Last week our office was on top of the Cincinnati Business Courier's Greenest Projects in the Tri-State for the third year in a row. I’m not perfect, but I work on learning more and changing my habits to benefit all of the creatures on the planet. Their interactions we don’t fully understand, but one thing is obvious, the way species survive on earth is better without mankind. It might seem strange to look at a wilderness and realize that in the far, far future if humans are to survive, it will look the same again even though we will be much better at modifying it to suit our purposes.
Nature has a right to survive. It’s not our job to conquer it. Only now we understand that it does a much better job than we can to produce the maximum benefit from the energy provided.
My journey started when I studied architecture at the University of Kentucky, I was completely clueless, uninformed and undirected at school in the 70s. Then in 2003, we purchased the FLW house in Clifton. Although inspiring, it’s a disaster of a sustainable house, but it rekindled my interest in architecture and led me to make my office the Greenest in Cincinnati. It's one list I wish I wasn’t on top of.
You don’t build sustainability just to save money. The money part is out of sync with life and ecology. But that doesn't mean sustainbility has to cost more. We LEED Certified our office Platinum for less than $12 per square foot. We did all of the work, LEED documentation and I was the LEED AP on the project. But very few businesses are doing it. It doesn’t take money, it takes time and common sense. Not designy, not cool, not expensive, not fashionable, not somebody else's opinion of what is beautiful.
Money is only something we all agree has value. In the future, we will agree that nature has value as well. The ecologies of the planet are more productive to all the species of the planet rather than mono-cultures that benefit a few. Look around at our cities, do you wonder why people want to get away to the wilderness. It's because the city is a desert, devoid of life, a hot, unnutritious place that nothing can live in. There's nothing natural about it, not in the buildings, the furnishings, the transportation or the food. Photo from the Wilderness Society.
It's time we acknowledge nature knows show to do it better and try to make the best of it. Now we have the tools and the will power to start making the changes needed. I was undisciplined about my architectural studies and only liked Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller. I did learn the most from dissecting FLW's Fallingwater. I left that passion behind and worked the last 38 years in the family business of marketing communications for industrial equipment. Then chance brought Janet and I to purchase the FLW Boulter House in Cincinnati. Built in 1956 it's a passive solar home designed for the more moderate climate in Oakland, CA. I write this while enduring low temperatures in our, 450 square foot of single pane glass, great room. The home could be better with regard to sustainability but it's wonderful in its uniqueness and FLW's efforts to recreate what a home means.
For years after purchasing the home, I studied FLW for more insight. It wasn't there. He had the visual, materials and inside-out things right. My education went from there to the history of architecture, the why, the reasons. There were very little reasons except for fashion and building to code to stay out of jail. The modernist movements were about building less expensive homes and commercial buildings. Design is meaningless without an environmental context.
Then I learned about the more holistic LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, process. I went all in, started a new brand, Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy, and created the Greenest project in the Tri-State. Big deal, only Emersion Design, Melink Corporation and GreenSource are Green Building practitioners that have LEED Platinum offices. This article is in response to being number one again on the Cincinnati Business Courier's Greenest Projects in the-Tri-State list. I want to reach out to others that want a more environmental reason to build a project. It doesn't cost more, it performs better, it tells a more realistic story about our environment and the future of mankind. Our office was included in an article titled, "10 of the World's Greenest Offices,"
LEED isn't the greatest; it's just one method to get started. Living Building Challenge is much harder, much more fun and more like the future, if our environment will thrive. One in which buildings create all of their energy and water; process all of their own waste and offer environments for other species. Look at the wilderness, that is what the future will look like if we learn from nature and mimic its lessons. The Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy is a great example of the future (photo) and my new favorite building.
Like all cultures, all of the questions of the past are still present. The only thing slowly growing and becoming more accurate over time is science, it will provide the answers. In the 70s, we looked to ecology for the answers. Back then, ecology was a young science and didn't have the answers. Now the study of ecology has a path to the answers. We need to continue to learn and take action. I'm using all of my marketing knowledge to offer the public a chance to learn more. Come join us as the local Chapter of the USGBC tours local Green Homes this year. It's a small group of only few hundred that are interested. Fewer commercial project owners are interested or even know what's possible. The first words out of their architect, engineer and builder's mouth is, "Green is more expensive." That's expensive in their mind, it doesn't have to be in yours. Please get in touch if you have any questions about building sustainably or subscribe to our tour announcement newsletter. Hopefully next year we won't be the Greenest in Cincinnati.