It’s Friday. It’s summer. And while I’m currently stuck inside a Lego block of a building with nearly no windows, my mind can still wander…onto a green rooftop! The best kind of vacation is one in which you learn lots, bring home cool stories, and have a great, unique time. Green Roof Safari provides just such a trip.
Green Roof Safari takes folks on tours of different green roof projects across Germany and Switzerland. Visiting at least three roofs a day over six days, tourists can explore beyond just cool city streets, delving further into what the cities are doing up on top. The tours are lead by a knowledgeable staff. Christine Thuring has an M.Sc. from Centre for Green Roof Research and Jörg Breuning hails from Green Roof Service here in the US, so you’re sure to learn the ins and outs of the places you visit. Not only will the guides fill you in on details, but you’d also get a chance to talk about green roof issues with policy-makers, designers and researchers. Talk about heaven on earth for exploring EcoGeeks!
Tours are going on in September, which is cutting it a little close to get some discount plane tickets, but still enough time to take a week or two away. Green Roof Safari is just getting started, so be sure to consider them if you’re planning a European vacay, or spread the word to other greenies who are looking for something cool to do this year.
My gut tells me that at this point in time and with our world’s scientific knowledge, there is no excuse for building something that isn’t energy efficient on at least some level. Luckily, even large scale, high profile construction projects are on the same bandwagon.
The New York Power Authority and UTC Power are hooking up to create one of the world’s largest fuel cell installations. The FreedomTower and three other new towers under construction at the WTC site are getting 12 fuel cells – the PureCell Model 400 – that will increase energy efficiency for the buildings. This particular model of fuel cells is reportedly one of the cleanest, quietest and more energy efficient on-site power generating technologies available, delivering twice the power and double the lifetime of the previous model – apparently nothing but the best for the FreedomTower. Though, at the current rate of research and improvements, they may be outdated pretty quickly. The cells are reported to not require any fossil fuel to produce their 400 kilowatts of energy each, and they meet the strictest air emissions requirements in the US. But from what I can find on UTC's website, the PureCell still needs to be plugged in to the grid, hence, fossil fuels are burned elsewhere. But, the plans are to waste not, want not, as the thermal energy generated by the fuel cells will be used for cooling and heating.
This project, like any similar project in our country, doesn’t come without a few feathers to stick in one’s hat. At times, that seems like the whole reason behind some eco-friendly construction. The incorporation of these fuel cells scores points for LEED certification, a significant goal for all the WTC tower projects. Then, there is also the symbolism, which, honestly, I think really does go a long way in promoting green thinking among the general public:
"One of the most important building projects in the nation will be equipped with space-age energy technology that uses an electrochemical process to produce clean on-site power," Gov. David Paterson said. "The fuel cells and other measures will help make the new World Trade Center towers an exemplar of environmental sustainability and will signal to the world New York State's commitment to greater energy security and reduced dependence on foreign oil. I can think of few sites in the country where the symbolism of this is more important."
Symbolism aside, fuel cells may not have been the best bet for generating power, considering some other ideas that could have been utilized on buildings of this scale. For instance, solar windows, solar panels on the roof, wind microturbines…all of which cart around less negative impact than fuel cells. There are quite a few tower projects that could be used as examples for better ideas. But, steps are steps are steps.
Two years ago, the American Institute of Architects put up a challenge: design a house in which a US Fish and Wildlife Service Ecologist in Residence could live and conduct research. Challenge met. Many unique ideas were put forward and three designs took away awards. Two are very…unique…as innovative prefabs tend to be, and so I liked the third the best because it has the eco-technology without losing the home-sweet-home feeling.
Two Spanish architects, Raphaelle and Alfredo Maul of Maul Dwellings, have designed The Landscape House, blending practical ecological science with architectural art.
The Landscape House is designed to be sat on an east-west axis in rural West Virginia. Its double roof system utilizes wind to improve air circulation, operable louvered shutters on both the north and south maximize passive solar heating and daylighting, and power comes from a photovoltaic system installed on the roof. Rainwater is harvested and stored under the roof for grey water for fixtures, and is also used as a heat source in cold Virginia winters as it circulates through the radiant heat floor system. A solar dehumidifier provides the drinking water.
Using resources like water efficiently is a priority, so the architects included low-flow fixtures. They also included a dry-compost toilet, recycling area, and compost unit. And of course the environmental footprint is way up there on the to-do list, so the materials for creating The Landscape House are locally sourced, recycled and renewable, and the house can be easily taken apart and set up in different locations.
I don’t think there’d be any problem in finding a number of people who would want to live in it – I’d live in it! (Then again, I’d also live in a prefab upside down canoe, as long as it is awesome and as off-grid as possible.) So, now the only thing left to do is actually build it.
Remember way back last May when we talked about the twirling tower that seemed, well, off the wall? Surprise, surprise, it is set to start construction in Dubai this month.
Each of the 59 floors of the tower will be able to rotate independently of each other, and in between them will be wind turbines to generate all the power needed to run the tower, plus, apparently, several others. The tower is expected to generate 10 times the power it needs through solar panels on the roof and 48 wind turbines, each of which are expected to generate as much as 0.3 megawatts of electricity, creating an estimated 1,200,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually. These are some seriously big numbers…and we’ll see how they pan out.
As for the construction, the floors will be made of 12 individual units all created in a factory and spit out fully complete, with plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and everything else in place. The floors will then be fitted to a concrete tower core According to architect David Fisher, designer of the building, this construction will make it highly earthquake resistant, as well as just plain neat to watch as folks push the button that makes their floor spin.
An international press conference is set for June 24 in New York. We’ll keep tabs.
Downtown San Francisco is slated to receive an earth-friendly TransbayTransitCenter. The project is going to be a head-turner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tour busses add it to their highlights.
The transit center is being called the “Grand Central Station of the West” and will be a hub for public transportation for commuters from all areas of the bay, and will also provide housing, shops and cultural parks. The project hopes to solve the growing need to combat congestion while conserving the limited space the city has on hand.
But the important part – it’s GREEN.
Designed with a modern flare, it will have beautiful glass towers, a massive 5.5 acre public park as its roof, and will feature sustainability in its construction and use, including smart use of space, high-performance glazed glass with passive solar shading, wind turbines, geothermal heating and cooling, and gray water recycling. Construction is scheduled to begin this year, and will hopefully be completed by 2014. With an existent need to fill green jobs, this project will hopefully also help build new skill sets for construction workers and companies, boosting greener construction in the long term.
Hand it to San Francisco to move forward with such fantastic projects. After this, who knows what the city has in store for San Franciscans.