On the Right Path, But Miles to Go
Ten years from today if we're still discussing green buildings, we've lost. These blunt words were delivered by Chris Luebkemen of Arup at the recent Greenbuild conference in Portland in a session about the future of green commercial buildings. I couldn't agree more, and in fact, am happy to report that the readers of CSE also get it.
Ten years from today if we’re still discussing green buildings, we’ve lost. These blunt words were delivered by Chris Luebkemen of Arup at the recent Greenbuild conference in Portland in a session about the future of green commercial buildings. I couldn’t agree more, and in fact, am happy to report that the readers of CSE also get it. As proof, I offer the submissions for our annual ARC Awards, the winners of which will be unveiled in the following pages. Of the projects received—and they were all good—five were LEED-certified (or hoping to be), five featured generally sustainable schemes and at least five contained significant green technology. Even for those entries without fancy components like chilled ceilings, at the very least, they all featured systems that delivered significant energy savings on the HVAC and electrical fronts, which is good old-fashioned engineering, but still sustainable by default.
In affirming Mr. Luebkemen’s declaration, LEED certification actually became a non-issue in choosing this year’s winners. Such sentiment was certainly expressed at last year’s Greenbuild when Rafael Viñoly, the visionary who designed the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, said that incorporating sustainablity into projects should be no more noteworthy than the due diligence required on the structural front in simply ensuring that buildings don’t fall down. What was more important, he said, was that whatever the vision for a building, it should come through and not be tempered by a checklist. (For more of Viñoly’s comments see p. 53)
Passion, to me, is the secret ingredient that goes into the making of any great building, be it green or not, and it doesn’t have to come from a fiery architect like Viñoly. At Greenbuild, I had lunch with Kim Shinn, the VP of TLC Engineering for Architecture’s Nashville office. He’s a six-foot-plus native Texan who’s not afraid to hammer on ASHRAE, USGBC, his peers or magazine editors. Don’t get the wrong impression—he does it not to be a nitpicker, but because he really cares about what he’s doing and simply wants his peers and professional organizations to be equally as passionate about their missions. Despite Kim’s imposing physical presence, it’s really the fire in his belly that’s inspiring when he talks about how important it is for him to make a difference in what he does every day. And Kim’s not just a complainer, he’s a doer, sitting on a couple of USGBC committees trying to refine LEED for labs and hospitals and bring to bear missing LEED points for systems like cogen. LEED’s also missing the mark, he says, in not getting more of theengineering team fired up. Folks like electrical engineers have much more to bring to the table, as do structural designers in the realm of recycling, or fire protection engineers in figuring out things such as how sprinkler piping can also be used as a condensate source for a water-source heat pump.
To Mr. Luebkemen’s notion, it seems to me that in order for green to become a given, engineers need to turn up the heat both internally and in their dealings with others.