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Paul Goldberger: We’ve learned how to make traditional—by traditional I don’t mean historical, I just mean regular buildings—in a much more energy-efficient way than we used to.  So the question about how will green architecture change the appearance of buildings may end up being answered by saying, "Not very much." But not because green architecture isn’t happening, it’s because we’ve learned to integrate it so well that it doesn’t change the appearance as much as we thought.  

I mean, an example might be glass.  Years and years ago, when the first serious attempts were made to make buildings more energy-efficient, people used to say, "Well oh, that’s the end of glass buildings because you know, nothing’s worse than glass and that’s that.  And we’re going to see lots of masonry buildings again, or lots of this or lots of that."  In fact, we now have more glass buildings than ever.  And that’s because glass itself has changed and manufacturers have learned how to make glass into what’s almost a different material in that it’s much more energy-efficient than it was before.  It has... it performs in a way that is much closer to an opaque material, to stone or something like that.  Not literally the same, but closer than it used to be.  And so we're seeing plenty of glass buildings after all, but they’re much more energy-responsive, they’re much more green than a generation ago.  

So, in a way, it’s kind of like the situation with cars.  You know, it’s all well and good to talk about hybrids—and hybrids have been an incredibly positive addition to the roads, let's say.  But what's less talked about is how much more efficient conventional engines have become.  So, you know, you can buy a hybrid, but you can also buy a BMW, or an Audi that in fact gets almost as good mileage through a much more efficient conventional engine.  And we’re seeing that in architecture too.  An awful lot of buildings that are just, may look like an older kind of building, but I fact are much more efficient.  They don’t necessarily have to be totally different, the way the hybrid is totally different.  

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, February 16 2011

 

Blase About Green Architecture

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