Thursday, July 23, 2009

There is no partial credit

Many of you readers may remember way back in March when I studied for and took the LEED exam. Well, the exam I took was version 2.2, and as of March 31 of this year, the exam has been upgraded to version 3.0. This transistion is due to the fact that the LEED system itself has been updated and the most current rules are those of LEED 2009. How, you might ask, is this version different? The USGBC has actually taken a lot of feedback from the previous version and created a new and improved system that, in my opinion, sounds like it will be more successful in effecting real changes in the environment. They have put an emphasis of making sure that the differing categories within the rating system are more cohesive and they also changed both the scale and weighting of the rating system. Within LEED 2009, the three major changes are Harmonization, Credit weightings, and Regionalization, which the USGBC talks about specifically here. The rating scale is now a 100 point scale: Certified 40-49 points Silver 50-59 points Gold 60-79 points Platinum 80+ points These levels are obviously elevated from the previous version of LEED, making it more difficult to achieve each level. LEED 2009 uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s TRACI (Tools for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts ) environmental impact categories as the basis for weighting each credit. TRACI was developed to assist with impact evaluation for life-cycle assessment, industrial ecology, process design, and pollution prevention. As the USGBC states in their explanation, "LEED now awards more points for strategies that will have greater positive impacts on what matters most – energy efficiency and CO2 reductions." This makes a lot of sense to me- reward those choices in building design and construction that will yield the greatest environmental benefits. I also really like the new Regionalization aspect of LEED, something I thought was lacking in the previous version. The LEED program isn't a blanket solution to all the building industry's faults. There are very specific environmental issues based on location, so I appreciate that there is now a mechanism to reward teams that have tackled regionally-specific environmental issues. A project can be awarded up to four extra points (one point per credit) for earning the priority credits. Here's an example of a regional priority credit, in the LEED shorthand you might be familiar with: Urban Florida: SSc5.2, MRc1.1, WEc2, EAc1, MRc5, and EQc8.1, to incentivize (among other things) decreased reliance on fossil fuels, reuse of existing building stock, decreased reliance on insufficient municipal wastewater plants, and utilization of abundant local sunshine. Reading the LEED 2009 overview and rating system manual, I am impressed that there has been so many positive changes to the feedback they have received. It looks like the steering committee has really taken on the mission to keep LEED a living, working document to steer smart design and building techniques. And this is all happening as both the government incentive (through the Federal economic stimulus funds) to build energy efficiently has increased, and the cost to do so (because of the state of the economy) has also increased. It's shaping up to be a very interesting year for green building in the U.S.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culture Day in the ATL

For the last month+ we've been living out of suitcases, making the most of family time as we drag out our move from Georgia to Alexandria, Virginia. Last week was our final week with my mom, and we made Thursday a " culture day" by eating lunch at Chow Baby, visiting the "furniture district" of Chattahoochee Avenue, taking in the exhibits at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and rounding out the day with ice cream at Morelli's. It was a swell way to round out our stay with my mom. Our time at the High proved to be blogworthy. We went to see Monet's Water Lilies, which are on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The three canvases spread out 42 feet and do take your breath away. The expansion wing of the High is a great place to view these works. I've always loved going to the High as it was originally, designed by Richard Meier. I've been in a few of his buildings, and to me, they are both whimsical and refined. But what Renzo Piano has done with the additional wing is just incredible. I love the transition from the old building, and Piano's addition is quiet, reverent to Meier's, and solidly stands on its own. And it's of course amazing what he did with natural light, which is what compliments the Monet pieces so well. My only complaint is that the exhibit was very small, except of course for the giant canvases. There were only a few other pieces, but I guess for the full effect I need to visit the MOMA or the Louvre. I should also note that all of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. And I wasn't sneaky about it- evidently cell phone cameras are allowed for these exhibits. Here's their policy: NOTE: Through August 23, 2009, cell phone photography will be permitted in the Monet Water Lilies and Richard Misrach: On the Beach exhibition galleries. Regular photography permits are not required for guests who wish to use cell phone cameras in these two galleries. Funny right? I don't think they'd want you using your cell phone to make calls, but its other purpose, as a camera, is allowed. Oh well. I snapped away, hoping at least some of my photos would be okay for the blog. I really enjoyed the Richard Misrach: On the Beach exhibit, but I didn't take any photos of that because it was a photography exhibit and taking photos of photos just seemed weird. I did like this quotation of his:One of the real gems of the day was an ARCHITECTURE EXHIBIT! I learned a little about Anthony Ames, an Atlanta architect who I am ashamed to say I had never heard of. The exhibit featured some of his paintings (inspired by the likes of Le Corbusier and Ozenfant), architectural models, and even dinnerware. Ames is known as a Late Modernist, which is fitting since his work was displayed in the Meier side of the museum. I loved seeing the models, but mostly I loved watching other people checking them out. My absolute favorite part of the day was the furniture exhibit, featuring American furniture from the colonial days to the early 20th century. I haven't found any real reference to these pieces on the museum's website, so I am not sure if they are part of the permanent collection or a traveling exhibit. I thought I saw a mention of this exhibit on Apartment Therapy? Anyone know what I am referring to? At any rate, it was mesmerizing to see pieces from some of the most famous designers in history all lined up. This is a chair from a Boston designer way way back. Love those ovals. I didn't take any notes on this one, but I'd guess it's more of a folk-arty chair with bent wood. This is a Frank Lloyd Wright chair. And a chair by Josef Hoffman. They are all so great, I can't decide which one is my favorite.Oh, and I almost forgot the Greene and Greene: It was quite a day of Atlanta fun, and we'll miss that! This week we've been staying with my in-laws in north Georgia, experiencing a much different part of the state and giving Rudy a few more days to swim and have the run of the land. The final stages of the move begin this weekend as we make our way up to D.C. We're staying with generous friends in Maryland next week until we can finally move in (for real this time) next weekend. Goodness me, this summer has been both long and short all at the same time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We built houses!

Well, bird houses! I've been wanting to do this project for some time now, and the opportunity finally arrived on Sunday: a rainy day that screamed for a project. It all started with these:And the collection of these: We got about this far: And, par for the course, a trip here was inevitable: We needed these: Eventually, we all got involved and there were three houses under construction at once. Everyone had a part: The geometry began to get complicated: And Rudy became a little bored and wondered why we weren't building a house for him: I hadn't used a nail gun in a long time! Here's one finished project, Bart and Ree's birdhouse. Isn't it adorable? They weren't prepared with a license plate, but threw on their hard hats and made due with some aluminum flashing. I don't think the birds will mind! Ree found all these tiny branches for us to make perches with: Here are all three together. Can you guess which one is mine?Yup, that's right. If you want to make a birdhouse, we followed these instructions, though modified them somewhat to accommodate the different roof angles. If I make another one, I might use a thinner wood and tighten up the dimensions. Our first house, the one on the far right in the photo of all three, came out a little chunkier than expected. I'll also be a little more careful with the nail gun (my craft was lax!) and sanding before staining... all just something to note if you want the creme de la creme for your avian neighbors. Thanks for the help, family! I can't wait to put up the birdhouses on our patio in Virginia!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I have a king sized bed. I don't know any kings, but if one came over, I guess he'd be comfortable. -Mitch Hedberg

Can you tell what that is? Well, if you guessed a castle, you'd be right. And we're not looking at an estate in England or France... we're looking down on a road in Alpharetta, Georgia. Yes, that my friends is the mysterious castle of Alpharetta (or Roswell, or Milton, depending on your politics). I saw it a few weeks ago when we happened to be in the area. My jaw dropped when we passed by in the car- I didn't have my wits about me to take a photo, but I found several online. I have been meaning to write about it ever since. I did some research on it tonight and, let me tell you, there's lots of folklore out there. Instead of trying to piece together the "internet" facts, I'm just going to link you to the best write up I found on it. This is not an amusement park attraction. It's someone's actual house. I've seen it referred to as the Dupont castle, but I am not sure if that's the owner's name. It's been said he was a truck-driver, and it was his dream to live in a castle. I guess all those nights in the cab of an 18-wheeler might do that to a person. There's also speculation that the majority of the square-footage is actually underground, which makes it even more castle-esque. Sort of looks like that could be true. I don't want to be the instigator of any further internet speculation, but hey, it is the internet. Leave a comment if you happen to know more about this mysterious homestead. Meanwhile, keep a look-out at any Harry Potter movie openings or Ren Fests in Georgia... a castle-owner could be there, too.