• Building With Awareness Blog

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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Keeping Food Cool Without Electricity

This low-tech refrigerator by Mohammed Bah Abba of Nigeria, cools food with simple physics. In countries without electricity, refrigeration is almost impossible. Food can spoil rapidly if it is not brought to market immediately upon harvesting. How it works: Wet sand is placed between two porous clay pots and the moisture evaporates to the surrounding dry air via the outer pot. This lowers the food compartment temperature by up to 14 degrees. Produce can then last for over a week, as opposed to a couple of days. The low-cost pots are produced and sold by local villages. Women benefit the most from this food cooler. Abba’s invention liberates girls from having to sell food each day before it spoils. Now free to attend school, the number of girls enrolling in local primary schools is increasing. Sometimes simplicity is the best solution. Who would have thought that a food storage system made from a couple of clay pots would also benefit education. This is sustainable design and appropriate technology at its best and it won a 2005 Rolex Award. Learn more from the source: Rolex Awards

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The Building With Awareness Blog

Above: A volunteer tree grows from the wall of an abandoned building in downtown Los Angeles, striving to balance the natural landscape with the urban landscape. For years I have been keeping notebooks of sketches, collecting pictures, taking photographs, shooting video, and writing down ideas regarding sustainable design. This blog will be a way to share some of my thoughts. The plan is to inspire and show anything that remotely relates to creating a green society that functions well and looks good. The mix of content will be broad as ideas can come from what appear to be unrelated fields. Green building, passive solar architecture, energy efficient transportation, novel solutions using appropriate technology, and just plain smart design will all be covered. It is by looking at the big picture, and not putting barriers as to what is possible, that will permit us to design our way into a new era. Ted Owens Syncronos Design Inc. Sustainable designer and filmmaker and author of the Building With Awareness DVD and Guidebook

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