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From the High Line to the AIA convention, the US is beginning to think green

The month of May has been full of high points

In this issue, Footprint features two projects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ business school and student hub for Manchester Metropolitan University and Squire and Partners’ photovoltaic mansard roof at 5 Hanover Square, London. Several points are worth adding to frame Peter Blundell Jones’ critique. Like Arup Associates’ Ropemaker Place (AJ 12.08.10), Manchester Business School demonstrates that buildings clad entirely in glass can perform well environmentally. It is refreshing to find a building that does not see the need to flout its green credentials, even if it does suggest a new ‘corporate green’ aesthetic in the same lineage as Hopkins’ recent buildings at Yale and Princeton.

Squire and Partners’ PV mansard at 5 Hanover Square also does just that, and does it well. But the limited solar output from a rooftop entirely covered with optimally orientated PVs does cast doubt on the viability of this approach with current technologies. Until more powerful and efficient panels appear on the market, Jeremy Rifkin’s vision (AJ 09.02.12) of solar-powered cities remains a distant dream.

The month of May has been full of high points. My first visit to New York’s High Line was on a sunny Sunday afternoon when it was almost too busy, a victim of its own success. But what a glorious urban experience. It made me reflect on our own Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and whether it satisfies the need for vibrant connections to surrounding communities and careful programming of activities. It’s still not certain if it will have a similar game-changing impact on the area. For now, the main activity is inside neighbouring Westfield.

New York was followed by the launch of my London 2012: Sustainable Design book at the RIBA. This offered the chance to hear the latest from LOCOG and reflect on which messages from my book are most important to share: a moment of closure and a new beginning.

I have also just returned from the American Institute of Architects convention in Washington DC, which I last attended seven years ago. At that time, most of the ‘green’ seminars fitted comfortably into seminar rooms seating 100 to 150. This time they occupied the main halls – 500 and up, a clear barometer of the maturation of America’s green building movement. More on this soon.

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