Commonsense Denial

Many issues arise in the design,  construction and maintenance of buildings because of our firmly rooted habit of Denial. If we don’t see (know about, ask about, wonder about) it, it isn’t really happening. You may not believe some of the obvious mistakes a candid observer can see. As Yogi Berra said, (perhaps, he is also known for saying “most of the things I said, I didn’t say’), “you can observe a lot just by looking”. And another couplet of my own, “If you swim long enough in De Nile, you will get eaten by a crocodile”. Up to our ears in alligators probably had the same origin. So what have we seen?
  1. Water in the basement/crawl. I was called by a homeowner who
    had been living in a five year old home in New Hampshire and
    was sure that the carpenter who had been re-hanging his basement
    doors was incompetent. They would work fine for six months and
    then have to be re-trimmed. He never looked beneath the floor.
    A quick excursion to the crawl space found a main carrier
    that was like moist shredded wheat. You could pull a handful
    off wherever you chose. Along a similar vein, my partner, Greg
    Trotter of Commercial Building Consultants, walked through an
    apartment complex that had just been blessed by an engineering
    due diligence firm as A+ with less than $1000 in immediate needs.
    One look beneath the floor sheathing (which had been conveniently
    removed because it was moldy and rotten, and you saw as much water
    as the underground cistern that fed the Topkapi Palace in Iatanbul, 
    (also forgotten over the years until someone wondered why the
    locals were pulling bricks up in the back yards and fishing)!
  2. Whole beer bottles in the sewer line.Impossible. Even when the
    last piece of sewer line at a close elbow was removed and the 
    object discovered, there were those who said it couldn’t be
    there. Students on the roof, drinking beer and dropping the
    empties down the vent stack to hear the satisfying clatter of
    breaking glass managed to drop one during an (un)lucky flush
    the bottle floated around a couple of long radius bends until
    encountering a close bend.
  3. Reflective cladding on Disney Hall. Who would have thought of
    this one:

    The building features Gehry’s trademark steel cladding —this time on polished concave surfaces that acted like parabolic mirrors to overheat nearby buildings and streets. Additional expense was incurred in the already expensive project to resolve the problem. ( copyright © 2001–2011 Lee W. Nelson)

    Once again reminding us that making things foolproof is difficult because fools are so clever.  There are plenty of new mistakes to make, so let’s stop repeating the old ones!

This entry was posted in Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.