Notes from Infrastructure Talk

How much will you sacrifice for fashion? It´s a question we all ask, especially in the winter. But we aren´t usually thinking about architecture at the time.

Dr. Kim Pressnail, this month´s WSIC guest speaker, made it clear that when it comes to building requirements in this province, form and function are seriously out of balance. And he had a lot of ideas about how to right them.

There are two big reasons to reduce energy use, he explained. The first is cost: it´s cheaper to conserve what we´ve got than to build the new power plants we need to maintain our current energy needs. The second is climate: the trapped energy in our atmosphere is having devastating effects on people (higher frequency and severity of tornadoes, floods, etc).

Saving begins at home, of course. Dr. Pressnail provided us with a number of tips on how to reduce our energy use in the home: insulating walls, replacing damaged windows, and turning down the thermostat.

Dr. Pressnail also made the case for reforming building codes. A building less apt to waste energy is a force for conservation, even if its occupants fall short. And many of our current problems boil down to pretty designs that under perform.

Chief among the culprits: our beloved glass towers, which look futuristic but actually lose heat at a far greater rate than towers built well in the past. Dr. Pressnail emphasized the need to think about future generations-why do we spend so much time pushing for things like legalized marijuana at party conventions while ignoring issues like conservation, which will impact us for generations to come?

He also expressed his dismay at the cancellation of eco retrofit programs, and the lack of logic behind it. The there are government programs that provide stimulus money for citizens to replace granite counter tops but none to insulate our walls? It is always cheaper to build an energy-efficient building than retrofit an inefficient one, but we must make it as easy and cheap as possible to solve problems.

As usual, the WSIC audience responded with lots of questions and comments. Many offered their own ideas on how to reduce energy use; others had suggestions for reforming the codes. Several argued, as Pressnail himself did, that the issue isn´t politically very “sexy,” and therefore requires more effort from those who care about it.




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