Strategic design and financial development for individual projects, large developments anywhere in the world.

Pritzker Prize for RCR Arquitectes – Wonderful and Sad News

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building | Tags: , | No Comments »

I have been involved with cutting-edge design from the very start of my career in architecture, but to me, the saddest thing is that we have not evolved.

Sustainable ArchitectureRCR Arquitectes recently received the Pritzker Prize. The firm is a remarkable manifestation of artistic and material excellence, very much like Tadao Ando with his Alvar Aalto and Pritzker prizes many years ago.

I live in a world where the United States alone wastes a trillion dollars a year in energy. I have not seen one single program – even in our Ivy League schools – where students are guided to understand the principles of the global responsibility.

Today, there is NO NEED to design a building that wastes energy – NONE. Period.

Buildings that are not energy efficient continue to exist today only because our clients insist on using current codes and standards that protect our energy suppliers’ futures. Energy suppliers sit on our boards and in our meetings to make sure that the code does not hurt their future of WASTE, and thus their stock prices.

I have yet to see one prize, whether it’s the AIA national award in the U.S., or in my home country of birth, Finland, or my adopted interim country, the United Kingdom, where I received the best energy – before it was called green and passive – and design information par none from 1974-77.

If we keep rewarding people like Ando, and all the well-meaning others whose buildings don’t give any regard to energy efficiency and conservation, how am I going to greet my children and say you are going to be OK?

We don’t have many years to go on. We have burnt the atmosphere and oceans beyond the point of a return to normality.


Tapani Talo, AIA

Philip Johnson in Memoriam

Posted: January 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: | No Comments »

Helping the Unknown Young Architects

Remembering some of the round table conversations we had while we worked on designs.

The things I wanted to share today are not normally associated with Philip Johnson. Last week I made some comments on Glass House, which took two years to design. And, as he said, it takes a minimum of a year to have a great design with hard work, study, conversations and constant revisions.

Remembering Philip JohnsonWe all know Johnson’s intelligence and tenacity in following the latest painting, sculpture and literature and critics, and his competitiveness in getting projects.


He did choose to use his intellect to spar with his intelligent friends carefully all throughout his life. That is how he kept himself ever “current” and not dropping off the design edge like some do eventually as we mature. We would be working on an issue for the project that I was assigned to and I would come to his office and sit with him around the big round table. Every so often, the telephone would ring and his peers would call to tackle a thorny issue in their lives with clients, and he would act like an elder statesman, making relevant helpful comments and encouragements.

For instance, there was a time when we had to find a new head for MOMA and the search went on for quite some time. It turned into a global effort, and it was most fascinating time for me to listen to the names that were considered and why.

Remembering Philip JohnsonEvery now and then he would also dwell on his luck and fortune being associated with MOMA in it its conception and traveling with Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Alfred Barr in Europe, gaining invaluable insights to what is strong design and what is fleeting.

But mostly the fact that Hitchcock clearly understood the “new European” architecture better than anyone, and saw the deeper intellectual and sociological implications. This was what Philip admired most.

This is what he wanted the next generation to understand, appointing and supporting younger intellectuals.

He would point to a small drawing by an obscure Norwegian architect and be almost in tears from admiration. He embraced Zaha Hadid immediately and gave her critical guidance and help, without which she would never have made a good start. Frank Gehry he admired, dialogued with and advised for decades.

In the ‘60s, Robert Venturi’s groundbreaking house for his mother was most important project since Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Johnson then sought to bring Edwin Lutyens’ genius to the forefront to support Venturi’s mother’s house.

Philip Johnson in MemoriamOthers who benefitted included Daniel Libeskind in his early efforts in Berlin. We even proved one time that his structure was viable as the jurors in a Berlin competition had said it was not. We changed a hotel design so that we would test the structure to prove it was also economically viable.

But most importantly, he was trying to find a way to support young unknown architects. He kept asking me what could be done.

At that point I said to him that I had originated the NYC Architecture League Young Architects program in 1982, as I was part of a small committee trying to find ways to do just that. I had found that most buildings that we admired in history books were done by architects when they were younger than 30, so we devised a competition structure that allowed only young architects to submit their efforts. Looking back, I think this is probably the most valuable and important “matter” for mankind I brought to life in my own life staring 1983.

Hopefully in the next 20 years, I will find a way device a method for our Congress and Senate to finally understand that only architects and engineers can COOL the world and avoid the up and coming environmental disaster – dramatic changes in climate and water level increases of 50 to 100 feet eventually.


Tapani Talo, AIA

Real Income for USA

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: architecture, energy policy, green building | Tags: | No Comments »

Trillions of dollars each year if we think correctly using proven methods – Think and operate like Apple does.

3,500 Foot Tall Projected Building in BeijingWe just had a political earthquake, but instead of fixing matters it is opening fissures that will hinder real innovative thinking by the brightest professionals and overall growth.

It is no one’s fault but our unique history of easy access to almost unlimited resources that has created a relaxed attitude what needs to be done in the long term. Our quarterly approach to finance and expectations of companies’ positive cash stream is not helpful for long-term change and innovation. Our new president has used the old methods of building cheap – even cheaper using every tax loophole there is. His method – and that of many developers in general – is first low cost with most glitter possible.

iPhones are innovative as the market place is brutal to Apple if they don’t. If were using the same means as iPhones that have improved energy usage each year, our buildings would not need the grid, be safer and infinitely more usable and comfortable.

Let’s just look at buildings and transportation. Since 1973, both have had green thinking on the agenda but it has been vigorously opposed by utility companies and builders. I can understand utility companies, as they are mandated to provide the best return possible for shareholders.

What I do not understand is builders objecting to green codes. For them, work is work, and they get paid by their effort. But the pressure is the developers whose wallets depend on competitive cost over competition. Our nation pays dearly for this. We complain about taxes, but these kinds of savings are equal to the annual budget of the USA, fiercely fought over on Capitol Hill in Senate and the House.

This isn’t chicken feed – it would show that we were as smart as Apple is – or better. Architects have wanted to do this for decades, but never allowed to.

How Are Construction and Poor Code Meeting Design Costs Passed to Clients?

Posted: September 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: | No Comments »

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox News for what to do to patients.

Construction CostsMost commercial projects are using between 200 and 300 kBTU/square foot annually, while some landmarks like Seagram and Lever House use way more – closer to 400-plus.

The cost for commercial and high-rise housing over 30 years is equal to $1 million per 1,500 square feet of space – 10 times the cost for staff in offices and alike for health issues.

In my last blog about 90 percent more efficient green residential projects saving $500,000 dollars over a 30 year mortgage period (Footnote No. 1), 90 percent more efficient green passive commercial buildings can use around 40 kBtu – so between 80 and 90 percent more efficient than a regular building that is built to code.

So who is paying for the inefficiency of the code building, and why don’t we build better – especially since it only costs 7 percent more to do it?

It is the first-day sale/lease scenario for developers, or anyone leasing or building for spec.

Anyone in real-estate knows that every day a building or space sits empty, it hits bottom line heavily. Hence we have to design and build as cheaply as possible to avoid any initial cost to the last cent/penny/shilling.

The idea that a building should perform like an investment in long term for users and our nation never enters the equation as it just cannot, so our entire industry is geared to produce the least-efficient building that can be built legally.

Our codes are fought heavily by developers and builders for the same reason to be as lenient as possible.

There are no representatives for users in the process, nor are architects trained or able to interfere with the process for the reason that we are trained to stay alive to help developers do what they do.

Imagine if doctors were told to listen to Fox news what to do to patients. It is an equally insane situation.

In my past blogs I have raised the issue of our country losing annually near a trillion dollars in GDP for this reason – almost twice the amount we spend on military each year.

The cost is obviously borne first by tenants or users, but indirectly by our nation as a whole as it is then deducted from our taxes. Never by the operator/leasing entity!

When we sell properties, be it residential or commercial, inefficiency does not equate. It is never brought up as it would make older building and cheap spec one look inferior. So the emphasis is on decor and cleanliness – The Trump way. Sometimes even “better design” by talented individuals.

So investing in green, passive building saves 7 percent within 30 years – at least the cost of the building itself (not land); in residential sometimes twice the cost of building itself, as a normal 2,500-square-foot house is about $300,000, excluding thrills like fancy cabinets and bathrooms etc.

In super tall buildings, we do not get the total cost of building back due to framing cost, but we do get a building that will be easier to “reskin” as our glass curtain walls are only meant to stay watertight and sealed for 25 to 35 years – an issue rarely discussed and dealt with.

I have developed a curtain wall system or approach that allows re doing without making tenants move away from their space for instance.

Tenant issue: The inefficiencies are particularly costly in AC and heating, as the cost of running services are in the lease agreement. They also include surcharge of 15 percent for the electrical power normally. So not only are we punished for building character, we are punished for the delivery of essentials.

If we were to pay 15 percent more taxes, we would have a revolution in our country – or anywhere else – yet we pay this blindly, as we do pay our credit percent costs, too (as we think savings on taxes will help without realizing the costs to our nation).


1) The energy loss for a green renovated 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot house is about 28000 BTU, 1/2 to new one at 0 degree, 14 BTU hour/square foot – annually about 20 kBTU/square foot.

Thank you,

Tapani Talo, AIA

Saving $300K to $600K Without Effort in 30 Years

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: energy policy, green building | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Plan before having children with near or full passive house savings

Now that we have a summer holiday from super-high energy costs, it is actually the best time to plan ahead as they will be returning with a bang soon enough.

Green Energy HomeBut how many of us understand the potential guaranteed savings in 30 years of $300,000 to $600,000 dollars for normal house (plus or minus 2,000 square feet)?

We plan our own education for careers (expensive these days), marriage (we manage the costs) and having children (costly but necessary for two reasons – education and housing) and a that is close to a school of choice and convenient to work and leisure.

Cars are one of the biggest variables, though. The cumulative cost for vehicles can be more than the house cost in most of the U.S.

But the house needs real forward thinking, and that is NOT in our general mental training in the USA. I find ever-so-few smart professionals who understand this. They hire SMART investors to invest smartly, they hire as good as possible lawyers to be safe and, naturally, the same applies to doctors. But almost none of them hire smart green passive architects, and with green, every client will have guaranteed savings as long as they live in the building – no ups or downs like in stock markets.

Energy Saving HomeWhy Does this Occur?

Naturally there is a cost-fixing typical American house, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 on average, but that is the cost that many people pay for a higher performance car.

The house is the same way: higher comfort, but lower cost over the period of raising a family in one school district.

But if one sells a “green house,” like my clients who have relocated, they will often find they can recover the cost in an instant and sell their homes fast – and with a premium.

In addition, when storms like Hurricane Sandy and other power outages occur, one has no need to find a friend or hotel for the weeks when there is no power. A green, self-sufficient house still has a comfortable 72 degrees inside 24/7, a working refrigerator and power for computers available.

Why We Still Don’t Understand One of the Professional-Side Largest Expenditures

Energy Conservation at HomeThe idea that we will not have economical oil, clean air and fertile soil forever – let alone for our next generation – just does not resonate in the USA. But it is the reason why Europeans have more stable life. They plan long term at the government level, and they save for those cloudy days when jobs and investments fall short.

In the next blog, I will make a similar comparison for Class A office buildings that are built right.

In Northern Europe, it hardly matters where you live. Education is equal where ever you are, and transportation is exemplary, meaning that cars are more convenience than necessity.

Thank you!

Tapani Talo, AIA

World’s Tallest Buildings

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We have a love affair with super tall buildings – those 3,500 to 4,000 feet tall, or the “mile-highs.” It not only needs to be safer than others, it has to be flexible and green, and preferably meeting a passive standard.

In one design this year for another super tall building, I was very unhappy about many of the safety-related aspects that I had to do, as the site dimensions dictated hash constraints – a usual situation for us architects.

So I took the experience and started to think about how look and function would look if as many things as possible were addressed. SoI composed the super tall building called “Bentley ACHOsim Symphony” – named for the best software around for dealing with also very large projects. I designed this to be as safe as it possibly can be – very green, with a sacrificial glass layer (with solar PV) exterior so it can be replaced without disturbing future clients.

Mega-Tall-5500 feet-NY City by Tapani Talo-s-It has vertical inner chimney turbines so that the height is utilized rather than wasted. It has eight exterior turbines harnessing wind all along the vertical facade and few at the top, depending on the final location and height beyond 3,500 feet (to about 4,000 feet). Extra stairs and exterior elevators can be called for both maintenance and rescue, and helicopter landing areas – plural – are there for immediate rescue and first aid.

Floor plates are as flexible as possible, which helps to make them also quite powerful, while in the upper regions, sky atriums give respite rather than forcing occupants to travel down to the city streets.

Since I am from Finland originally (and grew up in Aalto Campus), and as a painter and photographer, the building’s softer features offer a feeling of height with immense vertical clarity – it’s just as tall as it should be. With Philip Johnson in particular I learned to tackle high rise design, which is actually even more difficult than “normal” building.

There are plenty of towers that are super tall, but God forbid if something serious happens in the middle part of the building – as it did few months ago when flames engulfed several floors of the iconic Torch skyscraper in Dubai. In these situations, What happens to the people above it? The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, like many others in the same category, is a good example of the “needle” approach. I will get back to tower design, but I do want to say that the good building principles of the super tall towers are no different than the smallest single-family houses that I have created – they just have some added constraints.

One has to understand what makes buildings comfortable and easy to run (and economically viable with the least amount of equipment). In tall buildings, there are thousands of small pieces of equipment and controllers that all consume power, for instance, and up till now, nobody paid attention how much power they consumed. The passive building standard in Europe has finally shone a light for the benefit of our entire profession.

Architecture, like any other art or profession, requires experience. Accepting and understanding “good” is the goal and loving it, as architecture is a lifetime of learning, honing skills, perfecting balance and focus – the prize of losing the rush of the new and seemingly just different versus great. That’s why lucky architects who have had good clients, and thus good team of consultants, are in the position to offer great buildings to great clients. Without a great client, some great buildings – like Bank America Tower in New York City, for instance – simply couldn’t exist.

Working with Edward Barnes and Philip Johnson, I found that real architecture for real clients were so much better with age – just like Impressionistic painters started their real thing in their 50s.

I am starting with Philip Johnson in architecture (Barnes was similar, but 15 years younger, so Johnson is more suited for this example). He was 80 when I joined him, and I was six years into working as a principal designer on many projects around the world during those years. What was so beautiful was the fact that we did not flutter around options like in the many instances in the past, but were able to focus on real issues of current artistic thought and practicality (program and construction price). There was a sizzling atmosphere in our thoughts – although in retrospect, other results were not earthshaking, but good at least in each instance. And if we look around, good is hard to find. Good new cities with rich street life are nearly impossible to find. That needs travel, study and understanding people and their culture. Architects too often build objects, quite often as clients want it and demand it. But many objects in a row create a very dull and deadly cityscape.

The one thing we could not do, as we still cannot, is making a client able to understand the green of our means and methods. There is no room for extra time (cost of architects, engineers and consultants) or extra technology (small cost and payback over seven years) – developers need year-one, immediate payback. The fact that the country suffers from this approach is never entered into the equation. To talk about the planet means immediately being fired, so only clients who are already interested can get those goodies.

If one is to talk about young architects, yes, general design can be achieved, but for them to have an internal and external consultant team that can give real deep detail, material and truly green info at the right moment is nearly impossible. The showmanship of big comes to my mind – interesting-looking buildings, but not cheap, nor green, despite somewhat loud language trying to say so.

Building Better in USA, India and Globally, with Inspiration from Chef Dan Barber

Posted: June 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: green building | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Talo – Green Passive Architect – since 1984

Tapani A. Talo, AIA

Building Better in USA, India and Globally, with Inspiration from Chef Dan Barber

DSC_0351-B-MThe Third Plate, Chef Dan Barber’s book on how to create new, better food systems, has a fairly simple premise for good food. To summarize, food should be grown in naturally healthy soils without chemical interventions that burn away the microorganisms that allow and create the conditions for a full range of nutrients to exist. In the U.S. today, farmers are mainly giant stakeholders employing machinery to farm monocultures like corn and soybeans on farms made possible only with the application of literally tons of fertilizers and pesticides. There is no connection to earth and no motive other than immediate profit.

The way we build is also primarily based on the profit motive, whether in the US, or, as I witnessed last week on a trip to Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in modern India. The trend means minimal greening, or, to put it in numbers, 20 to 30% improvement in energy efficiency at best. Developers and architects alike think this is ok.

Why? A few trends point the way. When I started working in New York City in 1980, the core to window wall ratio was getting larger and larger all the time, thanks to lighting and HVAC systems that could bring a facsimile of fresh air and real light deep into the heart of buildings. A perfect example was Three Nutrients on 200 Vesey Street, designed in 1982, and started in 1983. Its 40,000 square foot floor plates (200 by 200 feet) were made possible by HVAC and Lighting. Architects like myself thought at the time that this was nuts – but that’s what corporate clients and thus developers – wanted and insisted.

In Germany and Switzerland even secretaries have to have daylight, as the health issues of going without are extremely well documented (to their credit, our AIA has for years been touting this issue, to no avail), creating health bills that dwarf the cost of building itself. Not only do we demand endless hours from our staff, but with space maximizing floor plans, we deny real light and real fresh air to employees in the name of efficiency.

Building plans (and new buildings in India, China and everywhere) have followed suit. In the 70’s I remember a study where British workers were compared to Germans. In the UK they worked longer hours, but produced less than the Germans who had extremely long holidays too.

The German and Swiss (and now Austrian) buildings are extremely well insulated, with hardly any major mechanical equipment to supplement natural air, or well treated air and light, and have operable windows made possible partially due to a good climate. Passive buildings even for office space are becoming a norm, with the result that a 20 story commercial uses as much energy as a large normal private house in the states. Payback for building alone – about 8 years, with staff health near immediate.

It’s not as if larger, artificially enhanced buildings produce a net benefit either. The U.S. spends a trillion in wasted energy a year, a 1/3 more than military budget, and equal to our general annual budget as a whole. Yet the so-called efficiency of large office floor plates, lots of equipment pushing heat and cool and simple double glazed windows is still the norm.

We do not get real energy numbers from China, but it cannot be any different. And India’s electric grid is struggling to cope with demand during summer heat waves. There is no government (or people serving in their respective parties) beyond Germany, Austria, Switzerland (and Scandinavia, to a large extent) that understands even a little bit of this, or how to do something about this rather sad gas guzzling situation where we jam people like chicken farmers jam chickens into sheds, sacrificing quality of space and energy in the name of efficiency and market ‘norm’.

Our buildings are big monocultures, like corn and soybeans, stuffed with people to produce as much as possible and sacrificing air, light and working environment, like the taste and nutrients in food, for a few basic, sellable outcomes. Unlike a kernel of corn, however, the workers in these environments have to contend with health and psychological issues that extend beyond those four walls.

NY City future DSC_0171If architects, building department officials, engineers and developers were trained right from the start of their education on basic energy efficiency, we would not have this trillion-dollar monkey on our backs, and would live in a world where healthier, happier workers could produce more and better ideas. And where does that trillion go – to atmosphere – and as in India this summer, boiling pavements, roads and people without AC.

The Third Plate paints a clear relationship between soil sustainability and healthy food. Likewise, the architects of today need to think about what people and society as a whole need, and treat the environments where they live and work with the same focus on sustainability and quality.

A good architect can design anything, with the right training. But we need a lot more of it, and now.

But cannot, as there are no incentives by banks or governments as they are clueless having grown up in this system and unable to re-think the building like a gas guzzling trucks. Both products of engineering but buildings are for 50 to 100 years each.

Tapani Talo, AIA


648 Valley Avenue, 3rd floor, Yonkers, NY 10703, USA Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,

Email, –

Why Should Solar PV Be the Last to Be Installed?

Posted: February 23rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: energy policy | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

DSC_0112Solar PV Should Not Be Installed Until….

If one was to add up the usual culprits for an energy bill, it’s always best to start with the worst, largest abusers? Not just the largest, but also with ones that bring real comfort and safety home? We certainly spend more time under our roof than in our cars, but we spend A LOT more on cars just for looks, status, and performance. These days, cars under $20,000 are just as good as higher end models except for a few perks. But who really needs to get to 60 miles an hour one or two seconds faster for $20,000 to $100,000 more? None of us!

The same is not true for houses—your investment matters. As one of my clients said when confronted with the choice, “I’d rather make my house nice and comfortable than get a fancy car for the next few years.” One easily saves $30,000 to $100,000 dollars in ten years by improving a house’s efficiency.So when one buys a house, let’s say at the age of 35 and stays there until retirement, there is a $100,000 to $300,000 difference in savings and if one plugs that money to paying capital in mortgage, one doubles that. I would like anyone to show the same kind of return on capital in the stock market!

Unfortunately, the current thoughts around house design are much like cars, where no one makes real money making really smart simple lightweight cars, only complicated ones with a steady stream of expensive spare parts and labor pay off dividends – again at our wallet’s expense. It’s the same with buildings, as contractors and people supplying services are the ones making a living with hard-earned income.Highly efficient buildings are healthy, comfortable, easy, and economical to maintain, as there are hardly any parts to go wrong or wear out. The good news is that by addressing some basic aspects of our homes, we can change this equation in a way that’s good for our wallets and for the environment.

Our most demanding requirements are cooling and heating, and both can be eliminated by permanent simple generous economical insulation. Starting with the roof by raising it to between R = 60 to 80,80 preferable in New York or further north, but even in the south for cooling highly insulated roofs make even more sense.

High efficiency R = 10 windows or more are equally important, but so few professional even know about them. and they have been around for more than two decades! I personally had them in my previous house since 1995, and in the next one. the design is based on the availability of them. Even in the winter months, being able to sit next to a picture window without feeling a chill is like driving a luxury car for free. With great walls and the right roof, one can eliminate 90% of heating and cooling, and ALWAYS have your home at 72 degree 24/7 without having to pay for it.

By switching to LED, one saves 85 % of a major part of the rest of household power requirements, and for real, avoid the fluorescent fixtures, as they have such a poor color rendering making everything gloomy.

Hot water is another area where for some reason energy companies are so entrenched in avoiding good solutions – like solar hot water and geothermal pre heat. Hot water is truly the major component in utility costs, as we all have daily showers and use several gallons of the precious heated material. Just think how long it takes to boil a pot of water and multiply this several times, and then the number of members in the family. Tanks are rarely even insulated to meet code minimum. And the code as we know it is itself a minimum, not what smart professionals should request to best meet their clients’ needs.

If one has geothermal wells installed, it’s good to have a well water line included at the same time. This way, one will not lose the garden that one might have spent years caring and designing during long dry spells, as solar PV will pump water when needed in an emergency too.

New induction ovens and cook tops are fantastically better than anything out there, and don’t have the oxygen-grabbing feature that gas stoves (or old type fireplaces) have, which need huge amounts of fresh air to be safely used. The cool gourmet gas stoves need a large window open to get enough oxygen to operate properly. Good luck trying to find that fact in the brochure for the stove!

DSC_0147-smRefrigerators are bit of a joke even today, and it’s hard to find one that could be called ‘efficient’. The market is so driven by the cost and the thinness of the wall to maximize the interior space that our energy bills (and wallets) are barely considered.

Once we have done all of the above, our electrical needs can be reduced 90%, and with solar panels, we can be totally grid free and able to operate when powerful storms ravage our power grids for days or weeks at a time.Even better, in winter storms, a small wood burning fireplace guarantees total comfort even in blackouts. My clients and I can testify to that! You can’t put a price on not having to find a hotel when thousands of others are doing the same, to not worrying about bursting pipes, or losing your frozen food during summer brownouts.

Grid Lock in the Capitol Hill – How Expensive Is It to Tax Payers in US?

We architects are a strange breed, as we are as qualified as doctors in terms of education, but we are not able to prescribe medicine with efficiency like doctors do.

Since the 1970’s oil crisis, there has been a minimal understanding of how to make our country a smarter place. We applaud the fine stock market evaluations of the software based institutions in Silicon Valley, California, but rarely look at the BIG picture. Our media is much more like Low Fat Milk these days where serious analysis is treated like a heart clogging fat, to be avoided at all costs. And since the media is so spread out between different platforms, there is simply no focus or common thread. The loudest sound bite rules for the next few seconds.

I wrote about many of these issues in the One Trillion Dollar Waste a Year blog in Fall 2014 celebrating my 50th year since wanting to become an architect, so I will not repeat some of the issues laid out. Instead, I’d like to discuss the broader framework in which these problems play out. When assessing the health of our country, the deficit and banking crises should be at least secondary to primary threats, like energy insecurity and environmental damage. But we seem not to have suffered enough to have common sense. Europe took two major world wars to find religion. The fact that we pay 1/2 the cost of the oil in comparison to rest of the world has lulled us to keep living the ‘American Dream’ and this shell oil is more like an Indian summer day in duration before we are truly stuck with the rest of the world’s REAL WORLD difficulties.

Ask what happens to the economy if you double oil price from 4 dollars a gallon and double the heating and cooling bill in one’s house – PLUS the related increase in food costs due to the same increase in processing costs. That is the WALL that we’ll face in about a decade and are we prepared? No IPAD or GOOGLE stock evaluation will help us there. We’re doomed.

Banking used to be for supporting industries that actually MADE things that could be sold. If one looks at the Fortune 500 listing, one begins to find industries in making things somewhere between 400 and 500, so the first 400 is reserved for service based and similar companies.

There should be a way to reward directions that are BETTER for your overall healthiness as country, as a whole than what we are doing. The example of trillion dollar loss a year in energy waste is just one aspect. There are more, but in Capitol Hill, the game is power and helping our (each Senator’s and Congressman’s) local constituents.

Just as an example, why do we need medical insurance companies that actually are sometimes more painful than the disease itself when trying to solve treatment options as to what is covered and what is not? A cap is important in anything, and if the individual can, let them pay more out of their own pocket. Medical costs cannot grow with current rate any more than building simply stupid buildings or driving cars that they claim to be good mileage cars when the speed limit is 30 MPH instead of closer to 100 MPH. That’s what we should be having by now. What do you think?


Tapani Talo, AIA


New York , USA  Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,

Email, –


Diminishing Resources and the Role of the Architect in Society

Posted: October 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: energy policy | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Tapani Talo Architect est. 1984

Tapani A. Talo, AIA Principal

Architect and Artist


To: The United States of America

Re: Trillion a year wasted energy alone since 1977 original speech by Jimmy Carter

Architect’s 50th year Trillion-dollar ‘Moral Equivalent of War Speech – 2014 version!


A short background and reason for this speech.

As an architect, my professional life revolves around interpersonal relationships, the often one-on-one interactions with clients, engineers, and construction workers. Here, I want to reach out to as wide an audience as possible, to anyone interested in the future of our nation and what we leave for our children. Why would an architect reach out like this?

It is because of Cancer. When my late wife Judith was diagnosed right after 9/11 with stage 4 breast cancer, I had to completely change my career. I stopped travelling and searching for big business opportunities wherever I could, and found a way to operate locally and be with my family rather than bid for jobs around the world.

Despite a wide ranging career that took me from photography to working as a sound engineer for the Rolling Stones, my travels convinced me that I needed to be an architect and planner – my original ambition since the age of 14 – to make the world a better place. I was fortunate to begin learning about this career with professors in the UK who taught their students about green architecture from the very first second because, as they said, it was the only way to bring about a real change. But until Judith’s cancer, I had no time to stop and think about where we were heading, what was happening to all of us, and how I could really implement these lessons.

I was fortunate to be a leading designer in charge of technical innovation with architects like Edward Barnes, Philip Johnson and Steven Holl. I worked on projects in Times Square, high-rises, Museums, Class A international Airport terminals, sports fields, retail and hotel projects, the headquarters of CNBC and Turner Broadcasting, and numerous custom, green residential properties.

All this allowed me to commiserate with best thinkers in engineering, and to realize the stunning fact that by adding just a small amount to the average construction budget, 7% at most, buildings can be 90 to 95% more energy efficient. In turn, this pays exponentially greater financial dividends in terms of the health of their occupants, the savings from reduced energy bills, and the long-term resilience of these structures.

9618580_SThis sort of efficiency has real life significance. In 2010, when a winter storm knocked out power and my wife Judith was in the late stages of her illness, and when the outside temperature averaged 10 degrees, I was able to keep our house at 72 degrees for 8 days with a 100-year-old wood burning fireplace in the basement. It allowed us to maintain a high quality of life and to keep her comfortable at home, and allowed me to support her wishes – she did not want to die in a hospital.

That was the moment when all the payback from the effort go green was seared into my consciousness like nothing else, a branding iron that defined where to go and how to dedicate my life and work.


Dear Fellow Citizen,

Trillion is formidable number, even in our energetic country, and saving that much by making our built environment 90 to 95% more efficient a year with 800 billion in energy savings with current energy prices, and 200 billion in other efficiencies creating a new employment and proper industry, education and codes to help every builder and designer to build it right.


INSULATION – the cheapest – most modest – most powerful source of saving – in large quantities

All it takes is insulation: R-70 roof, R-40 walls and R-12 to 20 windows, and bit of standard orientation and correctly figured plan(s) – so anyone with slight training and with new correct local and national codes could do it! (with office buildings, bit more knowledge, but mainly correct financial incentives – we have to know how)

We would become leaders rather than laggards in to be independent on energy – and thus safer in crisis – and turn the clock back on climate change. Architects and engineers are the answer.

In President Obama’s Inaugural Address on Jan 20, 2009, he said: We will not compromise in our way of living – and this was after Bush had just spent over a trillion dollars alone fighting for oil on Iraq – which WE TECHNICALLY NEVER NEEDED!

In a Financial Times book review from August 30, Nobel Prize winning professor Joseph Stieglitz said: “In the list of fundamental drivers of today’s distress [Martin Wolf] leaves out the structural transformation (from manufacturing to services) of advanced countries.” But even Dr. Stiglitz (as well as economists such as Paul Krugman) with his credentials leaves out THE MOST IMPORTANT driver of distress – the invisible continuous waste that results in a near trillion dollars a year in Energy (and equipment) loss in buildings alone.

The impact of this loss on housing / building sector in general – not mentioning infrastructure – is BIGGER than the cost of our army and medical care put together. Our beloved country could be so much more wealthy and productive, our foreign policy would be so much healthier and planet Greener if architects and engineers were ABLE TO DO OUR job!

If we architects were able to do our job much like doctors or good lawyers, with professional fees that reflect professional thinking and research required in each and every project type, our buildings would need 90% or less energy that we use today, be 90% more comfortable (and like cars be really ‘cool’ and fast without expense) and in the event of natural or manmade disaster, fully operable. This would mean that we would not have to run around the world securing oil reserves with the world’s MOST expensive military troops but use them to build better AMERICA at home, and if bothered, defend our soil.

Nor would we need nuclear plants, or fracking that will supply only for next 2 decades or oil and gas prolonging our old BAD habits of waste. Our power grid and LARGE politically powerful utility companies are 80 to 90% NOT NEEDED, and very vulnerable to natural and manmade crises – as most of us have seen in the past 6 years with storms and outages here in the North East alone. We all remember what SANDY did in just one day to Manhattan and the east coast. What happens if in the event of a large, say 5 statewide disaster, natural or manmade. Relying on individual generators will not work in a war or major earthquake situation as supply lines are all but gone, and where the buildings are still energy hogs.

Homes and buildings (and cars for instance) that operate without utility companies are extremely economical in the long run for our nation, comfortable, healthy. Combine this with public transportation that combines school and local bus system with wind generated power and we could see a dramatically transformed, safer, and more economical and forever sustainable system.

We cannot rely on ACADEMIA, again the most expensive one in the world, and presumably the best. Creating a curriculum is a long process. One needs professors who are capable and willing to think out of the box FOR REAL. I was trained by an experimental group in London 1974-77, and energy saving and providing most comfortable buildings became second nature to us. But this program vanished with 80’s Regan and Thatcher thinking.

It takes 15 years to create a program, and other 15 years for the students to become leaders. That’s 30 years. We have about 20 years when our current energy, water, food, mineral supplies are becoming politically crisis due to costs and related instability in the world. This piece of math is scarier than the previews of the latest violent blockbusters at multiplexes.

One quick way to face this problem would be to train people through the equivalent of a national 12-month long Military service, which could include classes on how to build energy efficient houses and buildings, along with necessary skills to protect our country in case of emergency. A mandatory service would create in 12 months a group of people capable of thinking INSTANTLY in the way that we have not done ever before. So we would have the next generation would learn both survival skills in crisis and prevent crisis from happening by learning to build correctly. We do not have builders capable of understanding green matters in a way that they can be adequately bid out and not be prized out.

Currently architects AND engineers are not treated like serious professionals since our fees became competitive by bidding rather than what was needed for a good job and training our next generation of architects and engineers in our offices: They are given a bone or a meal almost as a curtsey. They are not listened to or given the latitude to protect our clients, or our country’s future or security.

Our professional mandate from clients and real estate professionals is to follow our building codes (40 years out of date) and NOT TO SPEND a dime beyond it. Our building codes are a result of years of hard bargaining with utility, construction and real estate professionals who desire a quick profit after the project is completed. None of them can think long term we don’t have mechanism like in Germany where buildings, canals, railroads are measured and supported to protect the health and well-being (MONEY)  of the country in the long run. With the amount of education dollars we should be TWICE as good and efficient as Germany.

If doctors were treated like architects and engineers, the operation table would have 3/4 less staff, time, and equipment AND thus: How many of us would allow ourselves to be on that table?? WE architects are squeezed on every project so hard that we cannot even train the next generation like we were 40 years ago, as it is the most important measure of professionalism and future.

If we took the trillion as a benchmark that we would start to aim at, like Carter had said in his famous Moral Equivalent of War Speech 1977, where he gave the 10 principles for the plan, I would not be giving this sobering 50th anniversary speech as an architect to you.

But this principle of focusing on smart society should not stop on just building our buildings through smart incentives AND hard slaps on the wrist for not doing it. The benefits if they are spelled intelligently out make it no brainer:

Why cannot we have real estate REALTORS lay out the cost of running the building like car dealers. This house is supremely comfortable, has hardly any equipment to break down,  Cooling this much 30 dollars a month in the summer, heating in the winter same amount in the winter max, GOOD lighting and hot water is provided by solar.. Passive green houses don’t have utility costs to speak of. So one can pay that amount off the loan principal, and save over 15 years period the price of house mortgage for instance.

Or by informing people of the inefficiencies like the fact that people in Manhattan pay 30 dollars a square foot for unnecessary heating and cooling a year? Or my local doctor friend who complained about 5000 a month cooling bill for his 6000 sf house.

We cannot continue on our current energy path. We have lost 50% of top soil of our farmland in the past 25 or 30 years due to industrial method of farming corn and such. What happens when it is all gone, and the oil that produces the fertilizer in prohibitively expensive as oil’s in rapid decline due to increased usage and less production AND doubling world population wanting to be like us.

The true cost of possible nuclear disaster clean up insurance would shut our current plants in one day…The nuclear cloud rolling over our country would be like someone would have used a eraser across it, very much like what happened in Russia and lately in Japan.

Our political system should apply the same principle of less waste to ALL sectors of life, including financial industry (as they don’t really produce but are more like service industry) , cars should be minimum of twice as efficient, weight should be taxed correspondingly rather than sought after by car industry for bigger profit. Weight is (like space in buildings) inefficiency as it needs corresponding fuel to move and operate, and safety hazard against smart fuel-efficient cars. If everyone had smaller cars, we would have less deaths on the road.

There is no other country more unusual than The USA. We can do anything that we want, but the only criteria is WHAT we want. Peace and security is taken as for granted, as our focus seems to be measured via advertizing – cars, media, food, clothing and sports. Our friends who grew in the 1930’s Depression still store food, take care of their savings, are careful to make sure their offspring’s are safe for the foreseeable future.

Since 1950’s, the world has seen its greatest prosperity and comfort. It has never totally easy, but it has allowed serious calculated academic worry about diminishing resources to be all but forgotten beyond- maybe one out of 100 peers of mine, engineers, friends, professionals, or political leaders – including Capitol Hill

I am SO worried for my children’s sake, as even Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller’s wishes,

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,”

This is a good start, but it is the dumb wasteful consumption due to poor building practices that we need to redline;


Tapani Talo, AIA


New York , USA  Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,

Email, –


An Architect’s Profession: Career and Value to Society

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Frank Lloyd WrightWE admire beauty, to the extent that we admire even F.L. Wright, whose buildings often reached 10 or 20 times their original budget. We architects working today cannot even add 7% to the building budget that would make it totally passive, green and over a lifetime produce enormous savings and comfort to the owners.

What’s the most precious thing in life – beyond personal health?



Heat (in winter)



Power/fuel (no food, water, movement, heat or communication without these)

In all these categories, architects and planners have enormous possibilities to make things either perfect, safe and near everlasting. If we keep doing what we have been doing, itmeans the end of the world. There is no other profession that can shape the world for the better. Yet people think of us as? what exactly?


Near USELESS, that’s what. This isbased on the fact that we are not able to do anything to make the world more peaceful, use water more efficiently, build buildings that do not need heat or cooling and could provide even sustenance and power – nearly for free. Peace is easy if most people have what they need in life, and if we do not waste, more people would have what they need.

Couture or Start architects are barely surviving these days. Half of our professionals from 2005 are no longer in architecture.

Yet in every developed nation, buildings alone in general use most of the energy, bleeding our scarce resources into WHAT – outdated utility companies and energy production? No one seems to know that a TRILLION in a year is unsustainable in the long run, even for the wealthiest nation in the world. It cost about 6 trillion to do the 10 year war in Iraq (and the same for Afghanistan), and that was considered HUGE and unsustainable.

If architects’ and professional salaries and fees – along with respect for real professional ability to do good and green – were respected, we could fix this issue in a reasonable time frame, and stop focusing building fancy bubble gum (high tech, one of a kind, difficult to maintain) architecture (in fashion these days in order to stay in the news).

Naturally, only if the incentives from our government would make it financially viable to provide the extra 7% in cost to make buildings (and efficient transportation) 90% to 95% more energy efficient for the developers.

This 7% would make nuclear power stations obsolete and many conventional ones too. As a nation, we would save a trillion dollars a year in today’s money…and the little power to live from can come from solar and wind nearby. And in buildings that can operate without a grid, it makes business possible even with outages.

Professional planning / zoning would help to provide local substance, but who seems to care as we shop at ease in our super markets with enormous parking lots around them.

So why is it that the only profession that could make FREE money in trillions a year, that is trained and works as hard as doctors, gets paid a fraction and has no respect or proper use these days?

It started in the 70’s when lawyers took away fees that were based on job difficulty, and replaced it with competitive bidding. First, we lost the ability to train which meant that continuity and office experience was lost as soon as people moved on or were laid off. Then came computerization that temporarily allowed efficiencies, and thus survival for few years. Then came overseas drafting to cut cost in China and India. Then recessions, and so we were left with a skeleton crew of offices that have started to collapse into a  few ‘collectives’. What is next in store? Neither architecture schools nor industries have yet to wake up for the national or global) security dilemma. Only extreme effort can save us now, by being totally GREEN beyond our wildest imaginations.

Any nation that depends on long fragile power and food supply as we are now) cannot enter a world conflict, and yet the general view is that the world with its hunger for endless resources will sooner (possibly within a decade) again go through the unthinkable (WAR) due to stresses in energy and raw materials, geo politics, coupled with growing number of people in our little fragile planet.

We have seen in New Orleans and NYC what happens when power is no longer available. To see the whole nation / continents in this state of affairs is catastrophic and yes, very biblical. Even green passive structures and healthier ways of producing food and conserving water cannot completely save us, but they do buy time to rebuild and survive…for some, but certainly not for all.


Tapani Talo, AIA

 11 Heatherbloom Road, White Plains, New York 10605, USA. Tel: 1- 914 – 645 2940,