Sunday, August 30, 2009

San Luis Apartments

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arcturis tracking LEED Silver

Arcturis is now in The Laclede Gas Building at 8th & Olive and they did a great job renovating their new space to LEED CI standards. The studio has great views and is a lesson in simplicity, functionality and mindfulness. It is also a gateway to the history of architecture. Click on the collage to enlarge and see views from the Arcturis offices. The Arch, the Old Post Office, The Arcade Building and the Wainwright Building are just some of the remarkable buildings which can be glimpsed from their space.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Home Building and Residential Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel is a link to the order. I have been appointed to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's Advisory Panel on Home Building and Residential Energy Efficiency and we had our first meeting in Jefferson City yesterday. Click on the image on the right to see the Truman State Office Building where the meeting was held. One can the capitol dome reflected in the glazing and Ralph Bicknese, who recommended me for the panel in the foreground. We are all aware of the urgency of incorporating the highest levels of energy efficiency possible into our building stock and making recommendations for this, in the residential sector, will be part of our group's work. It is important to undertand, also, just how badly the construction sector has been hit by the economic downturn of the last few years. The unemployement rate in the state has grown to 9.3% and in the St. Louis area it is 9.9%. While this is bad enough, in the construction sector it is far worse. I have heard reports that in the St. Louis area the unemployment rate in the construction sector is over 20% and for architects it is a staggering 35% or greater.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

NOMA Conference in St. Louis this October

The St. Louis Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects is hosting the national conference this year.
from the St. Louis NOMA web:
This international conference will build on past conferences to celebrate our 37th anniversary milestone and paying homage to the people and events of the past that have brought us to where we are today.
The conference theme, IMPACT: “Creating New Ideas To Bridge The Gaps”, reflects the goal of the organization to facilitate dialogue addressing critical issues regarding Education, the Environment, and People.
There will be seminars devoted to providing essential training and insight to help build your career or business, several of which will provide Continuing Education credits for maintaining licensure.
The conference is an opportunity to reach design professionals that include architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, contractors and builders, urban designers, interior designers, building operations and maintenance decision-makers and green or sustainable design and downtown revitalization and economic development officials.
You can learn more if interested by visiting or

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Training for Municipal Leaders

This Thursday I will be on a panel, along with Jean Ponzi & Rick Hunter, discussing "How to Help Your Homeowners Go Green" put on by the USGBC. This is the second of 2 workshops (the first for the commercial sector was in June) These workshops have, as part of their genesis, an op ed I wrote in January that was picked up by a few publications like the Post-Dispatch, The Beacon and CNR. Someone found, just the other day, that it had been picked up by a group in the northeast as well. Click on the image to go to their website and see the piece.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Habitat and LEED Classes at Forest Park CC

Click on the image to enlarge and learn more about upgrading your construction skills, leadership skills and knowledge of sustainable homebuilding all while making a positive difference in the community. I will be teaching on LEED for Homes on 9/22 and 11/03

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Review from London's Financial Times

The Challenge for Africa: A New Vision
By Wangari Maathai
The image of sub-Saharan Africa projected to the world veers between extremes. Often the news agenda is doom-laden, drawn from countries where subsistence is threatened. Zimbabwe’s free-fall absorbed more space in the mainstream UK press last year than the rest of the continent put together. Many successful Africans feel unrepresented.
Until the global economic crisis, however, another narrative was taking hold: after years of stagnation and crisis, Africa was doing better. Democracy was taking root. Improved policy environments and the commodity boom were generating the fastest expansion in generations. The few lingering disasters, Zimbabwe among them, were exceptions, not the rule.
Recent trends have indeed been more positive. But this rose-tinted version of Africa was also unsatisfactory. It presented the democratic veneer that multiparty elections provide to entrenched elites as genuine transformation; it glossed over the reversal of political freedoms when these took place. It also underestimated the fragility of economic gains.
Generalising about the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa is problematic but Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s Nobel prize-winning environmentalist, does it admirably in The Challenge for Africa. Beyond the anodyne title is a penetrating assessment of the corrosive legacy of Africa’s history on its inhabitants, and the failure of most contemporary African leaders to rise to innumerable challenges.
Maathai unveils a 21st-century manifesto for Africans, drawing on her own experience as a worldly Kenyan, street-fighting activist, member of parliament and, from 2003 to 2006, government minister. Her analysis is thorough. She reaches into African history, culture, psychology, contemporary politics and also – from a woman recognised internationally for her tree-planting campaign – into the threat to fragile ecosystems. Using country-specific tales, she tackles issues shared by much of the continent. Her vision defies categorisation into either Afro-pessimist or Afro-optimist camps.
Africans are hurtling towards a potentially tragic future of environmental desolation, poverty and ethnic conflict, she says, led by self-serving inheritors of political systems designed to exploit rather than serve. But escape is possible.
Maathai is one of the few ministers to emerge from President Mwai Kibaki’s Kenyan government with her integrity intact. She abandoned the ruling party and was voted out of parliament in 2006. She is now an outsider, writing with authority but never hectoring or polemical. The transformation she advocates requires more than just changing leaders or collective popular courage. It requires a profound examination of what it means to be an African today.
Fifty years after gaining independence from Europe’s colonial powers, and nearly two centuries since white missionaries arrived, it has become fashionable to absolve western powers of blame. The Challenge for Africa is a poignant counter to the suggestion that nations can so readily shake off their history.
Disconnected from their culture and forced to swallow religious, political and economic prescriptions from the west, Africans are still struggling to assert their own identity. This environment continues to make them “vulnerable to exploiters and to being exploiters themselves”. It also undermines the benefits of western aid, which, Maathai argues, erodes governments’ capacity to take responsibility for people’s welfare.
“What these well-meaning development specialists, philanthropists, politicians and others perhaps don’t fully appreciate is that indigenous or colonised people have been living a split life for centuries,” she writes.
They also form a jumble of what Maathai calls micro-nations, artificially united by colonial boundaries. Rather than challenge borders or sweep away ethnic identity, the solution, she argues, is to recognise and institutionalise diversity, for example by creating upper legislative houses giving voice to all ethnic groups.
This is one of many ideas. Most of them require a “revolution in leadership”. A quarter of humans may be inherently crooked, she writes, a quarter inherently honest and the rest go with the flow. The implication of her analysis is that the flow in Africa is still with the crooked – but she has few solutions on how to prise out the crooks.
This is, nevertheless, a book that gives substance to the hollow mantra of African solutions to African problems and provides a powerful case for Africans to take their own destinies in hand.
William Wallis is the FT’s Africa editor
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

from the NY Times on Kenya

People I talk to on the ground in Nairobi find that corruption and incompetence are so great that it is all but impossible to get anything done there. If we don't dig in, to get past the surface of stories like the following which deal with superficial government to government concerns, in order to see the lives of real people trying to make a go, then it becomes hard to see why we should make any effort. I hope to add to the dialogue on Africa by sharing things like the art post I did a few days ago along with other work and reading I've done to help us push past the corruption and the common view of Africa as consisting solely of the corrupt and the starving.

August 6, 2009
Kenya’s Past Shadows Start of Clinton’s Trip
NAIROBI, Kenya — There was an elephant in the room on Wednesday during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first full day in Africa.
Her visit to Kenya — like much of the rest of her seven nation Africa tour — is supposed to be about trade and friendship, and bolstering America’s ties to its key African allies.
But wherever Mrs. Clinton (and her enormous entourage) turned, it seemed that she kept bumping into Kenya’s messy — and often combustible — politics.
In the morning, she delivered a lengthy policy speech about America’s new approach to aid in Africa, saying the United States wants to channel more development dollars to agriculture and infrastructure and boost support for African entrepreneurs.
“We want to be your partner, not your patron,” she said.
But as soon as she finished, Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, took the podium and made not-so-vague references to the bloody political crisis that convulsed Kenya last year and cost him the job that many people here believe was rightly his.
“In Africa, in many countries, elections are never won, they are rigged,” Mr. Odinga said, drawing a long, uncomfortable laugh.
He then cracked a grin, paused for a moment and went on to introduce the man widely accused of stealing the election from him, Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki.
Some of the headlines greeting Mrs. Clinton that morning raised the issue even more squarely, focusing on the pressure America has put on Kenya to set up a special tribunal to try the perpetrators of the election-driven bloodshed last year, in which more than 1,000 people were killed.
“Clinton lands as U.S. breathes fire,” one said. “Quit lecturing Africa on politics, says Raila,” said another.
Despite the insistence of its own citizens and Western donors, the Kenyan government has rejected a separate tribunal, saying that it would try perpetrators through its existing institutions, which are notoriously corrupt and ineffective.
“We are waiting; we are disappointed,” Mrs. Clinton told a news conference.
This may be a theme of Mrs. Clinton’s Africa mission: How to use the United States’ enormous leverage on the continent to hold African leaders accountable for the reforms their own people are urging, while still trying to come across as a friend.
It probably won’t be easy. South Africa, Angola, Congo and Nigeria (Mrs. Clinton’s next stops) are all countries that are both friendly and at times prickly, countries that admire the United States as a bastion of prosperity and opportunity, but resent neocolonialism and being told what to do.
The role Mrs. Clinton and the United States find themselves in here in Africa is trying to squeeze between recalcitrant leaders and a populace that is eager for change and often in sync with American values. Analysts say that with billions of dollars in foreign aid, a long legacy of involvement in Africa and a new president of Kenyan heritage, the United States is positioned, possibly more than ever, to play a guiding role in Africa. But it is often a delicate balancing act, and as Kenya showed, it can get very awkward.
Later that day, Mrs. Clinton toured an agricultural research center with William Samoei Ruto by her side. Mr. Ruto, Kenya’s agricultural minister, delivered a velvety smooth, 10-minute speech, packed with facts and figures, all without glancing at any notes.
But Mr. Ruto is also one of the prime suspects in the post-election violence, a divisive figure considered by many Kenyans to be an ethnic warlord. Kenyan human rights groups recently named him as a suspect who could be hauled off to the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
Many of the veteran American diplomats aware of Mr. Ruto’s reputation in Kenya were uneasy about the apparent chumminess on display, especially in front of a bank of television cameras.
“There was a lot of back and forth about his participation today, for all the obvious reasons,” one American diplomat confided on condition of anonymity.
But at the end of the afternoon, Mrs. Clinton stood with Mr. Ruto on a small stage bathed in the warm equatorial sun. Mr. Ruto cast her a smile and said: “Almost 50 percent of my senior staff have been trained, courtesy of the United States government. It’s only myself who hasn’t been trained in the U.S.”
Mrs. Clinton beamed back, “There’s still time, minister,” and rubbed him jovially on the back.
No issue in Kenya is trickier — and potentially more violent — than the question of what to do about Mr. Ruto and other suspected perpetrators of the post-election violence. Kenyan human rights groups and Western diplomats say that unless Kenya ends its long culture of impunity, the ethnic and political tensions that tore this country apart last year will explode during the next major election, in 2012. But trouble could come sooner. Ethnic militias are already rearming themselves in the hinterland and as some Kenyans say, there’s not so much peace right now as a ceasefire.
Mrs. Clinton hinted at the complexities on Wednesday.
“I know this is not easy,” she said at a news conference. “How do you go about prosecuting the perpetrators without engendering more violence?”
But when asked what specific actions the American government would take if the Kenyan government failed to prosecute the killers from last year’s mayhem — sanctions? travel bans? a reduction in aid? — Mrs. Clinton demurred, saying only that “we believe this is an issue best handled by the Kenyans themselves.”
Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London.

Speaking Engagements

I will be speaking to a Municipal Training Workshop by the USGBC in Webster on 8/13 as well as doing a workshop for developers on behalf of the USGBC for the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) on 9/10. This will be followed by Continuing Ed. workshops at Forest Park, in conjunction with Habitat on 9/22 and 11/3 and 2 workshops at the Green Homes Festival on 9/26. Hope to see you at one or another.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

more from The Building Codes Assistance Project

Why do we have nothing in Missouri? The idea is not to have more regulations but to have the right regulations for the times. The writing is on the wall and we should all participate in encouraging our state leadership to get on board with state-wide energy codes for commercial and residential work.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Greening Your Government, Part II

I will be part of a panel discussing energy efficiency, weatherization, tax credits, recycling and storm water management with a group of municipal officials on August 13th. Encourage your own leadership to attend - from the building inspector to the mayor. There will be something for everyone to learn. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Contemporary African Art

Chris Spring has a new book titled Angaza Afrika. Angaza is a Swahili word meaning 'to shed light on' and the book does a fine job of opening up the world of contemporary art on the continent. There is some work by El Anatsui (at least one piece has been acquired by the St. Louis Art Museum), Diloprizulike and Romauld Hazoume. Click on the images below to enlarge and then doing a little looking around on your own. There is a complexity and beauty in African art that opens doors to wonder and understanding that will be a big part of moving forward on projects of intercontinental and global scope and size.

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