Posted by: nedpelger | September 24, 2008

What’s the Past, Present and Future of the Facility You’re Building?

If you were driving down the road and saw this

what would you think? Some kind of odd farm building, perhaps, or maybe an architect with a huge sense of insecurity about his naughty parts? You probably wouldn’t think “Air raid shelter”, but that’s the purpose for this odd building. The Germans in World War II built many of these silo like structures, many designed for up to 500 people to inhabit during times of bombing.

Since bombs dropped mostly vertically, most bombs would bounce off the steep sidewalls and explode at the heavily reinforced base. The small footprint also made a much more difficult target for bombardiers. Finally, the low cost of building up instead of excavating down made the design even more appealing for the government. In fact, Germany built 98 of these structures during WWII.

Today these structures present a challenge. They don’t provide much protection from the economic bombs that seem to be the biggest fear of the day. So what do communities do with these historical, if unsightly, structures?

Many just sit empty. Some get used for funky town museums or bus stops. Of course, the creative element sometimes has its way.

Do you ever think about what will be the history of the building you are now working on? When I’m involved with renovating an old structure (I’m doing one now built in 1755 and 1862) I think about the guys that worked on it. How did they decide how to proceed? What did they talk about at lunch? How did they live and what mattered to them?

Part of the green building process involves thought about how buildings get both commissioned and de-commissioned. For example, carpet tiles have gained popularity partly because they are easily removed and shipped back to the factory for recycling. When you build, do you think about who will be renovating your work, do you try to make it easier for them? Or for yourself, if you get to add to your previously built buildings. Think about what you build. Think how it will be used, renovated, added to and demolished.

By the way, if you want read more about those odd German air raid shelters, check out Strange Towers of the Third Reich.

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