Friday, October 23, 2009

Solar Decathlon

Illinois' entry. All photos of the Decathlon homes by Jim Tetro, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

You can read more about my (rainy! cold!) trip to DC for this year's Solar Decathlon by clicking here for my Metropolis blog post. One thing I mention in that post is that the second place team from Illinois (pictured above) used a vernacular architecture for their decathlon entry. They channeled a classic gabled design that would feel right at home on the prairies of the Midwest.

Some other designs in the competition felt derivative as well...

The entry from Cornell:

Reminded me of the waste water treatment plant In Dundalk, Maryland:

The entry from Missouri:

Looks an awful lot like Shutter Shades:

The Arizona house, below, reminded me of the sloped glass sunrooms attached to some Wendy's restaurants, but I couldn't find the right image of a Wendy's online. Maybe I'll go snap a photo of the one on York Road near Belvedere Square...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Building Science Research

Team California's design for the Solar Decathlon.

Tomorrow I will brave the cold and the rain and head south to D.C. to see the prototype houses set up on the National Mall for the Solar Decathlon. (Germany just edged out Illinois for first place in the overall rankings.)

The Decathlon is an event that advances building science research and encourages universities to examine high efficiency home design. But overall, the U.S. and the building industry are simply not investing enough sustained capital into research and development in spite of the fact that buildings are our biggest energy sink.

My latest feature article in Architect magazine looks at how much money is invested into the science of designing better buildings and where that money is going:

Shaky Foundation
Taming the economic, environmental and geopolitical cost of energy has emerged as a natinal imperative. So why are research dollars for building performance so scarce?

When McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, released a report on energy efficiency in July, it caused quite a stir among building science researchers. Called “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy,” the report concluded that an upfront investment of $520 billion in efficiency measures could shrink this country’s non-transportation energy consumption in the next decade by 23 percent, or $1.2 trillion. That’s a considerable return on investment.

There is, of course, a catch. To realize such savings, the United States would need to rally around a national agenda. “Energy efficiency offers a vast, low-cost energy resource for the U.S. economy—but only if the nation can craft a comprehensive and innovative approach to unlock it,” the report states.

When it comes to building science research in this country—including everything from seismic and safety issues, to materiality and performance, to indoor air quality and moisture—we don’t do “comprehensive.” American building science research is, at best, piecemeal; at worst, it’s barely funded. There is no federal agency that spearheads research endeavors, and no dedicated funding stream that supports scientists. The building industry itself—architecture, engineering, manufacturing, construction, and maintenance—is a $1-trillion-per-year business employing some 1.7 million people, but it simply does not invest in R&D the way that, say, pharmaceutical companies do. The building sector spends one-tenth as much on R&D as the national average for other industries, according to Mark Frankel, technical director of the nonprofit New Buildings Institute (NBI). READ MORE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tonight: Meet Maurice Cox from the NEA

onight, AIA's Urban Design Committee hosts a free forum on The Role of Design Centers in Urban Regeneration. Maurice Cox, Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts, will join Gary Gaston, Director of the Design Studio at the Nashville Civic Design Center, to talk about the formation of a community design center and the place for design in a city like Baltimore. I'll moderate a panel discussion after their presentations and we'll all get a chance to talk about Baltimore's efforts to form its own D:center Baltimore. I hope you can stop by.

The 411:

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: RTKL, 901 S. Bond St., Baltimore, MD, 21231, Fells Point
Cost: FREE
1.5 AIA/CES Credits

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Support Pie Lab

What is Pie Lab? It's a fantastic experiment in community building and design in Greensboro, Alabama. And the designers who started it need your help. If they raise $10,000 by November 1, they will realize their goal of building a new center for design, community—and pie—on Greensboro's historic Main Street. You can learn more about the project by watching this video.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Design Convo 12: Bikes

Click on image for a larger version.

This Thursday, October 8 join D:center baltimore for Design Conversation 12: Bikes. This month is an open discussion on frame building, bicycle design, bicycle infrastructure, bike collectives, bike lanes, and all things cycling. A/V system available for impromptu presentations. As always, the event is free. Cash bar. For more details, click on the above invitation and spread the word. The more the merrier! Also note that DC 12 has been shifted from the usual first Wednesday of the month to the first Thursday.

The 411:

Thursday October 8 2009
The Windup Space - 10 W North Ave @ Charles Street
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Questions? | |

And speaking of bikes, I just got back from a weekend in Philadelphia and that city is lousy with cyclists. Bikes everywhere. Here are a few snapshots:

Spotted outside the Standard Tap.

Spotted in the Northern Liberties Neighborhood: Metal bike racks with glass-enclosed marketing signs for local businesses. This one was advertising the music line up at a local club.

Spotted in Rittenhouse Square: Tons of bikes, no place to park them. Cyclists ignored the official signs about not locking their bikes to the fence. Philadelphia needs what DC just created: a garage for bikes.

The new Mobis bike station in D.C.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Building for the Better

The October issue of Urbanite magazine hit the streets today and it focuses on the built environment. I wrote a piece about the evolution of social design and how it's playing out in the city...

It’s November in Greensboro, Alabama, and a rare cold snap has brought frigid temperatures to this southern town. In a modest two-story house on the edge of Greensboro’s main street, five graphic design students and two professors from Maryland Institute College of Art are waking up.

There’s no furnace, just space heaters, so the MICA team is encased in sleeping bags in a room full of bunk beds. The scene resembles something from a sci-fi movie: frozen bodies cocooned in nylon, plumes of breath rising in the ash-gray light. Someone ventures to the kitchen to make breakfast. A carton of eggs left out overnight has frozen solid. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.