Michelle Kaufmann - Architect and Founder, Michelle Kaufmann Studio
1. Big builders going green: The perfect storm for sustainable building (housing crisis/financial crisis/environmental crisis) has been lasting long enough that the big builders are finally seeing the marketing and sales value of green building and shifting to more energy efficient and water conserving practices. This is a huge development in making green homes accessible, similar to Costco offering organic foods with no price premium.
2. Cradle to Cradle becomes mainstream: While C2C enthusiasts have been working hard for years to offer innovations in building and product designs that follow the core principles outlined in William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle, 2011 is going to be a big year for those ideas to become reality for the masses. With the recent launch of
the C2Cinstitute in California, backing these smart ideas with government policies are going to be huge.
3. Greenwashing Backlash: As more people are serving lawsuits to companies for greenwashing, we are going to be seeing better and more thorough practices. Over the past few years there have been increasing amounts of exaggerated claims of green-ness (e.g. Companies who claim non-offgassing healthy interiors that will be long-lasting, but use cabinets and countertops from IKEA, etc.). Those companies will have to change their practices or they will be paying out for their greenwashing.
4. Net Goals: While it is super exciting to see “Net Zero” (homes that produce their own energy) becoming more mainstream (it is measured in data and performance which resonates with many), we will be seeing more “Net Positive” (homes that produce more energy than they need) as the aspirational goal in projects. I have been living in a Net Positive home for 6 years now, where we receive a bill from PG+E at the end of the year for -$650, we haven’t actually received any financial benefit from producing twice as much energy as we use, but we do feel productive even when we are just sitting back and drinking coctails. However, 2011 is the year PG+E will start paying back to customers who produce energy — getting a check each year from PG+E for $650, now that is a game changer for us.
5. Prefab in urban infill: As the housing market begins to inch back, less expensive lots (including substandard in size) with urban locations that are maintaining high appraisal values are going to be some of the first to be built upon. Urban living is becoming more enticing for more people as they evaluate their overall quality of life as well as overall financial budgets. Building in these urban infill lots can be difficult with traffic congestion and lack of space for construction. Prefab, especially modular can make so much sense for these types of projects. Less time, less on-site labor, and the modules can fit the substandard lot sizes perfectly.
6. New IP questions and strategies for architects: As our new economy of sharing is becoming more prevalent, this raises interesting questions about intellectual property for architects and designers. Much like recent shifts in the music, photography, and journalism industries now being freely shared online, ownership of building designs and systems come into question. The more we see shared floorplans and images online, the more “borrowing” of spatial strategies we will be seeing. Architects are beginning to share details freely, which makes so much sense. If we do not have to spend time reninventing the wheel everytime, but rather, making the wheel BETTER and more efficient each time, the more we are going to make thoughtful, sustainable design accessible. Imagine the iTunes version for architectural details where you can download a smart wall detail for $.99, and then spend the 20 hours coming up with a smart overhang strategy rather than spending it on that detail. The possibilities are thrilling, and I am more hopeful than ever.
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