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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Semantics: Don't Conflate Prefab + Mobile Homes

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Prefab.  Prefab.  Prefab.  If you’re interested in the green building movement, you probably get pumped up when the usual rhetoric–green benefits versus money savings versus factory-built convenience versus design premium versus modernize-the-building industry–kicks in.  I do.  Prefab, which includes the modular and the panelized varieties, is an interesting industry phenomenon.  So, I wanted to share Amy Gunderson’s newest NY Times article, which I thought was very well-written and thoughtful.  I will say, however, as a warning:  this article walks on the edge of conflating prefabs with manufactured homes (actually, it pretty much puts them in the same boat and then parses them out by explaining the differences), but I think it’s handier to deal with prefabs and manufactured homes in separate discussions.  For example:

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In the article, it is explained that Adrienne Shishko + Joel Sklar retained the popular Resolution: 4 Architecture to put the 3,000 square foot home on their vacation property.  Not a bad choice, I might add.  The modules are built in a factory and the home arrives at the lot roughly 70% complete, you just need to put the parts together + do the finish out (electrical, plumbing, drywall, painting, appliance installation, etc.).  The firm’s average building price comes out to $200-250 square foot, which is lower than a comparable, custom-built home, which averages $300-400 square foot.  The home has the potential to get built faster, assuming the permitting goes smoothly, and it qualifies as a residence (unlike mobile homes).  Plus, factory built homes incur less construction waste.  One additional caveat, shipping modules is not cheap (@$8,000 per module, I’ve seen) + so there is that pollution premium to think about, but … this is an exciting industry for the future of building.  Art by Nancy Doniger. 

Modern + Green Big Ass Fans

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I used to workout at one particular gym everyday–you know the drill…elliptical, weights, situps, etc.  Oddly, my body was getting healthier, but I was growing to hate the place for two reasons.  First, the place was dirty and they didn’t provide any cleaners to wipe the machines once you were done.  Second, I had to get surgery on my neck for a staph infection, and later, had a cyst on my arm.  I’m thinking both infections came from unsanitary gym conditions because I was healthy before and have been healthy since.  Anyway.  One day, the atmosphere completely changed, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Then it dawned on me that the place wasn’t as musty as it usually was and that was a result of the wonderful "Big Ass Fan."  Seriously, the Big Ass Fan is hard to miss, but it made jumping on that treadmill a dream.  From what I understand, if you do the math, this large, ten-blade piece of ceiling bling can reduce heating + cooling costs (to $.05 /hour). 

HowitworksHere’s the concept:  the large blades, when combined with lower rotation speeds produce a massive, but gentle, breeze to keep the air cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  As you can tell from the pictures, they look pretty good and can be custom painted too.  Since the blades travel at a slower speed, they don’t make that much noise either.  Check out the website and read all the case studies on the website.  There’s an abundance of information that may help you determine whether the Big Ass Fan is suitable for your facility. 

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