making le corbusier proud

Posted by on Jan 6, 2009 in architecture, urban agriculture | No Comments

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…

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24-7 sandwich shop contest

Posted by on Jan 6, 2009 in food | One Comment

a friend of mine from sciarc created an online thought contest to generate new ideas about our relationship to food. 24-7 sandwich shop identifies the radical disconnect between a quickly evolving mechanism for producing food, and a static concept of what food is. find the more interactive facebook page here.

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green software @ autodesk university 2008, part 1.

Posted by on Dec 15, 2008 in green software | No Comments

I was lucky enough to attend my first autodesk university this year, and I am completely hooked. I haven’t been this inspired since I was in school- I took copious amounts of notes, and only about half of them were about the actual presentations. the others were ideas for building systems, performative organizations, and green designs. I feel both better educated and reinvigorated- if you ever have the opportunity to attend, you really should.

while I was at AU I was able to sit in on many tutorials and demos of various sustainable analysis software. while there were many programs with interesting sustainable implications for enhanced paper-less communication, many of these I’ll describe in greater detail in future posts, the environmental analysis programs are worth mentioning themselves.

the basic landscape for energy analysis programs for architects using revit can be reduced down to three software packages: ecotect, IES VE, and green building studio. each of these programs can interface directly with revit files or standard BIM exports (.gbxml or .dxf). they all provide a range of data based off of design decisions made in a revit model to be used to inform the design during variety of design phases.

of the three, ecotect is clearly the most impressive- both the range of analysis and the graphical output (both IES VE and GBS only produce text based information) is far superior and could also inform the largest range of design phases. but it is also the most buggy- I saw two presentations by dr. andrew marsh where 10 – 20% of the commands and scripts did not work. unfortunately, it was a different 10 – 20% each time. with autodesk’s recent acquisition of ecotect, and with robert aish in the attendance for both sessions, hopefully some progress will be made on that front.

while the analysis dr. marsh was doing was extremely impressive and wide ranging (everything from right to light analysis to component form generation), it was difficult to tell how easily accomplished the analysis was. he was running a list of custom scripts within the program itself, so I wasn’t able to tell how much of the power of ecotect was accessible through simple native commands or how much scripting was necessary to achieve his results. ecotect is that it is a free standing program that uses .gbxml or .dfx file formats- both of which are exportable from revit.

IES VE is an integrated toolbar that operates within the revit environment. the standalone version of IES is notoriously difficult for non-engineers to use, and IES VE is an attempt to remedy that. while IES VE is simple and doesn’t require exporting files, it produces a large amount of specific data that architects are typically not trained to understand. in this regard, IES VE is a fairly useful tool for evaluating multiple designs, and not as much as a generative tool like ecotect can be.

green building studio is by far the easiest of the three to use, but also produces the most limited range of data. GBS is a web-based application that only requires the upload of a .gbxml model in order to evaluate the design’s performance. it does fall into a similar category as IES VE, in that it seems to be a very good tool for evaluating various schemes in comparison to each other, but it is not as good at informing a design as it is being generated.

green building studio does have a unique advantage over ecotect and IES VE- the weather information ecotect and IES VE base their calculations on is typically taken from the nearest airport, while GBS’ weather stations are on a roughly 12 mile by 12 mile grid across the country. you can even verify where your weather information is coming from in a google maps app. this probably wouldn’t effect all projects, but it certainly would effect a project in downtown san francisco which has a dramatically different climate than SFO.

so there isn’t exactly one program that does everything, but ecotect seemed to be the most impressive. coming up- digital communication software and other programs that could help minimize the use of paper within a practice.

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reFarm

Posted by on Nov 12, 2008 in design, urban agriculture | 2 Comments

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.

[vimeo 2224116]

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psa: apartment composter

Posted by on Nov 1, 2008 in composting, urban agriculture | One Comment

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…

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two facets of solar: a plea to california voters

Posted by on Nov 1, 2008 in design, materials | No Comments

I’ve recently come across two interesting improvements to different methods of creating solar energy that are worth noting before november 4th.

the first is solyndra’s solar tubes, an improvement to the standard photovoltaic solar panel by arraying a series of thin cylinders across a surface. the improvement here is that the geometry of the cylinders can capture solar energy from a wider array of angles, including reflected energy from the surface below. solyndra’s tubes also are constructed without silicon, the most expensive material in a typical solar panel, making them a significantly cheaper system.

the second is ausra’s CLSR (compact linear solar reflector), which was recently unveiled at their new solar thermal plant in bakersfield, ca. though solar thermal energy is not as familiar to most as the photovoltaic method of producing power, it is unique in that it has the ability to store energy and distribute it to the larger power grid as needed. the improvements in CLSR as opposed to the conventional method of solar thermal is that it heats water as opposed to a synthetic solution, and it uses flat mirrors instead of parabolic. using water instead of oil is a far greener method of production, and using flat mirrors instead of parabolic is significantly cheaper.

so why the plea to california voters? this tuesday, the state of california will be voting on proposition 7, the renewable energy generation initiative statue. it is my humble opinion, that california voters should vote against the renewable energy generation initiative statue. why? because under proposition 7, the two innovations described previously would be discouraged.

proposition 7 mandates that half of california’s electricity come from renewable sources… that produce more than 30 megawatts. the problem is that both solyndra’s solar tubes and ausra’s CLSR technology, as they exist today, would not count towards this 50% because they are not currently deployed or designed for systems that large. solyndra’s solar tubes are designed to convert existing structures, like the roofs of big box stores and parking garages, into micro energy production stations through out the built environment. ausra’s bakersfield plant that uses the CLSR system only produces 5 megawatts. though ausra is building a similar plant in san luis obispo that will produce 177 megawatts, the two plants diagram the path of development of new technology by energy companies well- you start small and move bigger.

proposition 7 would actually discourage the development of small, local power stations and small, experimental power stations. though current renewable energy technology is very good, it is these very facilities that we need to develop cleaner, more efficient systems of production. vote no on 7.

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two facets of solar: a plea to california voters

Posted by on Nov 1, 2008 in design, materials | 2 Comments

I’ve recently come across two interesting improvements to different methods of creating solar energy that are worth noting before november 4th.

the first is solyndra’s solar tubes, an improvement to the standard photovoltaic solar panel by arraying a series of thin cylinders across a surface. the improvement here is that the geometry of the cylinders can capture solar energy from a wider array of angles, including reflected energy from the surface below. solyndra’s tubes also are constructed without silicon, the most expensive material in a typical solar panel, making them a significantly cheaper system.

the second is ausra’s CLSR (compact linear solar reflector), which was recently unveiled at their new solar thermal plant in bakersfield, ca. though solar thermal energy is not as familiar to most as the photovoltaic method of producing power, it is unique in that it has the ability to store energy and distribute it to the larger power grid as needed. the improvements in CLSR as opposed to the conventional method of solar thermal is that it heats water as opposed to a synthetic solution, and it uses flat mirrors instead of parabolic. using water instead of oil is a far greener method of production, and using flat mirrors instead of parabolic is significantly cheaper.

so why the plea to california voters? this tuesday, the state of california will be voting on proposition 7, the renewable energy generation initiative statue. it is my humble opinion, that california voters should vote against the renewable energy generation initiative statue. why? because under proposition 7, the two innovations described previously would be discouraged.

proposition 7 mandates that half of california’s electricity come from renewable sources… that produce more than 30 megawatts. the problem is that both solyndra’s solar tubes and ausra’s CLSR technology, as they exist today, would not count towards this 50% because they are not currently deployed or designed for systems that large. solyndra’s solar tubes are designed to convert existing structures, like the roofs of big box stores and parking garages, into micro energy production stations through out the built environment. ausra’s bakersfield plant that uses the CLSR system only produces 5 megawatts. though ausra is building a similar plant in san luis obispo that will produce 177 megawatts, the two plants diagram the path of development of new technology by energy companies well- you start small and move bigger.

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paper brick house @ the venice biennale

Posted by on Oct 20, 2008 in architecture, design, geometry | No Comments

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themed as “ordinary architecture”, li xinggang’s extrodinary construction at the venice biennale is entirely constructed out of paper. read more about the design and it’s sociopolitically loaded concept on designboom.com

a fridge-less kitchen?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2008 in design, food | No Comments

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the i GREEN kitchen is a very interesting design by veneta cucine + nilay shah, promoting a kitchen oriented around sustainability and a veggie heavy diet. read about it here on hometone.org.

the green ballet of daruma-otoshi

Posted by on Jul 31, 2008 in Uncategorized | No Comments

japan’s Kajima Corporation has developed a new technique of demolition that is both a more sustainable method and poeticly beautiful to watch sped up. daruma-otoshi is a method of removing the materials of a building floor by floor, systematically lowering the building through the use of robotic columns. named after a japanese game that removes the bottom piece of a stack of blocks, kajima’s method is 20% faster, creates less air pollution, and contributes greatly to the recycling effort as demolished architecture can be 40% of all waste in some regions.

“Using concrete as an example, the researchers show that ramping up concrete recycling from the current 27% to even 50% would reduce 2.7–5.6 million tons of CO2 annually, which equals taking 612,000 cars off U.S. roads.”

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