Archive for the ‘design ideas’ Category
A pair of University of Cincinnati researchers has seen the light – a bright, powerful light – and it just might change the future of how building interiors are brightened.
In fact, that light comes directly from the sun. And with the help of tiny, electrofluidic cells and a series of open-air “ducts,” sunlight can naturally illuminate windowless work spaces deep inside office buildings and excess energy can be harnessed, stored and directed to other applications.
This new technology is called SmartLight, and it’s the result of an interdisciplinary research collaboration between UC’s Anton Harfmann and Jason Heikenfeld. Their research paper “Smart Light – Enhancing Fenestration to Improve Solar Distribution in Buildings” was recently presented at Italy’s CasaClima international energy forum.
“The SmartLight technology would be groundbreaking. It would be game changing,” says Harfmann, an associate professor in UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design. “This would change the equation for energy. It would change the way buildings are designed and renovated. It would change the way we would use energy and deal with the reality of the sun. It has all sorts of benefits and implications that I don’t think we’ve even begun to touch.”
Major Improvements through Minimal Adjustments
There’s a simple question SmartLight addresses: Is there a smarter way to use sunlight? Every day the sun’s rays hit Earth with more than enough energy to meet many of society’s energy demands, but existing technologies designed to harness that energy, such as photovoltaic cells, aren’t very efficient. A typical photovoltaic array loses most of the sun’s energy when it gets converted into electricity. But with SmartLight, Harfmann says the sunlight channeled through the system stays, and is used, in its original form. This method is far more efficient than converting light into electricity then back into light and would be far more sustainable than generating electric light by burning fossil fuels or releasing nuclear energy. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s a really interesting story over on Earth Techling about a couple who designed and contracted to build a green building — and the issues they had to deal with.
Straw bales are highly insulating, environmentally friendly, and can be locally sourced. The R-value of straw bales is a bit controversial, but recent tests put a straw bale wall at R-30 to 35, perfect for the cold winters and hot summers of Colorado. Plus, straw is actually a waste product, what’s left over when grains are harvested. In the U.S. alone, over 200 millions tons of waste straw are generated each year, much of which is burned, contributing to air quality problems.
We designed the house ourselves, and although we might have been able to save money by building the house ourselves as well, we wanted to keep our full-time jobs and our marriage together building a house together is one of the biggest stresses on a relationship, so we decided to hire a general contractor.
Cool story on Inhabitat on a modular “studio”–extra space that can morph as needs change.
As many great ideas have, Mihaus Studio came from personal necessity. Harper needed a highly adaptable addition to her own home. She used her design expertise to create this modular… we’ll just say studio… that can transform over time to fit the users’ changing needs; it can even be disassembled for transport to a new location.
Aside from the inherent benefits that result from the building off-site, Mihaus uses environmentally sustainable building materials. Hemp, which has been gaining recognition as a sustainable building material, is implemented as panels to replace the industry standard OSB/plywood.
In Hong Kong, because of the space, apartments are small and expensive. Gary Chang, an architect, decided to design a 344 sq. ft. apartment to be able to change into 24 different designs, all by just sliding panels and walls. He calls this the “Domestic Transformer.”
I love this office building. It was designed by Iwan Baan for Selgas Cano Architecture.
Open Source Ecology is developing and testing the Global Village Construction Set, a set of tools to build replicable, open source, modern, off-grid resilient communities. By weaving open source permacultural and technological cycles together, we intend to provide basic human needs while being good stewards of the land, using resources sustainably, and pursuing right livelihood.
With the gift of openly shared information, we can produce industrial products locally using open source design and digital fabrication. This frees us from the need to participate in the wasteful resource flows of the larger economy by letting us produce our own materials and components for the technologies we use. We see small, independent, land-based economies as means to transform societies, address pressing world issues, and evolve to freedom.
Here’s a pictorial how-to for making seed starter boxes out of origami’d newspaper. You can plunk ‘em right in the ground when it’s time. Makes sense to me, especially if you have a lot of fish wrapper but no fish (maybe because you’re a vegetarian).
I really like this idea for managing the acoustics in the the combined music-project room KJ and I are scheming on.
Acoustic treatments are often used to help improve the acoustics of a room by taming “flutter echoes,” “room modes,” and other problems which arise from a room’s dimensions and construction.
Although a variety of treatments are available for commercial use, they tend to be quite expensive. After some research both online and in print, we came across several sources for DIY acoustic treatments using rigid fiberglass panels and simple frames. These are often referred to as “bass traps,” although the ones that we’re focusing on have a fairly wide rage of absorption. While commercial versions are available for almost $100, we were able to make these panels for about $24 each.
For more information, check out the good folks in the acoustics forum at recording.org
Urban Gardens has a visually arresting post about the solar collectors Austin developers were required to put up in order to mask the ugly backside of a strip of retail loading docs.
The solar collectors lie along a biking and hiking path. At night, the energy collected during the day is used to illuminate blue LEDs, while extra energy collected is fed back into the grid.
Architect Johnna Barrett has plans for five ready-to-build homes ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,500 square feet. The series of plans are called SUSTAIN houses and they look pretty good. (Wish I could say the same for the SUSTAIN Web site, which makes some common though easy to fix blunders with its implementation of Flash). Here’s what SUSTAIN is claiming you can build from their plans:
All exterior and interior materials have been specified to earn LEED credits, and with proper site selection and following the LEED checklist included with your home plans, you can easily be LEED gold or platinum certified. We want to show that environmental consciousness can be beautiful. All of our home plans have been independently reviewed and carry the Designed to Earn the Energy Star seal. This means that when built according to specifications you can count on an annual energy savings of 20-30% over similar homes built to code.
The plans come with very specific lists and instructions for contractors and landscapers, so you get what you expect to get in the finished building.