very cool people

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

awesomeness #3

Shigeru Ban, one of my favorite architects, is pretty awesome. Just the way he thinks about using standardized, banal materials like paper tubes and shipping containers in poetic ways is very inspiring. Materials to build with are everywhere, and are usually free or cheap. Its the imagination to re-use them that is a rare find. Check out this Nomadic Museum he designed a few years ago. Its moved around from city to city for changing exhibtions.

Friday, May 14, 2010

awesomeness #2 - Architecture 5 cents

The skills most architects posess are invaluable concerning problem solving, space planning, beautifying, greening, etc etc...we make bad spaces good, and good spaces amazing, when you can afford us!.....which doenst happen for 98% of people in the US alone, much less the world. The world of architecture is inaccessible to most normal people. We're kind of a mystery of a profession, a dinosaur some say (Im one of them who says that).
When architect John Morefield got laid off, he decided to share his skills for free, well almost.....for 5 cents at a booth he started called Architecture 5 cents. I love this idea. People come up to him at the farmers market and they just ask him questions about design. I love how accessible it is. Some become his clients, but for the most part, its just about sharing the wealth of knowledge he's got, instead of keeping all that wisdom bottled up. Getting what you know out of your head and onto the street for 5 cents? Thats awesome.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

awesomeness 1 - OS House

I want to begin posting some things I would generally refer to as "awesomeness". I have a fodler where I keep these things and ideas, and I want to share them. Here is number 1:

I came across this organization today, called OS-House. I am really into how architecture and building can be tools for peacemaking at home and across the globe. Theyre often the opposite, but there is SO much potential for good its hard to get down about it. The OS House (short for Open Source House) is sponsoring a design competition for sustainable, affordable housing in Ghana, West Africa targeting low and middle income earners. Lots of buzzwords there to salivate over, but it seems like a lot of local knowledge, listening, and front end partnership were put into this. Lots of times these ideas have a real "saviour complex" attached to them, and you end up with 1920's international style modernism in the middle of the bush. Im hoping for something else here. We'll see what they come up with.

Friday, May 8, 2009

sky water

Im super pumped to be part of the Urban Farm Team at Circle of Hope, and I was asked to share what I know about rainwater harvesting for a talk a few of us will be giving in June. The more I think about it Im realizing I have a lot to share, from why we should consider it to 4 or 5 practical applications / simple systems we can build, ranging from the basic rain barrel to water your garden, to a pressurized cistern in your basement, to a small agricultural (urban farm) setup. My friend Stephan Way is really getting into the mix as well, and just got a rain barrel free from the city, and he is already watering his impressive vegetable garden, as well diverting the plentiful amounts of free water to wash his clothes. And there is a great article in our local Grid magazine from April as well.

A few reasons to care about catching and reusing sky water:
1. The next world war will be fought over water. Resuing rainwater, and learning not to waste potable water, builds an awareness of the water-wealth we live in, and helps us stand in solidarity with those who aren't so fortunate.
2. Reuing rainwater helps to lessen the load on our already ridiculously overtaxed "combined sewer systems." Basically, put that water to use in a garden instead of sending it to the river with the pollutants its going to pick up.
3. Refill those aquifers. Since the 1950's (+/-) our underground fresh water reserves have been dropping. Its like a big pot of water, and we're essentially interrupting the natural cycle and sending polluted fresh water to the rivers and eventually the ocean. its messed up.
4. Pay less for water, and go easy on mother earth already. Yes, water is cheap, you probably dont even think about it. The hidden costs of what it takes to "make" potable water, and clean it when we are through, are astounding.

5. Learn something cool to be able to teach all your friends and neigbors around you. Being resourceful is useful thing to build community.

Stay tuned for are some pics and videos to get you thinking:

Basic diagram of a simple rainbarrel.....
3-barrel system in Ithaca, NY......

whoa that is a lot of water!

Our friend Andrea Ferich in Camden, with muzak from Psalters:

and this guy calms me down:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Solar hot air collector, again

Im getting excited about this solar hot air collector idea, again. I found this book at our office: Sun, Wind and Light, Architectural Design Strategies. Its got over a hundred strategies for designing or retrofitting buildings with all kinds of passive green strategies that use the sun, wind, and light of your specific area. I like the mantra, "Passive buildings, active occupants," which encourages people to use buildings to temper their spaces, and not be so dependent upon "active" mechanical components, like fossil-fuel fired heating and cooling systems, or even super expensive photovoltaic solar panels. The simplest way to think about this would be to open the windows on a nice day rather than use the air conditioner. Or, turn off the electric lights and open the shades to allow daylight in, especially on the south face in the winter. Anyway, Im thinking about installing a rooftop unit like this one on our house instead of smaller window units in the previous post:

The basic premise of the panel is there is a glass / plexiglass face, with a thin air space, and a corrugated steel backing, painted black. In the winter, cold air enters the lower intake, is super heated in the sealed air chamber by the sun, and exits at the top, pulled by an inexpensive fan, through ductwork (or not) into the house. Because heat rises, you need to get that free hot air down to the first floor, so I would hook ours into our existing ductwork system, then it would rise throughout the house naturally. You can even hook these up to thermostats, so they turn on and off. All told, I'm told you can build them for between $100 and $ heat for about 25 years after that.

Sisters of Mercy

One of my jobs where i work is to help building owners, architects, and developers get their buildings LEED-Certified. LEED is a national benchmark and rating system for green building standards. Its got tons of flaws, but overall its a pretty good system to get a huge conversation going. I get to work on some pretty cool projects, like the newly renovated Mercy Family Center in the Tioga section of north Philly. The Sisters of Mercy run this amazing place, doing all kinds of amazing things for the people who make up Tioga. They take serving the 'least of these' seriously, as their life's vocation. They took up the mantle of green, healthy building when they planned a major renovation of an abandoned warehouse at 20th and Venango Sts a few years back. Its so exciting to see folks who dont compartmentalize between social and environmental justice. These great ladies see the direct connection between healthy daylit spaces that use much less energy and resources, treat the earth as the Created thing it is, and use their space to help positively shape the lives of the residents of Tioga. Check out this video...... might want to grab a box of Kleenex beforehand.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

fast unto death

My friends Will and Lauren are spending 6 months in India doing some amazing work. Lauren is sharing her amazing gifts working with kids with special needs at the Latika Roy Foundation, and Will's work as I understand it is connected to water issues with this environmental organization called PSI, the People's Science Institute.

I checked out the PSI site, and was inspired by the approach of its founder, Dr. G.D. Agrawal, of halting a massive hydro-power project that would have caused massive environmental damages to the region surrounding the Bhagirathi river. The doctor, twice, implemented a 'fast-unto-death' to get the attention of the Prime Minister to halt this damaging project. Amazingly, his work succeeded in its goal, as the project is off the boards. This got me considering my fast this Lent, and other friends' fasts I know of. Instead of letting it de-motivate me because mine isnt as "good", i'm choosing to be inspired. This man was willing to give up his life for something he believed in beyond himself. In cell the next 3 weeks for cell we are delving into the Temptations of Jesus in the Wilderness, and how we can respond here and now. I cant help but see a connection to Jesus' 40 day fast / vision quest in the desert.