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The Business of Modern Prefab, a Rocio Romero Perspective

LVL Home

Rocio Romero is a 35-year-old designer, manufacturer, and entrepreneur.  She’s well known for her minimalist, modern LV Home.  Do you know the history behind Rocio Romero?  Christy Marshall authored an excellent article on her and her growing business in modern prefab.  Romero is a graduate of University of California-Berkeley and Southern California Institute of Architecture (aka SCI-Arc).  One of her first designs was a summer house for her parents in Laguna Verde outside of Santiago, Chile.  That home was modified slightly and has become the LV Home that we see popping up all over the country.  As for pricing, here’s what you can expect:

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Are Starchitects Resistant to Environmentalism + Humanitarianism?

LA Times

There’s an opinion piece by Christopher Hawthorne in the LA Times about the potential absence of star architects, lazily referred to as ‘starchitects’, from the realm of humanitarian architecture.  When I say humanitarian architecture, I’m referring to such causes as environmentalism, poverty, or illness, etc.  Hawthorne laments the lack of a green Rem Koolhaus, smacking on about Peter Eisenman as the villain of green and Zaha Hadid as careless of anything other than her legacy.  To quote:

But it also means that the leaders of this new movement, who tend to be rather bland as media personalities, are overshadowed by older architects and designers far less interested in sustainability or fighting poverty — and far more experienced at attracting attention and wielding celebrity. In the last 20 years, the most appealing figures in the profession have cultivated a decidedly apolitical, even defiantly cynical outlook…

Among the green generation, who is heading up the charge? Well, nobody, really. This may be the first movement in architectural history whose followers are more famous than its leaders. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom are well-known fans of green design. Among green designers, on the other hand, we have the ambitiously principled (read: sorta vanilla) Cameron Sinclair, who leads Architecture for Humanity; the great, greatly mustachioed and soft-spoken Shigeru Ban; and William McDonough, who is beginning to project an Andy Rooney vibe.

Now, for my own thoughts…I’m not an architect, so I’ll let the pros chime in, but I will speak to the issue from the perspective of a developer or business owner that retains an architect for a project.  First, isn’t the person paying the commission the one fueling the star architect ego, egos that brazenly design with no thought for the world that the structure will occupy?  Doesn’t money dictate direction?  If I want a green building, and it’s my money, I’ll find the right person for the job.  Don’t these people have a grand stage because it’s been given to them?  Second, it seems like the leaders of the green movement aren’t singular figures, but they’re large firms such as SOM, Foster + Partners, FXFOWLE Architects, and Murphy/Jahn Architects.  It seems like it takes a village to raise a humanitarian building, not an individual. 

But, is this a contradiction with the architectural archetype in Howard Roark.  Are these starchitects just modern day Roarks?  But wouldn’t Roark try to use new materials and methods like green building + low-income architecture, etc.?  Matter of fact, as I recall, Roark did build a low-income project.  Tell me what you think…

Telus Tower of Toronto (S2)

Telus Tower Telus Tower is going to be one of the first new towers constructed in Toronto in a long time.  It could also be one of the most technologically advanced towers in Canada.  Using the LEED certification system as a guideline for design, the Telus Tower will pursue Silver level certification.  It’s expected to cost about $250 M to build, with about 30 stories comprising 780,000 sf of office space.  Telus will occupy about 60% of the building when it is completed by the beginning of 2009. 

In addition to the LEED elements, Telus Tower is going to be a showcase of "Future Friendly™" Technology in both building automation systems and tenant environments.  This will include floor-to-ceiling windows, raised floors for underfloor distribution of hot/cool air, and state-of-the-art communications cabling and electrical power. 

Good Links:
++Telus Announces New Office Development in Toronto [Telus]
++New Towers Paint the Town Green [thestar.com]
++Toronto Downtown Towers Going Green [treehugger]

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The Greenest Home in San Francisco – Clipper House by LORAX Development

The Greenest Home in San Francisco - The Clipper House

I read an excellent article about San Francisco’s Clipper House by LORAX Development in Solar Today magazine and wanted to share some info about it.  The Clipper House has become a showcase for residential sustainable features, basically showing off everything but the financial case for green building.  The 2,600 sf home was designed by John Maniscalco/Architecture, Inc., and was completed in the summer of 2006.  For a cool $1.9 M, you could probably purchase this incredible home–often referred to as the Greenest Home in San Francisco. 

If you do, here’s what you’re going to get:  1.7 kw DC photovoltaic array with BP Solar panels installed by SolarCity (total cost $16,700, net AR $11,543); 64 sf of solar thermal glazed collectors by Heliodyne ($6,750); warmboard radiant heating system using PEX tubing ($50,000); rainwater-catchment system by Wonderwater Inc. ($25,000); hemp carpets colored with vegetable dyes; low-VOC paints and caulks throughout; energy-efficient windows and doors; hardwood floors made from 100-yr-old TerraMai railroad ties from Southeast Asia; FSC-certified kitchen cabinets; Richlite kitchen counters made from recycled paper products; recycled blue jean insulation by Bonded Logic; 50-year warranty James Hardie fiber-cement siding made partially with fly ash; and recycled plastic and wood Trex composite decking.  The Clipper House certainly prioritizes energy-efficiency, properly sourced sustainable materials, and indoor air quality.  Real nice. 

Good Links:
++Pushing Boundaries, Advancing a Market [Solar Today]
++520 Clipper in Noe Valley: Smart, Green, Luxe [LORAX - PDF]
++Clipper Street Green Home Facts & Images [LORAX]

SolTerra, MKD Green Townhouse Development

MKD Townhouses

Not only is Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD) taking the green prefab world by storm, but it looks like MKD is working with Communities by Design to build a 26-unit, green townhouse development.  Nice.  The two- and three-bedroom, two-story units will have covered parking, private and shared outdoor gardens, high quality finishes and fixtures, sustainable materials and systems, high-performance insulation, and solar panel systems.  The townhouse development will be located somewhere in San Leandro, CA, and should be opening in late 2007. 

Good Links:
++MKD + SketchUp + Google Earth Mashup [JG]
++MKD Sunset Breezehouse + mkSolaire [JG]

Eleven Times Square (S2)

11 Times Square Eleven Times Square

Eleven Times Square is planned to be one of the next green buildings in NYC at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street.  The 1.1 million sf speculative office space, with two floors of retail, will be finished in 2009.  Also, if everything goes as planned, 11 Times Square will be certified to the LEED Silver level by the USGBC.  While it’s still early, apparently the 40-story tower is two months ahead of schedule (but there’s still 2 more years to get behind schedule).  The tower was designed by FXFOWLE Architects, and specific details of green elements are kind of hard to come by.  We’ll keep an eye on it and pass on more details as the specifics come available. 

Good Links:
++Eleven Times Square [Official Website]
++11 Times Square Starts Spec Construction [Globe St.]

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::



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