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"There is much to learn from architecture before it became an expert’s art."
by Katy Purviance on 04/11/08 @ 09:23:07 pm
Categories: Green Design, Articles | 493 words | 1158 views

I just read this article on the AIA site by Michael J. Crosbie called “Sustainability by ‘Amateurs.’”

It’s like I’ve been saying for years. Design like people designed before people became HVAC whores and high-embedded-energy sluts. Use materials that are already at the site. Design according to solar orientation. Channel the wind through the house. Use the earth. Use what you’ve got, again and again and again.

We are struck by how efficient, sustainable, environmentally tuned, recycled, and recyclable these creations are. They put our so-called sophisticated, LEED®-plated buildings to shame.

Here are some design guidelines for you to incoporate into your arsenal of understanding. Enjoy.

1. Design and build with local stuff. I don’t think there is a building in Rudolfsky’s book made of materials that were carted more than a few miles to the construction site. What are the options of doing the same thing on your next project? Our material palettes are much richer, yet there are still lots of choices that can be acquired locally. Building with local materials also helps the local economy, which strengthens the economic sustainability of the region.

2. Use thermal mass. Many of the buildings in Architecture Without Architects are in warm climates and made of substantial materials (stone, brick, mud, tile, or carved into the earth itself) that naturally help to slow the temperature swings within the building. This is a viable lesson and it can help architects in shaping and massing the building for sculptural effect: art from environmental science.

3. Catch the wind. If you are designing in a temperate climate, you may be able to rely less on mechanical cooling and ventilation and shape your building to catch prevailing breezes that will cool and ventilate without expending energy to do so. Again, architectural expression dovetails with this approach. Rudofsky shows us the roofscapes of the lower Sind district in Western Pakistan, animated with windscoops (one for each room) that channel the breeze and bring it deep into the building.

4. Follow the sun. Look at the native architecture that Rudofsky collected and you can always tell where the sun is—its track in the sky, and how the building bends and opens to gather it, but also how it huddles and turns to provide shelter from it. Courtyards, porches, balconies, and arcades open and close, like the aperture of a camera, in response to how the sun moves around the building. These buildings never forget their place on the earth, and respond accordingly.

5. Reuse, recycle, renew. Nonarchitects never seem to have a problem with pulling materials together from different resources (often, old buildings!) to make a new environment. The amount of wasted building materials in our own culture is staggering. Look into the possibilities of recycling part of a client’s existing building into a new one, turn old materials over to recycling centers, and work with manufacturers who have a recycling program for their products.

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places where you could probably learn more about designing and building in just a few days than I did after a year of grad school

Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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