Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

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Pictorial> A Nature-Dominated Office in Denver

It might be the latest trend in creative modern eco-office design or, more likely, it's a tongue-in-cheek reminder to avoid letting work take over your life. In the typical modern office with row upon row of geometric cubicles, the closest a worker might get to nature is a small potted plant, a faraway glimpse out a window, or a rainforest background on his or her computer. But a new installation in downtown Denver quite literally breaks down this man-made environment in an effort to promote outdoor activity and a connection to nature during the workday. Boulder-based architecture firm Tres Birds Workshop created the five-part installation called Natural Systems Domination in July from old office furniture covered in live plants, evoking an office—perhaps abandoned by workers who left to find nature—where nature has found a way back into the work environment. From the architects:
Domination implies taking over. If we had it our way, natural systems would dominate entirely. Natural systems operate in perfect efficiency. Humans are both part of those natural systems and also somehow separate (by choice). The further we stray from connections with nature, the more alien we become.
The installation is part of sustainability-minded Keen Footwear's "Recess Revolution Tour" and represents a collaboration with Green Roofs of Colorado and the Fabric Lab. All of the office equipment from chairs and tables to an old copy machine was purchased from second-hand stores and was donated back after the installation was complete. Plants were also reused in the community. (Via TreeHugger.) Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
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Showtime for school in rundown Brownsville Theater

Like many outlying parts of the city, Brownsville fell hard from its turn-of-the-century grandeur, with decaying reminders of its former greatness. Among them is the Loews Pitkin Theater, once home to the likes of Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Humphrey Bogart, and Al Joelson's last performance, as well as thousands of eager movie goers. The building has been closed since 1969—until last week, when a ground breaking was held for a new charter school and retail complex. Curbed and Brownstoner were among those in attendance, and they got some pretty amazing pictures of the building's decrepit interiors (see some after the jump). We've since been sent the above rendering by the developers, POKO Partners, who are working with Kitchen & Associates, a firm based in Collingswood, New Jersey on the renovation. According to POKO, the project will mesh what remains of the building's sumptuous Art Deco interiors with high-tech, sustainable features, creating something at once historic and cutting edge. The base of the building will house some 70,000 square feet of retail with a 90,000-square-foot, 1,100-seat elementary and middle school above, run by Ascend Learning. The project is expected to be completed in the next 18 months. "The Loews Pitkin Theater is exciting because it embodies POKO¹s core values of revitalizing neighborhoods and enhancing communities through positive and responsible real estate development," POKO President and CEO Ken Olson said in a release.
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One Bryant Reaches New Heights

The building's been up and running for two years, but One Bryant Park wasn't finished finished until last Thursday night, when the opening party was held in the cavernous lobby and the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Dursts with the building's LEED Platinum plaque. Jody Durst kicked things off, thanking everyone for coming, all the people who made the building possible, and the like before introducing Rick Cook, the lead designer for Cook + Fox on the penguin-shaped tower. Before a crowd of a few hundred bankers, real estate types, and other assorted Midtown workadays, Cook probably gave the largest architectural lecture of his career. Cook talked about how important it was to make the building natural and humane, how important it is that the the first thing anyone experiences when they enter the building is nature, granted in the form of wood-inlaid handles on the revolving door. There's the overhanging ceiling that draws the eye out into the park, the fossils scattered throughout the Jerusalem stone tiles on the wall. The crowd's heads swung back-and-forth from one sustainable feature to the next, mouths at once smiling and agape. (To go even deeper inside the building, check out this cool tour our pals at the Observer recently took.) Cook even quoted from Genesis before celebrating the freedom he and his team had had while working on the project: "When we were brought on, they didn't ask for big and green. Instead, the challenge was how do you design at scale in an American city today." He got about the most applause we've ever heard for an architect anywhere. Next up was Al Gore, who mentioned what a big fan he was of the mayor, also in attendance and about to speak. Gore happens to be a tenant in the building, as the offices of his private equity firm are located there, and he mentioned that they had just received their LEED Platinum for interiors certification that day, and entreating everyone to do the same while reciting the old saw about buildings eating up 30-plus percent of the world's energy. Then, the head of anchor tenant Bank of America's sustainability efforts got up for some back patting and to announce a $125,000 grant to fund 100 gardens at public schools in the city, part of a new initiative. Then came the plaque, and with the speechifying done, a champagne toast and back to our "locally sourced" mojitos.
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Recycling Finally on NYC Streets?

When was the last time you found yourself on a city street, empty water bottle or given-up-on crossword in hand? Being the conscientious New Yorker you are, no doubt you looked around for a recycling bin to deposit your refuse in. Odds are, you didn't find any nearby, as the city—so often held up as a green beacon—is woefully lacking in recycling receptacles. That could change soon, with the passage of a package of recycling-related legislation that was unveiled just before Earth Day last month. Since the launch of a public recycling pilot program in 2007, there are now 300 bins scattered across the city. The council hopes to double that number within three years of the legislation's passage and increase it to 1,000 within a decade. But the city has a long way to go, considering there are more than 25,000 "corner baskets" located in the five boroughs. Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and some of her greener colleagues took a trip up to Astoria to check up on the recycling bins there as part of the pilot program and urge New Yorkers to lobby for more of them. “Next time you walk through your local park or down a major commercial strip, take a quick glance into one of the public waste baskets," Quinn said in a statemtn. "I guarantee you it will be brimming with newspapers, magazines, plastic bottles, and soda cans—all of which can and should be recycled. As we head into summer and New Yorkers and tourists spend more time outdoors at our world-famous public attractions, this bill will give them the to opportunity to pitch in and recycle, and make our city an even cleaner and greener place.” While the council's initial efforts may seem meager, an official said that they would be conspicuously located in high-traffic locations, such as parks and major thoroughfares, allowing a limited number of cans to meet a considerable amount of the city's recycling needs. Also, the council continues to negotiate with the Department of Sanitation, meaning there could be more bins on the way. Given that another piece of the recycling legislation is the capacity to finally recycle paint, certain hazard waste, and plastic beyond those items labeled 1 and 2—now including takeout containers and juice bottles—it seems like this is the least, though certainly not the most, the city could do.
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Lean and Green

Vice President Joe Biden announced nearly half-a-billion dollars in stimulus funding today to promote green retrofits nationwide, and the biggest winner, according to a Bloomberg administration release, is New York State, which took home $40 million of the $452 million pot. The money will go to two programs, the PACE loan program and Green Jobs-Green New York. The former provides low- or no-interest loans to property owners who buy energy efficient building materials, including insulation, solar panels, and geo-thermal systems, which are then paid back through taxes and utility payments, though the retrofits average out to 20 to 30 percent on energy usage over the life of the product. And Green Jobs-Green New York provides funding to launch training programs so there are capable workers who can build, install, and maintain this new wave of high-tech devices.
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No Green in Green?

Is it really possible to make your house too green? California may not think so, but a Harlem brownstone is finding that to be the case. Last week, Curbed spotted 151 West 122nd Street, which the realtors declare to be the "greenest house in Manhattan." While there are a few others that might argue for that throne, this one holds the title by apparently being the first standalone townhouse in the borough to achieve a LEED rating, Silver to be exact, courtesy a Better Homes and Gardens makeover. But all that green cred is not translating into green credit, as the building's price has fallen from $4.05 million some 17 months ago to $2.79 million. At least one critic, gadabout blogger Harlem Bespoke, has complained that the problem is the project has forgone its charm for slick environmentalism—there's no brownstone left in this brownstone!. Could this be the case, as ArchNewsNow turned up more green backlash today? Or is it simply the fact that no one is willing to spend this kind of money, no matter how nice a house, in Harlem?
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Bloomy: Paint It White

New Yorkers, grab your paint brushes and rollers. That's the message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he and Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, kicked off NYC Cool Roofs, part of the city's new service program that gets volunteers to paint city roofs white. A cheaper and less intensive alternative to green roofs, white roofs help keep buildings cool by reflecting the suns rays back from whence they came—though they don't address stormwater issues like their verdant cousins. “It’s such a simple concept—anyone who has ever gotten dressed in the summer knows it—light-colored surfaces absorb less heat than darker surfaces do,” Bloomberg said from a factory rooftop in Long Island City earlier today. “Coating rooftops with reflective, white paint can reduce roof temperatures by as much as 60 degrees and indoor temperatures by 10 to 20 degrees." Gore thanked the mayor for keeping the city "at the forefront of enacting innovative policies that reduce our carbon footprint.” While the Times calls white roofs a stop-gap measure, and more green roofs would obviously be the ideal, they're gaining in popularity, particularly with the Obama administration. The city's program is currently in the pilot stages, with plans to cover 100,000 square feet of LIC rooftops over the next two weeks. The area was chosen for its expansive industrial buildings that make it one of the hotter spots in the city—as well as easier to paint. While the Building Code now requires many new buildings to have white roofs, the city's sustainability czar, Rohit Aggarwala, noted that 85 percent of buildings that will exist by 2030 are already built. "As a result, we must include existing buildings in our efforts to cool the City," he said. "The NYC Cool Roofs program, combined with the building code requirement that re-roofing projects include reflective coating, is critical to meeting the City’s goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”
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Greening Grand Central

Today, the MTA replaced the last of Grand Central Terminal's 4,000 incandescent bulbs. Here's a video and some photos from the event.
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Sidwell It Is

As if we haven't written enough about Barack Obama or schools of late (what can we say, we're in the tank with the rest of the press), we still can't help but weigh in on the Obamas' decision to send their daughters to the Sidwell Friends School. Sure, there's been tons said already about the school's Quaker values and its symbolic standing in D.C., even the hypocrisy of the choice. But what really matters--and hopefully speaks volumes for the coming administration--is the school itself. No, not the teachers. We're talking about the building, and the middle school in particular, which happens to be the first LEED Platinum grade school in the country. Here's what I wrote about the school in a Studio Visit last year with the firm behind the project, KieranTimberlake Associates (KTA):
The Sidwell Friends School has always fostered environmental stewardship, as befits the Quaker values on which the institution was founded. When it came time to renovate the dilapidated red brick middle school, administrators realized they had an opportunity to turn the entire school into a green classroom. "Everywhere the building functions environmentally, they wanted it to be an opportunity for learning," KTA senior associate Richard Maimon said. Among the features KTA included are a green roof that functions as a garden and lab; a graywater system that not only feeds a lush wetland but includes a diagram--which hangs near the wetland for all to see--explaining the system; and wooden louvres reclaimed from old wine barrels, which, like most of the material, are locally sourced. "It may be the only LEED Platinum school in the country, but the real point is to teach," Maimon said.
Steve Kieran happened to be visiting the school on Monday, just days after the announcement was made, and said that everyone was thrilled by the news, including himself. "Sure, I'm proud," he said in a phone interview from the firm's offices in Philadelphia. "In this regard, it's probably the totality of the whole picture that's involved [that drove the Obamas' decision]. Certainly part of that picture is the whole greening of the campus and having the first LEED Platinum school." "It's a wonderful thing for us and the school, it's a wonderful thing for green design," he added. "Given Obama's stated agenda, it would be stunning if it weren't part of the decision to attend." While only Malia, 11, will start off at the school straight away as she enters fifth grade, her younger sister, Sasha, 7, has four years at the lower school to contend with first. We bet it's worth the wait.

Sachs on Sustainability

Jeffrey Sachs, the charismatic director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, gave a moving speech last night at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation on the environmental problems that are unique to our time. Sachs, free-market economist turned green evangelist and a special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, spoke on the objectives of the Institute: ending extreme poverty, maintaining the health of the ecosystem, promoting peace and shared prosperity, and advancing humanist aesthetics. Personally, it made me feel like we are at a point where each of our actions counts, especially in our role as architects, designers, and planners. Technology has allowed us to sew great damage, but it may also enable us to heal the planet. Much of Sachs’s talk dealt with what he calls “eco-tectonics,” that is the changing economic plates. The rise of Asia, or the “rise of the rest” as Fareed Zakaria calls it in The Post-American World, enabled by the new technological capacity of developing countries, is not only accelerating the human impact on the environment, but filling in power gaps. Using the current financial crisis as an example, Sachs explained how everything can go wrong in a world in which we don’t fully comprehend the interactions of the different mechanisms at play, were interconnectedness is playing a stronger role than ever, and chain reactions make local problems global. When he pointed out that the presidential campaign was focused on Middle Class voters, who were decisive to win the election, and poverty issues were hardly tackled, I couldn’t help but translate it to our profession: Architecture, like politics, is focused on those able to make the commissions, and not on those who really need of clever and groundbreaking ideas delivered on a low budget. In a profession that is crowded by battles of egos, and where formally adventurous buildings compete to stand out, there is a need for deeper thought and less aimless aesthetics. We are living in a time in which technology and communications make it possible for a designer in New York to extrude a nearly ready made skyscraper in the middle of Beijing, disregarding any possible impact that it may have not only to the immediate surroundings, but also on the environment. It is a time in which the architectural profession needs to re-examine how it applies global solutions to regional contexts, and in the same way be mindful about the local affecting the big picture. What does building green truly mean? Sustainability is not just about adding solar panels to old designs and using solvent-free paints. Truly green design requires understanding the intricate social, economical and political interactions as well as the physical conditions of our cities to prepare them for the overpopulation of the future. Even though we have learned from the disasters of tabula rasa projects of the 60s and 70s, it is not a matter of romanticizing existing conditions, which is often are unacceptable, but a question of sensitive political, cultural, and aesthetic action and interaction as an essential part of responsible practice.

Architect-In-Chief

As Alissa helpfully pointed out yesterday, our dear president-elect (we like to call him 'Bam around the New York office) wanted to be an architect. A little nimble Googling on our part turned up the speech where he says as much. What's even better, though, is that he hasn't forgotten those early dreams. I said as much in an article earlier this year, that looked at the architecture and planning policies of the three remaining candidates at the time--Clinton, McCain, and Obama. To wit:
If there were one, Barack Obama could be called the candidate of infrastructure; at least in much the same way he is called the candidate of hope, given his frequent invocation of infrastructure issues on the stump, much of which was tied to Katrina and directed toward his African-American base but has shifted in recent months to a wider focus on the economy and job creation. To that end, Obama has proposed an Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which he unveiled in February. The bank would start with $60 billion from federal coffers—skimmed off shrunken Iraq expenditures—that would be leveraged through public-private partnerships to create $500 billion in infrastructural investment. That money would go to strengthening the “core” infrastructure of roads, airports, dams, and the like; high-speed rail; traffic mitigation and transit-oriented development; clean, domestic energy production and research; and rebuilding and improving the Gulf Coast and river-borne transportation
And you may recall, we've also pegged him as pro-transit. Planetizen has a thoughtful look at his planning policies, as well. Heck, even Fox News calls him the first green president. He's not the only one, either. Recent Democratic hopefuls Clinton and Gore got in on the act, too, she stumping for the USGBC's green school initiative and he writing two major op-eds on "green capitalism." Maybe Ralph Nader wasn't the end of the Green Party after all.