better side of green

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I’m an architect and by definition that means that I believe in the better when it comes to our built environment and quite frankly in all aspects of our lives. This has to extend not only in the what, but how we discuss, practice and portray architecture. Sometimes, we let our frustrations show in an unpleasant manner.

I take that charge passionately with me every day and I work hard to guide clients, contractors and others around me to engage in an ideal of which I feel strongly. I have strong opinions and I’m not afraid to voice them nor am I offended to read strong opinions from others regardless of whether they align with mine. I read constantly in an effort to learn and improve the way I design spaces and practice architecture (for all types of people).

As an architect desperately interested in seeing our profession thrive and undergo positive perceptual change, I occasionally sense a negative, snobbish attitude from architects and others in the A/E/C community towards those who have a different set of ideals when it comes to the environment. How we address the needs of the environment or sustainability or green has to be done carefully especially when we reveal it in the media and most importantly to our clients. I wrote about this in a similar post back in July 2014.

Yes it is imperative to share with them how their building will use energy and how their building will be affected by the climate regardless of your position or belief on climate change. We have to design smart, however I’m not convinced yet that building to the ultimate performance level preached by the pundits is an equal first cost endeavor. It might be the best solution in the long term, it might make the most sense in a lifecycle cost analysis, but when you are on the other side of the table looking at your pot of money, whether you are a homeowner or that coffee shop owner down the street, there is only so much money to spend at the beginning. The dynamics for this in small projects can be quite different than with a hospital or university building, although they might face similar challenges. Small projects are my life and in some ways can be most difficult.

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It doesn’t help this issue to make snarky comments or denigrate any one particular person, project or industry because they don’t align with one’s ideology. Chastising people on any social media platform or within journals for using seemingly archaic building materials and methods is not useful to our perception. It’s why people hate architects.

Yes, I have my own set of opinions on these subjects and at times I too have been guilty of negative rants. I think we can demonstrate through more objective (not political) means why certain decisions are better than others. But depending on where you live or practice or build, these technologies or methods of construction may not have been adopted in the mindset of the construction professionals or the client base of that area. Therefore, at a particular time and moment a building could cost tremendously more to improve the envelope or integrate active systems or other building systems that are different than the run-of-the-mill solutions. Many wish to pursue these options, but simply cannot.

In order to convince your client to make a better decision we have to find simple quick ways to clearly show them how it will make their life better or save them money or fit into the budget. Simple means in less words than this post. They also have to be willing to compensate us for our research and demonstrations. If they say no (for whatever reason) and they choose to build to the code minimum, then as an architect or engineer you either have to follow through with that or you need to make a hard decision and walk away. It’s that simple, let them alone.

I don’t think it’s useful to show arrogance in the media because people are making free decisions that differ from our ideology. This is the USA after all. We have to watch that this remains as a science and doesn’t become a religion or a political platform. If you don’t think it is, I can introduce you to people or point you in directions where this is the religion of certain individuals or organizations. If you don’t think it’s political, you’re kidding yourself.

As we partner with the AIA and other organizations by educating the public to make buildings that will last longer, perform better, provide cleaner indoor air, use less energy and less materials, our attitude behind our presentation it is absolutely critical. There’s no room for condescending attitudes.

Face it. Some people are not going to choose the same thing you choose. Taking that choice away doesn’t make anything better – for the environment or for our profession.

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better side of green