lecture : michelle addington

I just came back form this architecture lecture by Michelle Addington at the UBC Robson Square hosted byUBC school of architecture + landscape architecture and sponsored by BChydro powersmart. Looks like more gloomy news from  the architure field in regards to sustainable design. To sum it up, we (the greenies) still have a mountain to climb to convince the world to build better buildings. Even michelle addington does not support the passive house standard and claims that some building at the Yale campus to be the greenest building in usa (or even the world). I guess she has never heard of net zero buildings or rammed-earth buildings. She still believes in pumping active heating/cooling systems into buildings and using  high-energy consuming geothermal systems to heat and cool the buildings rather than focusing on good solar orientation and excellent building envelopes. Quite a sad deal! One interesting thing she mentioned is how few architects show up at energy conferences around the world, even though it is a common fact that buildings contribute about 50% of the total CO2 emissions in the world.

A few links about articles she has mentioned:


This is an article about the $100 million lawsuit against USBGC/LEED for stating false advertising that their buildings save energy. I have known for a while that (unfortunately) LEED is just a point hunting system to get publicity. Don’t’ get me wrong, there are some good merits to the LEED program. It does not care too much about energy use but it does care about the site, water use, and materials/off-gassing and so on.



An article by George Baird from August 2011 about sustainability published in Architectural Record.


And don’t get me started on Peter Eisenman



One comment

  1. Respectfully, it’s unfortunate that this was your takeaway from Ms. Addington’s talk. Her views are quite different than you represent them, although I don’t know what she said exactly in this lecture. Her opposition to the passivhaus is precisely because it requires mechanical systems to work most of the year, as well as the high embodied energy that most of them have, since they usually aren’t rammed earth. I could go on, but I think if you watched her other talks and read her articles, you would get a fair critical reappraisal.

    I used to work for a consultancy in green buildings (among other things), and one of my jobs as a sad entry-level researcher was to scour the world looking for studies to support our particular LEED-oriented view of sustainability. After a year or two, it started becoming clear that most of what we were telling people to do was of dubious value. Daylight and views brought in by Low-E curtainwalls were great for environmental quality, but we couldn’t account for the dramatic increase in solar radiation that was then trapped behind the nicely insulating walls, and had to be taken away through mechanical ventilation. But, the Experts kept pushing LEED, despite their own misgivings. The other thing I noticed was that reports kept citing the same NREL reports from decades ago, and used precedents from Southern California (dry, hot, consistent) and Germany (damp, temperate, consistent) to recommend options for Washington, DC (soaked, seasonal variable, highly variable) or Florida (soaked, hot, consistent). Or how I had all of my lights on at my desk when I needed to read, despite the high insolation. Or how we used house studies to make recommendations for office buildings. I could go on; there was no rigor whatsoever.

    So, when I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes, I was pretty blown away by her ruthless, empirical criticism of current practices, considering what I’d already seen. It was like she pried our conception of sustainability apart the cracks to expose the squishy middle, and it looks pretty bad. All Michelle Addington wants you to do is re-evaluate the hypotheses we’ve been using. They’re not working – and it’s a really big problem.

    BTW, why is the Aegis Hyposurface used as a background? I can’t imagine a more intricate and fussy waste of energy than that.

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