Columbia Graduate School of Architecture (Greg)



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    I need answers,

    By gbugel
    Oct 28, '08 7:13 PM EST

    Who? What? When? How?

    But not why.


    Last week was the Ecogram conference here at Columbia. I saw several good and not-so good presentations and ideas.

    Our latest studio project has a big environmental component, and a lot of students are seizing that and pushing it.

    Flip through a newspaper, pick out environmental goods to buy, in any color. Redo your whole kitchen sans-guilt!

    A Green Builders Club is getting going here at Columbia, and in fact, part of the whole curriculum change was to introduce some more sustainable ideas into the education.

    At a recent Toshiko Mori lecture, almost all of the audience questions were related to her implementation of environmentally conscious designs.

    Open a magazine, get bamboozled by Mobil and BP about how green they are.

    Obviously, these themes are inescapable and popular, as they should be.

    I am just wondering who is going to convince everyone else on earth to pay attention.

    In one of the Ecogram lectures, WorkAC mentioned the "failed experiment of the suburbs."

    An interesting idea, provocative and controversial enough that I sat up and paid attention, but I don't know if the theory is shared by many others outside of that room.

    The ideal of owning a brand new, detached suburban home is still a popular one to aspire to for most citizens of the United States .

    My own family asks me why I moved back to an urban area, after they tried so hard to get out of one, and I repeatedly find myself defending urban areas, commuting by mass transit and sharing common walls with neighbors.

    Certainly, most architects, contractors and paying owners aren't concerned with these issues. I can take you on a walking tour of big, inefficient wastes of space and energy anytime you want.

    Co-workers from my last job before school started were still saving for that tract home out of the city and on pristine, rolling hills. One was even waiting for theirs to be finished before this winter.

    Implementing environmentally conscious design is not going to be done by selecting and installing a bunch of materials. Ot at least, I am not convinced of that.

    I stopped talking to people about how bad it is that they are "only 2 miles from the Wawa," but I guess I should pick up that debate again.

    Any real environmental change is only going to happen after serious lifestyle adjustment across the whole population. I don't know if it is going to take oil drying up or the current financial issues to spin wildly out of control, but talking about it and writing about it and every now and then erecting a green building aren't working fast enough.

    American thought is deeply dedicated to anti-city living (complete with yard, of course), and I know that yes, it is changing- just look at population records for the past decade.

    Sure, McMansion hate is rising, but I guess this week reminded me of the happily selfish and stubbornly ignorant legions we have out there.

    What else is it going to take though?


    • i imagine there are environmentally responsible moronic racists out there too.

      with more than 50% of americans living in the suburbs, and in many parts of the united states more than 50% of "city" income being generated in suburbia i suspect that the suburbs will simply shift typology in response to raising oil prices. which is to say the suburbs will urbanise, at least a bit. to me that is quite fine. there is no reason that suburbia cannot be made green in a real sense (and not just superficially). on the flip side density is not in itself green in any way shape or form.

      so i agree. the why question is maybe not necessary. sustainable design is what we need. the how part is where things get murky.

      will you be working on the how this year?

      Oct 28, 08 8:26 pm

      It's easy to say I am working on the how as I type this, but who knows...check back at the end of the semester.

      I don't see how density is not green?

      We plug in lamps, computers, etc near wall outlets. Truck delivery men line up their stops in order of proximity. When food shopping people tend to move in order to the next closest item.

      That is all density, and saves time and energy and material, and does so just in terms of proximity.

      Nov 1, 08 12:56 pm

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