Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

Books and Architecture or Architecture and Books. Almost half way through Swerve: How the World Became Modern and the reader is introduced to the Villa Papyri, a partially excavated home in Herculaneum, in the shadow of Vesuvius. Here are a few images I dug up when taking a break from the reading.

The plan is known from tunnels excavated in the volcanic ash

Charred cylinders - which turned about to be papyrus scrolls from the Villa owners private library - and which gave the place its name. Some of these have been opened and the works have been identified.

J Paul Getty like the published plan so much he had it recreated in Malibu.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

St Louis Earth Day

This morning we set up the Home Energy Demonstration Wall under our tent for tomorrow's Earth Day celebration in Forest Park. It is among the largest Earth Day Festivals in the nation and the weather is looking very good. The wall, when set up, demonstrates the value of quality air sealing and insulation as well as lighting, window and blower door examples.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

St. Louis Building Arts Foundation

I had the pleasure of a tour of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation this afternoon. Special thanks to founder Larry Giles and old pal Jack Barlow for setting this up.

Here are a few pix from the adventure - and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

more Spring Reading: Richter's Atlas

I forgot to mention Gerhard Richter's Atlas. Not many 'words' in this one but it is an interesting pictorial journey through an artist's professional life. What point in your career path are you on? What would a summary look like? What would you do moving forward?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Reading

DOE Workforce Guidelines, ACI White Paper on the future of home performance, Home Performance Diagnostics constitutes a large part of my reading for my professional work in the home performance and construction world. This makes up the nuts and bolts of my work as a BPI Proctor and manager of home performance programs along with various teaching and speaking duties. This is good stuff because of what it means for the built environment in my community and the development of the professional community around me.

Still, if man does not live on bread alone, I will contend that we should not limit our reading to the narrow focus of our chosen profession(s). I have learned  much from a wide range of reading that, coincidentally, positively informs my work on a day to basis and it comes in all forms and all manner of surprising ways. I encourage a well rounded reading life - find your own surprises and share them with friends and colleagues.

I am just finishing Rampersad's 2 volume biography of Langston Hughes and it is something to near the end of the work and the end of Hughes' life. He was a decent and dignified man who gave us some great poetry, filled with the humanity he saw around him and made manifest in his own life.
I am in the middle of E.O. Wilson's The Social Conquest of the Earth and I just started The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt. More on these as I finish. 

Finally - one more plug for Kahneman's Thinking, Fast & Slow - this will help you in your professional and personal life - incredible insight into the workings of the human mind.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler is an interesting look at the future brought to us by the founder of the 'X Prize.' It does provide some reasons for some optimism, though some of the stuff these guys think of as a future of abundance seems pretty scary to me. No worries about costly elder care - soon robots costing no more than a thousand dollars will be able to do it.

There are some matters of abundance that are here and now and we are not always tuned in to this kind of integration of abundance into our culture as it unfolds. Here is an interesting quote:

 "Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a street guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000. All of which come standard on today's smart phones, or are available for puchase at the app store for less than a cup of coffee. In this, our exponentially enabled world, that's how quickly $10,000 of expenses can vanish."

There are certainly a lot of things that no longer need to take up space in our lives. What will you do with the extra 10k? What will you do with the extra space? I got rid of my albums 25 years ago and my CDs 5 years ago. I refuse to give up books. We never replaced our broken vcr and dvd players. No need.

There is a lot more implied by this. Research from Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman indicates that Americans have increasing levels of happiness with increasing incomes up to 75k/year and then additional money has no impact on a sense of well-being.

What makes a life well-balanced?

It is the art of construction.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Google and The Adjustment Bureau

A quote from The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov

"Google already bases the ads it shows on our searches and the text of our emails; Facebook aspires to make its ads much more fine-grained, taking into account what kind of of content we have previously 'liked' on other sites and what our friends are 'liking' and buying online. Imagine building censorship systems that are as detailed and fine-tuned to the information needs of their users as the behavioral advertising we encounter everyday. The only difference between the two is that one system learns everything about about us to show us more relevant advertisements, while the other learns everything about us to ban us from accessing relevant pages. Dictators have been somewhat slow to realize that the customization mechanisms underpinning so much of web 2.0 can easily be turned to purposes that are much more nefarious than behavioral advertising, but they are fast learners."

The Adjustment Bureau may not be a great film but it attempts to show us that free will is something we must fight for - it is not granted, at least not any longer - as a birthright. The stuff in the Morozov quote is from 2 sides of the same coin. It is the coin minted by the Adjustment Bureau.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Social Media Ventures - Neighborland - kind of a facebook for neighborhoods and development projects and issues. Maybe this will be a great way to normalize best practices for development, sustainability and energy efficiency projects.

I'd love to see something like this drive demand for energy efficiency projects on existing buildings.

Another interesting tool is coming out as a fb ap: This is a way to compare you own levels of energy efficiency with your friends.

Check these out and draw you own conclusions.

Monday, April 2, 2012

One Planet Living

The Ten Principles of One Planet Living. Sometimes I hear about stuff later in the game. Maybe I'm not alone in this regard.

From The WWF website:

What is an ecological footprint?

Ecological footprinting is a tool developed by the Global Footprint Network that measures how much land and water is needed to produce the resources we consume, and to absorb the wastes we produce.
For example, for every tonne of fish we consume, we need 25 hectares of fishing grounds; for every cubic metre of timber we need 1.3 hectares of forest.

We need 0.35 hectares of forest to absorb every tonne of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Using this tool helps us to measure sustainability.

We can work out how much ‘bio-productive’ land and sea there is around the world (ie areas capable of providing us with food, fuel or fish, for example) and calculate what a “fair share” for everyone is.

We can then also work out how much different people, countries or businesses consume, and whether or not that is within our “fair share”.

The Earth has about 12 billion hectares of bio-productive land – that’s about 2 hectares for every man, woman and child on Earth. However, the amount of bio-productive land needed to produce what is consumed by an average American citizen every year is about 10 hectares.

In other words, if everyone in the world had the same lifestyle as an average American, the world’s population would need 5 planets-worth of bio-productive land in order to feed, clothe and shelter everyone.

A sustainable lifestyle, or ecological footprint, is therefore one where the rate of consumption can be sustained by 2 hectares of bio-productive land.

In other words, One Planet Living.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cat's Eye in Fell's Point, Baltimore

On Thames Street in Fell's Point, across the street from the Baltimore City Police, is the Cat's Eye Pub.
Fell's Point is the center of the old ship building trade and it is full of 18th Century row houses turned into a kind of mega-Soulard
The Cat's Eye is about being Irish and the Blues. Pretty much a perfect fit for me. And the john is straight from the original, rejected cover of Beggars Banquet - though I played with the image a little bit. We heard a band called 'lower case blues' and they were a decent Thursday night band playing to a packed house.