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.
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.
Green building articles abound, but it’s important to note the subtle differences in perspective, which may change depending on the writer’s geography. An article may give green building advice that doesn’t make sense in your geography. Take this Houston article for instance. It’s a good read. In Houston, the climate requires an innovative balance of green building techniques. Houston is hot and humid. I won’t say it’s the armpit of America, but it’s hard to keep dry in that place. Here are a couple examples of localization in green building.
- Passive Design – Houston architects suggest putting most of your windows in a north/south orientation because the east/west orientation draws too much heat into the home and doesn’t allow exposure to the cool breezes that blow from the southeast in the summer.
- Materials – Houston architects will building with metal, as opposed to brick or stucco. Metal reflects the sun, while brick holds in heat and stucco is prone to mold. Unfortunately, metal doesn’t work for all applications, so you have to balance and make trade-offs.
Rule: Consult a knowledgeable professional to pick the optimal green building strategy that effectively considers the ramifications of the local geography and materials on your site. It’ll pay dividends later when you actually start to occupy the building and use it. Pictures via Cameron Armstrong Architects, a Houston architectural firm with several metal homes in their portfolio.
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.
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release
[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.
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.