Archive for April, 2011

Budding young architects probably can’t start building too early or thinking too big – that’s what the people at Lego seem to believe, releasing their iconic building series that features the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the Seattle Space Needle. Little timber framers may prefer Lincoln Logs.

A building series with recycled materials, solar energy and a LEED-TC (Toy Construction) rating may not be long away.


Columbia U. along with the architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) are constructing a multi-block science center in West Harlem. The project is pursuing LEED certification, a sustainable building standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. But the multi-block construction may not just earn Green credit for what is going up, but on what is going down.

LEED awards credits for the amount of Construction and Demolition (C & D) waste that is diverted from the landfill; 1pt for 50% recycling, 2pts for 75%, and 3pts for ‘Exemplary Performance’ (EP) of 95%. Columbia appears on target to exceed the 95% rate, especially with certain waste items, and in at least one category – reclaimed lumber – it appears to be the first large scale LEED project in New York City to recycle this material in achieving the point.

New York City generates 13,500 tons of C & D waste every day. A significant percentage is wood – from plywood and 2 x 4’s to fine woodwork and century old timber. The last has the most ready re-use market, and the bulk of the wood at the Columbia U. project falls into this category.

The Columbia U. project is achieving a high recovery rate through a three pronged strategy, separating salvaged lumber for 1) High end millwork (flooring, moldings, furniture etc.) 2) Heavy construction (lagging and sheeting of excavated sites and utility lines) and 3) Processed wood products (mulch, stable bedding, etc.).

The Mayor’s office is concerned enough about wood waste that they are considering a recommendation from the Urban Green Council (, which would require demolition projects to salvage large dimensional lumber.


American made shoes are kicking their heals in the air these days, according to a recent NYTimes feature “At Their Feet, Crafted by Hand” (Eric Wilson, 4/20/11). The story follows a recent upswing in buyers of American footwear (sales are up 50%), where only a handful of manufacturers still exist.

‘Trend’ is uneasy word for an industry that relies on a steady customer base. But at $360 for a pair of Allen Edmonds or Alden’s, the price shouldn’t create mass market stampedes. And in the current economy, the market rise can look like an anomaly.

But the news piece doesn’t wear out much shoe leather tracking down the reasons for the rise in high end shoe sales. Though cultural studies professors at FIT weren’t tapped for explanations, they spot some of the appeal, in value. A well cared for pair of top line shoes can last for fifteen years, and Allen Edmonds has a reconstruction program ($90 from heel to toe) that may well keep their shoes going a lifetime.

‘At Their Feet, Crafted by Hand’ could have also been pointing to the reclaimed antique floors (from American made trees) under the foot of these shoes – much of the same quality, process, and pricing fit.

Photo by Darren Hauck for the New York Times


“Jugaad Urbanism: Resourceful Strategies for Indian Cities” in NYC!

The intense environment of 1.1 billion people living in India has generated a range of strategies for the efficient use of space and energy. Many of the responses come from citizens ‘making-do’, and these ideas then developed into sustainainble projects by architects, urban planners and government. Juggaad Urbanism (a Hindi term used to describe an innovative and resourceful solution), currently on exhibition at the Center for Architecture, highlights some of the ingenious work that includes spinning wheels, skywalks, new recycled materials and reclaiming every scrap of wood (A subject of a future blog entry).

But the remarkable resourcefulness of everyday life in India, where little is wasted; and recycling, fixing and minimalism is an everyday necessity, can seem a model with as much value as the mountains of overseas containers that enter the U.S. market.

Time – February 10- May 21, 2011

Location – AIA Center for Architecture, 536 La Guardia Pl (between Bleecker and W 3rd St), New York City
Find out more at: .php?section=upcoming&expid=136



New York Stateʼs first-ever award for the “Greenest New Yorker” was announced on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22. Brooklyn artists Nicola Armster and Brendan Smith were honored to design the award plaque, which “…captures the history of New York and itʼs commitment to building a green and sustainable future.” Constructed from reclaimed woods supplied by Sawkill, each of the ten species originated from historic buildings throughout New York State.

The contest, part of New York Stateʼs I LOVE NEW YORK initiative, was created “to celebrate those individuals who are doing their part to keep the Empire State green.” Entries, were judged by a panel of celebrities and influential green New Yorkers, including Chef, author, and restaurateur Mario Batali; Josh Dorfman, author of “The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget; eco-friendly and healthy home interior designer Robin Wilson; and the architect Morris Adjmi.


Howard occupied a spot in Union Sq. after the authorities confiscated his makeshift cart, attached to the back of his bike, and used for delivery of driftwood to florists in the city. The exquisite collection, which he harvests from rock crevices that line the upper Hudson, is called “Art by God”. He can be reached at