MENU

It’s Time to 86 Fossil Fuels in Commercial Kitchens with Chris Galarza

Imagine this: you’re a chef or cook in a high-stress commercial kitchen setting. You’re making split second decisions with little breathing room, and each quick decision can get you cut or burned. On top of that, you’re in over 100-degree heat, breathing in toxic air from your gas stovetop.

This is an experience Chris Galarza could relate to, from working as a professional chef in various commercial settings. After making the switch to an all-electric kitchen utilizing induction equipment at Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus (the World’s first fully self-sustained university campus), he witnessed the positive difference in the physical and mental health of himself and his staff. He now advocates for electric cooking being a much healthier, safer, cost-effective, and energy efficient option.

In this episode, Kelly and Chris talk through some electric-kitchen-myth-busting, and ultimately answer the question “is moving away from gas and fire in the kitchen really that radical an idea or does it just make perfect sense?”

(more…)

Farm-to-Shelter Building with Andrew Linn

We’ve all heard of “farm-to-table” in the context of our food, but what about “farm-to-shelter” in the context of our homes? As we try to become more conscious about the food we eat and the clothes we wear, we must also consider the materials we use when constructing our homes. While many acknowledge the need for better materials in buildings, very few modern day designers have successfully completed a project that consists of healthy and sustainable materials from top to bottom.

Andrew Linn and his partner Jack Becker of bld.us are doing just that. They started by building their own sustainable (and compostable) structure – the Grass House – located in Washington, DC. This project holds a special place in our hearts, because we worked as the sustainability consultants for the house. In this episode, Robb talks with Andrew about the materials he employs in his projects, and their positive sustainability and health impacts.

(more…)

Designing for Inclusion with Victoria Lanteigne

Disability inclusion in the built environment is extremely important. But, it shouldn’t end there. How do we ensure that we are being truly inclusive of all types of people, taking into account a wider diversity of backgrounds, orientations, and abilities? The answer is Universal Design.

On this episode of Building’s + Beyond, Robb chats with former SWA employee and Universal Design expert, Victoria Lanteigne. Victoria has devoted her career to the advancement of Universal Design, educating herself and others on the concept and its limitless applications. In her interview, she discusses trends, tactics, and examples from the field, and challenges practitioners to re-think their definition of the word, design.

(more…)

Solar Panels or Asthma? Equity and the Built Environment with Jeremy Hays

Social equity is key to the work that we do in the built environment. Far too often, marginalized communities receive more of the burdens and less of the benefits of 21st century living – especially when it comes to housing. As an industry, it is our responsibility to address these disparities and come up with solutions that are inclusive of all people. But first, we wanted to grow our own understanding of the issues and hear what others are doing to prioritize social equity in the built environment.

Our guest for this month’s episode of Buildings + Beyond is Jeremy Hays. Jeremy has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and perspective that stems from a combination of social and environmental justice. We learn about how cities are incorporating equity into their sustainability plans, why diversity of perspectives can create better solutions, and how actively thinking about equity can help the transition to a green economy.

(more…)

‘Back to the Basics’ of Affordable Housing with Les Bluestone

In a city as crowded and expensive as New York City, there is a growing need for access to safe and affordable housing. With this demand comes great innovation, as well as roadblocks and challenges between construction, financing, and policy.

In this month’s Buildings + Beyond episode, Robb sits down with Les Bluestone, co-founder of Blue Sea Development. Les has been leading the way in affordable, green building in New York City since the 80’s. He gives us a brief history lesson on affordable housing in NYC, and provides us with his outlook of what development and construction will look like in 5 years and beyond.

(more…)

Air-Tightness Testing and Building Codes in Australia with Sean Maxwell

Standard construction (both in America and Australia) is sometimes a “race to the bottom” of who can satisfy the building code at the lowest cost. We know this doesn’t always result in better buildings, so we have to educate the industry and encourage a commitment to quality based on solid science. This is what our guest, Sean Maxwell, devoted his career to after moving to Australia and finding himself underwhelmed by the presence of building science principles in the local codes and standards.

This episode raises a few important questions: How do we improve the quality of construction? How does the effort differ in Australia vs. America? And how does the “carrots and sticks” approach to code enforcement relate to building performance, and is it effective? Listen and start thinking!

(more…)

Transportation in Cities with Zak Accuardi

The transportation sector poses significant opportunities for and challenges to reducing US greenhouse gas emissions as the Country’s highest-emissions sector. As a result of stay-at-home orders issued in March and April in cities and states across the US, we’ve seen a visible difference in smog in part due to less driving. Streets in cities also comprise more than 30 percent of all land in many cities, and therefore more than 80 percent of public space. Yet for much of the past century, we’ve been designing them to prioritize moving cars quickly, which is neither safe nor efficient. What if we designed streets with different priorities and invested in high-quality public transportation?

In this month’s episode, Kelly and our guest, Zak Accuardi, discuss the attributes of public transit service that make it possible and desirable for people to use transit more, and why this can be so impactful in US cities today.

(more…)

Training a Young Workforce to Operate Smart Buildings with Jonathan Spooner from Stacks + Joules

As technology in the built environment increases, the workforce demand for those who can properly operate these buildings also grows. On today’s episode, Kelly talks with Jonathan Spooner from Stacks + Joules, a nonprofit learning program in computer programming and wireless network management. Stacks + Joules helps train and employ young people to have careers in building automation and energy management systems. Kelly and Jon discuss a common gap in the industry – job training and workforce development, particularly for building operators. They consider how we can “leverage the genius that exists” in urban schools, lift out the digital gurus who know about networking and technology, and help transition them into the building industry where they can thrive.

(more…)

Universal Design and Accessibility in Mexico City with Luis Quintana

April was Fair Housing Month – a time to recognize the importance of equal access to housing. As we celebrate the milestones we have made, we are committed to furthering equal access for every person – regardless of race, gender, nationality, socio-economic status, disability, etc. On this month’s Buildings + Beyond episode, we interview Luis Quintana to hear more about Universal Design and accessibility in Mexico City. We discuss who Universal Design is meant to help, and how Universal Design principles can allow equal access to buildings and products for everyone. (more…)

How Codes Get Made with Gayathri Vijayakumar

Curious about how building performance standards are decided upon?

The IECC, or “model code”, establishes the minimum requirements for building energy efficiency by specifying the performance levels for the building envelope, mechanical systems, lighting systems, and service water heating systems in homes and commercial businesses. This model code is updated every three years, and within those three years there is a LOT of behind-the-scenes work going on to determine the changes for the next version. In this episode, we learn all about the long and lengthy code development process from SWA’s own Gayathri Vijayakumar.

(more…)