local

Pecha Kucha Rundown: Denser, Part 3

1

Noelle and I had fun at Pecha Kucha in San Francisco at the SPUR Urban Center on June 21.  For those unfamiliar with the Pecha Kucha format, each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. The format makes for a fun but focused look at what a wide range of professionals is working on and thinking about. Presentations are loosely organized around a theme. The theme this time was “Denser.”

Using my notes, I am putting together a set of posts that lists the presenters in order, along with links to their website (if I could find them) and any major thoughts I jotted down. For some presentations, I took a number of notes. Other presentations have fewer notes (maybe I was looking at the images more carefully?). All of the presentations were more interesting and beautiful than revealed by my notes and these posts.

– – –

Julie KimHot Studio

essay – “Why We Lie to Kids” – Paul Graham

suburban existence – capsule to capsule

organized chaos – systems for sharing space in dense areas

suburban promise – control enables freedom

2 symbols – house + car

urban reality – loss of control enables freedom

worlds colliding in “meatspace”, the real, physical, non-virtual world

– – –

David Baker – Architect – David Baker + Partners Architects

crowded

hot & dirty

green

looking at density per square mile and the carbon footprint per person

Portland Pearl District full of 300 x 300 blocks

poem – “Lines in Potentis” – Ben Okri

– – –

Gabriel TanOut of Stock Design, Singapore

members of the firm are from different countries, but find a way to work together online

umbrellas in internal gutter to drain

mix of handcrafts and mass production

very focused on flatpack furniture

– – –

Antonio Roman-Alcalá – SF Urban Agriculture Alliance and Alemany Farm

“The Political Economy of Urban Land, and Its Relation to an Urban Agricultural Future”

farming and cities have co-evolved

our population is no longer “mostly farmers” – not directly tied to the land

what society values – highest-earning college majors vs lowest-earning college majors

can’t urban plan our way out of mining and destruction of rainforests

17th & Folsom = “future park” – park for kinds + urban garden

who gets to decide the best use of the land? the owner of the land or the community?

– – –

Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here.

– – –

More Tiny Houses!

5

We’ve highlighted tiny houses in the past – here are a few more that we’ve come across lately.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

– – –

Fuyuhito Moriya purchased a parking space in Tokyo, and then had an ultra-small three-story home built on the 30 square meter lot (about 323 square feet). CNN has a video here.

– – –

CNET recently ran an article on Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, which can be as small as 65 square feet. You can read the article here.

– – –

Dwell featured a small house in Toronto, located on a street full of other small houses, due to small lot sizes. You can read the article here. The architect, Andrew Reeves of Linebox, has a blog dedicated to the project.

– – –

Cool Planet – Art Rosenfeld

4

In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 4 of my record of the presentation – Art Rosenfeld gives an overview of how cool roofs and cool cities can leader to a cool planet. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

– – –

I’m going to bring us into modern times and the question of global warming … Two thousand years ago, people tried to figure out how to keep houses cool, then a couple hundred years ago, we tried to figure out how to keep the cities cool, and now we’re trying to figure out how to keep the planet cool.

Taking a trip around the world … [looking at photos].

– – –

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Bermuda, they use sloped white roofs to collect water.

– – –

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Santorini, Greece, even the sides of the buildings are white.

– – –

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Hyderabad, people like to sleep on the roof to be cool at night.

– – –

Here’s a Wal-Mart store in Northern California with white roof – they’ve done 4500 of their stores, and have 1500 to go.

– – –

Here’s an overview of UC Davis … Since 2005, the CEC Title 24 has required that if a roof is flat, cool roofs are required …

– – –

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the University of Tucson in the middle …  residential areas nearby also have white roofs … …

– – –

Here’s Washington, DC (federal) … The House and Senate office buildings do not have white roofs.

The most fun was this – this is the Pentagon. I went to a hilarious meeting – I got invited to give a talk at the Pentagon. There were innumerable generals and such around …

– – –

Now what about the Earth? … Part of what keeps the earth cool is ice and snow, which is decreasing in size … It would be nice to add some more white … …

Atmospheric climatologists have been aware of this issue for years, and back in the 1980s, Jim Hansen published a paper wondering whether cooling cities would make a difference – and he got an answer of about a 1/10th of a degree … But we weren’t so worried in those days … But we asked, maybe there’s a better way to sell this? … Look, carbon dioxide reflects heat, that’s called a positive radiation forcing onto the ground. And white roofs reflect heat … Carbon dioxide has a price … So we’ve got to do it per unit … 1000 square feet, winds up being about 10 tons of carbon. Suppose we multiply this by about 3 billion, since there are about 3 billion units of roof in cities, then avoid the heating effect of 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide…over the life of the roof. So let’s say 1 billion tons a year for 25 years … This winds up being 300 million cars off the road for 20 years … There are only about 600 million cars right now …

So what to do now? First, get other states to follow California… Arizona and Florida and Georgia have followed suit with cool roofs … The problem is a lot of the rest of the country, the hot part … the United States relies  on model building codes, and states are not required to adopt them. They can make them stronger and adopt them, but they are not required to adopt them. Texas doesn’t have any, the cities there have taken the lead …  DOE is going white, the Marine Corps is going white …

We’re going to launch a private club called 100 Cool Cities, with some DOE help, where were’ going to approach the 100 largest cities, which gets us  to a population of 200 million, where we’ll talk to them about cool roofs and try to get it into the building code … This will involve the Sierra Club, the Clinton Global Initiative, USGBC, ICLEI, the Energy Foundation, the Alliance for Climate Protection, ACEEE, and others …

Steve Chu will offer assistance to the first few countries to sign up to address this issue … …

So things are moving along nicely, and thank you very much.

– – –

Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here. Part 3 is posted here.

– – –

Assorted Links

Window reflections can melt vinyl siding.

PACE program participants must pay off the loans before they can refinance their mortgages.

Transit-oriented development may be threatened by air quality rules in California.

EPA & DOT propose colorful fuel economy labels to make it easier to compare vehicle mileage.

And there’s an interesting article about Smart Grids and privacy.

– – –

Houses – Small, Reused, and Prefab

4

A number of interesting house-related tidbits came my way this week, and I wanted to share a few favorites…

– – –

NPR featured a story (with photos!) about incredibly tiny Japanese houses designed to fit on slivers of land. Every function and element has to be carefully considered.

– – –

Mother Earth News featured a story about how some folks are reusing round, metal grain bins (also called grain silos) as houses. One architect, Mark Clipsham, specializes in putting one bin inside another (with a crane) and then filling the space with foam insulation to improve thermal performance – there are photos of his work here.

– – –

And Treehugger featured a story about Michelle Kaufmann’s new “Zero” series of prefabricated homes. Her company is based in the Bay Area. Her website goes into more detail about the homes, and lists the “lessons learned” from her previous ventures into prefab, which are incorporated into this venture:

  1. Minimize button up work / maximize what is done off-site
  2. Have a system that can offer both efficiencies with repetition in module types, but designed to offer a great variety of overall configurations so each home can be uniquely composed for the specific site conditions and client goals.
  3. Use materials and systems that have been researched and tested for the optimal balance of beauty, longevity, sustainability and cost
  4. Maximize efficiencies in dimensions of materials by designing to construction and shipping “sweet spots” to reduce waste and costs

– – –

Editorial – How Much Space is Enough?

1

Houses have been getting bigger. Over the past fifty plus years (until 2008), the size of the average new house more than doubled, from 1,000 square feet or less in 1950 to 2,265 in 2000 (values from NAHB). The percentage of new homes smaller than 1,200 square feet has been dropping since 1987, while the percentage of new homes larger than 2,400 grew from 21% to 38% between 1987 and 2001 (values from this study). Interestingly, the size of the average new home dropped in 2008 (data here and an article here).

The general trend of larger and larger houses has a direct impact on the environment. Larger houses require more land to build on, more materials for construction, more energy to heat, cool, and light, and result in more waste, both during construction and demolition. While it is expected that there may be some “economy of scale” as houses get larger, there is a widely held suspicion that larger homes consume proportionally more materials because they often have higher ceilings and more complex geometry. Larger houses also require more materials to furnish and decorate.

It should be noted that larger homes are not only increasing in area (square footage); they are also increasing in volume, which may ultimately have a larger impact on the energy consumption of the house. Larger houses are usually constructed with extra features that are not surface area efficient (such as complicated roofs and dormer windows) and which consume more energy for heating and cooling than a compact house of the same volume.

New houses should be both smaller and more compact.

However, it has been difficult to build smaller homes. Aside from the social cache afforded those with larger homes, zoning rules and mortgage practices have also pushed “bigger is better.” For example, mortgage lenders often required the home to be “three times the value of the land,” which then determined a minimum house size for a certain area.

The recent, slight tilt towards smaller home is likely due to the recession and the constrained finances of those building, financing and buying homes. But it is encouraging. When considering what they could afford financially, people chose smaller houses. If we consider what we can “afford” using metrics of energy, water, and materials, we should prioritize building smaller houses.