the way we live

australia bans incandescent lights


over the next 5 years australia is phasing out the use of incandescent lights according to recently passed legislation according to usa today. by 2012 australia hopes to be incandescent free saving an estimated 4,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from being emitted annually. alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lights (cfl), use only about 20%-25% of the power required to generate the same amount of light. for example a 13 watt cfl can produce as much light as a 60 watt incandescent. the result is less pollution and cheaper energy bills. consumers can save upwards of 50%-80% on their electricity bills just by switching out their light bulbs. to put that in perspective, if every american household (110 million of them) changed only one light bulb to a cfl, the energy saved could power a city of 1.5 million people, or in other terms, it would be like removing 1.3 million cars from our roads.  jill over at inhabitat had a very thorough, very informative article on the subject of lighting as part of their green building 101 series (which by the way you should make a point of checking out).  nonetheless, bravo australia for taking the initiative. now go change your light bulbs; it’s by far, the easiest way to shrink your carbon footprint (and save you money too!).

21 February 2007 Posted by | green, products, society | 1 Comment

corb v2.0


i’ve always had mixed feelings about le corbusier. on the one hand works like ronchamp and the villa savoye are very inspiring, site specific, intimately human scale (i love those varying punched windows at ronchamp), and groundbreaking.  on the other hand his theories, while great theories, were always implemented horribly (here’s a great article/design manifesto partially discussing this that’s worth reading).  “machines for living,” is a phenomenal idea; basically it’s the idea that our building’s and homes are really nothing more than machines that enable our lives and such, as such, make living simpler and more enjoyable.  his proposal for a “city for 3 million” shows the disconnect between the theory and implementation, or design/livability.  additionally, the method of the implementation of “machines for living” and the “tower and the garden” led to 40 years of oppressive public housing in america, but that’s a whole different post.  however, the other day i read a great post by sarah rich over at about australian architect andrew maynard.  he has revisited this idea of “machines for living” in what he calls corb v2.0.  in his very intriguing proposal lie notions of sustainability, flexibility, mobility, and social hierarchy among others.  the proposal for essentially ever fluctuating “neighborhoods” of container ship homes being constantly rearranged is extremely fun.  for sake of slaughtering his wonderful ideas with my explanations i’ll just tell you it’s worth checking out.

20 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, prefab, society, urban planning | 1 Comment

the living home


ray kappe, founder of sci-arc (southern california institute of architecture), has designed this behemoth prefab called the living home, or as inhabitat refers to it as, “the cadillac of prefab homes.” earning a leed platinum award for scoring 91 out of a possible 108 points, this prefab is pretty sustainable. the materials used in the living home are intended to keep indoor air fresh (ie, not off-gas harmful contaminants) and the construction processes use only environmentally sustainable materials and systems. naturally, as one can tell from the image above this house resembles a prefab in no way. this means that construction components have been assembled off-site and shipped to site for construction in a kit of parts sort of manner as opposed to some of the other prefabs we’ve discussed. the downside is that this method still produces construction waste as a result of assembly (of course, far less than non-prefab), the upside is that it looks like any architecturally designed house on the block and not a warehouse assembled box (akin to this clean aesthetic). regardless, the living home is quite striking and certainly, according to the numbers and info on the living home website, very sustainable and at $180-$250 a square foot is seems reasonably priced (though certainly not cheap).


19 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | 1 Comment

daylight in your basement


here’s a great new product; it’s called the solatube.  the solatube is essentially a system of transporting sunlight into previously unlit rooms within your house, sort of like a skylight with more potential and a greater cool factor.  similar to the suntracker one, manufactured by natures lighting, the solatube is mounted on the roof and uses a system of mirrors to optimally track the path of the sun throughout the daylight hours.  the architecture of the mirrors reflects the suns rays down a tube made of, “the most reflective material on earth” as the website says.  the actual sunlight can then make its way into rooms deep within your house where no sun would normally be.  no electricity is used in this process (i assume it means the mirrors are powered by photovoltaics) meaning you get light without using energy and the light itself, in effect, saves you from using energy in the form of incandescent or fluorescent lights within your home.  an interesting example of this savings can be found on the website for the suntracker one:

“at a new wal-mart supercenter in aurora, colo., 28 daylighting units save a total of $23,184 yearly, compared to fluorescent lamps totaling the same light output.  the savings would avoid producing 618,200 pounds of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, 1,793 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 1,076 pounds of sulfur dioxide.  sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides pollute air, creating smog.  nitrogen oxides harm earth’s ozone layer.”

so their you have it, cool product, energy saver, and environment saver, what more could one ask for?


16 February 2007 Posted by | materials, products | Leave a comment

zenkaya prefab


here’s another great prefab to add to the list: the zenkaya original. zenkaya is a company out of south africa manufacturing stunningly good-looking prefab houses. their houses range from 20.4 sq. meter studio units to 61.2 sq. meter two-bedroom units and are reasonably priced. each is 100% manufactured in their warehouse unlike other prefabs in which units or pieces are manufactured off-site and shipped to site for assembly. their process means there is zero waste from construction on-site, everything can be assembled according to very tight tolerances, and they have more control over materials being used. each prefab is shipped to site like a trailer (similar to the shipping container prefabs you will see). the materials zenkaya uses are all sustainable in nature including the sustainably harvested cedar wood. they ship 2-12 weeks after ordering. order yours today.


15 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | Leave a comment

led lights and greener cities


michelle wyman writes, “if cities chose to make all their buildings, products, and services, environmentally friendly, the financial, environmental, and health benefits would be staggering.” it’s a great point and something we’ve talked about before.  michelle, as director of the international council of local envrionmental issues (iclei-usa), is engaged in part of a five-week public dialogue called turning the ship: environmental transformation of the u.s. economy sponsored by  the argument here is the cities hold tremendous ability to sway the market with their incredible buying powerful and capabilities to rewrite local building codes and laws to enforce and encourage green building practices and sustainable architecture.  wyman cites four cities as prime examples of this idea: denver, colorado, new york, new york, chicago, illinois, and austin, texas.  wyman’s thoughts, entitled, “going green, buying green: the power of local government dollars,” can be found at  this forum is an excellent example of collaboration and ingenuity.  the ideas laid out by wyman are very succinct and extremely powerful.  i for one, agree that individual cities have undeniable power in reversing the direction of global warming through their local codes, laws, incentives, and buying power.  i love the truth in the idea that they can influence huge swaths of the market and public opinion in this way.

14 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, society | Leave a comment

isn’t everyone sleepy?


the last blog i discovered inspired me to find a few more great ones. sleepyurbanite is another photoblog, this one, however, is done via a camera phone. sleepyurbanite, as you may expect, focuses on people sleeping in public places, which is an incredible common yet incredibly personal experience.


technology meets indie art. i love the word-free narrative presented in these images. the honesty of people caught at their most vulnerable points inside the urban environment. the images themselves are intriguing, yet simple. all in all, sleepyurbanite is a fasciniting site with a unique idea worthy of a look-see.


13 February 2007 Posted by | photo, society, web 2.0 | Leave a comment

eye candy


the other day i ran across a wonderful blog called looper. the blog is a photo journal from one person’s perspective in the chicago loop. devyn, who runs looper, lives on block 58 which is smack dab in the heart of loop. his photos are phenomenal; i find his night shots especially stunning.


the beauty and simplicity presented in many of his images is soothing. personally, i love how each picture presents a unique aspect of city life, some candid, some planned, all brilliant. if you haven’t seen looper, i’d recommend you head over there and give it a once over, it’s worth the trip. devyn has a link to his old site at the top as well as a link to buy his photos (at very reasonable prices i might add). you can contact him at i’ve always found this sort of artistic presentation of the urban experience very engaging.


13 February 2007 Posted by | photo, society, web 2.0 | 2 Comments

a greener los angeles


the folks over at worldchanging have a great article on the initiatives underway by mayor villaraigosa in los angeles to turn l.a. into the greenest city in the united states.  it’s starting to look like mayor daley in chicago has some serious competition as he has been on the same push for a couple years now aided by eco-design guru william mcdonough.  regardless the goals set out by the l.a. mayor’s office are pleasantly progressive.  first and foremost, the city aims to increase the number of leed certified green buildings throughout l.a.  newer, greener, architecture would pave the way for alarmingly less energy consumption city-wide.  they also discuss generating 20% of their power by renewable technologies by 2010 (they currently generate only 6% this way), via wind, solar, and geothermals to name a few.  water conservation is high on the list, in fact, the l.a. department of water services is the largest consumer of electricity in the state.  transportation is being addressed in the form of major pushes to increase car pool lanes, bike use, and implement a real system of mass transit including light rail (they aim to have all the city’s buses running on natural gas by 2008).  other initiatives include converting 70% of their wasted into recycled materials (ie, diverting 70% of waste from landfills) by 2015.  finally, among other initiatives is the plan to plant 1,000,000 trees throughout the city.  these are some phenomenal ideas; i for one, sincerely hope this happens.  l.a. has so much going for it already if they can implement a true mass transit system and green themselves in these ways they can add model city to the list of los angeles descriptions.

12 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, society, urban planning | Leave a comment

desert solar power


in the last post we discussed a newly planned and currently under construction offshore windfarm near galveston, texas, this time the story is about a new solar power plant outside of tuscon, arizona. the plant, currently in the planning stages, will generate 250 megawatts of power, enough to power160,000 to 200,000 homes in the southwest united states. the plan is a result of discussions between arizona public service, salt river project, and tuscon electric power and they are currently seeking approval from the necessary boards. most likely this solar farm will use a new type of architecture, something called solar parabolic trough technology rather than the more expensive photovoltaic cells (pv cells are still pricey because of the delicate nature of growing the required high grade silicon wafers used in capturing the light energy of the sun). rather the solar parabolic trough method uses parabolic mirrors that efficiently track the course of the sun throughout the daytime hours and concentrate the light on steel tubes coated with phase changing materials (pcms). these tubes absorb the heat into oil that runs through them creating heated oil at over 600 degrees fahrenheit. as this heated oil passes through a heat exchanger it is transformed into steam that turns a turbine generator. companies like solargenix are already manufacturing this new technology. just like the offshore windfarm i’m glad to see renewables actually catching on; i can’t wait until this sort of power generation becomes common place.

12 February 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, society | 3 Comments