Aug/Sept 2013: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

                         Australia Wins 2013 Solar Decathlon China

This August, the University of Wollongong in Australia took home first place in the China Solar Decathlon 2013 with their Illawara Flame House.

illawarra flame house

The Illawara Flame House designed by UOW Australia. Image via Inhabitat.

Co-hosted by the US Department of Energy, and the National Energy Administration China, this was the inaugural Solar Decathlon on Asian soil.  Much as American and European competitions do, the China 2013 competition challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

Why is it beautiful? Richard King, from the US Department of Energy, calls the victory of the first ever retrofitted home to enter the competition “remarkable.” He commended the Illawara Flame as a  “modern, very energy efficient house that won the praise of everyone who [went] into it.” The Australian team was inspired by their native Illawara Flame Tree’s spring time renewal and transformation – a metaphor for their radical approach to refurbishing an existing home rather than creating a brand new building.

Why is it useful? “It all began with the idea of retrofit,” Team UOW explain in their walk-through video of the Illawara Flame home, which has been designed for an older couple whose children have left home. The home design emphasizes water efficiency, solar energy harvesting, passive design and advanced ventilation systems.

Three bedrooms have been converted into two, with a large open space for the dining room and living room. Multiple windows promote flow between indoor and outdoor space.

Why is it green? With 8 million homes in Australia that account for 13% of carbon dioxide emissions, refurbishing existing ‘fibro’ homes to a net zero energy standard upcycles homes for the next generation. It also eliminates the waste of tearing down existing buildings.

“The Illawarra Flame is perfect for clients looking to downsize while ensuring a clean energy future for their grandchildren,” explains Team UOW. The jurors thought so too, and Australians took home first prize!

Want more info on a ‘fibro’ house and exactly how it fits into the Australian landscape? Check out this informative overview from Matt Hickman at Mother Nature Network.

Visit Sally’s Blog for more B.U.G. Designs.

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October 2012: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

Cardboard Bike

Inventor Izhar Gafni has united an extremely useful and versatile material (cardboard) with a universally used product (the bicycle) to create a transportation option that could profoundly affect the developing world. Gafni calls his cardboard bicycle the Alfa.

Watch a video of Gafni and the Alfa in action.

Why is it beautiful? To paraphrase Modernist architect Louis Sullivan, it’s a beautiful thing when form is such a true expression of function. What makes Gafni’s Alfa bike beautiful is its intent, and its structural elegance in using a small amount of cardboard to carry large loads, in a recognizable form.

Why is it useful? A thick layer of waterproof paint ensures that the bike is as robust as possible, and it costs less than $12 to make. Biking covers a distance around five times fast than walking, and the low price means that this economy of time can be brought to a demographic who can not afford it otherwise.

Why is it green? Bicycling is probably the most sustainable form of mass transportation. Gafni’s ability to manufacture the Alfa and its derivatives inexpensively and simply, from recycled materials (including used tires), could bring transportation to billions more people. Gafni thinks big, “Like Henry Ford who made the car available to anybody, this bike is going to be cheap and available to any child in the world.” He is also working on a cardboard wheelchair…

Where is it at?
After three years and several patent applications, Gafni is now fundraising with financial service provider ERB to produce the Alfa in adult and child versions.

Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. Designs.

The Whole HOG: June 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

This June we’re finding inspiration in unexpected places, like the toy race car featured in B.U.G. Design powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

But we’re also inspired to see how the concepts of rainwater harvesting and stormwater management are moving into the mainstream. The Campus Rainworks Challenge, sponsored by the EPA, is a great illustration of this.

So, if you’re looking for inspiration this summer, you’ve come to the right blog. We also have giveaways and good design (see: Australian beach eco-renovation at Bondi Beach) inside to sweeten the deal.

May 2012: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

Design Like You Give a Damn [2]: Building Change from the Ground Up

Why is it beautiful? With their second book, Design Like You Give a Damn [2], Architecture for Humanity has compiled over 100 projects showing architecture as a driver of change and economic re-invigoration.  The book itself has a satisfying, if compact, heft to it that is complimented by what’s inside – good design sense.  The user-friendly, picture-intensive layout makes the information accessible and interesting.

Why is it useful? The book is beefed up by a section written by co-founder Cameron Sinclair on lessons learned – everything from working on economic development in post-disaster contexts to transforming long-term rebuilding centers into local economic development corporations – that adds up to a raison d’etre for Architecture for Humanity. Kate Stohr, also co-founder, contributes what is essentially a primer for community groups, architects and others seeking to finance their initiatives in the Financing Sustainable Community Development section.

Why is it green? Design Like You Give a Damn [2] urges readers to give a damn: to care, to get involved, and to take positive action. The Wall Street Journal calls it, “Architecture with a cause.” The book provides compelling examples – our McKinley School install included – and tools for environmentally-friendly, culturally-specific solutions.
“It’s not just about putting bricks to mortar. It is about taking the vision of creating a better world for others and making it tangible.”
Auma Obama, CARE International

“The resourcefulness of the projects in the book is inspiring, its information practical and its numerous factoids sobering.”
-The New York Times

Buy the book here.

Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. Designs.

The Whole HOG: April 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

Our April edition is focused on cleantech – inspired by our adventures at Eco City in San Francisco. For show and tell, we’re featuring our neighboring exhibitors, a company called BISEM Inc, producing building-integrated photovoltaic (BiPV) curtain walls. Find out more in the B.U.G. Design section.

As a follow-up to last month’s feature on financing sustainable water infrastructure in the U.S., we have a report from the American Water Works Association that offers a clear warning about the state of our nation’s pipes, and the associated costs.

The architecturally designed, modular Rainwater HOG tanks offers a cleantech take on rainwater harvesting. Capturing rainwater reduces reliance on aging infrastructure and offers a piece of the solution for alleviating pressure on the national water system and the environment.

Finally, don’t miss Sally’s heart-pounding article on her 8-day race through the deserts of Morocco!

April 2012: Eco City in the Cleantech Capital

                    Eco City at the Cleantech Forum
San Francisco

“Through bold policy leadership and aggressive economic development efforts, San Francisco has become a leading center for the cleantech industry,” said Mayor Ed Lee on the rainy Tuesday of March 27th, 2012.

As a kick-off to the two-day Cleantech Forum, the Cleantech Group named San Francisco as the ‘Cleantech Capital of North America’.  Mayor Lee accepted the award on behalf of the city in an outdoor ceremony held in Eco City – a public showcase for the latest clean technology available on the market. San Francisco is home to one of the largest and most concentrated cleantech clusters across the globe – 208 cleantech companies and cleantech investors.


Rainwater HOG in the elements at Eco City

Hold on! What is clean technology, you might ask? Clean Edge, a clean technology research firm, defines it as “a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes.”

Braving exposure to the elements in Eco City – set up in the Embarcadero Plaza just across from the Ferry Building – was Rainwater HOG CEO Simon Dominguez. Our multi-award winning Rainwater HOG tank has pioneered sophisticated, modular rainwater collection and storage in the USA and around the world. He was exhibiting among other cleantech innovators, including one who caught our eye.  Read more about BISEM Inc’s BiPV curtain wall – energy-generating glass walls for high rise buildings – in the BUG Design section.

Exposure to, and clever re-use of, the elements (such as wind, rain, and sun) is what cleantech is all about.  Exposure to the estimated 20,000 pedestrians who walk through the plaza daily was just an added benefit of Eco City.

March 2012: Ecobuild

In England this month? Visit our Rainwater HOG booth- manned by Zambesi (UK) Limited–  at Ecobuild from
Tuesday, March 20 –
Thursday, March 22

at the ExCel conference center
in the heart of the new Green Enterprise District in London.

Ecobuild is the world’s biggest even for sustainable design, construction and the built environment and the UK’s largest construction event of any kind.

Visitors will be eligible to win three Rainwater HOG tanks!