ruminations about architecture and design

Thursday, July 29, 2010

building codes and energy use in buildings

There was a recent post on the Freakonomics blog about a study on the influence of building codes on energy use patterns in buildings. The abstract of the study stated that stricter energy codes have had an appreciable impact on reducing energy use.

In some respects, this conclusion is obvious and points to the social benefits of building codes. Adam Smith weighed in on this topic over two hundred years ago. From the point of view of an architect who is interested in sustainability the most important issue is that the codes that deal directly with energy use be updated frequently to reflect the growing improvements in building technology. I would also argue that codes have the positive effect of spurring innovation so that the baseline for energy efficiency and architectural quality is encouraged to move steadily upwards over time.

Enforcement issues for energy codes can be more challenging than life/safety concerns, but the primary enforcement mechanism is the code itself, which takes advantage of the propensity of designers, manufacturers and builders to follow rules rather than risk the consequences of breaking them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

View of an industrial building in Montreal. I took this photo a few years ago during my first trip to Canada. Moshe Safdie's Habitat is nearby.
What about this is compelling? That question can be answered partly by Rayner Banham's book
A Concrete Atlantis.

Monday, July 26, 2010

the invention of American Suburbia

I am reading Shand/Tucci's Built in Boston for the first time (seriously) with the aim of learning more about what is around me and where it came from. A long-run topic deals with the origin of the American suburb. There isn't a good, objective definition for that, but the formation of the Boston cityscape points to some clear development patterns.

Phase 1: The early settler period and the port city. From the 1600's to the 1800's

Phase 2: The urban/suburban expansion. The faraway towns of Dorchester and Roxbury are brought into the urban fold. The streetcar suburbs of the post civil war era favored a high density suburban development, BUT, and this is the interesting thing I just learned, the property owners in the inner ring suburbs had been trying for greater density, a la row houses. However, they had to settle for the 5000-6000 s.f. lot that is the standard of many of these neighborhoods (Quincy included). This is regarded as large.

Phase 3: The outer suburbs--Wellesley, Weston, Wayland. They were considered attractive very early on, i.e. mid to late 1800's. Their settlement, and subsequent displacement of farmland, seems inevitable circa 1870. And I used to think that nothing happened until after World War II!

not to be confused with the book of similar title

The Towers of Ilium turned up an obscure novel on a Google search. Hopefully some rabid estate/copyright/domain name lawyer won't show up my doorstep with a harshly worded letter