I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. To me, they seem silly: goals to change this behavior or improve that aspect of one’s appearance, often made in haste as the clock’s hands creep toward midnight and frequently broken before the confetti is swept from Times Square. Yet, looking at this issue of eco-structure—our first of the new year and decade—there’s no denying we’re kicking off 2010 with some noticeable changes.
Lest you think we’ve fallen prey to a “New Year, New You!” mentality, I guarantee these changes were not made in haste. Rather, they are the result of months of introspection, discussion, and experimentation behind the scenes.
eco-structure strives to showcase the projects, people, products, and practices that achieve and promote both design excellence and outstanding environmental performance in the built environment. Over the past few months, our editorial team turned a critical lens on ourselves. Under the guidance of editor-in-chief Ned Cramer and alongside our skilled art director Aubrey Altmann, we examined eco-structure’s strengths and questioned how we could improve our own performance to better provide the information our readers want and need. The results—debuting in this issue, which appropriately focuses on restoration, renovation, and adaptive reuse—are our own personal retrofit.
I have never been one to subscribe to a “if it ain’t broke … ” philosophy, preferring instead to relish in the challenge that there’s always room for improvement. The idea of continually improving a structure’s environmental performance is the basis of our Flashback column, where we revisit older structures to see not only how they have held up in terms of performance and efficiency, but also to examine the lessons that were learned during their construction, as well as how the structures might be improved given technological advancements that have occurred since construction was completed. (This month, we look at Mithun’s corporate office in Seattle.)
Putting together this issue and planning our own upgrades, I kept wondering when will we consistently ask these questions about every building? Given the enormous volume of existing building stock, the possibilities are seemingly endless, undoubtedly exciting, and absolutely necessary. Let’s face it: We can construct as many new LEED Platinum buildings as we like, but without addressing the environmental performance of our older infrastructure and changing our mindset to support and foster continual improvement, we’re simply treading water in the quest to reduce the built environment’s impact on the Earth.
It is estimated that the green retrofit market will make up 20 percent to 30 percent of all commercial retrofits and renovations in five years, and when it comes to retrofitting, renovation, and adaptive reuse, opportunity abounds. Consider this issue’s feature stories, which showcase three very different structures that all were retrofitted to improve their performance. In “Reborn on the River”, a 19th-century abandoned masonry structure originally built to house a brick manufacturer’s coal-fired generator in Beacon, N.Y., is reclaimed and transformed into the new Center for Environmental Innovation and Education. Jumping forward in time one century, “Industrial Revolution”, looks at the transformation of a lackluster 1980s office complex, while “Injecting New Life” tackles the challenges of blending old and new in one complete sustainable package.
Back at eco-structure HQ, we continue to examine ways in which we can blend new and old to improve our performance as a sustainable design resource. Seven years ago, eco-structure debuted as a quarterly print magazine. Today, our readers can settle in with a print issue, log on to eco-structure.com for expanded industry coverage, get monthly updates via our e-mail newsletter, keep in touch via Facebook, and receive daily inspiration and information via Twitter (@ecostructure).
Still, we keep asking: How can we improve? With this in mind, at the beginning of 2010 we welcomed a new editorial advisory board made up of green building professionals from across the country. My thanks to Lidia Berger, vice president and eastern director of sustainable design at HDR Inc. in Alexandria, Va.; Carlie Bullock-Jones, founder of Ecoworks Studio in Atlanta; Michael Deane, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Turner Construction Co. in New York; Eric Corey Freed, principal of organicARCHITECT in San Francisco; Bert Gregory, president and CEO of Mithun in Seattle; Sean O’Malley, managing principal of SWA Group in Laguna Beach, Calif.; Tom Paladino, president of Paladino & Co. in Seattle; Patrick Thibaudeau, vice president at HGA in Minneapolis; and Gregory Thomas, CEO and president of Performance Systems Development in Ithaca, N.Y.
We also welcome feedback from our readers. The past few years have seen great speculation about the future of print and online media and we are continually exploring ways to deliver the informative content you expect, whether that be in the form of a traditional print magazine, a website, social media platforms, or through mobile devices. Give us your two cents by logging on to ecostructure.com/2010survey to complete a short questionnaire about how you prefer to receive content. As always, I look forward to your responses.