Saturday, 15 August 2009

Chicago, the favourite city

Chicago is a lovely city. Easy to walk. Public transport pretty good, except the old heritage train makes one helluva noise - you can't hear yourself talking when it passes by overhead. Went on the Architectural Cruise on the Chicago River. Thought it was too expensive (USD36) but it came with free drinks, coffee and cookies. The commentator seemed very well-informed and the upper-deck was packed. Everywhere we could see queues of people waiting for their boat rides. So that is big business; there's more than one architectural tour company. Which makes me wonder why they haven't got a system to visually or physical identify buildings to help idiots like me focus on the building when the commentary is going on. "the building on the right", "the one on the left" ... I was completely lost most of the time which building he was talking about. Anyway, as I said, I can only take about 15 minutes and then I go blank when it comes to guided tour. To top that, I hadn't slept the whole of previous night. Ah, but learnt about how the used shovels (yes, not monster excavators) to dig through the glaciers so that they could force the Chicago River to reverse its flow. Why you ask? Because the river had become a rubbish and sewer dump. Not surprisingly, the states down river didn't think much about dumping the rubbish in their backyard and sued. But lost. It wouldnt' have happened in this day an age (it happened like maybe a hundred years ago; not sure).

Our presentations by the international panelists from Malaysia (me), Taiwan (Yeh SC), India (Kiran) and Scotland (Andrew) went very well. Each of us had only 7 minutes but I think I cheated. Yeh said I probably spoke for 10. It was very short so it was mainly overview.
Shin Cheng and Andrew
Lik Meng and Harold. Kiran hidden behind me.

The presentation by the President of the US Green Building Council was I thought very good. Presentation skills very good. Slides excellent. But I think the message was more important. He was very pushy. Yes, everyone thinks that its just a scam to make money. When they started more than 10 years ago, people slammed their doors and won't even talk to the greenies from the Council. Now it seems that there are more than 100,000 LEED AP (accredited professionals), people who are certified to help you achieve LEED certification. According to the guy, the amount of money which the Council gets to give you the cert is very small; sometimes even just one cent per sq foot; sometimes as hight as 11 cents. So that's very small. Most of the added cost is the professional consultants to help you through the design, modelling, and documentation for submission to get the certification. One question from the floor was concerning building owners who wanted to meet the criteria for green buildings but didn't want to go for certification. The response was that certification is a third party validation. So you know what the owner claims is true. Apparently (at least according to a few people at the Summit), students (68%) are demanding that their universities go for green buildings; some said that students are also asking whether the universities have green buildings when they apply for admission.
The Green Building at University of Illinois Chicago. On the right is the refurbished green portion, on the left is the original building. Used for lectures.

This, I thought, was neat. Greening the roof with shallow plastic plates planted with what I think are desert-like plants. A student project at Saint Xavier University.

We met a lady who was an exchange student in Taiwan and she now works as a "Carbon Accounting Coordinator". So, that's a new green job. She says she can help teach or guide our students in compute our GHG. I told Yeh that if he invites her to Taiwan, then I will maybe invite her to Penang. Save some carbon, right?
Another green business. Organic and local. But still alot of plastic wraps. The book to put the apple, bag of chips and the turkey sandwich was really unnecessary.

OK, better stop before my one hour Internet credits cuts me off again. (BTW, I was cut off so this is delayed posting again).

A "clean air hybrid bus". We should explore having these on USM campus.

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