A couple months ago, I wrote about Josh Dorfman and his Modern Green Living directory, so I wanted to kick out a shout for his new book in stores now. For some reason I thought the book was coming out in August and had it on pre-order, but it never came. Today, I was surprised to see it on the shelf, so I bought it on the spot. With The Lazy Environmentalist, you’re not overpaying for the hardback variety just to get good information. It’s out in sturdy paperback. And if you’re wondering about taking the plunge, there are two good interviews of the author at Treehugger and Green Options. Josh is smart and extremely informed on the subject of environmentalism. Don’t be fooled about the "lazy" moniker. There’s nothing lazy to his approach. The way I see it, Josh is bridging the gap between idealism and behavior, finding ways for everyone to live happier, healthier, and more plentifully. $10.17-$14.95.
Recently, I’ve run across the work of an environmentally friendly Thai architect named Singh Intrachooto. Singh saw a problem in the industry and decided to do something to close the loop. If you’ve ever been involved with construction of any form, you know there’s tons of wasted materials. That’s where Singh comes in. He takes left over scrap from construction sites and designs furniture with them, each piece being different depending on the size and shape of the materials that get salvaged. Now, Singh’s furniture has exploded and is on display in Los Angeles and Paris.
Singh sells the furniture via his website, OSISU, but I’m not necessarily advocating the purchase of his work. It’s incredible and inspiring, but we have our own construction waste here in the U.S. We have tons of it. And it’s going straight to the landfill. Why not find value in that trash? Let’s close the loop and put good materials to use. With Singh, it was just about 18 months ago that he decided to start making this furniture, and in his words, "people thought he was crazy." Now it’s getting big-time coverage all over the media. All it takes is asking the construction workers to set aside scraps like wood, steel, and concrete. The pieces pictured were made from reclaimed teak morsels. Via reuters.
Riverhouse, or One Rockefeller Park, is slated to open in late 2007 in Manhattan, and the word on the street is that it could be one of the greenest, most stylish residential developments on the East Coast. The developer, Sheldrake Organization, is planning on LEED Gold certification for the building. To do that, Sheldrake has enlisted the help of Polshek Partnership Architects for the exterior design and Ismael Leyva Architects for the interior design. In addition, the famous Rockwell Group is working on interior design for the one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences and other aspects of the building.
Here’s a list of some of the things the developer will do: use recycled wastewater for cooling the tower and landscaping; generate electricity from solar photovoltaic panels on the roof; draw in natural lighting without heat gain by using low-E, double-pane glass; use Energy Star appliances to save energy and Toto dual-flush toilets to save water; construct the building with about 20% recycled materials and recycle over 80% of the construction waste; and acquire over 40% of the building materials locally.
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.
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).
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.