Posts Tagged ‘sustainable design’

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Modern Architecture: Free in Freetown

August 3, 2014

 

Christina House

modern house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This place in “Freetown Christiana” looks like it would fit in Venice Beach, even though it is made out of stuff that can be found in the local dump – and there could have been a pun hiding in there if weren’t for the fact that stuff from the dump is probably not free.  I put it here because it reinforces a few ideas about art/architecture as follows:

  • There is a style to it.
  • It is not restricted by economic boundaries.
  • It may be influenced by them though, i.e. the first Modern Architecture, was probably built by the rich.
  • It follows function, as both of these places appear to be after the view.
  • If there is a difference between art and architecture, then the image on the top is art and the one on the bottom is architecture.
  • The house on the top wins the prize for sustainability.
  • The world is the best museum there is.
  • It can be a whole lot of fun and improve your life, no matter who or where you are.

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Architects & Mobile Homes: Between Ponderance and Pragmatism

July 3, 2014

Many architects, we are told in this article, though totally interested in reinventing the mobile home, have jumped forward to all new modular, prefab type units, somehow leaving the original idea far behind.  Happy I am to agree and further say, please do not count me into that group.  For a solid 10 years, if not more, I have been pondering  possible ways of adapting an intact mobile home, the kind that comes directly from a dealers lot, into an uncommon sub-urban abode.  Why, one might ask, think so long?  My response;  between ponderance and pragmatism is the wall of perceived obstacles upon which is sit.  Since hurdling it would probably assign me too, to the school of reinvention, I guess I’ll sit a little longer.

Here are a just a few of those obstacles, perceived or not:

  • The floors always bounce in these.
  • I am not sure I want to deal with that much vinyl.  If you have ever had a whiff of a dollar store shower curtain you know what I mean?
  • I was wondering how one of these would do in a blower door test?  I could be really good….probably not.
  • I have a psychological aversion to creeping things crawling around under the house.  They offend my sense of neat.
  • I worry about some shady character hack sawing a hole in the plywood and shimmying up through the floor in order  to make off with my Timex.
  • I cannot imagine how these things are framed.  Yes, I have seen the diagrams too, but can they be believed and would a manufacturer part with critical information.
  • If I pull down all of the interior wall panels, presumably fabricated from some undefined material, will I be horrified by what I find?
  • If, in an effort to change the ceiling and floor finish, I do the same thing, is there a good possibility that I will be looking at air?
  • How does one make a semi trailer hurricane resistant.  This a very architectural notion, i.e., things are never water proof.  They are water resistant.

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Where there’s light there’s heat!

April 12, 2014

Just in case you didn’t know, a heliostat is “an instrument consisting of a mirror mounted on an axis moved by clockwork by which a sunbeam is steadily reflected in one direction.” In the video the light is directed in a way that spreads it onto an area of a building that would otherwise be in shadow due to either location or adjacent buildings.

Light is reflected off of the curved surface of the mirror in a way that all the reflections intersects at a single point.  This is  where the solar collector is mounted in order to harvest the maximum amount of energy.

Light is reflected off of the curved surface of the mirror in a way that all the reflections intersects at a single point. This is where the solar collector is mounted in order to harvest the maximum amount of energy.

This is a somewhat unusual application of a heliostat as these are more often used to concentrate rather than spread light out.  Which they do based on the optics of the impacted surfaces. Any child with a magnifying glass can tell you about how this is done. My brother started a brush fire like this once.

solar cartoon

I guess this could be called a modified heilostat as the light is first magnified, which is probably a misnomer as it is really being concentrated by the optics of the glass through which it passes. When the light gets concentrated so does the heat.

It all comes down to a basic rule about light, taught to architects in school, which states that, for specular reflection, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.  This concept has always provided me with a source of entertaining mental gymnastics, not so  much for the ability to move light into unexpected places, as for the accompanying source of heat.  I kept thinking it would be a way to heat the house.  At the time, I was a student, and my son just a child.  We sometimes meandered through the neighborhood speculating on how a big magnifying glass might be installed in some roof  so that the heat from the concentrated light might be directed toward an interior pool.  My son loved the idea of a pool in the living room and I thought that it was really just hot water heat.  When we describe the idea to my husband, he said were apt to set the house on fire.

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Solar Epiphany and an Octopus

March 2, 2014

Gravirt Feed FurnaceAny one who has looked at my professional website  knows that I have a longtime interest is responsible building.  Since I started this blog I have been intending to write about some of these subjects.  Not wanting to be repetitive in a field already stricken with information overload, I have delayed until I could find a fresh approach, which may or may not be now.

Either way, here  is an image of what I consider to be my first real and pivotal experience with all things green.  It is a gravity feed furnace, which, if the heating blogs are to be believed, should be disposed of posthaste.  I was raised in a house, previously discussed, with one of these in the basement.  It was complete with huge asbestos wrapped ducts that reached up to the floor supply diffusers located in every room.  It had few moving parts, plus the added advantage of staying on even if the power went out.  The one in our house was converted from coal to gas.  As children we warmed ourselves by standing on the supply vents after coming in on freezing winter days.  The house was a converted barn made tight with asbestos siding and warmed by natural convection.  I never remember a draft or temperature fluctuation.  We simply trusted that our house would be warm and comfortable all during many miserable Great Lakes winters.  Of course the house has long been sold but it is actually possible that this furnace is still chugging away after what could be something like 70 years.

OM Solar solar hot air heating system in Winter

OM Solar solar hot air heating system in Winter

OM Solar solar hot air cooling system in Summer

OM Solar solar hot air cooling system in Summer

It wasn’t long of course before I moved on with life and entered the world of forced air furnaces, air conditioning units, and rattling radiators.  Until, that is, 911 sent me, in an effort to save the world through architecture, running to a American Solar Energy Society trade show in Reno, Nevada where I found out that the convective heating system that I had taken for granted as a child had a modern day counter part in the form of a building integrated solar hot air heating system called OM Solar.  I was hooked.  Here are some diagrams.  Follow the link to read more about how it works and I know these don’t look anything like the old furnace in the photo.  Just stay tuned.  There will be more later.

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Architects in Crisis

November 2, 2013

It is common knowledge that the practice of architecture is, these days, a less than stellar performer in the career tack department.  Why this is cannot, I think, be  more succinctly described than Iwan Baan has done here.  Building things cost; mostly a lot, sometimes less, never nothing.  In order to get paid architects must find work in an environment where their services are needed, as in the necessities of life, least.  Value is demonstrated by either torturing bricks and mortar into beautiful oddities intended to glorify, institutions, governments, and just plan rich individuals, or by big developers rolling out not so beautiful tracks of monotone buildings for absorption by the already burden and fast shrinking middle class.  This is often the world of the gainfully employed architect.  The soul, though, longs for the imperative of necessity, and nowhere is that more evident than in the way of poverty where the skill and training that has been drilled into the DNA of most architects could, should and would be of the most real use.  Indeed, it is a crisis that only architects seem to know about.

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Catching a Sense of Liberation

August 24, 2013

I was raised in a barn.  No kidding.  A common solution to the economic woes of the depression was conversion,  meaning any standing building was made into rentable living quarters, and any multistory house became multistory apartments.  Our house was converted from a civil war barn into a two family house in about 1930.  We moved in around 1955.  At the time, all I wanted was to move down the street, where there was a, still beautiful, neighborhood made up of prewar architecture on streets with curbs, sidewalks and fenced in yards.  To avoid a trip down nostalgia lane, suffice it to say that as the years have gone by, I have come to appreciate that barn to the extent that it has formed a kind of subconscious repository of my notions about what a house ought to be, and I bring it up here because the house in the photo seriously activated a few of these.

If you care to follow the link you will see that the featured house was included in an article about “Eco-Friendly Housing,”  which got me thinking about how my childhood home was the very definition of recycled.  The original post and beam structure was only visible in the attic, which was really the original hay loft.  It was huge, soaring almost 20′ from the floor framing to the ridge.  I lived in the house for almost 20 years and was never in that attic.  So how, one might wonder, did I know what it looked like?  There was an unfinished room on the second floor with no ceiling.  It offered a view of the old post and beam structure, the random width boards that formed the sheathing under the slate roof, the cavernous space replete with possibilities.  Because of the multicolored recycled wood siding, the house in the photo somehow catches that same sense of liberation, suggesting  that the real living space is outside instead of in.

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Simply Elemental

July 9, 2013

Mini House by Jonas Wagell – Dezeen.

In Sweden people are allowed to build a “Mini House,” like this one, on their property without a permit as long as it is not bigger than161 sq. ft.  (15 sq. meters)  How cool is that?  Most places in the US allow residents to put a garden shed in the back yard sans permit, but I am not at all sure that inviting our adult children to stay in the shed for a while would be very will received by the local building & zoning department!

www.crinklecrankle.com/ 4295754214_198a2e9a3d_o(1)Just think, it would only be necessary to visit the local builders supply where you can have one of these delivered completely assembled and installed for around $2000.  Well ok, I know it is not finish inside but considering that the Swedish version will run you about $15,000 without the kitchen or any heat, it is still a deal.  I have visions of of somehow combining one or two of these, a single wide and a carport into a really great country retreat.  It is simply elemental, don’t you think?