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Christopher Gutsche, NCARB, Architect, LEED AP

Making News

Aug 29
2017

Ecosmith Architecture Receives BEST of Bainbridge Award!

We’re thrilled to announce that we have once again received the Best of Bainbridge award from the Bainbridge Island Review! Thank you to all of our clients and fans for voting Ecosmith Architecture and Consulting the Best of Bainbridge!

Aug 20
2017

Positive Space

In art we speak of “negative” space as the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. This space, depending on design can sometimes achieve a yin/yang property where the field becomes the object and vice versa. In Architecture this space around and between objects can either be perceived as “negative” or “positive” depending on the intention of the design.

In 1748 Giovanni Battista Nolli produced a plan of Rome which renders private spaces such as dwellings as solid black and public spaces such as streets, squares and the interior spaces of public buildings as white (left photo). Notice the interplay between black and white and the “positive” qualities of the “subject” and “field” — which is which? Compare this to black and white field of a typical suburban development (right photo). Christopher Alexander, in A Pattern Language, describes the following in regard to the shape of spaces:

Outdoor spaces which are merely “left over” between buildings will, in general, not be used. There are two fundamentally different kinds of outdoor space: negative space and positive space. Outdoor space is negative when it is shapeless, the residue left behind when buildings — which are generally viewed as positive — are placed on the land. An outdoor space is positive when it has a distinct and definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room, and when its shape is as important as the shapes of the buildings which surround it. These two kinds of space have entirely different plan geometries, which may be most easily distinguished by their figure-ground reversal.

The principal of positive space can be applied to all realms of design.

A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, Christopher Alexander, 1977.

Mar 15
2017

Biophilic Design

The term “biophilia” can be described as “love of life or living systems.” The general idea is that humans have not only an innate connection to nature but a biological need for connection to nature. The concept originates with Aristotle and over the last several decades has been further developed in many areas related to health and well-being including architecture and the built world.

In architecture, “biophilic design” is the term coined to describe strategies that reconnect people with the natural environment through building and landscape design. One of the most basic elements is that people thrive on connection to daylight. In my opinion biophilic design may be a valuable component of sustainable design but in itself does not necessarily create sustainable design.

The Health & Happiness Petal, Imperative 09 “Biophilic Environment,” calls for the design team to explore incorporating biophilic design into a project.

 

Chris Gutsche is a Living Building Challenge Ambassador.

Learn more: living-future.org
Check out the LBC Standard: Living Building Challenge 3.1 Standard

Jan 26
2017

Living Building Challenge

In previous posts we introduced the Living Building Challenge, a holistic building certification program developed and administered by the Living Future Institute (ILFI) that can be applied to any type of project. ”The Living Building Challenge™ is an attempt to dramatically raise the bar from a paradigm of doing less harm to one in which we view our role as a steward and co-creator of a true Living Future.” The Living Building Challenge consists of seven performance categories, or “Petals”: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. To achieve the Water Petal “project water use and release must work in harmony with the natural water flows of the site and its surroundings. One hundred percent of the project’s water needs must be supplied by captured precipitation or other natural closed-loop water systems, and/or by recycling used project water, and must be purified as needed without the use of chemicals. All stormwater and water discharge, including grey and black water, must be treated onsite and managed either through reuse, a closed loop system, or infiltration. Excess stormwater can be released onto adjacent sites under certain conditions.

 

Chris Gutsche is a Living Building Challenge Ambassador.

Learn more: living-future.org
Check out the LBC Standard: Living Building Challenge 3.1 Standard

Jan 4
2017

Living Building Challenge

In a previous post we introduced the Living Building Challenge, a holistic building certification program developed and administered by the Living Future Institute (ILFI) that can be applied to any type of project.” The Living Building Challenge is an attempt to dramatically raise the bar from a paradigm of doing less harm to one in which we view our role as a steward and co-creator of a true Living Future.” The Living Building Challenge consists of seven performance categories, or “Petals”: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. A project can be “petal certified” by achieving one of the three most challenging petals — energy, water, materials — and two others. To achieve the energy petal requires that 105 percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by onsite renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of onsite combustion. Projects must provide onsite energy storage for resiliency

 

Chris Gutsche is a Living Building Challenge Ambassador.

Learn more: living-future.org
Check out the LBC Standard: Living Building Challenge 3.1 Standard

 

Nov 30
2016

The Living Building Challenge

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) raises the bar for creating sustainable design with the most advanced building standard and certification program to date. The "Living Building ChallengeTM is an attempt to dramatically raise the bar from a paradigm of doing less harm to one in which we view our role as a steward and co-creator of a true Living Future."

The Living Building Challenge consists of seven performance categories, or "Petals": Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence. This compilation of Imperatives can be applied to almost every conceivable building project — of any scale and location — be it a new building or an existing structure. Since it was launched in 2006, the Living Building Challenge has inspired and motivated rapid and significant change. Chris Gutsche is now a Living Building Challenge Ambassador.

Learn more http://living-future.org/

May 2
2016

Looking for Land? Buyer Be Informed.

Every parcel of land has a history, is a unique place on our planet and dances with the rain, sun, wind, soil and all living things. There is a lot more to consider than the view. Your path is twofold. One path is to explore your dreams, goals and expectations in the context of design. The other path is to explore in depth what it means to build here, both in regard to nature and in regard to government agencies with jurisdiction over the property. Zoning will define what, where and how much you can build. Planning and Land Use will define “critical areas” boundaries and required buffers, as well as storm water management. These can include steep slopes, proximity to streams, wetlands, shorelines, native habitat and much more. Be advised that critical areas and features, such as, an eagle’s nest on adjacent sites can have required buffers that extend into your property. Any of these factors in addition the types of soil may impact septic system design, cost and feasibility. Check out local design ordinances, Zoning, Planning, Comprehensive Plans and the Shoreline Management Plan that define the design parameters for your proposed property. Keep your eye on the prize — a beautiful place for your home — and be fully informed before purchase to avoid unhappily surprises. Ask your real estate agent or architect for help.

Jan 12
2016

The “Soul” Qualities of Material and Place

What are the buildings we never tear down? As Rome was sacked and empire fell, the Coliseum and other magnificent structures were used as stone quarries for new buildings. Yet the Pantheon was preserved? The Hagia Sophia, since 537, has been a Greek Orthodox cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral, a mosque, and is now a museum, preserved over the course of nearly 1,500 years. In 1925, architect Le Corbusier unveiled Plan Voisin, a vision to demolish two square miles of downtown Paris and build eighteen cruciform glass office towers, placed on a rectangular grid. Instead, the area to be destroyed, including the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the right bank of the Seine, is today known for its organic nature and intrinsic beauty, and is among the most architecturally significant neighborhoods in the city.

These places and so many others, great and small, have qualities beyond function, qualities that evoke a deep and universal appreciation, places that touch the soul. Each generation recognizes this and carries if forward to the next with love and devotion. A piece of sustainability is longevity, not just well built but designed and built with the qualities that will keep it alive through generations. Bring soul into your life by design.

Oct 22
2015

What Are “Healthy” Materials and Why Might I Care?

Healthy materials do not harm your health. Many building products from particle board in your cabinetry and furniture, paint on your walls, clear finishes on your floor and woodwork, adhesives used to glue down tile, sealants and carpet can contain chemicals that leach into the air you breathe. These are usually referred to as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. Many products leach slowly over extended periods of time. Continued exposure can lead to chemical sensitivities with allergic type reactions, headaches and other irritations. Be VOC savvy. Look for low to no VOC content in all of your building products. Ask your contractor what they’re using from construction adhesives to primers, caulks, sealants and paints and insist on healthy alternatives.

Jun 17
2015

What Is FSC-Certified Wood and Why Might I Care?

When purchasing lumber, cabinetry, trim, plywood and other wood fiber based products look for the FSC trademark label and support sustainable forestry practices. The Forest Stewardship Council established a rigorous certification program in 1993 to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. FSC has developed a set of 10 principles and 57 criteria that apply to FSC-certified forests around the world. It includes: Protecting fragile ecosystems; respecting native cultures and economies; preventing illegal logging; Restricting clear-cutting (removing all trees in a tract); restricting pesticide use; and, monitoring the “chain of custody,” or ensuring that the wood in the product you’re looking at really came from the forest that was certified.