Issue 1 // April 2009
boston translation A Local Couple Complete a Sustainable Renovation
how green are you? Quiz Inside
green bathroom renovation Donâ€™t Let Your Bathroom go to Shit
new england product Local Designer Joe Turkel is Helping Green Your Home Town // 1 //
12 13 14 16
n ew e n g l an d p roduc t : de s i gn fi rm Local Designer Joe Turkel is Helping Green Your Home Town
w hy c an’t we bui l d a n affo rda bl e ho us e ? Suburban Sprawl is Even Worse for the Environment than We Thought
rai s i n g th e b a rn Peston Scott Cohen Reinvents the Barn
go g ree n : bat hroom re novat i on Don’t Let Your Bathroom go to Shit
2 5 2 8
less is more Small Space Office by Jonas & Jonas
iconic boston building gets a m ake-over Marriott Custom House Tower now uses two-thirds less energy
greenbuild com es to boston in 2008 4 7 An Interview with Rick Fedrizzi, U.S. Green Building Council’s CEO and president.
k fix: green lighting tips 5 0 quic 4 Ways to Save Energy, Money and Hassle
dus t ry an o u n ce me nt 1 7 inNational Grid Announces Plan for New Solar Energy
m aking a modern sustainable boutique 5 4 The new sustainably sourced and delightfully
et’s be fran k 2 2 lLiving in harmony with nature has been
how green are you? 5 7 You talk the talk, now show us that you
Program in Massachusetts
a long-held ethos.
this old recyclable house Leave Your Bulldozer at Home
can walk the walk.
boston translation A Local Couple Complete a Sustainable Renovation
new england product: design firm Local Designer Joe Turkel is Helping Green Your Home Town Aaron Britt
orn in Seattle and raised in British Columbia, Joel Turkel earned a bachelor of environmental studies from the University of Manitoba, and masters of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was named the Ann Beha travelling fellow. He is a recipient of the Marvin E. Goody prize in Architecture for his work on prefabricated residential building systems. Turkel worked under architect Fernando Domeyko-Perez and with several international groups including the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture in both India and Syria; the Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Ethiopia; and the Space in and In-Between Workshop under the direction of architects Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki and Frank Gehry. From 1999 to 2007 Turkel served as the Creative Director of Empyrean Architecture Planning and Fabrication. During his tenure there, he played a key role in several major initiatives including
Meadow House Hillsdale, NY
Located two hours from NYC this house was conceived of as a â€œloft-inthe-countryâ€?, and features broad expanses of glass and a large open great room plan with views to the Catamount ski area to the south. As a private retreat for family and friends, it contains four en-suite rooms each with private outdoor space all sharing the open great room area. The Space in and In-Between Workshop under the direction of architects Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki and Frank Gehry. He is a recipient of the Marvin E. Goody prize in Architecture. This home was designed as a low-energy structure, incorporating passive solar design features such as open exposure to the south to allow deep light penetration in the winter, as well as solar shades and overhangs to shield the house from summer overheating. The home incorporates geothermal heating and cooling, and is situated to take full advantage of natural ventilation and outdoor living.
// 12 //
the development of the Dwell Homes by Empyrean, a unique collaboration between Lazor Office, Resolution 4: Architecture and Dwell magazine. He is the creator of NextHouse, a series of prefabricated modern homes still marketed by the Dwell brand. Turkel is a frequent critic at architecture schools throughout the United States, and since 2004, he has held a faculty position in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, where he teaches both design studios and a graduate level course entitled The Prefab Workshop: Design, Fabrication and the Modern Delivery Mechanism under the direction of architects Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki and Frank Gehry. In 2007, he founded Turkel Design with his wife and partner Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel. They divide their time between Cambridge and Toronto. He is a recipient of the Marvin E. Goody prize in Architecture for his work on prefabricated residential building systems. //
w h y c a n’ t w e b u i l d a n a f f o r d a b l e h o u s e ? Suburban Sprawl is Even Worse for the Environment than We Thought Lloyd Alter
itold Rybczynski asks in the Wilson Quarterly: “Why Can’t We Build an Affordable House?” He notes that “ne of the reasons we are in this mess is that people bought houses they couldn’t really afford” and that when the market returns, people will want smaller houses, closer to the designs of Levittown with their thousand square feet instead of the average of 2,469 SF before the crash. “Would it be possible to build a modern version of the affordable Levittowner? It would probably be a small house, closer to the 1,000 square feet of Alfred Levitt’s design than the 2,469 square feet that is today’s national average for new houses. Building smaller houses not only reduces construction costs, it is also good for the environment, saving materials and energy—and land. The house would still have three bedrooms, but it would also have at least one and a half bathrooms, since people have come to expect a powder room, even in small houses. Closets would be bigger, and there would be more of them. There would probably not be a living room, but the house would include a family room facing the backyard.” Rybczynski writes that housing will never be as cheap relatively as it was in Levittown because of the costs of servicing land. That is true; all kinds of
lot levies and charges are piled on by municipalities to pay for schools and services. But he also writes: “Smaller houses on smaller lots are the logical solution to the problem of affordability, yet density—and less affluent neighbors—are precisely what most communities fear most. In the name of fighting sprawl, local zoning boards enact regulations that either require larger lots or restrict development, or both. These strategies decrease the supply—hence, increase the cost— of developable land. Since builders pass the cost of lots on to buyers, they justify the higher land prices by building larger and more expensive houses—McMansions. This produces more community resistance, and calls for yet more restrictive regulations. In the
// 13 //
process, housing affordability becomes an even more distant chimera. “ Municipalities never demanded big lots to fight sprawl, they did it to get rich taxpayers instead of middle class ones. The builders did it because a kitchen, bath and service connection cost the same whether the house is 1000 square feet or 3,000 SF. The lenders loved it because they had one loan to do the paperwork on rather than three. I am also less sure that the single family Levittown style house on a detached lot will or should come back, unless it is built at a density that can support public transit in places with water and renewable power. It is not just the house size, it is the whole suburban model that it represented in 1950 and still does. //
raising the barn Preston Scott Cohen Reinvents the Barn Marc Kristal
rchitect Preston Scott Cohen resurrected an early 1800s barn as a vacation home for a literary couple and their family, calling to mind both the agrarian spaciousness of the structure’s former life and the vernacular of its new function as a house. Transcending both, Cohen created a piece of architecture that is at once porous and opaque, familiar yet otherworldy. The skunks may be miserable on Skunks MiseryRoad, but from the look of things, the people are doing just
The breezeway invites you not just to enter, but to explore the experience of entering.
fine. Land values have risen so high along this roadkill-dotted lane, which winds through Pine Plains, a hamlet two hours north of New York City, that the dairy farms that once flourished on the forested, hilly landscape have been converted into estates. The cows have mostly decamped, but the farmhouses and barns remain—suggesting that the affluent fauna now grazing among the mâche pits shares its predecessors’ architectural predilections. That is, until one turns at the Simon’s Farm mailbox, bumps a mile along a dirt road, and beholds the home of Arnold P. and Elise Simon Goodman. The design, by architect Preston Scott Cohen, takes the peaked-roof gable house—an object so familiar as to seem invisible—and, with a provocative mix of modernity and tradition, a sprinkling of the surreal, and a massive explosion of scale, utterly upends our notions of home.“The house is not about a lot of little things,” declares Cohen, with an enunciative clarity that converts simple words like “moves”—“mewves”—into events. “It’s one big thing at all times.” The greatest challenge, however, was not finding the ideal property or the perfect barn. It was engaging an architect who could provide that unquantifiable something Elise calls “a work of art.” And so, in a manner of speaking, she went to the source: the Museum of Modern Art’s library, where she discovered Cohen’s “breathtaking” Torus House, which had been featured in MoMA’s 1999 exhibition The UnPrivate House. “[The Torus] scheme has an airy interior, largely a single open space, connected to the landscape,”
// 14 //
Cohen explains. “It was quite similar to the Goodmans’ program.” For Cohen, the project was a chance to experiment with “transforming historical typologies to produce a new language.” Vernacular structures like barns, he observes, “establish conventions that are rooted in social practices we can understand. Contemporary architecture can elaborate on that, so that the new is brought into a dialogue that has collective values embedded in it.” //
go green: bathroom renovation Don’t Let Your Bathroom go to Shit Geoff Manaugh
et’s face it: the North American bathroom isn’t the most glamorous of rooms. Ranging from staid and boring to downright dangerous, with slippery showers and water hogging toilet tanks and tubs set in a poorly ventilated, water-tight box, many modern bathrooms just haven’t been designed as thoughtfully the rest of our homes. This is an odd development, given that bathrooms are one of the most expensive rooms in the house to build, averaging about $10,000 a pop. Still, for all their expense, the design hasn’t evolved too far beyond shiny fixtures and his ‘n her sinks. Whether you’re recycling, volunteering in your community, you can make positive choices every day. And while it might help maximize space, having a dirty fixture where you deposit your waste (the toilet) next to two where you clean yourself (the sink and the tub) doesn’t make for the healthiest environment. Add to that all the water that literally can get flushed down the drain every day, the poor ventilation that plagues many a bathroom (that leads to poor indoor air quality), and all the energy that goes into heating water and lighting rooms, and it may be time to update your abode’s commode. //
Tips from our Sponsor: Whether you’re recycling, volunteering in your community, or making purchasing decisions for your home—such as choosing Windex glass cleaner -you can make positive choices each and every day. To help out, SC Johnson created Greenlist™, a patented process in place since 2001. This is an odd development, given that bathrooms are one of the most expensive rooms in the house to build, averaging about $10,000 a pop. The Greenlist™ process helps the scientists at SC Johnson make choices that protect the planet and its people while maintaining the high performance of familiar products like Windex®. Try these tips for ways to save water and energy in the bathroom. 1. Turning off the water while you brush can save four gallons a minute. 2. Turning off the water while you shampoo and condition your hair can save up to 50 gallons of water a week.
// 16 //
industry anouncement National Grid Announces Plan for New Solar Energy Program in Massachusetts Christine Cipriani
ational Grid today announced that it has made an informational filing with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities its plan to develop and own new solar generation in the Commonwealth. The company is the first in Massachusetts to present its proposal under the state’s new legislation, the Green Communities Act, which allows utilities to develop and own up to 50 megawatts of solar generating facilities by 2010. National Grid’s proposal includes: Developing, building, and owning solar installations across the state, initially at four National Grid-owned locations in the Greater Boston area, Working with customers throughout Massachusetts to identify locations where National Grid would install, own and maintain solar generation on customer-owned buildings or properties —such as state and federal governmentowned buildings and public schools in the Commonwealth—and promoting solar education and science curricula in schools where solar systems are located. Providing education and advice to customers who want to participate
in existing solar initiatives as a supplement to National Grid’s energy efficiency programs. “We believe that developing solar generation can offer very real benefits to our customers and complements our existing portfolio of energy efficiency programs across the Northeast,” said Tom King, president of National Grid in the U.S. “We are taking tangible action now to implement our solar program that will deliver clean electricity power resources. This is another way in which we can help safeguard our environment for future generations by helping to mitigate the effects of global climate change.” As part of its plan, National Grid has proposed installation of solar panels at four company-owned sites that have sufficient space and can best assist in relieving electricity congestion points. Following engineering, licensing and permitting, and working closely with the host communities, the company expects to break ground on the new installations during the spring of 2009. The company is the first to present its proposal under the state’s new legislation, the Green Communities Act, which allows utilities to develop and own up to 50 megawatts of solar generating facilities by 2010. //
// 19 //
“The company expects to break ground on the new installations by the Spring of 2009”
thi s o l d r ec ycl ab l e L e a v e Yo u r B u l l d o z e r a t H o m e
// 36 //
uy started taking apart Cleveland a little after 8 o’clock on a Monday morning in June. Standing in the vandalized dining
room of 6538 Lederer Avenue, he bent to the bottom of the wall and drove the end of a crowbar through the plaster with his hammer. He shimmied the bar behind the oak baseboard, feeling for nails. He was teaching his crew how to pry the wood loose without splitting it. Many of the workers who showed up that morning did not know what “deconstruction,” as this kind of work is called, actually was. Some assumed it was another word for remodeling — not realizing, or maybe not allowing themselves to believe, that no bulldozer was coming, that they would be disassembling this house by hand, down to the foundation, one piece at a time. They watched Guy wrestle with
ho u se
the baseboard for a while. He put down the crowbar and picked up a heavier one. “This is some old nice work that they did,” he said.
// 37 //
Guy is 49, with a round face and soft, nasal voice that’s mostly monotone but rises unsurely at the end of sentences. (When he hollers, “Break time, 15 minutes,” the worker next to him, thinking this is a question, will check her watch and say, “I guess so.”) He was a dancer and choreography student before being lured into architecture and is now the president of the Building Materials Reuse Association, a nonprofit in Pittsburgh that supports the fledgling deconstruction industry. He has spent the last 14 years as a journeyman architectural academic, conducting meticulous studies on how to efficiently dismantle the American house to reuse its materials instead of just clobbering it with a backhoe and sweeping it into a landfill. In that time, Guy has deconstructed about 30 buildings, from row houses in Philadelphia to a 9,000-square-foot Army warehouse at Fort Campbell, Ky., where attack helicopters flew overhead and artillery went off as he stood on the roof dissecting it. While many deconstructors have far more hands-on experience, he is gathering scrupulous data about the process and organizing it all into research papers and spreadsheets that he describes as “five miles long.” Last year, he went back to school for a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon. “I’m basically an office worker,” he told me. He trained for this project in Cleveland with long walks and dumbbell exercises. With the baseboard finally detached, Guy gave a quick lesson on how to twist out each nail. (Nearly 30 percent of a deconstruction job’s total labor hours can be spent denailing wood; Guy knows this because he has walked around some job sites every 15 minutes, writing down what each person was doing.) Then he started on the wall itself. He drew back with a crowbar and gave it a round of good whacks. Some plaster flaked off, a patch about three feet wide. He picked up a flathead shovel. He wrenched its edge across the wall, scraping off the plaster. After about a minute, he lowered it. He was breathing hard. The clearing had barely doubled in size. The house on Lederer Avenue was 2,000 square feet. It had 12 rooms on two floors, with front and back porches, a basement and an attic. All told, Guy estimated it was 300,000 pounds of stuff — all solidly conjoined by people who never considered that it might one day come down. “This is the
worst part of the whole project,” he told his crew. Then he lifted the shovel again and threw himself back into it.
he house at 6538 Lederer was built in 1900 on a quiet back street in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland. By the ’50s, Slavic Village, named for the immigrants who came to work in its steel mills, had grown to 70,000 residents; Cleveland was billed as “the greatest location in the nation.” Then, gradually, machines replaced men at the mills, and the laborers left. Recently, Slavic Village has been a perpetual media symbol for the subprime mortgage fiasco, akin to what the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans became after Katrina. According to its city councilman, Tony Brancatelli, 1 of every 11 homes in the neighborhood is now empty. Many are bought and sold on eBay for as little as $5,000. Arson has been a problem, and in the two years since 6538 was boarded up, looters tore out its copper wiring and peeled off its aluminum siding as high as they could reach. A dead cat awaited Guy in an upstairs bedroom. There are now 8,000 vacants in Cleveland. The city, ramping up condemnations, will spend $9 million demolishing 1,100 of them by the end of the year. It plans to continue at this clip indefinitely. The Cleveland Foundation, a well-endowed nonprofit, approached Guy to run a pilot study assessing the feasibility of deconstructing, or even partly deconstructing, some of those structures instead. What would end up being preserved, and what might be created in the process? Guy estimates that maybe as few as 300 homes were fully deconstructed in America last year. At first glance, it almost seems like a satire of our escalating mania for greenness: first we’re scrubbing labels off bottles and sorting them into recycling bins beside the house; then we’re recycling the house. There is a calculus to any salvage. Even a demolition contractor might spend time skimming antique fixtures from a house before razing it if that material looks valuable enough to stake the extra labor costs; the architectural-salvage industry has specialized in such recovery for decades. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and it’s that point deconstructors are compelled to barrel straight past. “We’re taking the wood,
“America generates a total of 160 million tons of construction anddemolition debris every year, 60 percent of which is landfilled.”
// 38 //
// 39 //
the toilets, the glass,” says Rick Denhart, an industry veteran who is now deconstructing homes damaged by Katrina in New Orleans with the N.G.O. Mercy Corps. “It’s not just the fancy stuff you see on the front porch. It’s the two-by-fours holding the walls up.” Depending on what is there to be salvaged and how easily the architecture can be taken apart, deconstructing a particular house can end up costing twice as much as Day 3 demolishing it. At times, the process is unapologetically unprofitable. Denhart says that he has reclaimed more than 98 percent of certain structures. This involves scouring out the insulation and bagging it for resale like cotton candy.
till, there is a compelling ethic behind deconstruction, one challenging our very standards of profitability and prodding us to rethink how we use all the different kinds of capital we have — from the resources built into a given house to the people who have built a community around it. Guy is not oblivious to how crazy his work looks. (Over dinner one night in Cleveland, he told me, “You’re asking me these questions, and I’m like, Wow, I don’t have any good answers for you that don’t make this sound just nutty.”) But it looks that way within a certain framework of circumstances and values, some of which may gradually be changing. Builders now scramble to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification points by landfilling less and using reclaimed materials in new constructions. The Environmental Protection Agency has steadily financed Guy’s research, and he recently received a call from Cooking Light magazine asking about minimizing waste during kitchen remodeling. “It’s still crazy,” Guy said, “but it’s on the edge of not crazy now.”
A quarter of a million homes are demolished annually, according to the E.P.A., liberating some 1.2 billion board feet of reusable lumber alone. For the most part, this wood has been trucked out to a landfill and buried. Remodeling actually ends up generating more than one and a half times the amount of debris every year that demolishing homes does. (America generates a total of 160 million tons of construction and demolition debris every year, 60 percent of which is landfilled.) The Stanford archaeologist William Rathje, who spent decades excavating landfills, has estimated that construction and demolition debris, together with paper, account for “well over half” of what America throws out. He called it one of a few “big-ticket items” in the waste stream actually worthy of the debates we have over merely “symbolic targets” like disposable diapers. At the same time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, new construction consumes 60 percent of all materials used in the nation’s economy every year, excluding food and fuel. Few of those resources are renewable. Older homes are among the last repositories of old-growth timber, like heart pine or cypress, and keeping even the most mundane building materials in circulation at the end of a house’s life preserves their “embodied energy” (the energy expended producing and shipping natural resources in the first place) instead of drawing new resources to replace them. “This is a manufacturing process,” Guy told me. “That’s the way you should look at this. We are making building materials.” In fact, the aim of deconstruction has always been more socioeconomic than environmental: employing local people to harvest a stock of low-cost materials so that lower-income homeowners and rental landlords in the same area can afford to maintain their properties.
// 40 //
Denhart talks about houses as being part of a community’s collective history and wealth. Deconstruction maintains and redistributes that wealth. “The community is really taking care of itself,” he says. “It’s protecting its identity.” Moreover, a study Guy wrote with two environmental engineers uncovered an empirical argument for keeping those materials local: on average, shipping them more than 20 miles away for resale can cancel out any energy conserved by reclaiming them. Guy has spent years refining such oblique cost-benefit analyses in his research and, more recently, in projects in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Boston, trying to expand our criteria for efficiency beyond sheer speed. Because when it comes to speed, deconstruction will get trounced by demolition every time. Building owners who choose deconstruction can, however, very regularly make up the difference in costs by donating the salvaged materials to one of more than 900 nonprofit, secondhand building-supply stores across the country, like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. Owners then take a federal tax deduction for their value. One of Guy’s first projects showed that after that tax deduction the average cost of deconstructing six homes around Gainesville, Fla., was 37 percent less than the average cost of demolition. On one house, deconstruction beat demolition by $8,000.
nd yet in Cleveland the drawback of deconstruction that Guy was always trying to compensate for — that it takes two weeks and a dozen wage earners to do what a piece of hydraulic machinery accomplishes before lunch — was actually a selling point. The Cleveland Foundation was attracted to deconstruction as a way to provide jobs and job
training in a county where unemployment is high and 5,000 ex-offenders surge out of prison every year. As a concept, at least, it fit nicely into the city’s effort to become a cradle for sustainable industries and green-collar jobs. The city contributed $19,000 to Guy’s pilot project, the cost of demolishing the two condemned houses he would now deconstruct. The Cleveland Foundation agreed to cover the ultimate difference in cost. As the project got under way, the city, the foundation and its nonprofit partners were all committed to taking a close look at the results and exploring what subsidies or incentives might be put in place to stimulate a new, local industry. Building owners who choose deconstruction can, however, secondhand building-supply stores across the country. No one seemed to have any concrete ideas of how exactly they might go forward. But they floored Guy with their enthusiasm. He had never experienced such openness outside of famously green cities like Portland or San Francisco.
uy’s job, then, was to make those two houses disappear as quickly and cheaply as he could. He was the unlikely hammering man in a straightforward John Henry story of man versus backhoe. He had four weeks. It would take me a day,” Michael Taylor, executive director of the National Demolition Association, told me when I asked how he would bring down a house like 6538. Understand, he said, America’s demolition industry does $4.5 billion of business with only 22,000 employees. Machines do most of the work, and they work fast. At 6538, Taylor would bring in a backhoe and “ride the building down.” Or else he would beat it to the ground with
// 41 //
“He was the unlikely hammering man in a straightforward John Henry story of man versus backhoe. He had four weeks.” the front of a track loader. Then he would drive over the debris to compact it. He would do that 12, maybe 14 times. (“Keep crunching it up, Jon, crunching it up!” he said.) Once the wreckage was hauled away, he would plow through what was left of the foundation, filling the basement with the rubble. Then, Taylor said, he would truck in some dirt, plant some grass and go home: “And it returns to like it was when the Native Americans lived there in 1640.” The demolition industry has identified 14 recyclable building materials, he told me, but it only recycles three in any real volume: concrete, metal and wood. Moreover, a contractor will only bother separating these materials when demolishing large buildings, where there’s enough volume to make doing so pay. With a typical wood-frame house, a contractor will usually just bring it down as quickly as possible, then throw out the splintered consequences all at once. “It’s speed, speed, speed,” Taylor explained.
peed has obsessed the demolition industry for at least 80 years. Citing rising real estate prices, a 1930 New York Times article explained that “the demand for speed in house wrecking” was transforming the business. Until then, men would generally swarm into a building, cleave its pieces apart and send many of them down to the prospectors and resellers congregating around the job site. Historically, significant volumes of building materials have always been discarded or abandoned. But in his fine book “Rubble,” Jeff Byles notes that up to this point there was a lucrative-enough salvage market in place that wreckers regularly paid building owners, not the other way around. By 1930, however, the industry titan Albert Volk’s men no longer had the time for cleaning and reselling bricks. Bathtubs that used to resell for $25 each, Volk said, were now being smashed up and sent “sail[ing] out through the Narrows on Father Knickerbocker’s trash-carrying scows to find a wellearned rest at the bottom of the sea.” Wrecking balls, then bulldozers, then hydraulic backhoes assumed their roles. The wages of workers who took apart buildings and sorted material rose, while tipping fees—the cost of simply landfilling unsorted material — stayed
relatively the same. The calculus of salvage shifted. Soon hand-wrecking and large-scale salvage survived only in a few pockets of the country. Lawrence Larner started in the wrecking trade during its twilight in Boston, in 1962, as a member of what is now the last remaining Building Wreckers local in the country, Local 1421. Larner says that he and three other men would dismantle a three-story, three-family home in a week. “We’d go in and take the hardwood floors on the top,” he told me, “we’d take the milled plank underneath the floor and the timbers under that” — funneling the debris down two “dirt holes,” or chutes, they cut clear through the house. It would be another full day before one of these men pulled a co-worker aside and asked her: “What exactly is deconstruction? What’s going to be left when we finish this?” When she told him there would be nothing left, he still didn’t believe her, so he asked around. Working faster or more innovatively lowers labor costs and amasses more valuable salvage, bringing deconstruction’s bottom line closer to that of demolition. But ultimately, how cost-effective the process can be hinges on a slew of symbiotic circumstances outside a crew’s control. A foundational one is the cost of just throwing the house out—the tipping fees at local landfills that dictate the cost of demolition. In the past 10 years, tipping fees in much of the country have risen as construction and demolition landfills have reached capacity or been surrounded by housing developments and closed. A wave of state and local legislation has also begun restricting the volume sent to those landfills or banned certain fill like concrete, asphalt or brick outright. These and other mandates can help spur economies of scale in the recycling of previously unworthwhile materials, absorbing more of what deconstructors wind up with that isn’t readily reusable and further lowering their disposal costs. Before Cleveland, Guy did a project in Boston where tipping fees are about $130 a ton, among the highest anywhere in the country. There, he found, hand-disassembling 60 percent of a typical house cost virtually the same amount as dumping that same portion of it into a landfill. The Douglas fir that Portland’s houses are rich with is resold, while old toilets are sent to be ground up for roadbeds. //
// 42 //
boston translation A Local Couple Complete a Sustainable Renovation
// 43 //
They love that the vertical orientation of the four-story building allows them to separate billable hours and downtime completely.
oston’s rich history is potently infused into its dense, bustling neighborhoods, where the same brick walls that once contained cobbler shops now house Internet startups. The adaptive reuse of these buildings forms a solid foundation for sustainable renovation. It’s hard to say whether the stuccoand-vinyl-clad houses popping up in suburbs today will still provide sturdy housing stock in the year 2160, but Boston’s pre–Civil War brownstones suggest it’s possible to stay strong for centuries. Of course, bricks and mortar have a good track record—a fact well known to Susan Battista and Fritz Klaetke, who purchased a South End row house in 2005 after six years living in another nearby. Built in 1846, the live/work building lies one block off Washington Street, the original causeway leading into Boston. In standard developer style, the buildings in this area were erected together and all look alike, but you’d never denounce this as architectural monoculture. “Washington Street had piano factories and breweries, and you can see those existing buildings now developed into offices and condos,” explains Klaetke. Echoing her husband’s passion for their neighborhood, Battista adds, “Our street was where little tailors and button shops and hat stores would have been.” From one cottage industry to another, Battista and Klaetke set up their own businesses in the former storefront on the ground floor. Klaetke runs a threeperson graphic design and branding firm, Visual Dialogue, alongside Battista’s mostly solo market-research firm, Topic 101. They both love that the vertical orientation of the four-story, 1,900-square-foot building allows them to separate billable hours and downtime completely–a luxury they didn’t have in their last space, where their seven-year-
// 44 //
old daughter, Ava, was wont to doodle on client mockups, and the conference table performed double duty at dinner. In the new place, each floor’s function is complemented by the external environment. At ground level, the office feels urban, with the city’s sounds and sights at close range. By the time you get to the fourth floor, the din dissipates and the windows frame treetops and the Boston skyline, “almost like a tree house,” Battista notes. These were the raw goods that sold the couple on their new space, but preparing it for occupancy took more work than they’d expected. Upon inspection they discovered drywall piled four layers deep, covering decades of water damage. “You can’t say ‘Time out’ at that point,” Klaetke concedes. The couple enlisted the help of David Stern and Christine Gaspar of architecture firm Stern McCafferty, and planned a renovation that would be low on waste and high on sustainable features. Their first task was to tear out the kitchens on the first and third floors and install one on the second. Most of their demolition waste—fixtures, tiles, cabinets, sinks, even moldings—went to Craigslist foragers or the Boston Building Materials Co-op.
ew additions included environmentally responsible choices like Energy Star appliances, insulated windows, and dual-flush toilets. They used white ash for the floors and many of the walls, all sourced from Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, a highly resourceful enterprise with a smart approach to forest management. Individual landowners with forested acreage join the co-op as membersuppliers, agreeing to become certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and to provide their regular prunings to the
// 45 //
By the fourth floor, the din dissipates and windows frame treetops and the Boston skyline, “almost like a tree house,” Battista notes.
co-op for sale as homegrown lumber. Because the harvests are limited and distributed, the wood comes from a combination of species in irregular widths and lengths. Battista and Klaetke embraced the randomness, creating three-dimensional wall surfaces by laying planks of varying dimensions side by side. With a continuous stairwell running through the four floors, the owners had an opportunity to utilize passive cooling with a whole-house fan installed in the fourth-floor ceiling that sucks hot air up and out, keeping temperatures down in summer. In colder weather, the house stays warm thanks to Icynene spray-foam insulation, which they chose for its nontoxic properties and its ability to fill the cracks and gaps typical of old brick structures. “I did a lot of research,” says Klaetke, “and looked at recycled denim and other options, but all of them had issues with water seepage. Icynene wouldn’t compact or mold, and it could totally fill the spaces.” Battista concludes, “It’s amazing to live in Boston with no drafts. The house is efficient and the heat bill is reduced.” With no off-gassing from behind the walls, it only made sense to cover the interior surfaces in substances free of noxious fumes or chemicals. Having a child in the house made indoor air quality even more important, so they prioritized low-VOC paints and natural finishes and sealants. Even with all of these environmental details, Battista and Klaetke agree that the most sustainable aspect of the entire project was the reuse of an existing building in a dense urban center. “Doing that allowed us to do things like get rid of our car, use public transit, and bike,” says Klaetke. “It’s really nice to practice what we preach.” Boston’s rich history is potently infused into its dense, bustling neighborhoods,
// 46 //
where the same brick walls that once contained cobbler shops now house Internet startups. The adaptive reuse of these buildings forms a solid foundation for sustainable renovation. It’s hard to say whether the stuccoand-vinyl-clad houses popping up in suburbs today will still provide sturdy housing stock in the year 2160, but Boston’s pre–Civil War brownstones suggest it’s possible to stay strong for centuries. Of course, bricks and mortar have a good track record—a fact well known to Susan Battista and Fritz Klaetke, who purchased a South End row house in 2005 after six years living in another nearby.
uilt in 1846, the live/work building lies one block off Washington Street, the original causeway leading into Boston. In standard developer style, the buildings in this area were erected together and all look alike, but you’d never denounce this as architectural monoculture. “Washington Street had piano factories and breweries, and you can see those existing buildings now developed into offices and condos,” explains Klaetke. Echoing her husband’s passion for their neighborhood, Battista adds, “Our street was where little tailors and button shops and hat stores would have been.” From one cottage industry to another, Battista and Klaetke set up their own businesses in the former storefront on the ground floor. Klaetke runs a threeperson graphic design and branding firm, Visual Dialogue, alongside Battista’s mostly solo market-research firm, Topic 101. With no off-gassing from behind the walls, it only made sense to cover the interior surfaces in substances free of noxious fumes or chemicals. Doing that allowed us to do things like get rid of our car, use public transit, and bike.” //
greenbuild comes to boston in 2008 An Interview with Rick Fedrizzi Rebecca J. Bell
reenbuild is the top showcase for cutting-edge eco-friendly practices and products. And it’s not just architects and builders who are signing up; everyone from students to interior designers to Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (this year’s keynote speaker) is getting behind Greenbuild, which opens in Boston on November 19. We asked Rick Fedrizzi, the U.S. Green Building Council’s founding chairman and current CEO and president, how he hopes to change America’s landscape—starting with this year’s Greenbuild. When you came on as CEO in 2004, what were your goals for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)? The first thing I did was ensure that we had a strong chapter base, which now has 74 chapters across the United States and the Caribbean. I call them the front door of the USGBC: In Boston, it’s called the Green Building Roundtable. And those 74 legs give a very firm foundation to the organization. They support local advocacy, government, and lobbying issues, and they do fund-raising and educational strategies. What was the inspiration behind the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system? LEED was a program we identified very early. I can explain LEED in the very simplest terms: if you had
a box of crackers, on the side of the box it would tell you the nutritional content. And you would have the ability as a consumer to select that box or not, based on your health, based on your values, based on a number of different criteria. But in all the buildings that surround us, we’ve never had meaningful criteria to judge whether or not we should be in that building. Much like the nutrition label on the side of a box of crackers has been third-party-approved by the FDA, we do the same thing on buildings. Do you think LEED has changed people’s everyday behavior? LEED is a way of thinking. It focuses people to think in terms of supporting their communities -- buying their food locally, not using their car if they don’t have to. It gives people this whole different view to the world,
but in a meaningful way that shows them that in a building, or in communities, you don’t have to give up anything. You’re enhancing life, you’re not taking away from life. This is a new way of living for the future. Given Greenbuild’s mission, USGBC must be working overtime to cut the expo’s carbon footprint. Essentially, we try to minimize energy, water, waste. We don’t use bottled water, we compost all of the food that is served on-site that is not eaten, we’re in the [90 percent] range for recycling all paper content at the event. Transportation is usually done via biofuel vehicles and buses. We work very closely with the city ahead of time to set up every conceivable opportunity to reduce waste. And then whatever is left over as a variable, we have sponsors who buy carbon credits. //
// 47 //
The Fedrizzi File: How green is he? Hybrid or electric car? On to my second Prius Purchase carbon offsets? When I travel Sustainable house? It’s 80 years old with an organic garden Home heating? Gas and electric with 50 percent dedicated to renewable wind energy Compost/recycle? Yes to both Green goal for 2009? Convince my mother to recycle
quick fix: green lighting tips 4 Ways to Save Energy, Money and Hassle Edward Lifson
1. CFL: The better bulb
3. Wall warts
Compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) are those swirley little guys that look like soft-serve ice cream cones. Actually, they come in a myriad of different shapes, sizes, and colors of light. CFLs cost a bit more than an incandescent, but use about a quarter as much energy and last many times longer (usually around 10,000 hours). After that, it’s money in your pocket. Also, not only are they safer, but your cooling load is less in the summer. CFLs aren’t hard to find anymore; many cities will give them away free.
Light isn’t all about the bulbs, though. Having ecofriendly lamps and light fixtures is key to greening your lighting. When scouting for new gear, keep your eyes out for lamps made with natural, recycled, or reused materials. Lights made from recycled materials include metal, glass, or plastic, and natural materials can include felt, cloth or wood. Interesting lamps that use reclaimed materials include these made from traffic signal lenses, and these made from wine bottles.
Power adaptors, or “wall warts” as they’re affectionately called, are those clunky things you find on many electrical cords, including those attached to lamps and some light fixtures. You’ll notice that they stay warm even when their device is turned off. This is because they in fact draw energy from the wall all the time. One way to green your lighting is to unplug their wall warts when not in use, or get your hands on a “smart” power strip that knows when the devise is off.
By far, the best source of light we know is (yes, you guessed it) the sun, which gives off free, full-spectrum light all day. Make the most of daylight by keeping your blinds open (sounds obvious but you might be surprised). If you want to go a little farther, you are designing a home or doing a renovation, put as many windows on the south-facing side of the house as possible. To take it even further, sunlight can be “piped” inside via fiber optics and other light channeling technologies. //
// 50 //