Michael Mehaffy is an urbanist and critical thinker in complexity and the built environment. He is a practicing planner and builder, and is known for his many projects as well as his writings. He has been a close associate of the architect and software pioneer Christopher Alexander. He is a Research Associate with the Center for Environmental Structure, Alexander’s research center founded in 1967, and Executive Director of the Sustasis Foundation, a Portland, OR-based NGO dedicated to developing and applying neighborhood-scale tools for resilient and sustainable development.
Something surprising has happened with many so-called “sustainable” buildings. When actually measured in post-occupancy assessments, they’ve proven far less sustainable than their proponents’ have claimed. In some cases they’ve actually performed worse than much older buildings, with no such claims.
April 5, 2013
The word “resilience” is bandied about these days among environmental designers. In some quarters, it’s threatening to displace another popular word, “sustainability.” This is partly a reflection of newsworthy events like Hurricane Sandy, adding to a growing list of other disruptive events like tsunamis, droughts, and heat waves. We know that we can’t design for all such unpredictable events, but we could make sure our buildings and cities are better able to weather these disruptions and bounce back afterwards. At a larger scale, we need to be able to weather the shocks of climate change, resource destruction and depletion, and a host of other growing challenges to human wellbeing.
March 25, 2013
Have you ever looked at a bizarre building design and wondered, “what were the architects thinking?” Have you looked at a supposedly “ecological” industrial-looking building, and questioned how it could be truly ecological? Or have you simply felt frustrated by a building that made you uncomfortable, or felt anger when a beautiful old building was razed and replaced with a contemporary eyesore? You might be forgiven for thinking “these architects must be blind!” New research shows that in a real sense, you might actually be right.
October 9, 2011