Posts Tagged ‘sustainable design’

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Is “Green” a rich Man’s Concept?

June 11, 2013

I have found that many of the ostensibly sustainable building projects published these days are marginal in that  they are expiriments and very often partial as they focus on some special technology or strategy.  This is not to say that they lack value which, in my very humble opinion, is the operative word defining all things green.  In fact they render this project of special interest because it is real and as such offers insight into how the various peices and parts of what we think of as responsible building might manifest.   One has only to glance at the buzz words attached to the project for a protypical summary:  geothermal, net zero, solar, Leed.  These are all thought of as good and desirable things for the environmentally conscious homeowner.  Indeed, were it not for that tricky little concept called value,  many of the elements and strategies used to build this house are where I would have found myself starting had I been designing such a project.  Finally though it would have become necessary for me to ask, can a house costing $700,000 really be green?  If so, then to a very large percent of the world’s population “green” is a rich mans concept.

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Celebrating Earth Day, Wishing for Space

May 11, 2013

A few post ago, I wrote, somewhat disparagingly, about biological concrete, leading someone to tell me that the “forests are returning to the cities!!!” A fact, presumably, based on the necessity of absorbing increased man made CO2, and one that will most certainly affect the practice of architecture. I suppose this is true, but not, I am afraid, very motivating.

A.  Not so typical middle class house.
Photo used with permission from photographer.

Jane Auel, author of the now famous, Clan of the Cave Bear, first in the Earth’s Children series, might be considered and expert on the historical choices humanity has made when it comes to shelter.  She builds an image, based not a little on actual and scholarly research, of life in a prehistoric cave, offering moments of imaginary refuge for all those over worked, over housed, over crowded individuals who happen upon her work.  She writes in compelling detail about space and everything else that has sunk in the stream of progress.  We know all about life in house B.  She tells us what it is like to live in house A.

Typical middle class houses USA

B.  Typical middle class houses USA

Perhaps we would do well to wish with care as the house in A. looks like a buried “star ship” and the sea and sky easily extend to endless space.

I’m in pursuit of a more earthly place, where A. and B. become tangibly one.  Oh wait!  Can it be?  Please tell me that it’s something in which biological concrete has no part.

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Silly Architect

March 14, 2013

Architects like toys too. Sustainable Holiday Home by Tjep.

Don’t laugh!  A lot of architecture projects start out this way.  I wonder if industrial goods, like cars and cell phones, do as well?  The goal of this architect was to mimic product design.  Follow the link to read the article and you will see that he embraced sustainability and portability, not to mention, cute-ability.  Is that a word?  Interesting that the article is entitled “Sustainable Holiday Home” because the house actually looks like it should hang on a Christmas tree.   Imagine the attention it would attract while being towed down the freeway on the back of a flatbed truck?  I wonder about the livability part though, maybe not so much, but who cares when it looks like such fun.

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Biological Concrete Shows Promise for Sustainable Architecture and Creeps Me Out!

February 22, 2013

I am all for sustainability and innovation, especially when they lead to practical solutions to modern day environmental problems.  Sometimes, though, the growing pains are quite literally more than I would be willing to bear.  Honestly, how is this building with yesterdays salad stuck to its elevation any better, or more sustainable than the ivy covered house in the previous post.  I am pretty sure the Ivy absorbs plenty of “atmospheric CO2” and I expect that with a little effort it could be made to grow with abandon on every building in New York City.    Unless I have been mistaken and this is not an attempt at living growing architecture, but really a vertical composting operation.  Innovation or not, it creeps me out.  Give me the Ivy any day.

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Go, go, going, gone green!

February 3, 2013

Ivy House Do 8 legged clients hire 8 legged architects?  I am pretty sure that a lot of 8 legged creatures live here.

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The importance of being 9

January 16, 2013
Bedroom with lofted bed by Benjamin Marcus Architect LLC

Bedroom with lofted bed by Benjamin Marcus Architect LLC

My friend and colleague, Benjamin Marcus Architect LLC, with this compact little bedroom with a lofted bed, has demonstrated how architects often design projects that are “never too small to be great

Here is what he says about the project:  For this renovation of a 9-year old girl’s bedroom in a NYC apartment, we were charged with making a loft-type frame for a new full-sized mattress, that could house other important functions, in a very small footprint. Major constraints of this small bedroom were the width – just 7′-3″ wide, and the existence of 2 separate doors entering into the room from opposite ends of the two parallel, longer walls. We removed a shallow, full-height double-door closet to make room for the 18-inch wide stair. The bed-frame itself is just a few inches wider than the 54″ mattress, (to allow for fingers to tuck in the sheets) to provide as wide an aisle as possible along the length.  Underneath, all the functions – shelves, desk, bureau and closet – were in-set a few inches from the frame above, so that nothing would take up more room than the bed itself. A removable corner piece allows Mom’s hands to reach in for bed-making.

Open-ended shelves, a sawtooth-profile for the steps and a streamlined, diagonally-mounted wood grab-bar make the shape both fun and minimal. A new shallow shelf above (dedicated to a very important stuffed-animal collection), was integrated into an existing narrow-strip crown-moulding, and also served as a good place to break up the wall with color-blocking, and insert a small, adjustable, wall-mounted reading light beneath it. All the millwork was shop-painted using a high-gloss urethane-based paint, except for the stair treads, which were stained to match the existing oak flooring, and tie the work into the room. A large, new, frameless wall-mirror heightens the effect of the space and finishes off the room for this very sophisticated young client to grow into for the years to come.”

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“…where relevance is irrelevant,”

January 9, 2013

House in Hiyoshi’ by EANA, Kanagawa, Japan
image © koichi torimura
all images courtesy of EANA

I always look longingly at projects like this one in Kanagawa, Japan.  What could be more relevant for today’s life styles than a Modernist Box squeezed onto a tiny infill lot, positioned to take advantage of hillside views, and exactly the right size for commuting residents of first ring suburbs in metropolitan areas.  Unfortunately, getting a project like this past US building and zoning departments, where relevance is irrelevant, is usually a major challenge.  There are many architects that can do it, though.  One only needs to ask?