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Near North Apartments by Helmut Jahn: Affordable, Mecha Small, Green + Modern

Night Near North Apartments

Not only is this place sustainable, but rooms are small, too.  With 96 units at an average size of 300 sf, Near North Apartments (NNA) is a pretty incredible habitat for people that deserve to live in a well-designed space.  NNA is the creation of renowned architect Helmut Jahn, who designed the single-occupant spaces for limited income, homeless, and disabled persons.  You’ll notice from the images that the building generates some power through roof-mounted wind turbines, or aeroturbines.  to be precise, the building shape was conceived to maximize wind to the aeroturbines.  They were invented at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and are now being marketed through Aerotecture International

The building also uses solar thermal collectors and a rainwater reclamation system.  The water system recycles shower water to flush toilets, apparently making it one of the few graywater systems in Chicago.  NNA is located at 1244 North Clybourn Avenue in Chicago and is owned by Mercy Housing Lakefront group.  The reason I’m blogging about this structure, in addition to being an example of small, sustainable living, is because it was listed on Metropolitan Home’s 2007 Design 100 list.  Congrats. 

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Costs and Benefits of Green Roofing

Green_roof_house I ran into a pretty thorough article on green roofing and wanted to pass it along to readers.  There’s a growing interest in green and vegetative roofs, although one may not be perfect for every application.  That said, there are numerous benefits and advantages to having a green roof. 

Simply put, here are the benefits:  (1) opportunity to utilize wasted or otherwise unused space, (2) reduction of storm water runoff, (3) mitigation against urban heat island effect, (4) airborne toxins are taken out of the air with oxygen getting released, (5) reduction in peak load (lower energy costs) for the building with the green roof, (6) longer roof life, and (7) considerable insulation from noise pollution. 

Here are some of the drawbacks: (1) could cost up to twice as much as a conventional roof (but will offer a payback of 5-10 years in energy savings), (2) could be difficult to get zoning approvals depending on the sophistication of the approving authority, and (3) will constrain some types of architectural expression. 

PVC Debacle, Green Affordable Housing, Home Depot + Green Roofs, + Corporate Environmentalists (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Hugging the Tree-huggers: Environmentalists at the Corporate TableBusinessWeek article on why so many companies are suddenly linking up with eco-groups.  Hint: Smart business. 
  2. Enterprise Encourages Legislation to ‘Green’ Affordable Housing – Enterprise joins Congressmen Adam Smith (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Lewis (D-GA) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) in support of legislation to "green" affordable housing by promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and sustainable development in low-income communities across the country.
  3. The Home Depot Foundation Awards $300,000 Grant to Further Support Green Roof Development – Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) and Earth Pledge (EP) are pleased to announce the receipt of a $300,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation to support their combined efforts to advance the green roof industry in three key cities: Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.
  4. USGBC’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee Issues Final Report on PVC – The Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) of the USGBC issued its final report to USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee (LSC) on the technical and scientific basis for a PVC-related credit within the LEED® Green Building Rating System™.  The report raises broader questions; LEED Steering Committee to decide next steps, policy agenda, and potential actions.

ON PVC:
The existence of this struggle between PVC supporters and the USGBC suggests that PVC is not so green.  If you lobby hard enough, throw enough money at the cause, and wear enough people down, you can win in our day and age.  Generally speaking, people don’t stand up for what is right because doing so would require taking a visible position.  Taking a position requires persistence, diligence, ethics, and uncompromising, unwaivering fortitude.  So I ask, Mr. USGBC… do you have what it takes?  I hope you can swim upstream on this one or your existence will be completely and utterly futile.  If you can’t decide what’s green and what’s not, there is no need to certify buildings according to your ‘green’ standards.  imho.

1926 Hyde Park Home's Green Renovation Televised in This Old House

1926_austin_bungalow

Sometimes, I’m amazed at what technology can do.  Recently, I read an article about Michael Klug + Michele Grieshaber’s 1926 bungalow in Austin’s historic Hyde Park, which was renovated in accordance with the Austin Green Building Program.  The original home was about 1,500 sf, but after renovations and adding some space, the 2,300 sf home uses half the energy of the original.  The house is part of an 8-show feature on This Old House, and you’ll be impressed to find a time-lapse video of the renovation project.  The DMN article suggests that the eco-friendly additions to the renovation added a price premium of about 10%, but let’s not forget that this home is outfitted with some pretty good stuff, including photovoltaics. 

Here are some of the green features:  rainwater reclamation for irrigation and landscaping; spray-foam insulation for added energy efficiency; recycled glass tile and countertops by IceStone; formaldehyde-free wood composites; milled wood from deconstruction used throughout the home in various places; James Hardie fiber cement siding, which can be a good substitute for wood siding; low-flow bathroom plumbing and high-efficiency kitchen appliances; a heat-reflecting standing-seam metal roof; and an array of photovoltaic panels on the south-facing roof.  Below, you’ll see pictures of the water reclamation tank and the cabinets that were made with Lyptus, a eucalyptus hybrid plant that grows fast.  DMN Article + Pictures

Steel Blue Lyptus Rainwater Reclamation

$1.3B Carbon Neutral Chinese Eco-City in Dongtan

Chinese Dongtan Ecocity

In 2009, China is expected to surpass the U.S. as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.  Over 26% of the population (roughly 340 million people) lack access to clean drinking water and over 40% of Chinese cities lack sewage treatment facilities.  But the country is trying to innovate solutions for the future.  Recently, USA Today had an interesting article called "China Envisions Environmentally Friendly ‘Eco-City.’"  According to the article, state-run developers are building an eco-city in Dongtan, which is 3/4 the size of Manhattan.  Dongtan is located on Chongming Island about an hour from Shanghai.  The $1.3 billion project may be a model for eco-cities all over the world. 

The eco-city will be carbon neutral with the main grid of the city designed for walking and cycling, not for cars.  The city will be powered by solar and wind power, biofuels, and recycled organic material.  There will be green roofs for energy efficiency and insulation benefits and rainwater capture to maintain the landscaping.  All vehicles will operate on clean fuels and about a fourth of the city will be open green space.  Without all the gas and diesel vehicles clogging the streets, residents should be able to open up a window and enjoy the air.  About 20% of the city is held out for affordable housing, but some of the farmers still say it’s out of their price range.  See also SIIC

Green Building: Finding True South to Optimize Orientation

Petrangelo_001_1

You may have already heard that House & Garden Magazine took a green approach in its latest installment, the February issue I believe.  One article talks about an interview with William McDonough, in which he mentions the orientation of a home.  Earlier, I blogged about Global Green USA’s Top 20 list of low- or no-cost green building strategies and orientation was #1.  Regarding orientation, the rule is to "orient a building to maximize natural daylighting."  As part of the orientation process, one needs to find a building’s true south and build it in such a way, to maximize sun exposure/non-exposure, and thereby, optimize energy-efficiency (i.e., use the sun instead of artificial lighting, use the sun’s warmth instead of heating, use the shade’s cool instead of air conditioning, etc.). 

McDonough pointed out that many architects and builders don’t know how to find true south.  If a compass is used, the compass indicates south, which can differ from true south by more than 15 degrees.  Remember, orienting a home is about orienting the home to sun exposure, not magnetic south.  To find true south, one needs two things:  (1) to know your geography’s solar noon, and (2) to use the sun to draw perfect north/south line exactly at solar noon.  Solar noon is the time when the sun hits the highest point in the sky and can be found using the following Sunrise/Sunset Calculator.  Once the solar noon is figured out, take a line with a weight attached to it, hold it up in the air at solar noon, and the shadow line will reveal the proper north/south orientation of a home.  That line will point to true south and will help you build the home properly, assuming you have some latitude in deciding the orientation of the home.

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