, but so few of them actually have anything to do with building. My masters degree in Built Ecologies is a much stronger certification, but a little harder to explain. LEED is easy branding, bite-size sustainability, that has started to stand in for something much bigger than itself.

My first encounter with LEED was in the mid-aughts at Metropolis magazine. I keep thinking back to how exciting it was then. For some reason Carlie Bullock-Jones, who was the LEED specialist for Interface’s groundbreaking showroom in Atlanta, kept coming to mind. Her 2007 talk at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair with its roots at Auburn’s Rural Studio and talk of integrated design process and documentation as a tool for staying on track made LEED seem so COOL. (I had to transcribe that speech, which might account for it lodging in my brain.)

Today LEED is beleaguered by lawsuits and backlash. Architects in the know dismiss it as bureaucracy, knowing that they can design green buildings just fine without it. Those on the cutting edge of architectural technology are aghast at the low bar for innovation. Citizens expecting miracles don’t care that they have to participate, maybe turn off a light or two, in order to keep a green building working properly. And on the parallel road of sustainable business where building principles might be less important than branding, those lawsuits are enough to make it seem useless.

I don’t think that LEED is the real problem though. There is nothing controversial about its content. It relies heavily on industry respected codes and best practices, and has done a really good job of publicizing the importance of a greener built environment. The real problem is that LEED has bitten off more than it can chew and because of it everyone else is getting lazy. Nothing that bureaucratic can replace critical thinking.

So I feel funny about having bought in (and when I say bought, yes, the whole experience was time consuming and expensive). I’m curious what this will do for me, and hopefully in my eagerness to find out, good things will come.

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Props For Kat’s Cool Movie

Last night we were treated at last to the inaugural screening of my roommate Kat Green’s  documentary, The Secret Life of Mushrooms at the Kraine Theatre in New York City. It was a classy affair with luminaries from the film and television industry plus art stars, burners, and friends packing the house.

This was the first time I saw the movie, but having witnessed Kat’s inspiring dedication from notion to product it felt familiar. A mere year ago, she took her scrappy crew from Spygirl Pictures down to Huautla de Jimenez, Mexico to document the long-term effects of psychedelic mushrooms on the small town that gave American hippies their first dose. Needless to say the effects were staggering to both cultures.

Keep an eye out for the film on the festival circuit and feel free to tell everyone you know!

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CSR from the Urban Datascape to Impact Investing

zooming out on the city and in on the moneyThe CRD Analytics blog is moving full speed ahead. This month we zoom out on the city and in on the money to look at world of sustainable investing from both physical and monetary perspectives. Check out the latest:

CRD Analytics January Announcements
Find out about our work with Mission Markets, the Southeastern Corporate Sustainability Rankings, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth business school, BrandLogic, and the Global Reporting Institute’s Focal Point USA.

The Sustainable Urban Datascape
If you followed my graduate work at all, you can imagine my excitement at finding out that the business community is taking a long hard look at the Role and Use of Data in the Sustainable City (note, for instance, section 1.3 of my master’s thesis, Information as a building material). We’re planning a symposium on the topic in May, stay tuned.

Impact Investing is Making a Dent
There’s a growing trend toward sustainable investing, but it hasn’t always been easy to pull this off. A mere five years ago, the job that first put the word “sustainability” on my lips offered the same 401K full of environmentally disastrous companies that everyone else got. Today we have some new tools for making it happen.

US Sustainability Reporting is Heating Up
Certain parts of Europe actually have laws on the books requiring companies to disclose their environmental, social, and governance data. While the US is abysmal at the federal level when it comes to most of this stuff, at least we have the pluck to forge headstrong and fast into a good trend. It’s pretty amazing how fast this is moving.

Image credits: rhodes, kevindooley

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We Get a Treehouse at Figment 2011

Sustainable TreehouseMy friend Ben is gearing up to do a great architecture project on Governors Island for Figment 2011 and needs your $$$ now, and probably your sweat later. Ben was smart and made his master’s thesis project for exhibition design into a plan for a viable urban scale art project with community support. Now it’s fundraising time.

The Sustainable TreeHouse brings together the best elements of sustainability of the built environment like reclaimed and living materials plus passive energy sources, with the interactive elements that make Figment so stimulating. I don’t know how much of Ben’s original proposal will make it into the final plans—my favorite is the Scratch N’Sniff VOC wall where you can “Learn about Volatile Organic Compounds by smelling the smells and guessing what it is”—but the treehouse will certainly be both visually exciting and full of inspiring activities. Please join me in throwing a few bucks in the pot to make this happen.

Donate on Kickstarter
Download full proposal PDF

Ben’s last large-scale piece on Governors Island was a chair dragon. How exciting to see a graduation from furniture to architecture!

Image credits: Benjamin Jones, The Sustainable TreeHouse; bridge designs

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The Past Month’s Worth of Neenan Clips at Last

It’s nice to have such a full life, too bad my blog has to suffer! Here’s the backlog of what I’ve been working on over the past month or so for The Neenan Company.

Sustainability By Any Other Word
My assignment on this article was “What is sustainability?” I have to admit, the word sounds worse to me every time I hear it, but the values it embodies remain truly exciting. Sustainability is about problem solving according to place and time in order to do right by ourselves and society. Discuss.

Rural Hospital Replacement: What Happens?
I interviewed Brian Haapala, Managing Director of healthcare consultancy Stroudwater Associates to find out what happens when a rural area decides to build a new hospital. While no two communities are alike, thanks to Stoudwater’s extensive research on the subject it’s easy to compare situations and to learn from example how to make replacement facilities profitable and socially-enhancing even in lower population areas.

Design Vitality in Fitness and in Sickness
Good design can do a lot to keep us healthy or make us sick. Design touches every human-made object, mundane and sublime alike. Just think about everything that would make life easier, either to have or to get rid of! From ergonomics to interactives, healthcare design itself keeps getting more interesting.

Design Rx: Beauty, Stimulation, Interaction
Objects are only part of the designed world, spacial considerations also have profound health consequences. Combined with total experience planning and maybe some technological nudges, architecture can keep our brains and bodies alert in ways that keep us alive longer.

Image credit: courtneyBolton

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