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The Rise of Green Building
Alex Steffen, 2 Dec 04

The Economist has a long piece on the explosive growth of green buildings:

"IT IS officially known as the Swiss Re Tower, or 30 St Mary Axe. But Londoners universally refer to the newest addition to their skyline as “the Gherkin”, thanks to the 41-storey building's distinctive, curved profile, which actually looks more like a pine cone (see right). What is most remarkable about the building is not its name or its shape, however, but its energy-efficiency. Thanks to its artful design and some fancy technology, it is expected to consume up to 50% less energy than a comparable conventional office building.

"Most people are not used to thinking of large buildings as vast, energy-guzzling machines. But that is what they are. In America, buildings account for 65% of electricity consumption, 36% of total energy use and 30% of greenhouse-gas emissions. So making buildings more energy-efficient could have a significant impact on energy policy, notes Rebecca Flora of the Green Building Alliance, a group that promotes sustainable architecture. That is a key goal of the “green architecture” movement, which is changing the way buildings are designed, built and run."

(thanks, Kevin Postlewaite, for the heads up!)

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It's wonderful that people are claimning "Green Building" is catching on and claiming itself to be not simply a style which architects are always suceptable to. The problem lies still in the fact that we always forget the technological wisdom of the past (Usually much wiser than of now).

Not mentioned often is the idea of "Natural Building", the use of materials in a low energy minimally proccesed form. Materials such as Straw Bale, Clay, Earth, straight from the ground. If people are going to waste time making cellphones biodegradable, a demolished house that you can grow edible food on the next day is unbeatable in terms of coolness. These materials by far use less energy than any processed recycled material such as steel and even recycled paper for insulation. Coupled with appropriate design, a building using natural materials will outperform any fancy high tech recycled steel and glass structure. This is a fact. These materials are capable of handling larger scale structures but not practised due to the way we design our buildings. A design on paper and computer can not account for a variance of six inches on each strawbale. This design has to be done on site, with the designer actually using their hands in the building. Architects shy away from these due to their inconsistency, a reality of the world with they will refuse to accept being a designer. Their tendancy to let builders, factory workers deal with the actualy problems of building is also more of the root problem.

All in all, great attempts architects, harah harah, but for a real long term solution to these problems, try doing some real building. Doing the work will expose you to a new reality and you'll see the solutions sustainable design on a more real and human level. Handling straw, wood and clay is a lot more healthy than fiberglass, steel, and concrete.

Posted by: Simon Hon on 8 Dec 04



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