Latest Articles in Green Design

Fin Art's designs were displayed at <a href="">z|modern</a> in Denver. Photo by James Holden.

Denver's Fin Art Co.

One of the most interesting furniture companies I've come across lately is Fin Art Co. based in Denver, Colorado. When childhood friends Rob McGowan and Ben Olson graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder they were in a situation known to many—ready to leave the world of hand-me-downs and cheap thrift store finds behind. But then they encountered another all-too-familiar scenario. "We didn't have the money to afford the modern designs we liked," says McGowan. "So we decided to try our hand at building them."
November 21, 2011
Transparency SplashPage

Transparency from Perkins+Will

Transparency is a new website from the architecture firm Perkins+Will that launches on November 17th. The site looks to be an exciting new home for information about toxins, asthma triggers, and other nasty substances commonly found in the built environment. The most recent iteration of a research project that began in 2002, Transparency should be required reading for anyone hoping to learn more about removing carcinogens from the buildings they live and work in. I had a chat with Chris Youssef, a materials expert and interior designer for Perkins+Will who compiled much of the research for Transparency. Here's what he had to say about the project.
November 17, 2011
war craft coffee table

Second Life

November 8, 2011
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Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington

A highlight of this year's Solar Decathlon was the CHIP house, designed, built, and transported to Washington DC by a team of over 100 SCI-Arc and Caltech students. The uniquely puffy "outsulated"  CHIP house—the Compact, Hyper-Insulated Prototype—is an effort to "address the contemporary issues or sustainability, energy efficiency, and affordable housing through a built work." If you missed it during the Decathlon, you have a few additional opportunities to check it out, most notably an exhibition opening this Friday at SCI-Arc's Library Gallery. "Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington," running through December 16, displays through photographs, video, and time-lapse footage the "frantic month in Washington D.C. that is the culmination of the team's two-year effort to conceptualize and develop its proposition for a new sustainability."
October 25, 2011
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Recycled Paper Lights

I recently came across the work of Pia Wüstenberg, a German-born designer whose recent obsession is transforming piles of waste paper (posters, magazines) into striking pendant lights and tables. First she rolls them around a tube, laminating each sheet on top of the other with a glue-based mixture. Then she uses a woodworking lathe and carving tools to shape the piece, much as a woodworker creates a turned bowl.   For further insight into her working process, check out this video:   Processed Paper from pia wustenberg on Vimeo.
October 20, 2011
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Henry Wilson's "Things Revisited"

When Australian designer Henry Wilson moved to the Netherlands to study for a Masters Degree at the Design Academy Eindhoven, he says he experienced a "philosophical shift away from the creation of new things and a re-examination of the role of the designer." He was feeling "increasing disenchantment with the role of the designer at a time of evident excess and wastefulness in a consumer driven market," he writes, along with a growing awareness of the world's dwindling resources. His musings and experimentations led him to invent a design exercise for himself: to tweak and update existing "classic" designs in a way that would reveal them in a fresh light. Here are the clever and elegant results of his experiments.
September 30, 2011
Achieving zero net energy required integration with every aspect of zHome’s design. Even in initial site planning, we had to take into account solar heat gain and ensuring clear solar access to each unit’s roof.

A Zero-Energy Community: Part 2

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 2: Building REALLY green... It's easier than you think. Forty percent. That’s the share of total CO2 emissions each year in the US that comes from energy used in buildings. Building operations—heating, cooling, lighting, and everything else inside the walls—are the single largest generator of carbon dioxide in the country. It’s an easy thing to forget about, sort of like background noise. But it’s there, humming along, 24/7.
September 28, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 1

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 1: Introduction to the project.   I am writing this as I sit in the zHome Stewardship Center, which will open later this Fall as a hub of education and market transformation for radically green housing in the Pacific Northwest. I’m surrounded by the sounds of typical construction wrap-up on a residential community—the clink of rebar being laid down for the concrete walkways, Motown being played on the radio by a cleanup crew, and a trackhoe moving larger trees into place. There’s also non-typical sounds—those of drills on the roof, where the solar panels are being installed, and ground source heat pumps starting up for the first time.
September 14, 2011
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Small Footprint in Fayetteville

Fayetteville, Arkansas, doesn't have a reputation for "going green." Rather, the town has historically garnered recognition for its local beacon, the University of Arkansas. Yet homeowners Myria and A.J. Allen are redefining conventional building practices, beginning with their energy-efficient and environmentally conscious home. Completed in the spring of 2011, the petite 1,368 square foot two-bedroom, two-bath structure sports a broad, wing-like roof, detached carport, clerestory windows and cathedral ceilings. But don’t be deceived by the modern shape; underneath the sharp-cornered dressing lies dozens of meticulous details chosen in the name of sustainability. “We wanted to do our small part to reverse the negative environmental trajectory we see around us,” says Myria. “Essentially we wanted to use our financial resources to create a comfortable home which is consistent with our values.” Working closely with Skiles Architect, Myria, a Professor in Environmental Communication at the university, and A.J., an employee for the city’s Parks and Recreation department were able to honor their earth-friendly lifestyle while maintaining an economical outlook. Meeting the highest possible Energy Star 5+ certification through the use of a geothermal heat pump, SIPs for roofing, and Ultrex windows with Low-E II glazing, among other eco-friendly choices, the couple’s lowest across-the-board electric bill has been $43, while the highest came in at a modest $69. Aside from the financial boon, the house also proves valuable in education. Myria says she’s taken advantage of her Fayetteville rarity and brought her students in to talk with them about creating ethically responsible yet beautiful living spaces. “Most folks really don’t think outside the box when it comes to building a home—this helps them to do so,” she says.
September 12, 2011