Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Design’

Carbon Neutral Monday

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I couldn’t care less if Angelina Jolie becomes the next octomom. I care a little bit more about the latest pictures of George Clooney, but not much. Yet every couple of months for years when I’d go get my hair done I’d still get sucked into consuming all the schlocky celebrity garbage in the magazines lying around the salon. This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to bring better reading with me to the beauty parlor. So for the next couple of days I’ll be blogging about a few of the things I read on Saturday when I went to get my hair cut.

To continue Friday’s burning question, I’ll start with Richard Conniff’s interesting piece in environment 360. Coniff uses the recent opening of Kroon Hall, the new home of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, as a jumping off point to ask whether it is feasible to achieve carbon neutrality, “the architectural Holy Grail in the age of global warming.” (At least architects acknowledge that this is the ultimate goal. Landscape designers haven’t even gotten to that point yet.) Ultimately, he concludes that it’s possible to get “damned close,” but even Yale will have to purchase offsets to mitigate the emissions they could not design out of the building.

Surprisingly, Coniff seems a bit miffed by the fact that the biggest carbon emission savings came not from “sexy new technologies” but rather from very traditional design strategies like orientation for passive solar heat gain, careful shading, and making the most of daylight. (Duh?) But he does a good job of pointing out how flaws in the U.S. Green Building Council’s current LEED system lead to “certified green” buildings that are anything but energy efficient (and therefore not even close to carbon neutral).

And he does a great job of exploding the myth that going green just doesn’t pay: “In practice, the green premium may add 2 to 10 percent to construction costs. But the green label added 10 percent to the sale price for Energy Star buildings and 31 percent for LEED certified buildings,” according to a recent University of Reading study.

Superstar City

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

If you’re headed to the Venice Biennale in the next couple of months, check out the latest figment of MAD Architects‘ imagination — Superstar, a mobile, self-sustaining city capable of housing, growing food, producing energy, and recycling the waste of 15,000 people. The Beijing-based firm conceived Superstar as an alternative to the “sloppy patchwork of poor construction and nostalgia” (if not the astonishing diversity of the vegetable markets and array of restaurants) of the typical Chinatown in cities around the world. The sparkling, three-dimensional star-shaped superstructure, which has been described as looking a little like a Cylon Base Star from Battlestar Galactica by Inhabitat, will be able to travel around the globe, providing a taste of Chinese cuisine and culture wherever it docks. 

The Antidote to Pigs and Lipstick

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

The Lifepod, Kyu Che’s sustainable, portable, off-the-grid mini-capsule for getting away from it all. Just be back when it’s time to vote.

Green Megalopolis

Friday, July 11th, 2008

The July issue of Popular Science has a story on the megalopolis of the future. Hint: It looks nothing like smog-choked Mexico City or sprawling LA. Instead, picture things like pod cars, sidewalks that turn footsteps into electricity, an algae park with a super breed of algae engineered at UC Berkeley to generate energy, and 30-story hydroponic farms tended by robots. The interactive web feature is fun, but here’s hoping the ecotropolis of 2050 has better music. 

Living Walls

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Now that green roofs have become accepted, if not yet common, a growing number of designers seem to be exploring the next great frontier in living architecture – green walls.

This past February in Paris I stumbled across the Musée du Quai Branly and was blown away by its 8600-square-foot Plant Wall designed by Patrick Blanc. A horticultural tour de force, Blanc’s creation reportedly includes more than 150 different plant species. A portfolio of Blanc’s living walls can be found on his website.

I’ve seen a number of spectacular green roofs both in the U.S. and Europe (my current favorite is the new roof on Queens Botanical Garden’s LEED Platinum Visitor and Administration building, one of the few planted with native species). Because green walls are even more visible to the public, they’re bound to capture the fancy of landscape designers. They could even revive the venerable tradition of the garden folly. Case in point: Gas Design Group’s “Topiade” (topiary + façade) overlays for an existing Louis Vuitton store.

By the way, living walls can have some if not all of the environmental benefits of green roofs: They can reduce storm-water runoff, trap and break down airborne toxins, and by decreasing the urban heat island effect, help keep cities cool.