Member Spotlight – Mark O’Bryan

Oct 3, 2023 | Homepage Featured, Member Network

Mark O’Bryan, Owner of Art & Architecture Inc.
Missouri Gateway Green Building Council Member since 2022

Description of your work in green building: My architecture firm, Art & Architecture Inc., does mainly residential work, but also designs a few commercial projects each year. I try to be affordable and to keep the design process simple, providing fixed-fee contracts to my clients, and working to find them affordable ways to achieve their design project goals. Typically, most clients want the least expensive first cost, but I will try to show them some long-term solutions for affordability (using my own home as an example).

Sustainability passion: Exploration of new and old, challenging established mainstream thought. Example – I own a 1965 Pontiac Catalina Convertible. A true V8 gas guzzler. It is the first car I ever owned, inherited from my grandfather. I drove it as my full time car from 1982 to 1992. It now has historic plates and only goes out in good weather. It rides smoothly and very quietly. The latent energy embodied by this huge hulk of steel and chrome that is still worth preserving and driving is one type of energy efficiency that so many crummy plastic Econo-box cars of today will likely never achieve. Instead, they’re destined for the scrap heap well before they ever become 60+ years old like my Catalina. Preservation (and fixing things) is one key component of energy efficiency.

Most meaningful experience with MGGBC Chapter: Membership in the GBC for me is an ongoing adventure. I have enjoyed attending every event thus far, from small-scale social member happy hours, to tours and lectures of different buildings that show different approaches to being more environmentally friendly through design. Sharing ideas is the key to the solution, as I believe it takes a multi-avenue approach for us to steer the country and the world into a more sustainable way of life. There are no single solutions to the problem.

What will most impact the future of green building:
It is going to have to get much worse for things to get radically better. Another Arab oil embargo or other global threats might finally drive some of the nay-sayers to start thinking beyond their own time on this earth – to start thinking Seven Generations out on how we can make better livable communities for everyone.

Favorite LEED (or sustainability) Project: Two projects I designed concurrently in 2009-10 include a house for a client in Tower Grove South that achieved one of the lowest HERS ratings in St. Louis—LEED Platinum―and has peak monthly energy bills of about $30. This home was all new construction and over 4,000SF.

My own home was an addition/renovation to my 1960 builder’s colonial home. I have never pursued LEED, but always work to increase the efficiency of the home I live in. For this addition/renovation project, I increased the house area by 65% while decreasing my peak energy bill by more than 50%. A cold winter heating bill is $150 per month for my 2,700sf house, where it was $365 for the former 1,700sf original 1960’s house. I achieved this by changing to a geothermal HVAC heat pump system, a hybrid electric water heater, R70+ insulation in the attic done by criss-crossing two layers of R38 batts, and using closed cell spray foam insulation in the walls of the new addition. Note that the three remaining exterior walls of my house are still poorly insulated 12” thick masonry walls, there is a masonry fireplace that leaks heat, and I still need to upgrade two old exterior doors to tighten things up more. I could get this home to be NET ZERO with the addition of solar to the roof, so I am still shopping for a thin film PV installation that will be integrated into a standing seam metal roof. Since this is the front of my house, NO rack solar system is acceptable. Tesla’s shingle system is crazy expensive. So I am still looking for my thin film PV integrated solution someday. Stay tuned.

Favorite places in the St. Louis region or Missouri Gateway GBC territory: St. Louis is a city and region built up by many different small town centers. Kirkwood and Webster are two of the best known in St. Louis. There are dozens more, Old Orchard in Webster, South Grand, The Grove, Carondelet, Overland, Cherokee, and more. Walkable town centers are a key solution to building more energy efficient communities today. The death of so many regional shopping malls has illustrated the real resilience of true mixed-use town centers.

We even have what I consider four great downtowns of considerable size. Just compare these to the tiny clump of high rises that comprise the single downtown for Indianapolis! The St. Louis region’s downtowns include Downtown St. Louis, Grand Center, the Central West End, and Clayton. Now if our elected officials could only fix the current fragmentation that causes St. Louis to rise to the top of the the “most dangerous” list every year, I would be happy. One idea would be to create a St. Louis Economic Community (to borrow the EU concept) so that the region can report crime stats to the FBI as a single, united urban entity

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