Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category


New Layout!

February 2, 2008

Let me know if you like it.  Theoretically the sidebars being a dark blue should reduce your computer electricity usage when viewing the page ;), ala blackle.


Beware Of Vampires…

December 18, 2007

Via The Sietch and Materialicious.


Consumption happens even when you’re not looking.  Problem is that you invited it in.  Trent at The Simple Dollar clued me in to “smart power strips” which cut power to devices on the strip based on the on/off status of a master device.  For example, plug the tv, vcr, dvd player, and game console all into one of these strips, and judging by the above chart, the dvd player should get master status.  You’ll not only reduce your energy dependence but save hundreds of dollars a year in the process! 🙂


How the Media stole Christmas

December 16, 2007

via kopipengkau

I notice more and more each year how the media seeks to corrupt the giving spirit of the season into a shopping frenzy. Whether it’s the diamond ads running every commercial break or the quaint image of a mother reading the Toys R Us catalog as a bedtime story, we are being told that the key to spreading holiday joy is through material goods.

Gifts aren’t about materiality, it’s about giving. Perhaps the best commercial I’ve seen this season involves a young man who instead of purchasing his mother a traditional gift buys a suit and tie and comes home dressed cleanly and properly (could have used a haircut though). Although he did indeed make a purchase, it isn’t something that will clutter his mother’s mantle for years to come. Instead his gift was a fond memory, a great family-photo opportunity, and the knowledge that he has invested in himself. That suit will carry him through job interviews for years to come.

Resist the advertising. Your gifts shouldn’t be quantified by the amount you spend, but qualified by the time you put in.


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.


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 :



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:


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!


Sustainable Santa

December 11, 2007

via Things With Wings and Evan Sparks

Which is more efficient, Rudolph’s nose or an LED?  Maybe it’s time for an upgrade…


Break Transit Summary: Car (with Parents)

December 9, 2007

12-9.jpgThis is the final post of a 4-part series evaluating my varied travel experiences over a week holiday.

After a delicious Thanksgiving holiday I headed home from St. Louis with my parents in my dad’s 2005 GMC Yukon. In my ideal world we would have taken my mother’s 2003 Toyota Prius which gets about 40 mpg. However as my aunt had made my mom a sizable piece of furniture for her birthday we needed the Yukon’s trunk space and so settled with the painful 17 mpg highway. To be completely honest, we probably would have taken the Yukon anyway, even though it costs $120 more in gas and releases 1236lbs in extra CO2 roundtrip. My dad prefers the Yukon’s roominess. I must admit it’s pretty easy to fall asleep in the backseat, but I abhor driving this behemoth.

This was easily the “worst” leg of my journey environmentally. But it fascinating to learn just how “green” the Prius really is when compared to the current kings of the road. My efficiency data came from; a site I highly recommend for anyone considering a car purchase. Besides showing the EPA’s estimate of gas usage, they display information graphically and with “real-life” assessments such as “how much does it cost to drive 25 miles?” Nearly all makes and models from 1985-present are included. Surprisingly, the figures were recently recalculated to reflect more accurately driving speeds and climate, which has caused most of the ratings to go down. Go see how your car compares!

Other posts in this series:





3 Sustainable Goals for Gift-Giving

December 4, 2007

lugano.jpgAlthough Black Friday was over a week ago, I am just now putting together my Santa’s list for my gift-giving this year. As I become a more conscious environmentalist, its value in my consumer ethos has increased. Therefore, here are my 3 sustainable goals for gifts this holiday season:

1-Give gifts that enrich the lives of their recipients rather than quickly becoming another piece of clutter in their lives. The key to this goal is the experience. Many people see gifts as objects, when in fact service-oriented gifts can be just as rewarding. Verda Vivo offers great examples of this. However, this doesn’t preclude material goods provided they fulfill a need or want in the recipients life, such as a digital camera for an aspiring photographer or a tool kit for a recent grad. For the person that already has everything, a consumable gift can be a great choice, such as lotion or a specialty food item. A truly valuable gift is one that is used by the recipient rather than continually being set aside until enough time has passed to throw it away. Give these kinds of gifts and you’ll not only get better reactions, but you’ll be reducing superfluous materiality.

2-Give gifts that don’t break me financially. It’s important to have sustainable financial habits as well as environmental. Maintaining control over holiday spending results in the freedom come January to continue pursuing your green dreams without the fear of debt overload. Our society tries to put a price tag on love, goodwill, and the holiday spirit. But there is a lot of truth to the old saying “It’s the thought that counts.”

3-Give gifts that have a minimal negative impact on the environment, and optimally have a positive impact. Even when a gift meets the first two qualifications, there often remains some leeway on this one. When faced with two equally appropriate gifts in your price range, choose the one that’s better for the earth. Maybe it means organic, locally produced, or perhaps even “pre-owned.” Don’t be afraid to re-gift an item in good condition that just isn’t working for you; especially if it will work better for someone else.

Still don’t know what to get for someone? Tomorrow I’ll spill the beans on my Top-Secret Sustainable Holiday Gift Idea. Just don’t tell my friends or family 😉