Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

Orlando Performing Arts Center – Grand Opening

By Brent Sauser

Last January NetZeroMax was treated to a VIP tour of the Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center that was under construction at the time.  This is what it looked like then:


The tour guide invited us to attend the grand opening scheduled for early November and my first thought was, “They’ll never make it!”  I was wrong.  NetZeroMax had the opportunity to attend a public tour of the completed Performing Arts Center yesterday . . . right on schedule.  This is what it looks like today:


 I must confess that I walked through the various theaters, balconies, and the many specialty rooms in total awe.  This performing arts center was nothing short of magnificent.  The careful blend of architectural detail mixed with exposed concrete and steel gave the entire facility a contemporary and fresh look.  Even the school for the performing arts, attached to the back of the facility had a simple and honest “feel” to it.  Concrete walls were left as is without paint, while the steel columns and beams were left exposed.  More times than not the electrical conduits and mechanical ductwork were left exposed.  None of it appeared out of place for such a landmark destination.  The Walt Disney Theater comprised the larger of the two completed theaters.  The smaller theater could function in several configurations and serve as a smaller venue for experimental theater and local presentations. 


The lobby area and multiple walkways faced a vast wall, called the “wave” wall.   Multi-colored LED lights cover the entire expanse of the wall and change shape with the general movement of the patrons.  As I walked with others from the general public I did not overhear any negative comments or criticisms.  Without doubt, the new Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center is a magnificent addition to the City of Orlando and should help place Orlando on the cultural map drawing many great shows to central Florida.  I couldn’t help thinking that it represents the best thing money can buy. 


Unfortunately, the citizens of Orlando will be paying for the new performing arts center for a very long time, in the form of utility bills.  Although truly great in its attention to architectural and acoustic detail, which should help assure memorable performances for years to come,  the performance of the building itself falls short of living up to the excellence expected from each visiting act.  Instead of standing as a 21st Century example of a renewable and sustainable vision for others to follow, they opted out in favor of meeting the current  minimum codes and burden others with paying the utility bills for the rest of its useful life.  It may serve its ultimate purpose and function as intended, but at the end of the day it is a huge energy consumer. 


I understand the decisions that led up to the compromises to make the performing arts center possible.  I’m disappointed that what could have been a sustainable vision for the future . . . . isn’t.  Those decisions and compromises come with a price, over time a very high price.


We need to be much smarter in our building decisions.  Regardless of whether it’s a massive performing arts center or a new home, we must insist on a Net Zero solution.  We must settle for nothing less!

Category: Editorial
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    March 21, 2015 at 9:45 pm

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