• Building With Awareness Blog

Creating A Place Within The Space

Do you want a hole in the wall for a window, or a place within the room to relax? Literally and figuratively, this decision is an opportunity for adding depth to your living space. Straw bale walls are thick, something that would be prohibitively expensive to achieve with most other building materials. Thick walls have the capacity to create spaces that are both separate from, and part of, the larger room. This window space is not in a straw bale house, although the effect would be the same. Iford Manor was the home of English architect and garden designer Harold Peto (1854-1933). This window has become a place within the larger room, defined by its own walls, floor, and ceiling. The depth of the side walls reflect a soft warm glow deep within the room—something that does not happen with a typical 6-inch-thick wood frame wall. Honey-colored walls, which are probably a lime plaster, have a subtlety of hues and values that wall paint can only dream of. It is the window detailing itself that truly makes the space. The woodwork continues the plane and boundary of the room, thus making a soft divide between the inside and outside. Solid glass alone would be harsh as the interior would just fall into a bright void. The dappled pattern softens the contrast ratio between the indoors and outdoors while still permitting a view. The opening is divided both vertically and horizontally, and those spaces are further subdivided into circular patterns of light and dark.…

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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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