Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

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An Attempt At Architecture

December 13, 2007

I was asked recently by Geoff to describe my thesis, as I had mentioned it earlier. I’ll admit it’s a little hard to write about, as it forces me to try and define something that is still very fluid, even though I currently have what looks more or less like a building.

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My site is in Chicago on the north side near Lake Michigan. The neighborhood is mostly 2-4 story residential, commercial, and mixed use construction, and many of the buildings are 100+ years old. I’m creating a series of apartment row houses to study the dwelling needs of the modern family and how solutions to those needs can be carbon neutral. While these structures will sit next to each other on site and interact as an apartment community, they are also an iterative process of discrete attempts to create spaces based on different familial conditions. Basically I’m designing them one at a time, each as it’s own study. The point is not to approach architectural perfection, but to examine the continuities and differences within a body of my own work. In each iteration I have been attempting to make private spaces and gathering places (not sure I like the rhyme) and exhibit qualities of simplicity and warmth and sustainability. Here are two of my sketch studies :

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While making the structures carbon neutral can influence the architectural language, it often also carries its own set of requirements and research. I’ve accessed local wind data and taken a site model into my university’s wind tunnel to assess the viability of using wind turbines on rooftops. Aerotecture is a Chicago company building turbines for commercial and residential use and has test locations in the same area as my site, so I’m theoretically using their 510V model in an array linked to the main electric grid. I’m planning on linking solar hot water heating to a geo-exchange system to provide radiant floor heating and perhaps even radiant ceiling cooling. 2 foot wide core walls between each design unit will help moderate solar gains, especially those from the non-conditioned access stairwells, which will rely solely on passive ventilation and shading for cooling and the sun for warmth.  Here’s one of my wind studies:

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There’s a lot left to do before graduation, as I still have a few iterations to go, plus several decisions about shared spaces, not to mention energy modeling so I can “prove” my carbon neutrality.  I’d welcome any input, so feel free to comment with questions or opinions!

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Welcome to GreenDweller

October 31, 2007

Ever since I first read about Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio in my second year of architecture school, I have wanted to pursue environmental design. I obtained my LEED® accreditation almost two years ago. Now I am preparing a thesis project that aims to be “zero-energy,” and hope to graduate this spring and transition into a career focused on sustainability in architecture.

But a nagging suspicion has been following me the past few months… I’m not really that “green.” It usually surfaces as I walk out of a dining hall with yet another Styrofoam container, or as I notice my cell phone charger has been plugged in for a week straight, or as I open a window to cool down a room that is overheated by a radiator I can’t turn off. How can I practice sustainable design if I don’t try to live sustainably as well?

I’d like to get the maximum value from the smallest environmental impact. I think there is a way to live a sustainable life that includes some comforts and accepts there are some things outside control (like the radiator!). This is a median that can get lost between the daunting expectations of hard-core environmentalists and the consumer culture of popular society. To achieve it requires research and changes in the way I live and use my time. That’s why this blog exists. If I’m bothering to look up carbon emissions, product chemicals, food processes, renewable energy systems, and sustainable techniques, I might as well share my findings. Hopefully you’ll give me some feedback and more things to think about. Maybe we’ll start a discussion. If we manage that, then this blog would truly be a success. But for right now this is starting out as my online green karma conscience. I’d better shape up, because either way you’ll be hearing about it.