ABC's Extreme Makeover: Pauni Family + Making Homes Sustainable

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Recently I blogged about the Happy New House by Neil Denari, and the concept that home design has a lot do with our personalities–even our psychological well-being.  After reading below, I want to hear what you think, so feel free to drop a quick comment if you have the time. 

So last night I was watching ABC’s  Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and I was saddened by the Pauni Family’s loss of their father.  They are a Tongan family that came to the US in search of many things, among those, the American Dream and the benefits of economic freedom, religious freedom, educational opportunities, etc.  The father Danny Pauni died of a heart attack, leaving behind a spirited wife and eight children.  They had no insurance policy and were struggling to keep the house, but the house wasn’t in much condition to want to keep…some kids didn’t have beds, the walls and foundation were molding…needless to say, the home wasn’t in any condition to sustain eight children.  Which leads to my thoughts:

I like Extreme Makeover Home Edition.  I think it is noble, uplifting programming.  While not all the houses are built green per se, many of the homes are built with indoor air quality considerations supreme.  That said, the original Pauni home was in terrible condition, but the family was extremely upbeat and happy.  So I started thinking…maybe, people have an attitude that is their default.  They are happy or grumpy or whatever in between by default.  And depending on life’s everchanging circumstances, our default level adjusts in varying degrees.  With a run down home, the Pauni Family didn’t get too down about it because they are happy people by default, but it sure made for tough times.  When the new, rebuilt home came around, they went crazy with joy.  They were so gracious and warm…very thankful.  And I ended the episode thinking:  "we could all learn to be like the Pauni Family by default."  Happiness by default is sustaining on an emotional level…it keeps you going when things don’t go right, but living spaces don’t define an emotional level, at least at the very minimum.  Living spaces influence emotions, but it’s up to us to determine where that influence starts. 

So let me know what you think about how our living spaces define emotional, psychological, or spiritual sustainability.  I’m interested in reading some of your responses.

Madison Wisconsin's Capitol West Development Goes Modern + Reuses/Deconstructs +94%

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It seems like cities all over the United States are jumping into the green building fray–it’s an exciting time to witness the radical transformation of the construction industry.  In Madison, Wisconsin, there’s a neighborhood development called Capitol West.  The project is a $110 million, mixed-use development in the center of Madison, occupying an entire city block bounded by West Washington Avenue, South Henry, West Main + South Broom Street.  The development will include a diversity of housing types, shopping spaces, + urban parks–all clean, contemporary + modern. 

Boom_street_lofts This urban redevelopment will include about 375-400 townhomes, condominiums, and lofts + penthouses.  The first phase (173 condos + 10,000 sf of retail) of condominium homes will range in size from 650-3,000 square feet, with prices ranging from $170,000-$900,000.  I was really surprised by the diversity of architecture and offerings for this neighborhood:  Capitol Court Townhomes, Washington Rowhouses, 309 West Washington (10 floors), Main Street Townhomes, + Broom Street Lofts.  This looks really exciting. 

What’s really impressive is the steps the developer, The Alexander Company, took to make sure this development didn’t place undue burden on the city’s resources.  It retained Madison Environmental Group to head up their reuse/deconstruction phase.  The reuse phase diverted 66 tons of material from the landfill via donations, walk-throughs, and public sale events.  The deconstruction phase yielded 94.86% of recycled material, totaling 24,500 tons!  Granted deconstruction can take more time, but it’s a lot better on the community, environment, and neighborhood.  In total, 59,536 cubic yards of material was diverted from the landfill via reuse and deconstruction efforts–that’s 19,772 Ford F-150s full of waste lined up back-to-back stretching 65 miles.  Nice job Capitol West.

No word yet as to whether any of the individual projects will go after LEED, but the architects are designing with the environment in mind.  Lots of natural light, air + ventilation design with incredible views, green spaces, and roof gardens.  Thanks for the tip Stephen Schenkenberg

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Bioclimatic Design, Menara Mesiniaga + Ken Yeang (S2)

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I’ve had people ask me why I haven’t mentioned the Menara Mesiniaga, designed by architect Ken Yeang, in Subang Jaya Selangor, Malaysia.  Well…the building was modern + famous when it was finished in the ’90s, and it’s still modern + famous.  I don’t really know if I can do any justice trying to describe the structure, but I’ll direct you to some more detailed information on the building, in case you’re interested in studying bioclimatic skyscraper design and the like.  The Menara Mesiniaga, often referred to as the IBM building, is owned by Mesiniaga, a Malaysian public company in the IT sector that is somehow connected to IBM.  The 15 floor, 207 foot, intelligent building was finished in 1992, and interestingly, property values of the land around the building have flourished. 

Iaa0296 Excluding the costs of land acquisition, Menara Mesiniaga was constructed at a cost of roughly $8.9 M (USD).  The building design reduces long-term maintenance costs and lowers energy use.  On the north + south facades, curtain wall glazing minimizes solar gain.  On the east + west facades, aluminum fins and louvers provide sun shading.  All the office floor terraces have sliding doors that allow the occupants to control natural ventilation.  The trussed steel + aluminum sunroof also incorporates solar panels that power the building.  Some other features include the skycourt, vertical landscaping, and naturally ventilated core.  The Menara Mesiniaga is the epitome of building design that reflects climate characteristics specific to the location of the building. 

Good Links:
++Ken Yeang’s Book: Bioclimatic Skyscrapers [Online version]
++Aga Kahn Award for Architecture

::"S2" is short for "Skyscraper Sunday," a weekly article on green skyscrapers posted every Sunday::

China to Build 10,000 Eco-Villages + Make People Rich

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During the summer, I was able to study businesses in Taiwan, Hong Kong, + China; one particular session with top-level executives at Shui On Land, which is basically the best property developer/operator in mainland China, really stuck with me.  This company builds entire cities with multiple skyscrapers holding millions of people.  But, because the government owns all the land (land is rented under long-term leases), developers, like SOL, need to be able to relocate existing land occupants (this is not a debate as to whether such development is necessary; these issues are rather complex, to say the least).  Specifically, developers need to do the following things:  (1) secure the cooperation and oversight of the Chinese government; and (2) pay the people that are living on the land to move.  The result:  these poor farmers and families that have been living on land (on lease from the government) get paid $$ to relocate–the Chinese government + development companies make rich people out of these people that initially occupied the land

Couple this with a recent news story coming from China:  "during the 11th Five-year Plan period (2006-2010), China will build 10,000 eco-villages in 500 counties that are based on the recycling of resources.  This is part of a national program to make people rich by constructing environmentally friendly homes."  To make people rich.  This blows me away.  I understand the intricacies involved with command and market economies and I’m not going to trash on the one that has blessed me, but we can see how a command economy can lead to positive outcomes.  China has the power to see where change needs to happen and make that change, without having to rely on the slow, and often corrupt, processes of democratic government.  Understandably, command economies don’t always work out this way, but as it relates to green innovation, China is taking the lead (See Tom Friedman).  I have a lot more faith in good old American ingenuity, but under our system, which is more market than command, I think we need to internalize the costs of what happens to the environment, especially if we want to be effective at innovating for the future.  Via Linton; picture

A Simple, Effective PowerCost Monitor

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When I lived in Japan, I was always feeling the pinch of electricity bills.  It wasn't because of over-consumption.  Things were just plain expensive.  And luckily, the electricity meter was always near the front door, so I got in the habit of opening the door to check the spin rate on the meter.  After looking at the meter, I'd walk around and unplug things that weren't in use.  Here in the U.S., though, there's no easy access to the meter, especially in the traditional single-family home.  Which is why something like the PowerCost Monitor could come in handy. 

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Central Oregon's First LEED-H Certified Residential Project: Newport District Modern House Project by Abacus GC

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Have you ever been to Bend, Oregon?  Bend is smack dab in the middle of the state, it’s Central Oregon, and it’s beautiful.  Central Oregon is not to be confused with the rainy, western part of the state.  Bend is in close proximity to some of the best golfing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and skiing locations in the world, which is why lots of Californians either relocate or have a vacation home in the area.  And real estate isn’t cheap, either (speaking from a Texas frame of mind).  But in Bend, you have an innovative, forward-thinking real estate company, Abacus GC, that has just received the first LEED-H (LEED for Homes) certification in Central Oregon for its Newport District Modern House Project.  It’s also Earth Advantage certified and will save about 54% more in energy consumption than a standard code-built home. 

This project (corner of NW 12th Street + Newport Avenue) includes 5 green, modern, luxurious homes, scheduled for completion in December 2006.  Each lot is 3,000 square feet, and each home is 2,000 square feet (prices starting at roughly $850k).  Here are some of the green features:  cool metal roof that reflects UV radiation and keeps the house cool in the summer; green roof trellises; xeriscaped lawns with drought tolerant and local plants (require less water and maintenance); Sierra Pacific windows made from timber that meets the Sustainable Forestry Initiative requirements; grid-tied solar energy system (2 kilowatt) from photovoltaic panels that run backwards; extensive use of FSC-certified lumber; blown in formaldehyde-free insulation (exterior walls, R-23; attic, R-50!) for energy-efficiency, sound control, and improved indoor air quality; lightweight all-aluminum garage doors that are maintenance free and recyclable; hydronic radiant floor heating systems powered by a 96% energy-efficient boiler; tons of strategically placed windows to optimize natural light and shade; locally harvested Madrone wood for the stairs and kitchen counter tops; Caroma dual-flush toilets that save up to 80% of annual water usage; 80% energy-efficient Ribbon fireplace by Spark Modern Fires (with the enclosure made of Eco-Terr recycled tiles); and Green Seal-certified, zero-VOC YOLO Colorhouse primer and paints.  These are just some of the many green features of the five homes in the Newport District Modern House Project. 

In addition to the green features, these homes are stylish:  top of the line hardware (Kohler, Grohe, Blum, Sub-Zero, etc.), 9-foot ceilings, Category-5 Ethernet cable installed, etc.  We’re are talking about luxury everything, in an extreme, environmentally-friendly orchestration.  The Newport District Modern House Project is everything that Jetson Green espouses:  Modern + Green + Healthy Living.  But specifically, these homes help an owner achieve water and energy independence, which is valuable in a world where energy prices will continue to rise and water will continue to become more scarce.  I really like the trajectory of this company and the projects they have in the pipeline–I’m sure this won’t be the last abacus GC project on Jetson Green. 

Extra Links:
Abacus Take Lead on LEED-H Certification [Press Release]
Earth Advantage Features [pdf]
Abacus GC Builds Modern Dwellings [Cascade Business News - pdf]

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