Built environment – Jan 30

January 30, 2013

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Passive House: A Building Revolution – trailer

Community Solutions
Passive House: A Building Revolution is a film that explains the environmental challenge and opportunity our buildings present. It shows that it is possible to reduce the primary energy buildings use (heating and cooling) by 80%, as compared to the 15 to 40 % goals currently set by Energy Star, LEED and the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). It also explains the importance of retrofitting our 116 million existing homes.

The film describes a rapidly growing movement in Europe and the U.S. aimed towards drastically reducing building energy consumption. It tells the story of America’s super-insulated house movement of the 1970s, which led to the German Passiv Haus. Today there are more than 20,000 such buildings in Europe.

Passive House: A Building Revolution showcases architects, builders, and home owners from across the country share their experience of building a Passive House or doing a deep-energy retrofit.

(September 2012)
From the producers of The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

How retrofitting a California suburb for walkability is spurring economic development

Kaid Benfield, NRDC Switchboard
A terrific street redesign is assisting economic development in a southern California community that has suffered from changing economic conditions but is nevertheless seeing significant population growth. This is a story of municipal foresight, excellent recent planning, and green ambition.

Lancaster is a fast-growing city of a little over 150,000 in far northern Los Angeles County, about 70 miles from downtown LA. Its population has more than tripled since 1980; it increased by nearly a third from 2000 to 2010. It is racially mixed (38 percent Latino, 34 percent white, 20 percent African-American) and, like so many fast-growing western cities, decidedly sprawling. The satellite view on Google Earth reveals a patchwork pattern of leapfrog development, carved out of the desert. It is a city with a very suburban character…
(4 January 2013)

A Century from Now Concrete Will be Nothing But Rubble

Alice Friedemann, energyskeptic.com
Concrete is an essential part of our infrastructure.

And it’s all falling apart, as Robert Courland’s 2011 book Concrete Planet makes clear.

The Romans built concrete structures that lasted over 2 thousand years. Ours will last a century — at most.

Courland writes that our infrastructure may last less than a century. Despite this, builders, architects, and engineers who know the shortcomings of steel and concrete continue to build structures that will deteriorate.

The problem isn’t the just the concrete; it’s the iron and steel rebar reinforcement inside. Cracks can be fixed, but when air, moisture, and chemicals seep into reinforced concrete, the rebar rusts, expanding in diameter four or five-fold, which destroys the surrounding concrete, and ultimately destroys the nuclear reactor and waste containment structures; coal and natural gas power plants, buildings, homes, and skyscrapers; roads, bridges, dams, levees, water mains, barges, airport runways, sewage and water treatment plants and pipes, schools, subways, church, canals, corn and grain silos, shipping wharves and piers, tunnels, parking garages and lots, sidewalks, shopping malls, swimming pools, and anything else made of concrete…
(19 January 2013)

Tiny Houses with Kids

Jennifer Langston, Sightline Daily via Grist
When my husband and I bought our first house, its 800 square feet of living space was perfect for two. It was what we could afford, and it suited us. We fought rarely, lived within our means without too much trouble, loved living within easy walking distance of restaurants and parks, went away many weekends, divided up the two closets, and dumped all the extra stuff in the basement.

Then we had a kid.

Daycare bills made us broke, we argued 400% more often, and we spent more time inside. We moved our one living room chair to make way for the baby swing. We moved the desk into our bedroom, with one inch to spare. I invented a complicated system of labels and garbage bags headed to the consignment store, full of out-of-season clothes that were too big or too small, the acres of unwanted things that people give you, and toys that I could not stand to store in my living room. This Christmas, I provoked the familial equivalent of an international incident by limiting the presents that grandparents could send…
(25 January 2013)

Tags: American decline, Buildings, Housing, Passive House, Urban Design