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June 2007 - [Sustainable Concepts] Hemp House and California's Energy Plan
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Sustainable Concepts )
Design Forward Newsletter June 2007, vol. 51
in this issue
  • Hemp House
  • California: Leader in Energy Innovation?
  • Feedback
  •         

    Greetings!

    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."
    - Unknown


    Lisa A. Swan

    Hemp House

    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 for straw."

    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

    California: Leader in Energy Innovation?

    Stephen del Cardayre hopes to help solve the Earth's most challenging problem by studying some of its tiniest inhabitants.

    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 warming.

    "There is definitely not a silver bullet," del Cardayre said.

    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 years.

    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 Agency.

    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

    Feedback

    Design Forward works toward promoting Sustainable Design. If you know of a project that should be featured, please contact us. Let us know why you think it should be featured and give us a basic intro to the project, the sustainable elements and any websites or contact information.

    If you would like to submit a fun and/or entertaining quote about architecture, building, the environment or such, send it in! If it at all possible, include the author.

    If you have any other feedback concerning this publication, please feel free to send an email or use the form.

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    Revised June 1, 2010