Bodies and Buildings: Paradigms, Anti-Oedipus, and Passive House November 3 2014

Last class we did a quick tour of Paradigm Shifts, Deleuze and Guattari, and Passive House vs. LEED.

Anti-Oedipus: A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

We looked at Deleuze and Guattari as an exercise in mindset shift – there is nothing like Anti-Oedipus in the hands of a global group of makers who can manufacture their own means of communication and production.

It’s freeing to talk of Rhizomes and Assemblages vs. Arboreal thinking with students who naturally think and work this way, and who have no formal history with cirtical theory, Freud, Lacan, Marx, or even Oedipus, and how these concepts have shaped hierarchies of thought.

Haven’t heard of Delueze, Guttari? Skip it all, go to the French version of A Thousand Plateuas and play Marc Ngui’s images in the background as you sip Yerba Matte tea.

Paradigm shifts: always remember Dana Meadows’ wise counsel – the strongest leverage points are mindset and paradigm shifts. We spend our time tinkering with the measures, the metrics, the goals – but to see a better world we need to level up.

This lesson about mindshifts/paradigms is not yet learned in health, education, and building construction.

With architecture and buildings, we’ve recently witnessed the rise of LEED standards, with all of their metrics and platinum, gold and silver badges.

I shared what it was like to celebrate the very idea of the Bank of America tower which was supposed to generate more energy than it took from the grid. The tower won Platinum status, NYSERDA money back for energy savings, and praise from Al Gore. But in 2012, when asked to report their actual energy usage, The Bank of America tower was a mega fail. According to data released by New York City in 2012 (source NY Times partially restricted paywall), the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building.

The USGBC, which operates LEED, similarly says it has no control over how the buildings it certifies are used. But LEED certifies new buildings before they are even occupied, basing its ratings on computer models that often end up overestimating a building’s performance. If you can model, you can’t necessarily manage.

The good news is the rapid rise of the Passive House movement, which shifts our mindset about the purpose of green construction. If the first wave of green was about bamboo flooring in giants homes with three car garages, then passive house is about economy in construction and operation, and the goal of the system: climate comfort for the humans inside.

When constructing a passive house, an architect and engineer can model the intended energy benefits. But it is not until the building is built and meets air and energy criteria that a building can be called Passive House. We are valuing measured energy (Passive House) over modeled energy (LEED).

We will take the advice of the late paradigm changing coach, Dana Meadows, paraphrasing Thomas Kuhn the paradigm historian:

You keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep speaking louder and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power.

You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle group of people who are open minded.

Homework next week:

1. Pick any one of the “Facsicles” from ArtFarm on architecture theory:
http://www.archfarm.org/en/ and build a system diagram about what you learn.

2. Start thinking about the final: What part of the system of how we make and maintain our buildings, interests you the most?
What are the anomalies and failures that irk you?
What possibilities do you see?

3. Extra credit: see a passive house this weekend somewhere in NY.