Posts Tagged ‘Urban Design and Built Form’

Never pay an Electricity Bill again? Sounds pretty good to me.

Posted in Models, Movements, Sustainable Cities, Visions by emma.gerard on August 21st, 2013

Source: Climate progress

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photo from: Habitat for Humanity of washington DC

From the article Why Habitat For Humanity’s Newest Homeowner Might Never Pay An Electricity Bill by JOANNA M. FOSTER

Lakiya’s new home is the first super energy-efficient passive house in D.C. It also just happens to be a Habitat for Humanity home.

The house doesn’t look like a futuristic spaceship, but it is different from the other small pre-fab houses along the street. It is a two home duplex with a big wooden porch in front and, of course, solar panels on the roof.

Lakiya’s house started out two years ago as an entry in the Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon. Dubbed “Empowerhouse” for the competition, it was an ambitious concept brought to life by engineering and architecture students from Stevens Institute of TechnologyParsons The New School for Design and Milano School for International Affairs, management and Urban Policy, many of whom had never even wielded a hammer before attempting this elaborate construction project. The team’s dream was to build a solar-powered house that could not only compete with the most cutting-edge technologies out there, but was actually affordable and something ordinary people would want to live in.

According to Josh Layrea, one of the Stevens engineers, the winning entry from a German team two years before cost over two million dollars. “It was an impressive piece of engineering,” Laryea concedes. “But made for exhibit, not habitation. The entire outside of the house was covered in solar panels.” Laryea and his teammates had a different goal. In a way, they were in a competition of their own, in which they were competing against themselves to see if they could create something that Habitat for Humanity could use not only as a home for a low-income family in the Deanwood area of D.C. but also as an affordable housing prototype for Habitat going forward. The Stevens-Parson-Milano house won the top prize for cost-effectiveness at the Solar Decathlon.

Lakiya’s house was built based on passive house design principles. The basic concept of passive house is to lower energy consumption by being super-insulated and practically airtight. Empowerhouse has 12-inch thick walls and triple-glazed windows and, as a result, uses up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an ordinary house. Such low energy consumption enabled Empowerhouse to have one of the smallest solar panel arrays in the competition, which helps keep construction and maintenance costs down.

As anyone who worked on Empowerhouse hoped, Lakiya’s home is not the end of the dream. Habitat is gearing up to build six more passive houses in Ivy City, a short drive from Deanwood. They’ll look a bit different from Empowerhouse, more townhouses than duplex, but they’ll cost about the same and hopefully pass on the same savings.

“As much as we can afford, we would like to have the highest standard of energy efficiency available for our homeowners,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “Our whole mission is to provide affordable housing to low income families, and if homeowners pay less in energy costs, that helps us reach that goal.”

“I really believe that with the mounting cost of electricity, passive houses with solar panels are going to take off,” said Slater. “And our homeowners are going to be out in front of the movement.”

>>> You can read the original article on Climate Progress


Made for Walking (and other essential ingredients for a successful urban neighbourhood)

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2013

From Made For Walking_Julia Campoli
Image from Made for Walking

From Not All Density Is Created Equal by Kaid Benfield:

“I just finished a very good – no, make that fantastic – book by Julie Campoli called Made for Walking, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  … Made for Walking isn’t so much about urban density as about the other things that we need in city neighborhoods – in addition to a level of density – to make city living attractive and sustainable. …

The heart of the book – comprising nearly a hundred pages – is a systematic review of twelve walkable neighborhoods in Denver, Columbus, Vancouver, Miami Beach, Toronto, Alexandria (Virginia), Albuquerque, Portland, Brooklyn, San Diego, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Pasadena. …

For each, Campoli provides a context map, site maps illustrating neighborhood form and intersection density – the most statistically significant measure of how walkable a neighborhood is – multiple photos of the streetscape and neighborhood assets, measurements of neighborhood size, density and driving rates, and a discussion of what is going on in the neighborhood that adds to or limits its function for walking and sustainability. She likes them all, as do I.

For example, discussing Portland’s Pearl District, Campoli points out that the city has a goal of evolving a demographically mixed neighborhood, including families with children. This requires, she notes, investment in larger-unit, family-friendly homes; access to public amenities such as schools and nature; proximity to cultural resources such as libraries; and buffering from land uses that might be harmful to children. People in my environmental-group and smart-growth circles talk about this kind of thing, well, never. And yet it’s critical to a sustainable future, which is why I know about 50 people who need to read this book.”

Read the full article – there’s much more including sketches and photos – by Kaid Benfield on the Atlantic Cities site.


Energy co-ops retrofit to lower bills and emissions

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 2nd, 2013

Source: The Guardian

CARBON CO-OP
Photo from the Carbon Co-op

From the article “Energy co-ops are cutting household bills alongside carbon emissions” by Simon Birch

For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge.

Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home. “The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 42, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin. “We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”

Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money. “The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson. “At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.” […]

“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”

So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson. “The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase. “As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson. […]

The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market. “We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.

Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year. Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action. The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit. […]

>>> Read the full article on The Guardian website.
>>> Find out more about Carbon Co-op and  the Energy Saving Co-op on their websites


The power of Algae – innovative building facade

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013

Source: DesignBuild Source

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Image from Arup

From the Arup media release “World first bio-reactive façade debuts in Hamburg

The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade […] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.

The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. […]

“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader

The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.

>>> You can read the original media release on the Arup Website.
>>> You can see more images of the building and read more about it on DesignBuildSource.com.au


Innovative Urbanism: Crowdsourcing change

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on February 8th, 2013

Source: Mesh Cities.


Image from I Make Rotterdam.

From the article “Crowd funding city innovation” by Mesh Cities.

[…] We all know or suspect that riding a populist, demographically-driven wave is the essence of electability. This era’s politicians (generally) know it’s best not to think too big in terms of urban-improving expenditures. Time is better spent learning how to deftly kick the can of crumbling infrastructure down the road—increasingly potholed though that road may be. “Let my successor manage the impending crisis,” their inner voices might be heard to say, “I’ll lose the next election if I raise taxes to fix x,y, or z let alone build something new.” This attitude is closely related to the one that causes well-established, successful companies like Nortel to go from world leaders to market flameouts almost overnight. Why improve something that the investors think to be a world beater? Behind the scenes, however, key players are running for the exits with whatever spoils they can carry before the whole operation collapses due to inattention. There is an alternative to the destructiveness of this self serving, near-term thinking about our cities: Crowd funded urban innovation. It is not a fantasy. Some cities are already doing it.

Why is crowd funded urbanism different than what we’ve seen in the past? In a way, it isn’t. It is fundamentally old school thinking brought into the digital age. In the farming communities of our parent’s parents, when people saw something that needed doing they pitched in to get it done. That’s the way crowd funded urbanism works. See it. Fix it. New communications tools are shrinking our complex world to the point where direct action is possible even where political action is an oxymoron. Even better, in a connected world we can assemble best-practice solutions in one easily accessible place for everyone’s use. Talk about efficiency.

Take a look at I Make Rotterdam for one example of a crowd funded pedestrian bridge that is a prototype for this nascent, city-changing movement. The public in that city cared enough to invest real money in the project after being inspired by New York’s High Line Park (good ideas are contagious). What’s more interesting is that their commitment spurred local government to get behind the project as well. […] That’s the power of this idea. It is not about finding new ways of taxing people. What it is about is unequivocally showing where people want their communities improved so governments can act. Another example is the U.K.’s Space Hive. Broader in scope than I Make Rotterdam, Space Hive offers opportunities to tackle the needs of communities across the U.K.

Are these projects reinventing the way representative taxation will work a generation from now; or, are they just another example of online art projects that capture our collective imagination? We will find out, but our guess is that the future of cities demands better forms of community representation. These just may be the early models that will evolve to greatness.

>>> You can read the full article on Mesh Cities.
>>> Check out I Make Rotterdam, SeeClickFix, and Space Hive for some great examples of crowdfunded urbanism in action.


Density for healthier, resilient communities: Montreal

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 2nd, 2012


Photo BY Lloyd Alter CC 2.0

Check out Lloyd Alter’s commentary on Montreal as a model for more dense cities.

Of particular interest are the points he makes about using external staircases to release internal space for residential areas, and using moderate building heights to keep things walkable or, as Alter puts it, “resilient”, during power failures.

From the article:

…dense enough to support vibrant main streets with retail and services for local needs, but not too high that people can’t take the stairs in a pinch. Dense enough to support bike and transit infrastructure, but not so dense to need subways and huge underground parking garages. Dense enough to build a sense of community, but not so dense as to have everyone slip into anonymity.

>>Read the full article on Treehugger.


A Community Garden on a Parking Garage

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 6th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities


Photo by Nicole Kistler

From “A 30,000-Square-Foot Community Garden, in a Parking Garage” by Sarah Deweerdt:

[Seattle] residents are building a 30,000-square-foot community garden atop a two-story structure once intended for fair visitors’ cars.

“As far as we can tell it’s the first community-managed food production garden on a rooftop” in the country, says Eric Higbee, a landscape architect working on the project. This project, dubbed the UpGarden, will have space for about 120 gardeners. There are a few rooftop farms, such as Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn. But a commercial operation like that runs around $10 per square foot to construct, while the UpGarden has shoestring budget of $4 per square foot—and it’s designed to be built and maintained almost entirely by volunteers.

The project came about because Seattle’s P-Patch community gardening program was looking for space to build a new garden in the neighborhood. “We were really struggling, because the neighborhood is really dense,” says P-Patch coordinator Laura Raymond.

But building a rooftop garden isn’t straightforward. “You’d think that cars are really heavy, and you could put anything on top of a garage,” says Nicole Kistler, a landscape designer and artist also on the design team. In fact, soil is much heavier—12 inches of water-saturated soil can weigh over 100 pounds per square foot, but the garage is only designed to support 40 pounds per square foot.

“We had to find a way to get enough soil up there to grow vegetables, but also not exceed the weight capacity of the garage,” Higbee says. “That really drove a lot of the design decisions.”

Typical green roof technologies were too expensive, so they settled on a series of wooden raised beds 12 to 18 inches deep, which will be filled with potting soil. It’s lighter than topsoil. Higbee and Kistler also left wide paths between the garden beds.

At $150,000, designing and building the UpGarden will cost about 10 percent more than a ground-level community garden of similar size, Raymond estimates. The increased costs come mainly from a longer, more elaborate design process, the need for a structural engineer, and a contractor to drill into the garage deck. In addition, the low clearance of the garage means that materials like potting soil and wood chips will have to be blown in, rather than a large load being dumped by a truck and wheelbarrowed into place by volunteers.

[…]

Read the full article by Sarah Deweerdt for more details.

 

 


Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on February 8th, 2012

From “The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)” on No Tech Magazine:

The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-storey buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.

In “Tiles as a substitute for steel“, we highlighted the medieval art of the medieval timbrel vault, which allowed for structures that today no architect would dare to build without steel reinforcements. The technique is cheap, fast, ecological and durable. Shortly after the article was published in 2008, the timbrel vault made a comeback with two rather spectacular buildings: Richard Hawkes’ Crossway Passive House in England, and Peter Rich’s Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa.

The cardboard formwork technique described last week promises to bring even more dramatic architecture, but at least as interesting is the news that the catalan vault is now also applied to a much more modest form of housing: the Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU), a low-cost family dwelling built in Ethiopia.

Though less spectacular at first sight, it could form the proof that even megacities can be constructed without the use of steel, concrete or wood.

The double-story building, which was completed in last summer, is entirely made from soil and presents an economical and ecological solution to many of Africa’s most urgent problems. The SUDU stands in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a country with a population of more than 80 million (growing at an average 7 percent per year). The building is a joint project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).

The SUDU combines past technologies from different continents, resulting in a new approach to low-tech construction adapted to specific local conditions. In the Mediterranean region, where the timbrel vault originated, the tiles have traditionally been made from fired clay. In the SUDU, the construction technique is united with the African tradition of cement-stabilized, soil-pressed bricks, which use locally available soil. This technique is called compressed earth block (CEB) construction. The SUDU has been built largely following the same techniques used for the Mapungubwe Centre in South Africa.

Read the full article to find out more about resource pressures and engineering details.


Breathing Architecture: Exhibition

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 24th, 2012

WOHA – BUILDING FOR VERTICAL GARDEN CITIES

Some of their structures remind us of bold visions of the future, in which plants reclaim nature for themselves. WOHA realize the permeation of buildings and landscape, of interiors and exteriors in projects such as the Singapore School of the Arts and the seminal residential high-rise The Met in Bangkok, which received the International Highrise Award 2010.

WOHA is represented by Mun Summ Wong and Richard Hassell as directors of the architectural office based in Singapore. They made their name in Asia in the late 1990s with open, single-family dwellings suitable for the tropics. Today they mainly design high-rises and large structures: a mega residential park in India, office and hotel towers in Singapore that lend a new, vertical dimension to green landscapes. Air-conditioning is merely an additional feature for these open structures, because the building structure itself provides the cooling. Natural lighting is standard, solar modules harvest energy for use in the buildings; water for domestic purposes and rainwater are reused.

Topics such as creating value added through communal areas and permeability for climate and nature will be presented in WOHA’s first monographic exhibition using examples of open tropical family homes, green high-rises and projects still in the completion phase.

The exhibition, split in the four chapters Permeable Houses, Open School and Community Buildings, Porous Towers and Perforated Hotels and Resorts, showcases 19 of WOHA’s most important projects in large-format photos and plans, project texts, digital images and models.

WOHA’s permeable architecture is influenced by South-East Asian culture and the location of their office in the city state of Singapore; 130 kilo metres north of the Equator, where temperatures all the year round are about 32°c, falling at night to 23°c, and where particularly heavy rain falls during the monsoon months.

Exhibition Details:

2 December 2011 – 29 April 2012
Deutsches Architekturmuseum DAM
Schaumaninkai 43, Frankfurt am Main

If, like me, you can’t get there, check out some of the images on the DAM site.

 

 


Affordable Solar- & Water-harvesting House, built by students

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 18th, 2011


Graphic by Leah Davies

WaterShed, the University of Maryland’s [winner of] the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011, is a solar-powered home comprised of systems that interact with each other and the environment. A home that harvests, recycles, and reuses water, WaterShed not only conserves but produces resources with the water it captures. Inspired by the rich, complex ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the home displays harmony between modernity, tradition, and simple building strategies, balancing time-trusted best practices and cutting-edge technological solutions to achieve high efficiency performance in an affordable manner.  The home was built by a multi-disciplinary team of students over the course of two years.

About the Design:

WaterShed is a solar-powered home inspired and guided by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, interconnecting the house with its landscape, and leading its dwellers toward a more sustainable lifestyle. The house is formed by two rectangular modules capped by a split-butterfly roof that is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater. The spacious and affordable house features:

  • constructed wetlands, filtering storm water and grey water for reuse
  • a green roof, retaining stormwater and minimizing the heat island effect
  • an optimally sized photovoltaic array, harvesting enough energy from the sun to power WaterShed year-round
  • edible landscapes, supporting community-based agriculture
  • a liquid desiccant waterfall, providing high-efficiency humidity control in the form of an indoor water feature
  • a solar thermal array, supplying enough energy to provide all domestic hot water, desiccant regeneration, and supplemental space heating
  • engineering systems, working in harmony and each acting to increase the effectiveness of the others
  • a time-tested structural system that is efficient, cost-effective, and durable.
About the Solar Decathlon:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition challenging 20 student teams from universities around the world to design and build houses powered entirely by the sun. Over ten competition days, the teams compete in ten different events such as architecture, engineering, and affordability. The team with the highest overall score is the winner. Each day the winner of one of the ten contests is publicly announced, providing the opportunity for individual recognition among the decathlete teams. The winner of the 2011 competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. This year’s competition [was] on public display in the solar village at West Potomac Park, Washington, DC from September 23 – October 2. The house entries will be judged in subjective contests such as market appeal, communications, and home entertainment, and objective measured tests such as comfort zone, hot water, and energy balance. The houses are on public exhibition with the intent of educating visitors about environmental issues, emerging sustainable technologies, and energy-saving measures.

http://2011.solarteam.org/