Greening of Southie
A&E Video // Unrated // $24.95 // January 11, 2011
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 19, 2011
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The "Green" movement has been aggressively debated in recent years, but whatever one's thoughts on it, if it's truly needed, I have a vague idea when we'll get around to really investing time and effort into it: when we wholly and completely have no other choice. While I wouldn't consider myself a hardcore follower of all things "green", I do believe that the resources of the world are finite and we have to start shifting the way that we live and use the resources of the planet in advance of when having to do so may become increasingly urgent down the road.

In 2008, when oil was $150 a barrel, there was much discussion about solar and the future of alternative energy. When oil tanked during the financial crisis, much of the discussion about solar, wind and other "green" energy went with it, including T. Boone Pickens and his much-discussed energy plan.

While I have a positive view of alternative energy, building and other environmentally friendly approaches to daily life, it still remains a matter of cost and other factors. The U.S. needs desperately to bring infrastructure up to date, and new technologies would help create cost savings and a number of other benefits. "Each day, leaking pipes account for an estimated 7 billion gallons of water, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. To get an idea of how old the nation's water pipes are, 30% of pipes in systems that deliver water to more than 100,000 people are between 40 and 80 years old, according to the EPA. About 10% of pipes in those systems are older." (

Again, it becomes a matter of cost. Can cities/states provide new infrastructure in this environment? Can affordable "green" housing be offered for the masses? Will costs for green buildings come down? There's still questions surrounding "green" developments, and in this environment, the questions are seemingly not getting any easier. (Side note: Nike made awesome "green" shoes a couple of years ago - a line called Nike Considered, which used materials from close to the factoy to cut down on energy cost, among other "green" aspects. Unfortunate that that line appears to no longer be made.)

"The Greening of Southie" takes a look at the green movement through the difficult experiences of one build site in South Boston. The Macallen Building, a rather beautiful looking building when completed, is to be the first "green" residential building in the city, and Gold LEED certified (more on LEED at this Link.) The steel will be made, for example, from 95% recycled steel from scrap.

The initial portion of the documentary feels like relatively smooth sailing; time-lapse photography shows the initial structure coming together and the developers talk about the concepts behind the building, such as recycled materials and technology that can reduce CO2 and other waste from buildings such as this one.

Unfortunately for the young developers, cracks start to appear: the contractors who have been selected for the job are skeptical of some of the goals (although a number of them are proud of what's trying to be accomplished), and worry that some aspects of the building could cause future problems. There is also some discussion of the effect that the new, upscale building will have on those living in the neighborhood.

Soon enough, problems do appear - the wheatboard used for the cabinets starts to swell with the weather. The special "green" adhesives used to keep the bamboo floors in place does not work, resulting in the floors having to be replaced - a massive and expensive task. Going back to the mention of the Nike Considered shoes, the developers start to become very concerned that the energy use of bringing materials to the site has risen to unforeseen levels.

"Greening" is not a documentary that amps up the drama, and to some degree, that's in its favor. People don't shout, don't scream and slam doors when problems start piling up - they go about their business and get things done. While not great drama, the intent is really to advance the discussion of environmentally-friendly building and products - both the pros and cons - and it does a fine job of that, ending on a hopeful note.


VIDEO: The film is presented by A & E in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Sharpness and detail are pleasing, as while the picture isn't crystal clear, it remains consistently crisp and smooth. Colors look natural and pure, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, the presentation meets expectations, given the material.

SOUND: Basic, dialogue-driven Dolby 2.0 audio. Dialogue can sound the slightest bit muffled at times, requiring a bit of a volume boost.

EXTRAS: Surprisingly, nothing.

Final Thoughts: Recommended for those with an interest in the subject matter, as the documentary provides an in-depth look at the difficulty involved with not only creating a "green" building, but a Gold LEED-certified "green" building and the difficulty in getting that additional status. The DVD provides fine audio/video quality, but surprisingly little in the way of supplemental materials.

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