While buildings may slowly get more energy efficient, in many ways technology seems to be slipping back in time.
Where until recently a six story commercial office or apartment building has always been constructed with concrete floors and a steel or concrete structural system, we see now just one concrete deck and then five stories of wood studs erected above with wood framed floors as well.
Around the corner from my office I watch in amazement how a seventies style former nursing home is de-boned and converted into dormitories for the nearby university. The old high tech aluminum factory fabricated modular curtain wall elements (which probably had a lousy R value) which were insreted into a partially exposed steel/concrete structural frame are being replaced one by one with hand cut steel studs. Now the studs are being covered up fully with an exterior grade gypsum sheathing product from which the windows will be cut in the same manner as one turns a refrigerator cardboard box into a playhouse for children.
I think this is a sad commentary not only on how we build but also on the resulting architecture. There is no way that the new punch-out facade will look only half as decent or "honest" as the old curtain wall. I am predicting this even before I know if EIFS, the new wonder-stucco, will be used here as the ultimate frosting that will "decorate" this cake covering any trace of its bones.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA