I love interviewing architects for Green Building + Design magazine. They sit on the cutting edge of not just building design but how people live, work and move around – and they are finding ways to make it as green as possible.
Wesley Wong, principal of Demattei Wong Architecture, specializes in airport car rental facilities. If you’ve been in one of the 37 such facilities he’s designed around the world, you may have noticed the trend toward in-airport rental pickups versus the old-fashioned off-site lots. At the Nashville International Airport, that feature alone cuts 800,000 miles of shuttle bus use per year. Shockingly, the rental customer service counters are in un-air conditioned space, the rational for which Wong explains in my article.
I grew up in a construction-related business (land surveying). As a kid, I heard a lot about companies in the industry that would game the minority-contractor system when owners of some firms would name their wives as presidents of their companies. It was well understood that most of those particular women at that time had no real leadership role in the enterprise. My father and mother (who was the bookkeeper) did not adopt this strategy.
This is why I enjoyed working on two different stories for American Builders Quarterly about women in the building trades who truly run their businesses.
One is Laura Wilhoite Culin, owner of the Austin Lumber Company in that fine Texas city. She is the fourth generation of the business she inherited, but that scarcely describes what a force she has been to save and reinvent her business in the 21st century. Notably, when she had to rebuild after a devastating fire she went green, becoming a building supplies company known for providing sustainable products. In her spare time, she teaches a class at Austin Community College on sustainable forest products.
My second story is about Terry Piasecki who created CharmAndHammer.com, “safety gear for hard working women.” She came about her business organically, growing up the daughter of an electrical contractor. After a decade in bookkeeping and job costing, she became a safety manager. It was there that she saw a dearth of products for the small (but growing) portion of women who work in physical, safety-challenged environments. The fact was that women had to wear men’s clothes, which actually creates hazards because the cut is wrong. She opened her online store to help women find the products their companies’ purchasing departments would overlook – learning how ecommerce works as she went along, and against the advice of naysayers – and is now sought out by manufacturers who are developing products specifically for women because she has helped define the market.
I am so NOT prone to using exclamation points when I write, in text copy as well as headlines. But the topic of this article warrants it.
In this story of the April/May/June edition of Green Building + Design, I write about an ugly building that is LEED-certified green. It’s owned by Con-way Freight, a Michigan-based, international surface transportation carrier that has accomplished very significant things in the realm of going green. For example, with the simple use of new delivery-planning software they have cut 124,000 miles driven by their 9,600 trucks every single day.
But the larger story is this: The trucking industry has worked cooperatively with the EPA over the last several years to develop best-practices to the benefit of all. Trucking firms are working with greater efficiency and less gas is being used. This is a stark contrast from the more common perception that regulation is a cost burden on business. As Randy Mullett, Con-way’s vice president of government relations and public affairs, explained to me, “Fuel is the second biggest expense to our company. Economics, customer interest, and regulatory encouragement drove this program. It saves us about $25 million per year.’”
To me, that is worth an exclamation point.
Philadelphia architect Alvin Holm, who champions classical design in his work, was a delight to interview for this story I wrote for American Builders Quarterly (September 2011, from the link navigate to page 93). Trained in the mid-20th century in all that mid-century modern architecture was meant to be, Holm found his way back to classicism in the 1980s and never came back.
He describes with gusto his classical parlor design for an Irish pub as a place “where a multitude of happy drinkers gather every evening in a Corinthian saloon.” Holm also worked on the 19th century galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which he says was a victory for the paintings it held: “The previous interior was one big Miesian universal space, like an airplane hangar. Museum-goers were confused. People respond better to a universe that is orderly, where you do not need to know much to get it. The museum functions now as an organism, where all the parts related harmoniously to the others – the paintings to walls, the walls to the rooms, and one set of galleries to all the others.”
Note: I write frequently about architecture, landscape architecture, building, construction, infrastructure, urban planning, green building, public housing and community development for American Builders Quarterly, Green Building & Design and Pothole.info.
As a Chicagoan, I am surrounded by more than a century’s accumulation of important architecture that is recognized around the world. So it has been particularly thrilling for me to write for Guerrero Howe, a publisher based here that produces titles including Green Building & Design and American Builders Quarterly.
The May 2011 issue of GB&D includes my profile of the Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, designed by Murphy/Jahn architects. Built just steps away from where the first controlled nuclear reaction took place during World War II (Manhattan Project), the largely-submerged facility benefits from a passive geothermal temperature-control system. But what most users of the library will experience is the above-grade, glass-domed reading room and unimpeded sight lines within and outside the 28,800-square-foot structure (books are all underground, accessible in minutes through an automated storage and retrieval system).
The article can be found at http://gbdmagazine.com/2011/05/may-2011/ — navigate to page 110 or simply search in the document by my last name, Klettke.
One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Chicago-based magazine publisher BG+H is that I come in contact with people who are creative problem-solvers. The fact that story subjects are primarily architects and building contractors who are focused on green/sustainability makes the task doubly interesting.
This is one such example: the Phoenix-based architecture firm of Orcutt/Winslow constructs schools in Arizona and Southern California that overcome the region’s hot climate and water shortages, even with restricted funding from the state. The school districts they work with incorporate sustainability into curricula, effectively taking buildings beyond the excitement of LEED certification to a place where students will have first-hand knowledge of the economic and environmental benefits of smart design. This assignment to write an article on school architecture and environmental education for Green Business Quarterly fulfills a sense of mission for me – a real job perk.
To read my article on Orcutt/Winslow, go to this link, open the January/February 2011 issue of Green Business Quarterly and either search for my last name or go directly to page 63.