Ten Shades of Green at School of Architecture

Exhibition Highlights Principals and Examples of Environmentally Sustainable Architecture

Buildings account for nearly half the energy consumed by developed countries. Yet the misconceptions about “green,” or environmentally sustainable, architecture are many: that it’s prohibitively expensive, that it’s overly restrictive, that it somehow dampens aesthetic creativity.

Helping to set the record straight, the Architectural League of New York has organized Ten Shades of Green, a major touring exhibition that profiles cuttingedge, energy-efficient projects from Europe, North America and Australia. The exhibition has opened its final, and only Midwestern, stop: at Givens Hall, home of the School of Architecture, where it will remain on view through April 11.

A reception will be held from 5-6 p.m. March 12.

Ten Shades of Green is curated by Peter Buchanan, a Londonbased architect, city planner and former deputy editor of The Architectural Review.

The exhibition title refers both to the number of projects profiled — through photographs, drawings, detailed models and background materials — and to the principles of sustainable design they collectively embody.

More philosophical guidelines than specific practices or materials, these 10 principles begin with Low Energy/High Performance — essentially, tailoring basic design strategies to limit energy consumption. Large windows, for example, can reduce dependence on artificial lighting while natural ventilation lessens the need for air conditioning.

The second principle, Replenishable Sources, calls for the use of building materials such as wood, clay (for bricks) and sand (for glass), along with “undepletable” power from wind farms, hydroelectric, geothermal or biomass (vegetal waste) burning plants. These materials more readily lend themselves to the next item on the list, Recycling.

Access and Urban Context points out that even the most energy-efficient buildings foster waste if located far from public transportation. Health and Happiness stresses the need for fresh air, natural light, outdoor views and nontoxic environments.

Embodied Energy refers to the energy used in the production of building materials, while Total Life-Cycle Costing takes a holistic approach to long-term energy and maintenance costs.

Long Life, Loose Fit addresses adaptability to future purposes. A building that is Embedded in Place is one that exists in harmony with its natural and urban environment, while Community and Connection refers to a broader vision of our relationship with the natural world.

“The buildings on display represent a variety of building types and architectural and engineering approaches,” Buchanan said. “None was chosen because it is the most energy-efficient example or its type, or because it fully meets every criterion of the ‘ten shades’…

“Rather, these particular buildings were chosen because they are complete works of architecture: buildings in which environmental responsibility is fully integrated with formal ambition and responsiveness to an enlightened vision of community life.”

Projects range from the jewel-like Götz Headquarters (1993-95) in Würzburg, Germany, which employs a double-wall system and hundreds of electronic sensors to capture solar energy, to the Jubilee Campus (1996-99), a state-of-the-art facility for the University of Nottingham, England, located on a resuscitated brownfield, or polluted industrial site.

North America, where environmental regulations are less stringent, is represented by an amalgam of four private residences.

Still, the 53-story Commerzbank Headquarters (1991-97) in Frankfurt, Germany — Europe’s tallest skyscraper — proves that green design is no inhibitor of architectural ambition. Thanks to a dramatic central atrium, the building relies on natural ventilation for more than 70 percent of the year and, during the day, is almost entirely illuminated by natural light.

“One of the misconceptions about environmentally sustainable architecture is that it’s just strapping solar panels on everything,” said junior Lauren Glasscock, president and founder of Green Givens, a University student group dedicated to raising awareness about sustainability across a variety of disciplines. (The group, which has about 30 members, is helping to organize the exhibition’s St. Louis run.)

In reality, creating sustainable architecture is both more challenging and more empowering for architects, Glasscock said. “It’s really just thoughtful design — it’s thinking about how the sun comes most powerfully from the south and the west, and what that means in terms of heat and light and windows and air-conditioning. It’s not just something you add at the end.”

Douglas Schuette, co-vice president of the Architecture Student Council, helped install the show. He is one of several students currently developing, with affiliate Associate Professor Gay Lorberbaum, a curriculum for a proposed course on sustainable architecture.

“Students are beginning to realize that this is something you can incorporate into your designs from the very beginning,” Schuette said.

“We’d like to look at these issues with a broad lens. The great thing about this exhibit is that it can help students identify the aspects of sustainability that particularly interest them.”

Major support for Ten Shades of Green is provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

The exhibition is also made possible by the Norman and Rosita Winston Foundation; the Department of State Development, Queensland Government, Australia; the J. Clawson Mills Fund; the Vinmont Foundation; and Baboo Color Labs.

The national tour is made possible by Herman Miller and Perkins & Will.

Local support is provided by Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum, Dia Architects, Tao & Associates, TKH Architects; and also by the University’s Student Union, Congress of the South 40 and Graduate Architecture Council.

Ten Shades of Green is free and open to the public. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 935-6200.