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

Elevated Bicycle Circle – Innovation in Urban Transportation

Wonderful design to allow bikes to safely travel. The dominance of cars in our transit solutions is something that we need to improve. This is a nice step in the right direction.

These types of urban planning solutions are also part of the health care system. Encouraging healthy activity in many ways does more to promote health than treating the symptoms of inactivity.

Related: Traffic Congestion and a History of Non-SolutionsThe Case for Physically Separated Bike LanesCar Style Mass Transit Mag Lev SystemHow Walkable is Your Prospective NeighborhoodDisregard for People by FedEX and UPS

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

Benefits of Green Roofs

I hope this idea gets adopted on a more widespread basis. Reducing storm water runnoff and reducing heat in the city are nice. But I really think it just provides a wonderful living space which is even more important.

Related: Wonderful Low Impact Woodland HouseBuilding with Tire Bales for environmental benefits
Phone Booth with Roof Lawn in Hoh Rain Forest

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
Continue reading

University of California, Berkeley: 2010 Livable Buildings Awards

Entryway at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay research campus

The top 2010 Livable Buildings Award from the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment was awarded to the transformation (entryway shown in the photo above) of the shell of a former manufacturing plant near UC San Francisco’s new Mission Bay research campus into environmentally and user friendly offices.

The renovation, which included a full seismic upgrade, incorporated high-performance glazing with operable windows, sustainable finish materials, water conserving strategies, and efficient mechanical and lighting systems. The open perimeter is dedicated to open workspaces to maximize views, daylight, and natural ventilation. Private offices and core zones are grouped to create a central “boulevard” open to reception and conference areas.

One of the review jury comments: “Reusing a building with a large floorplate is a challenge; this project uses transparency, color, and materials to make a place where people want to work, and works well in terms of both aesthetics and sustainability.”

full press release

Amazingly Flexible 344 Square Foot Room Can Transform Into 24 Different Rooms

Gary Chan, a Hong Kong Architect, has created an very cool modular apartment (32 square meters) that can transform into 24 different rooms using sliding walls.

Box of tricks

His latest effort, which took a year and cost just over $218,000, he calls the “Domestic Transformer.” The allusion to toy robots seems apt, given the science-fiction quality of the color scheme – mostly black and silver, washed in eerie yellow light.

Acoustic privacy is limited. When Mr. Chang is entertaining, anyone who wants to use the phone must do so in the shower (also known as “the phone booth”). Still, Mr. Chang is determined to see his ideas put to use in new multi-unit buildings. He has invited a number of developers to visit, and has meticulously documented his apartment’s history in a book, “My 32m2 Apartment: A 30-Year Transformation”. Buying a new apartment might have been a less expensive solution to his storage problem, he admitted. “But why do that?” he asked as he stood in the kitchen making noodle soup. “I see my place as an ongoing experiment.”

Related: Great Furniture for Small Spaces