Madison Wisconsin's Capitol West Development Goes Modern + Reuses/Deconstructs +94%

309_west_washington Main_street_townhomes

It seems like cities all over the United States are jumping into the green building fray–it’s an exciting time to witness the radical transformation of the construction industry.  In Madison, Wisconsin, there’s a neighborhood development called Capitol West.  The project is a $110 million, mixed-use development in the center of Madison, occupying an entire city block bounded by West Washington Avenue, South Henry, West Main + South Broom Street.  The development will include a diversity of housing types, shopping spaces, + urban parks–all clean, contemporary + modern. 

Boom_street_lofts This urban redevelopment will include about 375-400 townhomes, condominiums, and lofts + penthouses.  The first phase (173 condos + 10,000 sf of retail) of condominium homes will range in size from 650-3,000 square feet, with prices ranging from $170,000-$900,000.  I was really surprised by the diversity of architecture and offerings for this neighborhood:  Capitol Court Townhomes, Washington Rowhouses, 309 West Washington (10 floors), Main Street Townhomes, + Broom Street Lofts.  This looks really exciting. 

What’s really impressive is the steps the developer, The Alexander Company, took to make sure this development didn’t place undue burden on the city’s resources.  It retained Madison Environmental Group to head up their reuse/deconstruction phase.  The reuse phase diverted 66 tons of material from the landfill via donations, walk-throughs, and public sale events.  The deconstruction phase yielded 94.86% of recycled material, totaling 24,500 tons!  Granted deconstruction can take more time, but it’s a lot better on the community, environment, and neighborhood.  In total, 59,536 cubic yards of material was diverted from the landfill via reuse and deconstruction efforts–that’s 19,772 Ford F-150s full of waste lined up back-to-back stretching 65 miles.  Nice job Capitol West.

No word yet as to whether any of the individual projects will go after LEED, but the architects are designing with the environment in mind.  Lots of natural light, air + ventilation design with incredible views, green spaces, and roof gardens.  Thanks for the tip Stephen Schenkenberg

Capitol_court_townhomes Washington_rowhouses
By |November 27th, 2006|Modern architecture, Modern design, Nature, Vegetation|0 Comments

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:

The_dwell_home VS. Palm_harbor_mobile_home_1

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. 

By |November 21st, 2006|Modern architecture, Modern design, Prefab|3 Comments

Top Sustainable Cities: Portland + San Francisco, the Eco-Innovators

Top_50_overall There are cities and leaders in the US that are taking bold steps to change public perception of green principles, and I wanted to share their words and vision with you.  I’ve included a new section on my right sidebar for some informative, watershed videos.  I use the word watershed because future generations will respect these leaders for their foresight, they will be heros.  Are you one of these leaders?  If you’re a CEO, can you count yourself among the lonely ranks of eco-warriors like Ray Anderson, Jeff Immelt, and Lee Scott?  If you’re a mayor, can you count yourself among the growing ranks of eco-leaders like Gavin Newsom, Tom Potter, Mufi Hannemann, Greg Nickels, and Will Wynn?  If you’re not a mayor or CEO, are you an eco-leader in the world that you live in? 

There’s a video on the right with Tom Friedman speaking.  You’ll know him from the bestselling book, The World is Flat.  He makes some critical points, but one of the most important points is that the chase for sustainability will create money-making, business opportunities for innovation in the 21st century:  opportunities that the US is currently abdicating to China.  Do we want to shift our middle east energy dependence by becoming dependent on China for renewable energy technologies?

So SustainLane released its yearly Top 50 US Cities, which is a report card on urban sustainability.  I was surprised to find Dallas at #24; one thing that holds us back is our addiction to cars–I don’t see how that will change without 10-30 years of persistent city planning + changing, considering how the city is currently laid out.  That’s okay, however, the rankings are there to get us to study other cities and make positive changes.  You can read about each city at SustainLane.  I encourage you to watch the video on #1 Portland (urban transportation and LEED building superstar) and #2 San Francisco (recycling superstar). 

By |November 6th, 2006|LEED, Recycled|0 Comments

Sustainable Building Precursor: Opportunities + Widgets

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Every now and then I get a question on green building, or I’ll ask someone a question on green building, and almost every time, the reaction I receive is bitter beer face.  What’s the problem?  It’s like by saying the word "green building," I’m a hippie, a crazed environmentalist, or worse: "a tree-hugger."  I don’t know about hippie, but words like "environmentalist," "tree-hugger," and "sustainability," are losing that subtle, pejorative connotation in a quick way.  In fact, the real smart cities (i.e., San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Honolulu, and San Diego) are often the greenest.  Catch my drift?  Green = Smart; Green = Opportunity.  Intelligent people are rethinking antiquated notions about the environment and are moving in a green direction. 

That said, I want to clarify and delineate the two main categories of green building that you might be interested in:  (1)  Building and (2) Maintenance.  Lets explore the myriad of sustainable opportunities to be found in each category. 

  • Building – this includes new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation.  Opportunities to save money + energy, pollute less, create less waste, and discover new uses for old materials abound.  There are hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities along the building spectrum from design to build, from deconstruction to renovation.  We’re talking xeriscaping, getting solar panels, incorporating passive solar design, insulating correctly, using the right windows, and finding the right mixture of water, electricity, and gas-guzzling appliances. 
  • Maintenance – this includes everything related to using and abusing a structure on a going forward basis.  You will find money + energy saving opportunities in energy efficient appliances, light bulb choices, decorative decisions, and lifestyle choices.  Here, we’re talking about choosing the right TV, light bulbs, lamps, blinds + shades, decorative paints, and furniture.  We’re also talking about cutting out waste in your lifestyle, like running the water while you brush your teeth for 8 minutes every day. 

Think big, think innovative, and think independent.  Going green requires taking proactive choices about how you interact with the world we live in.  I like to think of all these green opportunities as web widgets that you can pull out of the sky and place them in your home.  I’ll take the Energy Star appliance widget, the plug-in hybrid vehicle widget, the CFL light bulb widget, the zero-VOC paint widget, the dual-flush toilet widget, etc.!  For motivation

By |October 25th, 2006|Solar, Vegetation, Wind|1 Comment

Jennifer Siegal, Office of Mobile Design, the Modern + Green Take Home

Take_homeQuoting Jennifer Siegal, founder of Venica, California-based Office of Mobile Design (OMD):  "I’m interested in how technology is influencing the way we form communities…because our lifestyles are demanding more lightness, our buildings shouldn’t be sitting so heavy."  Siegal was featured in the October 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine, and praised as a "fresh face from the front lines of design."  In a world where renderings are common and completed projects are not, aka, the prefab world, Siegal is really staking a claim in this ultra-stylish, sustainable chase for comfortable, affordable living. 

Fast_company_siegal

Siegal’s work includes the Mobile Eco Lab (1998), Portable House (2001), Seatrain House (2003), and the Swellhouse.  Her most recent work is a modern, modular home product line called Take Home.  Go to the website and take a gander at her captivating architecture.  You’ll find also that her work goes beyond the realm of aesthetics and mid-century modern vernacular and into sustainability.  That’s going to be where architects will make a huge difference, I believe.  In addition to that, I think OMD is taking pro-active steps to clarify the pricing of their prefabs and make modern + sustainable living more affordable.

Take_home_3 Take_home_2 Take_home_4_1

Sustainability:
Sustainability is a key issue in the design process at OMD.  Prefab presents the natural green benefit of avoiding all the construction waste that plagues stick-built construction.  With the Take Home, OMD also offers precision steel construction, high-end amenities (Italian Boffi kitchens + Duravit bathrooms), fully landscaped courtyards with pools, passive cooling systems, and AVAILABLE 100% solar power and water heating.  Also available is bamboo and radiant heated flooring.  Homes range in size from 800-5,000 square feet and cost $210-270 per square foot.  Not bad at all!

Extra Links:
Incoming! [Fast Company]
Office of Mobile Design [OMD + Prefab]
Siegal’s Desert Hot Springs Development [the take home]

By |October 18th, 2006|Modern architecture, Modern design, Prefab, Solar, Vegetation|1 Comment

Blog Notes From Leo Marmol Lecture in Dallas (10/14/2006): Prefab + Environmentalism

Other_front On Saturday at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Leo Marmol was kind enough to spend an hour and talk about his firm‘s work in the design-build and prefab context.  I was looking forward to this lecture for about 2 months and was not disappointed.  Marmol lectured on his firm’s work with mid-century modern residences and the four standards (Secretary of Interior Standards) for renovation:  preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, + reconstruction.  Towards the end of the lecture, he started to get into his firm’s prefab work and environmentalism. 

Here are some notes…

  • As a site-build firm, we know very intimately how inefficient and stupid architectural processes are.  We live with that stupidity everyday.  It’s a really inefficient, wasteful, cumbersome process that we use to build today.  There’s a lot of reasons why we still do it, but it’s inherently wasteful, so our goal is to build as much as possible in the factory. 
  • We’ve seen lumber + steel prices climb, and even labor is a little strained.  Materials are getting more and more scarce, more and more, therefore, valuable, and more and more expensive.  That will continue in the future. 
  • We’ve seen the rise in design with the iPod and with Target enlisting Philippe Starke to create a toothbrush.  Design is a marketing opportunity to set your firm apart from the norm. 
  • With Prefab, the goal is to provide clean, simple, modern living and do it as cost-effectively as possible.  So prefabrication is a means to deal with the rising construction costs. 
  • If you’re an architect and a builder, and you don’t have guilt, you’re not paying attention.  We put so much attention on the auto industry, but it pales in comparison to the architecture industry.  Architecture is the greatest polluting force on the planet.  There is no other industry on the earth that uses more of our earth’s resources than construction and there is no other industry to releases so many polluting, bad things back to the earth.  Prefab allows us to deal with this guilt and be more efficient. 
  • Sometimes the media gets it wrong with regards to prefab, but they are enthusiastic about this technology.  That enthusiasm can lead everyone astray.  Prefabs are not manufactured homes.  Prefabs won’t save the world or deliver homes for under $100 a square foot.  Prefab is not a magic bullet.  They are cheap in comparison to custom, architect-designed homes (LA price:  $400-600 sq.ft.), but they are not necessarily cheap.  Building homes is difficult and takes lots of money + materials. 
Back_and_pool Kitchen_1 Bedroom

It should be noted that Mr. Marmol’s prefab division is making a conscious choice to be environmental in the construction of prefabs.  The prefabs are designed to receive LEED certification, made from recycled steel, employ Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), and use FSC-certified wood, low-VOC Green Seal paint, solar panels, etc.  Each prefab is designed with the site in mind so the structure can be attentive to natural light and shading.  And if you’re interested in seeing one, there’s an open house in California (instructions below). 

Open House of the Desert House:
October 28, 1 pm – 6 pm
Desert Hot Springs, CA
RSVP NOT REQUIRED
Navigate the Website for Map

By |October 16th, 2006|LEED, Modern architecture, Modern design, Prefab, Recycled|1 Comment