Monthly Archives: October 2011

If all buildings had websites…

Plain and simple, sustainable solutions stir the pot.  The majority of people are hesitant to change, but have begun to demand that their products, housing and day to day choices change first.  Consumers want to know where a product originates from and who is behind the design.  The act of purchasing, investing and living have become a symbolic reflection of who they are; so I believe that this demand for “transparency” is a positive outcome of current day green washing.

With LEED certification of buildings, a new market of transparency has infiltrated the architecture industry.

We can now calculate energy and waste production and even quantify the scale of human happiness that takes place within these structures.  These findings are exposed to all occupants, investors and the public eye. Some people might say this is exposure is too much, that boundaries are being ignored.

I say, it just makes sense.  Let me know that at 2:00 p.m. this room is using this much energy, let me know that the design of a new governmental building is going to save our community x amount of dollars.  We have a choice of which home, building, restaurant or facility we occupy our time in, so why not get all the facts first?

The Genzyme Building in Massachusetts, was essentially designed from the inside out.

It is 12 stories of natural ventilation, water reuse and 18 garden spaces.

The building expresses the company’s core values of innovation, transparency and collaboration.  And here is a beautiful, interactive website that exposes multiple aspects of the design.  Just think, if all buildings had websites, would our sustainable choices become easier?  Or more complicated?


Podponics: a Georgian, technical invention

Adaptive reuse of shipping containers is not a new concept.  However, outfitting these containers with hydroponic lights and a soil-less growing system, that is all backed with a triple bottom line, “local everywhere” approach is something new.   Take a look at The Atlantic’s newest article, video and interview.  This would be a great educational installation for the site…a sweet phone call for a charity donation never hurts, right??? And plus, we already have access to about 2o shipping containers, compliments of Ramsey!!!  Here is their website!  Very inventive, sustainable and down right awesome!

Bill Strickland: a social architect

Paths cross for a reason.  People use that statement in multiple contexts.  For me, synchronicity is an everyday compulsion.  I ran into blank at the Sentient Bean, which connected me to blank.  So-and-so posted a great website at the same moment I happened to jump online which lead me to blank.  There was only one gluten free brownie left at Gallery Espresso, that means that I must eat it.

Anywho, I ran across Bill Strickland’s visionary programs in a Historic Preservation class that I took in the Spring of this year.  Then, bam, I remembered his talk and how completely relevant his work is to my project.  And another inspirational visionary is something I am needing RIGHT NOW.  Sooo once again, I reach to Ted Talks for a best practice of online media exchange.  Warning: he will move you and possibly pull a tear out of your eye, which is not a bad thing.  Click Here for the video.

A little bit of Bill’s bio from While moonlighting as an airline pilot, Strickland founded Manchester Bidwell, a world-class institute in his native Pittsburgh devoted to vocational instruction in partnership with big business — and, almost incidentally, home to a Grammy-winning record label and a world-class jazz performance series.

Also, here is a link to his personal website:

Ongoing Progress…

Every Thursday, I have the opportunity to work with students on Southern Pine’s site.  Sometimes it’s for one hour sometimes two, but no matter what I always laugh.  We helped out good ole Wooden Sheep and denailed some Jotoba (brazillian cherry) wood  that once was a flooring, headed to the dump, then brought on a detour to Southern Pine.  Since the board feet is primarily short runs, Eric at Wooden Sheep has designed chopping boards and is starting to assemble them.

Today, I heard one of the teachers kindly request one of the students to pull up his pants.  She joked, I keep telling you, no one wants to see what’s in those pants on a jobsite.  In the middle of his whispering repetitive rapping, he softly responded ‘okay’, smiled behind the safety goggles and set down the wavering hammer, that really was only a tool for him to sing with.  I learned later that he attended Summer camp with AWOL and was involved in recording a song with rapper Kid Syc.  He told me that he will continue to only practice until he can make enough money to attend camp again.  They say this student is categorized as a MID: Mild Intellectual Disability, which doesn’t mean much to me.  I just know he wears sweet kicks and has a gentle smile.

Here’s a little bit of what we are up too…..p.s. I am not allowed to photograph these students.  someone, somewhere has labeled them as something and request no photographs.

Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity of Adversity

Her story is an intriguing one.  Yes she has had more access to possibilities than some, along with world wide modeling gigs and also 12 pairs of legs.  But her message is strong, poignant and everlasting.

“The only true disability is the crushed spirit.”

Not only is she strong willed and determined, she is a phenomenal speaker.  Please watch her Ted talk for 2009: The Opportunity of Adversity.  She discusses the stigma associated the word disabled and what it will take for society to re-define it.

Here is a short bio from her Ted Profile:

Aimee Mullins was born without fibular bones, and had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. She learned to walk on prosthetics, then to run — competing at the national and international level as a champion sprinter, and setting world records at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. At Georgetown, where she double-majored in history and diplomacy, she became the first double amputee to compete in NCAA Division 1 track and field.

After school, Mullins did some modeling — including a legendary runway show for Alexander McQueen — and then turned to acting, appearing as the Leopard Queen in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. In 2008 she was the official Ambassador for the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

She’s a passionate advocate for a new kind of thinking about prosthetics, and recently mentioned to an interviewer that she’s been looking closely at MIT’s in-development powered robotic ankle, “which I fully plan on having.”

Majora Carter. An urban visionary.

“Shifting charity into enterprise”

It’s amazing how quickly her voice, excitement and perseverance can change everything that you were thinking at one precise moment.   I like to watch her talks on every couple of months, to remind myself WHY I am doing what I am doing.  If you haven’t seen her Ted Talks, shame on you. Watch them, again and again.

She was the executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, a non-profit focused on public advocacy and environmental solutions.  They create green jobs, train individuals for these jobs and push for improvements on air quality in urban communities.  She now has a staff and consulting firm, Majora Carter Group, that help visions become a reality.  This is just one of the amazing human beings in this world really making a difference.

Collaboration with Wooden Sheep

Here’s a the first built project with Savannah High and Wooden sheep in a little more detail.  I posted a couple of more pictures on Southern Pine’s blog

Or click here too!

Design for social awareness with Russian prison jargon

Yep, I said it.

Russian Prison Jargon.

I firmly believe that to design is to constantly educate.  Education should come full circle through beginning draft stages, ideation, implementation and end of life.  Every hand or mind it touches along the way should learn something.  That is good design.

And apparently so are i-pad bags constructed by Russian prisoners.  And also controversial. Is a program like this giving criminals too many options?  Are they aware of their guilt with every seam they sew on the messenger bags?

Silly questions really, but it’s also silly that a positive program that reinstates labor skill and sense of well being took so long to be implemented?

Organic cotton, recycled PVC billboards, water based inks….okay I’ll stop rambling because I need to go look at the bags that are almost as tough & hard as people who make them”.

New Urbanism…on the Old Star Laundry Site

Empty, overgrown urban lots have quite the story.  They have been homes to native plant life, animals, humans, food, etc.  Overtime, human occupancy has created what’s called an urban area.

Backyard green space located on 34th and Reynolds Streets

Our Savannah urban area has seen many phases, face lifts and dormant stages over the years.  Most recently the stage of urban decay has taken over.  My focus: curing the blighted area in our own backyard at Southern Pine Company of Georgia.

It all started with a need for a greenhouse and now, well NOW we have Savannah High school special education students on our site kicking us into high gear.  We have been cleaning, recycling and planting to the plot of land in the back of Southern Pine’s building, and for those of you that were unable to take a peek at the new garden while at RE:fest, well I have included some progress photos!

And this is just the beginning phase of a wonderful apprenticeship!!

Savannah High students helping clear the garden space

STAY TUNED for updates on the program!!!

Connecting Youth with Apprenticeships

Some countries recognize a “leap year” for highschoolers.  This is when newly highschool graduates take off one year in between highschool and college.  Some youth might clear their heads by picking up a back pack and traveling, or working a full time job or sitting on their bum eating fish and chips.  However, this “leap year” is suppose to help guide a person towards their ultimate career and life choice.

Here in America we don’t enable that type of behavior.  We have you on a career track by age 13, writing college prep papers at 15 and applying for over-priced schools at 17 and starting a lifetime of debt at 18.  Is this the best solution for all?

Disabled youth get lost in the sea of statistics of the unemployed, drop out youth and have become stereotyped as “unable because disabled”.  However, an apprenticeship is something that could change statistics, help youth gain hands on job experience, and maybe even clear a child’s head and point him/her in the direction they do or don’t want to go down.  Now this sounds like a plan for all: the disabled, unable and fully able.

With over 1,000 recognizable apprentice-able occupations, why not explore additional options for the new youth of America?

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth explores in the ins and outs of completing a successful apprenticeship.

Read it and soak it up!