Word Watch: Transitivity

| January-February 2009

Noun, singular: A radical green design credo that prizes the mobility of buildings, producing structures that, like Legos, can be easily disassembled and reconstructed on other sites. Chilean architect Alberto Mozó coined the term to describe the philosophy behind his new three-story, timber-and-glass office building in downtown Santiago, reports Azure (Sept. 2008). Erecting modest buildings in areas zoned for taller, loftier projects means development will someday push the small guys out.

In the United States, where construction and demolition waste constitutes a third of trash, transitivity might put wrecking ball operators out of business, but landfill waste would be radically reduced. You might even consider it the inevitable end point of our nomadic ways: The average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime, and, increasingly, mobility—not stability, not permanence—is the mark of prestige. “We can now fit our jobs, our record collections, and our five favorite friends into our pockets,” notes Reason (June 2008). It’s not hard to imagine a home as mobile as the rest of our lives.