Sep 30, 201301:35 PMPoint of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

Q&A: Bob Berkebile

(page 2 of 4)

Courtesy Make It Right's Kansas City project

MCP: That’s the direction the USGBC should go in, especially for Platinum certification. Do you agree?  

BB: My hope was that by now we would drop Certified and replace it at the top with the Living Building Challenge. It would be Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Living Building. I would argue that Certified is current standard practice. The only way you advance the system is by continuing to redefine it. And what that looks like at the USGBC is still an open question. When it became obvious that the Living Building Challenge wouldn’t be that next step, they hired us as consultants to rethink what it could be. We developed a concept called Generous Design, but they rebranded it ReGen, for regenerative. That’s the path they’re on, but that tool hasn’t been funded.

MCP: Why not?

BB: They’re reluctant to invest the money in the software for creating the program. What we initially concluded was: we didn’t need another ratings system. We needed help in thinking differently. ReGen is conceived as a software program that creates a global dialogue of discovery, introducing designers, developers, building owners, bankers, to a much bigger picture of what’s possible. It provides them direct contact with best practices, so that they can make the leap to high performance and Living Buildings.

MCP: Your firm is working on a new concept called “urban acupuncture.” Tell us about that.  

BB: About a year ago we started a development company that has been focused on this idea. It’s an evolving concept and we’re learning as we go. Today’s definition is: it’s a strategic investment of leadership, design and capital, at an important place, at a critical time, to stimulate transformative, positive change. We have an urban acupuncture project under construction, which our development company didn’t do.

Courtesy Make It Right's Kansas City project

MCP: That’s the Make It Right project in Kansas City? BNIM is heavily involved with that.

BB: Yes. We did the early conceptual work. We also did the design work, and recruited the developer, and brought in Make It Right to help us with the philanthropy and bring it to its full potential. We’re working in a neighborhood that Congressman Cleaver and I refer to as the “green impact zone,” and the Kansas City Star calls the “killing zip code.” Roughly half of the houses in this neighborhood were lost to fire or demolition over the last few decades. The school in the middle of the neighborhood had been empty for fifteen years. In working with the neighborhood, we concluded with them that the greatest opportunity would be to acquire and repurpose that school, because it had been the center of the community. We wanted to find a new use that would add human capacity to that neighborhood. What we’ve done—it’s now under construction and should be occupied later this year—is convert that school to housing, a clinic, a computer lab, and a community center. On the rest of the site, we’ll build some new attached townhomes, and they will be surrounded by urban gardens.

MCP: In our first conversation with Peter Calthorpe, we talked a lot about China. I’d like to get your impressions. On your website you write, “The mode being used to develop these ’Cities of Tomorrow’ is based on the fundamentally obsolete thinking of yesterday.” Explain what you mean by that.

BB: First of all, I should disclose that around 2000 I served on the Department of Energy’s expert team to China. We were working on relocating people out of what is now the lake that was created by the Three Gorges Dam.  I had trouble with the concept of the dam, to begin with, and the more I learned about it...

MCP: The less you liked it.  

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