Building construction operates mostly in the middle ground of the two brain hemispheres, working on organization of relatively known materials and processes. We are good at preserving the status quo. Yet global environmental demands and social concerns are demanding that we shift out of this cocoon and produce a new genre of building, one which treads lighter on the environment, is socially responsible, and economically viable. How to resolve these seemingly opposed demands?
Interestingly, the path forward is not through the middle, rather capturing the edges. In this case, it calls for juxtaposing the artistic, creative left brain realm against the rigours of the mathematical right brain - art meets accounting.
|Cobb House Construction|
The "1000 garage" concept portends that creative solutions are most likely to spring from the unhampered brainstorming, prototyping and experimentation which happens in the relative freedom of a garage. In construction, the physical form of this is what I am calling “Gaia” architecture – buildings which are often involve more sweat equity than material costs. Where creativity trumps cash. Cobb houses, driftwood houses, beer bottle transparent walls.
|Beach House Concepts - DiTullo|
This same creative energy can be released through the virtual reality of art. Design concepts communicated through drawing, through rough prototype models, and only then through computer modeling. The very act of hand-drawing communicates that it is an idea, and welcomes people to participate in changes, whereas computer drawings convey a sense of completion and a limited access to participation. Indeed, BIM modeling is more often used as a 3D database, despite its actual capabilities as a collaborative tool.
Brainstorming through drawing is not limited to an architect, or to the whole building design. Imagine an "integrated planning" meeting of the electrician, plumber and HVAC pouring over a bubble diagram, sketching in their systems, detailing out possible conflicts, or identifying opportunities for synergy. While this involves a lot of dialogue, it is the act of sharing paper and pencil which allow for the ideas to flow and innovative solutions to emergence.
The other end of the divergent creative process is the logical analysis of mathematics, both through financial accounting and engineering. While typically cast in the “bad cop” role, this needn’t be the case. These analytical tools can help align the ideas to the project value, not just run the numbers on what has already been decided. For example, if contemplating hybrid HVAC methods, running some energy modeling and account numbers can identify the strengths and weaknesses of a particular system, and help point out the areas which need to be resolved. When I owned my plantation shutter shop, running the numbers helped me recognize that the more expensive environmentally friendly paint was in fact most cost-effective, because it had better square foot coverage, and shorter drying times, but that I needed to get through the learning curve which had caused my labor costs to go up.
Art and Accounting, Architects and Engineering - can they find a common language through the challenges of “green” building?