[ours] Hyperlocalization of Architecture | interview with Andrew Michler

Celebrated author and global consultant (on low impact building design) Andrew Michler and Science and Environmental Journalist Andrew Revkin (Dot Earth New York Times) engage in a lively discussion on the evolution of contemporary environmental architecture. A deeper pattern is emerging where the most innovative buildings are a response to place. These two noted writers explore the complex intertwining of site, people and environment, providing a provocative observation of the future of architecture.
Learn more hyperlocalarch.com


[ours] Hyperlocalization of Architecture has just been released

The promise of environmental architecture is here. An expansive pattern is emerging where the most innovative of contemporary buildings are a response to place. Instead of overcoming nature and supplanting cultural acumen, these visionary projects embrace the complex intertwining of the site, people and environment.

Here is a partial list of retailers where you can find a copy:http://hyperlocalarch.com/order-ours/

Explore firsthand how Spain Wraps commercial buildings, Japan Condenses micro homes and Australia Unfolds aggressive design solutions in a climate of extremes. Journey to Cascadia, Germany, Denmark, and Mexico to witness the progressing manifestation of environmental values and human conditions through provocative design. This groundbreaking exploration offers an unprecedented insight into architecture’s new place in a changing climate with dozens of illuminating and often surprising conversations with some of the most renowned sustainable architects of our time. Includes access to the online living index.
There is a book release party on September 25th at the Fort Collins Museum of Art. 

Much more at the book's website.

Here is some of the feedback so far...

"This is why Andrew Michler’s concept of hyperlocalization is so fascinating and valuable. Because every building he shows is not only a product of its climate and its environment, but of its history, its culture, a reflection of the personalities of the people who built it and surround it."
-Lloyd Alter, editor treehugger.com, preface of [ours]
“the book ‘[ours] hyperlocalization of architecture’ can be seen as a contemporary experimental guide for the future designers and produces different approaches to ‘ordinary architecture’ with regional sources or materials. in this regard, defines a new way of producing through provocative rules and limitations, removing all ambiguity about sustainable architecture.
when his (Michler) research studies and experimental works are put under the scope, it seems that he is exactly the right person to write this book.”
“In his forthcoming book, Hyperlocalization of Architecture, author and Passive House consultant Andrew Michler turns his lens to contemporary architecture, but his focus is on a very timeless concept.”
“This gorgeous book is an impressive collection of the greenest and most beautiful buildings in the world. Michler’s keen analysis provides a new insight into each design in a way that illuminates the design lessons hidden within. By pulling together these incredible projects and renowned architects, this book provides the inspiration you'll need to pursue deep sustainability in your own projects.”
– Eric Corey Freed Architect & Author of 11 books, Vice President, International Living Future Institute & the Cascadia Green Building Council 
“[ours] Hyperlocalization of Architecture brilliantly delves into contexts and operations which is what an architecture of sustainability is made up of. Reflecting on design, not flair, Michler perfectly inhabits design -if we redefine the word to indicate logic engaging with the environment. In so doing, he generates new powerful classifications of ‘locale’.”
– Mitchell Joachim, Professor NYU and Co-Founder, Terreform ONE
"I recommend it to anyone who wants a richer understanding of what’s going on, globally, in architecture. Michler’s book is full of wonderful revelations. The real strength of the book is in its curatorial sense of adventure… What Michler’s book finally shows us is that the world of architecture is pluralistic and dispersed, and it’s at the beginning of a really important revolution; this is really exciting stuff.”
-Anthony DenzerAuthor of The Solar House, Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering at the University of Wyoming
 “Hyperlocalization of Architecture is a new, fresh and uber-contextual book.”
– World Architecture Community


New website design for baosol.com

Its been five years since I have been consulting and writing about sustainable building. A lot has happened and the road has taken some interesting turns, and to over use the metaphor the trip has brought some extraordinary vistas.

From the hundreds of article I have written to the powerful leaders I have had an opportunity to interview to the implementation of passive house in the US, there is a lot to share. I am currently writing a book on the localization of contemporary sustainable architecture called [ours] and will update on the site frequently.  I'll also be adding images and details on MARTaK the first off-grid no foam passive house.

The new website is designed to make it easy to explore the varied landscape of sustainable design. I'm just starting to get all the information I want to share up so check back on it once in a while.


LOCAL Make the Switch Video Series on Kickstarter

LOCAL is a campaign to produce 25 stories in premium digital media that promote locally-based alternatives to the global consumer culture. We need your funding now to help us create stories of leading thinkers, makers and doers, as well as (extra)ordinary people and their grassroots movements in cities around the globe. This media will be hosted on our new video and social media channel dedicated to driving sustainability to consumers.

"We live in community, not alone, and any sense of separateness that we harbor is an illusion." - Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

The Media: LOCAL focuses its lens on this “blessed” movement of communities and individuals dedicated and driven with one common goal: to create global change. We believe that through stories we can help synthesize these communities into a global network, with people working together to move forward and create the appropriate change in our world. Stories of smart cities, food activism and food security, environmental justice, living communities, transition towns, people living off-the-grid, regenerative design, the turn towards urban agriculture and crises in food and water infrastructure. Community is the solution.

Our Viewers: Call them fans, consumers, businesses, moms, kids, artists, organizations, policymakers, students, teachers, architects, engineers, non-profits, community development planners. All connected.
LOCAL has big plans for helping to create a better, more sustainable, more environmentally-just world. The future of our planet is not in the hands of governments, institutions or organizations but in communities taking small, local and conscious actions that make a big impact on the global web of life. Each one of us, in our own efforts, can change the future. All of it will happen, thanks to your amazing support and enthusiasm.

With your support we will be able to produce 25 stories in premium digital media which will create a chain reaction to help us:

Create stories that inspire fans and consumers to drive environmental change.
Promote and feature stories on all things sustainable, prosperous, productive, and creative.
Launch LOCAL globally.

LOCAL: Make the Switch on Kickstarter.


Help support my book [ours] Hyper-Localization of Sustainable Architecture on Kickstarter

The most exciting architecture today is not only environmentally astute but re-imagines a sense of place. The book I've I've been working on a book for the past year and now it time to put the research into high gear. Take a look and help support the project on Kickstarter

[ours] by Andrew Michler is a collaboration between eVolo Magazine, host of the annual Skyscaper Competition, and the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University on contemporary architecture trends of sustainable design in selected locations around the world.

[ours] disseminates how the best architecture comes together to create regional identity in the 21st century. Site specific design is a core reality in developing robust, thriving communities and exploring the shared nature of the built and natural world through environmentally attuned development.

Regions are already responding to the challenge through inventive and provocative architecture. [Japan Condenses], [Spain Wraps], and[Australia Unfolds] explores how design practices inform a sense of place and provide solutions to complex issues in the built environment. These three divergent areas exemplify the quality of redefined design vernacular that addresses deep sustainable objectives.

The germ of the idea is to explore sustainable design by putting these buildings into context. We see the re-imagining of the built environment as one of the most important goals in thriving in an altered planet in the 21st century. By pushing the envelope these buildings create new architectural archetypes, integrating function and form to improve performance. We will explore how architects have learned from their failures and from taking risks. 

This is an exciting idea to explore but its going to take a lot of work. We have a great group of interns to support, some research equipment to procure and of course a little bit of travelling to do. To get the best information possible we plan to go to the source- explore buildings and regions firsthand, interview the architects and occupants, and take a lot of photos and video. While we set the goal low every bit of funding we can raise helps uncover great projects that make a difference.

The funds raised from Kickstarter are for research only, not for things like printing and advertising.  
Naturally we will have lots of updates on our travels and learnings exclusive for Kickstarter backers: think of it as a real time whirl-wind tour of the world's contemporary architecture scene.

[ours] on Kickstarter


Lunch with the Dr. of Building Science

The term ‘building science’ is used quite often now in sustainable building circles, but much of what we understand of it can be traced back to the work of Dr. Joe Lstiburek, founder of Building Science Corporation. Many of the building standards today — from building codes to ASHRE to testing methodology — have his finger prints all over them, and his tough love criticism of building design is undercut with his wry humor and, of course, an encyclopedic knowledge of building construction.

I was fortunate to have a chance to sit down with him for an interview.The conversation certainly made some waves in the design community but happily the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I was also surprised by some of his responses to my questions (which shouldn't be a surprise)- especially about universal wall designs compared to regional approaches. Well, you'll have to read it for yourself on Inhabitat.

Here are some highlights (taken out of context of course):

Andrew: So how do you get them (architects) excited about building science again?

 Joe Lstiburek: Well, I don’t. What happens is the legal profession does that for us. The most effective technology transfer in the world is a lawsuit. They never call us when things are going well. They call us, “Oh, my God! We’re getting our ass sued because this problem occurred.”


Joe Lstiburek: What’s amazing is formaldehyde in houses doesn’t respond to ventilation rate changes. So if you’re ventilating at 0.1 versus 0.2 versus 0.3, the formaldehyde concentration remains constant. The reason is the more you ventilate the more it emits. You ventilate less it emits less. Don’t put it in the building, that’s a phenomenally successful way of dealing with the problem.


Andrew: Let’s get back to energy a little bit. Is thermal bridging the next cusp of people’s thinking about how building envelopes work?

Joe Lstiburek: Well, it’s no mystery to anybody who knows about buildings that it’s a big deal. I’m kind of amused that people are just figuring out well, glass is really bad and there’s too much it. Not having insulation continuously is a big deal. What’s even more important is that air tightness is even more important. There’s no requirement for air tightness. How can you with a straight face talk about energy efficiency and not have a requirement for air tightness?


Andrew: So what’s the take away? Is it that air barriers are the biggest thing we need to focus on?

Joe Lstiburek: Well, no. Look, if I was in charge of teaching architects building science becomes very simple. Building enclosure is an environmental separator. You want to keep the outside out and the inside in, except when you want to bring the outside in and when you want to have the inside out. That’s it and there are certain rules on how to do that. I have this little list of rules and it all can be distilled into we need a water controlled barrier, an air controlled barrier, a vapor controlled barrier, and a thermal controlled barrier. Then we need a method of exchanging the inside with the outside based on when we want to. That’s it, there are sub-rules on how you do this, but that’s fundamentally it. And I would have loved to written my own LEED standard. It would have been a paragraph long and it would start off by saying, “Don’t do stupid things,” and, “Do this,” and we’re done. “And measure everything,” because if you can’t measure it, I don’t believe it.


Andrew: You have been successful in taking complex building dynamics and making them relatively simple to understand. Do you think that building science is less complicated than a lot of folks out there are making it sound with a lot of hemming and hawing?

Joe Lstiburek: It’s a lot less complicated than people say and my only observation is there’s a lot of money to be made in keeping the peasants confused. I mean it’s so easy. What drives me crazy is WUFI models and computer simulations. None of that is necessary, and most of it is done wrong anyway.


Andrew: When you go on the DoE web site there’s like 400 links or something like that to the energy software available, energy modeling software, for instance. Now, is any of this stuff really –

Joe Lstiburek: Useful? No. No. No.

Andrew: Everybody is wishing to have that magic bullet software?

Joe Lstiburek: Well, I view it as in love with Star Trek. I blame it all on Star Trek. Spock could go into that shuttle bay with his tricorder, do a tricorder scan and figure out that the tachyon field was interfering with the dilythiam crystals, causing him to off-gas, which is why Uhura has a headache. F**k that. We can’t measure s**t like that, but we believe that we can measure everything. Watch NCIS and Abby Sciuto, that babe in the lab – you know, freaking does magical things and measures s**t and she does it all in 45 minutes, not counting commercials. It’s that we couldn’t do in 20 years even if we had unlimited money and people think that you can simulate and measure stuff. The world is not that clean and neat.

The best way we learn all of this is to build it and you see what happened. You say, “Ah, this worked. This didn’t,” and that’s the best education or information. That information lies in the experience base of the older engineers, architects and contractors. One of the biggest problems we have is what I call our own institutional memory. We do a lousy job in construction, engineering and architecture, passing on the lessons of one generation to the next. So we are this huge, dysfunctional family. We need a Dr. Phil to get us all to talk to one another, or an Oprah, or somebody.


How Passive House Makes Net Zero Energy Homes A Reality

Learn more about Passive House on RM-PH.com

If you have lived off-the-grid for awhile like I have, you may also find the newly found interest in net zero building a bit amusing. Most of those who tout NZE do so from the luxury of a grid safety net, and those who want to go "off-grid" are typically more motivated, I think, for a spiritual or political purpose than the technical or environmental challenge. They never actually move to the cabin in the mountains or the yurt in the plains, or take the experience to fullest and design a stand alone system. But now the next thing is being served up in the form of Net Zero Energy living, a rather Zen-like approach to a built environment where one takes nothing out and ask for nothing in return.

Net Zero Energy
The exciting thing is that technically speaking NZE is actually not too hard. What you need is a really, really big roof. The average home consumes just shy of 40 kWhs of electricity a day which very roughly equates to a 10kW solar system. At 10 watts a square foot you have a 1000 square feet of glass and silicon on the roof should be enough for an average house. Yikes(!) basically a very big shed roof covered in $50,000 or so dollars to make NZE a reality. I think I am probably low balling these numbers but they give the picture. Builders got smart and started lowering their home energy use as well to make NZE a reality, but let's face it, a really good home now is considered 30% better than code, and we really haven't talked about all the crap plugged in. So now the trend of NZE homes is looking at a upgraded house shell still with a big ol' honken solar array. The market message is if you want NZE it's going to cost you. Most folks are like me who could not afford anything near that, so I put up a tiny array and worked really hard at making sure I did not need the energy in the first place. Actually it wasn't hard to use 1/10th the average energy.

In the past year I have been wokring with group developing Rocky Mountain Passive House and while it took me a while to get to Passive House here I wanted to make the point that it's not about making energy that really counts for net zero energy consumption, it's about not needing it in the first place. That is what passive is all about. We cut 90% of all energy out of the equation which means that the building needs a much, much (much) smaller PV array. The size depends on how much energy the occupant uses to be fair, but we aim to give the project a real head start to NZE.

The dollar equation is even better. While a Passive House costs more than an average house to build for now, a NZE Passive House cost less than a comparable NZE project, and you get your upgrades for free (like some cheesy sales pitch). Think of it as opportunity savings: getting incredible windows and doors and a state-of-the-art envelope which equals comfort and craftsmanship for less money than plucking it down for a stack of PV on a roof, which frankly is not really a lifestyle enhancement. Get rid of the HVAC equipment costs and up-keep and the savings are durable and long term. While your spiritual or philosophical needs for low impact housing is met - http://rm-ph.com/about-the-passive-house-standard/comfort/ your actual comfortand budget is taken care as well. With Passive House your roof's solar collection potential is now available to feed things like an electric car you buy in a couple years, which makes your overall energy and environmental impact dramatically improved as well as future proofing your energy needs. Passive House makes the potential of a good energy citizen a reality, reducing the demand to a trickle and providing a genuine potential for eliminating dirty energy from your life both technically feasible and long term affordable.

Net Zero Energy (or if you prefer Zero Energy Building) can be measured in a handful of ways depending on what you include: embodied energy, equipment life span, line loss from energy supply, simple net-meter measuring. For instance if your meter says '0′ net energy consumption for the year this will not account for line loss or inefficiencies at the energy source like the coal plant, so the devil of what is reality is in the details. Producing energy onsite is not a panacea either, it typically is overused when system thinking is not applied and a market driven by products takes over. Don't get me wrong, I love photovoltaic technology because it is solid state, will last longer than your roof and is utterly dependable. I have been off-grid for 16 years and no, it is not NZE as I use wood for heat and propane for hot water and cooking. For that you really need to be a good citizen and feed the grid (just without the extra mortgage).


The Utterly Amazing Colorado Renewable Energy Conference

Hope I'm not over selling this but I have been part of a team putting together what may be the best looking conference I have seen. You can read the bulletin below but when I was asked to put together a LEED professional track I thought of the most interesting folks in the state to consider participating.

They all said yes to my amazement- so we will have an all star cast of sustainable builders providing an inside scoop from Award winning Architect H:T Design, the glamorous David Johnston and his Zero Energy Home musings, the ever cool Brian Dunbar of CSU's IBE. We'll cover the pioneering LEED for schools projects, learn about a radical energy design called Solar Banking and hear about the real world of planting green roofs in Colorado.

The second day I have assembled three ground breaking building tech companies, all featured on Inhabitat.com, a Passive House seminar, and some serious energy efficiency for your existing home with everybody's favorite Paul Kriescher of Lightly Treading. Hot Damn, I should print tee shirts.

And now the blub-- Attend the Colorado Renewable Energy Conference (CREC), themed “Local Action—Global Solutions,” in Fort Collins June 2-4, 2011.

Hosted by the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES), the conference offers an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary work done in Colorado and Northern Front Range. Over 50 sessions and 70 speakers on renewable energy, sustainable building and technologies, environmental science, and more will be presented by foremost experts from throughout Colorado and across the nation.

Discover how Colorado is a world leader in the new green economy with an entire Thursday dedicated to professional development with credentialing tracks, including LEED-accredited professionals, real estate “EcoBrokers,” engineers, educators, and community-based energy development.

On Friday, explore public policy and governmental initiatives in comprehensive sessions with experts from NREL, CSU, and industry-leading companies. Also on tap is a tour of some favorite green sites and tastes of Fort Collins. Celebrate local and state renewable-energy innovators as well as CRES’ 15-year anniversary at the awards banquet.

Bring the family on Saturday for a day full of hands-on fun and how-to help for green building, solar energy, electric transportation, local action, green companies, and much more.

CRES gratefully acknowledges the leadership role of the City of Fort Collins in helping host CREC.

Get the details and find out how to participate right here on the conference Web site

"If you want to make it in this world you gotta' adapt" -Muddy Mudskipper.