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Home arrow Blog arrow 1/27/07- Green is becoming more than just the color of money for designers

1/27/07- Green is becoming more than just the color of money for designers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lynette Evans   
Saturday, 27 January 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007

For several years now, green has been the byword at the San Francisco Design Center's three-day Winter Market. This year's market, which ended Friday, was no exception. That is not to say there's not still plenty of exploitation -- of rare materials, air and water resources, animals and people -- behind many of the products for sale in the showrooms of the Design Center as it celebrates its 35th anniversary. But the drumbeat for sustainable building and design that goes on in forums on the Galleria floor is inevitably being heard in the upstairs showrooms and their clients' drawing rooms.

"Our overblown, over-consumption lifestyle is not sustainable,'' said Susan Szenasy, longtime editor of Metropolis magazine, in opening remarks to Thursday's "Environmental Footprint: The Forgotten Legacy of Bay Area Housing.'' On her panel, San Francisco architects David Baker and Anne Fougeron, designer Jennifer Gadiel and "client'' Jordan Harris, co-founder of Virgin Records U.S. and the youth-outreach organization "Rock the Vote," weighed in on what they're doing to save the planet.

Baker of Baker + Partners, who rides his bicycle everywhere possible, focuses on planning and mixed use. With such slogans as "Better living through density,'' the architect of lofts in San Francisco and the East Bay, as well as the low-income Curran House in the Tenderloin and the Folsom Dore Supportive Apartments for the formerly homeless -- the latter a recipient of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver award -- insists: "A green apartment building is more green than a green home.''

Fougeron, whose work includes single-family homes for "people with better budgets,'' is also involved in integrating low-income housing for seniors and the developmentally disabled into burgeoning Hayes Valley. Every building should be "site specific and site sensitive,'' she said, whether it's a weekend getaway in a Big Sur canyon, a courtyard house at the top of Cole Valley or a branch library in a city neighborhood -- all of which, by the way, she's taken off the grid via photovoltaic cells. Sustainability, she said of the Big Sur house, includes building "so that you don't have to rebuild 20 years later.''

Harris, whose slide presentation included the green remodel of his mid-century Belvedere home, is responsible for persuading movie stars to eschew stretch limos in favor of Priuses on awards nights. "Eco-chic,'' he called it -- "making it fashionable to be green'' for those in the music and entertainment industry. He and a partner also started OZOcar, the first environmental car service in New York City, and he's on the board of Mikhail Gorbachev's Global Green USA, whose high-profile (Brad Pitt was the spokesman) GreeNOLA is a green development in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. "Green building isn't just limited to high-end luxury housing,'' Harris said.

"What about the middle class?'' Szenasy asked. Gadiel, an interior designer with Kwan Henmi Architectural Planning, who is working on Arterra, a market-rate development in Mission Bay, said that, as more projects go green, prices will become more affordable to those who are neither wealthy nor subsidized. Gadiel, who hopes to see Arterra become the first LEED-certified residential high-rise in the city, noted the enormity of the world's environmental challenges, but reminded designers that even small steps, such as using fluorescent lightbulbs, can make a difference, and she touted the Pharos Project's (www.pharosproject.net) planned "nutrition'' labels for architectural and design products similar to the ingredient labels on food products.

The Design Center's semi-annual markets, of course, are all about consumption, overblown or understated. Still, it is refreshing to see the interior-design industry, and through it, those who can afford designer products and services, working to create sustainable, if perhaps not yet truly affordable, architecture and interiors.


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