Good Architectural Design = Happy Inhabitants

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What’s the point of architectural design?  Depends on who is using the building, but talented designers and architects around the world can do unbelievable things with buildings.  Today’s post is an example of the power of well-designed living spaces.  Enter:  The Happy New House.  Designed by Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA), the happy house is just that, a place where the Alan Family can express its "family brand."  They wanted a home renovation that expressed their distinct family attributes:  artsy but not artsy-fartsy, cultured but not elitist, spontaneous but not disorderly, informal but not messy, into Macs and iPods but not techie, and into the finer things of life but not extravagant. 

Noticeably, the architect went with multi-toned, bright colors to express the Alan Family brand.  The interior design includes a clever mixture of public and private spaces to allow for individuality, but still encourage "elbow-rubbing" opportunities.  Tons of integrated shelving blends into the modern design and helps reduce clutter, and the outdoor living room blurs the indoor/outdoor barrier, which allows the family to connect to the backyard area. 

We’ve all lived in places that just didn’t work out that well.  The same place might fit another person completely, but the reality is, individuals and families do have differences that can be accounted for with creative design.  The extra cost of designing your home or office, just might pay dividends in productivity, livability, and enjoyability later on.  Yet another reason why first costs could be misleading.  See also Archinect.

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What is LEED; How Does LEED Relate to Green Building; Why Do I Care?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; it’s a consensus-based standard for various types of buildings, such as new construction, existing buildings, building interiors, residential homes, and entire neighborhood developments.  One reason for LEED and the US Green Building Council is to eliminate the confusion regarding what a "green" building is.  Built into the standards are various levels, or shades of green.  I found this slide show at the USGBC‘s website and wanted to share it with the Jetson Green readers.

Why?  Application:
You don’t need to be an architect or large design firm to see how LEED is important.  If you’re a lawyer, and you have a developer client friend, you can say to that person, "Hey, have you thought about getting that project done LEED?"  Or if you’re a budding developer, you can go to the design firm and say, "Hey, I want this thing done LEED, and I know it can be done without too much of a price premium…are you the firm for me?"   No matter what your position is, you may have the occasion to tell a decision maker that they ought to consider LEED/green building; that decision maker will be grateful that you were in the know. 

LEED-Life + Green Building Information from David Gottfried

David_gottfried_1 The USGBC is a concensus-based organization that works to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated.  It’s behind the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system, which is a national benchmark for energy-efficient, green buildings.  It’s important to be congnizant of the fact that LEED buildings can come in different shades of green, but even the lowest level, or "Certified" buildings, are environmental leaders.  David Gottfried is the founder of the USGBC and the World Green Building Council.  His career began as a successful real estate developer in Washington D.C., and he had a green epiphany while working on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Washington office.  His transformation from the developer to the green developer is the primary story of his memoir "Greed to Green."  I read an article about Gottfried and thought I would share some of his notable quotes.

  1. Green Yourself First – "the key to the green-building movement is not LEED or technology; it’s people.  If we’re going to green this world we have to green ourselves, and we can’t lose sight of that."
  2. Watch Al Gore’s Movie – "wake up to the fact that climate change is real and the biggest challenge facing humanity in the short term."
  3. Green Buildings Are A Solution – "buildings consume 70% of the electricity in the US.  That’s an environmental argument, but from a financial basis green buildings make more money, save expenses and have a higher value." 
  4. Get Smart About Your Buildings – "your assets will be devalued if they’re energy hogs, water inefficient, or toxic inside." 
  5. Green Buildings Are Green Opportunities – "this is about economics.  The fastest-growing sector of the building industry, which is a $3 trillion industry globally, is green building." 

The article also mentioned Gottfried’s personal green standard, which he developed called the "Life Balance Sheet" or "Leed-life."  It’s a 100-point system with Certified at 60, Silver at 70, Gold at 80, and Platinum at 90+.  In the beginning, he only scored a 53, but now he fluctuates between 70 and 84, depending on a variety of factors.  I couldn’t find the standard online, so I think it is in his book (if only Amazon had a copy!).  Good luck, I hope we can all live Platinum LEED-life lives!

Extra Links:
Igniting the Spark by Christina Koch [PDF - Eco-structure]

Top Sustainable Cities: Portland + San Francisco, the Eco-Innovators

Top_50_overall There are cities and leaders in the US that are taking bold steps to change public perception of green principles, and I wanted to share their words and vision with you.  I’ve included a new section on my right sidebar for some informative, watershed videos.  I use the word watershed because future generations will respect these leaders for their foresight, they will be heros.  Are you one of these leaders?  If you’re a CEO, can you count yourself among the lonely ranks of eco-warriors like Ray Anderson, Jeff Immelt, and Lee Scott?  If you’re a mayor, can you count yourself among the growing ranks of eco-leaders like Gavin Newsom, Tom Potter, Mufi Hannemann, Greg Nickels, and Will Wynn?  If you’re not a mayor or CEO, are you an eco-leader in the world that you live in? 

There’s a video on the right with Tom Friedman speaking.  You’ll know him from the bestselling book, The World is Flat.  He makes some critical points, but one of the most important points is that the chase for sustainability will create money-making, business opportunities for innovation in the 21st century:  opportunities that the US is currently abdicating to China.  Do we want to shift our middle east energy dependence by becoming dependent on China for renewable energy technologies?

So SustainLane released its yearly Top 50 US Cities, which is a report card on urban sustainability.  I was surprised to find Dallas at #24; one thing that holds us back is our addiction to cars–I don’t see how that will change without 10-30 years of persistent city planning + changing, considering how the city is currently laid out.  That’s okay, however, the rankings are there to get us to study other cities and make positive changes.  You can read about each city at SustainLane.  I encourage you to watch the video on #1 Portland (urban transportation and LEED building superstar) and #2 San Francisco (recycling superstar). 

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED-Certified Maple Leaf Square in Toronto

Maple_leaf_rendering Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Limited (privately-held corporation with ownership of Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Marlies Hockey Club, Air Canada Centre, and Leafs TV + Raptors NBA TV) is behind an innovative, forward-looking project development called Maple Leaf Square.  Being inspired by the mixed-use projects developing around sports franchise centers such as Dallas and Miami, the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Corporation will be unique in one significant aspect:  it’s green, LEED-certified, that is.  The project, designed by KPMB and Page + Steele, contains two aspiring towers (54 + 50 floors) built on top of a seven story podium, all including the following:  900 residential condominiums, boutique hotel with about 170 rooms, 6,000 square foot daycare, over 200,000 square feet of office space , indoor/outdoor swimming pools, fitness facilities, and high-technology restaurants, sports bars, and retail stores.  It’s the quintessential multi-use development of the future, blending sports, entertainment, living, vacationing, night life, and work. 

Green Features:
In addition to being one of the most technologically advanced building structures in the world, the project contains some important green features (note, technology also can make a building green):  green roof, energy-efficient appliances in every suite, Enwave (low cost, energy efficient supplier of heating, cooling, and domestic hot water supply), individual storage/bicycle lockers, and close proximity to Toronto’s PATH system.  Technologically, the building will use RFID door locks and Intelligent Building Technology (visit the website for a demonstration).

The project has been welcomed with open arms by the public; reports vary, but the Residences of Maple Leaf Square are reportedly 95% sold already.  Talk about unmet demand for a modern, green structure!  Available residences range in size from 400 – 2,100 square feet and price from $200,000 – $1,400,000.  North Tower opens in October 2009 and South Tower in March 2010.  Found by EarthChangeII.

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Redondo Beach House, a Modern Container Dwelling [Video]

Redondo Beach House

If you’ve ever been to a port terminal, you’ve seen the mass quantities of shipping containers used to transport goods all over the world.  With the trade imbalance–US importing more than exporting, the containers that aren’t returned to their origin, waste away here in the US.  But there are a few creative architects such as Adam Kalkin, Jennifer Siegal, and Peter DeMaria (his home pictured above and below), who are using these containers as the basic structure for custom built homes.  The fact is, materials such as steel and wood cost big-time money and perpetually increase in price due to world demand; according to the video, Anna + Sven Pirkl are getting their 3,500 square foot home built at $125 square foot (a pittance for that area’s custom build price that ballparks at +$250 square foot). 

The LA Times also wrote an article about what the family is going to do with the home (think:  zip line + climbing wall). 

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