Take a Hike

Heartburn has been my constant bedtime companion of late. While not welcome, the condition is eerily timely, as I was recently asked by my bosses to poll readers on what keeps them up at night. It's a good thing this is our health-care issue because we all probably need a visit to the doctor amid ulcer-inducing issues including schedule compression, growth, recruitment, outsourcing, specializat...

06/01/2004


Heartburn has been my constant bedtime companion of late. While not welcome, the condition is eerily timely, as I was recently asked by my bosses to poll readers on what keeps them up at night. It's a good thing this is our health-care issue because we all probably need a visit to the doctor amid ulcer-inducing issues including schedule compression, growth, recruitment, outsourcing, specialization and technology—pick your poison—testing our collective intestinal fortitude. But what's the tonic? May I suggest some "green" tea? Let me set the table: Feeling similar stresses, I went for a walk the other day in a nearby wood at lunch. Afterward, I felt much better, more at peace, and also in mind of Henry David Thoreau, notably his thoughts on nature and society as published in Walden . Though speaking of nearby farmers, Thoreau's words are appropriate for engineers and countless others in today's dog-eat-dog business climate: "The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up."

How true is this? Small wonder the health-care market's booming. Maybe we should heed Thoreau and make a greater effort to connect with our natural environment on a more regular basis. But I say take it a step further. Don't just experience the tranquility of nature; reflect it in your work. How many thousands of people use your buildings and are too often trapped inside? More people-friendly and environmentally inspired components like more fresh air and better and natural lighting can go a long way in fulfilling an environmentally inspired code of conduct that perhaps all of us should consider—the Boy Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country; to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight . Pretty good guidelines, if you ask me, and standards that can easily be applied to concepts inherent in sustainable design.

But it's not easy being green. In fact, the exact dosage, if any, is a dilemma that one reader I interviewed is struggling with in terms of firm identification and specialization. But sustainability certainly is a marketing matter as the subject becomes more mainstream. For instance, on a recent front page, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Windy City will soon break ground on its first LEED-certified school—only the fifth public school in the nation to be so certified. The story, however, went on to note there are nearly 80 LEED-hopeful school projects in the works. Similarly, our cover story reports that 20 hospital projects are trying to attain LEED accreditation. So consider green, not only because it's becoming popular, but because it's the right thing to do. Coming full circle with Thoreau, I hope CSE can be the noted friend that helps you combat today's hydras so you, in turn, can deliver people-friendly buildings. This way, hopefully, we won't have to keep writing quite as much on the need for health-care improvements.





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