Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celebration of Thermal Bridging

Professor Ted Kesik of the University of Toronto has given me permission to post this "rant" of his from February 8, 2012:

(comments will be posted after)

"I couldn't make the Jeanne Gang lecture last night at Daniels, but if I had I would have asked her if sculpting thermal bridges on her building somehow absolved her wilful environmental irresponsibility.  There is a school of thought in the design world known as the, "If we make it look cool then it's okay" movement.  Polar bears and indigenous peoples of the north do not see anything beautiful in this building.  It could be argued that anyone who beholds beauty is either unaware of the environmental consequences of putting radiator fins on high-rise towers, or simply doesn't care. These are the folks that think sustainability is a burden of inconvenient truths that keeps ruining their design fantasies.

For more on this, check out: http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/gimme-a-thermal-break-get-rid-of-radiator-fin-balconies.html

If ever there was an icon of architectural pornography it is the Aqua building in Chicago, and it has had a polarizing effect within the architecture / engineering / construction community.  Building scientists recoil with horror at the sight of such blatant thermal bridging, akin to what physicians feel about smoking. Some architects secretly wet their pants and hope one day they can outdo the carbon footprint of this environmental monstrosity. Constructors are happy to charge big premiums for no added performance value, and beyond the earshot of the design crowd, wonder aloud what kind of dumb moves they will have to build next.

Take your clothes off, attach a series of highly conductive fins like the kind they put on motorcycle engines to the skeleton of your body, and go stand outside in January.  Then tell the person who is dressed for winter they are boring, overly practical people who are squashing creative expression among the affluent members of society.  The 1% elite has the right to be conspicuously wasteful and if anybody criticizes them, they're cut off from catering to the ethically bankrupt well-to-do. The "in crowd" rules, viciously.

Such is the present situation in North America.  Architecture schools pay token respect to political correctness by holding studios in third world countries while the native people in Attawapiskat live in abject squalor.  Glass condo towers grow like poisonous mushrooms sucking the vitality and resilience out of our urban housing futures. And the celebration of thermal bridging is put on a podium at a public lecture series. 

Just what are we thinking at Daniels?

I welcome an open and robust discussion, but be warned, I shall publicly publish your comments.
The essence of academic debate demands complete disclosure.
I would first like to hear from the person who invited Jeanne Gang.

The Aqua Building: poetry or perversion? How you answer says a lot about your design thinking, and more."

Ted can be reached here:
Ted Kesik, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Professor of Building Science
Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design - University of Toronto
230 College Street
Toronto ON M5T 1R2 Canada
T: 416 978-0849
F: 416 971-2094

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