On March 17, 2010, I attended a screening of The Greening of Southie, a film about the construction of a LEED-certified residential condominium building in South Boston. Graduate city and regional planning students at Cornell University sponsored the screening and Chris Smith (MRP ’11) invited me to introduce the film. When Chris invited me to do this, my first reaction was “Gee, I really don’t need one more thing to do in that typically crazy week before Spring Break.” But, I had heard of this film and recalled seeing a brief posting about the project by my favorite architectural blogger, John Hill, whose blog is at http://archidose.blogspot.com . I was intrigued and after previewing the film, became excited about the opportunity to introduce it to others.
I expected that this film would be an exploration of the intersection of idealistic green developers, a gritty neighborhood in transition and the challenges of getting “I drink diesel fuel in the morning” workers on board with a cutting-edge approach to construction, and the challenges associated with mobilizing debt and equity for a project like this. I hoped that the film would address issues such as the fact that, at the end of the day, basics such as maintaining a project schedule are critical to success. Pushing the environmental state-of-the-art, which this building does, makes the difficult task of staying on time and on budget even more daunting.
This film does all of that and more. Even my wife, who sometime wearies of her husband’s obsession with everything about planning and development, enjoyed it. In the course of addressing the challenges of bringing Macallen Building project to fruition, the film touches on some fundamental aspects of the human condition.
In a non-judgmental way, “The Greening of Southie” raises some big environmental questions—such as the apparent, at least to me, incongruity between achieving a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating (the LEED Program of the US Green Building Council) when building materials come from places as far away as Bolivia, China and Australia.
Here are some links for those who would like additional perspective on the film or more information about the Macallen Building:
- Film website – http://www.greeningofsouthie.com/
- Project website - http://www.themacallenbuilding.com/
- Dwell Magazine article from April 2009 about the film along with some excellent photographs of the building http://www.dwell.com/articles/the-greening-of-southie.html
- Kerry Skemp’s April 2008, review of the film posted at a website about Boston called “Bostonist” - http://bostonist.com/2008/04/22/the_greening_of.php