Wednesday, May 18, 2016

An Ecological Resort in Costa Rica Celebrates Sustainability

By Francesca Lyman, Freelance Journalist and Managing Editor, Solaripedia
Finca Rosa Blanca is an ecological coffee plantation resort in Costa Rica where the proprietors use the power of the sun, natural wastewater treatment, sustainable materials, local food, native plantings, and organic coffee growing methods to wed natural beauty and luxury with long-term sustainability.
The resort sits almost 4,000 feet above sea level, on nine acres overlooking the capital city of San Jose in the valley far below. Finca Rosa Blanca rests in the shadow of Barva Volcano - directly above the resort - the largest in land mass of the many volcanoes in Costa Rica. Visitors also discover wild rivers and cascading waterfalls, big cats, quetzals, tapirs and eagles. Roughly a quarter of Costa Rica's area is made up of National Parks. Finca Rosa Blanca also offers lessons in creating a “green” bedroom in your own home, as well as lessons in sustainability on a broader level.

Solar-Powered Greenhouse Fosters New Growth in Old Pittsburgh Neighborhood

In the economically distressed Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh sits a greenhouse that is mere feet from city utilities infrastructure, but there are no city utility connections in this building. Powered exclusively by energy from the sun through a revolutionary DC micro grid, the Homewood greenhouse requires no supplementary heat, energy, or water. Inside the greenhouse, Oasis Farms and Fishery is perfecting the revolutionary agricultural technology called aquaponics, where plants are combined with aquatic life to create a sustainable, diverse system of food growth and cultivation. It is a revolutionary urban farming initiative that provides a model for agricultural, economic, and sustainable development for even the most remote and under-privileged locations. Designed to increase food productivity and density, especially in urban areas, this experimental greenhouse not only grows food, but acts as a global model for developing nations.

The greenhouse includes:
  • Aquaponics systems to grow plants and fish
  • A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education classroom under a solar canopy
  • A rainwater collection and purification system, with both 1,200 and 500-gallon cisterns, that uses a series of ultraviolet light, filters, and pumps to make the water safe for the aquatic living environment
  • Maintenance-free materials and design
  • Zero operating cost

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Smart Phone Apps for Solar and Green Building

Using solar energy is a lot easier these days thanks to several great iPhone apps. Pictured is the screen for Easy Solar that offers design and measurement tools for professionals. On the other hand, Solar Panel Advisor app is fun for anyone who wants to see their phone behave as a solar panel. And the Pyranometer app allows you to measure the solar irradiance in watts per square meter for and education. Enjoy!

Dirty Laundry Exposed at Thrift Store Chain
Recycling clothing and small household items is a positive thing for the environment, right? So why is the Savers corporation and its Value Village thrift stores under fire? The $1.2 billion per year giant appears to be masquerading as a big do-gooder for non-profits with its slogan: "Good Deeds. Great Deals." In reality, a small fraction of between 8 and 17 percent of revenue goes to charities. Already in hot water in Minnesota, the Washington State for-profit thrift business is finally being scrutinized in Washington - as its board chairman, Tom Ellison, resides luxuriously in his waterfront mansion. Read the full investigation by Francesca Lyman and Investigate West.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Modular, Ultra-Green, Solar Classroom Inspires Sustainability

Unveiled in 2015, this could be the classroom of the future. Located at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, this is one of the first completely sustainable, modular classrooms in the U.S. Fabricated by EcoCraft Homes and developed by the SEED Collaborative, the SEED Classroom features non-toxic materials, generates its own energy, and recycles water on-site. A hands-on sustainable learning space built to Living Building Challenge standards, it impacts thousands of children with its net-zero energy, net-zero water, sustainable materials, daylighting, urban agriculture and equity components.

TAGS: green architecture, green building, modular construction, passive house, solar, energy efficient, pittsburgh

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Usonian Homes on Display at Polymath Park in Pennsylvania
Polymath Park was designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice to be a small community of “Usonian” homes, Frank Lloyd Wright's concept for housing for the common people. Located in Western Pennsylvania, the 125-acre (0.51 km2) property now hosts three homes, connected by unpaved roads on a mostly wooded site. Peter Berndtson, one of the original Wright apprentices at Taliesin, created a 1962 master plan for Polymath Park that allowed for 24 dwellings to be sited in individual, circular clearings in the forest. Ultimately, only two of his home designs were built on the property and are still standing. In 2007, one of Wright’s Usonian homes was deconstructed in Illinois, relocated to the Polymath site, and then faithfully reconstructed according to Wright’s original design. Berndtson's homes are known as the Balter House (1964) and the Blum House (1965), both of which were used as summer homes for the Blum and Balter families. The good news is that you can tour these homes or stay for the night!
Polymath Park Resort

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Well-Behaved Building - Oct 8-10 NYC

Submitted by Francesca Lyman
If you're working on reducing energy and resource use and enhancing sustainability, well-being and community in buildings, the Garrison Institute has an invitation for you.  October 8 - 10 please join your fellow building owners, managers, researchers and community organizers for our annual Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium, which deals with the human dimensions of improving building performance, including energy use behavior.  
This year's meeting, “The Well-Behaved Building: Developing Community, Well-Being and Resilience in Buildings,” explores behavioral and holistic approaches that help make buildings into thriving communities while improving efficiency. Presenters include leading building experts like Barbara Ciesla, Gina Ciganik, Rachel Gutter, John McIlwaine, Jonathan Rose and others, as well as thought leaders from relevant fields like sociologist Jenni Cross, teacher Steve Ritz, activist Alexie Torres-Fleming, resilience expert Andrew Zolli and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg
The symposium is held at the Garrison Institute, a beautiful, renovated monastery on the Hudson River an hour north of Manhattan on the MetroNorth train line.  Scholarships are available for non-profit professionals. You can learn more and register here, or call the Institute at 845-424--4800