Opinion: Cities will drive positive green change but only with green tools that can deliver it.
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When designers dream the ideas are amazing. No limits, no expenses, no bloggers. A pen and napkin can be a dangerous thing. Cool little doodles of this and that. A sheet of paper doesn't discriminate, it allows ideas to flow and grow. There's a long list of designs that never quite made it into existence, but sometimes paper is sometimes the best place for some designs to stay.
Having authored many designs, taking ideas and making them a success is a harsh reality. Even having the best toys in town doesn't make you a top cowgirl. Lazy cowgirls get lassoed by the new kid standing on Main St with her latest design in hand. This cowboy likes to watch the good ideas and the bad ones. Bringing a design to market is hard enough, in this town, a green design can only be harder, but it delivers a better lasso. With so many lassoes, which ones are best for this town?
I want to bring attention to some ideas that just should be pruned off the green tree now: "tree buildings". Architects, concept designers, napkin warriors, whoever and wherever, please step away from the paper, think, is putting trees in a building smart? Done thinking? I have seen the pictures of the wild shapes and the oasis these designs advertise, but really, how smart is it to waste resources on accommodating trees into buildings?
Trees need water and drainage, but also have root issues. One must also consider high winds, with corner wind velocities. A tree falling out of a building in Toronto would make the news.
When we construct any space, the green design will typically balance useful working space and green space. Green spaces in buildings are great, but we need to stop thinking "so big" with the trees. Shrubs seem better for larger design accents, but one thing we should be doing is thinking about adding green value. Is wasting space for trees adding value?
Adding green value is done by looking at all the parts of our green puzzle. By looking at each part, we add value by doing more green things with each part. We want green value, but we also want to optimize that value. Instead of growing trees, buildings can grow food.
By growing certain foods, a simple change from trees, we now have decreased food transportation and logistics resources for local organic food. What other things could be grown instead of trees? Grab a napkin and list some other ideas.
What other ways can we add green value to buildings? When it comes to making a building, the green approach is to balance space created with materials used. This is called optimizing. Creating an interesting space is important, but, how can we balance the drama with the dirt?
Creating steel, concrete and glass are very energy intensive. Some materials are greener just by how they are made, or how they perform. The odd shapes and excessive curves can add unwanted expense in architecture. Why not invest some "wow" into some green "pow"?
The smarter green investment is to balance materials used, but focus on "overpowering" the building with green energy. A building that can sell green energy is smarter than an extra curvy design. Green buildings that can sell excess energy help support the smart grid and make revenue for the building. Instead of space for trees, what about space for passive solar? This can help decrease energy use by the building to warm water. What other things can we add to a building to generate green energy?
When we invest in smart cities, let's invest in smart green buildings that support the community.