True Green Cities / Celebrating Five Years – The Answer to Green is Gray

The former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

The former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

It’s been five years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog THREE of my fifth anniversary week. The past month has been a very good month for me and for my firm - with new important projects coming through the door and some permanence in my teaching position.  As a result I have been able to reflect on how I plan to continue to integrate teaching with work  - which for me are closely linked with research. Greening What’s Already Here
One of the many gorgeous architectural details in the former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

One of the many gorgeous architectural details in the former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

It is well established that the operations of buildings contribute almost 50% of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — and making buildings more energy and resource efficient is one of the most immediate and measurable ways to address this growing concern. Since new and renovated high performing buildings, a growing number of which are LEED or green building rating certified, comprise less than 10% of the country’s portfolio, it is clear that the biggest and indeed the most important way to improve our impact on the planet is to improve the operations of our existing buildings The green building world is in the midst of some major transitions. And that is saying a lot considering the past 10 years have seen nothing but transitions and transformations. The International Codes Council (ICC) has created a new green code, the International Green Construction Code (IGCC). LEED v4, the most comprehensive retooling that that groundbreaking rating system has seen in its fifteen years, was launched at Greenbuild last year. But we will not save the world just by building new LEED Platinum and net zero buildings. The only way we will save the world from climate disaster is by managing our buildings better, whether they are old or new. With many new high performance approaches to improving the design and operations of our buildings and sites, we have started by referring back to our earliest passive features. The best traditional ways to modify our landscape and moderate our environment included responding to nature and acknowledging the regional climate. James Steele in Ecological Architecture: A Critical History reminds us that, “To set tradition and technology against each other is to establish a false dialectic. Instead, when do they overlap and how is this applied to environmental problems?”
NYC's density fits its evolution. Not every city should be Dubai or Hong Kong.

NYC's density fits its evolution. Not every city should be Dubai or Hong Kong.

There is a lot of talk about density and walkability in these new “green” times, and not all good. Edward Glaeser’s article in The Atlantic where he proclaims “all dense all the time,” arguing that urban development should be less restrained by policy; specifically, that redevelopment of low-density urban areas is necessary to supplying housing at pace with demand enough to keep housing prices affordable in the cities where people most want to live. Key features of cities such as historic districts and modern heritage are under threat by misplaced plans in the name of sustainability such as the Midcentury (un)Modern report( Midcentury (un)Modern_Terrapin Bright Green 2013e_1)  recently prepared by Terrapin Bright Green which suggests that an entire era of building stock is disposable based on the evaluation of one office building in midtown Manhattan. Applying "inefficient" to an entire era of buildings can be dangerous. Hence the controversy over Michael Bloomberg's Midtown East rezoning plan, which would have allowed New York to replace aging commercial buildings with office towers in East Midtown. The plan received derision for promoting density over neighborhood, new over old, and bigger buildings without transit or street improvements. What it also does is encourage demolition of existing buildings. But does one green approach, density, supersede another green approach -- keeping what's already here? I can appreciate the importance density plays in cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. But I do not think making every place a city like Dubai or even midtown Manhattan is what is good for our culture. It may from an intellectual viewpoint be good for the planet (maybe) but layering our density, our styles and the age of our buildings is what makes our lives and this planet interesting. It is up to us to figure out the balance. And it is this balance that I use to guide my research. Conduct and share the research needed to transform the built environment toward sustainability.
Northland 4

Another evocative detail in the former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

I believe that one of the key issues that we need to confront is how we handle our midcentury modern buildings, their systems, their materials and their urban impacts. Several years ago I organized a two-day symposium for thought leaders in the sustainability field and one of our speakers, a very powerful leader of a world-famous institution, presented his idea to save the world – “Starting tomorrow we should never build anything new ever again.” Theoretically that complements something I sometimes say, “The greenest world is one without us in it.” Many studies have now shown that over 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US come from the operation and construction of buildings. And given the fact that 85% of our commercial building portfolio in the United States was built after 1945, the assumption can then easily be made that buildings from the modern era are the biggest problem we have from a climate change standpoint. Many would like you to think they are also the biggest problem we have in terms of aesthetics. The true story is, of course, much more nuanced. Many modern buildings were built with experimental materials or approaches, which have not weathered well or worked as we thought they would – material-wise or conceptually. Many were built specifically to be disposable, but we now find ourselves dealing with them 50 years later. Despite all these facts, I LOVE modern buildings. I love the creativity and simplicity of many of them. I love the fact that our parents envisioned and created a brand new world. I love them because I see the possibilities and opportunities. Does it make sense to try to save them all? Of course not. Just like it does not make sense to try to save everything built before 1945. Educate stakeholders in methods for transforming the built environment toward sustainability.
An industrial factory about to be rehabilitated to net zero. The former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

An industrial factory about to be rehabilitated to net zero. The former Niagara Machine & Tool Company complex at 683 Northland Avenue in Buffalo will be rehabilitated for mixed use including a Work Force Training Center. BAC/A+P is the preservation architect on the team.

By sharing research and its methodology, much needed data can be made available to users and leaders. Continuing work with past partners and stakeholders such as NCPTT, USGBC, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, Oak Ridge National Lab, and the EPA  will be key to expanding my research agenda so that all can work together, ensuring that real changes and improvements could be made. Improving our built environment by conducting research that provides us with the data we need to better design and operate our buildings will be crucial to all research entities. Designing a new building to LEED platinum does not indicate at ALL that the operation of that building will be any better than the building we replaced, because it is still maintained and operated by us.  And we just cannot seem to operate our buildings to their design levels.  The problem is not the buildings, it is us. For decades we have been losing sound buildings and landmarks from “demolition by neglect” – owners not maintaining their buildings to the point of demolition, “they’re in such bad shape now, they need to be removed.”  So, now we need to worry about owners claiming their new building will save the planet because it will be so much more energy efficient. Everyone seems to think the answer to green is black and white. But the answer is not in the broad-brush approach, it is in the nuance which is gray. And no one wants to hear that.  Removing whole eras of buildings and their cultural story is not the answer.  The answer is operating and retrofitting all of our buildings better.  And that just needs good green research, something I look forward to continuing to do in both my professional and academic pursuits. And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

True Green Cities / Celebrating Five Years – We’re Still Talking About Gender Bias in Architecture

It’s been five years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog TWO of my fifth anniversary week. Why Are We Still Talking About Gender Bias in Architecture? My most widely read blog was one I wrote in 2013 called Just Don't Call Me A Woman Architect.  I thought I could write about it once and move on.  But here we are three years later and we are still talking about gender bias in architecture because we are still talking about gender bias in our general culture.  Several recent occurrences have brought it back to the forefront of discussion. The sudden surge of discriminatory laws such as North Carolina's HB2 which legalizes discrimination of bias against LGBTQ citizens or actually just anyone whose looks someone wants to discriminate against has sent our country back decades.  And the sudden and unexpected loss of  Zaha Hadid has revived the discussion about gender in architecture.
Zaha Hadid, copyright Steve Double from ArchDaily.

Zaha Hadid, copyright Steve Double from ArchDaily.

Dame Zaha Hadid died of a heart attack in Miami on March 31st. She was only 65 and had just received the RIBA Gold Medal, the first woman architect to receive it.  Her life was one of firsts for "woman" architects - first woman and still only woman to receive the Pritzker Award on her own, architecture's "Nobel" prize in 2004.  But like many women, including me, she did not call herself, nor did she like to be referred to, as a "woman" architect. I ended my 2013 blog with the following paragraph which explains for all of us why calling us "woman" architects is demeaning. " ... Not wanting to call yourself a “woman” architect is an entirely understandable position. “But as Gloria Steinem put it, ‘Whoever has power takes over the noun – and the norm – while the less powerful gets the adjective.’ There are architects – who are overwhelmingly white men – and there are women architects, at least in the minds of many.” To that I say, there are some adjectives I will accept. You can call me a preservation architect. You can call me a sustainability architect. You can even call me a government or nonprofit architect. Just don’t ever call me a “woman” architect. Where Are the Women Architects?
"Where Are the Woman Architects" by Despina Stratigakos, the Interim Chair of the Architecture Department at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning, is launched today in NYC.

"Where Are the Woman Architects" by Despina Stratigakos, the Interim Chair of the Architecture Department at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning, is launched today in NYC.

Today my friend Despina Stratigakos launches her new book of essays "Where Are The Women Architects?" at the NYC Architecture Center. Despina is one half of the Buffalo team behind Architect Barbie.  She and Kelly Hayes-McAlonie worked with Mattel in 2010 to make "Architect Barbie" a reality. We've all heard the statistics. Up to 50% of architecture schools are comprised of women but by ten years after graduation the number of women in the field has dropped significantly so that today licensed architects include only about 17% women while 25% of office staff are women.  But the field is not any better with minorities either.  Architecture remains a white man's field. Does What We Call Ourselves Matter? It also happens that today a dear friend and colleague, Terri Anderson, a museum professional is presenting a very evocative paper at a museum conference at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She and her colleagues at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture have been asking some difficult questions about the labels museum professionals put on art and more importantly the artists. In their panel today, Building an Inclusive Database: Cataloging Places, Gender, Sexuality and Other Identities they will be asking their museum colleagues to think more carefully about the labels, both literal and physical that they prepare for works of art in their museums.  Would the artist have called themselves woman, African-American, lesbian, transgender, queer? Was their art "woman," "African-American," "lesbian," "transgender," "queer"?   Would they call their art something different than what they'd call themselves? How Do We Move Forward?
I keep my AIA Fellow's Medal (left) and Dean's Medal from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning on my manikin which wears my antique evening gown.

I keep my AIA Fellow's Medal (left) and Dean's Medal from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning on my manikin which wears my antique evening gown. So, yes, I am a proud woman architect.

Today is also New York State's primary, which sadly I cannot vote in because I'm an independent.  Some of the most awful vitriol targeted at Hillary Clinton is based in gender bias.  Women in power, no matter the field, are treated differently, and it's not positive.  When Zaha Hadid won the Pritzker, hardly any article mentioned her award without making a disparaging comment about her fashion style, her hair, her food choices.  Even the NY Times architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, descended to this level with, "Beneath the layers of Miyake, he claimed, she was really just “a big, raucous peasant woman” and not particularly intellectual: “She is not someone you would talk to about books."  Why are women subjected to such scrutiny? Do those of us who have made it in our fields owe it to our colleagues to speak out? I used to say, "No," just leave me alone to be an architect without an adjective.  But as I see that not only have things not changed, in many respects, they are getting worse, I acknowledge that we do owe it to ourselves and the students and young architects to say, "YES, I am a woman architect and I'm damn proud of it." And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

True Green Cities / Celebrating Five Years – Climate Change & COP21

Celebrating 5 Years - Climate Change & COP21
The Eiffel Tower seen from the Architecture Center.

The Eiffel Tower seen from the Architecture Center, the location of the recent Climate meetings.

It’s been five years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. This is blog ONE of my 5th anniversary week. I was interviewed for an article in Architect Magazine about COP21 by Kim O'Connell, which got me thinking about how far the new Paris Climate agreement goes. That seems to be a good place to start my week of celebration blogs - as this could impact everything I do, and all architects do. What is your general response, as an architect and a sustainability leader, to the Paris Climate Agreement? Did it go far enough?
The United Nations from Long Island City. Is the Secretariat still the Secretariat even though its curtain wall has been replaced?

The United Nations from Long Island City. The Secretariat's curtain wall was replaced with a more efficient one.

In some respects the Paris Climate Agreement is the most exciting thing to happen to sustainability since the 1987 Brundtland Commission’s release of “Our Common Future.” In other respects, it could barely take us beyond the status quo.  But what I find really significant about the agreement is that there WAS an agreement between all 196 countries including the US and China.  There was discussion.  It’s carnival atmosphere captured the attention of the whole world.  The agreement which basically provides the framework to keep world-wide warming to two degrees and if possible to 1.5 degrees sends a signal to the world and to corporations.  It says that this is serious; we need to pay attention.  It should spur re-investment in renewables.  It provides recommendations to create guidelines in capacity building and transparency.  Politically, we have till 2018 and 2023 to make this all happen, but will enough countries actually ratify it? Will the US ratify it?  It will all depend on the fall presidential election. Architects have already committed to the 2030 carbon neutrality challenge. Is this a sufficient goal in light of the Paris Agreement? Are enough architects doing their part?
Manhattan from the 54th floor of 54 Leonard, the new Herzog & DeMeuron residential tower in TriBeCa.

Manhattan from the 54th floor of 54 Leonard, the new Herzog & DeMeuron residential tower in TriBeCa.

While Architecture 2030 has lofty goals and well-detailed recommendations, it is primarily being adopted by large cities, large firms, large agencies.  As someone who works in both big cities and medium/small cities, the disparity between sustainability efforts is huge. Few architects and owners apply real, meaningful sustainability efforts to projects unless they are required by the client or the jurisdiction.  Building and zoning codes that require LEED for example (such as Chicago, Washington, DC, Washington State) are far more effective in ensuring at least a base level of sustainable approaches. While New York State and New York City do not currently have legislation that requires LEED, the new benchmarking laws for all buildings over 50,000 square feet are making a big impact. Does the 2030 Commitment have enough “weight” and exposure in terms of galvanizing architects and the general public to greater awareness? I do  not believe that a “commitment” that is basically primarily focused on architects can promote greater public awareness.  It needs to be retooled in a way that the average person, who may not even know an architect, but cares about recycling or saving energy costs, can readily understand it and feel like it impacts their life.  Tax credits for solar – that impacts public awareness.  Signing up to meet the 2030 Challenge – that does not impact public awareness. How will COP21 affect what the profession is doing? What more can it do to promote energy efficiency and sustainability?
The former Niagara Machine and Tool Company factory complex at 683 Northland Avenue on the East Side of Buffalo is set to be adapted into a net zero mixed use property.

The former Niagara Machine and Tool Company factory complex at 683 Northland Avenue on the East Side of Buffalo is set to be adapted into a net zero mixed use property.

COP21 will have to affect the architectural profession.  Since almost 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to construction activities, in order to meet the goals of limiting warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees, every building activity will matter.  We can only meet these goals (which still may not be rigorous enough) if the leaders in the architecture and construction fields are integral to developing these approaches. And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.
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