Earlier this month, Kristen Nyht, AIA, AICP, LEED AP presented on The Latest and Greatest in Michigan Architecture. This event was hosted by Mid-Century Modern Midland, a nonprofit whose mission is to “document, preserve, celebrate, share and perpetuate the Mid-Century Modern architectural heritage of Midland, Michigan.” 
 
Nyht’s agenda examined the ways in which we incorporate past architectural elements and historic structures into modern projects. She discussed the impact of stylistic trends that originated in the Mid-Century Modern and Art Deco movements on award-winning architecture, as well as the current rehabilitation of the iconic Michigan Central Station.

Michigan Central Station, Waiting Room 
  
Taking the conversation beyond the present to focus on future challenges the industry will face, Nyht also presented the top issues that will affect architecture over the next ten years.  
 

Climate Change

We will have to design for the ‘new normal’ of a changing climate to create buildings that cope with higher heat, fewer cold days, more extreme precipitation, and increased electrical demand. A crucial facet of this evolving approach to architecture will be resiliency.  
 
Resiliency measures the ability to bounce back to normal function after a disaster or major event. For example, if a hurricane hits a low-resiliency area, electricity can be down for months. But if a hurricane hits a higher-resiliency area, electricity can be down for only a few weeks. 
 
As climate change develops, responsible building owners will consider the resiliency of their facilities and how to support their occupants through major events like storms, floods, etc.

 

Electrification

It used to be that a stick shift car was the most economical car one could own. That is no longer the case; electric shifting has increased in efficiency so much that it has become the default in modern vehicles. The same is true for the old boilers and furnaces in our buildings. The day will come (and soon) that these pieces of natural-gas-fired equipment will be replaced by electric-only devices.  
 
Burning gas is now a bigger source of greenhouse gases than burning coal, and nearly a third of that gas is burned in homes and commercial buildings. If we changed those buildings over to electricity-only, we would reach increased efficiency, potential cost savings, and be able to take advantage of an increasingly greener electrical grid.

 

Creative Reuse

It’s true that “the greenest building is the one that is already built” (-Carl Elefante, FAIA, FAPT, LEED AP), but so is the most authentic building. Rehabilitation of existing buildings creates authentic spaces that people crave.  
 
Repurposing old structures for contemporary use is a great way to breathe new life into an area with limited investment. Excellent examples of this approach include New York City’s High Line, a public park and gathering place built on a historic freight rail, and QEA’s own Garden Theater Block project in Detroit.

Garden Theater Block