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Interface Studio: Sustainable, Economic Sheridan Street Housing

Sheridan Street Housing Sheridan Street Housing

The Philadelphia Sustainability Awards Finalists have been chosen and one of the projects that was overlooked is the following 13-unit, affordable, environmentally-friendly housing project designed by Interface Studio, LLC.  One of the goals of this project was to design affordable homes with extremely low utility costs.  When money is tight, being hit by the utility man is tough on morale, that’s for sure.  The architect relied on modular design to lower costs of construction and challenge the bland look of typical affordable housing.  Engineers estimate that units will be 30-40% more efficient than your standard Energy Star building upon completion.  Pretty incredible, actually. 

Although Sheridan Street Housing was not selected for the Philadelphia Sustainability Awards, it has received an AIA Philadelphia Silver Medal 2006 + residential architect Design Award 2007.  Sheridan Street was designed with unique materials such as slate-like fiber cement cladding panel and textured exterior grade plywood cladding panel.  Also, as you can tell from the images above, the design incorporates an airy third-floor terrace.  I’d pay big money for that.  I think another innovative aspect of the project is how the designer squeezed 13-units into an oddly shaped 40′ x 450′ piece of land.  Each building dances with another in interlocking L-shaped footprints to maximize the available land. 

Here are links to some of the other green projects considered for the Philadelphia Sustainability Awards: Bernice Elza Homes, Brewerytown Square, Jackie O’Neil Zero-Energy Prototype Homes (finalist), One Crescent Drive, Pembroke North Condominium, and The Reserve at Packer Park

More Than Another Prefab: Muji Prefab

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My values and beliefs were partially created through my experience living in Japan.  I like minimalist.  I like clean, sharp lines.  I like modern.  I like small, but functional.  I appreciate that a grain of rice means something, especially when times are tough.  And this is why I’m excited to hear the news of Muji coming to America.  Technically Mujirushi Ryohin, roughly translated as no-name quality goods, is the full name.  Muji is coming to the US to influence consumers that dig the no-brand, minimalist style sans in-your-face product identifiers.  I wear shirts inside out just so the brand doesn’t show sometimes, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to offer.   

Muji has 387 outlets in 15 countries, including 34 stores in Europe.  America is next on their expansion plans with a store starting in Manhattan, and the possibility of stores to follow in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.  Muji sells all sorts of stuff, such as socks, a front-loading washer/dryer combo, cardboard speakers, aluminum business card holders, and even a line of prefab homes (starting at $115,000).  Not all their products are green, but they are of the modern aesthetic.  Choose wisely, I say.  Also, we’ll have to wait and see, but I’ve heard rumors that their stuff isn’t cheap.  Some people compare them to IKEA, but with a Japanese flavor.  Let’s see how the Manhattan opening goes.  See BusinessWeek + Muji (Japanese). 

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Would You Buy a Home from IKEA? Payments Accepted at Front Register.

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I’m asking because if you have an Ikea, you may be one of the next cities to have their prefab home product.  Maybe in 5, 10, 15 years, but it looks possible.  Over the past decade, Ikea has teamed up with Swedish construction company Skanska to build a home that was light, well-planned, functional, and furnished with natural materials.  That home, the BoKlok, which is Swedish for "smart living," has become Ikea’s big idea.  After building about 3,500 BoKlok homes across Scandinavia, Ikea has decided to expand and create a British BoKlok development with about 36 flats in St. James Village, Gateshead (UK).  After that, they’ll add another 60 homes. 

BoKlok Homes are timber-framed, almost entirely pre-fabricated, and brought onto the site in pre-assembled units on the back of a truck.  After transport, put on the roof + siding, install the plumbing + wiring, and that’s about it.  BoKloks usually come in a two-floor, L-shaped configuration with three apartments on each floor.  Early on, Ikea sold the BloKlok from the store, but they were so popular that people were camping out to get them.  Now, Ikea chooses residents using a random lottery.  Yes, I just wrote that.  Demand is so big, there’s a lottery to choose residents.  I can’t believe this, but it goes to show that there really is a problem with the lower portion of the economic pyramid being served with quality products.

Maybe I’ll get around to converting these figures, but for now, I’ll give you the original metrics so the data is accurate.  The houses planned for Gateshead cost about £120,000 – £150,000.  Ikea priced the units specifically to target households earning roughly £15,000 – £30,000 a year, and they’re excited to have a modern, environmentally-friendly, affordable living space.  One bedroom flats are about 46 square meters and two bedroom flats are 58 square meters.  Residents are expected to move in towards the end of 2007 or in early 2008.  I wonder when we’ll see these in the U.S.?  See also Guardian

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QR5 + 2007 Bottom Line Design Awards

Berkshire

The first time I saw the QR5 was on Inhabitat last year, and ever since then, my thoughts have occasionally wandered back to its simple, elegant design.  Now, in April 2007, this UK-based innovation is one the recipients of the 3rd Annual Bottom Line Design Awards.  Pictured on the cover of Business 2.0, the QR5 is referred to as "The Personal Power Plant."  The QR5 can generate about 800 kilowatt-hours a month in 13-mph winds and costs about $48,000.  Back of the envelope-style, the payback is about 18 years.  According to Quietrevolution’s designer, Richard Cochrane, prices will go down with volume sales and about 70-80 wind turbines will be installed in the coming year. 

About the QR5:
Looking at the helix portion alone, the turbine is about 9 feet tall x 15 feet wide (but various different sizes are also in development).  Here’s how the parts work:  (1) three ‘S’ shaped blades are tapered to shed noise, (2) the vertical axis easily integrates into existing buildings and structures, (3) the helical design captures turbulent winds and eliminates vibration, (4) central compression spar, dependent on conditions, (5) the blades, spars, and torque tube are made of strong carbon fiber, and all moving parts are sealed to minimize maintenance, and (6) the direct drive in-line generator has auto-shutdown and peak power tracking, which is incorporated into the mast.  The QR5 is expected to have a life of about 25 years, assuming annual inspections.  Feel free to click on over to get the finer details on noise + vibration, connecting to the grid, and mounting in various applications

My Thoughts:
I think it’s fantastic, but I do have one concern.  It’s UK-based.  Localization is the new globalization because carbon emissions have changed the rules of the game.  If this thing is going to get big, and I believe it can, there must be US-based production.  I understand Quietrevolution is working on their non-UK patents, so establishing an American presence may be the company’s next step.  I hope it is, because I can’t stop thinking about it.  That’s what good design does.  It changes the way we see the game being played. 

Extra Links:
Quiet Revolution Wind Turbine [Evelyn - Inhabitat]
QuietRevolution [Sarah Rich - WorldChanging]

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LEED Platinum Sweetwater, A Model of Economics + Design

Sweetwater2  Sweetwater

Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification.  Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%.  At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually.  Plus, there’s the financial case for the building.  Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area. 

In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment."  His firm walks the talk.  About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP). 

The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system.  Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10.  I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach. 

Extra Links:
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release

2007 New American Home Goes Green in a Big Way

[Email/RSS - Click to View Images] Every year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) sponsors a home project and industry experts team up to create a demonstration home with the newest technologies and products.  This year’s New American Home was unveiled at the 2007 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida last month.  The 2007 New American Home is a 3-story, 4,707 sf urban loft home with a roof plaza.  There’s also a first floor terrace, pool, and a 576 sf suite with the two-car garage.  Designed by BSB Design, the New American Home has a distinct look.  The mission of the home was to illustrate that housing performance can be incorporated into the most simple or complex homes without sacrificing aesthetics.  And as it turns out, housing performance = green home. 

Green Features:
The New American Home is a standout in green achievement: it’s designed with universal design compliance, designated to be Energy Star certified, and certified green by the Florida Green Building Coalition.  The home includes a 2.4 kw solar photovoltaic system; pre-cast, insulated structural concrete wall system; impact resistant, low-emissivity windows; residential automation and home control for all low-voltage systems; air conditioning systems between 15 + 17.8 SEER; four-foot overhangs over most of the south- and west-facing windows; and natural gas instantaneous water heaters.  Nice. 

So you’re saying, "Yeah but, this house is freakin’ huge!"  Yes it is.  It’s huge with Cribs-type amenities such as automated, built-in home theaters, an elevator, and a state-of-the-art security system. It’s a model home with tons of green features.  More precisely, it uses 73 percent less energy for heating and cooling and 54 percent less energy for water heating, compared to a comparable house in a similar climate.  For whatever reason, people build houses this big, so if you’re gonna go big, you might as well go green and energy efficient, too. 



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