EDI: Something, Somewhere

Over the last several months and years I, like many of you, have been engaged in a variety of EDI activities undertaken by a number of organizations. (For myself this includes my own firm, Clark Nexsen, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Arts, Virginia Sea Grant, the Greater Norfolk Corporation, the Virginia Beach City Public School System, and AIA Virginia).

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Architects Can and Should Improve the Energy Performance of Buildings

Smita Chandra Thomas is a building science expert who founded Energy Shrink in 2015, a consultancy focused on decarbonization in the built environment that provides technical advice, modeling and analysis, and research. She worked as a licensed architect for two years and, for the last 23 years, has been a building science consultant during a period when “green” has been redefined increasingly through technology as well as the environment. She says that architects have a much larger influence on building energy performance than many realize, a role often left to mechanical engineers. And that it’s imperative for architects to learn the basics and decarbonize their practices even if the building industry is slow to evolve. “If you take just one day to immerse yourself in some fundamental ideas about building science,” says Thomas, “you can learn enough to ask the right questions at the right time.”

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Looking to Decarbonize Your Practice? Start with EPDs

The built environment’s share of global greenhouse emissions is well known, but actionable strategies to reduce them are mired in government and private sector finger-pointing. If you’re an architect at any size firm working on any type of project, you have agency to cut through the blame game to take direct action to decarbonize your work. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit ambitious net zero goals tomorrow (although that would be a great idea at this point), but it does mean you can make a big dent in both embodied and operational carbon in your next project—and across your entire future portfolio.

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Do we need the commercial office drinking fountain?

We see them in office building corridors and wonder who uses them except for leftover coffee disposal. The local building code requires it, but is this one of those antiquated parts of the code that may need to be reevaluated? In early movies and television shows, the proverbial conversations at the water bottle station were business office norms.  As civil rights in the early ’90s required the station to be converted into a hi-low drinking fountain for accessibility, the impromptu meetings have now moved to office break rooms, inter-office corridors, or “collision areas” as we architects/interior designers call them.

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SAARC Art: Integration of Art in a Public Building

by Eliel Alfon, AIA | Design Principal, Hughes Group Architects

Throughout history, architecture and art have been an integrated process. They have always been a communication tool for most civilized cultures. In a way, this allowed a building or structure to have deeper meaning beyond its intended function and purpose. Public art is cultural expression.  Introduction of art in a public setting not only enriches the quality of the space, but it can reflect the soul of the community. 

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Notes on the Williamsburg Experiment

There’s an irony in writing a true account about the living history museum at Colonial Williamsburg. Its eponymous foundation and its curators have grappled with the same two questions for generations: Whose histories do we tell and how shall we recreate them? Today, Williamsburg faces a new set of questions beyond the facts recorded in the governours’ ledgers:  Whose truths do we tell and how shall we present them in concert together, especially in light of the 1619 Project, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Critical Race Theory, whose progenitors demand more than new lines of inquiry. They demanded action. Williamsburg has made clear efforts to juggle archaeology with interpretation, and it has also attempted to address the indictment of sophistry among its critics, which are legion. But, can the sites of Williamsburg’s 301 acres respond to our moment now?

In our post-vaccination world, Colonial Williamsburg is worth revisiting this summer, as I did in June—not for what its evidence reveals about Colonial America, but for our opportunity to change the course of what I’ll call the Williamsburg Experiment, ongoing for more than 380 years.

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