PVC hard to replace in short-term In response to Tracey
Loston’s Viewpoint piece, The Environmental Legacy of Plastic Buildings, in the Jan/Feb 09 SABMag [read it here], I can say that sustainability is only one aspect of design decisions. Ultimately, design decisions are based on value which can be defined as performance per unit of cost.
PVC has been with us for half a century. It took early developers about 25 years to succeed in producing close tolerance and straight PVC extrusions. The product can be heat-welded, is a good insulator and has a low life-time cost.
The nearest competitive product performance is by FRP [Fibre Reinforced Plastic] pultrusions, but it is more expensive and, because it uses a thermosetting plastic, it cannot be welded.
My prediction is the future use of wood/fibre-filled thermoplastic extrusions for windows. While at present too weak for that purpose, it already is popular as a decking material.
SABMag would be even more interesting if it were to include suggestions from industry as to where the next best material will come from. Elimination of PVC will only happen after a better value product becomes available.
The best designs are the result of progressive dissatisfaction with the present. Tracey Loston might find some of our research labs good places to visit and see what the future will bring.
Bert van Leeuwen, P.Eng. Amherst, NS
[We would welcome industry input to the magazine of precisely the kind you are suggesting. – ed.]
More appreciation than love for LEED
In response to Brenda Marten's letter Let's Love LEED in the SABMag Jan/Feb 2009 issue [read it here] in which she commented on my article From Sustainability to Love [Nov/Dec 08 SABMag], I would reply that I devoted no "energy at all to denouncing LEED", but every energy to showing its limitations. A big difference!
What LEED can do it does so admirably, and having contributed to bringing sustainable building practices into the public and lawmakers' consciousness is a valuable contribution. It's a laudable beginning, but only just that. That's the point I tried to make in my piece and I stand to it.
The comparison I used of the person living in a modest, old and inefficient home from where he walks to work and uses an old clunker for the occasional weekend trip, and the guy driving a Prius 150 km a day from his 3,000sf LEED Platinum condo to work and back sums up my point: LEED is dealing only with building practice and some token site development and planning; it is concerning itself with a tiny sector of the universe. The way out of the mess we're in requires a complete change of our attitudes, lifestyles, economies, in short, Everything.
During a recent Lunch-and-Learn session put on by a manufacturer of Structural Insulated Panels [SIPs] we were shown images of a supposed "LEED Platinum" house in the US, visibly an overbuilt McMansion on a new subdivision of raw land. If development models like these can get LEED Platinum ratings, LEED becomes part of the problem, not the solution.
I also heard talk of a LEED Platinum Wal Mart store. No matter how many wind mills and solar panels you put on its roof, the big-box store selling merchandise transported thousands of miles from low-wage countries with doubtful labour and environmental standards is a development model that has no place in a society that wants to be serious about tackling ecological collapse, not to speak of its social and aesthetic aspects.
LEED has achieved what it could do marvellously, and I applaud it for that. It's just that we must move beyond its rather limited reach, and quickly. Lastly, Love is an emotion I reserve for living beings. For concepts and things, I can at best have appreciation.
Florian Maurer, MRAIC, MAIBC, LEED AP., Allen+Maurer Architects Ltd. Penticton, BC
Let’s love LEED
In his article From Sustainability to Love in the Nov/Dec 08 SABMag, [read it here] Florian Maurer devoted quite a bit of energy to denouncing LEED. The LEED rating system is a tool, and anyone who expects more of LEED than this will likely be disappointed. When used properly it will benefit the design and the environment, and add real value for the owner.
LEED certification provides accountability. Florian writes “I see us living and working in small, simple, sound and well designed buildings, in communities of reasonable density and well utilized infrastructure. I see us walking or cycling to work, protecting our farmland, water, and wilderness, using only the resources we need, taking care of those that can't take care of themselves, eliminating the concept of “garbage”...” In fact LEED both supports and measures these types of initiatives, and helps prevent designers, builders and owners from making claims that are not truthful.
Going through a LEED checklist obviously does not replace good design. However, a good designer will use the tools available to him or her appropriately, not just LEED, but energy and daylight modelling, thermal comfort analysis, experience, intuition, etc.
Rather than spending the energy trying to discredit these tools, designers need to determine how they are best used to serve the purpose of re-integrating our built environment and ourselves with nature.
Brenda Martens, B.Sc. LEED® APBoard of Directors, Cascadia Region Green Building Council, Vancouver
Plastics article not helpful
I look forward to each issue of SABMAG and have taken to giving subscriptions and extra copies to clients and colleagues. I support your efforts and think that your publication makes a great contribution to the green building movement.
It is in this positive spirit that I write. I and others in the office were surprised and a bit dismayed at the inclusion of the Green Building with Plastics piece in the Nov/Dec 2008 [read it here] issue written by an industry executive. We found it a promotional argument for the use of vinyl and not a very helpful contribution to the already muddled argument among environmentalists and scientists regarding that material and its manufacture.
I would like to think that we can bring intelligent and comprehensive knowledge to bear on these complex issues and I look to publications like SABMAG to help us in our busy lives to sort through the tons of information that hits our desks every day.
Frank D’Ambrosio MAIBC, MRAIC, LEED AP D’Ambrosio Architecture and urbanism, Victoria