This week I received my copy of dwell magazine in the mail. The cover reads “BEYOND GREEN From Niche to Normal” The issue acknowledges what we’ve all witnessed in this last decade; green has gone from extreme to mainstream. And yet there a a few paradoxes I observe.
Most architects have always believed in sustainable design. It has been part of our education for at least the last two generations. Yet many had to shrug off the green horns, so to speak, as they integrated into the practice. They assimilated into the mainstream perception of green as some hippy pseudo science and threw up their hands to market forces.
Today, thanks to predictable and repeatable science, global calamities and the hard work of the few that never gave up on building a better future, green is center stage. And yet many of my friends and associates accept that many products are now being marketed at us with a green label without any real commitment to solving local and global environmental issues. It’s a marketing hook, the green wash. But this is nothing new consumer trends are always being capitalized. The issue that I take with it is that the mainstream architecture industry is tending to jump on this band wagon with out leading the sustainability effort forward. And today we still deal with the same economic issues as before.
The last paradox I’ll bring up is one that Editor-in-Chief of Dwell Sam Grawe writes “In all honesty, I’m pretty sure I’m not sustainable.” We can see very little changes in the fundamentally unsustainable lives that we live day in and out. Thousands of people have become LEED accredited professionals but have yet to work on a LEED building or turn a critical eye on themselves and make the necessary individual sacrifices to insure that Earth can live on as a healthy system.
Looking at myself. I’ve made a commitment to clean transportation by biking and riding the bus. However, many of the buses in the FAX fleet still choke the air with diesel exhaust; I go through roles upon role of paper at my workplace producing construction documents, I specify products I know to be bad for the environment and that the heat and air conditioning can come on in the same day while it is 65-70 degrees outside. At home I use too much water while the canals are dry for many local farmers, and my 1940 home is extremely inefficient with energy. Many of these thing I feel either powerless or too lazy to change.
A frustrating part about this post is that I know much of this has been said before. I don’t have original content to share about this issue, or any light to shine with an insightful question. So I will end with some local project which have caught my eye for their sustainable strategies and design. Most of these projects are LEED certified or greater.
Kern Schools Federal Credit Union by the Taylor Teter Partnership
Art Ecology Architecture office by The Vernal Group
“The greenest building is the one that already exists”
Tell me if I missed any well designed local projects that demonstrate sustainability. I’d be happy to post an image and link. And here is a shout out to the Central California Chapter of USGBC They’re fighting the good fight.