Being Green – Celebrate!

Hi Folks:

Happy Friday!  End of the week and time for the ‘Being Green‘ post.  It’s going to be a short post this week, mostly because it’s too beautiful outside to invest too much time in front of a computer.  So, in honour of today’s beautiful weather and in honour of summer in general, I thought I’d just offer a couple of links to things that are worth celebrating (from a ‘green’ perspective):

First is a development I recently heard about in Germany called ‘Solarsiedlung (Solar Village)‘, which has the main building (Sonnenschiff (Solar Ship)) at its heart.  This community  incorporates many ‘green’ standards, including rooftop gardens, rainwater collection, passive solar orientation, a woodchip boiler for winter heating and Passivhaus standards for construction, but the reason for the ‘Solar Village’ moniker is the huge number of solar panels in use in the project.  Not only does their use make the project ‘net-zero’, it actually produces more energy than it uses.  Four times more energy… which definitely makes it energy positive.  The designer of the Solar Village project is Rolf Disch.  You can find out more about this and other projects on his website; he also has a site on what he terms ‘PlusEnergy‘.  In a time when people are wondering what they can do to help reduce their energy costs, this development proves that it’s possible to go far beyond that, in a practical way.

Second, Cree Lighting and Habitat for Humanity have begun construction on the first Habitat house that will incorporate all LED lighting.  According to the Cree website, lighting is the single biggest energy user in the average home, at 22% of energy use.  I did a blog post on lighting a while back, and while LEDs do have some disadvantages, at the moment they’re the most efficient and most environmentally friendly lighting technology.  Continued development can only make them better.

Next, a little fun with a story about three swimming pools on Park Avenue in New York city.  The project was done by the development company Macro Sea, in cooperation with the city of New York.  Each pool is made from a converted dumpster, and completely portable.  Drop it off the back of a truck, fill it with water, plug in the filter and have fun!  The pools opened at 7:00 a.m. daily, and from the images I’ve seen there was no shortage of participants!  Given the heat islands presented by most cities, this is a great idea.

And finally, for now, also from New York, the office tower at One Bryant Park has become the first office tower to achieve LEED Platinum certification.  That’s something that’s definitely worth celebrating!!

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S. Looking for something to do with your summer? How about making some giant soap bubbles? (YouTube video) We’ve had a lot of fun with ours over the years – we even had them at our wedding reception!! You can get them here: BubbleThing The ingredients are non-toxic, and they really are a lot of fun for kids of all ages.

Being Green: Body and Mind – The Olympics and TED

Hi Folks:

Well, another week has flown by!  The Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin today, and there’s been a lot of effort put into making this Olympics the ‘greenest’ one ever.  There are, of course, two opposing views on their efforts.  On one side, Daily Planet has created an extensive chronicle of the science and technology that has gone into the preparations for this event, and a part of their efforts include eight segments highlighting different ways in which this Olympics are ‘going for green‘.  The official Vancouver Olympics website also has a section of their site devoted to explaining their sustainability efforts.  Even the Olympic medals are made partially from metals recycled from electronic waste.  On the other side of the table, a recent article by Dr. David Suzuki serves to highlight the (many?) ways in which the 2010 Olympics has fallen  short, and the ways in which future games might be improved. As an example, one new structure at Whistler is a chalet designed to PassivHaus standards.  A PassivHaus consumes 90% less energy than one built to standard building code.  I think that’s wonderful, and ideas like this need to be incorporated into every new building.  At the same time, the building was created in a factory in Austria and then shipped around the world to BC where it was erected, so that process itself may negate the environmental benefits of having such a tight structure.  I can’t say for sure.  Can we do more?  Need we do more?  For my part I say yes, certainly, on both counts.  At the same time, I believe we advance ourselves further with compliments than criticisms, so I offer my congratulations to all involved with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for their efforts in sustainability, and I trust that future events will greatly exceed the efforts made here.

Now the Olympics is primarily about the body.  Yes, there’s technology and development and mental acuity and more, but overall the Olympics is about physical excellence.  There’s another ‘Olympics’ of sorts that’s also going on right now, a little farther south, in Long Beach, CA – the 2010 TED ConferenceTED is an acronym for ‘Technology – Entertainment – Design’ and in some respects TED is a mental olympics.  But while the Olympics proper is about competition, striving to be the best, TED is about cooperation, perhaps coopetiton.  Some of the most important minds in the world gather every year at TED.  There’s also ‘William’.  He’s 11, and the youngest TED attendee to date.  At TED you’ll find doctors, engineers, business leaders, and also people like William Kamkwamba.  A native of Malawi, at 14 William had to leave school to support his family.  He went to the closest library and found a book on wind energy, and using some wonderful adaptive engineering he built a wind generator for his parent’s home.  Basically he built a wooden tower, formed blades out of melted PVC pipe, and connected these blades to the pedal arm of a bicycle.  When the wind turned the propeller blades, the rotating crank would ‘pedal’ the bicycle, spinning the rear wheel and generating electricity using a small generator designed to operate a bicycle headlight.  He generated enough power to provide for four lights in his parent’s home, and so he went beyond that, adding in a circuit breaker and four light switches.

To say a lot has been written about TED – some good, some less than flattering – would be a vast understatement.  There’s such a broad scope of topics covered at the main conference every year, and increasingly in independent ‘TEDx’ conferences (300 so far), that any attempt to cover them all would fall short.  But since these weekly posts are about green building and sustainability, I thought I’d highlight just a few to get you started.  Hundreds more can be seen and/or downloaded from the TED website.

Rachel Armstrong presented an idea to use ‘protocells’ to create building structures that sequester CO2 from the atmosphere or from water, creating carbonate ‘reefs’ that build and repair themselves.

Juan Enriquez talked about the tremendous advances in agriculture caused by shifting our thinking from using ‘force’ to grow food to using biology, and how this concept is our way forward to a sustainable energy future.

Norman Foster discussed how architects can design buildings that are “green, beautiful and basically pollution-free.”

Willie Smits spoke about recreating a clear-cut tropical rainforest in Borneo, providing habitat for local orangutans and providing food, homes, and a sustainable wage for communities of local people.

The winner of the 2010 TED Prize, Jamie Oliver outlined a plan on how to make children (and their parents, and everyone) food aware.  Malnutrition and obesity are linked if we’re eating foods that our bodies can’t effectively utilize.  How does this relate to green building and/or sustainability?  Americans invest $150 billion a year on healthcare issues related to preventable disease arising from obesity and food disorders.  As things are, this will only increase.  The production, transportation, marketing and distribution of ‘unhealthy food’ has costs that are staggering, and not just in an economic sense.  I’ve mentioned this before, and while I can’t remember the name of the original author, the ‘triple bottom line’ for businesses today involve environmental sensitivity, corporate sustainability and profit.  What the speaker said was to consider this as a three-legged stool.  He went on to say that what’s important to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.  What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.

Okay, the links this week are:

Okay, that’s it for now.  Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave us a comment to say hi!

Mike.

P.S.
Something a little different – a touch screen you don’t need to touch.  Gesture Cube: No need to touch – just give it a wave!

Being Green – Up On the Roof

Hi Folks:

Well, The Drifters did it first…

So, I wanted to talk about roofs today, but before I get into that I wanted to start with something that at first blush doesn’t seem to have anything to do with building at all.  I think it does… Continue Reading →