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The Green Audacity of Lifestyle Minimalism

Minimalist

Photo by Internet Power Lunch.

I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately for some reason.  We all have an idea of what "minimalism" is, but I wanted to dig a little deeper.  According to Wikipedia, minimalism describes a movement where "work is stripped down to its most fundamental features … it is rooted in the reductive aspects of Modernism, and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract impressionism and a bridge to Postmodern art practices."  Strip it down to the fundamentals. 

I like the concept of stripping stuff down to the fundamentals.  You can strip down anything and literally find that "less is more."  Try it.  I honestly believe that with the right amount of less, less can be more.  Why is that?  Well, quite simply because less equals the fundamentals and enjoying the fundamentals — with no excess — feels good.  Let me explain my thoughts on the lifestyle of minimalism. 

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Portland's First SIPs House to Save 70% on Bills!

SEED SIPs House

Update: 8/7/08 – check out Seed’s blog documenting the project at www.sipshousepdx.com.

Yesterday Seed Architecture Studio and Kaya General Contractors announced plans to build the first house in Portland using structural insulated panels ("SIP").  This sustainable home design is targeted to save 70% on bills (compared to a home built to current energy code) utilizing tech such as LED and fluorescent lighting, efficient appliances, passive cooling, and the ultra efficient SIPs.  Speaking of the home, Seed Architecture Studio owner Darin Dougherty said:

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Emeco, a Classic in Eco Furniture Design

Emeco Emeco Emeco

Emeco* designs are simple, elegant, timeless, and award-winning, but did you know that their furniture is also super green?  Emeco furniture is hand-made from 80% recycled aluminum — half of which is post-consumer (soft drink cans) and the other half is post-industrial (manufacturing scrap).  Because of this, their furniture can contribute to LEED points in your green project (MR 4.2/5.1). 

The second thing that makes Emeco’s furniture so green is that their pieces are made to last for at least 150 years!  In this day of disposable furniture that lasts for maybe a decade, 150 years is an impressive lifespan.  Emeco’s designs come in two standard finishes, brushed and polished. 

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A Prefab M-Hotel on the Cusp

m-hotel by tim pyne

I love the possibilities and ideas presented by the m-hotel from Tim Pyne.  That said, I can’t say there’s anything green about the concept (that is soon to be a reality) other than two things, possibly: (1) it’s a non-permanent structure (7-10 years) where the parts can be reused differently in the future and dismantled to make way for a different use on the site, and/or (2) it’s a prefab structure and prefab has the potential for green benefits such as material savings, lower construction waste, and minimized site disturbance, etc.  But still, it’s cool and innovative.  The m-hotel is designed as a series of steel-framed slot boxes that slide into the frame (which makes for easy dismantling in the future). 

The striped m-hotel as you see above is being considered for Sclater Street in London.  If approved, the hotel will have 32 units each measuring 16 x 36 feet (576 sf).  Work may begin as soon as this summer and should be complete by end of the year.  I can’t wait to see the finished product. 

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Hawaii Gateway Energy Center, a Fascinating Display of Solar Potential

HGEC

The Hawaii Gateway Energy Center (HGEC) is a 3,600 sf, $3.4 million facility situated on the south coast of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The new building serves both the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii and the Hawaii Ocean Sciences and Technology Park.  And as you may be able to gather from the images and models below, HGEC is a fascinating display of the future potential for synergies of solar power and building efficiencies.  The entire building is designed as a thermal chimney that captures heat and creates air movement using the structural form and thermodynamic principles.  Also, with the help of glazing, the building orientation and design pretty much eliminates the need for electric lighting during the day.  Notably, HGEC consumes about 20% of the energy that’s required by a comparable building. 

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Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Synagogue, a Modern LEED Platinum Building

JRC Synagogue

The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation synagogue is a beautiful building on 303 Dodge Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.  The Chicago Tribune reports that it’s "believed to be the first synagogue designed to achieve the highest level — platinum — in the [USGBC's LEED] rating system."  That’s probably true.  The  JRC board of directors mandated LEED Platinum certification, but my search of LEED Certified projects does not list the JRC synagogue yet.  Nevertheless, it’s a fine example of green architecture in the religious building context, which is something we don’t see too often. 

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