The Designing the New West: Architecture and Landscape in the Mountain West Conference is wrapping up here in Bozeman at the historic Gallatin Gateway Inn. Put on by NewWest.Net and sponsored by the Sonoran Institute, the conference brought together designers from all over the country to explore innovative design ideas, identify best practices, and better understand how to bridge the gap between good architectural theory and sometimes-messy building practices in the fastest growing region in the nation.
A mix of presentations and engaging panel discussions tackled pressing Western issues like sustainable development, land design and the special challenges of urban, rural and resort design, historic preservation and affordable housing.
Click on the photo or here for a slideshow of the days’ events. Click “more” for a recap of the conference.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Green Building Tour
As a snow-filled Thursday morning gave way to sunlight and dripping roofs, attendees at the Designing the New West conference toured two very different and innovative buildings incorporating state-of-the-art green technologies in Bozeman.
StudioFORMA architect Mark Headley discussed his design of Bozeman’s 53,000-square foot LEED-Silver certified public library, which features a photovoltaic solar energy system, low-VOC paints and Kalwall insulated panels. Bozeman residents Joan and Cliff Montagne opened their doors for a tour of their renovated home, which incorporates radiant floor heating, heat recovery systems, Durasol (a wood chip and portland cement composite) walls, recycled timber and a Tulikivi soapstone heater and bakeoven.
Montana State University School of Architecture Assistant Professor Christopher Livingston presented his Carbon Free Cheever Hall design project, which gave his students a chance to let their imaginations run wild by redesigning the school’s existing building. Students’ conceptual designs spanned the gamut and featured everything from green roofs replete with hemp production and methane capture, on-site energy production and storage via vertical access wind turbines situated on hydrogen energy towers and electric light rail transportation.
The evening ended with a social at the brand new Morrison-Maierle, Inc. building, which is also LEED certified.
Friday, April 25, 2008
After announcing the premier issue of The New West quarterly magazine, NewWest.Net founder Jonathan Weber introduced Paul Bertelli, the architect behind the restoration of the Gallatin Gateway Inn. Bertelli appropriately began the day’s discussion at the historic inn, but he soon steered the conversation toward sustainability by encouraging the audience to understand the importance of preserving Western ecosystems. Highlighting the groundbreaking scientific discovery of Archaea in nearby Yellowstone National Park, Bertelli spoke about the potential and fragility of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
“I prefer to think this is not a zero-sum game,” Bertelli mused about our species. “We are great, creative people.”
Key Architectural Trends in the Mountain West
The first panel of the day set the bar high with an enlightening and refreshingly frank discussion about key architectural trends in the West. The panel included Lori Ryker of the Artemis Institute; Don MacArthur of MMW Architects; Seabring Davis of Big Sky Journal and Louis Bieker of 4240 Architecture.
All panelists found consensus in likening the current real estate boom in the West to the 19th Century goldrush, and all agreed more needs to be done to preserve open space by building around existing communities as more and more vacation homes are built further and further away from existing infrastructure. There was also agreement that creating more public commons – both urban and rural – will help ensure more vibrant communities in the face of a frenetic pace of the modern world as well as help to avoid the boom-and-bust history of the region.
Don MacArthur expounded on the theme by urging major shifts in Western economies towards “regional self sufficiency” through building design and public transportation in the age of climate change and rising fuel costs.
“We need to build only what is necessary and build it to last,” MacArthur explained.
Louis Bieker finished the discussion by stressing the importance of immersing children in the natural world.
“Never lose sight of the power of nature to stimulate creativity, wonderment and joy.”
Making a Marriage with the Land
Landscape architect, poet and Jones and Jones Architects and Landscape Architects founder Grant Jones urged the audience to get up close and personal with the land in order to better influence creative design.
“Falling in love with the land is the prerequisite to any adaptation,” Jones said. “I want to get in and cuddle with it…The land defines us, not our architecture or politics alone.”
Jones presented three of his firm’s projects, including the redesign of Montana Highway 93 North, which now features 40 wildlife crossings between Missoula and Flathead Lake.
How Place Appropriate Inhabitation Can Meld with Cutting Edge Design
Topanga-based New West Land Company President Clark Stevens challenged designers to go beyond the design of buildings alone.
“Buildings are not enough,” Stevens argued. “We need to be working pragmatically and poetically at the same time.”
Stevens presented on several innovative building and landscape designs, which leveraged conservation projects against less sustainable rural development and oil and gas exploration. Stevens described the projects as a way to “knit this thing together in a way that will mitigate social monoculture.”
The Big Picture and the Business Case: Change and the Market Demand for Smart Growth
“Smart growth” need not be more expensive than traditional suburban style subdivisions, and it can even be cheaper, more efficient and more marketable. That was the case made by Matthew Dalbey and John Frece of the Environmental Proection Agency Development, Community and Environment Division and the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, respectively.
Frece presented statistics projecting an increase of 39.5 million in the West by 2040 – a 65 percent increase from 2000. How can Western communities accommodate that influx while preserving the best of the West?
“Zoning is not the issue,” Frece posed. “It is a question of how you protect what you value and how you do that. It may mean zoning. It could be providing infrastructure services only where you want to guide your growth.”
Dalbey spoke of a comprehensive approach to supply and demand, and also encouraged designers to not write off smart development in rural areas.
“We lose out on the ability to take this to scale” if designers and communities don’t also focus on greenfield development, Dalbey argued.
The Challenges of Green Building
LEED certification has become a catch phrase in sustainable development, but not all developers, real estate agents and banks are embracing the trend.
“It’s a hard sell to extremely conservative lenders,” says Tom Ward of Ward+Blake Architects.
Despite implementation costs often only 1-2% higher than traditional building practices, LEED building design still has its skeptics.
Brian Solan, a LEED Accredited Professional and Professional Engineer based in Bozeman, has spent hours on the phone with real estate agents trying to explain why LEED certification adds value to a building.
“People are afraid of it,” added Ryan McEvoy, President and Founder of Gaia Development in California.
Affordable Housing and Innovative Design: Western Challenges and Opportunities
There are no easy answers to providing affordable housing in the real estate dynamic of the New West, but Arne Jorgenson (Hawtwin Jorgenson Architects) pressed the audience to address this important issue by transcending the oversimplified jargon surrounding affordable housing.
“It’s not about workforce housing. It’s about housing community members and putting people in homes they can afford.”
Urban Revitalization and Historic Preservation
In sustainable development circles, the greenest building is still a reused building. Yet revitalizing historic buildings in a cost effective way across the Mountain West has its challenges.
Patrice Frey, Director of Sustainability for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said demolishing an old, inefficient structure and replacing it with an energy-saving building doesn’t consider the carbon footprint left to replace that structure, noting that the energy needed to replace the Gallatin Gateway Inn if it were demolished today would equal the energy needed to power a car for 13 million miles.
David Hale of Hale Development emphasized ways to keep costs down with restoration.
“If you go into a historic building, and you’re utilizing that building for what its original use was, your costs are going to be a lot less,” he said.
James McDonald of A&E Architects saved downtown Missoula’s Higgins Building from becoming a Wendy’s in 1982 and restored it for less than $50 a square foot, setting the stage for other historic restoration projects in downtown Missoula.
Hale noted that not all historic restoration projects go as smoothly (or as cheaply).
“Going into these old buildings, sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re opening a can of worms,” he said.
Eight Great Design Ideas
The conference ended with an entertaining presentation of eight design ideas presented by small business owners. Here’s a breakdown:
Architectural elements produced from 100 percent post-consumer glass fired in solar powered kilns.
Featuring super efficient, low-emission Tulikivi soapstone masonry heaters.
Prefabricated, recycled, maintenance-free bridges.
Beth MacFawn Landscape Design
Encouraging connection to regional landscape while limiting the use of water and chemicals through native landscaping.
Refuge Sustainable Building Center
A wide array of eco-friendly building product alternatives.
Independent Power Systems
Solar electric design and installation in Bozeman and Boulder.
“High-tech barn raising” with minimal land disruption during the installation process.
Kent Watson & Associates
Understanding the story of the land through landscape architeture.