We were initially under the assumption that we had to make an all-or-nothing choice: basically a) go 100% electric to get to zero carbon, or b) replace a gas furnace with a new gas furnace and lock in to a carbon-emitting heating system for the next 20 years – the estimated life of the system. That’s a false choice…
Mid-Century Modern design has always appealed to me, the low pitch, butterfly roofs, big beams that shoot through floor-to-ceiling glass, consistent ceiling to soffit transitions, natural materials, quirky cantilevers, open concept Kitchen-Living-Dining areas, what’s not to love? For houses that were designed in this style from the 1940’s through to the 1970’s, the ‘Atomic Ranch’ aesthetic has proven itself to be timeless because it’s good.
We are approaching nearly a year of life with COVID-19, yet the pandemic appears to be only worsening. By the time this gets published, worldwide deaths will have exceeded 2 million, yet few countries seem to have this under control. The purpose of this post is to appeal to Ontario Architects and Engineers to consider how architectural and engineering interventions can reduce the transmission of this virus
Architects can and should use BEM or energy simulation tools for Design Optimization. Furthermore they can and should also be encouraged to use BEM for demonstrating Code Compliance. Lastly, Architects should also be encouraged to seek out professional certifications or designations such as LEED, Passive House and even EnerGuide or R2000 Evaluator designations in order to offer Certification Services, if they wish to expand their scope of practice.
The real promise of BIM/BEM (Building Information Modelling/Building Energy Modelling) is to get more, and better information faster directly from the process of creating architecture. This immediate performance feedback can streamline coordination, increase the parity between the design model and reality, and to optimize results.
This is a forest ecosystem struggling for equilibrium, growth, and intelligence. It was clearcut just 30 years ago, and I have been observing and learning from this place for the past decade.
Originally written as a letter to Barrie City Council, June 10, 2020 I am writing in the context of the increasing pressure for everyone, including place makers, to consider the deep social impacts of urban design and architecture on the well being of citizens. The recent #BlackLivesMatter protests demands across the board reforms that I … Continue Reading
Image top: Seawolf skin-on-frame Kayak, image by Oliver Ludlow I’ve been struggling with an idea for a good thirty years. It has to do with maintenance and time, or entropy, but it can be summed up simply by asking what is the best way to skin a building. I’m not looking for conventional answers, as … Continue Reading
“Andy, there will be bigger problems* long before the oil runs out” Bill Mitchell, Director Royal Dutch Shell Group
While the current debate over the human diet seeks to settle the question of optimal health, both for the individual and for the planet (keto? veg? local?), few realize what a significant role the air we breathe has on our overall health. The fact that we can’t see, and can only vaguely smell the quality … Continue Reading
The neighbourhood I grew up in, Burlington, Canada was about 1km by 1km. It was a classic mix of 1970’s social housing towers with townhouses and townhouses with public hallways we called ‘maisonettes’. As a kid we used to play on the street. Right in the middle of it. There were hockey nets, bicycles with … Continue Reading
Architecture is not an easy business. Just as with any career in a creative field, it’s not nearly enough to be talented. My grandfather, George James Valence (GJV) Thomson had an incredible eye, was a skilled craftsman, and had the education of an Architect from both Pratt Institute in NYC, class of 1933, and … Continue Reading
Today is the 50th anniversary of the iconic photo, Earth Rise, captured by the crew aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft in 1968. I was a child of the groovy, mellow, and high-tech 1970’s. The Space Shuttle wouldn’t fly until 1981, but it was promised to follow in the footsteps of the Mercury and Apollo programs. … Continue Reading
Above is a chart comparing energy use by source for a range of buildings in Canada, the latter 4 being projects in our portfolio. This represents the type and quantity of energy used per unit area of the given building, which we call Net-TEUI or Net Total Energy Intensity, as a function of building unit … Continue Reading
If anyone had told me last year that starting in 2018 I would be using a robot to create measured plans of existing buildings, I would think that either a) they are whackos that over-estimate the capabilities of current technology or b) they must assume that I have unlimited funds to buy such equipment. Neither … Continue Reading
Transportation architecture is a thing. Vehicle designer is a thing. Vehicle Architect? Nope. But here I will try. My hobbies have always involved going fast on/in a vehicle of some sort. In winter this has been snowboards, skis, even kayaks downhill! On water, windsurfing. On asphalt, bikes, skateboards and electric cars. And soon … eBikes. … Continue Reading
Far from being a mere ‘cash-grab’ by municipalities, the application for and enforcement of the Building Code is considered the bare minimum requirement for a building to demonstrate that life safety requirements have been met. As one of my engineering professors in Germany once said, “Earthquakes seldom kill people, Buildings kill people”. In hindsight, I can see that it is actually the case that “People kill People” by turning a blind eye to regulations. One recent case in point was the Grenfell Tower fires in the UK…
Who didn’t love making their first circle with a compass? Although a love of building blocks and form in general appeals to every kindergartener, it was this subtle abstraction of the ‘geometry’, the graphic description of the rules of form that took hold of my imagination. I imagined that every footfall, the arc of every … Continue Reading
Ordinary homes have become too expensive for ordinary citizens. The growth of housing costs have far outstripped income growth in recent years, resulting in what is now called the ‘affordability gap’. Many, if not most people will find themselves on the brink of over-extension if they try to find a way to purchase what is on the pages of the weekend … Continue Reading
So you are thinking of designing and building a home in the Province of Ontario? You have a number of options and factors to consider when engaging a Designer or Architect and Builder. I’ve been asked more than a few times to explain the difference between Architects, and the other kinds of designers and design-builders out … Continue Reading
When shopping around for professional services, it’s important to qualify your project requirements by answering a few key questions such as; What is the ‘going rate’ for an Architect? Aren’t Architects too expensive* to use for a simple house? Can’t I just hire a draftsperson to draw up my home? I’ve designed my home already, … Continue Reading
I have lived and practiced green design in Germany, and I witnessed the introduction of the WSVO (Waermeshutzverordnung) firsthand in 1994. These were mandated changes to the levels of insulation required to be placed in the walls, roofs and floors of new buildings. At the time of my first R2000 build near Stuttgart (1996), I … Continue Reading
Tiny homes are everywhere in popular media and the internet, and the meme has persisted for well over a decade now. With click-bait headlines like, “Man Builds Tiny Log Cabin For $500” and “You Can Turn A $2000 Shipping Container Into An Epic Off-Grid Home!” we get seduced into believing that if only we … Continue Reading
I have wanted an electric car since I was 16. Global warming and pollution was at the top of my mind. I biked everywhere, and imagined that in a future not so far off – EV’s would be widely available. Fast forward 26 years. Yes, that is how long it took. I expected my first … Continue Reading
While smart growth and eco-developments have become part of the mainstream planning dialogue, trailer parks demonstrate a form of sustainable infrastructure and development patterns that already exist. The oft-snubbed trailer park is probably the most overlooked form of sustainable and affordable housing, a true diamond in the rough. With a little help from green design, … Continue Reading
In 2009, Lisa Selin Davis wrote for Grist.org, which the Guardian subsequently picked up – article here – about my vision for a greener trailer park – which I see as the future of suburban development for a number of reasons; the footprint is lighter on the earth, there is no disruption of landforms, infrastructure … Continue Reading
INNOVATION #1:. SIPFS: A Structural Insulated Panel and Finish System consolidating primary structure, thermal envelope and finishing system in a durable, modular system that assembles rapidly and easily on-site PROBLEM: Conventional construction is often per- formed on-site where builders are at the mercy of the elements as well as light conditions, dirt and debris and … Continue Reading
1. The Measure of Heaven: Time, Space and Geometry as found in the texts of Enoch. April 19, 1999. UBC Comparative Religion.
2. Fractal Physiology: UBC Biomechanics, for Dr. David Jones.
3. The Farm in European Architectural History: UBC School of Architecture, for Dr. Sheri McKay
THINK GOING OFF THE GRID MEANS A BIG CASH OUTLAY FOR SECLUDED LAND AND SOLAR PANELS? THINK AGAIN. VANCOUVER ECO-ACTIVISTS HAVE FIGURED OUT A WAY TO GO EASY ON THE EARTH, AND THE POCKETBOOK. July-August, 2002, by Rebecca Atkinson EXPENSIVE AND EXCLUSIVE, GREEN HOUSING IS TOO OFTEN RESERVED for those in the middle-age, high-income bracket. … Continue Reading