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Siberian Mixed-Use Ecological Tower by Foster + Partners

Ecologicaltower
Siberiantower

When I first saw the concept renderings, I thought I was looking at a diamond perched upon a hill.  To the contrary, the images show a new mixed-use sustainable tower concept, or "ecological tower," by Foster + Partners for Khanty Mansiysk, Siberia.  The tower rises on the foundation of two podium buildings, each diamond-cut in style to allow light to penetrate the atrium.  The apex of the tower will have a panoramic viewing platform and restaurant for guests to gaze out into the city.  Paramount to the design is the desire to facilitate solar gain (it’s cold in Siberia) and allow natural lighting.  Encompassed by a densely wooded area, the architects designed the building to minimize disturbance to the landscape. 

Good Links:
++Designs Revealed for New Ecological Tower in Siberia [Foster + Partners]
++Siberia’s Sparkling Eco Tower [WAN]

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Building Green TV, Kevin Contreras, + 13-Episode PBS Series

I’ve embedded a quick view from the first season of Building Green TV for PBS.  Kevin Contreras is the show’s host and he’s going to navigate viewers through a variety of different green building situations.  In addition to the episode above, you can catch some more at their newly redesigned website.  Coming June 2007. 

Jason Hammond Home + From the Ground Up

Jason Hammond Home

I was blown away when I found out about this online blog at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It’s called From the Ground Up and the journal is tracking Jason Hammond’s quest to build a unique, modern home in the Twin Cities.  The blog also includes information from the project’s architect, Michael Huber, and the project’s builder, Corey Benedict.  From the Ground Up has become a huge success, with people of all backgrounds and interests chiming in to figure out what it takes to live in something modern + green.  What I really like about the blog, however, is the pragmatic approach to building green.  For many of us, myself included, it’s expensive to get into a well-designed, green home.  So the process from beginning to end must be comprehensive and calculated, especially if you don’t want to waste money.  From the Ground Up will "consider the balance between [Hammond's] family’s needs, the project costs, and the environmental considerations that go along with new home building."  I already like what I see and can’t wait to continue reading about their home as it approaches completion.  Via rolu | dsgn

Mashup: MKD + SketchUp + Google Earth

MKD SketchUp

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to put a Michelle Kaufmann Designs home on your piece of land?  Now you can do it, and you’re going to love this.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Step 1:  Go to the Google 3D Warehouse and type in "MKD."  You should see designs for the mkSolaire, Sunset Breezehouse, and Glidehouse.  Nice.  These files are for use with SketchUp.  Download the design you want for your home. 
  2. Step 2:  Download a free copy of Google SketchUp and use SketchUp to open the file you downloaded in Step 1.  Using SketchUp, modify the landscape of your home.  (I must admit, I’m still learning how to use this program and do this step). 
  3. Step 3:  Download a free copy of Google Earth.  Find the location of your site.  Plop your SketchUp model on the site that you’ve located.

That’s the process.  It’s a pretty cool mashup allowing you to envision the land of your dreams with the home of your dreams.  If anyone does anything cool, drop a line below. 

Botanical Visitor's Attraction: Eco Rainforest by Grimshaw

Eco Rainforest
Eco Rainforest

I’m not sure if this concept will make it into practice, but I like the idea.  We have zoos right?  Why not create a botanical visitor’s attraction of the tropical rain forest?  That’s the concept that Grimshaw Architects created and was rewarded with a 2007 MIPIM/AR Future Project Award in the Sustainability category.  Generally, here’s how it works: the enclosed greenhouse will create a tropical zone, a rain forest of sorts, housing both plant and animal life that people can walk through and study.  The goal of this man-made rain forest is to mimic the ecosystems from tropical regions of the world.  It will have 50 meter high gabion walls around the enclosure that contain composting tubes for heat generation during periods when the passive solar gain isn’t enough to sustain the tropical environment.  The idea is to harness the energy created by the decomposing biodegradable matter and re-create a tropical rain forest.  Grimshaw hopes that by doing so, the Rainforest will have the potential to grow fruits and vegetables with vastly reduced food miles. 

Transporting goods has a carbon cost associated with it, so people want to buy locally.  But climate can vary dramatically from one place to another making it tough to get some things locally…that is, unless you can recreate the climate of another area.  Think:  oranges in Canada.  To a small extent, this is what happens with a greenhouse.  Here, however, you are creating a greenhouse on a grand scale, one that is carbon neutral and cyclical.  It’s a good idea. 

Citizen Wisdom: Dallas Building Wants Green Renovation, Any Ideas?

Dallas Green RenovationThe bloggers over at the Practical Environmentalist just bought a non-green building in Dallas for their business, Clean Air Gardening.  The 13,000 sf building was built in the 1960s and they have a budget of about $50,000 to make it green.  We’re talking LEED, Energy Star, etc., you name it, they want to go green in an economically pragmatic way.  I figure we can tap the wisdom of the crowds and find a way to help them out, citizen wisdom style.  Feel free to drop your ideas into the comments here, or go over to PE directly and leave a comment.  Also, if you’re a Dallas business and want to get involved helping them do their thing, make sure to let them know. 

Already, PE seems to have this situation under control.  I like that they are signing up with Green Mountain Energy, using low-VOCs inside (good for indoor air quality), replacing old toilets with more water-efficient ones, adding a rainwater cistern to avoid using new water for landscaping, and replacing the door with a more energy-efficient set up.  Here are a few additional suggestions I have:

  • Consider a commercial-grade energy audit to determine where you may be losing air or energy.  Use that information to seal up cracks and fix stuff as needed (which will allow you to rely less on the dated HVAC system). 
  • Like you say, go with the Commercial Solatube lighting, if possible.  The more natural light, the better.  Why pay for light when the sun gives it away for free? 
  • For the interior design, use low-VOC carpets tiles and adaptable workstations/furniture from a company like Haworth (big-time commitment to recycled and sustainable products).  Haworth has a strong Dallas presence. 
  • Before making the investment in solar, try using a thermal energy storage product (like the ones offered by Dallas-based Trinity Thermal) that captures cheaper energy during off-peak times for use during more expensive peak periods.  This can contribute to LEED certification and has good $$ benefits. 
  • If you’re renovating the exterior, continue using a light color to reflect heat from the building.  Also, landscape in ways to shade the hottest parts of the building.  You guys are experts here, but natural landscaping will help with water conservation, too. 

That’s what I have so far, but I’m sure there are Dallas experts out there waiting to get your business and showcase their products.  Good luck!

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