Back to Base-ics

Environmental Architecture

NASA’s recent Sustainability Base project is an interesting step forward in the United States government’s involvement with the Green movement.

Their videolink for the project can be seen here.

What I find interesting is that the rhetoric for the project includes global ideas of climate change, which is a political hot-button.  Whereas I’m not opposed to efforts to stem climate change, I know several people who don’t believe in the theory (in addition to the various groups which oppose the idea).  There are arguments for and against this idea, but I think, personally, when an item gets too hot, its best not to touch it.  I prefer to look at the economic impact of the movement, and especially of NASA’s new Sustainability Building.

In an earlier article, I looked at the Solar Decathlon in DC, which has similar results to NASA’s new building.  What I liked about the two different projects was the use of renewable resources and the construction of buildings which would produce net zero energy (although I don’t see why NASA’s building shouldn’t attempt to mimic Team Germany’s structure and simply create an energy profit).  The reason I like these initiatives is the financial incentive.

In Conte and Langley’s Theatre Management Handbook, one of the operating expenses of any theatre house is building upkeep and maintenance.  These line items cost a good deal over time, and reduction in their cost allows for more expense for entertainment and, more importantly, education.  By creating and updating structures to help them reduce their upkeep costs and maybe even pay for themselves, managers can either generate more profit (always nice) or help assign income to other expenses and budgets.  Using more renewable resources allows for buildings to made and landscapes to expanded with a less destructive nature.

To clarify:

Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, so how is any building of a site destructive?  I think the proper definition for ‘destructive’ in this context should be ‘to be made inaccessible.’  In that case, creation simply means then, ‘to be made accessible.’  Which then means that finding alternative sources of energy and renewable resources are both creative acts, which by the same credit, refining current methods of energy production also achieves.


However, the danger in all these movements is balance.  It is hard to raise the funds necessary for a given project when diversity exists, and yet it is important, especially now, to have a diverse energy market which uses diverse sources and resources – otherwise, we exchange immediate surplus for an eventually drought.  Right now, it seems that we are facing a drought in the current supply of carbon fuels, and even with the various solutions available, the increased access to as-yet untapped resources proves to be another hot-button issue.  Therefore, I believe the more harmonious path is through diversity of energy resources as well as the development and refinement of more renewable energy.


Additive Architecture

Environmental Architecture

Considering the fields of Theatre, Economics, Environmental Sustainment, and Architecture, I’m beginning to feel that a more conservative approach to the Green movement is necessary.  There are plenty of locations where mega-mansions are being built, huge, new, Green houses that take a lot of money and time and labor, but will eventually pay for their own costs.  What I’d like to see more of is tweaking: taking existing spaces and making them more green without demolishing them.  In other words, using the resources that are in place and making them more efficient.  One could say I’m advocating ‘baby steps’ in Architectural Sustainability, but there are more factors to consider in the Green movement than ‘houses that pay for themselves.’

What I’ve seen so far that I’ve liked includes the Gable House, a structure built using ‘lamboo’ – laminated bamboo – and resources from condemned farms, to build a house.  What’s excellent about these two materials is that the first is rapidly renewable – bamboo is a grass and if improperly contained, becomes an invasive weed; and that the second is a reused resource – in essence, it’s good waste management.

Detractors say that liberal approaches to Green Architecture lead to a higher carbon footprint in that resources must be transported to a site to build, whereas more conservative approaches lead to less transport and building.  They also argue for conservation of culture – especially those interested in historical landmarks.  I don’t entirely disagree with them.  However, living in Colonial Williamburg, I will say that over- conservation eventually leads to marketed celebration and a biased viewpoint of history.  In other words, nostalgia, like all things, should be taken in moderation.

Now that I’ve poo-poo’d CW, I will laud it: several years ago, the Foundation switched over to less authentic electric candles.  Preservation is important, but only to a certain extent.  If the Colonies had had electricity, I’m sure they would have used it.  After all, history shows that eventually, they did.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that one need not build an entirely new building in order to produce a grand eco-site.  Especially those in theatre, who someitmes used condemned buildigns as playign spaces.  Theatre should act both as a conservative function of culture and a progressive one.  By using the old ways and the tried and true aspects of a culture, it can also act to fix problems within a given society.

Looking at that role, one can extrapolate the ideology to architecture.  Rather than destroying condemned sites to build new green spaces, one can modify a dilapidated space into a more useful and efficient site.  This allows for both progressive movements in architecture and culture as well as a preservation of history and a conservation and reuse of resources. Especially in the Theatre, this approach would allow organizations to make a sustainable home while still paying homage to their roots (or at least their patron houses).

An Invisible Building

Environmental Architecture

Having gotten through season 1 of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, I have been inspired by the concept of an ‘invisible building.’  In other words, I love the idea of a closed system underground structure.  Granted, such systems also exist in such games as Fallout 3, but Dollhouse coined the phrase ‘invisible building’ and made it seem more like a paradise than a containment facility (okay, so it showed both sides of the coin…)

This inspiration led to my recent wiki-pedition about closed systems and renewable energy, i.e. solar, geothermal, wind, biomass, biofuels, nuclear power, and others.  What I find fascinating about these various systems is the concept of a 0- energy space (or a space that gains rather than spends energy, as exhibited by Team Germany in the Solar Decathlon).  I think that, by combining these energy resources with an underground structure and clever architectural planning (building or converting abandoned spaces) one could make some amazing ‘invisible’ buildings that pay for their own energy, and perhaps, in time, for their own construction costs.

What this led to think about more, however, was the idea of a vehicle as a closed system.  What if cars, motorbikes, planes, trains, what have you- could use some of the above systems for their own energy refueling?  I mean, ideas of biofuel and solar power being used in cars are not new, but what about wind and hydro electric power?  I suppose my query is one of scale: that is, what if the systems currently used to harness wind and hydroelectric power were scaled down to be used in a moving closed system instead of a stationary one?  What if a car’s movement helped fuel a car?

Fish, for example, move about, generating oxygen by passing water through their gills.  Why can’t cars do the same thing with fuel (or at least electricity)?  Why not have a moving system that feeds not only on solar energy and biomass but also on micro-windfarms and micro-dams?  I mean, granted the systems in question would provide very little energy, but the constant motion of a vehicle would reduce the variability of water intake/wind intake that often plagues the stationary systems.  On that kind of note, could not the very act of falling be used to provide some sort of energy?

What got me to wondering about vehicles on an energy saving level was the idea of transport.  Right now, building in spaces with resources that one orders still requires a lot of energy, a lot of carbon.  It also deals those darned shipping costs.  But what if travelling did not cost so much?  Wouldn’t that reduce the price of construction?  Would that also reduce the price of fuel, and of the vehicle itself (over time)?

To answer my last question, water intake systems come with a cost.  The passage of material through a ‘pipe’ system leaves residue, and overtime, even the energy saving systems of a vehicle would lose their functionality.

Still, having a world (or even a place in the world) where building and travelling actually paid for themselves, would be incredible – and could help direct money into more leisurely areas.

Architecture and Art

Theatre Business

One huge problem for Theatre Organizations is Money.  I figure there are two answers to this:

Education and Going Green.

By Education, I mean training programs, outreach, and community involvement. In addition, working with schools ( or as part of a school or on-profit) can help earn access to various grants and/or scholarships for student employees.  Speaking of students, volunteer positions are also great ways to reduce budget and increase community involvement.

By Going Green, I mean planning and communicating.  There’s no reason a Theatre should have to spend a nickle that it doesn’t need to (on things other than art, that is).  I recommend viral marketing to cut down on mailing costs, online updates and posting for cast and crew to reduce printing expenses, and web databases for easier access and storage saving for files.  That being said, having hard copies of items never hurt.

I also refer to architecture in building structure.  There’s no reason a theatre should be built above ground.  Granted, perhaps local geology or geography makes it preferable, but if you want to save money, you can save on expenses for heating, and cooling (and land space) by simply building down rather than up.  Theatre is a naturally subterranean art these days: the needs of lighting require a space without windows.  By building down first, one can save money on site construction by putting parking above the theatre space.

Underground building isn’t all that is available.  Currently in DC there is a Solar Decathlon between around twenty universities, all working on building houses that cover the costs of their energy expenses over the course of the year.  This system allows them, in some cases, to store that same energy and sell it back to energy companies in their area.  These sorts of buildings would make for excellent above-ground reception and training areas for students, and, if the methods work well enough in energy storage, could help eventually store energy that would pay for the costs of theatrical technology.

Another method of going Green is communication, especially in terms of waste management.  I cannot stress enough the benefits of community involvement in waste management.  I have seen, at my college, whole set pieces get torn down and shredded because they did not fit stock requirements.  I think that with a few years’ communication work and developing relationships with local theatres and schools, that this waste could be reduced, perhaps even eliminated, through a system of trade, rent, and exchange (perhaps a rent/ trade credit program).  The necessity to foster such programs is open communication between multiple groups, which again brings up the idea of internet presence.  This is a fast method of communication which costs less than mailing and results in less paperwork and travel than driving around putting up fliers.

I especially encourage work with local conservation groups, art departments, music groups, churches and theatres – all entities which exist off charity and community and should all be working together to better the community.

To recap, my recommendations for the Theatre for reducing costs are:

  • communication and community outreach, especially for terms of waste management and storage,
  • internet use for publicity and paperwork
  • ties to education/programs for education/non-for-profit status that allows for access to grants and scholarships,
  • architecture that reduces costs of heating, cooling, space use, and light issues, perhaps working with underground theatres and overgrown 0-energy spaces.

Mission Statement


So after a few posts that have been generally infrequent and rather all-over- -the-place, I’ve decided that I need to figure out what my blog’s going to be about.

I don’t like blogging for its own sake, so I figure I’ll use this thing as a means of furthering my interests and myself.

I won’t be any Perez Hilton, but…

Let’s figure this out:

goals for the year:

– daily posting: shorter posts, link to twitter, link to facebook, yada yada

– ads!  I should get some of those…

– themes: what are my focus areas?  I think, as I mentioned, they’re my interests: theatre, art, architecture, design, the green movement, and space travel/exploration/colonization, philosophy.  Now, all of those tie in pretty well except… theatre. Yeah, I know.  Funny, it’s my major.

– get a scanner: upload comics!  yay webcomic!  I think I’ll do one on Superheroes…  I can upload commission-able art samples in watercolor, pastel, pencil, and pen.

– get a tablet PC: simply draw and edit images on da computah.

– figure out what my real job will be while I get this started up…

– network: have a whole mess of buddies who advertise me while I advertise them.

okay, I think that should do it for goals.  Of course, these will get more specific.  But for today, it’s a good laundry list (grocery list?)

for now, my basic q: this website will be about using art and philosophy to help further mankind, and to make the idea of space exploration and efficient living ‘hip.’