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Urban Rio, Panama's First Affordable Green Container Project

Urban Rio

UPDATE 3/16/09Urban Core International has gone dark.  The website was shut down.  If you have any concerns, feel free to contact us

Aaron Newman, founder and managing partner of Urban Core International, sent me the details of his latest project, Urban Rio.  Specifically, Urban Rio is a product of Urban Core's prefab and container division called Envision Prefab.  It's easy on the eyes, to say the least, and just so happens to be the first sustainable, affordable, container project in Panama. 

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The Kalahari, Affordable Green Luxury Living

Kalahari

There’s an interesting article in the November issue of Inc. Magazine about Full Spectrum NY and their low-income, green development, The Kalahari.  Located at 116th Street in Harlem, Kalahari has an interesting design — it’s actually inspired by designs of the Ndebele tribes of southern Africa.  The building is currently under construction and is aiming for LEED Silver certification; some of the green technology used in this building include wind and solar power, low-flow water fixtures, energy-efficient appliances, vegetated green roofing, and bamboo floors.  About half of the 249 units are set aside for families earning in the $56,000 per year range.  The article goes on to explain how successful Full Spectrum NY has been developing in the low-income, green housing niche.  Very cool.

Kohl's to Build LEED Stores Starting in 2008

Kohls

Hot on the heels of a growing bundle of green retailers comes news of Kohl’s future plans for new construction.  Starting in 2008, newly constructed retail stores will be built to LEED certification.  Currently, Kohl’s has plans for about 80 new stores and the changes will include adding more insulation, using recycled or reusable building materials, ensuring that materials are locally supplied, and controlling lights, heat, and cooling from central headquarters to prevent excess energy consumption.  Twenty-two stores in California will use solar power to supply roughly 40% of their energy needs, and three stores in Wisconsin will use solar to power about 20% of their energy needs. 

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Dwelling Dock, Integrating Sustainability and Living

Dwelling Dock

Matt Allert took second place in the Cascadia Region GBC‘s Emerging Green Builders Natural Talent Design Competition this year with his idea, the Dwelling Dock [pdf].  The Dwelling Dock is premised on the idea that sustainability should begin with the most basic building block of our communities: the dwelling.  It’s an attempt to fully integrate the infrastructure of the housing unit with the environment.  Although purely in concept stage, the Dwelling Dock would be prefabricated, and would include all the accoutrements we’ve come to expect in green homes:  pervious paving, recycled materials, living roof, water collection, and photovoltaic panels. 

Allert’s goals for the Dwelling Dock project include some of the following: (1) collect rainwater for re-use, (2) produce energy on-site, (3) minimize site disturbance and preserve existing site resources, (4) use local materials, and (5) integrate sustainable design with recycled, low-VOC materials.  And I’ve got to admit, I really like the design elements.  Butterfly living roof.  3-level living.  A healthy mixture of privacy and transparency.  Would you live in one?

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Extreme Recycling in the Big Dig House

Bigdighouse

The Big Dig House by Single Speed Design is a testament to recycling.  More than 600,000 pounds of material were recovered from the massive Boston transit project known as the Big Dig and were reused to make this 3,400 square foot house.  Temporary road sections (formerly used as access ramps for a bridge), support beams that shored up a slurry wall, and other pieces were saved from being sent to a landfill and instead became the bones of this unique home.

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Graham & Brown Recycled, Renewable Wallpaper

Geometric Grahambrown

Graham & Brown, the well-known 60 year-old wallpaper company, now claims that, "about 50% of an average roll of our wallpaper is made from renewable resources."  Their claim is backed by the FSC logo, which appears on all Graham & Brown wallpaper.  Now, that isn’t really a staunch enough commitment for me, but in the wallpaper world, Graham & Brown is one of the only companies making any real effort towards "greening" themselves.  Some of their other environmental policies are more impressive.  For example, they run a Waste-to-Energy Plant, which means they use their pollution to create more energy on-site instead of releasing into the environment.  They also use recycled rainwater, have special drainage systems to reduce runoff, and use non-acidic inks and coatings, which are more eco-friendly than conventional methods. 

I have never been much of a fan of wallpaper: it’s a pain to put up, it’s a pain to take down, and the patterns were traditionally dowdy and drab.  But, in the new wave of retro-modern, bright, and bold patterns, I have become a convert. 

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