Architects and Third-Graders Agree …

We knew architects liked the Chartwell School after it was voted one of the Top Ten Green Projects for 2009 by the AIA. Apparently, students like it too.

Last week, UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE) picked Chartwell, an elementary school in Seaside, California, as the recipient of its 2009 Livable Buildings Award. The prize, given for outstanding environmental design, relies on polls of building occupants to gauge happiness with air quality, lighting, acoustics, and a variety of other conditions in the workplace. Those results, along with net energy emission (Chartwell strives for zero) and general design quality, are considered in the jury’s final decision.

chartwell07livable-solarPhotos: Michael David Rose/courtesy University California, Berkeley

What’s particularly interesting about the Livable Buildings Award is the way it defines and evaluates green buildings–a focus on user satisfaction, for instance–and what that might indicate about future green building trends. Chartwell School, designed jointly by EHDD Architecture and Taylor Engineering, incorporates some in-vogue building features, like high-tech photovoltaic cells and (less high-tech) radiant heating. But the institution also embraces an eco-friendly curriculum, encourages car-pooling, and commits to protecting wild turkey on its property–measures that aren’t rewarded in LEED certification and wouldn’t be reflected in even the most stringent sustainable-building criteria (for that, see Suzanne LaBarre’s October article on the Living Building Challenge). It’s a more flexible approach to green architecture, one that seems to privilege a holistic view of buildings as the sum of their construction technology, program, and user appeal. And besides, a well-loved (and well used) building could be the most sustainable kind.

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