Monday, July 30, 2012

The Doors of South Grand

Sunday, July 29, 2012

When is Architecture a Gift?

I have long been interested in the architecture of retail spaces. I have written about them elsewhere in the blog. I think it is a topic worth keeping at the forefront of discussions about sustainability, art and architecture. has a post on architecture and branding and here is a link: Building Appeal

The piece talks about all kinds of things but here is my favorite paragraph:
Sall believes architectural brand experience has less to do with the look and feel of a store than with the kind of customer behavior that is promoted in that space. “When brands employ architects to look at ways to induce behavior that reflects brand values, that becomes truly sophisticated. If one associates Nike with dynamic spaces and spaces full of gregarious young people who are attractive and vital, people begin to think of that as Nike and its territory. That becomes truly powerful. How the brand includes a demographic and makes it behave in a particular way is where three-dimensional brand experience becomes architecture,” he says.

I think the essence stated above is self-explanatory. Get people buying stuff. An architecture to 'induce behavior' that is not in the service of the end user but in service of the retailer.

David Foster Wallace loved to use footnotes in his fiction and in his essays. I just re-read his essay about the experience of a luxury cruise. Really funny and poignant and sad. The essay, titled, Supposedly Fun Thing I'll never Do Again contains the following footnote about an ad or brochure for the cruise - I can't remember exactly but that's not the point. The thing about the note is what is says about art:

"...a powerful, beautiful ad...can never be any kind of real art: an ad has no status as gift, i.e. it's never really for the person it's directed at."   (note 38, P289)

I don't expect architectural services to be given away - that is not the kind of 'gift' I think Wallace is talking about. It seems to me it is more about the intention, about the state of mind and the telos of those planning the work.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

down to the river

Friday, July 27, 2012

ASHRAE 62.2 & the BPI

The world is filled with acronyms and the 'green' world has, I claim, the most. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) which certifies most of the energy auditors working on existing homes is adopting the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) newest standard for ventilation.  The introduction below is from a manufacturer of blower doors - equipment used to test the leakiness of a building's envelope.

To put it simply: a tight house saves energy and properly managed outside air improves indoor air quality. Combine the two and prosper financially and in health and comfort matters.

A Look at ASHRAE 62.2-2010

Over the last year or so, many of you have had to learn about the new ASHRAE ventilation standard. For BPI followers, the new 62.2-2010 will replace the old 62-89 standard on January 1 of 2013. Many DOE low-income weatherization programs are currently using 62.2. And for those of you working in new homes built to the 2012 IECC – it is happening now.

In the coming months, there will be new emphasis on 62.2, so let’s take a look at the basics. Even though you can get a lot of condensed versions, and even apps that do the calculations for you, it is always best to have and understand the actual standard.

So what is this new 62.2 standard? 
It is a mechanical ventilation standard used to determine the amount of constant or intermittent ventilation to install if your evaluation shows you need it.  Ventilation can be exhaust only, supply only, or balanced. It can be constant or intermittent, and in existing houses you can get a credit for a leaky building that can replace part, or all, of the requirement.

62.2 also requires items like a weather-stripped garage door, a vented dryer, compensation for combustion air, quiet fans, and either measuring fan output or using a prescriptive table for maximum fan exhaust duct lengths.  Check the standard for a more complete list.

The standard has a default table for determining ventilation, but using the calculation will usually end up with a smaller fan, so it may be worth the time and effort to do the math.

The past standards have been based on either the volume of the building or the number of occupants. This new standard is based on both floor area and number of occupants.

The first thing to do is determine floor area. 
The standard uses “occupiable area” that it defines as any space within the pressure boundary: so if you have included the basement as part of the envelope, include that area.

Next, determine number of occupants.

The standard uses the old standby of bedrooms +1.

The ventilation formula is: 
One percent of floor area plus 7.5 times the number of occupants equals the CFM of full time ventilation. Or mathematically,
(Area X 0.01) + (Bedrooms+1 X 7.5) = CFM ventilation.

So as an example - a 2200 ft2 house with a 1100 ft2 occupiable basement and 3 bedrooms would end up like this:

(3300 X 0.01) + (4 X 7.5) = (33) + (30) = 63 CFM of full time ventilation

The standard also has a table for determining intermittent fan use, and it ends up to be more run time than just a ratio would come up with.

So, no magic - everything can be done from tables or the calculation. And remember - tightening a house then re-ventilating it, are both part of the same strategy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Green Certification Adds 9% to Home Values

This piece is from the Los Angeles Times. Here is a link to the story

from the story:
The study was conducted by researchers with UC Berkeley and UCLA who hoped to answer the question:
Does the investment in an energy-efficient home pay off during resale? The short answer is yes....

...Even though buyers of green homes were likely to save an average of $700 in energy bills annually, "consumers value aspects other than just energy savings alone when purchasing a green home," said Kok, who cited intangibles such as enhanced indoor air quality and better insulation.
There are about 10,000 green-label certified homes in California, according to Kok. He and his co-researcher, UCLA's Matthew Kahn, examined data for the 1.6 million single-family homes sold in California between 2007 and 2012. About 4,300 of those homes were green-label certified. The study focused on production homes, not custom-built properties, and it compared green-labeled and non-green-labeled homes of similar age, size, amenities and location.
The study estimated that the cost of making a home 35% more efficient was $10,000, "so the benefit of green homes far outweighs the cost," Kok said.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

3 St. Louis Projects in La Bienalle di Venezia

The theme of this year's international exhibition is 'Common Ground.' links to the event website. The link below is to the United States website.

In one of the slide shows to the right are some pix from the Rebuild Foundation Project '1415' that will be among those featured in Venice in late August. Links to the organizations involved in the St. Louis projects are embedded in the listings below.

1415 (St. Louis, Missouri), Rebuild Foundation

Parking Plot (St. Louis, Missouri), Free Agents Imbert and Meijerink

Kingshighway Skatepark (St. Louis, Missouri), Kingshighway Vigilante Transitions

Saturday, July 21, 2012

a great way to see St. Louis

I rode, slowly and w/ some nice breaks all around St. Louis this morning. Almost 63 miles - over 100 kilometers.

Bellerive Park on S Broadway has a great, shady view of the river and it has become a favorite place for me to have a rest stop.

A little later in the morning, after iced coffee by the World Chess Hall of Fame, I contemplated my strategy to beat the heat and get the miles in I hoped for. Lots of hydration and riding in some shady places like Forest & Tower Grove Parks makes a difference.

Friday, July 20, 2012

a few facts about bottled water

Not sure of the source - but seemed worth sharing. Couple this with information about the embodied energy in a stainless steel bottle - they must be refilled 300 times to become carbon neutral vis-a-vis plastic bottles.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dana - Thomas House

After years of near misses I was finally able to get a tour of the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, IL today. I had to skip lunch to stay on my work schedule, but it was worth it. The images above are from the web; the ones below from my cell phone.

The quantity of fixtures, furnishings and stained glass that is original is astounding as well as outstanding. A few of the chairs even look comfortable. The place is a maze-like spectacle of the best that things could be in the early 20th Century.

Having been to Fallingwater last week I feel fortunate to have 2 intimate experiences from 2 phases of Wright's work in close proximity. Both are amazing, though the Dana House is more suited to my height (6'3"). They both have well deserved places in our history.

The art glass is mindbogglingly beautiful. In the image above art glass doors are opened and pushed against other art glass doors with a sumac theme. The details, up close, show a human touch and, from a distance, the effect is sublime.

Above is a detail of the entrance. Like many Wright brick projects the horizontal mortar joints are raked and the vertical are filled flush in order to accentuate the horizontal lines.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

from the NRDC on Energy Trends

I found this fascinating and wanted to share - so I did a straight lift - here is the source url -

from Ralph Cavanagh’s Blog

Unexpectedly Good News Regarding Energy Trends

Ralph Cavanagh
Posted July 12, 2012 in Solving Global Warming
It’s not often that an environmental advocate gets to share good news about energy with electricity industry executives.
But I recently had the opportunity to do so during the annual summer course on energy issues that I teach at the University of Idaho.
Each summer for almost 60 years, the university has brought about 50 emerging electricity industry leaders to its campus in Moscow for mid-career reflection and training by the faculty of the University of Idaho Utility Executive Course, which has counted me among its number for the last two decades.
This year, I prepared a set of what I called “Leading Energy Indicators” that tracked trends over the past 10 to 40 years and even the most experienced and savvy members of my audience were surprised to learn that:
1.   Although the U.S. economy has almost tripled in size over the past forty years, oil use is up by only about one percent. Just since 2007, we’ve cut oil consumption by over 12 percent; that year will almost certainly rank as the all-time peak, given prospects for sustained progress in fuel economy and the continuing emergence of other alternatives to oil. Those who complain that the United States has made no progress in reducing its oil dependence are entirely wrong.
2.   Looking ahead, higher fuel economy standards already adopted for cars and light trucks will be saving the equivalent of more than two million barrels of oil a day by 2025 -- that’s more than one-tenth of total U.S. oil use today, comparable to what we import from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined.
3.   Since 2000, U.S. electricity use has grown more slowly than the population for the first sustained period since the industry was launched a century ago by Thomas Edison and Samuel Insull, who helped create the nation’s electrical infrastructure. In just the past decade, our use of coal to generate electricity has declined significantly – by the annual equivalent of more than sixty giant 500 Megawatt power plants, which represents about ten percent of total U.S. coal-fired generation capacity. The principal replacement sources have been natural gas and wind power (the latter of which boosted its production 20-fold in just a decade), yielding a giant national and international dividend in avoided emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide.
4.   When you adjust for economic growth and inflation, the United States has cut its energy needs by more than 50% since 1973 and the trend shows no signs of slowing. If you treat this 40-year reduction as the equivalent of new energy supply, the resulting resource is now almost four times larger than the expansion of output from all other energy sources combined over that same period (including oil, natural gas, nuclear power, biofuels, wind and solar).
In other words, without those continuing reductions in the economy’s energy intensity, we would have needed to increase contributions from all other fuels combined by about fourfold. Since 1973, the total growth in U.S. energy needs has been less than 30 percent.
While we can and must do better, this is progress beyond the wildest dreams of most who tried to predict energy supply and demand trends in the 1970s (save for a few visionaries like Amory Lovins, Art Rosenfeld and NRDC’s David Goldstein).
Any temptation to credit market forces solely for these positive energy trends is rebutted by a glance at the record: Oil and natural gas prices have fluctuated wildly over the past four decades, and electricity costs show no clear trend (the average kilowatt-hour costs about the same today, adjusted for inflation, as it did in 1990).
What clearly has worked to reduce energy needs is the effective coordination of incentives and efficiency standards; for example, utilities acting in coordination with regulators have driven the electricity consumption of the average refrigerator more than 70 percent lower since the mid-1970s. Federal efficiency standards adopted in the past year will soon cut electricity and water needs for clothes- and dish-washing by more than half since the mid-1990s. By 2025, passenger vehicles will average two and a half times the miles per gallon of their mid-1970s counterparts.
We did all this with energy policy developed quietly at both state and federal levels, at a time when a favorite bipartisan ritual in Washington, D.C., is to bemoan the lack of a national energy policy. This revelation may have been the most surprising one of all to the group of utility leaders sitting in that University of Idaho classroom just weeks ago.
They and their industry will of course have much to say about what happens next.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Community Based Energy Efficiency

Pete Street from is an interesting community outreach program for encouraging energy efficiency on a neighborhood basis. It is all about creating a volunteer network and hosting simple DIY energy efficiency training and programs.

from their website:

Pete Street™ creates powerful networks of neighborhood volunteers engaged in saving energy and money.  It includes everything needed for a community to fund, organize, implement, and evaluate this successful community building, energy-savings program.  Pete Street™ is also a powerful tool to support other energy-savings programs such as assessment-based energy retrofits by providing the on-the-ground outreach that educates and motivates residents to participate and engage in other energy savings activities.

Neighbors who participate in Pete Street™ workshops typically save 7.5% on energy costs.*

Pete Street™ was developed by nonprofit Clean Energy Durham over five years of training energy volunteers in over 40 diverse neighborhoods in two North Carolina counties:  urban Durham County and rural Warren County.

The Pete Street™ approach is simple and effective: learn, do, teach, and track.  Neighbors attend a workshop together to learn energy-saving behaviors and techniques.  They are encouraged to go home and do some of the techniques they learned, then teach other neighbors and track their savings. Households have documented $100 per month savings with this knowledge.

“Pete” refers to that guy or gal down the block who knows how to install a programmable
thermostat, had the attic insulated, is on a time-of-use utility plan, or has other energy-saving
knowledge to share.  The goal is to have as many Petes as possible on every street in America. The
name also allows for playful terms for volunteers such as Energy Pre-Pete™ (learn), Energy Pete™
(do), Energy Re-Pete™ (teach), and Elite Pete™ (take 18-hour training).

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Back in town after a week in DC for the conference mentioned below. Much to report - but first a few pix from the house tour I took on the way home.

The classic view from slightly down stream. The falls, I am told, are spring fed and pretty much always run.

After crossing the creek on a concrete bridge, autos would pass by the house on the left and under the steel reinforced concrete trellis. Some of the trellis beams were curved around existing trees.

Above are larger steel reinforced beams resting on the exposed bedrock and then supporting a terrace.

The stone was quarried just a few miles up stream, and, as it was built in the heart of the depression, the owner's received favorable labor rates.  Still, the project that went considerably over budget, in spite of the economic times.

Steel, glass and concrete integrated into a single structure in ways which had never been seen before. That is the thing to remember. Another thing to remember is to make a distinction between Wright and his work. They're not the same thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

from the press, re: sustainability

Feds deny stimulus for Taum Sauk reservoir

The headline above is from today's Post-Dispatch and links to the article in which it is stated: "Ameren makes a profit on the difference in electricity prices even though the plant uses more energy than it generates."

FARGO — Cities seeking long-term prosperity should focus on developing mature parts of town instead of promoting building on a city’s edge, says “new urbanism” proponent Charles Marohn.
“Throughout most of the country, we’re stalled and going backwards and people are looking for answers,” Marohn said Tuesday in Fargo. “Our key insight is: Our growth pattern is what has caused the stagnation and decline.”
Marohn, who spoke to business leaders and city officials from the area, is executive director of a Minnesota nonprofit called Strong Towns. He said the mission of the organization is to support a model of growth that works in the long run.
A model adopted by many cities — providing infrastructure and other incentives to build on the edges of town — creates an initial boom by adding to the tax base, he said. But cities eventually fall on hard times because revenues generated by that tax base are not enough to cover the cost of maintaining systems over time.
“You get 20 to 30 years of prospering and the next 20 to 30 years you take on debt to keep it all going,” Marohn said. “Then you reach this point — where most American cities are today — where you can’t keep it going and you can’t sustain it.”
He said a better way to approach development is for cities to stop providing incentives to build on the outskirts of town.
Development will then naturally start to occur in the more established and productive areas of the city, he said.
In cities like Fargo, he said, the downtown tax base subsidizes other areas of the city.
“Stuff on the edge is not financially viable without all the subsidies.”
Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams said development in older parts of town would benefit from ending tax exemptions for new homes and stopping the city’s practice of essentially financing the infrastructure for new developments.
Another way to level the playing field would be to shift more “baseline” maintenance responsibilities from downtown property owners to the city, freeing businesses to spend more on things like promotion, said Mike Hahn, CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership of Fargo-Moorhead, which sponsored Marohn’s “Curbside Chat” presentations Tuesday.
Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger called Marohn’s comments thought-provoking.
“What we’ve been hearing across Minnesota is that a lot of these development patterns are really unsustainable and they’re not things we can maintain,” Redlinger said.
Redevelopment and turning marginally used property into something more productive should be part of any community’s growth strategy, Redlinger said.
“We’re going to have to put our eggs in lots of baskets to make it work,” he said.

Dave Olson is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

The highlights above are mine. There is a bit of a chicken/egg thing on the development side regarding supply & demand. There is also a civics lesson.

from my wife's FB Page: 

The purpose of citizenship is to force this country to live up, a little bit more than it did yesterday, to its stated creed of liberty and equality for all.

Eric Liu, who co-authored The Gardens of Democracy with Nick Hanauer

Happy 4th!