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The Survey, Commentary, Letters

Vanity Fair's recent informal poll of 52 prominent architects and critics named Frank Gehry's design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Basque country), Spain as the most important piece of architecture built since 1980.
Cost of Wisconsin
Land F/X
Teak Warehouse Valmont
Playworld Visionaire Lighting

Leading with LEED

Sustainability is all the talk these days. Last month we discussed the 150 projects selected for the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). This month we turn to another aspect of sustainability, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).

On page 110 you'll see the news item "LEED-ND to Rate 'location efficiency' of Community Projects." This is interesting because it shows that the powers that be, the government, is leading with LEED. At the Congress for New Urbanism, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will use LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) to rate the location efficiency of community projects applying for some of the $100 million in sustainable community planning grants.

LEED, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, identifies practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED was the impetuous for SITES, turning the focus from sustainable buildings to sustainable landscapes.

Not everyone, however, is jumping on the LEED band wagon.

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, whose works include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, recently had some interesting comments published about LEED and "green" issues. After telling Bloomberg Businessweek that green building had become "fetishized," the PBS program "Need to Know" spoke to Gehry for clarification.

Gehry explained he is not opposed to LEED, but that LEED was only one among many ways to encourage green design. Gehry noted many of his clients don't apply for the LEED certification because it's complicated and that they simply don't need it.

He pointed to his firm's (Gehry Partners) design of the Novartis Building in Switzerland. "They don't use the LEED program over there. The government just says this is what you can and can't do, and things have to be built in a sustainable way." (The Swiss government told him the Novartis Building couldn't be air-conditioned, so his firm had it built of glass and cooled via a geothermal system. The roof panels are photovoltaic glass and generate energy. An opening at the top that lets hot air out like a teepee.) He believes it's a matter of builders taking personal responsibility, plus following the sustainable building mandates of government programs. "Our government is trying to take steps in that direction," he notes. "I just met with someone from the Obama administration, they are trying to enact tougher standards, but they're having some trouble."

Gehry thinks LEED points may not be necessary. "The best way would be a political initiative that requires people to address (green) issues to get building permits, which he says allows government to incentivize sustainable projects through subsidies. "But this is a global issue," he observes, "so you need programs that not only we agree on, but also that the Russians and the Chinese agree on."

Some of Gehry's current pursuits include searching how to make a building's skin photovoltaic; working with a company that makes icrete, a concrete substitute that uses 50 percent less concrete in the mix, reducing the carbon footprint by 50 percent; and working on a computer program with a French company (Gasteau Systems) that helps organize construction, because a lot of materials in the construction industry are wasted because they're delivered too early.

Technology may be leading the way, but Gehry's mantra is "creativity and a will to do it" (and a lot of it is common sense). It's not always about the latest in technology. He tells of a trip to Peru and visiting a low building with no windows build near Lima by the ancient Incas. He marveled that the building had air movement all the way in the back. How these low-tech builders managed that, he can't explain.


Re "Domes Doomed ... Playground Spec too Hot to Handle" (see p. 94):

$84,000 for those domes only to spend more money to replace them with structures clearly very different than the original design intent? I can't help wondering if anyone suggested the purchase and installation of tress of a size and variety large enough to provide necessary shade? Boxed specimen or field grown trees can be expensive, but so too can play structures.

William Duke
William R. Duke, L.A.
San Jose, Calif.

After reviewing this again, perhaps these (the domes) can be re-purposed in an over-18 outdoor grilling area? Think of it, the food could cook and easily slide off with a nonstick spatula! This belongs on the Darwin list.

Susan Sinner
Spec Assistance
Prudential Lighting Products
Los Angeles


ASLA 2nd Quarter Business Survey--"Majority of Landscape Architecture Firms Report Stable or Improving Business"

Business conditions for landscape architects appear to be stabilizing, according to the latest ASLA Business Quarterly survey. The 2nd quarter national survey was fielded July 1-16, with 245 firm representatives responding.
For the second quarter in a row, over half of landscape architecture firms reported steady or above levels of billable hours and inquiries for new work.

Nearly two-thirds of firm leaders (65.4 percent) reported billable hours as steady or higher in the second quarter, an increase from 56.4 percent last quarter and 32 percent this time last year. Similarly, 64.8 percent reported steady or above inquiries for new work, down from 72.2 percent last quarter, but significantly higher than the 32.2 percent reported last year. Firms planning to hire decreased slightly from 21.6 percent to 17.3 percent.

"We know many firms still face major challenges, including client groups' inability to secure financing for projects. Still, the survey findings represent continued progress in a very difficult economy," said Nancy Somerville, CEO and ASLA executive vice president.

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December 7, 2019, 4:05 am PDT

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