Monthly Archives: December 2007

foto av dagen 12.19.07

I sincerely apologize for the dearth of posts recently; life & work are insane. Hopefully after the holidays green.mnp will be back in full force. If anyone is interested in helping a ninja out though, green.mnp would love some collaboration. Email me! In the meantime, enjoy these beautiful fotos by Nick Brandt from what looks like Africa. I have been re-watching Planet Earth lately, and Brandt really captures the natural beauty, fragility & quirkiness of our dear little planet & its creatures in the same way that Planet Earth does so well.









[young gallery]

D.C. Trumps Beantown for Most Walkable City


Can Boston hold no title of its own anymore?? It is not the greenest city (though it made the top 10 in the 2007 MSN City Gude; it was #11 in 2006 according to It is not the best city to find a job in (didn’t even make top 25). It is not the best place to live, although our near neighbor Milton made #7 (and I’m sorry, but f* cnn money, what do they know about how we want to live). It is not the most cultural city (#5). It is not the best city for shopping (#8). It is not the best ‘after dark’ city (#12, god help us). We do not have the best people (#15, um ouch). Best food? no. We don’t even make the top 10 underrated cities. Need I go on?

But Best City for Walking?? Surely that is ours. Alas, no longer; the self-proclaimed title has been stripped:

With its tightknit residential neighborhoods, its boulevards lined with cafes, shops, and parks, Boston officials for years have smugly considered the Hub the best city for a stroll.

Hotel, tourist, and advertising executives two decades ago coined the phrase “America’s Walking City” and made it part of an international ad campaign. Mayor Thomas M. Menino is fond of calling the city “the most walkable in America.”

There has never been any empirical data for the boast.

“We just claimed title to it,” said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Just let someone else dispute it.”

Well, someone has.

Damn the Brookings Institution.

A report by a venerable think tank, the Brookings Institution, declared yesterday that Boston is, in fact, not number one. Brookings instead bestowed top honors on the nation’s capital, saying Washington D.C.’s urban planners have created “the national model of walkable urban growth.”

Boston ranked second, ahead of San Francisco, Denver, and Portland, Ore.

The response from Boston officials was confusion, then indignation. (Some noted that Brookings is based in Washington. Coincidence?)

Granted, it is cold outside. But, as orangemenace puts it: “I say we’re still first – walking around DC is begging for a mugging.” My ninja, please.


Low Impact Woodland Home


I came across this incredible woodland home built into the landscape of Wales. It reminds me of a combination of my dad’s straw bale house project and the Terreform project featured over at architecture.mnp. The house was built from the ground up by a young couple who wanted a toxin-free home for their two young children.

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

Some key points of the design and construction:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  • Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
  • Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
  • Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
  • Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring
  • Compost toilet
  • Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.



COP13 – What Happens When Kyoto Expires?

The rumors are true: From Dec. 3 to Dec. 14, more than 15,000 people from 190 nations will gather in Bali, Indonesia: politicians, bureaucrats, nosy reporters, earnest activists — the usual party-hearty crowd. They’ll give due respect to the “global” in global warming, and discuss what to do about it — in particular, what should be done after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The goal is to come up with a framework for a brand-new global climate treaty.


The Bali meeting will be the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP13) — and the 13th time is the charm, right? The targets set by the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012, and as most folks are finally catching on that climate change ain’t just gonna go away, many politicos are eager to whip up an effective successor.

Read the whole article at

Building A Straw Bale House: Clearing the Site


I have a progress update from the field of my dad’s straw bale house. He visited my sister and her family in New Mexico in mid November and started clearing the land at the site. If you are new to the green.mnp Building A Straw Bale House series, check out the first entry to read about the design and software my dad has developed for his and my mom’s dream green retirement home.

Here is what he had to say:

I recently took a six day trip to Albuquerque. My agenda was to clear the site and check in with my builder, Cadmon Whitty, and Anissa Hogeland, the architect who is turning my conceptual design into construction drawings.

I stayed with my daughter and son-in-law and got a chance to catch up with them and my grandson, Joshua, 4, and see my new granddaughter, Skyler, 8 months!

When Anissa first laid out the house on a topo drawing of the site (a little $1400 survey cost) she suggested that floor joists over a crawl space might be cheaper than a slab on grade, due to the slope of the site and the amount of fill we would need to bring in for the slab. I was reluctant at first about losing the thermal mass in the slab, but I talked it over with Cadmon and he said that a two inch layer of lightweight concrete over the wooden subfloor works well for holding the radiant heating tubing. He did a top-of-the-head cost estimate that indicated this approach would be a bit cheaper than the slab and fill. When I ran this new approach through my energy model I was surprised to find that it didn’t increase the heading and cooling swings appreciably. This is because there is still a lot of thermal mass in the interior walls – cinder block with every other cavity filled with cement or earth. Once you have “enough” thermal mass, adding more has progressively less effect. I’m now glad about the crawl space, as it will make plumbing and other systems much more accessible. This is an environmental improvement too – less cement with its embedded CO2 emissions.

Clearing the site began with renting a chainsaw and chipper, and deciding just where the house will sit on the site. After marking out a few rough corner locations I began cutting away. It’s sad to cut down healthy trees, but there’s no way around it within the house footprint.

After the first day at the site I came home with a terrible stiff neck and shoulders. I guess that was from a day of chainsawing after not doing any for several months. Maybe stress or sleeping wrong had a part in it too. It stayed with me for the whole trip. Nights were the worst – just turning over in bed was a slow, painful process. One of the unexpected joys of building a house at age 66.

With breaks for lunch and some minor troubles with the chipper it took two days of chainsawing and two days of chipping. At the end I ran out of time and gas in the chipper with just a small part of the last brush pile left. There are now several stacks of firewood and two piles of chips which will provide some landscaping mulch. From my Coast Guard days I’ve named the piles after two small conical islands outside the entrance to the harbor at Saint John’s, Newfoundland, which are affectionately know by sailors as Mae West.

There will be more clearing at the south edge of the lot, but already the view is quite something. There is a broad valley of rolling hills, fields and forest, with several mountain ranges receding into the distance. I’m so glad I reoriented the house design to make the most of the view!

Another high point was the hospitality shown by the neighbor on one side, who helped me considerably with the chipping. His help and tool box saved my bacon when the chipper jammed one time. I also met the neighbors on the other side – a nice young couple who I’m looking forward to knowing better.

I also talked with a couple of mortgage brokers about construction financing. There will be applications and financials to fill out for that. I’d like to be the general contractor for the job, as that could save some money. But I also know that all the scheduling and phone calls to subs are not my strangth – I’m a poor manager. “General contractor” involves several kinds of insurance, several kinds of risks, and the managing of the subs and the scheduling of the construction process. I’m hoping to work out an allocation of the different elements between Cadmon and myself that will make the most sense.

That’s it for now. Coming up will be the detailed final design, building permits, and negotiations with banks and the builder. We’re planning to start construction in early April.

Jack Partridge, 11/24/07