Friday, April 27, 2012

Stadium Woods vs. Virginia Tech Football

While we typically talk about historic preservation in terms of the built environment on this blog, in honor of Arbor Day, I'm going to stray into the forest. Buildings are residences, businesses, industries, and gathering places for people. Trees are the buildings of the natural environment. They are the homes and gathering places for resident and migratory birds, animals, insects, and reptiles. The business of trees is to provide food, cover, and lodging to residents of the woods and those migrating through. Their industry is absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, and filtering and slowing storm water runoff.

The Virginia Tech campus has a 15-acre section of old-growth forest adjacent to the football stadium that is locally called Stadium Woods. It is unusual in that it is in a highly populated area, used mostly for farmland at one time, and it has never been cut. Trees in the woods are older than Monticello, older than the founding of our country, and pre-date European settlement in the area. Students use the woods to learn about trees, birds, plants, animals, soils, insects, water absorption, and other topics. People also use the woods to decompress and get away from the hustle and bustle of campus and downtown. It is calming to listen and identify the bird calls, search the tree tops for the source of the songs, watch a squirrel follow the superhighway of tree branches high in the air, listen to the wind rustle the leaves, look for an elusive wildflower.

But this natural, educational environment and community may soon be lost in favor of a 120,000 square foot indoor practice facility for the Virginia Tech Football team. Why can't they continue practicing outdoors? If they must have an indoor facility, why can't they walk a bit farther from their outdoor field? Why must they take a section of forest with trees that long pre-date the invention of football for a building that will be obsolete in 50 years? The answer, as in all questionable development, is greed and, here, keeping up with the ACC. 

We'd never allow them to tear down 7 acres of the human community of downtown Blacksburg for such a facility. We shouldn't let them cut down 7 acres of the natural community for Stadium Woods either.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Demolition and the Nesting Instinct

Confession time: our project house is a mess. If you've ever gone through the demolition phase of a project, I don't have to tell you this. You know it. You've been through it. There's nothing you can do about it. Friends and family want to come visit and see what you're up to in your spare time and the first thing you think is, "do I need to clean up?" Or, more appropriately, "what do I need to do so no one gets hurt?" So you walk through the place and move the extension cords, make sure there aren't rusty nails laying around, put something over the hole in the floor and hope for the best.

I think it's just a general nesting instinct we have. The house may be bare to the studs, but it's still a house. We want to make it look as good as we can. It helps brighten the rose-colored glasses that all of our visitors must wear to enter our project. Of course, by straightening up the demolition mess and vacuuming the nasty black dust periodically, it improves our morale as well as making it a safer work environment and easier to move to the next step of putting things back together. And believe me, any morale boost you can find during a never-ending demolition phase is important even if it means hours of wielding a ShopVac!

Are we the only ones who try to "clean up" our project house for visitors? Or do you do it to?