Last week I was at the 12th Annual North American Passive House Conference in Seattle. The event is produced by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)—I’ve been a board member or employee of PHIUS off and on for the better part of 15 years now.
Every year, the event brings together building science geeks to talk about how to make buildings—houses, apartment buildings, hi-rises, schools—more efficient, more comfortable, more durable, and less expensive.
I’m here to report there’s a lot of reason for optimism. New materials, new discoveries, and an exponential growth of renewable energy (wind, solar) that is accelerating in much the way that computing power has grown under Moore’s law. We’re getting more for less all the time.
On the human side, the veteran architects, builders, and engineers who’ve seen it all mixed with brilliant 20 somethings who are more than ready to carry the technical and advocacy batons. These people are working hard to advance the ball. And to not take their eyes off the ball.
The icing on the cake was sitting in a sandwich shop the day I got into Seattle when a familiar face walked in, slack-jawed at my presence. It was John, a stalwart Hackney’s employee who lived in our building in Chicago before moving to Seattle. He was on his way to work at The Elysian, and when I stopped by to see him that night I was pleasantly surprised to learn that another Hackney’s-to-Seattle transplant was also working at the Elysian. It was a total joy seeing John and Elise.
I got home late Sunday night. unloaded my laptop and some other stuff, and Beth and I headed out for a beer across the street at Kasey’s to debrief one another about our last few days. Once home, I was dead tired and I didn’t bother to open my laptop, I just put my phone on charge and didn’t set an alarm.
When I awoke early this morning I went to get a glass of water. Beth said, “Don’t look at your phone.” I told her it wasn’t even on. “She said good, something bad has happened. You’ll find out soon enough.”
That’s how it’s gotten. I managed to grab another hour or two of sleep.
And then I woke up. All in all, a horrific Monday if you are:
- A Tom Petty fan
- An American
- A human being
And a tragic Monday if you were at the scene of the slaughter in Las Vegas. More often than not I skip the now ubiquitous video that’s always available from these things. This time I didn’t. And to hear the rapid staccato fire while music was still playing, I don’t know.
I don’t have anything against guns or gun owners, per se. I just don’t know how owning weapons like the ones used in this most recent horror has anything to do with the Second Amendment. There is no absolutely unqualified right in this country—“falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater,” for example, isn’t protected speech.
The NRA has very deliberately courted country music stars and fans. A fair number of the victims of Sunday’s insanity likely were NRA members.
I wonder how they’d answer the question – “What do military weapons have to do with the Second Amendment?” – today. I think they, and every single member of the NRA, owes their fellow Americans an answer to that question.
It’s an honest question, and I’ll wait for answers.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to do. Back to work.