Literally Greenhouses

By Don Friedman

This post originally appeared on
Cover photo credit Lufa Farms

wrote a few months ago about the unsurprising result that New York’s energy benchmarking of existing buildings was showing poor performance by glass curtain walls. Here are a couple of more links on that topics.

First, discussion of the situation here in New York from Gensler, which is the largest architectural firm in the world when measured by billings: “A Shattering Development for Glass-and-Steel Skyscrapers.” Brenden Jackson and Anthony Brower of Gensler make an important point: outlawing glass facades is idiotic (my word, not theirs) but that’s not actually what the proposed NYC regulations would do. The regs set high energy performance standards, which is the reverse of idiotic, that may have the effect of reducing the number of glass curtain walls constructed. The goal of energy reduction is what matters, not the exact path taken to get there.

Second, a similar set of regulations will be going into effect in London. London has had, historically, substantially cooler summers than New York, and is also further north and therefore has less strong sunlight. But as this summer’s unprecedented heatwave in the UK shows, we can’t be sure what the future conditions will be.

It’s hard to separate my personal architectural taste from this discussion. I’m not a fan of facades that are simply expanses of glass in part because I dislike them aesthetically. But regardless of taste, it’s hard to argue that glass walls, which were first used specifically because they allowed greenhouses to remain warm even during the winter, are a good idea when we’re trying to use less energy in air-conditioning.

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