The Conversation About Future Sustainable Design Needs to Start Now, Even If It's a Home Made from Trees or Extruded Pig Cells

July 18, 2012

Leading Ecological Design Architect and Urbanist, Mitchell Joachim, Keynotes AIA-NJ’s Third Annual East Coast Green Conference 

Kim Vierheilig AIA, Mitchell Joachim Assoc AIA, Verity Frizzell AIA, Jack Purvis AIA

History shows that disasters — natural or manmade — yield change, but that shouldn’t be the only case in which change occurs, especially as it pertains to design. Architects need to start the conversation now and connect with the general public to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable environment.

Those were the sentiments of Mitchell Joachim, Assoc. AIA, a leader in ecological design architecture and urbanism, at a recent keynote address for East Coast Green, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ third annual green conference. The event, which was coordinated by AIA-NJ’s Committee on the Environment, attracted more than 120 architects from throughout New Jersey.

“I’m tired of the doomsaying,” said Joachim. “It’s enough — we got the picture, it’s resonated, and now we need to move on. We need to start the conversation about change and take action. As long as there’s a narrative, it will create change, and architects need to lead this dialogue.”

Citing examples of starting the conversation, Joachim brought up French author Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” written in 1865, which inspired the creation of NASA’s first space shuttle, created during the Kennedy administration to beat the Russians’ efforts to land on the moon. “This completely morphed the way we think about space travel,” he said.

Joachim also spoke of Elisha Otis, who came up with the idea of the elevator 150 years ago. Originally viewed as being fantastical in nature, the elevator concept has changed the basic morphology of urban areas. After the development of the elevator, “we were able to create tall buildings,” he said.

Joachim went on cite examples of his work, which was completed either while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.; at Terreform ONE, a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities, where he is the founding co-president; or at Planetary ONE, a unique cross-disciplinary partnership of designers and scientists collaborating to pioneer visionary socio-ecological and infrastructural strategies for urban environments, where he is a partner.

Most notably, he spoke about the work for his Smart Cities Car, an environmentally friendly car designed for urban living, which he helped design while at MIT. That project was recognized as Time Magazine’s Best Invention of 2007. He also spoke about his well-known Fab Tree Hab project, which presents a sophisticated methodology for growing homes from living native trees.

In New Jersey, he added, there are more than 50 different kinds of native trees with which homes can be grown.

Other examples of his work brought up during his remarks included “The XO Lamb Cars” or extremely soft cars; “In Vitro Meat Habitat,” an architectural proposal for the fabrication of 3-D printed extruded pig cells to for real organic dwellings; and the SOFT Blimp Bumper Bus, which scoops up passengers in soft hanging chairs and travels less than 15 miles per hours.

Joachim was a perfect fit as the keynote speaker, capping off two days of presentations that ranged from day-to-day practical products and applications to pioneering technical and philosophical endeavors.

“From the selection of doors, siding or insulation, to strategic redevelopment of a suburban office building to cutting edge residential energy efficient design, to legislation and policy concerns, and to leading edge research and development, this conference touched all types of architectural practice and issues facing the profession,” said Bruce Turner, AIA, chair of the AIA-NJ Public Awareness Committee. “Joachim put an exclamation point on where we are headed.”

The conference, which was held for the second consecutive year at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J., was titled “Re: Thinking Green,” and looked at the future of sustainability and the environment in the architecture and construction industries. This conference included three educational tracks “Re: Codify,” which looked at the different sustainability codes and policies facing the architecture and construction industries; “Re: Certify,” which helped LEED professionals to maintain their credentials; and “Re: View,” which provided case studies of successful sustainable applications.

East Coast Green was held in conjunction with AIA-NJ’s second “COTE Top 10 Awards,” which recognize outstanding built work in the area of sustainable design. The conference was also preceded by a full day of workshops sponsored by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

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  1. […] by a full day of workshops sponsored by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).   Read more about this years East Coast Green conference. Last year, Maplewood, N.J.-based The Goldstein Partnership won an Honor Award for its design of the […]



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