Latest Articles in Green Architecture

Olson Kundig translated our house program into an easy-to-read document that broke down the individual spaces and approximate square footage.

Building the Maxon House: Week 9

In our latest Backstory series, Seattleite Lou Maxon recounts the thrills and trials of ditching the suburbs, buying property, and designing and building a modern house with Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. Week Nine: Developing the Maxon House ‘Program.’   Before Olson Kundig Architects could get started on the design we had to do some homework of our own. The first step was for my wife and I to measure out the spaces in our existing house and then come up with a wish list or “program” for our future home. We needed to determine which spaces we wanted and what we could do without moving forward (bonus rooms, separate formal vs. informal living areas, etc.). This effort was made easier by the fact that our house had sold and the rooms were pretty much cleaned out and boxed up in preparation for our move to our rental house. It was clear after adding up the square footage in our existing space and then penciling out the wish list for the new house that we didn’t need substantially more space, just better designed space.
April 28, 2011
Family in kitchen made of salvaged wood pieces

Modern Angular Rural Family Home in Canada

Surrounded on all sides by a sweeping Canadian hayfield, the 23.2 House is an angular ode to rural life. Out of “respect for the beams and their history,” Designer Omer Arbel insisted that not a single reclaimed plank—still marked by nailheads and chipped paint—be cut nor altered during ­construction, which gave the home its striking geometric motif. It’s what he refers to as the “alchemy between ­material and process,” which also inspired the textured ­concrete walls and crisply milled walnut furniture. 
April 26, 2011
Greensburg GreenTown Conversation

Daniel Wallach of GreenTown

After an EF5 tornado devestated the tiny town of Greensburg, Kansas, (then populartion 1,500) in 2007, the residents came together and did the unbelievable: Rebuilt as a sustainable town. Leading the charge were the mayor, city administrator, city council president (who assumed the role of mayor just three weeks after the storm), the governor (then Kathleen Sebelius), and two residents from nearby Stafford County: Daniel Wallach and Catherine Hart. In January, we sent photographer Alec Soth to document the town as it is today, nearly four years after the tornado struck, for our May 2011 Photo Issue. Here, we chat in further depth with Wallach about the days after the storm and the latest construction and developments.  
April 21, 2011
Director Craig Brooks visits the Maxon house site.

Building the Maxon House: Week 8

In our latest Backstory series, Seattleite Lou Maxon recounts the thrills and trials of ditching the suburbs, buying property, and designing and building a modern house with Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. Week Eight: Making a modern dwelling—and a documentary film series.   The following is an interview with Craig Brooks, director at Kontent Partners. He shares his story and his vision for the Maxon House film series. Enjoy.  
April 20, 2011
cowper ccs

Packed Naturally

Mies van der Rohe once said, "We must remember that everything depends on how we use a material." In this Palo Alto, CA, residence constructed from rammed earth, steel, and glass, and finished in white oak, ipe, and American walnut, architect Cass Calder Smith of CCS Architecture holds true to Mies' dictum. Thanks to the liberal use of natural materials, the house attains a comfortable sensibility noticed by nearly everyone who passes through its earthen walls. "Guests are, without exception, completely taken by how the house is very modern, but also very warm," say the owners, who wish to remain anonymous. The residence consists of two main masses: a rammed earth base made from soil excavated from the site and a long ipe-clad wooden box that cantilevers over the ground floor. Bifurcating the forms is a slim glass band that wraps around the building, making it seem like the upper story hovers independently of its base. In addition to an almost reverential treatment of materials, the residence is imbued with a strong green ethic evidenced by the passive cooling features, a drought-tolerant "meadow" landscape, PV array, and radiant floor heating. Smith says this was the most complicated house he'd designed, but maintains that nothing was dogmatic. "It's not about being 'green' or 'cool' or making a monument; it's about the fundamentals of architecture," he says.
April 19, 2011
In renovating the Barcelona apartment she shares with Sergio Carratala, Petz Scholtus was guided by what she calls the “5 Rs” of eco-design: reuse, reduce, recycle, restore, respect.

Green Living in Barcelona

For some, living “green” is all about making a statement. But for Petz Scholtus, it boils down to common sense. The eco-designer was raised on a farm in Luxembourg, and she’s brought a feeling for the natural world to her residence in Barcelona, Spain. “Growing up on a farm influenced my ideas,” she explains. “There it was all about life cycles, materials that flow, eating, composting, growing...”   Scholtus, who also runs her own sustainable-products studio, Pöko Design, moved to Barcelona in 2004. Three years later, she and her partner, Sergio Carratala, a structural engineer, found a nearly-625-square-foot apartment in an 18th-century building at the heart of the Barri Gòtic.   Their plan was simple: Use eco-friendly and recycled materials, reduce water and energy consumption and create as little waste as possible. While sacrificing neither aesthetics nor comfort, Scholtus has accomplished that and more. There are cabinets made from wooden wine boxes, cork floors installed without glue, PVC-free pipes, secondhand furniture and even a worm-composting enterprise on one of the tiny balconies. No detail was too insignificant—witness the Staple-Free Stapler in the office.  
April 11, 2011
heliotrace thumb

HelioTrace Robotic Facade

I was intrigued by a rendering featured in the latest newsletter from SOM, which came across my desk a few weeks ago. So I wrote the firm for more information. Turns out this new invention—a kinetic, solar-responsive curtain wall system—is still in development and won't be available on the market for a few years still. But it's an intriguing concept, so I figured I'd share.
April 11, 2011
The Big Well in Greensburg, Kansas

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

On May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, was wiped off the map. An EF5 tornado ravaged the small town of 1,400 residents, destroying or severely damaging 95 percent of the city. Less than a week later, however, the survivors did the incredible: At a meeting under a tent, they rallied to rebuild as a sustainable city.   Some community members at first were skeptical, but they later embraced the idea of following in the footsteps of their ancestors, who had lived off the land. With the backing of the city, state, and federal governments and the nonprofit Greensburg GreenTown, founded by nearby Stafford County residents Daniel Wallach and Catherine Hart, the town has become a sustainable mecca—boasting more than 25 green projects so far and attracting thousands of eco-tourists.
April 6, 2011
Evergreen Brick Works

Evergreen Brick Works

Toronto's skyline is speckled with bricks from the former Don Valley Brick Works yard. In the 1960s and 70s, the company produced more than 43 million bricks each year. But after business slowed in the 1980s, the yard was forced to shutter its doors and the thus no-longer-maintained, 12-acre site fell into disrepair. Today, however, it's back up and running—though with a new directive—with the help of Canadian nonprofit Evergreen. Renamed Evergreen Brick Works, the site is designed to be a community, environmental space where sustainable businesses can establish themselves and grow; artists can work; and locals can come to explore the site, take a walk, ice skate, buy local produce at the farmers' market, and meander around the 16 buildings being rehabilitated. Here we take you along on our recent walk through the site.  
April 4, 2011