Kudos, Rand, for pointing this out. If we are to clearly illustrate the importance of green building design for better communities, a more stable energy future, and the health and well-being of our buidlign occupants, there should be no articles that do not mention those achievements, or the failure to achieve anything for the greater good.
The time for buildings that attempt only to look good in print, yet harm us and our environment in construction and use is past.
Jodi Smits Anderson, AIA, LEED-AP BD+C
Director Sustainability Programs
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I have been given several opportunity\ies to judge project awards, including the AIA's COTE Top Ten. I also do peer reviews of proposals for conference presentations for both the AIA and USGBC. I recently served on a jury for a national industry trade publication annual project awards. My fellow jurors were two VP's of sales and marketing for well-regarded regional construction companies. We were asked to evaluate and rank a few dozen entries in various categories.
Several of the entries included buildings that were dramatically over-glazed, to the point of being essentially "glass boxes". I consistently lowered my ratings for these buildings, though they might have been well constructed. I couldn't bring myself to reward a bad idea, not matter how well executed. One of these buildings, in particular, caused a good deal of consternation in the judging. The project was done for a well-known private institutional client, who spent a great deal of money on the project, which the institution could well afford. The "signature" design feature of this project were multi-story glass curtain walls, facing East, South and West. My fellow jurors both ranked the project highest in its category, while I ranked it lowest, particularly as it related to innovation and contributions to the community. I explained my reasoning, based on my opinion that a façade of glass is needlessly first cost expensive (both in the cost of glass as an exterior envelope enclosure material, as well as causing the mechanical and electrical systems sized to be increased to handle the beyond-code allowance heating and cooling loads) as well as being a poor steward of the institution's resources in operating the building throughout its lifetime. I also pointed out the poor human indoor comfort caused by radiant temperature excursions and glare.My fellow jurors replied that the project was "beautiful", well-constructed and that the client was pleased with the project, as documented in a letter of recommendation. The magazine's policy for the award program is that award winners had to achieve a "consensus" among its jurors. Ultimately, my vote was excluded in the decision to award this project, as our firm had a competing project in the category (that I had not scored), based on what could be interpreted as a conflict of interest.Was I being unreasonable, or simply tilting at this particular windmill?
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Not off-topic at all!
This goes right to the heart of the AIA's responsibility to shape the dialogue around issues that bear directly on our profession's responsibility to take the lead on this issue (and others), rather that relegating it to a subcommittee.
Thanks for your valuable perspective on this pressing issue.
Kim,You are NOT tilting at windmills. As evidenced by the other comments here, and many discussions in different places in the profession, you are right on target! If as architects, we don't merge our concerns about sustainability and the future and our definition of a great project, we continue to undermine our own progress.The COTE Top 10 awards are incredibly valuable in trying to push those ideas forward, but until the COTE Top 10 has major overlap with the AIA Design Awards, we need to keep at it. In the meantime, we need to all keep asking those questions of our colleagues: how can you say it's a great piece of architecture if it doesn't contribute to solving the urgent problems of our time?Keep it up, Kim...We're all in it together!
Betsy del Monte
Rand's questions began this thread: "what happened to the information on energy, community connectivity, water and materials that was part of each project's required submission? . . . Where is the building performance information?"
Thanks Rand - good question. So how do we move away from pandering for award recognition with form that falsely presents function. A perfect example of this is Gates Hall at Cornell (LEED Gold). Check out OBSTACLES TO SUCCESSFUL EXECUTION – When Looks Ignore Function , a brief article on LinkedIn.
After studying the dilemma for eight years, that 'looks ignore function' yet "we know how to design" (contributed by Nick), I proffer two central contributors: Education and Silence.
'Education' covers architecture school programs as well as continuing education. One is dictated by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the other influenced by our AIA. Although 'sustainable design' and 'human centric design' are our stated concerns, both NAAB and the AIA, overwhelmed with an ever increasing body of new techniques, technologies and materials, have succumbed to accepting 'intention' as 'competence'.
In 2009, sustainable design education credits became mandatory to sustain AIA membership. In 2013, that requirement was removed:
"Recognizing that sustainable design practices have become a mainstream design intention in the architectural community, the Board of Directors has voted to allow the sustainable design education requirement to sunset at the end of calendar year 2012. AIA members will no longer need to complete the sustainable design requirement to fulfill their AIA continuing education."
In 2004 and 2009, NAAB's Student Performance Criteria (SPC) progressively strengthened sustainable design requirements, yet it too reversed course in 2014. In 2004, sustainable design was included among 34 SPC knowledge and skill categories, requiring students to demonstrate an "Understanding of the principles of sustainability in making architecture and urban design decisions". In 2009, "Understanding" was upgraded to "Ability", requiring an "Ability to design projects that optimize, conserve, or reuse natural and built resources", and it related those skills to integrated practices. Merely understanding sustainable design was no longer sufficient; NAAB required competency. However in 2014, NAAB deleted sustainability from the SPC. The sole mention of sustainability referred to preparing "a review of the relevant building codes and standards, including relevant sustainability requirements" and assessing "their implications for the project". Sustainability went from "Understanding of the principles" to "Ability to optimize, conserve or reuse natural resources", to being able to 'review codes and requirements and assess their implications'. Competent ability became the ability to review.
When mainstream design "intention" negates the need for knowledge, skills and continuing education, it is time to rethink the paradigm.
The need for better education of both students and the practicing profession is paramount. Although manufacturers' brochures and PR make the use of sustainable design techniques, new materials and technologies appear intuitive, or simply add-on appendages - they are not. Many of these representations are outright misleading. Their technical engineering manuals tell the real story – the cautions, prohibitions and actual performance data. But in general, architects are not engineers. In order to avoid the pitfalls, we need a better understanding as to where such use is appropriate, and how to achieve the benefits. Without continuing and up to date education, the fall back is employing sustainable appendages as a marketing ploy – looks ignoring performance and function.
Which leads us to the second contributor to the lack of performance – our silence. Frustrated with reality, the path of least resistance is acceptance of the norm through our silence. As long as we please the client's budget, taste, program agenda and marketability, we can receive praise regardless of performance or validity.
The honest concerns expressed on this thread are exactly what is needed, hopefully on a broader basis; even more so in committee meetings, on juries and in public forums. Otherwise we will continue to ignore reality. It is up to us to challenge both our architecture school studio and seminar content, as well as the content of our AIA continuing education courses – especially content provided by manufacturers and suppliers. And as well disclosed in this thread, we must challenge the performance of our award contenders. What we build has a long life, there is a heavy price to pay for poor performance.