Energy-Efficient Design

Why Aren’t There More Energy-Efficient Buildings?

CityLab, Oct. 22, 2015

For the fifth year running, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has crunched the numbers on its national sustainability challenge, the AIA 2030 Commitment. Architects who sign up pledge to strive to meet an ambitious energy-efficiency target in their designs—a 60 percent reduction in predicted energy-use intensity (pEUI, or the amount of energy they expect their buildings to use) from baseline levels. A report on the program issued Thursday shows mixed results.

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Un/Fair Use Review

The Unexpected History Behind “Un/Fair Use”

An exhibit at the Center for Architecture in New York explores the tricky question of copyright in architecture.

Architect, October 2015

Is the design of a finished building protected under copyright law? Before 1990, the answer was no. If you were an architect and someone copied your drawings, you could sue for copyright infringement, because the drawings were protected as your graphic works. But if someone built an exact replica of one of your buildings, too bad—three-dimensional works of architecture weren’t covered. You could only sigh and resign yourself to being ripped off.

This gap in the law was exposed to glaring effect in 1988, with a case in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, Demetriades v. Kaufmann. Cheryl and Nicholas Kaufmann, a couple in Scarsdale, N.Y., admired a large, many-gabled house being built in their neighborhood by Demetriades Developers. The Kaufmanns took photos of the house when it was under construction, were able to get copies of the plans, and asked their contractor to build them the same house. The court found that graphic copying had taken place (the Kaufmanns never denied their intent to replicate the Demetriades design), and ordered that the copied drawings be destroyed. But the house itself was untouchable. It didn’t infringe on any laws. The Kaufmanns had new plans drawn up and finished building it.

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La Casa Review

Concrete Details: La Casa in Columbia Heights Is a Rare Aesthetic and Policy Success 

Washington City Paper, Oct. 15, 2015

The best building that’s gone up in the District in recent months isn’t a swish law office or a deluxe condo tower—although you might easily mistake it for either of those things, with its double-height lobby and artfully layered facade.

La Casa, which reopened on Irving Street in Columbia Heights in December 2014, is housing for homeless residents. Not only that, but its 40 residents were chosen from the most vulnerable segment of the homeless population. Most of them lived on the streets for years, and many still grapple with substance abuse or mental health problems.

You would never know it from looking at their new home. And that’s the point.

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Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Reimagining Suburbia

What if the world’s greatest architects began looking beyond the city limits?

The American Scholar, Autumn 2015

Renzo Piano may be the most urban, and urbane, of great architects working today. He made his name in Paris in the 1970s, when he and Richard Rogers designed the Pompidou Center, a machine of a museum bristling with exposed steel and pipes. The “inside-out” building provoked howls from Parisians at first, but the Pompidou soon became a beloved landmark and helped revive the then-ailing Marais district. Since that time, the Italian architect has designed a master plan for the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. He has built an airport in Osaka and the tallest skyscraper in London. He has left elegant, precisely crafted museums and galleries in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. So critics did a double take last year when Piano announced that he was designing a new shopping center in San Ramon, California. Renzo Piano—winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s Nobel—was designing a suburban mall?

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Silver Spring Library Review

Silver Spring’s Ho-Hum Library 

The Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2015

The new Silver Spring branch of the Montgomery County library opened to much fanfare. The building is big — five stories, three of which are for the library — and sits on one of the busiest corners downtown. Designed by the Lukmire Partnership, an Arlington architecture firm, this library does much more than house books. It has e-readers at the checkout desk and a large, casual area for teens, public meeting rooms and a digital media lab. Appropriately, the architects chose a contemporary material palette of glass, concrete and steel. The result is a building that fits right into its urban setting and allows readers to bask in the daylight that floods in through glass walls.

The Silver Spring Library anchors the southwest corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. It fills a crucial gap in the street edge along Wayne, and the increase in foot traffic will enliven that up-and-coming corridor. The library’s main entrance, on Fenton Street, represents an effort to draw the energy of downtown Silver Spring south into the Fenton Village neighborhood. A nearby apartment building for older adults will help with that once finished.

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Photograph by Brittany Greeson