Makoko Floating City, Lagos, Nigeria

Read more about the effort by 2 architects to improve living conditions, Lagos shows how a city can recover from a deep, deep pit:

In 1997 two architects set out to rethink Lagos, an African megacity that had been largely abandoned by the state. Amid the apparent chaos and crime, they discovered remarkable patterns of organisation. Two decades later, Rem Koolhaas and Kunlé Adeyemi discuss the past, present and future of the city – and reveal why their own project never saw the light of day

There work is a great example how appropriate technology and architecture can be used to provide for the needs to communities. Here is a longer video on Kunlé Adeyemi efforts:

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Plans for World’s Largest Green Roof in Silicon Valley

Creating livable green spaces in the middle of urban sprawl is a great goal. And good work in elevated green spaces has been done in the last 10 years. This image is a rendering of a proposed huge green roofing and park project spanning many buildings (double the size of the current largest green roof).

image rendering of proposed green roof spanning multiple buildings

Rendering of proposed green roof.

The whole development seems pretty spectacular and the huge green roofing concept is very cool. I wonder how likely it is to be developed? The location in the Silicon Valley makes it much more likely it seems to me as there is plenty of money there for extravagance. The entire project is estimated at $3 billion.

World’s largest green roof unveiled in the heart of Silicon Valley

The Hills at Vallco’s crown jewel is without a doubt its $3 million 30-acre green roof, an unprecedented engineering feat that’s “at least twice as big as anything attempted before it.” The elevated community park will include 3.8 miles of walking and jogging trails along rolling hills, orchards, vineyards, meadows, organic gardens, children’s play areas, and a sanctuary for native fauna and flora.

On street-level, the new mixed-use neighborhood will feature a highly walkable and bikeable downtown street-grid anchored by two town squares. Parking would be primarily tucked underground and a transit center may be built at the shopping center. The 15-block street grid will be filled with 625,000 square feet of retail, 2 million square feet of office space, and 800 residential units.

I am not sure what the $3 million price tag includes. It sure doesn’t seem like much money given the scope. My guess is it must exclude most of the costs – such as creating the infrastructure for laying the green roof; unless it is much cheaper than I would think.

The development site sits between Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters and the spaceship-like Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, California.

Related: The Benefits of Green RoofsUniversity of California, Berkeley: 2010 Livable Buildings AwardsWonderful Low Impact Woodland House with a Green Roof

Rustic Homestead Community

SunRay Kelly has created an interesting collection of 7 natural homes on the homestead in 2nd growth forest at the base of Cultus Mountain in Washington, USA.

room looking out picture walls to forest

Garden House by Sunray

We live a chop-wood and grow-your-own-vegetables lifestyle here on the homestead. Instead of working away from home all day to make money to buy food and pay big utility bills we grow a lot of our own food and make our own heat.

exterior view of Sky House

Sky House by Sunray

Skyhouse includes a greenhouse as part of the house.

About SunRay

SunRay’s organic style seeks to retain the natural shape of trees used in construction. His study of architecture and sculpture only reinforces his affinity for the organic forms found in nature, rejecting the rectilinear, artificial Western method of architecture.

While he was still in college, SunRay’s showed some of his blueprints to an older builder who replied, “Learn to use a hammer, boy, because no one but you is going to be able to build that.” Since then, SunRay has been creating things that “nobody but SunRay could build.” His structures are timeless and give the appearance of being rooted, as though they had sprouted from the forest floor.

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Heating Homes, Past and Present

Solar is a great source of passive heating and can be used actively for electricity and in ways such as hot water panels that circulate water to heat the house. These solutions don’t always work in a given situation but when they do they can be very attractive.

One common heating method in the past (and still used a fair amount) is oil tanks. Before that we had coal heating for houses. The house I grew up in had such a system (taken out long before I moved in, but remnants of it were still visible) where coal was poured down a shoot, at ground level, into a basement room with the furnace.

Then the coal was heated and I believe water was heated and sent to radiators to warm the house. This was no longer in place, so I am guessing; when I moved in the house had a furnace using gas to heat air and that was sent to warm the rooms upstairs. I remember sitting by the vents where the air would be warm.

Removing oil tanks and especially underground tanks can be quite a challenge and requires special attention to potential environmental issues (leaking oil). This clip from This Old House shows an old system being removed and replaced by a new oil tank.

Normally oil tanks are used for heating in areas that don’t have natural gas utility lines available. That is often rural areas but also areas that just never had gas lines put in. Heating using house-hold oil tanks is quite common in the North East United States even today. Delivery trucks connect to the house and pump in oil – very similar to what old coal delivery truck did (and in many houses in the North East they probably had trucks delivering coal before converting to oil).

This Frequently asked questions on oil tanks (from Commtank – the company in the video), provides lots of useful information, including:

Why should I consider removing my Underground Storage Tank (UST)?

Approximately 50% of 275-gallon 12 gauge steel tanks are estimated to develop leaks within 15 years, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Many older underground home heating tanks were never designed to withstand long-term exposure to soil and water. Even steel tanks that were specifically designed for underground use can leak if they do not have adequate corrosion protection. Home heating oil storage tank leaks can be very damaging to the environment and leaking petroleum products may contaminate the groundwater. Toxic ingredients such as benzene, toluene or xylene threaten human health by poisoning the environment and may require costly cleanup.

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Using Algae Filled Window Panes to Provide Passive and Active Solar

This webcast looks at this demonstration project (at the International Building Exhibition IBA 2013 in Hamburg, Germany) using algae filled window panes to provide passive solar and active solar. Passive solar is achieved as the algae grow quickly under direct sunlight and thereby produce share for the building. Active solar is achieved by using the biomass of the algae for energy.

The algae use photo synthesis to grow and create biomass. The water also is heated up by the sun and that heat energy is captured to be used also. The algae window panes are moveable in order to provide shade and better capture sunlight.

This is a speculative project. It is interesting to see the various alternatives to reducing our use of un-renewable energy and using design to create livable spaces.

The BIQ algae-powered building has been operating for over a year. It’s faring well so far

The building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%, and Wurm says 100% is achievable. Combined with solar panels to power the pumps and heat exchangers, the building could be completely self-sufficient.

Wurm says we’re likely to see the first full-blown commercial applications on data centers, which of course are particularly energy hungry, and require a lot of cooling. That’s another advantage of algae: it provides natural shading as it absorbs sunlight.

It seems up front costs may mean this isn’t economically viable yet. But we need to keep experimenting to find solutions that work. Also, the current failure to properly count for the negative externalities of fossil fuel is something that must change.

Related: Benefits of Green RoofsDo It Yourself Solar Furnace for Home HeatingGreen Building with Tire BalesWonderful Low Impact Woodland House

Influential Architects: Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany and moved to the USA during his career as an Architect. He was known for stripping down design to the minimal structure needed.

Examples of his architecture include: Farnsworth House, Seagram Building, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and the Neue Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum is a museum for modern art in Berlin.

In addition to buildings he designed furniture including, the Barcelona chair, the Brno chair, and the Tugendhat chair.

Related: Mies van der Rohe SocietyLow Impact Woodland HouseFundació Mies van der Rohe

Easy to Assembly Off-the-grid Towns

render of ekinoid spherical housing model

Ekinoid Housing Unit for a Family

The Ekinoid Project, based near St. Austell, Cornwall, UK, envisions homes designed to ideally be fabricated using no expert knowledge or skills. The homes will suit a family of three or four, and will take under one week to build. Ideally, the main structure should last over 100 years and then be recycled.

Structurally light yet exceptionally strong, the Ekinoid home will very significantly reduce raw material requirements, and will free up the land underneath; it will allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs (and meet their requirements for potable water and in-house sewage treatment; and some of their food needs).

The plan is to build homes, having a spherical frame (steel or possibly Glulam), will be extremely strong, robust and light.

The Ekinoid Project is seeking active, ongoing collaborations with one or more universities. We want to forge partnerships (in industry and) with universities regarding architectural, structural engineering and materials solutions, and we want to involve product designers, graphic designers, 3D-graphics artists, town planners etc.

The project seems a bit ambitious to me. I doubt full towns will be built. But ambition is good. Maybe I am wrong. Even if the project doesn’t achieve that goal, innovative attempts to provide housing solutions are worthy of time and effort.

Related: Wonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseGreen Building with Tire BalesConcrete Houses 1919 and 2007

Wonderful Low Impact Woodland House

photo of the inside of the woodlands house

This site includes details on the process of building a wonderfully distinct woodland house in Wales, that is environmentally friendly.

It was built by myself and my father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. 4 months after starting we were moved in and cosy. I estimate 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to this point.

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
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring

Fantastic stuff. Read more about how they did it and why.

photo of the from of the woodlands house

Related: Green Building with Tire Balesposts on personal engineering projects from our engineering blogLivable Buildings Awards
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