Living Buildings

A recent Chronicle post about Sierra magazine drew a lot of commenter ire, including a nasty call for Scott Carlson, the writer of the piece, to be reassigned to the obituary column. Several of these commenters seemed to take offense at what they perceive
as an anti-sustainability bias, as if Scott has his laptop plugged into the A/C adaptor in an idling Hummer, cackling as he pricks
holes in the reputations of well-intentioned universities.

I can tell you from personal experience that Commenter Dan couldn’t be farther from the truth, and that Scott’s high standards come from a real desire for better practices in the way we build, manage, and teach at our universities. In the Sierra piece, it means he poked a little at their incomplete research. Other times, when talking about sustainability, that means he refrains from cheerleading to point out the incredible distance left to go, or perhaps even cries foul from time to time. If only more environmental reporters looked so thoroughly: corn ethanol, anyone? Unfortunately, good journalism is all too easy to denigrate, and far more difficult to do.

All this is to say that I love Scott’s latest piece in the Chronicle: an appeal for a better, more holistic look at green building in general and on campuses in particular. He says:

The new star architecture would strive for "living building" status,
a grail for the architecture profession. It would be made of recycled,
nontoxic, and renewable materials. It would produce more energy than it
uses. It would recycle rainwater and waste in a closed loop. It might
even provide microhabitats for animal and plant life. In short, it
would contribute to, rather than take from, the resources around us.

Moreover, it would be a building that teaches about natural systems,
building systems, and a groundbreaking style of design—lessons that
should be part of every college curriculum these days.

Indeed, Scott. Indeed.

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Published: September 19, 2008