There's a lot to learn from Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn" (Video)

How Buildings Learn cover
© How Buildings Learn

All buildings are predictions. All predictions are wrong. There's no escape from this grim syllogism, but it can be softened.

Stewart Brand's 1994 book How Buildings Learn was a breath of fresh air. He introduced the concept of "shearing layers of change"- that different parts of buildings age at different rates, causing buildings to constantly change and evolve. There are six "S"s- site, which is eternal; Structure, which can last hundreds of years; skin, perhaps 20 (although brick is pretty eternal) Services, the electrical and mechanical, 7 to 15, space plan, the interior layout in commercial space can be as little as 3 years; and stuff, the crap we bring in, "things that twitch around monthly."

One can argue the details; some skins last as long as structures and some space plans last. However the principle basically holds. It's a brilliant book, and Brand turned it into a fascinating television series on the BBC. Mark at BoingBoing reminds me that the whole series is available online; Brand posted it to YouTube in 2012. He says "anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like… Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project." It really is worth a watch:

Tags: Green Building | video

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