Trees on Buildings are not Easy

On the 99pi episode, #385 Shade, Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt talk about the trend of trees on terraces. Kohlstedt said:

“One of the things that always cracks me up when looking at their (architect’s) renderings is that you’ll see all the trees on the sides of the buildings and they’ll depict the plaza below with a couple of trees. I can’t help but think; if you want to go all green, the easiest way is to add more trees on the ground. Which makes you wonder, what is the purpose?

What’s the purpose? That’s a good question. Here’s a YouTube video of some ‘plans.’

I call this fancy recipe syndrome. It’s the idea that if a chef blogger shares a recipe it needs to be distinguishing. It’s hard to stand-out with simplicity, efficiency, and time-tested recipes. Though my favorite cookbooks, are just that.

Okay, okay. They’re standing out. What’s the big deal?

Well, on net, these green buildings are a zero. They cost more to build and maintain than they offset. Yet they persist. What’s up with that?

Whenever we see the illogical, it’s an invitation to dive deeper. Everyone is locally logical. Bob Moesta said, “the irrational becomes rational with context.”

There are multiple part-of-the-reason explanations but I’d guess the predominant one is the contrast between the visible and the less-visible and the idea of importance and unimportance. We tend to think that visible = important and when the entire side of a building is covered in trees our thinking fast reaction is, wow, that building must be green.

However so much is working against us, including how we see vertical versus horizontal spaces.

It’s helpful to remember that action doesn’t always mean effective. In productivity circles there’s the Cal Newport deep work ideas. In investing there’s the advice to, ‘don’t just do something, sit there.’ In architecture it might be to just plant more trees on the ground.

I was talking to a neighbor about refinancing a house and shared these calculations. Looking back, a re-fi is like putting trees on a building. It’s flashy, it’s easy to count, it makes sense. But in the scope of a personal budget there are much easier and effective things worth doing.