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Friday, April 1, 2011

Green architects and builders are key to human health

Modern Construction’s Use of Green Technology

Guest blogpost by K Peterson

With the emphasis on simplified form that accompanies modern architecture, the internal elements of homes have become essential. Modern architects recognize that the functional requirements and materials determine the home or building’s form, no longer separating these intertwined aspects of a structure. In addition, many modern structures now utilize green architecture, which is both sustainable and safe, adding an ornamental quality and expressed structure feel. However, the adoption of green technology also benefits those inside the structures, adding a layer of comfort and safety through the use of safe materials.

One of the most significant aspects of modern home design is the use of safe materials. Besides the effect unsustainable manufactured materials can have on the environment, the use of some of these products has proven lethal. One such product is asbestos, which found heavy usage as an insulator until the 1970s. Today we know exposure to this material leads to a cancer known as mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, symptoms generally lie dormant for 20 to 50 years, appearing decades after initial exposure and frequently mimicking other illnesses. For residents of these homes and buildings, the use of this material literally put their lives in danger.

With the evolution of architecture today, which takes into account all aspects of a home, including its potential hazards, the threat posed by irresponsible construction has largely been eliminated. However, home and business owners looking to incorporate these new green technologies into existing structures still must account for dangerous materials. Although asbestos remains safe as long as it is undamaged, contact with the material allows it to fragment and enter the air in tiny particles which can be inhaled or ingested. Although symptoms of mesothelioma might not be readily apparent, any level of exposure has been proven hazardous. For those structures undergoing repair or renovation, retrofitting them with green materials is not the only concern. The careful identification, removal and disposal of materials also must occur in these structures, which can involve considerable investment.

The recent surge in popularity of green roofs, which improves insulation, slows emission output and decreases waste water runoff, highlights a trend towards the beautification of design that adds both the functionality and sustainability we should demand from modern structures. Although sometimes in stark contrast to the austere forms of other modern structures, these buildings can add a vibrant sense of life to any building. In addition, the inclusion of this green architecture can add other fiscal benefits for the construction industry, such as the support of programs developed to promote these technologies.

As we are now learning, the incorporation of green technologies into modern architecture can add a number of benefits, both aesthetic and practical. Aside from extreme concerns, such as the disturbing mesothelioma life expectancy, owners of these homes and buildings can take pride and comfort in the use of the safest, cleanest materials possible. One alternative to asbestos is cellulose insulation, which is both efficient and a green, being comprised of 80% postconsumer newsprint. With the elimination of unnecessary details that detract from the appeal of a structure, the materials used become increasingly important as this form of architecture continues to take hold and provide a new way of looking at

Friday, January 28, 2011

USA urban foreclosures provide opportunity for Greening of America

Seattle, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago; Rising foreclosure risks

Major US cities are experiencing a forsclosure crisis in 2011, and this presents a window of opportunity for urban energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. According to Alex Veiga's Associated Press report in the Toronto Star today:

In Seattle, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta, a growing number of homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments and finding themselves on the receiving end of foreclosure warnings. Others have already seen their homes repossessed by lenders.

All told, foreclosure activity jumped in 149 of the country’s 206 largest metropolitan areas last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure. Job loss, rather than time-bomb mortgages resetting to higher payments, has become the main driver behind rising foreclosures.

“We’ve actually had a sea change in what’s causing foreclosures, from the overheated home prices and bad loans to a second wave of foreclosures actually caused by unemployment and economic displacement,” says Rick Sharga, a senior vice-president at RealtyTrac.

The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area in Texas saw its foreclosure rate jump 26 per cent from 2009, the largest increase among the top 20 biggest metro areas, the firm said.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, in Washington State, ranked second with an increase of nearly 23 per cent, while the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area in Georgia was third with a 21 per cent bump.

In the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metropolitan area of Illinois, foreclosure activity rose 16 per cent, while home repossessions climbed nearly 20 per cent, RealtyTrac said.

“As the economy and unemployment improve, you’ll see those markets recover fairly quickly, whereas you’re still going to have a bit of a hangover in places like California, Florida and Nevada,” Sharga said.

Those states, and Arizona, remain the country’s foreclosure hotbeds, accounting for 19 of the top 20 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates in 2010.

The worst may be behind us, but we're not out of the woods yet. Instead of packaging these homes by the dozen and selling them to the same realtors who helped get us into this mess, innovative banks should hook up with local retrofitters to "green" these homes before returning them to the real estate market.

Full AP article about Rampant foreclosures in big USA cities

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Architect Eric Corey Freed offers 5 Tips to Green Your Home

Courtesy of my email subscription to Inhabitat.com's newsletter (try it, you'll like it!), I was happy to see the article 5 Tips to Greening Your Home, by Organic Architect Eric Corey Freed.

TIP 1: Wrap Your Home in Insulation – “The More, The Better!”

Proper insulation is probably the most important factor you can control in creating an energy-efficient home. I always say insulation is like chocolate, the more you have, the better! On average, ½ of your home’s heating and cooling will escape through walls (35%), windows (25%), floor (15%) and roof (25%). Therefore, the first thing you should do to determine where insulation is needed is to scan your home with a thermal radiometer or infrared scanner in order to detect where your home is leaking heat.

TIP 2: Manage Your Heating and Cooling Intelligently with a Thermostat

All the insulation in the world won’t make a difference in cutting energy costs if you aren’t smart about how you heat and cool your house. This may sound blindingly obvious to some, but you can cut your heating bill in half if you are strategic about WHEN your heating and cooling is running. Without a thermostat to guide them, most heating/cooling systems are dumb and blind and will consume loads of energy keeping your bedroom nice and toasty during the day (when you are not home), or warming your living room at night (when you are asleep). If you connect your heating and cooling system to a programmable thermostat, you can heat/cool different rooms at specific times during the day when people will be in those rooms (such as between 6-8pm in the evening, after work). Many brands of thermostats (check out Honeywell) even have smart phone apps that allow you to program your heating and cooling on the fly, remotely.

TIP 3: Conserve Water Through Smart Technology

Because water seems plentiful and is all-around us, most Americans have no idea about the coming water crisis. Our water infrastructure is crumbling in this country and potable water shortages are going to become commonplace within 10 years. You can get a jump on tackling this looming problem by installing some water-saving appliances in your house, such as low-flow shower-heads and water-saving toilets. I’m a big fan of the AQUS grey water toilet, which recycles grey water from your sink to flush your toilet!

60% of the average American’s water use takes place outside the home (in irrigating water-sucking lawns), so ditch the 1950′s Cleaver-style lawn and consider “xeriscaping” – planting native foliage that doesn’t need high maintenance watering and fertilizing.

View full online article Five Tips to Greening Your House, by architect Eric Corey Freed

Thursday, January 6, 2011

21st Century Architecture profiles Paul Raff, Christopher Simmonds

Ontario architects Paul Raff (Toronto-based Paul Raff Studio) and Christopher Simmonds have each been profiled on the sustainable buildings blog 21st Century Architecture.

Paul Raff architecture:

Paul Raff feature on 21st Century Architecture blog

Christopher Simmonds architecture:

Christopher Simmonds feature on 21st Century Architecture blog

Monday, December 6, 2010

Toronto GTA 3D Digital Architectural Rendering

Toronto and the GTA offer a wide range of interiors rendering and architectural illustration services, whether it be for a new high-rise condominium project, for a heritage building renovation or an architectural rendering for Toronto-area custom homes builder.

I recently began working at DO HERE 3d Architectural Rendering and every day I am amazed at the quality of work we do with top Toronto and international architects, plus Toronto-area and GTA home builders and interior designers. For Toronto rendering services, DO HERE offers award-winning world-class artwork that will increase the success and profitability of your project.

Call Joe at DO HERE Architectural Rendering today, via 416.273.8288 x 369 or if you are out of the Toronto /Markham / GTA region, please use our 1.866.967.0868

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Ways of Working (New WOW) honors Dr. Judith Heerwagen

Dr. Judith Heerwagen is an environmental psychologist whose research and writing have focused on social impacts of sustainable design, workplace performance and behavioral change. She currently serves as Program Expert in the Office of Federal High Performance Green Builldings for the U.S. General Services Administration.

In recognition and appreciation of her contributions in workplace research, New Ways of Working (New WOW), an organization dedicated to examining the changing nature of work in a distributed world, has awarded Dr. Heerwagen an honorary fellowship for the 2011 calendar year.

Over the past decade, Dr. Heerwagen ran her own research and consulting business in Seattle. Previously, she was a research faculty member at the University of Washington, Department of Architecture, and a staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. At both the University of Washington and PNNL, her research focused on sustainable architecture and the occupant experience in buildings. She has lectured widely on the human factors of sustainable design, workplace productivity, and the impacts of physical space on emotional, social and cognitive functioning. In 2005, she was named Environmental Champion by ASID. Dr. Heerwagen has been a member of the US Green Building Council since 2000 and currently serves as the vice chair of the USGBC research committee. She is a co-editor of Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Wiley, 2008) and author of numerous papers. She received a PhD in psychology from the University of Washington and a BS in communications from the University of Illinois.

EnviroCities calls for the Zero Carbon City

During the 2nd day of the EnviroCities conference in United Arab Emirates, "Sustainable Cities: Strategy, Elements and Indicators to Counterbalance Climate Change," was presented by Prof. Mohsen Aboulnaga, Government Strategy & Policy Advisor and main founder of Emirates Green Building Council.

"Creating and designing cities is one of the most complex and sophisticated processes as they ultimately consume most natural resources, an awful amount of energy, and use huge quantities of water as well as produce air pollution and generate waste. These pose a huge risk to our health and environment, and ultimately contribute to climate change; a phenomenon that is of prime global concern," Aboulnaga pointed out.
"Another crucial dimension impacting climate change is the gigantic rise in world population particularly, in urban areas and beyond," he pointed out.

According to the United Nations 2009 report on water shortage, and keeping in mind the world's high energy consumption rates, it is becoming assertive that strategy and policy, and its assessment tools in sustainable national planning should be firmly developed and exploited to put forward appropriate key performance indicators to encounter such great challenges and ensure our cities are sustainable," said Aboulnaga.

"To curb green house gases emissions and reduce its impact on climate change, it is vital to efficiently plan our cities to be sustainable yet, to diligently develop strategy and policies that promote sustainability to the extent these cities are eco-friendly and maintained," he said.

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