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.
[Run time: 1:09 min.]I found this blog dinking around with my Blackberry’s feedreader software. David Hunter has a blog called "Nashville Modern Prefab," and he’s documenting his experience trying to build a modern Hive Modular home near downtown Nashville. For anyone that’s interested in some of the hurdles of getting approvals, etc., for a non-traditional home, this is a great blog to scan over. Check the video above, which is a 3D rendering of Hunter’s future home. Hope the approvals finally come through! For those of you that like Hive Modular’s work, you may enjoy some of the videos and links below.
I’m in the middle of trying to find a nice little home in Salt Lake City and don’t think I’ve ever seen the words ‘bungalow’ or ‘rambler’ so much in my life. Many (not all) of the places here are run down, beat up, smelly, oozing with latent mold and lead issues, and very expensive. There’s not much in the way of modern or contemporary offerings either, but there’s a small community of developers starting to turn that around. For example, if we were in the position to buy, we’d go after this place being developed by Blue Conservancy called Rowhaus.
Located at 1130 South West Temple, Rowhaus is a community of 24, 3-story, townhouse-style condominiums. With prices starting at $299,000, Rowhaus is one of the nascent green offerings in the urban housing market here in Salt Lake City. Some of the green features include the following: quiet, insulated concrete partition walls; large, thermally broken operable windows in all rooms; Energy Star appliances; and two minute walk to rail transportation. Each unit is about 2,000 sf, with separate 2-car garages and a private yard. Also, from what I understand, Blue Conservancy is a Salt Lake City Green certified business. Nice.
Actually, my new city, Salt Lake City, feels a lot greener than my old city, Dallas (but it’s always my first home). The population in SLC is edgy, kind of like Portland and Austin, but there’s also a substantial conservative undercurrent. I’ve found that the conservatives (myself included) really care about the environment as much as the liberals, and that issues relating to the environment are fairly bipartisan. Here are a few tidbits about Utah and SLC that I know about right now:
- Utah Governor Huntsman joined the Governator and five other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Huntsman signed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.
- Salt Lake City and Mayor Rocky Anderson approved a LEED ordinance to promote green construction for projects funded by city money.
- Many of the area’s leaders came together and agreed that building green is the direction Salt Lake City and Utah is going to take.
- A 38-acre Park City Community called Newpark received LEED-ND pre-certification.
- Speaking of Park City, the Sundance Channel and Robert Redford are really going in the green direction also.
- The Utah Department of Transportation, in conjunction with research performed at Utah State University, has devised a plan to grow biodiesel crops on the freeways.
- The City Council is working on a way to invest money into greening its zoo, arts, and parks projects.
- A major Salt Lake City law firm, Holland & Hart LLP, announced the opening of its new Climate Change Practice Group.
- The University of Utah Sustainability Practicum and several students came together to design eco-friendly features for a new building scheduled to open in 2009.
Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg in Salt Lake City. There’s a lot of good green things going on and I’m excited to be here.
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.
The 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!