Copenhagen, Day 1 – meeting with Martha Lewis 7.17.09

July 18th, 2009

(Joan):  Believe it or not, we are once again having internet connection problems.  The internet connection in our apartment is broken, so we´re sitting in a public internet linkup in the main railroad station, and the guy right next to me is smoking like a chimney, so I may have to cut this short.  We arrived in Copenhagen, where there are already a noticeable number of advertisements in the airport for products and services claiming to be eco-friendly, all linking thmselves to the upcoming climate summit here.  There is certainly a great deal more environmental consciousness here than in Iceland.  The tourist guides prominently feature organic restaurants, eco-friendly shopping, and more.

Our first meeting on arrival was with Martha Lewis, whose father Arn is an emeritus Wooster faculty member in art history.  Martha is an architect and works for a firm here that specializes in environmentally sensitive architecture.  We met her at her office, where she had prepared for us a detailed presentation about a huge project the firm is working on in Hamburg.  DSC00590 DSC00589 We learned a tremendous amount in a very short time about the kinds of considerations that go into designing and building this sort of structure.  Among other things, Martha had reservations about US LEED certification, which is granted to a building based on adherence to a checklist of criteria in construction, but which does not require any sort of assessment to see if the completed structure meets its planned specifications.  The German standard is far stricter; a building receives provisional certification as environmentally friendly on the basis of its design, but then there has to be an inspection after a certain period to make sure that it is actually as energy-friendly as claimed.  [Addendum 24.7.09:  Amyaz Moledina from Economics just sent us a link to a press release from the US Green Building Council, saying that LEED certification will now include post-construction evaluation. Thanks, Amyaz!]

She also explained to us that the certification process involves five separate categories, of which energy efficiency is only one.  The others are:  type of materials used; human health and comfort; low maintenance and operation costs; and public access to the facility.  A project can choose to go for certification in some or all of the categories.  She also told us that in the architectural world there has been a revolution in thinking just within the last two years with regard to environmentally sensitive building.  Firms and clients are taking it much more seriously, and there have been numerous advances in concepts and designs.  She recommended that we see a special exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on eco-friendly architecture; we’ll report on that in our next post.

We were exhausted after our strenuous hiking, long drive back from Skaftafells, and only three hours of sleep before getting up to catch our flight, so after our wonderful meeting with Martha we had a relaxed evening walking around Copenhagen.   Melissa would like to say that while Reykjavik is a cat city, Copenhagen appears to be a dog city.  Dogs are even allowed on trains.  And I would like to note my particular delight at finding that the Pilsner Urquell served here is the real Czech beer, not the watered-down swill they export to the US.

Mareike 7.17.09
Mareike (7.19.2009)
It was a perfect confluence of personal and professional interests for our group to meet Martha Lewis, architect with Henning Larsen firm in Copenhagen, and daughter of professors emeritus, Arn and Beth Irwin Lewis. Martha explained that about 30-35% of total global emissions come from buildings (from heating, cooling, and lighting), which makes the design and the building of green buildings highly relevant to attaining the goal of a sustainable environment. One of her office’s contracts has been to design the new Spiegel headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. It was fascinating to hear her talk about how the client was swayed to aim for the highest certification level (on a 5-star system) they could afford.
I am interested in what makes a company like the Spiegel want to go for green when they commission a new building. Many of the ideas that were eventually realized came from the architecture firm’s proposals. In this particular case, the city of Hamburg also set certain standards or goals for the development of the entire area (Hafen City) – without imposing the particular ratings. The client is always moved by financial concerns, by peer/social pressures, and by ideological and perhaps even ethical concerns. The social pressures here are interesting: the star system rewards sustainable building and it becomes almost like a competition for prestigious institutions like this news magazine for highly educated readers to go for 5, whenever they can. And since Spiegel prides itself on a high degree of social awareness and is closely allied with Germany’s media capital of Hamburg, which is located on the Elbe river, one of Germany’s largest rivers, it makes sense that the publisher would attempt to merge social with natural spaces in a sustainable way.

5 Responses to “Copenhagen, Day 1 – meeting with Martha Lewis 7.17.09”

  1. Mark Wilsonon 19 Jul 2009 at 5:34 am

    Who would have guessed that the “Louisiana Museum of Modern Art” is in Denmark? I looked it up on Wikipedia: “The name of the museum derives from the first owner of the property, Alexander Brun, who named the villa after his three wives, each with the name of Louise.” Got to be a story there. Hope you’re getting time to savor those great Danish pastries!

  2. Mareikeon 20 Jul 2009 at 11:49 am

    Hey Mark,

    thanks for that little piece of info – we were wondering about that (although Joan says she saw it in the museum somewhere, not all of us were paying attention, I guess!). It is a great place, and definitely worth returning to. We didn’t even get to look much at the art there.

  3. Susanon 20 Jul 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Your information about green architecture is very interesting, and Mareike’s comment about social pressure is spot on. How could we employ social pressure, for example, to encourage greater use of green architectural principles in our new campus center?

  4. Mareikeon 22 Jul 2009 at 6:37 am

    Susan – good question! It seems that we already have a certain informal competition going on between colleges, and that we – at least Grant – were not happy about the rating Wooster got, for example in comparison with Oberlin. This kind of information is not circulated enough, I think, but I do think it works. It would be great, for example, if we could put on our new website a little flashing icon that says ‘green’, once we actually go in that direction. (I, for one, would find that more important than – or as important as – ‘friendly’ if I were a prospective student.)

  5. Amyaz Moledinaon 24 Jul 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I think the green-architecture/campus center connection is a great one! But I think there is more we should be thinking about given the regulations on carbon emissions that just passed in the US House of Representatives.

    As you all know, the House passed a pretty compelling cap-and-trade bill that is now in the Senate. This bill asks all emitters of carbon to regulate emissions. The bill obviously will have implications for our power-plant. If this becomes law, and its really only a matter of time, COW will have to engage in CO2 permit trading. One aspect of this is keeping track of our CO2 and other carbon related emissions. Since we will have to worry about this anyways, and keeping track of carbon and other emissions is part of LEED, we should think about leapfrogging.

    There is an incentive for us to be LEED certified in our buildings from the marketing angle of things and sometimes its hard to justify large expenses to do this. There is also the moral and ethical issue which is just as important. Perhaps the regulations that we may come under give us a strong financial incentive to jump ahead?

    I recently came across a set a list of software companies that help firms track carbon footprint.( There is even one in Cleveland! We could start there in anticipation of the legislation.

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