Articles With "international" Tag

Steven Spielberg Movie on William McDonough, FAIA, the "Eco-tect?"

Bill_mcdonough_ecotectI hope so.  When I wrote about Green Sandwich Technologies, true south orientation, and Greenbridge Developments, I was talking about Bill McDonough.  I’ve also mentioned his Cradle to Cradle notion, which is about much more than sustainability, it’s about "waste = food" and what happens to stuff when no one wants to use it anymore (C2C Book).  His ideas are transforming the way companies do business and make money.  And that’s why he’s a big deal.  He’s the "Eco-tect," or the Ecological Architect, but he’s also more than that:  he’s innovating architecture, design, and business all at the same time.  This is the story that Steven Spielberg wants to make a movie about, and I think it will be extremely compelling. 

Right now, McDonough’s company is working with Google on its campus.  He’s also helping to design six cities and one village in China with stringent standards of sustainability.  If you’ve ever been to China, you know how big these cities can get, so we’re talking about sustainability and innovation on a gigantic scale.  The American public could benefit from McDonough’s reservoir of knowledge and experience, so I’m hoping that Spielberg continues with his first impulse and follows through with the film.  Via Business 2.0.   

Tom Friedman Q+A Article: Land Use + Green Development Commentary

The_world_is_flat Buildings account for 36% of the US’s total energy consumption, including 65% of its electricity use.  The debate over coal, renewable energy, wind energy, solar panels, etc., pretty much comes down to the fact that we (Americans) use a lot of electricity.  Well, a well-known green real estate consultant, Charles Lockwood, sat down with Tom Friedman to discuss his thoughts on everything green (article link – pdf).  Tom Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times and wrote the wildly popular book, The World Is Flat.  If you want to get your hands on the book, make sure to get the updated version.  Friedman has some interesting comments about green buildings and technology.  He talks about something he calls "Up, Not Out," and how green cities can attract younger workers.  He also wants to re-frame the debates on environmentalism.  Give the article a read and watch his video with Tim Russert of MSNBC.

The Green Quotient: Q+A Thomas L. Friedman [Charles Lockwood]

China to Build 10,000 Eco-Villages + Make People Rich

Shangai_apartments

During the summer, I was able to study businesses in Taiwan, Hong Kong, + China; one particular session with top-level executives at Shui On Land, which is basically the best property developer/operator in mainland China, really stuck with me.  This company builds entire cities with multiple skyscrapers holding millions of people.  But, because the government owns all the land (land is rented under long-term leases), developers, like SOL, need to be able to relocate existing land occupants (this is not a debate as to whether such development is necessary; these issues are rather complex, to say the least).  Specifically, developers need to do the following things:  (1) secure the cooperation and oversight of the Chinese government; and (2) pay the people that are living on the land to move.  The result:  these poor farmers and families that have been living on land (on lease from the government) get paid $$ to relocate–the Chinese government + development companies make rich people out of these people that initially occupied the land

Couple this with a recent news story coming from China:  "during the 11th Five-year Plan period (2006-2010), China will build 10,000 eco-villages in 500 counties that are based on the recycling of resources.  This is part of a national program to make people rich by constructing environmentally friendly homes."  To make people rich.  This blows me away.  I understand the intricacies involved with command and market economies and I’m not going to trash on the one that has blessed me, but we can see how a command economy can lead to positive outcomes.  China has the power to see where change needs to happen and make that change, without having to rely on the slow, and often corrupt, processes of democratic government.  Understandably, command economies don’t always work out this way, but as it relates to green innovation, China is taking the lead (See Tom Friedman).  I have a lot more faith in good old American ingenuity, but under our system, which is more market than command, I think we need to internalize the costs of what happens to the environment, especially if we want to be effective at innovating for the future.  Via Linton; picture

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: SOM, Green Skycraper Firm of the Year

Jinao_tower_nanjing_1There’s just no stopping Skidmore, Owings + Merrill.  They are the (as nominated by Jetson Green) Green Skyscraper Firm of the Year.  I blogged about them in regards to the zero energy Pearl River Tower, which absolutely blows me away.  Have you seen the thing?  I also blogged about them on 9/11 because they designed the green Freedom Tower, which is going to be an architectural beacon of freedom and innovation for decades in the future.  When it comes to sustainability and architectural excellence in skyscapers, SOM is the number one firm.  That’s hands down. 

SOM has an enormous portfolio of work in China and they are working on over 15 skyscraper projects there right now.  Interestingly, it’s easier to be innovative in China because the climate lends itself to such behavior.  Firms in the US are reluctant to take on commercial/security risk.  They don’t want to tick off neighbors or trade unions either.  China on the other hand wants to push the envelope.  They have cheap materials and a desire to build green structures.  They are a command economy, so there’s not much public outcry, even if the building is outlandish.  Plus, global recognition helps their situation.  I get heaps of search queries on my blog everyday for a post I did on the Pearl River Tower–that’s global recognition.   

Nanjing_jinling_hotel_1 Nanjing_greenland Shenzhen_avic_plaza

I’ve included some pictures of buildings that SOM has designed for construction in China.  There’s too much to say about each, but one thing should be noted, however:  these buildings are all going to be done in 2007-2008.  There’s a quick turnaround time in China–they have the attitude to get things done.  Notice the delay for buildings like this in the United States and query whether that has anything to do with (in comparison) innovation, politics, determination, or drive.

Nanjing Greenland will have irregularly-spaced slots for green space that "march vertically up the facade."  Jinao Tower will be built with less steel than a traditional skyscraper.  It will be built around a diagonal grid bracing system (similar to the one used for Hearst Tower of New York).  Jinao Tower also features a double-skinned surface for solar shading and insulation.  Each SOM buildling is chock full of innovation. 

Extra Links:
SOM Company Site
Not Innovative?  SOM’s Skyscraper Projects in China Tell a Different Story [Architectural Record]

Bamboo, Too

Bamboo-forest

Grist Magazine wrote about being bamboozled, Dwell talked about bamboo in this month’s article, and Green Source mentioned it recently as well.  Quoted in Dwell in reference to a person’s choice of flooring, Eric Corey Freed said, “Guilt is no way to approach environmentalism. You shouldn’t feel guilty. What you should do is question where the wood for your floor comes from.”  In any event, since everyone is talking about bamboo, I thought I would add a few thoughts. 

When I visited China in May, I was amazed by the labyrinth-work of bamboo used as scaffolding for workers laboring away on huge buildings. From what I understand, curious observers from around the world have visited China to study their method of scaffolding. The bamboo is strong, yet forgiving, and it’s easy to set up, take down, and re-use.

When it comes to green building, bamboo is often referenced with regards to flooring. Bamboo flooring can contribute towards LEED certification, but should it? EcoTimber sells the stuff that they harvest from plantations. It’s good because it grows in various climates and takes about four to six years to be ready-to-use. EcoTimber makes its bamboo flooring with low-VOC finishes, but not all bamboo floor makers do that, so watch out!  To quote Mr. Freed, people take bamboo and finish it with that “nasty oil-based toxic lacquer.” So what’s the purpose of using bamboo?

Bamboo has a quick harvest life and it makes economic, business sense for bamboo sellers. Being a bamboo grower wouldn’t be that bad of a gig. It’s quick, cheap, and multiplies like rabbits—especially when compared to the slow poke tree. Bamboo is easier to replace than a tree, and in some ways, it’s better than a tree. It’s stronger. Often, the end product comes directly from the cheap manufacturing country of China (cheap being a reference to cost, not necessarily the quality). And therein lies the rub.

The amazing eco-grass, bamboo, travels half-way across the globe before it finalizes in the floor of your nice, elegant, modern, new, sustainable, LEED certified home or LEED-platinum office building. Feels good right? Depends.

Here’s what you should start thinking about: Your purchase of bamboo includes a transportation and carbon premium. Built into the price of bamboo is the cost of shipping and transporting bamboo half-way across the globe. So a slice of the price includes payment for oil, gas, and/or coal, depending on the transportation methods.

How’s that for being green? To me, it conflicts with one of sustainable movement’s basic tenets—acquire materials locally. If you’re importing the materials from half-way across the globe, how are you supposed to be ecologically responsible?  There needs to be local farms growing the stuff; with our American ingenuity, someone has to be able to make bamboo floors locally for less than the Chinese (considering they’re paying for shipping, too).

Good Links to Read:
[+]  Wikipedia on Bamboo
[+]  Bamboo of the Americas
[+]  American Bamboo Society
[+]  Environmental Bamboo Foundation
[+]  A Thousand Uses of Bamboo

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