Articles - March, 2007

The Small, Modern kitHAUS (F2)

kitHAUS K1  kitHAUS K1 Interior

This is the K1 from kitHAUS, which is a prefab company based in Van Nuys, California.  The K1 is 289 sf and costs around $59,000.  kitHAUS has a series of modules that can be paired (or not) to create a small weekend retreat, backyard office or study, or gigantic residence.  Plus, it can be off-grid or grid-tied with the optional solar setup, depending on your tastes.

"F2" is short for "Flickr Friday," a weekly short posted on Friday with an image from Flickr and a quick description.  Feel free to email me your F2 ideas.

American Dream 2.0: The Phoenix SUT

Side_profile

Tonight, I had the great opportunity to talk with Ed Begley Jr. at the unveiling of the Phoenix Sport Utility Truck in Dallas, Texas.  Ed is a really nice guy, and he’s smart, too.  He knows his stuff.  He was showcasing the Phoenix SUT, which is a five-passenger, all-electric, freeway-speed sport utility truck.  I test drove it and had a good time.  I see the future with this thing.  I really do.  Actually, I punched it coming off the line, and it had some get up and go.

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11 Suggestions to Create Eco-friendly Landscape

Reel Lawn Mowing

Guest post contributed by Kent Swanson, a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues.  Kent’s writing is also featured on Practical Environmentalist, Clean Air Gardening: Organic Gardening Advice, and Ecobackyard

When we think of green architecture, sometimes we forget that our landscaping can have a big impact on how efficient and sustainable a building is in the long run.  For example, a few strategically planted trees can help to cool off a building and reduce the amount of energy allocated to air conditioning. The following is a list of 11 suggestions to create an eco-friendly landscape that will complement a holistic approach to green building design.  Incorporating a few of these ideas will help you save energy and water, and also reduce environmental contamination.  If you’d like to make a suggestion on how to use landscaping to reduce your environmental footprint, please leave a comment!

(1) Incorporate Native Plants in Your Landscaping
When planning your landscape, consider using a collection of native plants. Native plants are adapted to your area, which means they naturally require less maintenance and water than exotic plants. They are also more resistant to pests and diseases than many exotics, reducing the need for pesticides.  Additionally, native plants attract native wildlife and beneficial insects. You don’t need to exclude exotic plants from your yard and garden, but incorporating natives in your design can make a big difference.  The U.S. EPA’s Greenacres Program is a great place to look for information on using native plants for home landscaping.

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Park City's 38-Acre Newpark Receives LEED-ND Pre-Certification

Newpark

Hot on the heels of news that Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN) is going to develop a $1B green resort named "Ever Vail," comes news that Park City’s Newpark Community has pre-qualified for LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) certification.  These ski towns are really laying it on thick–and they’re doing more than flaunting offsets.  When it comes down to it, they bank on the livelihood of snow, so it’s logical to consider the business implication of climate change.  Having green neighborhoods and buildings is a smart way to lighten that environmental footprint.   

Newpark is a 38 acre, mixed-use development with resort town homes, a commercial and retail walkable community, and a condominium hotel (opening January 2008).  With respect to its green features, LEED-ND certification requires the incorporation of smart growth, urbanism, and green building principles on a neighborhood planning and design level. Projects are evaluated based on the following three categories (1) smart location + community linkage, (2) neighborhood pattern + design, and (3) actual use of green technology in construction.  A notable accomplishment at Newpark is the site development to open space ratio of 1-4.5.  That’s 9 times the LEED requirement for allocation to open space.  I’ve seen it and it looks to be quite the lively, little community.  Via

AIA's New Website "How Design Works" + A Modern, Sustainable House

Medora Woods Home  Medora Woods Home Top

I’m happy to report to you that I have the insider tip on a new website that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is launching: How Design Works (http://howdesignworks.aia.org/).  The website includes information and a series of videos on the entire process of selecting an architect and going from consultation to design to build to occupation.  What I really enjoyed was the case study on Medora Woods’ sustainable home (pictured above) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Woods retained architect Sarah Nettleton to design a home to suit a difficult piece of land with a 28 foot falling slope from road to creek.  What Nettleton did, using the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, was build "of the hill, not on it," and designed the house to the environmental standard of the Kyoto Protocol.  Here are a few quotes of interest from the videos. 

  • There is no wasted space. 
  • Simple is sustainable. 
  • Small spaces can lead to ample lives. 
  • The house encourages me to keep simplifying my life. 

In the last video, "occupy," Woods takes you through the house and really shows off some of the sustainable features.  This new website provided by the AIA is nice tool for finding an architect, discerning the process of working with an architect, and discovering ways to incorporate sustainable building practices and energy-efficient design strategies into a plan.  Go take it for a spin. 

Study

Photos via Sarah Nettleton Architects.

Town of Babylon's LEED Code and LEED Creep Potential

Newsday_logo Fellow green building blogger Stephen at GreenBuildingsNYC had an editorial published called "The Greening of Buildings: Babylon Town’s adoption of an environmentally friendly building code has virtues, but could scare off potential development."  Stephen talks about Town of Babylon’s adoption of a LEED Code (likely the nation’s strictest) requiring commercial, industrial, office, and multiple residential buildings larger than 4,000 sf to get LEED certification.  I recommend giving the article a read, but I wanted to highlight a few salient points that he made: 

  1. LEED ordinances that require an actual USGBC certificate face opposition from interested parties because (1) depending on the size of the project, owners will need to pay a minimum of $35,000 per project just to secure certification (unless Platinum certified), and (2) there is a potential for delay in process of evaluating applications. 
  2. LEED ordinances that "automatically adopt any future versions promulgated" could be problematic.  By doing this, a town has effectively handed the keys to its local building code to a third party.  The building code can be subject to modification any time. 
  3. An effective means of encouraging green building practices is through the use of financial incentives such as floor-area bonuses under the existing zoning, expedited review of building permits, and various tax credits and rebates

Good food for thought.  These are just a few points from the article.  It’s important to remember that LEED is a means to sustainability, it’s not the end, by any stretch of the imagination.  Nice work, Stephen. 

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