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Design Needs a Social Conscience

In recent years, the architecture world has seen a significant surge of interest in socially-conscious design; from sustainability to social housing, and from public space to disaster relief, architecture is beginning to take on some of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our era. But despite its popularity, public-interest design is still only a fringe activity in architecture, either bolted on to existing design or only practiced by a select group of people. In this short article originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy makes the case that rather than working on the periphery, "the drive to improve living conditions for all life should be at the center of contemporary architecture and design."

On a bright April weekend, a group of committed, passionate, accomplished designers and their collaborators from the Americas and elsewhere gathered in downtown Detroit to speak about socially responsible design. It was the 15th annual Structures for Inclusion conference. The convener, Bryan Bell, is the architect behind the nonprofit organization Design Corps, and the spirit behind the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) rating program.

Living Building Challenge Now Fulfills LEED Energy and Water Requirements

The Living Building Challenge will now fulfill the energy and water requirements for LEED. As the U.S. Green Building Council announced, this marks an important step in the USGBC's mission to make LEED an accessible platform that complements other construction rating systems.

The USGBC's decision essentially equates the two systems in the fields of water and energy efficiency, recognizing projects that meet the Living Building Challenge's standards within these areas as equivalent to LEED standards. By doing so, it encourages a spirit of collaboration toward sustainable goals across competing rating systems.

Is It Time For the Anti-LEED?

Steve Mouzon, a principal of Studio Sky and Mouzon Design, is an architect, urbanist, author, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which hosts Project:SmartDwelling. The Guild’s non-profit affiliate is the Guild Foundation, which hosts the Original Green initiative

The LEED rating systems were a great idea in the beginning, but they have become a symbol of all that is wrong with green building today. Getting a LEED rating is slow, difficult, and expensive, and the rating is skewed heavily to Gizmo Green solutions that are completely ignorant of where the building is being built, and for whom. We need the opposite sort of system today: one that is intelligent about where a building is built and who it’s being built for, and that is fast, friendly, and free so that anyone can use it.

The Green Building Wars

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine, this comprehensive analysis by sustainability expert Lance Hosey examines the current disputes within the green building industry, where market leader LEED currently finds competition from the Living Building Challenge, aiming for the "leading edge" of the market, and the Green Globes at the other end of the scale. Arguing for a more holistic understanding of what makes materials sustainable, Hosey examines the role that materials, and material industries such as the timber and chemical industries, can have in directing the aims and principles of these three sustainability rating systems - for better or for worse.

LEED v4: Better than the LEEDs that Came Before?

At the annual Greenbuild International Conference in Philadelphia last week, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) finally announced the latest version of LEED. Aiming to make a larger forward step than previous versions, LEED v4 is described by Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO and president of USGBC as a "quantum leap". But what are the key changes in the new LEED criteria, and what effect will they have? Furthermore, what problems have they yet to address? Read on to find out.

Southern States Outlaw LEED Building Standards

The US Green Building Council’s federally adopted LEED certification system has come under legislative siege with lobbyists from the timber, plastics and chemical industries crying out, “monopoly!” Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama have lead efforts to ban LEED, claiming the USGBC’s closed-door approach and narrow-minded material interests have shut out stakeholders in various industries that could otherwise aid in the sustainable construction of environmentally-sensitive buildings.

Most recently, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, slipped in a last minute amendment to both the Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation appropriation bills stating no tax money may be used to require implementation of any green building certification system other than a system that:

USGBC Announces Grant from Google to Accelerate the Advancement of Green Materials

Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building has commenced in San Francisco with an interesting announcement from the main stage. Google has granted $3 million to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in an effort to transform the building materials industry and accelerate the creation of healthier indoor environments.

“Healthy, non-toxic building materials are a critical component in green building,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “Fostering awareness of the materials we put into our buildings is of paramount importance, since many materials can link to a host of environmental and health issues. Working with Google enables us to broaden our efforts in the materials industry as we prepare for the next version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4. This updated rating system will paint a more complete picture of materials and products, enabling project teams to make more informed decisions.”

More after the break…

International Green Construction Code Announced with Widespread Support

Courtesy of International Green Construction Code
Courtesy of International Green Construction Code

Late last month the AIA announced that it is in support of the International Green Construction Code (lgCC) which will be a guide and model that helps architects and builders design buildings that conserve energy and move to a sustainable design strategy. The AIA is part of a long list of supporters which include ASHRAE, the US Green Building Council and the Illuminating Engineering Society. For architecture and engineering, this is a step in the right direction. This provides designers with a tool that makes responsible design less cryptic by offering solutions for energy saving strategies.

More on this after the break.

Guidelines on How to Build a Healthy School

The United States Green Building Council‘s (USGBCCenter for Green Schools, started by the Georgia Chapter, is behind the transformation of the educational system in this country through the introduction of high performance schools and facilities. It all starts with providing an environment for learning focusing on health, education and the responsible use of funds, which are “the three major concerns that the school system struggles with”, says Laura Turdel Seydel – Chair of the Captain Planet Foundation.  The fundamentals are simple and are the typical goals of the Board of Education.  But this initiative, which is a coalition between some of the top educational and environmental associations in the country, does this by focusing on where students are learning and that means updating the technology of our schools.

Join us after the break for more.

USGBC and AIA announce second Architecture for Humanity Sustainability Design Fellow

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announce Burtland Granvil, AIA, LEED AP as the new Architecture for Humanity Sustainability Design Fellow. Succeeding the first Sustainability Design Fellow, Stacey McMahan, AIA, LEED AP, Granvil will be working directly with the Haitian community at the Architecture for Humanity’s rebuilding center based in Port-au-Prince.

“The earthquake didn’t take as many lives as the poor quality of construction did,” said Granvil. “Architecture for Humanity’s Rebuilding Center in Haiti will help educate and build together with local current and future builders of Haiti…this is the main reason why I joined Architecture for Humanity. I am here with others to work on the long-term approach. Haiti, as well as other post disaster areas, can benefit from this kind of transitional office with this mindset.”

USGBC partners with HOK to design Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center

Aerial © HOK
Aerial © HOK

Marking the two year anniversary of the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, we would like to share with you the important efforts of Project Haiti – a LEED Platinum orphanage and children’s center that is planned to be built in Port au Prince, Haiti. The project is lead by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and their official pro-bono design partner, HOK. Project Haiti not only focuses on the children, but also aims to create a “replicable, resilient model for rebuilding” that may serve as a practical teaching tool for the local community. The USGBC motto states, “Every story about green building is a story about people.”

New Commitments for Environmental Transparency

© 2010 2030, Inc. / Architecture 2030
© 2010 2030, Inc. / Architecture 2030

An increasing trend towards sustainable construction within the building industry has resulted in a steady stream of “green” products into the marketplace. It is not uncommon to see products labeled with numerous claims that are certified by previously unheard of governing bodies. Industry leaders recently gathered in Toronto at Greenbuild to focus on avenues to increase the transparency of such claims made in the marketplace, and develop an integrated information source to reduce confusion and increase reliability.

2011 Zerofootprint Re-Skinning Award Winners Revealed at Greenbuild

© Jason Schmidt
© Jason Schmidt

The 2011 Zerofootprint Re-Skinning Award Winners were highlighted last week during the U.S. Green Building Council’s  Greenbuild International Conference and Expo held in Toronto.  The annual competition aims to ‘jump-start the discussion on how we might retrofit entire cities to fight climate change’.  Recognized as the Best Overall Project 2011, the Palms residence in Venice, California designed by Daly Genik Architects, “is an outstanding example of an architecture project that can transform our cities to fight climate change,” says Ron Dembo founder and CEO of Zerofootprint.  “The design is energy and water efficient, replicable, and beautiful. This project demonstrates that retrofitting existing buildings to reduce their environmental impact does not have to mean limiting the quality of materials, the use of smart technologies, or the aesthetics of the final product.”

A complete list of the 2011 Zerofootprint Re-Skinning Awards winners and finalists following the break, including the King and King Headquarters in Syracuse, New York by King and King Architects and the Orange Cube in Lyon, France by Jakob + MacFarlane.

Y. S. Sun Green Building Research Center Receives Top Awards


The Y.S Sun Green Building Research Center at National Kung University in Taiwan has recently been awarded top honors by the USGBC, in addition to receiving the Taiwan Ecology, Waste Reduction and Health Diamond Certification from the Ministry of Interior. The three-story 4800 square meter building utilizes 13 different sustainable building techniques in order to achieve a 65% energy savings and a 50% water savings over typical office buildings.

Harvard Reaches 50 LEED Certified Projects

10 Akron Street © Harvard Office for Sustainability
10 Akron Street © Harvard Office for Sustainability

The U.S. Green Building Council has recently announced that Harvard University has achieved a worldwide first – the construction and completion of 50 LEED certified buildings. It is also a great feat for an institution as large as Harvard. They were able to successfully coordinate a decentralized campus with separate buildings that each have their own organizational structures. Read more about the five lessons they learned along the way after the break.

Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration (ISTB4) / Ehrlich Architects

© Ehrlich Architects
© Ehrlich Architects

Arizona State University’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 (ISTB 4) was designed to be a progressive home for ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and some departments from the Fulton Schools of Engineering (FSE). At 294,000 sq.-ft., this seven-story “smart” structure will be the largest research facility in the history of the university. In addition to cutting-edge laboratories and research offices, ISTB 4 will house extensive public outreach and K-12 education spaces designed to engage the Greater Phoenix community in earth and space exploration. Ehrlich Architects’ new Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration is a clearly organized laboratory building that will enhance the research, science and educational programs housed within.

A Possible 114,000 Jobs from the Better Buildings Initiative

Back in February we shared with you that part of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address focused on highlighting future plans for making American businesses more energy efficient. The Better Buildings Initiative (BBI) that the President proposed would invest in innovative clean energy technologies, aiming to increase energy efficiency in commercial by 20 percent in the next ten years.

Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings in 2010

© Rainer Viertlboeck
© Rainer Viertlboeck

Where does your State rank among the USGBC’s Top 10? Comparing LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita within the United States the District of Columbia turned in the highest per capita/per person ratio of 25.15 square feet.   Commercial office type and for-profit organization owner type where the most common, as was Chicago and Washington DC for the most represented cities on the list.