In the heart of Seattle, the design professionals at Mithun see a farm rising vertically into the sky. Although it may never be built, the Center for Urban Agriculture (CUA) won “Best of Show” in the Cascadia Region Green Building Council’s Living Building Challenge. Vertically constructed on a .72 acre site, the off-grid building is designed to be completely energy and water sufficient and will include 318 affordable apartments (studio – 2 bedroom). And on top of that, there will be greenhouses, rooftop gardens, a chicken farm, and fields for growing vegetables and grains.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the phenomenon of container housing with David Cross, Chief Business Development Officer for SG Blocks LLC. SG Blocks, short for Safe and Green, is a sustainable building system made from containers. Going beyond the trendy fascination with exposed container architecture design–modern, industrial, and extremely good looking, in my opinion, SG Blocks intends to use containers as a fundamental component to building construction. A container home doesn’t necessarily have to look like a container home (that’s up to you), but it can have all the same advantages: comfortable, strong, green, and affordable.
The home you see above is an example of container modules being used on a traditional home as a framing system. From the outside or inside, you’re not going to know that it was built with container modules. The cost of framing a home built with SG Blocks is about $22-30 psf, which is roughly comparable to other forms of construction. BUT did you know that recycling containers into steel beams takes nearly 8,000 kW of energy at a cost of roughly $800? Rather, it takes about 400 kW of energy to turn containers into a home. At about 5% of the energy when compared to straight recycling, that’s not bad. And right now, SG Blocks is in the process of rolling out their building system nationally.
I sat on this post for a while trying to find up-to-date information on its status but was unable to locate anything. This is a storage facility planned for the east bank of the Willamette River. Typical storage facilities can take up to 30 acres, but this one, designed for house boats, recreational vehicles, and storage pods, is going to be maxed out on 3 acres. The taller tower rises 22 stories into the sky and uses a giant mechanical arm capable of lifting 40,000 lbs. Interestingly, the project is planning construction to LEED Platinum standards and will include more than 175,000 sf of solar panels (making it the largest solar facility in the northwest). With the estimated project costs at about $40 M, Portland City Storage also plans to rehabilitate the riverfront property adjacent to the towers.
I really like Haworth. In short, Haworth is a leader in office furniture and architectural interiors. They do everything with a commitment to appealing aesthetics, thoughtful ergonomics, and sustainability. I came in contact with some Haworth employees when I was finishing my JD/MBA program in Dallas, and they gave me a personal tour of the super-stylish Dallas showroom (a commercial interiors office display built to LEED-CI Gold standards). Now, Haworth is working on a major, award-winning overhaul of their Holland, Michigan Headquarters. The 300,000 sf renovation was designed to meet LEED-NC Gold standards; some of the building’s green features include the following:
- The new facade will have a sun-filled atrium and vegetated green roof, blending the boundary between the structure and natural environment;
- All of the interior 830 workstations will have access to daylight views;
- Over 99% of the existing materials collected during deconstruction and recovery are being recycled; and
- Although the footprint of the building will increase by 20%, energy use will remain at pre-renovation levels due to sustainability improvements.
Of the green headquarters, Haworth Chairman Dick Haworth said, "The new Haworth Center will be a leading example of change. We’re not just building a better building … we’re building a better future."
A proposed million square foot, mixed-use development for Rosslyn Central Place in Arlington, Virginia (metropolitan DC area), recently received approvals. With construction set to begin early in 2008, the objective of this development is to create an image and identify for Arlington, as well as a sense of place in the heart of Rosslyn. This area of Rosslyn should become a hub of pedestrian activity, with various retail opportunities on the ground level. There will be two LEED certified towers: one commercial tower will have 500,000 sf of premium space and the other tower will house 350 residential units. The base of both towers will have about 50,000 sf of retail amenities. And one of the main luxuries of the development is the 10,000 sf observation deck above the commercial tower (pictured below). The observation deck will feature 360 degree views of some of the most famous locations in the country. See also Beyer Blinder Belle + WAN.
I like the idea of using things that we already have to create things that we need — which is probably why the concept of container housing is so intriguing. In Las Vegas, Arnie Stalk, in conjunction with METRO Development Group and SHARE, has created an actual prototype of the Instant Built House. IBH is a rapid deployment shelter made from standardized, recycled ISO modules — containers that can be transported via ocean cargo ships, railroad "piggy-back" trains, semi-trucks, helicopter airlift operations, and civilian and military jumbo air cargo transports. In other words, an IBH can be shipped practically anywhere in the world in a moment’s notice.
IBH Shelters are built with the following: fully insulated walls, photovoltaic solar array for power, wind-ventilated scoops and skylights, roof-mounted HVAC units, satellite cable and internet, and internal waste collector and water recycling systems. IBH models are secured on concrete caisson footings, foundations, and slabs. I’m surprised they used Longhorn colors to paint it, but we’ll let that slide.