Covering the Issues

Posted in Vol 13 No 2 by bsaab on May 10, 2010

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Periodical Roundup

Eco-Structure Magazine“Old is the New Green”… It’s about time. Green building and historic preservation are starting to talk. Hanley-Wood debuts its redesigned Eco-Structure, a quarterly focusing on environmental performance, with an issue on existing buildings, proclaiming on the cover, “The Past is Our Future” (January/February 2010). The new “Flashback” column — promising to visit structures to see how they’ve held up over time and explore lessons learned — is the strongest idea of the whole issue, though it needs greater analytical depth to be truly useful. Elsewhere, “The Height of Sustainability,” Sudip Bose’s cover story in Preservation (March/April 2010) on the comprehensive renovation of the Empire State Building, begins to provide that depth. This renovation is not about adding bamboo floors to the observation deck; this is about quantitative data on energy performance and economics. By reducing energy consumption by 38 percent, the developers predict they’ll save $4.4 million annually, and the project team hopes that it will serve as a demonstration project for other commercial real-estate renovations. In this, Preservation’s third “green” issue, Blair Kamin also takes readers beyond the obvious in “Friends or Foes,” as he explains and explores the tension between historic preservation and environmental conservation agendas. When environmen-talists propose adding heat-reflecting silver paint to the iconic black Sears Tower, admittedly things get tricky.

Time MagazineAnybody home?… Kanbashi, a newly constructed district in China’s Inner Mongolia, is designed to house one million people — and it’s empty. Michael Christopher Brown’s eerie photos prove it. Is this a sign of oversupply? Is China’s building boom really a building bubble? In “Ghost City,” Bill Powell poses these terrifying questions for Time (April 5, 2010). With residential and commercial real-estate investment approximately 22 percent of China’s overall growth and China’s GDP still rising significantly more than its European or American counterparts, Powell suggests that Chinese officials hope they can deflate the bubble without a pop. We do, too.

Urban magical thinking… Boston native Brendan Patrick Hughes offers a refreshing take on our favorite construction project in “Boston: The Big Dig’s Benefit” for Next American City (Issue 26). He suggests that the building boom of the last three decades has left us a changed city that is profoundly different, and presents a fascinating argument that the Big Dig should be understood in conjunction with the Boston Miracle — the community policing initiative that led to a 40 percent reduction in violent crime during the 1990s. It’s all about the idea of the city.

CNBC Business MagazineGreen design and green business… In the wake of Copenhagen and in response to the 10 percent of Obama’s stimulus package headed toward renewable energy, the business press is chattering. Buildings are known energy hogs, as the media like to point out. Published in London, CNBC Business (January/February 2010) offers a Euro-American view, discussing solar power, architecture, entrepreneurial pioneers, and promising “eco-business” concepts. Most intriguing is the air-conditioning system designed by London-based Artica that beats standard units by 90 percent. Better still, it requires no refrigerants, few moving parts, and it’s intended for existing construction. In Entrepreneur (April 2010), Julie Bennett asks “Are We Headed Toward a Green Bubble?” Reporting that the February 2010 stock index for American clean energy companies is up 25 percent over a year ago, she conveys cautious enthusiasm along with a primer for her non-MBA readers. U.S. News & World Report (April 2010) enters the fray with its own energy cover story. A mix of articles attempt a balanced analysis of current technology, policy, and practices, including innovative urban planning approaches from Denver, and recommended residential upgrades. Author Maura Judkis identifies the essential rub, however: even in this climate, an energy retrofit will likely not raise a home’s value. Finally, Harvard Business Review uses its latest “On Point” series (Spring 2010) to repackage articles around the theme of “Making Green Profitable.” Michael Porter, Paul Hawken, and HBS faculty present trends and ideas influencing business operations. Architects, pay attention.

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