Category Archives: Building
Posted February 13, 2013 – 07:00 by Randy Woods, EarthTechling
The goal of many green designs for houses is to make them appear part of the landscape.
In the Netherlands, the firm 123DV has created a home that is far too linear to be called organic, but still manages to feel as it is part of the hill upon which it sits, especially since the hill itself is also man-made.
The “Bridge House,” as it is known, is located on a wide, grassy knoll in a park near the town of Achterhoek. Like most of the landscape in the Netherlands, it has been shaped by both new and ancient human forces. Though the house is utterly modern in shape and design, it uses the traditional Dutch “terp” method of building a low mound and partially embedding the cellar in the earth to harness the geothermal properties of the surrounding soil.
The simple box shape appears to sit lightly atop the hill, but it is truly part of the earthworks, with most of the lower floor buried in the terp mound. Only a small trapezoidal section of the foundation is revealed in a shallow trough that is cut into the gently sloping hillside, framing the house’s main entrance.
The original intent of the terp style of building was to protect houses and entire villages from incoming tides before the massive dike systems of Holland were constructed. Today, the terps are used more for temperature control. By harnessing the earth’s thermal storage properties, the half-buried house is kept cool in the summer and warm in winter without needing extra electricity.
In fact, the Bridge House has enough green design elements to be completely self-sufficient, should the need arise. In addition to the geothermal system in the roof and marble floors, drinking water is supplied by an on-site well, solar panels supply all the needed electricity, wastewater is treated in a septic field, and rainwater is collected for reuse on the landscaping, which includes wildflowers, 1,000 rhododendrons and 17,000 trees that were all planted on the property by hand.
Even the extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass—always a thermal bane of modern design—is mitigated somewhat by the inclusion of “heat-mirror glass.” This double-paned glass includes a reflective coating that reflects part of the sun’s rays and blocks excess heat from entering.
By Darren Quick
Swedish company, Soltech Energy, recently received the gold medal for this year’s hottest new material at the Nordbygg 2010 trade fair in Stockholm, Sweden. The award was fitting because it was for the company’s home heating system that features roof tiles made out of glass. The tiles, which are made from ordinary glass, weigh about the same as the clay roof tiles they replace but allow the sun to heat air that is then used to heat the house and cut energy bills.
Thankfully, although the tiles themselves are transparent, they are backed by a special black absorption fabric so sticky beaks won’t be able to sit on the roof and watch what’s going on inside. This fabric absorbs the sun’s rays, which heats the air underneath, with the air formed into columns by beams within the roof to ensure it is heated sufficiently.
The most common way to connect the system to a house’s existing heating system would be to a water based heating system via an accumulation tank but the system is also designed to be integrated with both air and water based systems, such as a ground source heat pump, air heat pump, pellet boiler or electric boiler – the only requirement is some form of central heating system.
This setup allows the system to heat the house during winter and transfer the heat absorbed in summer to a ground heating system through a heat convector and a fluid based system to help achieve a cooling effect.
Depending on factors such as climate, roof angle and house direction, the system should generate around 350 kWh heat per square meter (3 square ft).
If your roof isn’t suited to tiles, Soltech Energy also offers glass wall panels that can be tailored to individual houses and benefit from the lower angle of the incoming rays of sunlight during the winter.
The Aria Resort and Casino, within MGM’s new City Center complex on the Las Vegas Strip, may be the most technologically advanced hotel ever built. Its mix of gadgets and cutting-edge networks blends centralized convenience with personalized luxury (and even a squeeze of energy-saving sophistication) to offer a glimpse of what all hotels could look like in the future.
The Aria opened on Dec. 16 last year, marketing itself as a high-tech alternative to Vegas’s more traditional resorts, with a data and communication system driven by 283 individual telecom rooms and a broadband antennae network covering 140 million square feet. And while the technology brings many high-tech luxuries to visitors—omnipresent wireless connectivity, 3D monitors and smart touchscreen interfaces—it also crosses into potential Big Brother territory (even by Vegas standards). Here is a close look at some of Aria’s biggest technological advances and the issues they raise.
The Autonomous Smart Room
Aria technicians ran primary and redundant fiberoptic networks to each of the hotel’s 4004 guest rooms, allowing for extensive in-room automation. When a guest enters a room, curtains automatically open, music plays, the TV activates and climate controls bring the room to a preset temperature.
If a guest leaves, the lights go out, curtains close, the TV and music shut off, and the temperature reverts to a preset, personalized setting. All room features (including the “Do Not Disturb” sign) can be manipulated with a Control 4 touchscreen room-automation remote control, or directly through the room’s HDTV. A forthcoming iPad app will also allow the tablet to double as a room remote.
Since guests register with the Aria’s data system, the hotel can store all room setting information indefinitely. If a guest returns a year later, their room can be prepped with the same lighting, entertainment and climate settings as during their previous stay.
Other elite hotels offer such advanced automation, but the Aria is the first to run the service to every room. On one level, it’s a gimmick. You can always get up to close the curtains or turn off a light. But, the real advance is still to come—hotel technicians are working on systems that would allows guests to control their room settings from across town through their cellphones. This could result in energy savings by allowing guests to turn off their a/c-saving energy usage as they could turn off their a/c when they leave—and turn it back on before they return to their rooms.
Once a guest’s smartphone is registered with the Aria, hotel attractions could push personalized notifications to the user. All the guest has to do is hit a button, and the agreement will be akin to a signature. And since the Aria is able to track cellphones while on resort grounds, the hotel will easily be able to send guests special features and offers depending on who they are and where they are standing at any given moment. Are you a known blackjack player? The resort can let you know about empty player chairs at the $25 tables. Like buffets and standing near the dining area? They can send you a digital coupon for $2 off your brunch.
The House Always Wins
Players will find slots, video poker and the other gambling standards throughout the Aria (after all, this is Vegas). But these aren’t just any gambling stations—they have updatable, changeable games controlled and monitored by the Aria’s 3000-square-foot data center. The stations, which have hi-def screens that are each run by a Mac Mini, give the house stats on which games are the most popular, allowing the control room to change them accordingly. One-dollar slots not doing well? Change them to a quarter. Video Poker beating out slots? Turn slot machines into poker machines with a keystroke.
Flexible gambling tech will be essential to other massive Vegas casinos in the future. Gambling is no longer the primary revenue producer in Sin City, with big-budget shows, spas and restaurants now eclipsing the gaming floor.
Visitors with a limited vacation budget want something for their money—like the memory of a special event or a lavish meal, and not a pile of vanishing quarters at the video-poker machine. When these risk-averse tourists gamble, they tend to weigh their chances and select their games more carefully. So, giving a casino the opportunity to create a more popular gambling machine should allow them to increase revenue.
Smartphone Key Cards
Over the next two years, biometric smartphones will drive further features at the Aria and other tech-forward hotels. “We want to get to the point where we can encode your cellphone so you can use it as your credit card, you room key and your Player’s Club card,” says John Bollen, CityCenter’s vice president of technology. “Guests would open their door or pay for a product or service with a specially developed app.” According to Bollen, an Aria app should also work at other MGM properties in Vegas.
And since every inch of the Aria is covered by what the hotel calls a “heat-sensitive” Wi-Fi network, phones are less likely to find themselves in dead spots. That heat-sensitive technology reads the density of activity on the network, and adds Wi-Fi muscle to parts of the grid that require more bandwidth.
While using a smartphone as a keycard or credit card certainly sounds appealing, it has obvious security risks, and it could prove difficult for customers to get comfortable with the idea. Hotels like the Aria will have to install multiple levels of encryption and data protection to prevent fraud and privacy violations.
Watching What You Eat
All dining facilities feature digital menus on the casino floor, at every gaming station and in the restaurants themselves. The Aria’s data-hub tracks how many people access the menus, what they access, when they access and what they order. The hotel’s food mavens can calculate how many people read the menu compared to how many eat in the restaurant, track what items are selling, and easily adjust menu selections and prices on the fly.
So far, hotel statistics indicate patrons who scroll through an entire menu tend to move on to something else. Those who stop halfway, though, often get a table.
In the recent past, it would have taken weeks of record keeping and analysis for chefs and restaurant managers to deduce what their top earners were. Now, the real-time, data-linked menus can immediately read trends from the dinner table and analyze it with a quick and easy cost–benefit table. This could be a problem for guests who enjoy less popular fringe items, which could be pushed off the menu.
Who’s Watching You?
The Aria’s Honeywell camera surveillance system—and those like it at other hotels—could eventually be used for more than security monitoring. The cameras can use facial recognition software to tell who’s coming and going, and to home in on VIPs to whisk them to the front of a line or shower them with special treatment.
But there are perks to Big Brother watching you—if you’re a VIP, that is. For example, if a guest has a Player’s Club Card, and his or her face is ID’d (or a smartphone detected), there’ll be no need to stand in line at the club. A concierge will scan for the right faces and phones before escorting those chosen people in ahead of the crowd.
When you combine such cameras with the smartphone network, no one—especially frequent guests—will be able to move around the property with anonymity. And for frequent guests, the hotel might know an uncomfortable amount of personal information—from what they eat, to what TV stations they watch.
While the idea of using photovoltaic technology in windows to harvest sunlight for conversion to energy is not new, Smart Energy Glass (SEG) is taking a slightly different approach with a solar window that can be darkened or lightened for comfort and convenience.
The window’s opacity can be adjusted for three modes; dark, privacy, and light. Dark will harvest some light, while privacy will harvest the most. The energy is used to power the window itself and eventually lights and ventilation could be run from the energy harvested. Additionally clients can choose the color of glass and add logos if required.
SEG has obvious advantages for office cladding as in summer heat and light streaming through the window can make working conditions uncomfortable, while in winter much warmth is lost via the glass. But it could also have advantages on a smaller or domestic scale, for presentations, or in homes with sun-facing windows.
No details are yet available on the exact mechanics of the Smart Energy Glass. Peer+ says the patent pending technology is still under development and we can expect updates as pilot programs get underway this year in the Netherlands.
As a long-time prefab proselytizer I approached Sheri Koone’s new book with some trepidation. I used to believe, as she still does, that “Prefab is intrinsically green” but don’t any more; where you build is fundamentally as important as what you build. I feared that the entire book would be filled with pretty houses in the country with columns and brackets and cupolas like the one on the cover. Or that it would make the argument that just being prefab was enough to make a house green. Fortunately, the book is better than that.
In fact there are quite a few houses that occupy relatively small footprints, are on urban sites and that are built with seriously green materials, such as this house in Durham, North Carolina by the design/build firm Studio B Architecture/ BuildSense. It was panelized and finished on site, and the architect writes:
The house is built on an urban infill site, it has correctly oriented and shaded openings, it is insulated with open-cell foam for superior r-value and extremely low air infiltration, and it has 2×6 exterior wall framing for a larger insulation cavity. We installed a high SEER, high velocity heat pump, a rinnai tankless water heater, ultra efficient appliances, and high performance windows & doors.
And that is not even in the section of the book labelled “greenest.”
In the greenest home section, we find TreeHugger stalwarts like Steve Glenn’s first Living Home, (TreeHugger here) Michelle Kaufman’s mkLotus, and others that are a lot more than just prefab, but really are green.
Perhaps the use of the word “sustainable” in the title is a bit of a stretch. It still has quite a few of the very expensive and very nicely put together little numbers like the Rebecca Leland Farmhouse . Even a roof full of photovoltaics is not going to make this sustainable, unless they garage the SUV and actually start farming.
But like so many coffee table design books, these are aspirational. We learned from Matt recently that Americans are not particularly interested in going green and making changes in their lives, and most evidently do still aspire to owning the house in the country. At least some discussion of green building will be on the coffee table.
I could complain about the size or location of many of the houses or the real definition of sustainability, or I could just acknowledge that Sheri Koones has curated an interesting and eclectic selection of more energy efficient, healthier and often very beautiful prefab homes.
More at Sheri Koones site
Paper for airplanes: This paper (top), made from layers of tiny clay discs and a polymer (seen under the microscope at bottom), might be used as a strong, lightweight coating for buildings and airplanes. Credit: Andreas Walther
A strong material inspired by abalone shells could be applied over large areas.
For decades, materials scientists have looked to naturally existing composites as inspiration for tough, lightweight materials that could lighten vehicles. Such materials could save on fuel costs, protect airplanes, and be used in engine turbines that run more efficiently. The material that lines abalone shells, called nacre, has been of particular interest: it’s lightweight and strong, yet shatter-resistant. But mimicking the microscale structures responsible for its properties has been difficult, and hasn’t resulted in materials that can be manufactured on a large scale.
Now researchers in Helsinki, Finland, have developed a simple method for making large-area, nacre-like papers and coatings that could be painted on building walls and airplane skins for lightweight reinforcement. The researchers will work with the Finnish paper company UPM to commercialize the material.
“The excitement with nacre is that its properties are impressive when you consider what it’s made out of: calcium carbonate and a protein,” says Robert Ritchie, chair of the materials science and engineering department at the University of California, Berkeley, who is not involved with the coatings research. Nacre’s combination of interconnected plates of a very hard but shatter-prone material with an infill of a very soft but ductile material results in a composite whose properties are better than the sum of its parts. By starting with better materials, such as industrial ceramics and polymers or metal, it should be possible to make a synthetic composite whose properties are even better than those of nacre.
Most efforts to mimic the nacre structure’s combination of hard and soft materials have centered on structural materials that could provide a lightweight alternative to steel in building and vehicle frames and engine turbines. Steel is tough–that is, it doesn’t fracture when it’s stressed. Materials such as ceramics can’t be used for structural applications because they’re not tough. They can hold up under the stress of a great weight, but they’re prone to shattering. Last year, for example, Ritchie’s group made a nacre-like material that is the toughest ceramic ever made. In the form of a coating, such a strong, tough material could reinforce walls and airplane skins without adding significant weight. Previous work on making tough biomimetic coatings has stayed in the lab because these materials involved very laborious processes, such as dipping a glass slide in two solutions 1,800 times, to make thin coatings over small areas.
Article Continues - http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/24828/?a=f
Posted by: Desh
Architect Michael Reynolds, better known as the Garbage Warrior, sought the creative support of his 12-man crew and a couple of volunteers to erect a self-sufficient, off-the-grid construction near Yellowstone River, in Miles City, Montana. The green house, dubbed as Earthship, is made of tires, beer bottles and pop cans. Energy independence is ensured via a thermal mass construction that offers temperature stabilization. Furthermore, renewable energy and integrated water systems contribute toward negligible utility bills.
The owners of this house, Scott Elder and Karia Lund, were so very concerned about the element of energy self-sufficiency that they employed every eco-measure one can think of. Special steel belted bricks were made by ramming dirt into 650 tires. Cementing empty soda cans and beer bottles with adobe mud, straw and glue, the couple formed the interior walls.
You could see solar panels on the top of the angled walls that recharge the roof-mounted batteries. The 1,100-square-foot home is powered with batteries contained in the brain room. The bathroom shower is amply elevated to bring gray-water recycling system into effect. A rainwater harvesting system collects up to 6,000 gallons of water in cisterns and reuses it thrice. The rainwater passes through four filters to become potable. After using it for cooking and washing, the water is made to drain through rocks, and further, it is used to water the plants. And that’s not all for sure; the grimy water is reused for flushing the toilets.
No LED clocks, microwave, curling irons, hair dryer or electric mixer are there in the house. For emergencies, there is a back-up wood stove always ready. A well-insulated refrigerator that runs on 24-volt direct current, a propane heater that fuels the gas stove, and a wind generator are responsible for an annual utility bill of $150 only.
More pictures and videos -> http://www.greendiary.com/entry/earthship-montana-unorthodox-off-the-grid-abode-is-green-to-the-core/
I like the idea of Vertical farming – it puts the food closer to the people; old neglected parts of cities could be used; it would create local jobs; and there would be food when regular food producing places suffer from weather related problems; food is grown indoors, so produce could be produced year around and without pesticides; these types of farms would be built with homes around them (integrating the two together), a much better idea than more endless mega-malls and strip malls.
The idea for vertical farming was born in 1999 in a Columbia University classroom when Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences and microbology, offhandedly mentioned the idea to his students. Inspired by the idea, Despommier and his class made the first outline of a vertical farm in 2001, and created the website verticalfarm.com to chronicle their research.
The benefits of vertical farming are, according to Despommier, manifold. First of all, it would protect crops from weather-related failures due to floods, droughts and pests. Secondly, it would help fight climate change. How so? Despommier argues that a major reason our climate is changing is because of the depletion of forests, that are often cleared out for crops. If forests were able to regrow where crops now exist, it would lessen carbon dioxide emissions.
One of the largest motivators for vertical farms is overpopulation. According to New York magazine, nearly all the land that could potentially be farmed is already being farmed on. Vertical farms would be built in urban areas and would have the resources to feed people on a massive scale.
It all sounds great, but combining agricultural practices with sustainable buildings, and making it all affordable, however, might be a little trickier. To that, Despommier says they should be funded by private sources. And for the time being, that’s not stopping architects from putting their ideas out there. We’ve compiled some of the most intriguing vertical farm designs out there that, under ideal circumstances, would be sustainable, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. Have a look, and vote for your favorite.
Chris Jacobs, of United Future, designed one of the first vertical farms which, according to National Geographic, is modeled after the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles. It is crowned with a rotating solar panel that follows the sun and powers the interior cooling systems.
While not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other designs, Paignton Zoo‘s vertical farm has something the others don’t have– it actually exists. The farm uses a hydroponic system to feed its animals, enabling them to grow 11,000 plants, which is 20 times more than they would using the same space on the ground.
By Darren Quick
The idea of tailoring architecture to the requirements of a prison is by no means new – most famously the Panopticon design by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham has been the blueprint for many prisons since the late 1800s. A new Vertical Prison concept is not as draconian in its ambitions with its aim of rehabilitating prisoners by allowing them to remain a part of society and allow them to contribute to it, while using height as a wall to separate them from it.
The Vertical Prison was designed by Malaysian architecture students Chow Khoon Toong, Ong Tien Yee, and Beh Ssi Cze, and took first place in eVolo Magazine’s annual Skyscraper Competition. Their project examines the possibility of creating a prison-city in the sky, where the inmates would live in a “free” and productive community with agricultural fields, factories and recycling plants that would be operated by the offenders as a way to give back to the community and support the host city below them.
Recognizing that many prisons are nothing more than a school for criminals, the prison design aims to rehabilitate inmates by invoking a sense of community. In allowing the prison to become a part of the community and form a symbiotic relationship with the it, the designers also believe that the social stigma of a prison would be softened resulting in greater acceptance of inmates and a better chance they will be given another opportunity upon re-entering society after their incarceration.
The Vertical Prison employs a modular design to maximize flexibility. A girder box structure is used to house a variety of different units and form a communal space. Inmates are housed in Cell Units that themselves can be customized with different “loopholes” or openings appropriate to the behavior or level of danger of the inmate. Depending on its location within a city the prison could include Agricultural Units to grow food for the city, Industrial Units to help in the recycling of industrial waste or Juvenile Units to scare kids straight.
Recidivism rates among prisoners suggest the system – in the US at least and the many countries with similar systems – is not working. In California, which has the highest recidivism rate in the US, seven out of ten prisoners return to prison within three years. That translates to a tremendous burden on the taxpayer. So if the new prison concept was found to be successful, ideas like it might not be as expensive in the long run as they first appear.