I guess the term would be adaptive reuse, but I think I’m going to start calling this "attractive reuse." Attractive reuse is about taking boring, old, traditional homes and renovating them into modern, green abodes. The Phinney House was intended to be a case study house — the existing house was extensively remodeled, the main floor was raised to give more height in the basement, the main floor plan was opened up, and a new second floor was added. It’s Built-Green certified, too. Some of the many ecologically sustainable elements in this project include the following: hydronic radiant-floor heat; whole-house heat-recovery ventilation; FSC-certified lumber, plywood and cabinetry; reclaimed fir beams and columns; sustainably harvested Ipe wood siding and decking; straw-board flooring; non-toxic paints and finishes; concrete with fly-ash content; and rain-screen siding. Nice.
What does the future have in store for us? In whose hands will design be? What economic trends will prevail? Bruce Sterling provides the answers to some of these questions. But some of the answers are hard to understand. He foresees monumental changes in the world of design: a transformation of conventional users, with their currently available user-alterable gizmos, into “wranglers” with blobjects, spimes, and arphids in their pockets and briefcases.
To visualize some of this future world, take a gander at Sterling’s web video: The Spime Arrives. Someday, there will be a world where products are designed, visualized, and ordered online. Consumers may be able to see products manufactured and shipped. And products will be made of renewable, recycled materials, hailing from the closest, most efficient location. Plus, when the product ceases to be useful, the manufacturer will take it back from us with a smile. Trash will diminish, the loop will close. This is a world where everything is downloadable. Metadata is valuable and enables solutions.
Have you ever wanted to walk through a prefab or see what the excitement is about in person? If you live on the west coast, the opportunity to walk through a prefab happens fairly frequently. Just wait for the right conference or event and you'll hear about a tour or walk through. Now, two hours north of San Francisco in Napa County (Pope Valley), there's a Rocio Romero prefab open for tour, rental, or even for commercial photo, movie, and production shoots.
Many of you have probably seen this house by Stuart Tanner Architects, it was the Architectural Record House of the Month in July 2006. But I just noticed it and want to post a few images. It’s a small house of 1,184 sf located near Eaglehawk Neck on Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula. As you can see, it juts out into the air, blending the boundary between the wildlife and sea. I’m sure the owners have witnessed the grandeur of nature at its best, being enveloped by the eucalypt forest and the sea. Due to the location, the architect had the home partially prefabricated — framing was complete in two days. The home also has many of the green features most homes should have, such as energy-saving lights, heating, and appliances. It’s well-insulated throughout and designed to maximize cross ventilation. And there’s an on-site waste management system, greywater recycling, and fresh water catchment and storage, too.
Over the weekend, I noticed another good article in the NY Times by Amy Gunderson, with the above illustration by Nancy Doninger. The article makes some salient points about prefab, things that must be considered before getting into it. For instance, one customer said "there is no substitute for seeing a house in person," because what you see online or in a rendering, may not be what you actually get. The same customer opted for Rocio Romero, and the home took 10 months to build at a cost of $300 psf (including installation and finishes). That price ends up being pretty decent, when compared to the cost of going after a custom-design modernist home.
The Tread Lightly House was designed by Garrison Architects for a site where the building footprint had to be minimal because of nearby wetlands. This modular house prototype touches lightly on the earth, demonstrating a different way to reduce the home’s ecological footprint and help minimize the impact of the built environment on nature. Prefabricated construction of the home draws upon an ecologically friendly modular design which is fast and easy to build (not to mention, offers the potential for saved energy, time, money, and natural resources). You can read more about this + other green projects at the Garrison Architects blog.