• Building With Awareness Blog

Natural Building In Harmony With Nature

The simplicity of stepping stones across a pond in a Japanese garden. By observing the natural form of the world around us, and combining it with the human-envisioned form of our creativity, we get what I would consider the essence of natural building and green design. It is knowing when to throw the level and steel tape to the side and create strictly from our intuition. It is taking inspiration from nature while inserting a more formalized pattern upon it. This balance, when done with care, is what makes something beautiful. article by Ted Owens photo: Simon Bisson

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Looking At Design, Part 1: Natural Materials

  In this series, I will explain what specific design principles tend to make for good design, verses poor design, in our built environment. This series will discuss natural materials, shape and proportion, color and texture, spaces and room environments, and how all of this pertains to green building. On occasion I have heard someone say that they want their home to be maintenance free and therefore want the house  to be built out of cement block and other factory made materials. My feeling is that there are options that do not sacrifice aesthetics. Materials that age well may be a higher priority than “maintenace free”. Natural materials fall into this category. Take a look at the building above. I would say that this structure looks as good today as it did when it was built many decades ago. It stands as part of the environment instead of being a blight on the environment. The upkeep has been minimal, yet age has only added to its beauty. The building is “relaxed” and has an ambience that is missing from many modern day structures. Lets find out why this works and compare it to its modern counterpart.

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Pipe Dreams

I am always intrigued with novel uses of common materials. Some enterprising individuals in Austria saw the potential of turning a concrete pipe into a hotel room. I like the clever way this small space was turned into a useable space—at least for short term use. When it comes down to it, this solves the problem of temporary shelter—safe, quiet, easy to maintain, and probably has a fairly constant room temperature due to all of the thermal mass. I can see using a shelter such as this as a temporary place to sleep while building a home on your property. WIth some straw bales around the exterior, it would be well insulated. Upon completion of the primary home, the pipe becomes the rainwater cistern or possibly an emergency tornado shelter. more small hotel rooms: weburbanist.com hotel: dasparkhotel

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A Wind Turbine That Is Lighter Than Air

The higher a wind turbine is off the ground, the more power it will generate as the wind blows faster when not impeded by hills, trees, and structures.  That is why windmills are placed atop tall towers. Magenn Power has developed an ingenious prototype wind turbine that is suspended in the air like a kite and airship combined. This is thinking outside the box. This lighter-than-air turbine stays aloft with helium (the same gas  used in blimps and party  balloons). As it spins, it generates clean electricity from a natural resource. The power travels down cables to the ground. Without the need for a tower, the generator can be quickly launched anywhere to a height of 200 to 1,000 feet—way beyond the height of conventional steel tower generators. It will work in winds from 4 to 60mph and the power output is 10-25kW. As a comparison, that is eight to twenty times more power than my home photovoltaic system produces. I like the elegance of a wind generator made mostly of fabric. This greatly reduces the amount of heavy materials and avoids the problem of rigging a permanent steel tower. There is also a beauty in something that floats. It feels more temporary and non-obtrusive—like a sailboat. source: Magenn Power

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Green Grass, Glass, and Class

Who says a building has to be square with a flat roof. Using roofs as green space, as shown here, or for solar energy collection, is an idea that should be implemented everywhere. I like the contrast of glass with a gracefully arching green roof that is reminiscent of rolling hills. This design has a fun factor—you want to clime all over the building and take your lunch break on the roof. I also like that this is a school—The Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media in Singapore. What better a way to inspire students than by learning and working in a structure that literally breaks creative ground in green building. Created by CPG Consultants Pte Ltd. source: CPG Consultants Pte Ltd.

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Streamline For Automobile Efficiency

A streamlined object will cut through the air with less resistance, just like a sharp knife cuts through materials better than a dull one. Streamlining means less aerodynamic drag and therefore less fuel is needed to propel a car forward. With the big-three Detroit automakers now asking for a government bailout, one only has to look back a few years to see how hard they worked to keep overall efficiency ratings at a paltry 21 miles per gallon. They took the easy route of producing boxy sofa-beds-on-wheels. The 1947 Saab, shown above, says everything with it’s design—efficiency, speed, and fun. The Model T Ford started production in 1908 and achieved a fuel efficiency on the order of 13 to 21 mpg (5 to 9 kilometres per litre or 11.1 to 18.7 litres per 100 km), about the same as today’s best selling U.S. car models. It is just a matter of time before someone manufacturers a green car, at a reasonable price, that makes it visually cool to be energy efficient—all while achieving 100mpg. Design and efficiency should go hand-in-hand. Apple did it with the iPod and iTunes by taking advantage of new technology and reinventing how people listened to and purchased music. The auto industry is about to do the same—with or without Detroit. photo source: http://www.nnauto.cn/nnauto/Factory/Saab/saab.htm

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Materials and Textures of Green Building

I have always been a fan of the architectural firm of Lake/Flato in San Antonio, Texas. They combine clean and thoughtful design with an honest use of materials and an awareness of sustainable design. This is partially accomplished by using locally available materials and featuring the unique textures of each. In their work, stone and corrugated sheet metal can work in harmony and compliment each other. Although the shape of the structure appears to be very simple, there was much thought given to the proportion—the height of the chimney, window and door placement, and the slope of the roof. The design of this home is enriched by the hue and texture of the stone. The structure is in harmony with its environment as the main wall material comes from the environment. Green building can be both energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing. source: Lake/Flato

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