Sunday, July 29, 2012

Can We Learn from Animal Constructions?

Do other animals have anything to teach humans  about sustainable design and building?
The Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa points out that animals have developed many inventions familiar to us from our own construction such as roadways (ants), covered streets (termites), deep wells (termites), heating and moisture regulation systems (termites, bees, ants and others), stairways and ramps (termites), and hinged doors with handles (trap-door spiders). He says that human behavior and construction are dangerously detached from their ecological context, partly because we also seek to represent our world symbolically in our construction. Human architecture is always more dictated by cultural, metaphysical and aesthetic aims than by pure functionality and reason, he adds. Other animals, however, fulfill strict criteria for economy and efficiency through minimizing the use of material and labor - sustainable building by necessity for survival and procreation of the species. So how do we combine our technological advances with ecological requirements? Perhaps a look at a few animal constructions can reveal some important answers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recreation Center in Germany Powers with Solar

On Germany's Bath Island, the Steinhude Sea Recreation Facility supplies all of its power needs. Energy self-sufficiency is achieved with photovoltaic panels, solar hot water collectors, a seed-oil-fueled cogeneration microturbine, daylighting, natural ventilation, passive solar design, building automation, and high-performance materials. These systems provide complete lighting and power needs for the building, as well as enough energy to recharge a fleet of eight photovoltaic-powered rental boats, with excess electricity to sell back to the utility grid. This recreation center also employs graywater reuse and rainwater harvest systems that supply public and staff toilets.

LEED versus Passive House Standards Commentary

Check out the commentary by Jacob Gordon. He reviews LEED versus Passive House standards on The Good 100 blog. Titled "Follow or Get out of the Way: The household name in green construction needs to innovate in order to keep up with the competition." Imagine if teachers gave out grades on the first day of school based on students’ promises of how hard they each plan to study. Oddly, we use this backward system to grade green buildings in the United States.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Is climate change, and a new demographics, creating a "metro moment," or leading to 'It's a a sprawl world, after all"?

by Francesca Lyman, Special to Sacramento Bee - Is our culture inextricably bound up with the boundless American dream of suburbia? Judging from the glossy real estate brochures still selling spacious villas and oversize homes, it seems as though success, for many, remains the fantasy of driving down a wide, palm-tree-lined boulevard among the big lawns and mansions of Beverly Hills, just like the character in Woody Allen's famous scene in "Annie Hall." This latest burst of the housing bubble, however, has exposed the dark underside of the suburban dream – with its cascading foreclosures, shuttered malls and shopping centers – on an enormous scale. 

Many experts believe that coming concerns over climate change, and new demographic and economic trends, will cause a booming demand for infill housing. Others fear there isn't enough supply to deliver on this demand, because infill in cities is so much more expensive. The result could be that we're likely to see the opposite happening -- a migration to sprawling greenfields again.

That creates opportunities for designers and city planners to produce shining examples that make "walkable" work, since real estate watchers do agree on a demand for suburbs to remake their cores in the form of traditional cities and downtowns, says David Mogavero, a Sacramento architect specializing in infill projects. Plus, if the patterns of past development were continued at the same rate, the impact on traffic, air quality and farmland "would be devastating," say urban planners like the Sacramento Area Council of Government's Mike McKeever.

Francesca Lyman, special to The Sacramento Bee, California Forum section
Source:  06/24/2012