Earlier this year, I was introduced to the concept of a so-called “reciprocal roof frame”. After hearing about the concept from a friend, we later browsed the internet in search of natural buildings featuring this mysterious design. When I finally saw examples of different reciprocal roofs, I was immediately enamored: here was a roof structure…
Tag Archives: Green Design
As green design becomes mainstream, it faces the challenge of having to appeal to an ever wider audience. To do so, it must adopt a diverse vocabulary, and not remain limited to — or associated with — a subculture. It is invaluable, then, when designers who are working to reinvent green are showcased in traditional…
So you’re building or remodeling green, and you’re trying to decide what to do about the cabinets. Scanning the requirements for various green building programs, you seem to have two choices. First, you can try to find cabinets made with Forest Stewardship Council certified wood from companies like Neil Kelly Cabinets. But if the company…
<img src="/files/111/warmboard.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="194" align="top" />
Radiant heating is a popular option in green buildings. Many green buildings feature it because it is a more efficient, and more comfortable, method of heating. If a building doesn't require air conditioning, it may be possible to eliminate ductwork altogether, or at least use a much smaller system that is sized for air conditioning. And even in buildings where air handling is still necessary, the systems that push the air around can be run less frequently because they are needed only to provide fresh air, and don't need to take care of the heating as well. Radiant heating systems don't cause the air to be dried out in the same manner that heated forced-air systems tend to do. Most of all, radiant heating is comfortable because it is warmest at floor level and slightly cooler at higher levels, matching the human desire for warmth for the feet, and less for the head.
A recent <a href="http://jetsongreen.typepad.com/jetson_green/2007/09/solar-decathlon.html">blog post by Jetson Green about the National Solar Decathalon</a> reminded me of an intriguing product that can be used for in-floor radiant heat systems. Warmboard is a specialty subflooring for use in radiant-heated buildings that doesn't require a concrete slab to embed the radiant tubing. This makes it especially useful for multi-story buildings where a concrete slab floor may be less desirable. Warmboard is much lighter than a corresponding concrete slab, meaning that less structural material is needed to support the floor. It also does not need curing time, unlike a concrete slab, which is another factor that makes it appealing for use with modular and pre-fab construction. <br />
<a href="http://www.warmboard.com/">Warmboard</a> is a plywood material that is slightly thicker than typical subflooring plywood. It has regular channels cut into it that the radiant heating system tubing can be laid into. On top of this, an aluminum plate is formed to the surface, providing a transfer surface to uniformly distribute the heat from the tubing across the floor.</p>
Construction, as many of you know by now, is one of the biggest single sources for waste and may be responsible for as much as 30% of the volume used in some landfills. And, because commercial space is turned over more frequently, the interior build-out of office space is one of the biggest sources of construction debris and waste. As companies change their staff, the space they occupy fluctuates, and often old spaces are torn out and new spaces built with different configurations.
Since the spaces in an office are not part of the structure (in most cases), the walls that divide offices and meeting rooms can be relatively quickly disassembled and rebuilt in a new configuration without affecting the building structure. This flexibility appeals to building owners and tenants alike, because space can be easily customized to meet the particular needs of any tenant. But it leads to an awful lot of waste, as well.
A new system of wall construction devised by Sean Dorsy, a graduate architecture student at The Catholic University of America, uses standard 4 x 8 sheets of plywood cut with slots so that the panel can be unfolded like an accordion to make a wall structure to replace standard stud construction.
<img src="http://www.fcnl.org/images/building/building_lg1.jpg" alt="FCNL" width="333" height="222" align="right" />Although there is a growing push for incresing sustainability for buildings, our nation's capital is lagging behind other cities when it comes to green buildings. Though there are over <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/Project/CertifiedProjectList.aspx?CMSPageID=244&CategoryID=19&">600 LEED certified buildings nationwide</a>, only 6 of them are in Washington DC.
The <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/index.htm">Friends Committee on National Legislation</a> is a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC. Their building is the first "green" building on Capitol Hill. The building received <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/press/releases/green_building071307.htm">bipartisan congressional recognition</a> at an event last week. They are anticipating LEED certification (which normally takes a few months after the building is substantially completed), and the building has already received other accolades, including the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarding a presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.
It's full-blown summer now, and people are spending more time outdoors on their patios and decks. So let me offer a summertime question for discussion. Which is better to use for an outdoor deck: wood, or a manufactured product (like Trex, Timber Tech, etc.)?
This is no more a black and white issue than most other green building questions. This can depend on the particular situation and the specific needs of a particular project. I'm not going to give you a definitive answer, because I don't think that there is one, any more than I do for most green building topics (other than greener is better).
First, there is the issue of material content. On the one hand, the manufactured products often use some combination of wood fiber (which is often sawdust and other scrap that would otherwise go to waste) and plastic (sometimes incorporating post consumer recycled material). On the other hand, wood is a natural material. It is sustainable, in that wood can be grown and harvested. There are some deck materials that have natural rot-resistant properties, but these tend to be more expensive. There is also the question of whether or not they are sustainably harvested, as well as the issue of shipping these materials.
<p><img src="/files/images/sol.jpg" border="0" alt="Advanced Glazings, Ltd." width="279" height="186" /><strong>solera : </strong>Image Credit: Advanced Glazings, Ltd.Lighting for buildings is a major part of their energy use. Increasingly, green building design is recognizing the importance of providing natural daylight as a means of lighting the building and reducing energy use. Not only does natural daylight reduce the building's energy use, but it also increases comfort for the people in the building. The LEED system includes credit for providing at least 75% of the spaces in the building with natural lighting and views, and the credit is increased if 90% of the spaces are naturally lit.<br /><br />Windows are good for providing views to the exterior. Skylights can be used to bring in more daylight, but they are not without issues. The problem with skylights is that they tend to create glare. The high contrast between areas where the daylight is streaming through the windows and other parts of the space that are not directly lit is visually (and sometimes even literally) uncomfortable. There's either too much light or too little. Diffuse light is more even and comfortable, and avoids areas of deep shadow and sharp glare. This is why so many older buildings had north oriented skylights or clerestory windows (or south-oriented in the southern hemisphere), and why those spaces were so well thought of as artists' spaces and galleries. The <a href="http://www.advancedglazings.com/ldp/index.php">light quality is much better</a> when it is from an indirect source.<br /><br />Most diffuser options do little to spread the light around. Typical etched or frosted glass has little effect. The light patterns are a little bit softer edged from frosted glass than they are from clear glass, but when it is directly lit, it is little better than clear glass. Advanced Glazings, Ltd. offers much better performance for incorporating daylighting into buildings with a line of insulated glazing called <a href="http://www.advancedglazings.com/index.html">Solera</a>. Architects have known of <a href="http://www.kalwall.com/windows.htm">Kalwall</a>, another company that has been making translucent panels for many years. Kalwall is a panel of polyester and fiberglass that offers translucency and some insulation.</p>
<p><img src="/files/images/saladspinner.jpg" border="0" alt="Homeless Dave" width="240" height="195" />Image Credit: Homeless DaveSome people looking to reduce their home power use may be interested in alternatives to the typical clothes washer and dryer. While the washer and dryer aren't the appliance with the biggest energy budget in the typical household (that distinction belongs to the refrigerator), an opportunity to save energy here may be something to consider. </p><p>The dryer is the easy part. A clothesline is about the simplest, cheapest alternative to a clothes dryer you can find. But the washer is harder. Hand-washing clothes is a difficult task. And wringer washers are a hand-operated option, but they aren't very efficient. A bicycle powered clothes washer is a more efficient, and much more ambitious project. While it's not likely that most of you will rush out to build one of these for yourselves, it offers a wonderful insight into how far you can take DIY if you are inclined to.</p><p>The pedal-powered washer was designed and built by <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/abouttt.htm">Homeless Dave</a> (who is not really homeless, but whose real name <em>is</em> Dave), a local advocate for community and for human-powered tools in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His website, <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/totterhome.htm">Teeter Talk</a>, features interviews with "folks from Ann Arbor … Detroit … and beyond" which are conducted on a teeter-totter in his back yard.</p>
<p><a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f"><img src="/files/images/greenenvy_0.jpg" border="0" alt="San Francisco Chronicle" width="200" height="200" /></a>Image credit: <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>An opinion article by Jane Powell in the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em> titled '<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/13/CMGA7PCMDH1.DTL">Green Envy</a>' begins by saying, "'Green building' is the feel-good trend of the moment. Cities stipulate it, builders market it and home buyers supposedly demand it. Who could be against it? It's the panacea that will combat global warming, prevent sprawl, revitalize our downtowns, contribute to the region's economic growth and keep California on the leading edge," and goes on to declare, "'Green building' is an oxymoron." <br /><br />I have a different opinion about green building. I spent all day yesterday attending a USGBC Technical Training Seminar, in order to become a LEED-accredited professional. To dismiss all green building as an oxymoron overlooks much of the good that is involved. Green building is not an oxymoron. Green building is taking steps for real change, improving the performance of buildings, and establishing methods for construction of buildings that will improve the spaces where we spend as much as 90% of our lives.</p>
<p><img src="/files/images/rosetrellis_0.png" border="0" width="198" height="198" />A few years ago, when we started getting our garden together my wife wanted to have a trellis for some roses to climb on. We looked at various options. There are pre-built or kit trellises, but those are expensive. We could build one with wood, but it would need to be treated with preservatives (nasty chemicals) and would need maintenance. We ended up deciding to build one using simple copper pipe.</p>
Photo Credit: Living Homes (via Inhabitat) Bob Ellenberg wrote a good, thought-provoking (and discussion-starting) article at Inhabitat titled 'Prefab Construction: Green or Greenwashing?' and drew comments from Preston Koerner (of Jetson Green) and Lloyd Alter (an architecture writer at Treehugger with whom I had some inter-blog discussion over the past couple of weeks regarding foundations, but more importantly also an entrepreneur in prefab construction with direct experience in the process).
Prefab is a popular concept in green design circles and shows up regularly on a number of blogs. A few of the more prominent examples include: Inhabitat (Pre-Fab Friday); Jetson Green; Treehugger; BldgBlog; MoCo Loco; and even a website devoted to prefabs: FabPrefab. But it's a valid question that is being asked. How "green" is prefab building, and should it be embraced by those who want a greener building? Bob sums his article up this way: "I want to honestly question what is and what isn't 'green' about prefabrication and encourage others to do the same."
Prefab construction can be very green. The LivingHomes prefab illustrating this article is a LEED Platinum building. But, there are very few examples of prefabs that have LEED certificaion. And not every prefab qualifies even as a LEED certified building, let alone a Platinum one.
The Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts is in rare company.
<p><img src="/files/images/KWhouse1.jpg" width="234" height="200" alt=" GRID Alternatives" />The first LEED for houses (LEED-H) project in the Northwest to achieve a Silver rating was the 2,000 square foot Kelly-Woodford Home in Parkdale, Oregon. The house was built by the <a href="http://www.neilkelly.com/">Neil Kelly Company</a>, a Portland area builder. The company has been a leader in environmentally oriented construction for a number of years.</p>
<p><img src="/files/images/koos1.jpg" border="0" alt="cmhc.ca" width="339" height="243" />Photo Credit: cmhc.ca<br />Adaptive reuse is the use of an existing structure for a new purpose; in short, it is recycling for buildings. Rather than demolishing an old structure to clear a site, the existing structure is rehabilitated and used for a new purpose. </p><p><a href="http://www.chestermangroup.com/koos/index.html">Koo's Corner</a> is a project in Vancouver that took an old automotive repair shop and turned it into six urban loft residences. The existing garage building was turned into two of the lofts, and another four units were built to fit the neighborhood context. Building in an existing neighborhood helps to increase urban density (which makes for more efficient use of existing city services) and makes use of available property rather than buldozing undeveloped land for construction.</p>