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Architecture | Urbanism | Climate Action 

In addition to my content strategy and development practice, I work as a freelance journalist covering green building trends, regenerative design, and energy policy for a variety of media outlets, including Green Building Advisor, Architectural Record, Metropolis, ENTER magazine, and others. 

A Fresh Look at Regenerative Building Materials

We are what we build, and historically, what we’ve built is often composed of toxic garbage. In all fairness, this wasn’t a conscious choice because, historically, matters related to VOCs and related chemicals in our building materials simply weren’t of concern, if understood at all. We clear cut; we baked, mixed, and poured with abandon; we emitted toxins and permitted runoff into our waterways all in the name of progress. Fortunately, that tide is shifting, and not a moment too soon. A new bo

Timber HP Begins Production

The paper and pulp industry was once a hallmark of Maine’s economy. It’s what steel was to Pennsylvania or what oil was to Texas. Big, scalable, and to varying degrees, dirty. But with each example of these so-called heritage industries, past tense matters. They’re not dead by any means, but any reasonable person would agree that they don’t represent the future drivers of any economy’s GDP. That said, hastening the demise of any polluting industry in the name of environmental justice is no just

The Era of Sustainable Olympics

Not all Olympic Games are created equal. The economic health, infrastructure conditions, and social and political temperatures of each host city vary wildly. Such factors cannot reasonably be disassociated from the eventual outcomes of each Games. This not only extends to the construction and labor practices that bring the event—for better or worse—to fruition, but to the promises—genuine or otherwise—of smart growth dividends that will follow all that new zoning and fresh urban development. A

California’s Green Building Standards Code Is Amended to Include Embodied Carbon

The question of embodied carbon is divided into two separate but interrelated camps: new and existing buildings. First the former. Across the country, several states and local jurisdictions are doing exceedingly well at addressing emissions—both operational and embodied—for new construction. This is playing out in places like New York State and Massachusetts, which have implemented their own stretch codes designed to accelerate savings paths for developers and reduce buildings’ energy usage acro

Ditch Microplastics and Embrace Sustainable Finishes in Your Home

The devil is in the details. When it comes to designing and specifying any home, whether it’s a new build, a complete remodel, or the renovation of a single room, keeping tabs on your own carbon and energy footprint can feel arduous. Big ticket items like flooring, windows, and furnishings are relatively easy to source when one is looking to keep their project sustainable and eco-conscious. You just need patience and, when necessary, a willingness to hold suppliers and manufacturers to account f

Milwaukee Will Be Home to The World’s Tallest Mass Timber Building (Again)

It’s only been a year since the City of Milwaukee officially unveiled the Ascent, the 25-story high-rise apartment building that earned the distinction of world’s tallest mass timber building, comprising a composite of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam. It was also certified by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTUBH), in July 2022, as the world’s tallest timber-concrete hybrid building, owing to the Ascent’s six-story concrete podium. But who’s counting? It turns out, ever

The Minnesota Zoo Opens the Treetop Trail

On July 28, World Nature Conservation Day, the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley unveiled a one-of-a-kind project that, depending on your point of view, had been either 10 years or several decades in the making. The Treetop Trail, designed by Snow Kreilich Architects and Ten x Ten, is a 1.25-mile, elevated pedestrian walkway that winds and stretches around the zoo’s Northern Trail section, taking visitors on a circuitous journey through the property’s varied landscapes, vistas, and canopies. Returni

Bringing a Niche Product to a Mass Market: How a California robotics startup is looking to scale up the reclaimed lumber market

Reclaimed lumber is a niche business. The average homeowner looking to tear up carpeting in place of floorboards or build a new deck isn’t searching their local listings for salvaged boards of rough-sawn red oak or heart pine. They’re going with a local contractor, who is shopping at Home Depot stores, which are typically nowhere near a native lumber supply. For those relatively few consumers who want that weathered character and deep patina for their floors, siding, and/or posts and beams, they

To Code or Not to Code

Building energy codes and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) policies are the problem and deregulation is the solution. This is what National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairwoman Alicia Huey would have us believe, as evidenced by her organization’s recent statement to Congress, in which Huey laments, in part, the “costly” and “restrictive” nature of grants made through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that incentivize the adoption of more progressive energy codes. Huey’s con

Understanding Carbon Emissions and Whole-Life Carbon Footprint

Wherever you turn, the topic of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions seems to be front and center. A growing number of publicly traded companies, governments, universities, and public interest groups have made reducing their carbon output a top priority. Some of these entities even have business models that are predicated on the release of large quantities of CO2 and a host of other greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere (hello, ExxonMobil), and happen to be very effective at communicating their r

ASHRAE 241 Targets Airborne Transmission of Pathogens and Infectious Aerosols

Covid taught us many things, not the least of which being: our buildings aren’t safe. However much we didn’t understand about the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the early days of the pandemic, the ensuing lockdowns and office closures were clear evidence of the fact that we couldn’t trust the environmental conditions of our offices, lobbies, restaurants, elevators (!), and other public and semi-public places to keep us healthy. In fact, we came to imagine them for what they were: boxes of stagnant air, whe

A Flat Roof in a Cold Climate

Synopsis: With a flat-roof and clad in corrugated metal and vertical bands of cypress, this 1726-sq.-ft. house is an anomaly in its established neighborhood in North Minneapolis. In addition to features such as two individual garage bays, the walls were built with SIPs, and there is no basement. Despite its modern design, however, its modest scale makes it fit right in. The neighborhood of Camden in North Minneapolis is typical of residential developments that arose in the early to mid 20th cen

Electric Heat Pump Conversion: What to Consider

Nowadays homeowners are more conscientious than ever. People want to cut costs where they can, for obvious reasons, but also reduce their carbon footprint in ways that can complement their economic concerns, wherever possible. Thankfully, we are living in an era where one’s wallet needn’t be (overly) burdened by one’s environmental stewardship. Enter one example: the air-source heat pump. Converting your home’s fossil fuel-burning HVAC system to an electric air-source heat pump can feel dauntin

It's Either Net Zero or It's Not

For developers, corporations, and even entire cities and nation states, meeting climate goals has been boiled down to a single contingency: achieving net-zero emissions. That now ubiquitous buzz phrase “net zero” has become the yardstick by which we measure our collective virtue and commitment to stemming the climate crisis, one CO2e at a time. Along the journey to net-zero (or zero net) emissions–broadly speaking, ensuring any anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that are otherwise unavoidab

Two University of Minnesota Student Teams Win Big at the 2023 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge

In addition to winning first place in the Attached Housing Division, the entry was named the Design Challenge’s Residential Grand Winner. The NorthStar Modular team, competing in the Multifamily Building category, addressed a different kind of opportunity a few miles away in Minneapolis’s Near North community. They identified a six-acre plot on Glenwood Lake that was once home to a low-rise public housing development and effectively created a master plan for the site focused on affordable mid-r

Federal Disaster Relief Gets a Boost for Communities That Rebuild Using Low-Carbon Materials

When it comes to the Inflation Reduction Act, we shouldn’t sully good intentions, nor should we pave the road with them, literally. Last March, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it will provide additional funds to states, tribes, territories, and local communities that rebuild using low-carbon construction and building materials in the wake of natural disasters. The IRA authorizes FEMA to foot the bill on “eligible” low-carbon materials, through 2026, via the agency’s gra

Built From Earth and By the Community

The most intuitive building systems are usually those that draw on hundreds of years of precedent. A slew of older but time-tested building techniques are in redux, albeit with some innovative twists, from mass timber to plant-based concrete alternatives to earth-based compounds. We can insulate whole buildings with fungus; we can create whole neighborhoods that act as carbon sinks. Anything new is old, only perhaps a bit more streamlined. This is certainly the case with strawbale homes. In the

Pittsburgh’s Mill 19 Is a Postindustrial Innovation Hub

The Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh, which hugs a U-shaped curve in the Monongahela River, was once a pivotal center in the city’s steel empire. Along the riverbend stands Mill 19, a narrow former factory that is nearly one-third of a mile long. It was once occupied by LTV Coke Works, which closed in 1997, making it the last steel mill to operate within city limits. Today, Steel City’s continuing renaissance into an industrial hub for robotics and AI tech is thoroughly embodied in the gut renova

Boston Leads Large U.S. Cities in Decarbonization Efforts Thanks to New Progressive Energy Code

Standardized building codes basically exist to keep roofs from caving in and building materials from jeopardizing our health. There’s a reason such codes are called “baseline”; they achieve the bear minimum standards required to keep occupants relatively safe. They are prescriptive. Accessibility, means of egress, basic ventilation, structural integrity, and so forth are all critical factors within the International Building Code (IBC). Energy efficiency and high performance, however, are not.
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Art Criticism | Art History

“Remember That You Will Die: Death Across Cultures” at the Rubin Museum of Art

Memento Mori is the Latin-Christian maxim translated as “Remember that you will die.” It is altogether sobering and, in some perverted sense, comforting; it’s an epitaph for the masses—commoners and kings alike. It is also the subject of the ’s latest offering, of the same name, and although said offering is a modest one, this exhibition is, quite literally, breath-taking.
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