Friday, November 17, 2006

Pushing the Envelope

Thursday afternoon, I dropped into the seminar "Pushing the Envelope," which had presentations by Randy Sharp (landscape architect from Vancouver), Friedrich Sick (a professor from Berlin), and my friend Steven Strong (solar consultant from Cambridge).

Sharp (pictured) talked about living walls--such a beautiful concept; he showed us the Aquaquest Learning Centre in Vancouver, a LEED Gold building that had a gorgeous wall of ferns along its exterior. It used an innovative system of pre-packaged plant boxes that could be set into a simple structure on the facade. He said the amazing acoustical properties of the wall were totally unintended.

Dr. Sick talked about passive design strategies in Germany and the recent mandated code change that requires all buildings to post their energy consumption data where the public can see it in a simple, easily understood chart. Can you imagine if we did that in the United States?

Finally, Strong--who spoke at our Architectural Record Innovation Conference and who must stay on the road lecturing almost constantly--had the audience rolling in the aisles with his great presentation on photovoltaic design options. He loves to slip in little politically motivated slides that catch you totally off guard (my favorite is the picture of the donkey hauling a cart loaded down with too much cargo and the cart has fallen back and launched the donkey into the sky--his point is that we load our buildings up with too many energy-consuming pieces of equipment that it becomes impossible to create enough renewable power for them).

-Russell Fortmeyer

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