Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Buildings, Well, Suck...

Quick, I saw some open space, stick an empty building in it! Welcome to my pet peeve. Obnoxiously rampant in San Jose -- biz occupancy rates are down, so what are we doing? Building more huge empty buildings! YAY! Open space? BOO! Knock down an empty building to build a bigger empty one! YAY!

The article by Jennifer Berry that got me all riled up and feeling green? The Greenest Building

The environmental cost of commercial construction = huge. And knocking down something just to put a new one up -- even worse. And even if the new construction is "green" -- the total environmental and economic costs are massive.

How massive? I've cribbed some nifty tidbits from the article below.
  • “The Pew Center on Global Climate Change estimates that 43% of carbon emissions in the United States are attributable to energy used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, making the building sector the largest source of greenhouse gases in America. This figure does not even include the energy required to build new structures or to demolish established structures.”
  • “Demolishing a 50,000 square foot building creates 4,000 tons of waste… Constructing a new 50,000 square foot building releases as much carbon as driving a car 2.8 million miles.” -- Richard Moe, president for the National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • At current rates, one third of the existing building stock in the United States will be demolished in the next 25 years. The refuse from construction, primarily from demolition, represents approximately 25 percent of the waste added to our landfills each year.”-- The Brookings Institution
  • “It takes approximately 65 years for a green, energy-efficient building to recover the energy lost in demolition of an existing building even if 40 percent of the building materials from the demolition are recycled.”--Richard Moe
  • “Data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency indicates that structures built prior to 1920 are more energy-efficient than those built through the year 2000, when the concept of sustainability began to take hold.”
  • The General Services Administration estimates that the utility costs for historic buildings in its inventory are 27% less than for modern structures.
  • “If you are rehab-ing any building in a city, the labor costs are a lot more than the actual materials, helping provide jobs. For example, [economist Donovan] Rypkema said that if you spend more money on the labor, you’re spending more money for the economy, because the laborer will spend the money again.”-- Heather Massler, TAE
I'm going to go eat some tofu and drive my Prius around the block now...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I Walk

This is my sixth year walking for March of Dimes. I walk, speak, and work on behalf of March of Dimes to honor my sons -- the one who has the most amazing laugh in the world and the one who is forever etched in my memory.

My sons were born at 26 weeks and weighed less than two pounds each. It was, by far, the most frightening and memorable day of my life. And it was just the beginning of months of heartbreak and fear.

@s brother died within an hour of being born. We didn't have time to grieve because we had to be strong and give @ every ounce of our strength and love to help him survive. He was in intensive care for nearly four months, had several surgeries, and spent a year on oxygen after finally coming home.

We finally felt confident to celebrate on his second birthday. It took that long just to feel confident that yes, this amazing strong fighter of a kid would get to be a kid.

@ is five. This year we celebrated his birthday with a trip to the Academy of Sciences and I decorated a cake with a construction theme. I still can't handle birthday parties -- as much as I celebrate @'s life now, his birthday is also the day my heart broke.

Why do I walk? I walk because...
  • I want other families to know their children's birthdays as no more than the most amazing day when that beautiful child entered their lives.
  • I want other families to drive past the hospital and not actually have a favorite parking space.
  • My son knows he was "tiny tiny" and "really sick" when he was born. And he knows that we walk together so other babies won't be born that way.
  • When my son did his "family booklet" for kindergarten and there was a blank line for "brothers," I couldn't let him write a zero.
  • My sons have each had a profound impact on my life.
They both remind me every day about what is truly important in this world. How little things can hold the greatest fascination. How what seems like a big deal most often isn't even close to nudging the needle on the big-deal meter of life.

I walk because I know that -- experiencing what we have -- no matter what comes our way, he and I can learn from it, grow through it, and use our experience to help someone else. He's five and he already believes in that. What more can I ask?

Peace, love, and laughter.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lightbulbs at Work

How many stakeholders does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can we put the lightbulb in a microsite with really neat flash stuff?

How many site strategists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Do we still need this lightbulb on the site?
What's the customer benefit of the lightbulb?
How are the metrics for the lightbulb?
What's the drive-to strategy?

How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
What do you mean you're changing the lightbulb?
Do you know how long I worked on that lightbulb?

How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can we make it a candle? Candles are pretty.

Lying, Cheating, and Stealing

May you never lie, cheat, or steal.

But if you shall lie, cheat, or steal:

.....steal a kiss
........................cheat on death
..................................................... lie with someone you love

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Energy Credits for Stress?

I had a money-saving thought: If I could convert my workday stress into electricity, I could power the house and still get a credit back from PG&E. Gas, well that's another story. But with the right diet... Wrong diet?

So far, 2009 has been the Year of Working My Tailfeathers Off. Yes, it ends in a preposition and you probably had no prior knowledge that I ever had tailfeathers. Well, no way to prove it now because they're gone baby gone. And if they have any sense, they ain't coming back.

The big admission: I have a work ethic problem.

It's not enough to get the job done. It's not enough to get the job done well. I have to figure out how to make it better. (Somehow this does not apply to cleaning my house...)

Yeah yeah. It's not actually the intensity and long hours, though they're part of the equation. And it's not just in the job I get paid to do. But in the cube-dwelling arena, I have made a habit of seeing beyond the task at hand. I'm definitely in the middle of that now with some fairly substantial projects -- they're kicking my ass, but they'll be more effective in the end. It makes my job more difficult, but more fulfilling -- because, to me anyway, I'm participating vs. doing.

I'm not in it for happy little brownie points (although I have a well-established reputation for working for high-end dark chocolate). There's plenty of superficial b.s. I can highlight if I want to get attention. I need the challenge. Once I've "been there, done that" with a particular project type, I need another level to keep up my own interest. I like to figure out new things, build the relationships between x and y, and see where it goes.

What's the root? As a writer (I use that term with hesitation), there's always an edit to be made -- a twist of a phrase, a more evocative word, a more precise verb -- to improve your work. I grew up watching my dad return things from rusty dusty abandoned pieces into cars or an airplane -- locating or building the random little part to get it just right -- because he could. As a kid I spent frustrated energy trying to fit in and meet the expectations of others, then woke to realize that I really didn't care. Fulfillment comes from flying my own kite, defining my own challenges, and looking for the next ones.

Or, with a five-year-old as my guide, I'm still asking "Why, how, why, how, why..." and answering my own questions with "why not?" and "let me figure it out."