2007 - [Sustainable Concepts] Hemp House and California's Energy
2007, vol. 51
Welcome to the June 2007 newsletter from Design Forward.
Please take some time to enjoy this month's features.
Quote of the Month: "To the optimist, the glass is half
full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the
engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be."
Lisa A. Swan
Drew and Jaime Rokeby-Thomas had the property, builder,
designer and finances lined up for construction of their
straw-bale home on Saltspring Island.
They had everything they needed -- except straw.
Construction on the 1,760-square-foot house was to start
in 2003, the same year Alberta's drought made headlines
across the country. The couple found that Alberta farmers,
unable to grow their own bedding for their livestock,
had gone shopping in B.C. That meant regular straw-bale
sources were sold out.
"We started calling family and friends in the Kootenays,"
says Drew, an inventor, "looking everywhere and anywhere
They never found it, but they did find a rancher with
2,000 hemp bales -- and snapped them up.
Building an alternative-style house can be a large-scale
experiment. Each house built of alternative materials,
such as earth and straw, needs to be certified by an
engineer to pass building inspection.
The last-minute switch made by the Rokeby-Thomases threw
new variables into their plans.
Article © Joanne Hatherly. Photo © Ray Smith
Leader in Energy Innovation?
Stephen del Cardayre hopes to help solve the Earth's
most challenging problem by studying some of its tiniest
He and his colleagues at San Carlos clean-energy start-up
LS9 are on the hunt for a microbe in plant bacteria
that could become a renewable fuel for California's
cars - the state's single largest source of the pollution
that causes global warming.
But even del Cardayre, as passionate and committed as
he is, working for a company fueled by millions of dollars
in venture capital and at the epicenter of Silicon Valley's
fast-growing clean-technology industry, offers a sober
assessment of the state's ambitious goals to fight global
"There is definitely not a silver bullet," del Cardayre
Nearly one year after California passed landmark legislation
to cut carbon-dioxide emissions 25 percent in 13 years,
the state already risks failure. Among the challenges:
» California's utilities, required by law to ensure
that 20 percent of their power is renewable by 2010,
are struggling to reach that target because there is
not enough energy from solar, wind and other low-carbon
sources - and no certainty that will change in three
» The federal government is blocking a key part of the
state's plan to dramatically cut vehicle emissions.
» Despite the focus on new, carbon-free sources of energy,
the state is still approving carbon-dioxide-spewing
natural gas plants. And the most promising new energy
sources are more expensive than natural gas and coal.
"There needs to be an energy revolution," said Dan Skopec,
undersecretary for the California Environmental Protection
For decades, California has been a leader in energy
innovation. About 11 percent of the state's power already
comes from renewable sources - one of the highest levels
in the nation. But that percentage has been stagnant
for the past four years.
Article © Sarah Jane Tribble, Mercury News
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