AIA Convention Takes on the Mile-High City

AIA2013Welcome to Denver! The 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention is ready to go.  Each year exhibitors look for ways to entice attendees to their booth.  This year, the Saint-Gobain family of businesses – led by CertainTeed — is taking a new approach by bringing technical and building knowledge, and solution-based insights such as indoor environmental quality, acoustics and moisture management to our booth that can have a positive impact on the design of buildings in general.

Over the past year, we have offered accredited building science courses via webinar and our online continuing education platform to builders, designers and architects.  This practice is helping to shape sustainable building.  This year we are bringing some of these courses to the AIA Convention through our Learning Lounge.  To complement this effort, the Saint-Gobain booth (2108) is staffed with technical experts across our companies who can offer building knowledge and systems expertise unequaled in the industry.

You can still talk about products, but our Building Knowledge Bar with our experts can take the conversations to a new level. You can also tweet us questions @certainteed and we can hook you up with the right expert to answer your question.

Although our courses are sold-out, we will be blogging and tweeting questions and observations that are raised in the sessions that could apply to a problem or issue you are facing. Just follow #AIA2013.

We hope to see you over the next few days at booth 2108 to share what new innovations are taking place within the Saint-Gobain family of businesses and to be your premier resource for building knowledge.

The Razor’s Edge – Casual Greening versus Authentic Sustainability

It’s remarkable when you think about it: there are literally hundreds of courses, webinars, certifications, and trainings all geared towards the re-education of built environment professionals for the purposes of moving towards a sustainable future.

But the colleges who teach future designers, architects, engineers and construction managers continue to lag behind the curve when it comes to the development and promotion of sustainable curricula. Sure, you’ll find a plethora of courses that feature “green” additions to an otherwise traditional course or new “Sustainability” programs that are cobbled together from existing courses under the mantle of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Part of the disconnect lies in the fine line that can be drawn between “casual greening” and “authentic sustainability.”

The Razor’s edge, shown below, demarcates a chasm between “Greening”, which can be categorized as the mitigation of damage that results from the construction habitation and demolition of built structures; and “regenerative”, which seeks to reverse the long centuries of damage caused by the design and construction industries. In this model, “greening” is an important step towards more ambitious and more effective sustainable design. 

 

Razor's Edge

As we move further into the 21st century, the signals of pronounced climate change become more apparent; rising temperatures, wild weather, finite fossil fuels, and catastrophic oil spills form the context of a new era in the history of humanity. The question then remains, can the universities ramp up their offerings to authentically address the challenges that lie ahead? The answer is yes, but. Yes, educators are generally open to new ideas and are interested in change, albeit at a slow pace. But university structures as they are currently configured do not encourage teaching and learning pedagogies that are increasingly inclusive, collaborative, and interdisciplinary.

Collaboration is inhibited by antiquated credit structures. More ambitious holistic sustainability courses are blocked by outdated divisions between disciplines and the connection between what is taught in school and what happens in the real world continues to remain as wide as ever. So, what to do?

A major change can come from industry itself by building deeper and more meaningful relationships with university programs. By offering expertise, small amounts of funding, and some face time, industries can entice collaboration across disciplines at levels not seen before, engage with students and faculty in thoughtful discussions on the future of sustainability and ultimately help to build the kind of work-force that will play a pivotal role in leading companies to increased profit while building a more resilient and sustainable future.

This is a guest blog post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation

Greenbuild and San Francisco: Sustainable Superheroes

The LEED-certified San Francisco International Airport

What do you get when you combine the world’s largest green building conference with one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S.? Well, we’re about to find out as we pack our bags for the Greenbuild 2012 International Conference and Expo.

Ever since the City of San Francisco made the bold move to ban plastic shopping bags five years ago, there’s been somewhat of a spotlight on the city and its environmental initiatives. Fast forward to 2012 and you’ll find that their commitment to a healthy, sustainable community continues to thrive.

Last month, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced that the city is diverting 80 percent of waste from landfill disposal — the highest rate in the country. In addition, a new city ordinance will require commercial buildings to publicly share information on energy performance.

According to the Northern California Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the area boasts an impressive 384 LEED-certified buildings, which includes the Moscone Center — the first convention center on the West Coast to achieve LEED Gold certification and Greenbuild 2012 venue.

On a lighter note, environmental issues appear to be deeply engrained in the city’s culture. There’s a robust lineup of sustainability-related “meet ups” on an ongoing basis. Many restaurants feature menus with locally grown ingredients. They even host an organic beer and wine pavilion at the annual San Francisco Green Festival.

All in all, we’re eager to land at the San Francisco International Airport — also LEED certified, of course!

If it’s Not Beautiful, it’s Not Sustainable?

Lucas Hamilton

Let’s face it – we don’t take care of things that are ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, correct? Then why is it some things are universally agreed upon to be beautiful?

When we consider the buildings of the world which we all look to as a part of our shared heritage, I struggle to think of any that are not beautiful. Sometimes we get lucky and points germane are captured in a first draft. When talking about buildings in general we need to look to the Romans who were the definers of architecture.  For them three rules applied:

  • A building must be durable.
  • Serve the purposes of the people inside.
  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.

Today we may add a fourth requirement which is sustainability but as the title of this blog suggests, you won’t get sustainability without beauty. To understand beauty we must have a working knowledge of aesthetics. One of the things we know to be true is that aesthetics remain consistent. It is style that changes. Style is an expression of aesthetic principles based on a current philosophy, trend or societal influence.

A great example of this can be found in Chicago on the river with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s IBM Tower.  Directly behind it is the Marina City complex which was designed by his protégé Bertrand Goldberg. Having a teacher and student design side-by-side doesn’t happen often so it is a fascinating place to observe the style change that took place from one generation to the next. It’s like we need to show our teachers and our parents that “we’ve heard, we’ve learned, and we’ve grown.”

As a society, we are seeing a shift in style once again.  Prior to the great recession, many people where building McMansion style homes which were the expression of more, more, more – look at what I have accomplished or gained. 

Now, we are seeing a maturity to the thinking – wouldn’t my life be easier if it were simpler? This is manifesting itself in a smaller footprint of our homes. We’re choosing darker colors to make our homes appear smaller and using coordinated palettes to bring the sense of harmony we seek.

I believe as a result we will create a generation of homes which will hold their aesthetic appeal much better than the recent phase.

Do you think that in 50 years anyone is going to be chaining themselves to a bulldozer to prevent a McMansion from being torn down?

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Expo Takes on the Nation’s Capital

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Exposition was held in Washington, D.C this year.  The show was jam packed with exhibitors and educational programs for architects and design professionals and, according to early estimates, attracted 30 percent more attendees than last year’s event which was held in New Orleans.  Could it be the location?  Could it be an improved building environment?  It is hard to say but the show appeared to be busy.

The Saint-Gobain booth this year had a listening room component and we had experts from several of our businesses CertainTeed, ADFORS, Grenite, Norton, SAGE, Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Solar, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and SolarGard who stood ready to help architects solve their unsolvable problems.  This was a new concept which created some interesting conversations in our ‘listening rooms’ – pod-like areas to sit and hold private conversations.

I was speaking with an architect in our booth about a variety of products and systems when he spied my name tag and exclaimed, “you’re the guy who does the webinars. It’s great to actually meet you.”  Since our webinars only provide a photo of me on the title page and frankly I’ve got a face made for radio, I was surprised that he would recognize me. He provided some valuable feedback about why he thought our CertainTeed webinar series, which is part of our Continuing Education program, provided him not only with valuable credits for his continuing education credentialing, but also information that he can put into practice as an architect.  I really appreciated the feedback and it’s rewarding to know that what we are sharing with people is helping them every day.

I would say that we are beginning to see an improvement in the design community especially from markets such as education, healthcare and multi-family housing.  At least Washington, D.C looked like building projects were in abundance.

If you have thoughts about the industry or comments about our CertainTeed webinar series, I would love to hear from you.

Social Media Mavens at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition

Twitter activity was most definitely a flutter last week at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition in Washington D.C. Using the social media-monitoring tool, UberVU, we extrapolated some interesting insight from the Twitter activity at the show. For example, a report on activity using the #AIA2012 hash tag showed that:

  • There were 5,528 tweets from May 10-21 — just prior and one day after the show.
  • 36 percent of mentions were re-tweets.
  • Nearly half of all tweets occurred on the first day of the show, May 18.
  • New York-based architect Vanesa Alicea posted the most frequently, with 141 tweets.
  • Of all of the Twitter accounts active during the show, Architectural Record magazine has the largest following, with a whopping 323,335 followers.

All in all, we enjoyed following and participating in the Twitter stream to keep a pulse on the show, however, we were most fortunate to have in-person conversations that spanned well beyond 140 characters!

New Product Snapshot from 2012 AIA Expo

For the past several years, Snap magazine has organized a “Say it in a Snap” session at the AIA Expo, offering building product manufacturers a chance to talk about their newest product innovations. Products showcased this year demonstrated a broad array of form and function:

  • Sherwin Williams announced the expansion of their environmentally conscious paint products — Emerald TM zero-VOC interior paint.
  • BluWorld of Water shared a new white paper that dispels some of the microbial concerns around water features in health care settings.
  • Construction Specialties launched two new louver products that offered very distinct design aesthetics.

Architectural Record Makes Photo-sharing Easy

Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, photo-sharing is most definitely in vogue. While all of these networks create a sense of community and connectedness in their own special way, Architectural Record magazine has launched a photo-sharing mobile app designed specifically for architects and designers. At the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exposition, the Architectural Record editorial team touted the new tool, which is available, free-of-charge via iTunes.

Google SketchUp Brings Design Inspirations to Life

Architects are known for having boundless imaginations when conceptualizing their designs. Traditionally, they have put pen to paper to bring their ideas to life. However, a growing trend is to use Google SketchUp — as evidenced by the bustling flow of traffic in their booth at the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exhibition. An inituitive, easy-to-use tool, Google SketchUp is used to create quick 3-D imagery for conceptual stages of design. It also includes a repository of 3-D building objects — the Google 3D Warehouse — that expedites the design process. Building product manufacturers, including CertainTeed, are making brand-specific building objects available through the warehouse to more closely align concepts with real-world applications. Is Google SketchUp the wave of the future? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts.

Design Inspiration at 2012 AIA Expo

Spend only a few minutes at 2012 AIA Expo and you’re sure to be inspired. Revolutionary product innovations such as the Dyson air multiplier or SAGE electrochromic glass are capturing the attention of many at the show. At the AIA/DC exhibit, Claire Conroy of Residential Architect magazine hosted a panel of seven Washington D.C.-based architects and their impressive breadth of recent work.  Philip Esocoff shared his strategy on leveraging height restrictions through pre-cast concrete ornamentation. Travis Price highlighted excerpts from his most recent book, “The Mythic Modern.” And, Mark McInturff spoke of the trials and tribulations of designing a roof top pool that weighs the equivalent of four Prius cars. All in all, it was an awe-inspiring day. Looking forward further exploration tomorrow…