Architecture of Sustainability

Friday, May 05, 2006

Day 1, May 3

The Architecture of Sustainability
AIA Conference
Day One, May 3

Posted by John Morris Dixon, FAIA

Top Ten Green Building

The conference began with an impressive, encouraging view of some current accomplishments in the field of sustainable design. The occasion was the presentation, on the evening of May 3, of the AIA COTE (Committee on the Environment) Top Ten Green Buildings for 2006 (for details see the COTE website under In a realm where LEED certifications have set essential standards, COTE’s Top Ten honors have established a parallel and equally significant recognition framework, taking into account vital considerations not easily quantified under LEED’s mathematically calculated ratings.

Top Ten selections were made by jurors representing various disciplines committed to green design, who weighed the projects through informed discussion, not just arithmetic. Quantitative measures such as watts per square foot entered into the decisions, but the ten judging criteria included such considerations as “Long Life, Loose Fit” – that is the adaptability of the project in the future – which cannot be reduced to hard numbers.

Building form, orientation, and such common-sense “passive” means as reducing floor area were considered. In one of the winning projects, it was appropriate to take circulation areas out of the building and put them outside. Other subjective qualities considered include “design intent” and “connectivity” to the community outside the site, along with hard facts such as minimal lighting energy and the water cycle.

Brief acceptance speeches by honored architects and owners revealed other significant virtues. These projects, for instance, tended to make their green intentions visible to all who visit, impressing visitors with the potential of green design.

Peter Bohlin, architect of the Ballard Library and Neighborhood Service Center in Seattle, observed that sustainable issue do not “constrain,” but ‘enable” the design, resulting in a richer, not a duller, building. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s work honored here went beyond the building itself to include library tables that required a minimum of hardware and could be shipped flat to minimize transportation costs.


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