Welcome to the June 2003 newsletter for Design Forward.
Please take some time to enjoy this month's features.
Quote of the Month: "The job of buildings is to improve
human relations: architecture must ease them, not make
them worse." - Ralph Erskine
Back to Our Roots?
Is sustainable architecture bringing the world of
architecture back around full circle?
Historically, buildings were built with natural
materials, local to the site. Sun orientation
and wind were taken in to account. There were
no hazardous materials or energy-intensive manufactured
products used in construction - they hadn't been
invented yet. All the products and man-made materials
that brought onto this earth for one reason or
another are now destroying it. So what do we do?
One answer: Go back to basics of materials - using
rammed earth or straw bale. The more natural material
we incorporate into the cities the healthier they
become. Another approach is going back to the
basics of communal design - Creating the spaces
similar to those of old European cities - narrow
streets, allowing only bicycle or walking traffic,
reduce pollution from cars or mixing of commercial
and residential spaces. High-density areas allow
the bicycle/pedestrian traffic to easily maneuver
one's way around the city. A different approach
to green architecture has also surfaced - newly
manufactured products - the ideas that have not
been done before, such as the structural insulated
panels, or concrete foam, or waterproof breathable
vapor barriers. New products that incorporate
technology, modern architecture and energy conservation
are integral to the world of architecture.
So what is the best approach, unfortunately we
are not going to be able to take away the car
and narrow all the streets in America. We are
not going to be able to build everything out of
straw bale because our resources are somewhat
limited. And restrictions of straw bale and similar
materials do not always work well in the industrial
and commercial sectors. We will never get the
United States 'back to basics' - walking to work,
living in caves, or collecting rain water to wash
their dishes. But we can bring new products into
our modern lives that accommodate nature and us.
The key to green architecture is combining what
we know already about existing materials and the
modern techniques that are being invented.
Article by Lisa Van Veen, 2000. Article in full
© Design Forward.
Concrete Forms by Eco-Block
One of the fastest growing sectors in the construction
industry around the world is Insulated Concrete
Forms (ICFs). These forms, which are made of Expanded
Polystyrene (EPS), are used to build reinforced
concrete walls for both residential and commercial
Once the manufactured forms are erected, concrete
is poured in. After the concrete has hardened,
the forms stay in place and become the insulation
for the walls.
These systems are environmentally friendly, significantly
reduced the use of wood products, are energy efficient
providing a minumin R-value of 22, and can be
Picture © Eco-Block.com
out about Eco-Block... »
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The modest straw bale home currently under construction
has been an evolving process. Laura Silver's journey
of how she first chose straw bale can be better
described in her own words: "Over many years I read
up on alternatives to toxic building materials,
kept an eye on the progress of photovoltaic (solar
power generation) technology, and learned about
passive solar design. In the late 80's I came across
an article in one of my home magazines that talked
about a book called A Pattern Language. Yes, it's
a classic now, and endemic to much of sustainable
design - but back then I had to go to a specialist
book shop and have it imported from England. It
cost me more than $60 on a paramedic's salary, but
I didn't bat an eye. I was in design-hog heaven.
Sometime in the very early 1990's, I saw a small
photo and sidebar description of a straw bale house
in an issue of the very same home magazine that
led me to A Pattern Language. That was it." so here
she is over 10 years later building that dream home.
The teachings of A Pattern Language greatly detail
the correlation between humans and space. This
book has become a bible of sorts to the design
world. The Silver Residence is designed around
many of the fundamental ideas of the book. One
example, the width of the building is 25' wide
as suggested by the book as the ideal size of
a room. The windows are also designed at a 60°
angle to reduce glare and increase light with
out increasing window area.
Laura was very concerned about the materials
used in the structure as well. Recycled and natural
materials were important to her. The building
will be constructed of formaldehyde-free plywood,
granite and poured- concrete kitchen countertops,
recycled steel framing, metal roofing with water
catchment, and tankless water heaters. She even
went so far as to purchase salvaged doors and
windows and then have the home was designed around
them. The Silver Residence is a great success
of simple and modest natural building.
The detailed story and timeline of the project
can be followed on her website. [use the link
below] Article and picture © Design Forward.