Thursday, August 23, 2012

measuring sustainability, point by point

[Image from Energy Points website]
I recently posted my 3 Keys to Big Picture Sustainability, a wholly qualitative set of evaluations. Energy Points is an attempt at the opposite- a methodically quantitative set of measurements that accounts for a wide variety of sustainability issues. According to their website, Energy Points' "platform translates all resources into primary energy for direct, one to one comparison of domains such as electricity, water, and fuel." 

A huge problem in understanding sustainability progress, as founder Ory Zik points out to Fast Company's Co.Exist blog, is that the metrics don't line up. Comparing savings in water, electricity, and other resources overlaid with information about the location can be incredibly powerful information for building managers, homeowners and more. When investing money in improvements, these individuals want to be able to make informed decisions and tools like Energy Points give them the ability to do so.

Is this a good thing? On the surface, yes. For buildings managers? Definitely. For designers?  Not always.

Designers need to be able to do the difficult balancing of sustainability themselves. The tradeoffs are about more than energy used. For architects and interior designers, a building's function cannot be measured only in its use of resources but in performance for its users. Energy Points is a useful tool, but for designers cannot be the only measure of sustainability. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

after the olympics, london 2012

[Failing to disrepair: 2008 Beijing BMX track (top), 2004 Athens Galatsi Hall]

The 2012 Olympics ended nine days ago and London is working to piece itself back together. A huge public event like the Olympics has many design decision, and thus, many design discussions. Everything from the look of the medals, the origin of the uniforms, the logo and mascot, and the buildings themselves were fair game for critique. That lengthy debate and decision making process is partially why Dutch architecture, research and urbanism studio XML wrote in a study for the Dutch government that in the future democratic nations will find it difficult to host the Games.

[Still in use: 1940's canceled Helsinki tennis court turned mall (top), LA's 1932 and 1984 arena was borrowed from USC]

Great Britain is a democratic country, and overall, did an excellent job. Some design decisions were lacking, such as this shooting area that reminds me of a Target retail store, but London seems to have survived without major issues or threat of bankruptcy. Most importantly for an Olympic host, they have a post-Games gameplan. Many countries have struggled to use the large buildings built for the variety of sporting events as well as the Olympic Village. National Geographic profiled the successes and failures of several hosts, seen in the images here. The London Games were built in East London, with the goal of revitalizing a depressed area in a city that struggles to provide affordable housing. Dezeen has more details on the neighborhoods, public parks, health centers and schools built largely with private funding.

 Daniel Moylan, Chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation said: “Central London is moving east. Bringing the Games to east London has accelerated investment in an already growing area and now the world’s attention is focused on this fantastic part of the city."

There are two parts to success post-Olympics. London had the first- intent. Purposeful design has given the city a leg up in repurposing the buildings and revitalizing East London. Only time will tell if they have the second- follow through.

Images: National Geographic.

Monday, August 13, 2012

tumblights 8/13

I was a busy bee this weekend and didn't get a chance to post Sunday tumblights, but the colorful finds of this week are too good not to share, even if a day late. Bright rainbows and perfect summer colors help me when the Bay Area gets a bit of a fall chill to the air, like tonight. Luckily, frequent guests has translated into several day trips (and a weekend!) up in Napa and Sonoma so summer weather is just a short drive away.

Clockwise from top left

Enjoy these? Find more daily at And even more stunning images on my pintrest.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

utility boxes turned public art

[Images my own. Boxes on Allston between Milvia and MLK.]

Lately I've been running into common streetscape items turned public art all over the place. Here in Berkeley, I've been enjoying the 60 Boxes Project, part of Earth Island Institute's Streets Alive! Initiative, that has decorated utility boxes around the city. Near Berkeley High School are boxes commemorating famous grads of the school. Downtown are boxes in other designs by artists and I'm looking forward to stumbling across more.
[Top images from 21 Boxes Facebook page, bottom images from HonestlyWTF]

My own college town, Ithaca, NY, is also tackling their utility boxes. 21 Boxes has 21 artists painting 21 boxes around the town. Learn more in this video. The two top images in the photo above are by artists Sean Chilson and Jay Stooks. 

Then today I found a post by HonestlyWTF on a project in São Paulo, Brazil, where Vivo telecom company recruited 100 artists to each redesign a public telephone for "Call Parade." I love the shape of these telephone booths to start with, the shape giving a bit of privacy and sound control without totally separating the caller from the street. With the added artwork, they go from well designed ubiquity to standout individual work I'd be proud to have on my street corner. Which is ultimately the goal of each of these community projects- to make a commonplace object into one that inspires civic pride.