The Eco-Logic Story
By Christina Koch
In Chicago, the city I call home, Mayor Daley requires that you have a pretty good reason for demolishing any building and constructing a new one in its place. I always agreed the city's converted warehouses, quaint bungalows and welcoming walk-ups were integral parts of the neighborhoods that make Chicago so diverse and interesting. Today, I struggle with that notion.
In March 2007, I bought a condo in a gut-rehabbed 1912 brick building on the city's northwest side. Now I and 14 other first-time homeowners face structural defects and code violations totaling nearly $300,000 because a developer wanted to make a fast buck. He lured us with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops and marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs. However, he neglected to reinforce the original foundation, tuckpoint the masonry, thermally break the structure, properly flash the roof penetrations, build the porch to code, etc. The condo association now is in litigation with the developer, but our attorneys have advised us that we'll never get the amount of money we need to fix the building. At some point, we'll have to drop our suit and do the repairs out of pocket. It’s frustrating to know the developer got his money while I lie awake at night thinking about the horrible investment I made that is losing value as you read this.
When I began telling my story to anyone who would listen, I encountered many similar situations across the U.S. I also heard more than once that to do justice by Chicago's old buildings would mean nobody would be able to afford to buy units in them. So is deconstructing them more sustainable? My personal situation frustrated me and I questioned the nearly decade-long career I had established, highlighting design and construction projects in trade magazines. I could turn my back on these industries, or I could help start the conversation that has the ability to fix what's wrong and evolve us toward a truly responsible, more intelligent built environment.
Thus, the idea for Eco-Logic was born. During my tenure with a nationally circulated green-building magazine, I was constantly confronted with the debate about what defines green and sustainability in terms of buildings. When my condo problems occurred, I thought “We can't get to high-performance buildings if durability already is impossible!”. What if green really means designing and constructing a building properly the first time or renovating it so it lasts for another 100 years? What does that entail? Once those plans are in place, how do we begin to think about energy efficiency, renewables and other identifiable green-building characteristics?
Eco-Logic is here to educate and debate about how to get it right the first time and how to intelligently expand into sustainability. What works? What doesn’t? What are the risks? What are your experiences? I want Eco-Logic to be your community—a place where green-building practitioners can share their successes and learn from their peers. Together, we’ll take a microscopic look at what “green” really means.
Starting this site has been a leap of faith. I know what lies ahead will be challenging, but if I didn't enjoy a challenge I would've chosen the easier path: turning my back on the design and construction community. And if you didn’t enjoy a challenge, you wouldn’t be visiting this site. I hope you choose to join me and the site’s contributors on what may be a winding, bumpy road toward true sustainability. Bookmark this site, share in the discussions, ask questions and suggest article topics. Hopefully each time you visit Eco-Logic, you'll take away something to share with your project teams. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s something you'd like to learn more about or a story you’d like to share. I truly believe just one person can improve our built environment by sharing his or her story and collaborating with others. After all, that’s why I took this leap!