Year: 2010

December 30, 2010

December 14, 2010

As I rush here and there this holiday season, traveling to see family, rushing home from work to wrap gifts, I find myself needing to just stop. To slow down. To actually enjoy the beauty that surrounds me and take the time to be mindful.

There is the slow food movement which is a grassroots organization "linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment. Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world."

There is the slow money movement which suggests "we must bring money back down to earth. Slow Money believes "there is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down." Slow Money proposes that "the 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises."

I would like to introduce the concept of SLOW DESIGN which aims to encourage clients, contractors and architects to participate in making smart choices for a true investment in buildings, the community, and our future. Slow Design is a mindful approach to architecture:

  • Creating spaces that are collaborative efforts between architect, engineers, owner and builder.
  • Making decisions and choices that reflect our impact on the environment.
  • Building homes and schools that are so well-designed they have a minimal carbon footprint.
  • Taking the time to select high quality, durable, and local materials.
  • Investing more money up front to see immediate payback in energy use, our health, and our environment.

photo by tim laman for national geographic

November 18, 2010

Companies pay big bucks nowadays to acquire an ecolabel, a third party certification that lets their clients and potential clients know that they are on the green bandwagon.  Whether it’s getting a project LEED certified or making sure your refrigerator is Energy Star compliant, everyone is getting in on the action.

When selecting green building materials, it’s no different.  But what do all of those certifications mean.  Here is a list of some of the most common certifiers and a brief description of their mission taken from their websites.

Green Seal

Founded in 1989, this pioneers vision was to make a green economy with as little impact as possible by using science-based programs to empower consumers.   They rely on standards from organizations such as ANSI and ISO to ensure their credibility.


FSC certification provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.

Rain Forest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle® Certification takes a holistic approach to it’s certification, rating materials and manufacturing practices in 5 defined categories.  The categories focus on whether the product is safe for humans and the environment as well as its ability to be reused.  


The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) was founded in 2001 with the mission of protecting human health and quality of life through programs that reduce chemical exposure and improve indoor air quality. In keeping with that mission, GEI oversees third-party certification programs that identify acceptable product emission standards and certify low-emitting products.

November 17, 2010

November 12, 2010

Activists seek stop to arsenic in chicken feed

Catonsville business owner hosts session

By Lauren Fulbright

Environmental activists gathered in downtown Catonsville Tuesday morning in an effort to ban the use of arsenic in poultry production in Maryland.

Arsenic, a known poison, is added to chicken feed to control a common intestinal disease and promote growth, according to a release from Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

“There’s a chemical that some of us more commonly are familiar with as an active ingredient in rat poison that’s being fed to chickens across the U.S. and being fed to our families when we serve at the dinner table,” said event organizer Clary Franko Nov. 9.

Franko cited a report from Food & Water Watch on the potential public health risks associated with arsenic.

“Chronic exposure to arsenic is associated with increased risk for bladder, kidney, lung, liver and colon cancer, as well as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Jenny Levin, public health associate for Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Rob Brennan, a local architect and the owner of the Catonsville shop Alterego, hosted the event at his shop, 640 Frederick Road.

Alterego provides environmentally friendly home products including flooring, walls, countertops, tables and tile, he said.

Brennan said healthy communities depend on the buildings people live and work in, as well as the food that they eat and where it comes from.

“We support healthy, nontoxic materials— certainly for the home— and believe it should be community-wide in terms of everything that people use and ingest,” Brennan said.

Levin said her organization is particularly concerned about children’s exposure to arsenic.

Children’s bodies are not as capable at flushing toxins as adults’ bodies are, she said.

“Think about how much chicken children eat,” Levin said. “It’s one of their favorite foods.”

Based on the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Maryland was the seventh largest producer of broiler chickens in the country, the release states.

Noting that there are alternatives to arsenic, Levin questioned why the public is still being exposed to it.

“We should be able to eat chicken without consuming harmful additives, but Marylanders are inadvertently exposing themselves and their loved ones to a known carcinogen hidden in a seemingly nutritious meal,” she said.

November 11, 2010

what do i do with the campaign signs in my yard?!

now that Election Day has passed, Baltimore County residents are urged to recycle their campaign signs that are made from paper, cardboard, or corrugated plastic. check your local jurisdiction to see if you can recycle your signs.

November 10, 2010

We are all unique individuals – a compilation of personalities, habits, education, interests passions and desires.  Our living spaces reflect this unique mix to a greater or lesser degree.

Those in touch with the importance of sheltering their unique self will generally seek the guidance of an architect. They are motivated by the search for appropriate design to reflect their place in the world.

Others will consult a plan book.

Some will bring a plan book to the architect for some minor surgery.  A simple procedure is never possible.  The bigger issues of site and orientation always trump any stock plan.  We see the unfortunate results sprawled around our suburbs and exurbs.

Seek your unique house through renovation and addition or infill.  Invest your time and treasure in a not-so-big house design that recognizes its place in the environment and your unique self.

November 8, 2010

friendly architecture. a new architectural theory? friendly architecture makes me laugh, smile and feel warm and cozy. i laugh out of joy, taking pleasure out of the beauty of form, framing a view in a small window. i laugh out of joy when these forms are inspired by nature and when my view is of the bright red maple tree i pay homage to on a crisp fall morning. i smile at the colors in my home, to see my baby sit on our floor, and when i feel the southern sunlight warm my hands as i type these words. i smile because my colors are inspired by nature, my floors are yummy soft cork, and my home takes advantage of the warm radiant beauty of the sun. i feel cozy here in the friendly warmth of this place, the fresh air, the sunlight. my home wraps me in an insulated blanket, blinking with its thick glass windows, breathing in constant, temperate fresh air. we are house friendly. we are planet friendly.

photo by: dawn kearney photography

It’s that time of year again.  Winter is fast approaching and with frost on the ground insulating is making its way to the top of everyone’s to-do list.  But where do you start?  I recently revisited some helpful sites that outline a step-by-step approach to weatherization.  My favorite site so far is Sierra Club’s Green Home.  The Learn More section offers a serious overview of how to insulate properly.  Green Home Guide also offers a nice side-by-side comparison to the various types of alternative, healthy insulation.  Lastly, you might find the Department of Energy’s fact sheet useful.

Some products you might want to consider are Knauff, Bonded Logic, Roxul and Cocoon.  These products pride themselves on being healthier alternatives to the pink stuff.  Regardless of which brand or style you choose the important thing is to do it now, so you can enjoy your space and the savings this winter.