“Creating a Sustainable Future is not Political”
I met Mr. Chen at a back yard bar-b-que in Tennessee last weekend. We were both passing through the area and happen to have a mutual friend. Admittedly I learned of his interest in sustainability by eavesdropping on a conversation he was having with someone else. My ears tuned in when I heard phrases such as “reclaiming rainwater” and “solar power”. You may be thinking “so what” there are plenty of architects who are applying sustainable techniques to their work. What makes Tien-si Chen different is that he is a Christian Conservative.
In 1991 Tien-si Chen was contracted to build a home addition. The woman who hired him to do the addition wanted the work completed with used materials she acquired from garage sales and throw away piles. Mr. Chen completed the addition and fell in love with sustainable building. He began applying sustainable techniques to his projects.
The remodel in 1991 used recycled materials and also employed passive energy design. He explained how he orients his projects to use the south, north breezeway creating air flow, using shade from trees on the property which reduces energy use. Mr. Chen explains that this is “taking part of nature that God has provided for us and using it in our every day living”. He referred to Frank Lloyd Wright and sharing that each time Frank Lloye Wright designed a building he turned it 60 degrees immediately because doing that creates a relationship with the sun, wind and shade. “Forces of nature that God created for us. He (God) created an environment and when we know how to use it we can benefit from it.” explained Mr. Chen.
He approaches his work as an opportunity to create a solution using green architecture. Applying these techniques to the entire building system from the air conditioning system to the plumbing. He is currently working on a new project in which they are separating all the water flow. For example sewer, shower, and rainwater will flow through different pipes in order to reclaim any possible water that is appropriate to reuse. This is a huge redevelopment project that I am unable to name at this point. When Mr. Chen receives permission from the development a follow-up will be posted to identify the project. He has worked on several projects for the same development company, applying sustainable techniques each time.
Mr. Chen is also connected with a man in Nigeria and is working on large projects there such as a 300 bed student housing building and an eco village. The eco village is a self-sustaining project using wind power and gas from reclaimed methane. This particular project is in the proposal stages.
Passionate about sustainable architecture, Mr. Chen loves to offer solutions for energy efficiency and to promote preservation of the earth he holds dear as he believes it is a gift from God. I asked him about his connections with the directors of these large projects which vary in geographic location from Chicago to Nigeria. My question specifically was “In the board rooms, are people hesitant about your political affiliation and Christianity?” He directly replied, “In that arena, it never comes up.” As we discussed this I discovered no one asks him his political or religious affiliation when they need an architect who is passionate about sustainability. He explained that many of the people he works for are Democrats, supporting Obama and on the opposite side of the spectrum politically. Mr. Chen concluded our conversation by stating “Creating a sustainable future is not political.”
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Photo Credit: Riah’s Photography with permission