From the hundreds of article I have written to the powerful leaders I have had an opportunity to interview to the implementation of passive house in the US, there is a lot to share. I am currently writing a book on the localization of contemporary sustainable architecture called [ours] and will update on the site frequently. I'll also be adding images and details on MARTaK the first off-grid no foam passive house.
The new website is designed to make it easy to explore the varied landscape of sustainable design. I'm just starting to get all the information I want to share up so check back on it once in a while.
LOCAL is a campaign to produce 25 stories in premium digital media that promote locally-based alternatives to the global consumer culture. We need your funding now to help us create stories of leading thinkers, makers and doers, as well as (extra)ordinary people and their grassroots movements in cities around the globe. This media will be hosted on our new video and social media channel dedicated to driving sustainability to consumers.
"We live in community, not alone, and any sense of separateness that we harbor is an illusion." - Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest
The Media: LOCAL focuses its lens on this “blessed” movement of communities and individuals dedicated and driven with one common goal: to create global change. We believe that through stories we can help synthesize these communities into a global network, with people working together to move forward and create the appropriate change in our world. Stories of smart cities, food activism and food security, environmental justice, living communities, transition towns, people living off-the-grid, regenerative design, the turn towards urban agriculture and crises in food and water infrastructure. Community is the solution.
With your support we will be able to produce 25 stories in premium digital media which will create a chain reaction to help us:
Create stories that inspire fans and consumers to drive environmental change.
Promote and feature stories on all things sustainable, prosperous, productive, and creative.
Launch LOCAL globally.
LOCAL: Make the Switch on Kickstarter.
[ours] by Andrew Michler is a collaboration between eVolo Magazine, host of the annual Skyscaper Competition, and the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University on contemporary architecture trends of sustainable design in selected locations around the world.
[ours] disseminates how the best architecture comes together to create regional identity in the 21st century. Site specific design is a core reality in developing robust, thriving communities and exploring the shared nature of the built and natural world through environmentally attuned development.
Regions are already responding to the challenge through inventive and provocative architecture. [Japan Condenses], [Spain Wraps], and[Australia Unfolds] explores how design practices inform a sense of place and provide solutions to complex issues in the built environment. These three divergent areas exemplify the quality of redefined design vernacular that addresses deep sustainable objectives.
The germ of the idea is to explore sustainable design by putting these buildings into context. We see the re-imagining of the built environment as one of the most important goals in thriving in an altered planet in the 21st century. By pushing the envelope these buildings create new architectural archetypes, integrating function and form to improve performance. We will explore how architects have learned from their failures and from taking risks.
This is an exciting idea to explore but its going to take a lot of work. We have a great group of interns to support, some research equipment to procure and of course a little bit of travelling to do. To get the best information possible we plan to go to the source- explore buildings and regions firsthand, interview the architects and occupants, and take a lot of photos and video. While we set the goal low every bit of funding we can raise helps uncover great projects that make a difference.
Here are some highlights (taken out of context of course):
Andrew: So how do you get them (architects) excited about building science again?
Joe Lstiburek: Well, I don’t. What happens is the legal profession does that for us. The most effective technology transfer in the world is a lawsuit. They never call us when things are going well. They call us, “Oh, my God! We’re getting our ass sued because this problem occurred.”
Joe Lstiburek: What’s amazing is formaldehyde in houses doesn’t respond to ventilation rate changes. So if you’re ventilating at 0.1 versus 0.2 versus 0.3, the formaldehyde concentration remains constant. The reason is the more you ventilate the more it emits. You ventilate less it emits less. Don’t put it in the building, that’s a phenomenally successful way of dealing with the problem.
Andrew: Let’s get back to energy a little bit. Is thermal bridging the next cusp of people’s thinking about how building envelopes work?
Joe Lstiburek: Well, it’s no mystery to anybody who knows about buildings that it’s a big deal. I’m kind of amused that people are just figuring out well, glass is really bad and there’s too much it. Not having insulation continuously is a big deal. What’s even more important is that air tightness is even more important. There’s no requirement for air tightness. How can you with a straight face talk about energy efficiency and not have a requirement for air tightness?
Andrew: So what’s the take away? Is it that air barriers are the biggest thing we need to focus on?
Joe Lstiburek: Well, no. Look, if I was in charge of teaching architects building science becomes very simple. Building enclosure is an environmental separator. You want to keep the outside out and the inside in, except when you want to bring the outside in and when you want to have the inside out. That’s it and there are certain rules on how to do that. I have this little list of rules and it all can be distilled into we need a water controlled barrier, an air controlled barrier, a vapor controlled barrier, and a thermal controlled barrier. Then we need a method of exchanging the inside with the outside based on when we want to. That’s it, there are sub-rules on how you do this, but that’s fundamentally it. And I would have loved to written my own LEED standard. It would have been a paragraph long and it would start off by saying, “Don’t do stupid things,” and, “Do this,” and we’re done. “And measure everything,” because if you can’t measure it, I don’t believe it.
Andrew: You have been successful in taking complex building dynamics and making them relatively simple to understand. Do you think that building science is less complicated than a lot of folks out there are making it sound with a lot of hemming and hawing?
Joe Lstiburek: It’s a lot less complicated than people say and my only observation is there’s a lot of money to be made in keeping the peasants confused. I mean it’s so easy. What drives me crazy is WUFI models and computer simulations. None of that is necessary, and most of it is done wrong anyway.
Andrew: When you go on the DoE web site there’s like 400 links or something like that to the energy software available, energy modeling software, for instance. Now, is any of this stuff really –
Joe Lstiburek: Useful? No. No. No.
Andrew: Everybody is wishing to have that magic bullet software?
Joe Lstiburek: Well, I view it as in love with Star Trek. I blame it all on Star Trek. Spock could go into that shuttle bay with his tricorder, do a tricorder scan and figure out that the tachyon field was interfering with the dilythiam crystals, causing him to off-gas, which is why Uhura has a headache. F**k that. We can’t measure s**t like that, but we believe that we can measure everything. Watch NCIS and Abby Sciuto, that babe in the lab – you know, freaking does magical things and measures s**t and she does it all in 45 minutes, not counting commercials. It’s that we couldn’t do in 20 years even if we had unlimited money and people think that you can simulate and measure stuff. The world is not that clean and neat.
The best way we learn all of this is to build it and you see what happened. You say, “Ah, this worked. This didn’t,” and that’s the best education or information. That information lies in the experience base of the older engineers, architects and contractors. One of the biggest problems we have is what I call our own institutional memory. We do a lousy job in construction, engineering and architecture, passing on the lessons of one generation to the next. So we are this huge, dysfunctional family. We need a Dr. Phil to get us all to talk to one another, or an Oprah, or somebody.
If you have lived off-the-grid for awhile like I have, you may also find the newly found interest in net zero building a bit amusing. Most of those who tout NZE do so from the luxury of a grid safety net, and those who want to go "off-grid" are typically more motivated, I think, for a spiritual or political purpose than the technical or environmental challenge. They never actually move to the cabin in the mountains or the yurt in the plains, or take the experience to fullest and design a stand alone system. But now the next thing is being served up in the form of Net Zero Energy living, a rather Zen-like approach to a built environment where one takes nothing out and ask for nothing in return.
The dollar equation is even better. While a Passive House costs more than an average house to build for now, a NZE Passive House cost less than a comparable NZE project, and you get your upgrades for free (like some cheesy sales pitch). Think of it as opportunity savings: getting incredible windows and doors and a state-of-the-art envelope which equals comfort and craftsmanship for less money than plucking it down for a stack of PV on a roof, which frankly is not really a lifestyle enhancement. Get rid of the HVAC equipment costs and up-keep and the savings are durable and long term. While your spiritual or philosophical needs for low impact housing is met - http://rm-ph.com/about-the-passive-house-standard/comfort/ your actual comfortand budget is taken care as well. With Passive House your roof's solar collection potential is now available to feed things like an electric car you buy in a couple years, which makes your overall energy and environmental impact dramatically improved as well as future proofing your energy needs. Passive House makes the potential of a good energy citizen a reality, reducing the demand to a trickle and providing a genuine potential for eliminating dirty energy from your life both technically feasible and long term affordable.
Hope I'm not over selling this but I have been part of a team putting together what may be the best looking conference I have seen. You can read the bulletin below but when I was asked to put together a LEED professional track I thought of the most interesting folks in the state to consider participating.
They all said yes to my amazement- so we will have an all star cast of sustainable builders providing an inside scoop from Award winning Architect H:T Design, the glamorous David Johnston and his Zero Energy Home musings, the ever cool Brian Dunbar of CSU's IBE. We'll cover the pioneering LEED for schools projects, learn about a radical energy design called Solar Banking and hear about the real world of planting green roofs in Colorado.
The second day I have assembled three ground breaking building tech companies, all featured on Inhabitat.com, a Passive House seminar, and some serious energy efficiency for your existing home with everybody's favorite Paul Kriescher of Lightly Treading. Hot Damn, I should print tee shirts.
And now the blub-- Attend the Colorado Renewable Energy Conference (CREC), themed “Local Action—Global Solutions,” in Fort Collins June 2-4, 2011.
Hosted by the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES), the conference offers an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary work done in Colorado and Northern Front Range. Over 50 sessions and 70 speakers on renewable energy, sustainable building and technologies, environmental science, and more will be presented by foremost experts from throughout Colorado and across the nation.
Discover how Colorado is a world leader in the new green economy with an entire Thursday dedicated to professional development with credentialing tracks, including LEED-accredited professionals, real estate “EcoBrokers,” engineers, educators, and community-based energy development.
On Friday, explore public policy and governmental initiatives in comprehensive sessions with experts from NREL, CSU, and industry-leading companies. Also on tap is a tour of some favorite green sites and tastes of Fort Collins. Celebrate local and state renewable-energy innovators as well as CRES’ 15-year anniversary at the awards banquet.
Bring the family on Saturday for a day full of hands-on fun and how-to help for green building, solar energy, electric transportation, local action, green companies, and much more.
CRES gratefully acknowledges the leadership role of the City of Fort Collins in helping host CREC.
Get the details and find out how to participate right here on the conference Web site
IQPC: Is there a concerted effort in Middle Eastern and other major governments to inculcate knowledge about renewable energy and sustainable construction from the grass‐roots level by starting to educate the younger generation about this necessary sector? Do you see any hindrances on this front?
AM: Most governments at this point are spotty in their assertion for renewable energy and sustainable building as complex sociological and financial issues cloud a concise message to their younger populations. None‐the‐less sustainable technologies and construction are the fastest growing sectors in many colleges and demand is forcing institutional and leadership responses. As young Middle Eastern designers and builders see the immense renewable energy resources of solar for instance they will demand access to the technologies and jobs which entail its implementation. When we speak about sustainability we are really talking about a massive generational shift. The implementation of education on sustainable infrastructure will need to engage the entire cross section of a young population regardless of race, class or gender to be effective.
IQPC: How do you see sustainable construction having a positive effect on the Middle East’s emerging economies?
AM: Sustainable development and construction is being embraced for a multitude of reasons: health, energy & water security and quality. For a company whose greatest costs are payroll, for instance, a building that has great IEQ (indoor environmental quality) will immediately see an increase in employee productivity, with a resulting edge in the marketplace. For a desert region, water and peak energy load are major long term issues that sustainable building addresses in a substantial way. The standard of living for a growing population will be based in large part on how they allocate their resources. They can create buildings that actually provide resources for a community rather than take from it. A concerted effort in sustainable development can result in an entire region creating an economic super‐cluster based on its investment.
IQPC: Sustainable construction cannot have the desired effect on an economy’s stability unless it is accompanied by concerted efforts to also implement renewable energy alternatives. Would you agree with this statement? Is this becoming a reality on the ground?
AM: Renewable energy production technologies can often be centralized or distributed, but by their nature buildings and developments are only distributed, meaning that efficiency gains can be only provided at the source. A flattened peak energy demand presented by sustainable building is utterly necessary to implement broad use of renewables. Energy efficiency is the lowest cost of all infrastructures in simple payback when first built but become increasingly difficult to achieve with existing buildings. As more renewable energy sources come online they will need an adequate infrastructure capable of properly using the energy when produced. While much attention has been paid to renewable energy it is only viable when the overall consumption of fossil‐fuel based energy is reduced and infrastructure can properly use it. Wind energy for instance has already saturated certain markets which then have to sell the energy at a loss or shut the turbines down, so a balance of supply and demand is critical for economic stability.
This interview was conducted for the Cost‐Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Saudi Arabia 2011 conference which takes place from 13 ‐ 16 March, 2011 at the Riyadh Marriott Hotel, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For more information on the event or to register, and to download more exclusive content, visit www.sustainableconstructionsaudi.com or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org