Category Archives: solar

Livin’ Off the Grid


Despite how kitschy this video is, the guy has a certain charm about him (I think it’s his tiny carbon footprint). Our friend here doesn’t make it look completely easy or anything, but still manages an amazing proof of concept design here. Not to be a fearmonger, or something, but I hope this type of design makes it to your ordinary consumer (read: Joe Six-Pack) before it’s too late!

Why another video, you ask? Well, why our resident green expert is on her mini-sojourn, we must keep the house tidy. Expect more and better to come soon.

Greening The New Republic

So I realize that most of you probably know more about the ‘green’ movement, ‘sustainability’, global warming, etc, than the average reader of The New Republic – but I still thought these videos were worth checking out. Especially when Majora Carter is involved – as she is a ninja extraordinaire.

::videos via The New Republic‘s Environment + Energy section::

GreenPix Zero Energy Media Wall


Installed on the Xicui entertainment complex in Beijing [near the site of the 2008 Olympic Games], GreenPix is a sustainable LED media display applied to the glass curtain wall. with integrated photovoltaic cells. The largest color LED display in the world, GreenPix will also incorporate the photovoltaic system integrated into a glass curtain wall system in China. The intention is for the building to ‘mirror a day’s climatic cycle’, harvesting energy from the sun to power the LED display after dark.


Designed by Simone Giostra & Partners Architects along with the ninja masters over at Arup, the LED media wall will “provide the city of Beijing with its first venue dedicated to digital media art, while offering the most radical example of sustainable technology applied to an entire building’s envelope to date” says Giostra. The building opens to the public in June of 2008, marked by special video installations and performances by a number of different artists. Here’s some additional info:

GreenPix is a large-scale display comprising of 2,292 color (RGB) LED’s light points comparable to a 24,000 sq. ft. (2.200 m2) monitor screen for dynamic content display. The very large scale and the characteristic low resolution of the screen enhances the abstract visual qualities of the medium, providing an art-specific communication form in contrast to commercial applications of high resolution screens in conventional media façades.


All this information + seriousness aside – is this thing actually green / sustainable? I mean, it’s siiick, sure – you’ve got to love beautiful displays of modern technology, and the integration of digital media in architecture. But, does using all that PV to power a giant LED display really make the project green or is it just a wash? Just a thought…

PopSci’s Top 50 Greenest US Cities


I am a little behind the times, but at the beginning of February Popular Science Magazine came out with their list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities. They compiled the list based on four criteria – electricity (10 points), transportation (10 points), green living (5 points) and recycling & green perspective (5 points). Here are the top 20:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1
2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0
3. Boston, Mass. 22.7
4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5
5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4
6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2
7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2
8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1
9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3
10. Austin, Tex. 21.0
11. Minneapolis, Minn. 20.3
12. St. Paul, Minn. 20.2
13. Sunnyvale, Calif. 19.9
14. Honolulu, Hawaii 19.9
15. Fort Worth, Tex. 19.7
16. Albuquerque, N.M. 19.1
17. Syracuse, N.Y. 18.9
18. Huntsville, Ala. 18.4
19. Denver, Colo. 18.2
20. New York, N.Y. 18.2

Check the PopSci site for the full list and all the details. They also highlight 6 case studies of cities making concerted efforts to green themselves.

Oakland: Zero Emission Bus

Chicago: Make Power, Save the Heat

San Francisco: Sunroofs in Fog City

Santa Rosa: Tapping Geysers for Watts

Salt Lake City: Heating Homes from Waste

New York City: Turning the Tides into Electricity

Another interesting analysis of green spots in the US was listed by a PopSci reader in the comments. Check the site for an interesting interactive state-by-state look at green stat’s across the country.



Behnisch Architekten – Pittsburgh RiverPark


[Image: RiverPark Night Rendering]

Here is a little more information on the Pittsburgh RiverPark by Behnisch Architekten . Menace hit y’all with a post on work they exhibited at the GSD back in September of the year past. So here is the skinny on the RiverPark:

Is: A competition-winning design that incorporates green urban design initiative in the form of various height and size mixed-use buildings.

Now: Pittsburgh is a city with a lack of housing in their core downtown area [cities such as NYC, Toronto, & Boston have a good mix of housing throughout their concrete jungles].


[Image: RiverPark Waterfront Rendering]

Aim: For people to re-examine the ‘American Dream’ – a house in the ‘burbs, 2.5 kids, etc. – for an all-in-one living experience within a pedestrian-friendly, developing area of downtown Pittsburgh.

Proposed: RiverPark – ‘an urban rejuvenation project’ that merges an ensemble of flexible, green mixed-use buildings on six acres. The design incorporates 700 residential units overall, varying the forms and styles of the proposed units. Mixed in with the residences will be retail shops, restaurants, lifestyle facilities [such as a gym], a hotel and convention hall facilities.


[Image: City Rendering 01]

Anyone in design school who has had the pleasure [however excruciating it may have been at the time] to formulate their own ideas on how mixed-use buildings [or areas] should be formed know how difficult it is to a. come up with something that works, b. have it function in terms of space, flow, engagement to the existing city fabric, and c. look good, period. Add green-specific systems into the mix, and one is designing a whole other beast all together. But hakuna matata, my ninjas, cause Behnisch got it all locked in.

Green?: There are a number of systems included in the design of the RiverPark. In terms of energy, there will be a [noiseless!] wind turbine at the water front, photovoltaics integrated into the south facing facade, and an underground water heating/ cooling pump. The micro-climate within the RiverPark was also reimagined with the use of green roofs and landscaping and water features [probably to regulate the super-high humidity in the summer and strong cold fronts in the winter]. The staggered building heights allow for direct sunlight to pass through the buildings and shine uninhibited onto the water front.


[Image: Energy Concept Diagram]


[Image: Micro-Climate Concept Diagram]

The Behnisch RiverPark design can really be used as a stepping-stone for success in most American cities that have not already had major downtown renovations. I have walked around a city like Toronto [where it fronts The Harbor] and the pedestrian interaction and general activities that occur daily along the waterfront really engage a multitude of individuals and their varied interests [note: did anyone know Toronto has an art museum along the waterfront? Get up north and visit, my ninjas! Also get into the city and visit here and here too]. Also, as the time of day changes the activities also change with it. It’s kinda a mix of Providence’s Water-Fire and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, except i don’t feel like I’m gonna get mugged walking around at night. Canada just produces more docile ninjas, i guess.


[Image: City Rendering 02]

All images & information from the Behnisch website. Peace.

[[Post by DUBS]]

Madrid’s ‘Air Tree’


Winner of the 2004 ‘Eco Boulevard‘ competition held by the Madrid Municipal Housing Corporations Residential Innovation Office [that's a mouthful], Urban Ecosystems’Air Tree‘ project consists of 3 pavilions situated within a 500 meter by 50 meter boulevard.


Designed as the initial ‘attraction’ for the site, the pavilions have been conceptualized as a ‘prosthesis’ – around which social interaction/revitalization, plant life, and future spaces can grow. The structures are therefore temporary – acting merely as a magnet to draw new life to the site. The boulevard will be gradually filled with trees and plant-life, until such a time when ‘air-conditioned spaces are no longer needed, when the area becomes fixed’. The pavilions will then be dismantled – leaving behind a void in the new growth [images above].


A light, easily assembled/dismantled [and recyclable!] structure, the ‘Air Tree‘ is energy self-sufficient – using only the power it can capture through a number of photovoltaic panels. Any energy not used by the pavilions themselves is sold back to the grid, the proceeds from which go to maintain this new urban park.


While the boulevard will eventually grow into a park – these ‘Air Trees‘ will work to do the same job as the trees will in the future. Along with providing a defined, shaded place to congregate [like the base of a tree], the pavilions will actually condition the air. Within the metallic screen/skin of the ‘Air Trees‘ is a layer of plantings – small trees running around the perimeter of the pavilions.

…[there are] simple air conditioning systems installed in the air tree. They are evapotranspirators. This is a natural way to air condition a space, not a part of commercial strategy. Rather, it creates naturally conditioned spaces between 8-10°C cooler than the surrounding streets where the residents can take active part in the public domain [via].


And oh yeah – they look pretty ill too. They should build some of these bad-boys here in the Bean, on that no-man’s-land the Big Dig has left us…

::For more interesting/provocative ‘green‘ projects, visit ecosistema urbano – additional information for this post via Greenline::

Jacques Ferrier : Hypergreen


The Hypergreen tower, designed by Jacques Ferrier for a competition in Paris, is a 250 meter / 60 storey tall mixed-use ‘green’ building [hence 'hypergreen']. The building’s structure emerges as an intricate concrete lattice system, wrapping the facade in the woven pattern and allowing for the floorplates to be nearly column free. This structural system also creates an interesting intermediate space between the building’s glazing, where Ferrier has apparently planned for some exterior gardens / greenery.


What makes the Hypergreen tower green, you ask [other than the name]? How about its:

  • geothermal heat pumps
  • photovoltaic panels
  • integrated wind turbines [seen at the top of the building]
  • earth cooling tubes
  • vegetated sky lobbies
  • a roof garden
  • rainwater recovery system

…and the aforementioned flexible / adaptable column-free floor plates.



::images from Jacques Ferrier Architecte, project via Jetson Green::

::listen to the podcast::

Hybrid Solar Lighting


Lighting is a HUGE drain on power all over the world – with people leaving their home lights on at all times, retail spots actually needing lighting for such large portions of the day, and many buildings just never having their lights turned out [because of how long it takes them to heat up or something? seems like a stupid reason to me...].

So what’s the solution? Turn off the lights when you leave a room, set timers, use energy efficient lamps, etc etc etc…all great suggestions. A better solution tho, for those buildings that need lighting during the daylight hours, is to actually harness the light of the sun – and redirect it into your interiors.

We bring you “Hybrid Solar Lighting‘, from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s ‘Solar Technologies Program’ – fiber optics that are connected to a ‘solar collector’ [which tracks the sun's position throughout the day], which filters the visible light into a fiber optic receiver. These fiber optics are then fed throughout the building, and the natural sunlight is blended with the standard florescent interior lighting – creating a more natural lighting condition within the building. This is not only saving some users up to 60% on their electrical bills, but is also increasing sales in some retail spaces [40% more?], and helping to address issues such as S.A.D. [seasonal effective disorder].


RES4: House for an Artist


The Artist’s Retreat, a recently [Fall, 2007] completed project RES4, is a 2550 SF prefab project in Southampton, NY. Manufactured by Integrity Building Systems, the ‘sustainable‘ residence takes advantage of it’s natural surroundings through the integration of a solarium and a large roof deck into the design – highlighting the views of the ‘breathtaking natural landscape’. The 3-Bedroom house is shared by an artist + mother, and includes an office/study, art studio,combined kitchen/dining/living. 3 baths, and the previously mentioned solarium + roof deck.


Sustainable‘/‘green’ technologies used in the house include geothermal heating + cooling, three arrays of high efficiency photovoltaic modules have the capacity to produce 10,500 kwh/yr[their first electric bill was actually a credit], modular prefab construction and maintenance free materials, natural ventilation, and the use of local Southampton ground vegetation.


The design is based on RES4′d investigation into the ‘Modern Modular‘ – a type of ‘kit-of-parts’ that RES4 uses to develop their projects. Variations on 7 different building typologies – Single Bar, L Series, Double Wide, Courtyard, T Series, Triple Wide, + Z Series – have been created by RES4, and are expanded upon and built based on site conditions and client needs/preferences.




Prefab and ‘green’ or not – seems like a pretty big house for two people, doesn’t it?

More RES4 on MNP:

RES4 : Dwell Home