lately TOSD has been a little dormant… I was lucky enough to convince my amazing girlfriend to marry me, so blogging hasn’t exactly been at the center of my focus… but there’s a large, large backlog of topics so stay tuned over the next weeks, I should be posting a lot.
one subject that’s fairly timely- the chain of ecohomes competition just started their online voting process and two good friends of TOSD have a very compelling entry. maybe I’m biased, but my take is that their ability to merge sustainable design into a modern and contextual architecture is significantly higher than the other leaders at this point. they’re also one of two vote leading entries to incorporate agriculture into their design.
I feel very passionately about the benefits of urban and home based agriculture, so much so that you can look for an upcoming second blog devoted to the subject. but I think more importantly than simply suggesting that architecture can be used to grow food is the idea that sustainable design can provide for more than just itself. the majority of entries in the competition and the majority of contemporary sustainable work seems to be focused on sustainably providing for itself in terms of energy, resource and material use. but to begin to see architecture as having the ability to provide a sustainable platform for all facets of our lives is both visionary and inspired.
a typical crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells is expensive to produce- despite many advancements in the last few years, dealing with silicon is expensive and the payback time can be 14 – 20 years. so there’s been a lot of interest in recent years in creating better silicon systems, like thin film or solar tubes.
plextronics has created a complete alternative to silicon altogether- photovoltaic ink. instead of growing complex silicon crystals, pv cells are just printed on the mounting surface. not only is this process much cheaper, but pv ink is significantly lighter and more flexible than a conventional photovoltaic system. so while the range of printable surfaces are limited at this point, the possibilities of printable pv are pretty large- architectural glass, metal, even cloth seem like they could be incorporated in the future.
pv ink not just has the possibility to be a cheaper alternative to silicon pv, but it also has the potential of being incorporated into a vast array of architectural schemes and strategies- enhancing the architecture instead of shackling it to a bulky, rigid silicon panel.
here’s an article from the chicago sun-times through city farmer news about the first certified organic roof garden. there’s some impressive numbers in here, like 2500 square feet of garden and $150,000 for structural modifications, but the most impressive has to be the six tons of soil carried up to the roof by volunteers… incredible…
almost a month ago now I submitted an entry into google’s 10^100 project. for those of you who don’t know the project, google is planning to donate $10 million towards the five best ideas that will help the most people. they will be selecting the top 100 finalists over the next couple of months, and then there will be a public vote to select the top five ideas.
I thought I’d post my entry description and a video showing my idea here. if you want more information, would like to stay involved, or would like to know if you’ll have an opportunity to vote for my idea, just send an email to reFarm@alexwebb.com .
reFarm1/5th of the united states’ gasoline is used on transporting food.
over 50% of the american population resides in urban environments.
instead of bringing food into cities, what if it was grown there?
reFarm is a responsive ideaset directed at integrating argriculture into the urban environment. reflexive and contextual, the ideaset evaluates the urban infrastructure and creates a response that utilizes what exists within each particular city. these responses then work with the environment to develop argricultural opportunites within each setting.
if reFarm was to target los angeles, one opportunity would be with the large amount of low rise warehouses that comprise the majority of downtown LA. the roofs of these warehouses were equiped with drainage systems, compost could be used to provide a minimal soil volume, which in turn would minimize water retention and minimize weight and could provide an agricultural medium without structural reinforcement on many buildings. these facilities could turn to neighboring areas like boyle heights and central city west for manpower to maintain and harvest crops, while providing food for these areas.
if reFarm was to target houston, one opportunity would be to utilize the massive amount of vacant office buildings in the houston suburbs the plumbing and electrical systems of these buildings could facilitate hydroponic growth mediums and uv lighting for a host of crops that could be planted, grown, and harvested inside of these structures. these vertical farms could borrow from the knowledge base of the argicultural community around the houston area, utilizing a small footprint and a climate controlled environment to provide a large year round yield.
reFarm. not just a singular idea, but a dynamic ideaset designed to maximize the argricultural opportunities within a wide range of urban environments.
my girlfriend and I have a small yard where we have taken a cue from both the guerrilla gardeners and the path to freedom and have tried to do as much urban agriculture as possible. we grow habanero peppers, chili peppers, avocados, mint, rosemary, basil, sage, and two kinds of tomatoes. it’s been incredible so far- we’re not exactly growing every ingredient for every meal, but the home grown herbs and garnishes are really incredible for enhancing what we do eat.
but with the growing (and a diet heavy in veggies) comes a lot of organic waste. to deal with this, and to provide nutrient-rich soil in a few months, I invested in a garden gourmet compost bin.
when it arrived, my initial response was that I had been completely ripped off. the differences between “apartment composter” and “plastic trash can” were not entirely obvious at first. six months later, the differences are pretty clear and I would recommend a garden gourmet to anyone.
the bin is well aerated which increases the rate of decomposition. the door on the bottom of the bin allows for access of the compost once it is ready, with minimal fishing around or rotating. but the most amazing thing is that there is absolutely no odor. the garden gourmet comes with a detailed guide that explains what can be composted, what cannot be composted, and what cannot be composted with out your neighbors noticing. we followed the guidelines, and there is no odor and no animal inquiries.
so I would completely recommend one to anyone who wants to try to recycle not only fruit and vegetable waste but also biodegradable products. the next item I’m looking into is a pet waste composter…