the way we live

building integrated wind turbines


there’s been a lot of buzz lately dealing with building integrated renewable resources such as solar and wind.  these are both phenomenal ideas that lead to far fewer emissions, less reliance on commercially generated energy, and economic savings.  advances in the fields of wind technology and photovoltaics are happening at a staggering pace as of late.  one of my favorite new technologies is the photovoltaic film in which  pv cells are literally printed on flexible materials and are relatively transparent.  this means such films can be overlaid on almost any surface turning any window or roof into a solar power generating unit without spending large amounts of money and resources to grow the ultra-high quality silcon wafers normally required for pv cells.  according to treehugger this morning a high-rise building in bahrain, the bahrain world trade center, has just installed wind turbines making it the first structure to make use of building integrated wind turbines in the world.  while i’ve seen a great number of academic proposals and schemes for such technology and a number of real projects on the drawing boards as of late (including som’s pearl river tower in guandong, china as seen below), this is the first building to actually use biwt, granted, in this case, it’s a retrofit.


nonetheless the added turbines are expected to generate 11-15% of the buildings required energy while eliminating the production of some 55,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.  positioning of the turbines was done in such a way to maximize wind speed through the rotors using the bernoulli principle, which is, in effect, the idea that forcing the same amount of air through a smaller space (the area between the twin towers) actually increases the wind speed thus creating more potential energy (see below).  additionally, the turbines have been oriented to face the prevailing gulf winds.  i for one am ecstatic that this technology is finally being integrated.  it will be a great day when we can reduce every building’s emissions to zero and have the capability for them to be 100% sustainable and self-sufficient in terms of energy demands.



26 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, green | Leave a comment

renzo’s stand


yesterday’s new york times had an article reporting that architect renzo piano has withdrawn from a boston project citing his disinterest in a project that would require the demolition of a well-known paul rudolph building from the 60s.  commonly known as the blue cross/blue shield building, rudolph’s building is beloved for is distinctly ornate facades that flew in the face of contemporary modernism of the time.  developer, steve belkin, was apparently insistent upon expanding the scope and size of the project.  this move necessitated demolition of the rudolph structure next door.  i’m ecstatic to see that mr. piano put his foot down in such a socially responsible way.  consequently the boston landmark commission has slapped a 90 day delay in demolition on the project so the situation can more readily be assessed.  belkin, however, has simply hired another firm to persue mr. piano’s design.  here’s hoping boston extends that 90 day injunction indefinitely.  mr. piano has always been an architect deserving of admiration.  personally, i can’t wait until his art institute expansion is completed here in chicago.  some of mr. piano’s other more famous project include the pompidou centre in paris and the tjibaou cultural center in new caledonia.

24 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, society | Leave a comment

what the?


i was hitting the stumble button in firefox yesterday when i literally stumbled upon this image.  this most bizarre situation was apparently part of an urban art project from back in 2005 in new york city.  i can only imagine what people who happened to walk outside and see this floating down the hudson thought.  the project called “floating island” was the brainchild of artist robert smithson.  its a rather interesting project in its sheer unusual nature.  it’s one of those images that just confuses, certainly not a situation you would ever expect to see.


23 March 2007 Posted by | green, society | 1 Comment

utah house


i ventured over to marmol radziner’s website today as i haven’t been there in a while.  i found beautiful new custom prefab located in utah, aptly named utah house 1.  designed with 15 of marmol radziner’s typical modules, the house is 2,500 square feet in area with over 1,700 square feet of outdoor deck space and has two bedrooms and two bathrooms among other living spaces.  perched on a rocky hill with a commanding view, the floor plan  of utah house 1 branches out and begins to claim outdoor areas as part of the house, similar to many of marmol radziner’s custom prefabs.


sustainable features include pv cells on the roof, insulating glass, naturally lit spaces, natural ventilation, responsible woods, and energy efficient appliances.  of course, the prefabricated nature of the architecture lends itself to reducing construction waste and debris while increasing quality control.  the subtle, natural, colors employed throughout the design begin to engage the site in a delicate, organic, dialogue.  the magic, for me, happens in the winter though, as the structure stands like a warm toned rocky outcropping amid the fresh snow (see below).  additionally, the low slung nature of the design only serves to emphasize the buildings natural surroundings and make the views to and from the house that much more dramatic.  venture over to marmol radziner’s project page to see more great photos and wonderful images of in-factory assembly and on-site installation.


21 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | Leave a comment

wooster collective


the other day i stumbled upon the wooster collective while procrastinating online. the wooster collective, “is dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world.” the website literally celebrates, documents, and displays street art and graffiti in a wonderful way. i’m reminded of two similar examples here: first, an old bldgblog post documenting a sort of reverse graffiti in which the artist actually created his images by cleaning dirt off the wall creating an inherently temporary ephemeral piece of art. second, i’m reminded of a post from a daily dose of architecture that was literally about “graffititecture,” which is essentially the art of using graffiti to intentionally decorate architecture. personally i love street art. naturally, in some cases, there are serious issues with destruction of property, but in plenty of situations and circumstances it’s harmless. as an art form, i find it extremely creative and somehow both intensely personal and overtly public at the same time. i love how street art begs the question, “is this private space, or is this public space?” most of all, i have a real affinity for socially conscious street art, or graffiti that engages the spatial user and forces them to think. regardless, head on over to the wooster collective and check it out.

20 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, society | Leave a comment

social design network


good magazine’s latest issue has a small write-up about a wonderful new online network of ideas.  design21: social design network’s aim is to connect designers with each other in efforts to solve real-world social issues through better design.  essentially it is a community of designers trying to accomplish change so that people the world over may lead more healthy and happy lives.  A section of design21: sdn’s website is devoted to competitions in which they practically engage their network’s conceptual goals.  outside of competitions design21: sdn offers links to a variety of non-profits, charities, programs, and educational resources including the wonderful millennium promise.  if you’ve never been there, i’d recommend perusing the pages of design 21: social design network today.  additionally, if you’ve never heard of or seen good magazine you can read a great review of it by an old housemate of mine over at perpetual-elaboration.

20 March 2007 Posted by | society | Leave a comment

modular habitat


mocoloco had a wonderful link this morning to a modular home designed for habitat humanity by students and faculty at auburn university in alabama.  the home has won an aia housing award for 2007.  the designhabitat2 house, as it’s called, was both designed and built by auburn students under the tutelage of professor david w. hinson, aia.  two factory-built modules at opposing sides of the structure were connected on-site by a central, site-built, portion.  as a habitat for humanity home is, this dwelling is modest; unlike most habitat homes, that tend to be standard cookie-cutter suburban tract homes, this one has a wonderfully articulated design.  i love the delicate nature of the butterfly roof at the central core.  it would be phenomenal if this was part of a rain water catchment system to provide use of greywater on site; unfortunately, i have no idea as to whether this is happening or not.  naturally though, the modular prefab nature of the dwelling makes it more environmentally friendly than typical on-site construction.  no word on other sustainable aspects of the home, if any, but i would suspect that the rest of the house is fairly sensitive to sustainable issues as most modular homes tend to be.  there are some wonderful construction photos available at the designhabitat2 website.


19 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | Leave a comment

eames lounge chair


recently there’s been a link floating around for a phenomenal video that shows the delicate craft and assembly required in creating one of charles and ray eames’ famously beautiful lounge chairs.  i’ll be the first to admit that this is probably my favorite piece of furniture ever designed.  the eames’ were some of the most prolific furniture designers of their time and probably the fathers of modern ergonomics as seen in the lounge chairs and molded plywood chairs.  their molded plywood chairs (as seen below) found themselves into almost ever american classroom in the form of one knock-off or another.


the eames’ also produced wonderful short films, including the classic, and arguably the most famous short film ever, powers of ten, an exploration in how we view the universe as seen through the journey from the core of the atom to edge of the universe zooming out by powers of ten every second (there was actually a great simpson’s spoof of this in one opening credits scene).  and in case you wanted to purchase a lounge chair, they can be bought at design within reach.

17 March 2007 Posted by | materials, products, society | Leave a comment

best jobs


us news and world report just released their “best careers of 2007.”  in a survey of american adults us news rated the “best” 25 professions of the year using a rubric of six categories.  while architecture made the list half of the grades weren’t so stellar.  median pay, job market outlook, and attainability sunk the architect’s ratings while quality of life, prestige, and typical degree required were on the up and up.  from the inside looking out this seems fairly accurate.  it’s worth a look-see.

17 March 2007 Posted by | architecture, society | Leave a comment

nevada solar one


just outside of boulder city, nevada lies this brand new solar power plant that is scheduled to be turned on next month according to the energy blog.  called nevada solar one, it is similar to something we discussed before in arizona; this plant uses solar parabolic troughs to heat oil running through specially coated pipes which, in turn, spins turbines.  covering some 300 acres, or 13,068,000 square feet, nevada solar one features 760 mirror arrays at about 100 meters each.  there are a staggering 184,000 mirrors at nevada solar one.  the plant is scheduled to produce approximately 64 megawatts of power which should be enough to power well over 50,000 homes with 100% renewable and environmentally friendly energy.


16 March 2007 Posted by | green, society, urban planning | Leave a comment