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Opening Thoughts: NASDAQ

by Danny Forster on Jan 5, 2010

On January 5, 2010, as a representative from Science Channel, part of Discovery Communications, Danny presided over the NASDAQ Opening Bell.

It′s an honor to be here to open the 2nd official day of trading in what is not just a New Year, but also a new decade.

And frankly it's a bit of a dubious honor because, I imagine, while many of you are celebrating the dawn of the year, most of you in this room are really breathing a sigh of relief that previous one is over.

The truth is it's been an unequivocally challenging year, fraught with difficult change and unanticipated complexity. But we did ultimately get through it, the decade has passed, and so it is with great pleasure that I′m able to be here and, with some degree of optimism, to begin to look forward to what the forthcoming New Year will bring. However, the key is not to forget from whence we came"

Although I'm not in finance, I′ve certainly been impacted by our recent economic downturn. As an Architect and small business owner I′ve had to radically adjust how it is I practice my trade: Simply stated, my capacity to design and build exciting projects is predicated on my clients ability to pay for those projects.

As a profession, we have had to pivot and rethink how it is we do what we do. I think one of the most exciting aspects of this development is how we′ve engaged the idea of sustainability.

Sustainable design is less a subset of what we do as professionals and instead has become inextricably tied to everything we do. It′s no longer about building a house as we always have, and then sticking solar panels on top of the roof, as we are now rethinking every aspect of the home.

We′re concerned not only about how it looks, but also how that house PERFORMS. From the materials we use, to the systems we design, to the way in which we leverage the sun and wind—we as a profession are refining our value proposition and, ultimately, becoming better Architects.

And while it's been intense year it's also been an incredibly exciting time to be a young Architect, because what you now have is not just a few Architects who specialize in green design, but instead you have a whole community of designers who simply make better buildings. And that is a fundamental improvement that we′ll take with us into better economic times.

But it's also been a complicated year as TV host as well, especially if your show is called "Build It Bigger" and you travel all over the world investigating amazing and enormous pieces of Architecture and Engineering. Keep in mind were talking about massive skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels, all of which require billions of dollars of investment as well as huge amounts of risk on behalf of the builders, owners and governments.

And the truth is, a number of projects that we would have featured on our show have since stalled or have scaled back their scope. But for me, what's been exciting is taking this as an opportunity to refine our lens and think differently about the projects we cover.

For us it's not just about looking at massive projects built simply for sake of building them, like certain man-made islands built in the shape of palm frond, instead it becomes about looking at projects that are big, but not just in their size, but also in their impact.

We no longer want to celebrate buildings whose sole function is to reflect back onto us our wealth, prosperity and resources, but instead we′re seeing projects that productively look forward and offer solutions for how to transform these fiscal limitations into opportunities for innovation.

For example, I just got back last week from filming a show for the new season of Build It Bigger in New Orleans (which incidentally premiers in April—only on The Science Channel) where I was looking at the Katrina recovery effort and the new storm protection system.

And there, at the scale of the city I saw Engineers and Builders working on 2-mile long, 220 feet deep storm wall being built to hold back the next Katrina. At the scale of the home, I saw brand new homes being built by the MAKE IT RIGHT foundation. This group of Architects, Engineers and Builders and are working in one of the hardest hit areas, in one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in all of New Orleans.

And what you seeing are homes that are built to resist the next storm (as we know there will be others) they are being built using cutting edge sustainable technologies, and they′re being built affordably. So this enormous challenge has produced a wealth of innovation that will not just being folks back to New Orleans, and change the way THEY live, but potentially change the way ALL OF US build homes in the future.

So we are proud to be making smart television that highlights enormous feats of collaboration between Architects, Engineers and Builders that do create taller towers, deeper tunnels, and longer bridges, but not simply for the sake of it, but instead in the service of creating better cities, better communities, and better places for us to live.

There is lots of stuff to watch on TV, and some of it is even worth watching. But if you′re interested in cutting edge ideas that are being put into practice to fundamentally impact our world, then check out the Science Channel (and of course Build It Bigger).

But without further ado, let′s ring this bell and get trading, god knows my 401K could use it—I can′t hang off the side of skyscrapers forever.