Recently we began a series on toxic building materials. Many building products found in both old and new homes are not good for us. They can negatively affect our indoor air quality, cause long-term health conditions, or even worse. Since these materials pose a problem that affects almost everyone, let us arm ourselves. In following are some powerful tools to help identify problem building materials.
Believe it or not, all the hazardous, toxic materials in our homes are not under the kitchen sink or on the top shelf in the garage. Toxic building materials are a problem that affects almost everyone, and it is hard to know what to avoid. These products are right under our nose and everywhere we turn! So, how do we protect ourselves and our families?
Over the past century, our methods of construction have become increasingly more reliant on the products of mass-production, the free market economy, and rash scientific research. Many of the building materials we use today are both unhealthy and unsustainable. I shudder to think how we might have wrapped ourselves in products that are literally killing us!
Appreciating conservation-based development is to understand that we exist within something larger. Like a log being split, most development has torn us from our relationship with the land. Our natural environment not only provides the context for life, it is our largest and most important resource.
For long-time, we lived close to the land and developed a regionally-specific architecture that was built in sympathy to the surroundings. We created commercial centers called towns and cities, and others chose to live on large plots to farm. As Americans became 2 car households, got central air-conditioning, the color TV, and personal computers we have become uncoupled, or split, away from real living on this planet.
My air-conditioner is killing me! Modern technologies like the car, color TV, air conditioning and the Internet have been creeping up over us slowly since the 1950's. They have been slowly killing the Earth, homogenizing our beautiful, regionally-specific design styles, and breaking up our communities. It's Creeping Death! (music reference).
New technologies (e.g. the IPad) have taken away the American traditions of walking to the corner store, watching the kids play in the street, and visiting with neighbors from porch to porch. These slices of American life used to bring us together, but modern technology seems to be pulling us all apart. All our computers and robots are making us soft.
Regarding architecture, the Tillotson family's saying is "Don't build it for looks, build it bully for stout." This comes from T.L. Tillotson, my wife's grandfather. Even though I never met him, I have a great deal of respect for him.
The Mesta Park historic renovation is moving ahead. Rain caused some delays, but the foundation was finally poured. Over the last few weeks, I have gathered some photos on-site, and I wanted to share an update before the work progressed too far.
This week at Green Heart Town Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America, joins us for the second half of our recent interview. Last week we discussed her background in sustainability and green historic preservation. In the following interview, we will discuss Patrice’s transition to leading the National Main Street Center, updating the brand for over 1,600 neighborhoods and communities nationwide, and “refreshing” the time-tested Four Point Approach.
Several weeks ago, we covered how “Main Street is the Time-Tested Basis for Green Heart Towns”, but at the conclusion of the post, I wanted to know more about what was happening with the program.
This week at Green Heart Town we have a very special guest. We interview Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America about her background in sustainability and her role in the movement of green historic preservation.
In recent years, there has been a growing undercurrent of people who appreciate historic buildings as both culturally significant and inherently sustainable resources. Living in a Green Heart Town requires understanding the deep value your historic properties offer. Through my work with the Oklahoma Main Street Program, I have been fortunate to follow this ray of truth and learn from sustainability champions like Patrice.
Last time we shared the list of work items included in the Scope of Work for the application for Certificate of Authority (CA). After leaving from our initial meetings with the City’s Historic Preservation (HP) staff and Code Enforcement inspector, we had a plan. Since the deadline to submit for that month’s HP Commission meeting was very close at hand, we submitted a partially completed application. Thank you for the nice trick HP staff! We were ready to get the ball rolling.
Completing the historic preservation review process and earning your first certificate of appropriateness may sound a little tedious but it doesn't have to be. Taking the right approach, the process can be straightforward and instructive while providing a neat lesson on your community’s traditional building methods. Earning a certificate of appropriateness (COA) for the Mesta Park project involved a learning curve but we were rewarded with a distilled understanding of the process - one that should ring true in any community.
American culture has rejected sustainable community development for too long. Even though many of us want make our community stronger, the historic heart of our towns are often weak and perforated - due to the sins of our fathers. Some of us are guilty too! Like a dead whale launched to the beach by a tidal wave, many of our communities' best properties lie broken, abandoned, and steadily decaying. How did things get this way?
Through my work as the staff architect for the Oklahoma Main Street Program, I have come to find resonance inside the bowels of the past. Often far from revitalized, our historic downtowns broadcast your town’s self-concept - just like a neon sign.
Last week began a series on renovating the worst house on the block in Oklahoma City's historic Mesta Park neighborhood. Once the property was purchased, the new owners and I met to conduct a damage assessment and form a game plan. Delayed maintenance, inappropriate materials/retrofits, and apathy are three plagues upon under-appreciated historic properties, and this one suffered from all three!
But, what the home lacked in physical condition it made up for in location. This neighborhood and its surrounding walk-shed are becoming more revitalized and vibrant by the day. At the center of the neighborhood lies Pearle Mesta Park. You can see this common green space and the the well-maintained children's play equipment from the front porch. Score!
When some close friends bought the worst home on the block in an up-and-coming historic district, they called me. They are a wonderful young couple that has made their business breathing new life into older, often neglected homes. Even though they had remodeled dozens of other properties before, this historic home renovation was going to be their toughest one yet.
“Larry we are thinking of buying a 1926 residence in Mesta Park. It has loads of potential, but man, it’s rough!”
"When we build, let us think we build forever.” John Ruskin's words evoke the notion of building in a sustainable manner, thereby leaving a legacy to future generations through the story of our places. Every day in my work at the Oklahoma Main Street Center, I am fortunate to encounter historic buildings that mirror Ruskin’s ideals; however, I have also seen in the modern building movement that we have lost our way in designing sustainable places over the last half century.
I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on a wonderful experience from 2015. I visited Taliesin West in early October to attend the the American Institute of Architect's (AIA) first joint colloquium
Call the energy retrofit doctor! Historic and existing buildings may look alright on the outside, but they could be a lot more energy efficient. Don't get me wrong; they have potential. Through the years, these properties have often been updated and remodeled, usually to address particular issues, without considering effects on whole-building energy efficiency. We tend to compartmentalize our homes, and changes to them reflect this paradigm. In the past, we many have needed more space, so we built an addition or enclosed a porch. A room got too hot or cold, so we installed an A/C unit or baseboard heater. You might live in a house with these kinds of alterations.
This kind of thinking allows for quick comfort and cheap solutions (in the short-term) but does improve the property value or allow it run at its best.
Preservation Future Tense” was the theme for Oklahoma’s 29th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference held in Oklahoma City. In partnership with our State Historic Preservation Office, the Oklahoma Main Street Program invited James Lindberg, Senior Director of the Preservation Green Lab (PGL) to speak at the closing Plenary Session. Since 2009 PGL, a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has authored some of the most current and forward-looking sustainable preservation research ever done.
Through reports such as The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, PGL is outlining how historic preservation
Basic weatherization is a simple approach to improve comfort, energy efficiency, air quality, and the durability of an existing building. Weatherization is composed of two primary measures: Air sealing and insulating. Both are important for improving energy efficiency, but pursuing airtightness should take precedent.
Existing buildings just don’t stand a chance. Every month many glossy architecture magazines hit the newsstands, arriving in checkout lines like a plague of locusts. Anyone who loves beauty and design can’t help but shoot a quick glance and read the headlines. We can’t help but peek. As Americans, we are programmed to desire, want, and spend.