Dan Phillips out of Houston is doing some really daring things with recycled building materials – take a look at this insightful talk by this innovative builder:

After a fairly gloomy week, we are blessed with a spectacular Spring day in Nashville.  The only thing that could improve the crystalline blue sky would be a plume of applewood smoke tinted with the succulent smell of simmering sausages.  Oh, I know, we are not supposed to laud carbon emissions, so to compensate for my lustful vision, here are some links to sites of green retrofits.  I got onto this subject because of a wonderful presentation that our ULI Sustainability Committee put on a couple of weeks ago where they brought in the group that was working on the renovation of the Empire State Building…bon apetit!

  1. Empire State Building renovation – go here and spend some time looking at the videos and interactive exhibits.  This was a renovation done with care and passion.
  2. Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center – this was the first building to get a LEED Gold certification as a historic renovation.  I visited the building several years ago and was impressed by the care they took in preserving the beauty of the original architecture while achieving a sustainable goal.
  3. The Old Mint Building – San Francisco’s “Granite Lady” is getting a facelift and conversion into a historical museum.  This is a good summary article about the scope of the project, complete with a cool slide show.
  4. Madison Children’s Museum – This is a fascinating adaptive reuse and sustainable project in Madison, Wisconsin.
  5. Ford Rouge Factory –  how about taking a 1915 auto production facility and bringing it up to LEED standards a century later?  That’s what is happening at the Ford Rouge factory in Detroit.

That ought to get your green ideas flowing!  Come to think of it, I might try some wasabi mustard on that bratwurst…

Here’s some spectacular video from the top of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai:

Here it is from the ground:

I am fascinated by buildings like this although I question their wisdom…think about this, the Empire State Building was delivered in 1931 – the low point of the Great Depression.


If the rain will go away, we should have some good grilling weather this weekend!  Here are some thought provoking links to share around the barbecue:

1. Structure – this is an interesting site to peruse.  This link takes you straight to an article about building the tallest (nine story) stick frame building.  If we could get that technology down, imagine what it will do to overall cost!

2. Spain’s Green Jobs – this is a link to a PDF of a study about the effect on employment that Spain’s push to be “all things green” has had.  Before you drink anymore of the environmentalist Koolaid that says we are going to create a green employment nirvana, you’d better have a look.

3. Off the Edge Humor – we all need a laugh – especially these days.  This simple blog offers up a daily dose of good cheer!

4. Notes from a Hospital Bed – “Traction Man” is a British journalist who is in traction for several months in a UK hospital – he shares images of his food and other thoughts about living with socialized medicine.  I confess, as a foodie, I am astounded at how bad this slop looks and obviously tastes!

5. Yugoslavian Greenbrier – If you’ve ever been to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, I hope you have had the privilege of touring the nuclear bunker that was built there for our bureaucracy. Guess the Yugoslavians had the same idea.  I wonder what’s going to happen in a couple of hundred years as more of these old shelters are found – what will they think?

Enjoy the weekend!

14314985.JPGI read Barry Lepatner’s book, “Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets”  a little over a year ago.  I just finished skimming through it again in preparation for a meeting with a contractor on a possible development project.  It really is excellent!  The sub-title, “How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry”  (now down some 35%) is a little ambitious, but he offers up some concrete measures that should be taken to heed.

We developers tend to fall in  love with the image in our heads of what a building is going to look like and lose sight of the infinitesimal detail that is the difference between success or failure in a project.  Problem is, the critical information that we need to have is under the control of the contractor…and the owner is at his mercy.  The key to fixing this problem, according to Lepatner is to have truly fixed price contracts.  Overruns?  You don’t get to pass it on to the owner.  The contractor is incented to get the project done on time with this method, and there are no cost sharing arrangements if he comes in under.  The challenge, of course, for the developer is that he has to risk going to a full set of construction drawings before he REALLY knows if he has an economically viable development.  Nevertheless, on a large project, this may well be worth the cost…the alternative is a tall stack of change-orders.

It’s worth the read – if you’ve developed or are a contractor, you will find yourself doing as I did, muttering – “dang wish I had thought of that before!”

It’s available over at Amazon, click here.

Multifamily Executive is reporting that an increasing number of cities are offering incentives to spur development.  These include the reduction or elimination of impact fees, reduced property taxes or tax holidays.  It is an intriguing development, but I tend to agree with ULI’s Ed McMahon, who is cited in the article:

“I don’t think these rollbacks will produce much new development. The reason development is not taking place has little, if anything, to do with development impact fees,” McMahon says. “It has to do with the marketplace; it has to do with the lack of financing.”

I would further add that there is a danger in programs such as this if they are creating incentives for developers to come build.  Not that I don’t love a reduction in taxes and fees, but if it attracts development companies that are trying to survive on fees alone, it could easily translate to an overbuilding situation.  It is nice to see, however, some municipalities appreciating the impact of having multi-family housing in the mix!

Interesting article on the impact of the “Cap and Trade” bill that is working it’s way through Congress.  This is the one that narrowly passed the House.  It is scheduled for discussion in the Senate in September:

Setting aside the most controversial element of the bill for a moment — cap and trade — there are three key provisions that would directly affect commercial real estate. They include building code, energy labeling, and financial incentives to help defray the cost of energy retrofits.


I love sausage !  Here are some fresh links for the grill:

1. BLDG Blog – an eclectic mix of architectural dreaming and cool design, worth the browse.

2. Nashville Green Ribbon Committee – here’s the report from the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee – whether you live in Nashville or any other town, there are a lot of initiatives and ideas that make this worth a browse.

3. The Reference Desk – This is a real stripped down site that offers links to a number of sites of note.  Hey, I found some cool links for the Blackberry stumbling around on this little gem.

4. Daily Lit – If you are like me, keeping up with my reading list is a bear.  Books tend to pile up in the corners of the office because I have yet to solve my bookaholicism…I’m working on it!  This is a great site to get books sent to you via e-mail so they get added into the daily read.

5. Infranet Lab – This is a fascinating tour of the built environment of infrastructure…I can’t explain it – this is how they describe their site:

InfraNet Lab is a research collective probing the spatial byproducts of contemporary resource logistics. The laboratory posits the argument that a body of unique built works continues to arise out of the complex negotiation of, and competition for, biotic and abiotic resources. Operating in a manner similar to infrastructures, these works have evolved to merge landscape, urbanism, and architecture into a sophisticated mutant assemblage of surfaces, containers, and conduits

Enjoy the links and pass the mustard!

Birmingham Business Journal has a piece on how contractors are re-tooling their shops to deal with the reality of the evaporation of private business.  The game in town is Federal Contracts.

Builder Magazine is reporting that recent testing done by Colorado State University is proving that mid-rise wood frame buildings withstand earthquakes quite well:

“The testing thus far has shown that performance-based design for light-frame wood structures works,” says Steve Pryor, structural engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie in Pleasanton, Calif. “This will allow the engineering and building community to provide safer, better performing buildings in the most cost-effective manner.”

This could lead to structures that cost 30% less than steel structures in more locations.  Of course if the cap-and-trade legislation passes, those savings will be eaten alive my the rise in materiel costs. Nevertheless, this is good news for builders and an incentive to expand the contracting base that knows how to do this type of construction right.

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