The 12th International Photo Competition on "Earthen architectures: landscapes of architectures" is an initiative of the Municipality of Casalincontrada, in the Italian province of Chieti and the Documentation Centre on Earth Architectures, Terrae onus Association The "rediscovery" of the knowledge linked to earthen architecture recomposed in images, like tiles of a mosaic made of people, things, material and places. Images that could be interpreted as "surviving structures" or "new scenarios", as well as architectures of the territory, memories and situations.
Looking back: 22 Years of Design at Faculty of Architecture - University of Lisbon Exhibition by Marco Rocha & Mário Matos Ribeiro, at the Lisbon Design and Fashion Museum (MUDE), provides a deconstructive context, set with suspended cage-like frames, fabric fringed lighting, suit lining, glowing white palettes, in which to consider student fashion, products, and graphics highlighting 22 years of design education at FA-UL.
Mini is the word: Creatures of Comfort Installations by Sisley Leung is a series of installations of miniature objects and settings - a copper pot kitchen, a table set for two, a closet full of clothes, hot air balloons, and more - "peaking through the nooks and crannies" throughout Toronto's Gladstone Hotel, clear evidence of tiny people who live among us.
One of the biggest mistakes in architecture is that we're expecting society to be interested in the specific problems of architecture. [Architects] need to adjust to what society is discussing. We just provide the forms that can translate their problems into solutions.
A little wild: 25hours Bikini Berlin Hotel by Studio Aisslinger is 149 rooms of seamless urban jungle theme: eclectically furnished public spaces bursting with plants; each room's decor keyed to the view, warm and natural for the side overlooking the elephants and monkeys in the Berlin Zoo, harder-edged when facing the West Berlin cityscape.
The blog wunderlust is a weekly round up summarizing the architectural highlights, news and web links, that don't otherwise fit the format of this blog. If you have any to share feel free to drop me an email
Mass- production is the realm of the industrial designer and the process engineer – so let them maintain claim over that territory. The bespoke is the true specialty of the architect and the contemporary profession has more facility than ever to implement difference in the most intelligent of ways.
The blog wunderlust is a weekly round up summarizing the architectural highlights, news and web links, that don't otherwise fit the format of this blog. If you have any to share feel free to drop me an email
Tired of people coming up with lame excuses that they don't know what to get you for Christmas because of your discerning tastes, or maybe you signed up for your office's secret Santa and are stumped or perhaps you just need that perfect bespoke piece for that special architect in your life. Looked no further that architechnophilia's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide (the Architect's Version).
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has announced a complete exterior transformation and a dynamic redesign of the interior, characterized by long ribbons of stainless steel conceived by architects Kohn Pedersen Fox that will result in an upgrade of the museum to showcase the art, experience, culture and heritage of the automobile.
Designed by New Orleans based practice Trahan Architects, the 64,000 ft2 Baton Rouge Municipal Dock lies on an emerging pedestrian thoroughfare that connects Louisiana State University with downtown area and the Mississippi River. At a cost of $20 million, the mixed-use development will allow residents and visitors a host of public facilities under the backdrop of the river.
The Ricola Herb Centre in Laufen (Basel), Switzerland was designed in 2012 by renowned architects Herzog & de Mueron with a facade constructed by master clay builder Martin Rauch, the building is a high-volume long building with flat roof and façade built using the rammed earth. Façade elements made of compacted local clay sourced from the Laufen valley will form Europe’s largest loam building by 2014. From spring 2014, Ricola’s herb processing activities will be entirely carried out at a single location. Distinctive features of the brand new production building are high energy efficiency and state-of-the-art green building principles.
The new building reveals many aspects of Ricola’s strong commitment to its production location in Switzerland and at home in Laufen. Its self-appointed high goals for ecology and sustainability are consistently pursued: Logistics efficiency and the sensible use of resources are at the forefront for this project. The new building will be completely constructed using loam sourced from the Laufen valley. Lehm Ton Erde Baukunst GmbH (LTE), a specialist company based in the Vorarlberg alpine region in Switzerland, manufactures the prefabricated façade elements. Production is housed in a temporary hall in the neighboring town of Zwingen where LTE practices a newly developed procedure. No elements are used other than natural and organic earth from Laufen.
Above is a near complete progress shot of the front of the house. Painting is complete and the external paving and retaining works are underway. Note the photovoltaic panels just poking above the higher roof.
The house has many sustainable features and the rear wall of the house is the 'engine room' for most of them. In the image above from left to right:
To the very left is the 23,000 litre rainwater storage tank. This tank provides all of the potable water needs for the house, ie; drinking, cooking and showering water.
The vertical white rectangular box is the gas heating unit for the underfloor hydronic heating system
Next is the white vertical 'tube' which is the first flush system for the rainwater tank. A first flush system diverts the first flush of each rainfall away from the rainwater storage tank preventing any dust, silt or contaminants from making it into the houses water supply
The next three matching 'boxes' are the greywater recycling system. This system takes greywater from showers, basins and the washing machine and cleans and recycles it for re-use within the house for flushing toilets and back to the washing machine. It is also used for watering gardens and lawns
The next two items are part of the solar hot water system. On the ground is the hot water storage tank and on the wall is the gas heating booster which is used when there is insufficient sun to provide the solar heating for the hot water.
And finally on the ground is the start of the installation of the pumping system for sending the rainwater through out the house.
The front entry of the house has been designed to act as a two storey breezeway, circulating air throughout the house. At the top of the image you can see the louvre windows that form the main functional component of the breezeway, providing very fine control over airflow and direction. By selecting the right louvres to open it is possible to facilitate direct cross ventilation, diverted cross ventilation to another part of the house, and on still draw by opening all of the louvres, stackeffect can be utilised by allowing hot air to rise and draw through cooler air from below.
Carpets can be a significant issue when it comes to green building. Many carpets and underlays have high VOCemissions, are made from non-renewables and are non-renewable at the end of their life, so it is important to select with care. The carpet we will be using is a low VOC 100% wool carpet which is laid on a underlay that is made from recycled clothing, shredded to from a soft underlay. Towards the back of the image, the recycled timber architraves and skirting boards can be seen.
Above is a progress photo of the front/North of the house with all of the external cladding completed.
Keeping the summer solar heat gain out of large north facing windows can be a problem. We love providing lots of natural light into houses but are very conscious of the heat gain issues large areas of glass create. Even with high performance Low E glass, solar heat gain in summer can be a problem.
To manage this, we install retractable external venetian louvre blinds to the windows. When retracted the blinds are hidden in a pelmet box over the windows as you can see in the image above.
The blinds operate through a range of positions from being totally closed and providing full sun shading, to open 90 degrees to allow for increased light but still providing partial shading, right through to totally open as per the image above.
The internal fixout and joinery is well underway, as you can see from the image above the kitchen has been installed.
Achieving an eco-friendly kitchen is about choices of materials, products and appliances.
For the cupboards we have used sustainably forested and harvested Hoop Pine plywood, and for the island bench breakfast bar we have used solid reclaimed Spotted Gum. Wherever possible we prefer to avoid the use of manufactured board products such as MDF or particleboard, many of these products are very high in formaldehyde emissions, as well as contributing to the wood chipping and pulping of native forests.
The dishwasher and kitchen mixer tap are 4 star water efficiency rated and the electrical appliances are all 4 star energy rated. In our opinion 4 star energy and water efficiency is the minimum that anyone should settle for. The cost premium for this level of appliance is so minor compared to the water an energy saving over, say a two star rated appliance.
Heat trapped at the top of a room between the head of the door and the ceiling is a major contributor rooms heating up in summer. Even with good cross ventilation, if there is no way for this trapped heat to escape, then it will stay in the room.
The way we deal with this is by installing a small bank if timber louvres over each door, which can be opened or closed depending on the requirement to heat or cool a room. In the image above, the louvres can be seen over the two bedroom doors. Once the louvres are open, the trapped heat is free to continue on its breeze path and maintain full cross ventilation.
The strange thing about this, is that this sort of installation is a not a new concept. Victorian houses has openable highlight windows over many of their internal doors. What we don't understand is at what point did such a great idea disappear from standard construction?
We have commenced internal painting and are using Natural Paint from Murobond. We feel the name says it all. The paint contains milk, egg white, vinegar and linseed oil to name but a few ingredients which are all natural, bio-degradable and from renewable resources. NO petrochemicals or heavy metals can be seen. Beats me why anyone would use anything else but natural bio paints.
Unfortunately when choosing to use a hardwood in their home, most people are not aware of the environmental issues associated with that choice. Although any tree that is cut down for timber can be replaced with another newly planted tree, most Australian hardwoods are slow growing and a lot of the timber that you may get from a timber yard could be from a tree 50 years old. There has been so much logging of old growth forests carried out in Australia over the years that we really are getting to the point where we should think about stopping.
Making the right sustainable choice for hardwood IS hard. As a minimum, if you are obtaining new timber, look for timber that has some from of chain of custody accreditation, such as FSC.
OR do what we do.
We only used reclaimed or recycled timbers.
The image above is of some Red Ironbark stair treads that were salvaged from a warehouse in Sydney.
Below are some recycled Bluegum posts and beams being used for some external pergolas and verandas.
Not only is reclaimed and recycled timber a very sustainable choice, it is also a much better timber. Newly logged timber is high in moisture and therefore very unstable. To reduce the moisture content in the timber, it is force dried in kilns to dry out and reduce the moisture content down to a stable level. The problem with such forced drying is that the timber is still prone to warping, cupping and twisting as it re-adjusts to it's new environment.
With recycled or reclaimed timber, because it is so old, it has dried out naturally and is a very stable timber.
Below is some more recycled Bluegum which has been used as feature wall cladding at the entry to the house. Below is another progress photo of the front, or North of the house.
Keeping cool in summer is critical to a well designed green building, particularly when looking to avoid air conditioning.
To achieve this, cross ventilation and ventilation control is the key.
We find that louvre windows such as the one above below are the best way to achieve fine control over the amount of ventilation required.
Louvre windows are the only windows that allow you to open a window a full 100% for maximum cross ventilation of to feather that back to a fine opening of only 2% to ensure fresh air supply.
They look good, provide uninterrupted vision because there are no framing members and are very secure.
The old loose and rattly louvres of the 50's are a thing of the past. The louvres currently available seal so well that they are cyclone rated.
As one can see from the image above, things are progressing along nicely. The external Fibre Cement cladding is nearing completion to the first floor, all windows are installed and some internal works have commenced. On the second floor roof a photo voltaic solar array is just visible above the roof sheeting.
The solar array, below, is a grid connected 3 kW system which we believe should look after all of the household power needs, making the house a genuine zero carbon or carbon neutral house. The panels have perfect due north exposure and are mounted on support frames to bring them up to the optimal solar angle for Sydney'slatitude, thus ensuring they generate the most energy possible.
An important but often overlooked aspect of good passive design is ensuring that a house is well insulated. Insulation products are available in various 'R' values. An R value represents the thermal resistance of the particularinsulation product. So in theory the higher the R value, the greater the insulating properties.
However achieving a well insulated building envelope is not just a case of using the highest R value you can find. It is possible to have too much insulation. Insulation works on trapping air between the fibres, so good loft is required for the insulation to work properly. If insulation is squashed into a wall of roof to make it fit, then the insulation will not loft and won't perform to its optimum. If you don't get the full insulating value from your insulation product then you are simply wasting money.
Also, when creating a well insulated building envelope it is critical to provide adequate ventilation to roof spaces and wall cavities. It you don't, then you will create a moist and damp environment which will become a breeding ground for unhealthy moulds.
Above and below are the insulation product and installation that we typically use. We always choose to use polyester insulation because it very safe to handle when installing (it is just like installing fluffy pillows), contains no formaldehyde unlike most glass fibre insulation and is made from recycled materials such as PET bottles.
Something that we are big on is trying to re-use heat and energy twice. In the case of the ducting and fan in the image below, this is not air conditioning. The simple fan and duct system transfers warmed or cooled air from one part of the house to another. So in the case of winter, a well heated living space will create and element of 'wasted' heat which we duct off and transfer to the second floor bedrooms. Those bedrooms are there fore heated virtually for free. The fan uses less energy than a single light globe and is linked to a thermostat which controls the temperature
Most people fail to realise how much heat loss or heat gain occurs through the glass in their windows. Most windows as standard have nothing more than 3mm thick glass which has no more insulating value than cling film!. In our opinion, upgrading the glass in windows is one of the most important aspects of green building.
The first step up from standard glass is to install what is called a 'Low E' coated glass. This has an efficiency improvement of around 40% over standard glass. The next step up would be to double glass your windows.
In the case of this house, we have used a Low E coated glass, below, because it provides a great combination of cost and performance for a temperate climate such as Sydney.
We simply love the look of this shot. The cladding, roof line, exposed roofing timbers and shadows.
Progress from our previous post is obvious, we now have the roof on. The roof sheeting material we have used is ColorbondCustomorb metal sheeting. We have a general preference to use this form of roof material because of it's low thermal mass as well as preferring the aesthetics afforded by the metal sheeting. The metal roof sheeting also has the added benefit of being lighter weight than lost other forms of roof covering, thus reducing the load on the roof framing and leading to a more economical structure.
Directly below the roof sheeting we have installed a 75mm foil faced insulation blanket which provides a R2.5 insulation value which well exceeds the minimum requirements.
For a roof/ceiling insulation system to work there must be two levels of insulation. One directly below the roof sheeting which works to prevent heat or cold from entering a house, and the other directly above the ceiling which works to prevent heat rising and being lost out of a house.
As part of creating a well insulated and sealed building, building wrap or sisalation is required behind any external cladding as we have used above. The building wrap serves two purposes:
it provides a vapor barrier to keep the wall cavity free of moisture
it is an integral part of any insulation strategy to achieve a high overall R value for a wall system
As part of a well designed wall system, building wrap can add up to R 0.5 to the overall wall insulation level.
Keeping a roof cavity well ventilated is key to reducing the heat gain in a house during the summer. Without the ability to escape, any heat that is built up in a roof space will transfer through the ceiling and into the house increasing the internal temperature. The system we use is a series of vents that are located on the low and high sides of the roof, see the black strips in the photo above, which extract heat from the roof via natural convection, ie heat rising. So as the heat within the roof increases it will naturally rise towards the higher vents whilst cooler replacement air is brought in via the lower vents.
The plumbing first fix out has commenced and in the image above the lilac recycled grey water pipework can be seen running to a new toilet cistern. The grey water treatment system being installed will treat grey water to a Class A standard which makes it acceptable to re-use for flushing toilets, in washing machines and for watering gardens.
We mentioned previously that the intention is for the house to be self sufficient for water. The tank above is where all the potable or drinkable water will come from for the house. Based on our calculations, the tank size of 24,000 litre should be adequate for our clients anticipated water usage. A grey water recycling system will provide the water for flushing of toilets, the washing of clothes and for garden watering. So the tank above will only supply water to bathroom and kitchen taps and showers.
The erection of the wall and roof framing is progressing well. The images above show the single level, north facing living areas virtually complete. Elements of structural steel were required to facilitate the large spans across some of the window openings.
Hyspan rafters have been used for the large span living area, as can be seen below. A hyspan rafter is essentially a plywood composite beam made using low grade plantation pine timber. The beams offer a very economical means with which to create large spans with timber. The adhesive used to bind the timber is rated as E0, which is the lowest VOCemission level available.
Having completed all of the ground floor framing, above you can see the first floor wall frames and some of the roof framing being erected.
Note in the for ground the timber waste stockpile. We are really anti the waste created during construction, and so are constantly looking for ways to try and reduce any material wastage. Any waste material created is being separated into like material groups ie, steel, timber, concrete etc so that recycling is as easy as possible. Irrespective of this, waste created during construction is a big environmental problem. It is estimated that demolition and construction creates around 25% of all waste created. So long before avenues for recyling are looked at, waste should simply be reduced. We feel that we are doing a really good job of this, but as you can see in the image, it still exists.
On top of the environmental concerns is the fact that waste such as the timber above has been paid for. One might as well simply throw money into the rubbish. So reducing waste also has a bottom line, it is good for your back pocket.
The most efficient way for timber wall frames to be manufactured is pre-fabricated in a factory. Waste is kept to a minimum, there are substantial time efficiencies due to no wet weather delays as well as cost efficiencies over frames fabricated on site. Pre-fab wall frames are made in full or part wall sections, bundled together and delivered to site as shown above. All that is left to do is erect them.
You will also note that the wall frames have a blu-ish colour. The colour indicates that the timber has been treated with Permethrin, which is an organic termiticide and provides 25 year protection against termite attack. Termites are are perpetual problem in Sydney and in our opinion you can not protect a timber structure enough from them. Generally we are not in favour of any form of chemical treatment of construction products. However, there is absolutely nothing sustainable about having a timber structure attacked by termites and a house requiring substantial repair before the end of its useful life. The permethrin does not leach from the timber and remains encapsulated in the structure of the wood, so in theory the environmental impact is minimal.
The key to using timber is for it to be either recycled or sustainably forested. In the case of the wall framing timber we are using, as you can see above, it is plantation pine which comes from Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified plantations.
The first wall frames go up. Standing and fixing the pre-fab Wallframes is a little bit like building a house of cards. Each frame is akin to one of the cards and as each additional frame is erected it adds to the overall structural integrity of the house.
In the background you can see the 24,000 litre rainwater storage tank for the house. The aim for the house is to be self sufficient for water, so potable water for bathing, cooking and drinking will come from this tank.
Having spent so much time and effort polishing the concrete it deserved to be protected. Being the great recyclers that we are we came across recycled carpet that had been put out for a Council kerbside clean up. Unfortunately carpet is one of those construction products that seems to always end up as landfill. It seems that no-one has found a way to recycled it. So if we can give it one more use before it ends up there, then all the better. So in the image above you can see part of the main living area floor protected with the carpet.
Now that the concrete has fully cured, we had to finish it to a standard that we are happy to leave exposed as the finished floor. The term polished concrete is actually a little deceiving. The concrete is not so much polished as 'ground' through various grades of 'polishing stones'. Starting with a diamond grinding stone and progressing through to fine grinding stones which are a bit like sanding concrete with sandpaper. The aim for us was to create a concrete surface with a uniform grey colour and some small aggregate exposed.
The shot above shows the grinding in process. Slow and laborious with many passes across the concrete as one moves through the 'polishing stones'. The grinding can be done dry or wet, we chose to grind it wet purely because the cement dust is a health hazard that we could do without.
The image below shows the concrete surface once we had finished 'polishing' the concrete. You can see the uniform colour as well as the exposure of some smaller aggregate...perfect.
From a negative perspective, concrete polishing has the effect of wearing the finished concrete surface, thus leaving the concrete exposed to staining from anything that might be dropped on it. So a sealer needs to be applied to provide a barrier that prevents the spilt red wine from leaving a stain!
Our choice of sealer is a water based sealing compound manufactured in Australia by a paint company called Murobond. We love both them and their stuff. They have a strong environmental bent both in the products they make and their company attitude. All of their paints and finishes are either low or zero VOC, perfect for anyone planning to building green.
After curing the sealer for a week, we will be straight onto the slab and erecting the timber wall frames. Watch for the next post.
Most people are not aware of the significant carbon impact that the production of cement has. Production of cement accounts for 5% of the worlds carbon. This is a significant figure for what seems to be an innocuous product.
Because cement plays such a significant part in the construction of any building , if one is to truly build green, then it is important to look at ways to reduce the amount of cement used.
And one of the biggest users of cement in construction is in the manufacture of concrete. Greener concrete suppliers have now started to deal with this issue but supplanting cement content with a product called fly ash. Fly ash is a by-product from the burning of coal and makes an excellentsubstitute for cement. By using fly ash in concrete, what has previously been seen as a waste product now has become a valuable asset.
For this project we have used concrete from a supplier who has replaced a portion of the cement content with fly ash, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the concrete we have used.
Because we intend to leave the concrete slab as an exposed element, it is crucial that the concrete is finished and trowelled well. Our requirement was for the concrete to receive a near burnished finish. A burnished finish is when the concrete is mechanically trowelled with a trowelling machine, as seen above, until it has cured sufficiently that the blades of the trowel are almost burning the concrete surface due to the friction of the steel blades on the concrete.
We have used a burnished finish because it provides a durable and hard wearing surface to the concrete as well as a subtle surface lustre.
Lastly, and most importantly is the curing of concrete once it has poured. Curing of concrete is one part of the concreting process that is often neglected. However, without proper curing, all of the earlier effort will be wasted. Curing it the process of preventing concrete from prematurely drying out due to exposure to the sun or wind. If freshly poured concrete is allowed to prematurely dry out, it will fail to achieve its final strength and the quality of the surface finish will suffer.
There are many ways to cure concrete, but the main methods are either the application of a chemical compound to the surface, covering the surface with plastic sheeting or permanently keeping the surface wet. We avoid the use of the chemical compound for environmental reasons and the plastic sheeting because it can mark the finished surface of the concrete. So we use a method of keeping wet hessian rolled out across the concrete surface, as you can see in the image above. Typically concrete should be cured for a minimum of 7 days, with up to 30 days ideal. Given that the finished internal floor will be the exposed concrete, we have chosen to cure the concrete for 30 days to ensure that we have the best quality surface finish.
Like most concrete slabs, reinforcing bar is required to help give the slab it's strength. And like all material choices that can be made during the course of construction, one can choose to make a sustainable choice or not. In the case of the reinforcing bar we have chosen to use reinforcing bar from a supplier who uses 100% recycled steel. By using recycled steel, the environmental impact of the steel has been reduced. Recycling steel uses a lot less overall energy than mining ore, and precessing it in order to make new steel.
What is more, the strength and quality of the recycled material is the same as the new material. The photo above shows the steel reinforcing being placed inside the form work for the concrete slab.
Timber wall and roof framing is still the dominant material for house construction in Sydney. Unfortunately this is the favorite food of one of our native creatures, termites. So it is necessary to have some form of termite protection when you build in timber in order to prevent your house being eaten out around you!
Termite protection can take many forms and more often than not involves some from of pesticide. The key is, to avoid spraying termite barriers on the soil and ground around your house. Not only are they toxic for termites, but they aren't particularly good for humans and the ground ecology.
Several new products on the market seek to address this issue by safely encapsulating a termiticide within a 'blanket' a bit like thick plastic, which can not leach the termiticide. These blankets are used to protect around pipes such as the one above, which prevent termites from entering your house by forming a physical barrier that the termites can not penetrate.
To heat the house in winter we have installed a 5 star gas in slab hydronic heating system. For those who don't know what I am talking about, a hydronic heating system is essentially heated water running through pipes, the pink ones in the photo above, which delivers heat to a location, in our case, the concrete slab.
Hydronic heating is very efficient because is works on the principle of radiant heat, which warms objects rather than convective heat which just warms the air. What is more, in slab hydronic heating is doubly efficient because the heat starts at the bottom most point in a room and rises to the top, heating everything along the way. Rather than air conditioning which generally tries to heat the air in a room from the grilles in the ceiling, down. One way is working with nature, heat rises, and the other is trying to fight it.
For in slab hydronic heating to work at its best, the floor should not have an insulating covering such as carpet or timber. So tiles or exposed concrete in our case, tend to be the best.
Above is the manifold which looks after the balancing of the hydronic heating pipework. Put simply, the two white pipes on the left are the flow and return from the gas boiler and the red is the heated water going out to the slab and the blue is the heated water returning back.
The heating system is designed as a closed loop, so the same water stays in the pipework getting heated at the boiler, then going through the red manifold and out to the slab, then back to the blue manifold and then on to the boiler to get heated and start again. Pretty simple really.
One of the key requirements for the project was to provide universal access for the clients. This is basically ensuring that as they grow older, they can still get about easily in their house. Keeping the main floor of the house at the one level is key to achieving this. So as you can see above, there has been some minor excavation and filling on site to create a level platform which will become the ground floor and main living area of the house.
The ground floor of the house will be a concrete slab on ground. The main reason behind this was that a concrete floor has excellent thermal mass. To explain thermal mass in simple terms, the concrete slab will be left exposed so that in winter it can absorb the suns heat and become a source of 'free' heating. In summer the reverse occurs, by keeping the slab shaded from the sun, it will become a source of 'free' cooling.
One of the key features of the house is the water saving and re-using strategies. As well as being self reliant for all potable water, the house also incorporates a grey water recycling and re-use system. Grey water is collected from all hand basins, showers, floor wastes and the washing machine and recycled through an OASIS grey water recycling system. The recycled water is then re-used for flushing toilets, in the washing machine and for watering the garden. In the case of the washing machine, the same volume of water will be in a perpetual cycle of use and re-use.
For a grey water recycling system to work however, the grey water needs to be separate from the black water. Put simply, black water is water from your toilet and kitchen sink and grey water comes from all of the other sources. So to keep these separate, two separate drainage systems needs to be installed, one to direct the black water to the sewer and the other to direct the grey water for recycling.
In the image above of the en suite, in the foreground is the waste pipework for the toilet which is being directed to the right to the sewer. In the back ground is the grey water pipework which is picking up the floor waste and hand basin in the middle of the image and the shower at the top of the image. The pipework then continues off to the left at the top of the image to the grey water recycling system. Simple really!
Demolition, or should I say 'de-construction', of the existing house was completed recently. All materials salvaged from the building were segregated into like materials for easy recycling, or for un-recyclable materials, sent to landfill.
I believe that we managed to recycle around 60-70% of the materials from the old house. Not a bad effort considering that most house demolitions consist of 0% recycled!
The first image below shows in the foreground un-recyclable materials such as PVC, other plastics and some damaged timber which unfortunately had to go to landfill. In mid image is concrete and brickwork stockpiled for crushing and recycling, and in the background is a stockpile of green vegetation that will be sent for mulching and re-use in gardens.
A huge recycled success was the quantity of timber that we managed to reclaim from the old house. Below is just part of the timber that was salvaged. All this timber was sent to a recycling yard where it will be de-nailed and on sold.
I think that we have demonstrated how easily simple structures can be treated in a sustainable way through recycling. With the quantity of materials recycled, the cost to remove the house was no more than if it was all sent to landfill. The only trade off was the increased duration required to 'de-construct' the house rather than demolish. I would put this at around another two weeks.
Having just been through the process of 'de-constructing' a house it does raise the problem that when we build houses, we aren't building them to be easily pulled apart at the end of their life. This is definitely something that the Construction Industry has to change in order to become more sustainable, I know that we will start giving it greater consideration when we build. Green building isn't just about the building of things, it also needs to take into consideration the 'taking apart of them' as well.
The next couple of weeks will have some excavation and ground works and then the in-ground plumbing and drainage will be laid.
As you can see from the photos above and below, demolition work has commenced. Progress is slower than would normally occur for a typical house demolition due to the time and care being taken to 'pull the house apart' piece by piece.
House demolition contractors typically take no more than a week to bring in a large machine, flatten the house and then ship everything out to landfill. Every time I see it happen it makes me fume. What a total loss and waste of tonnes of good construction materials and what environmental negligence, sending a house to landfill purely because people can't look past the way they have always done it. This sort of wastefulness wouldn't happen in a developing country.
As we explained earlier, green building isn't just about the building, it is about the entire process of creating a new house. When we started demolition, the key was to reduce the amount of materials that would go to landfill. Generally, I am happy with what materials we look like being able to recycle.
The images above and below show the inside of the house with the walls and ceiling partly stripped of the plaster lining. All of the wall, floor and roof framing timbers are in very good condition and will definitely be able to be recycled, great news.
With no recycling facility available for used plaster lining it looks like it will unfortunately be sent to landfill.
All of the windows and doors will be salvaged and sent for recycling along with several bathroom and kitchen fixtures and fittings.
Over the next week or so the brickwork should start to come down and be sent for recycling along with the concrete footings.
Since we blogged a little while ago about our new sustainable house project in Collaroy Sydney, we have had a number of people ask us for more information about what sort of green initiatives we will use and how are we going to go about it.
So we had a bit of a think about the best way to help give people information and came to the conclusion that we would use the house as a live sustainable building case study to demonstrate to people how to go about building an eco-friendly, sustainable house.
So where do we begin?.....we have given you a bit of an outline about the project in an earlier blog post and more details and information will come out as the build progresses.
The new house is being built on a site currently occupied by an existing house, see below. The house was unusable due to it's location on the site and overall condition, so it had to go. So how does one get rid of an old, unwanted house in the most eco-friendly way?
YOU RECYCLE IT!!!!So that is what we intend to do. Having made a thorough assessment of what materials can be salvaged from the existing house we have come to the following conclusions:
The bricks and concrete can be sent to a crushing plant to be recycled as road base for road and pavement construction
The timber wall, roof and floor framing can be sent to a second hand building materials yard for future re-sale
The windows can be sent to a second hand building materials yard for future re-sale
The bathroom and kitchen fixtures and fittings can be sent to a second hand building materials yard for future re-sale
It looks like the only materials that we will need to send to landfill will be those that have to be by law, such as the asbestos roof sheeting, and those for which there is no industry re-sale or recycling system in place, such as used plasterboard wall and ceiling lining.
Recycling the house will definitely be a labour intensive exercise. This is probably the reason why the majority of houses that are demolished are knocked flat by a large excavator and sent straight to landfill, it is quick and easy.
So taking the most sustainable approach to the demolition of the existing house will have an effect on the timeline for the project, but in our opinion if we can actually manage to recycle the materials mentioned above , then it will have been worth it. The less building waste that goes to landfill, the better.
Demolition starts in a few days, sign up for regular updates and to follow how things progress...
Here is an image of our new sustainable house project in Collaroy, Sydney which we will commence building in early 2009. Green building is what we are about and this house typifies everything about our approach to sustainable houses. The house will be very eco-friendly both in its design and construction. Water and energy consumption for the house will be very low due to the house:
being totally self sufficient for potable water. All water for drinking, cooking and showering will be collected on site and stored in rainwater tanks for re-use in the house
all grey water from showers, hand basins and the washing machine will be recycled through a grey water treatment system and re-used for flushing toilets and washing clothes in the washing machine.
not having any air conditioning because of the excellent breeze ways that provide for summer cooling
having high thermal mass in both the walls and exposed concrete slab for winter warming and summer cooling
using an in slab gas hydronic heating system for winter heating
using low-e thermal glass in all of the windows to reduce heat loss in winter and prevent heat gain in summer
having good eaves and sun shading to keep it cool in summer
being designed with good orientation and zoning of rooms
But we haven't only considered water and energy efficiency. Occupant comfort and materials sustainability are also high priority:
all internal paints and cabinetry will use low VOC products.
recycled Australian Hardwood will be used for the stair construction and for the skirting board and architraves around windows and doors
any waste created during construction will be separated into differing materials and recycled
This is a very exciting project for both us and our clients and we will post progress photos and updates as we move through construction.
The pope is on a drive to make the Vatican Europe's most energy efficient state.
Around 2,000 square metres of the Paul VI hall are being covered with photovoltaic panels, while the another 3000 square metres will be used as a screen to increase the amount of captured energy.
According to Mauro Villarini, an engineer who works for Vatican State's technical services, " The objective of our project is, in sum, to create an energy process from which, with the production of clean energy and its intelligent management, it is possible to supply in the first place these properties and, in the future, also the means of transport, making mobility sustainable from the environmental point of view". " The challenge for Vatican City State to be the first in Europe to comply with European objectives, which foresee for 2020, obtaining at least 20% of consumed energy from renewable sources."
Villarini expects the solar panels to be functioning by the end of this year.
There is a growing attitude in the water challenged times that we live in, that to waste any water is unacceptable. Out of this, simple grey water diversion systems such as the one above are becoming more prevalent and are being readily accepted by mainstream Australia.
But when looking to install some form or grey water diversion system, serious consideration has to be given to the effect that the nutrient rich water will have on the ecology of the soil that you are diverting the water to. Last thing anyone looking to reduce their environmental impact wants to do is, by do good on one hand (reducing water usage) they find themselves doing bad (damaging soil ecology) as a result of it.
RMIT Honours Student FarzarhdNamdarian recently completed a thesis in conjunction with the Alternative Technology Association titled 'The impact of grey water irrigation systems on domestic soil environments'.
Generally it is a fairly dry subject, but it does make for interesting reading. By researching and recoding data from 7 real life case studies in Melbourne, Farzarhd has been able to gather some useful information that should help anyone thinking about installing a grey water diversion system from causing any damage to their soil ecology.
Up until now, anyone wanting to recycle grey water has generally been forced to redirect the water underground in irrigation systems because of archaic local health regulations. This forces us to continually water gardens when we have a shower, whether we want to or not.
Although technically the water is being recycled, sending it underground without another option is hardly a good use for Australia's most precious resource. What everyone recycling grey water has wanted is to be able to re-use the water again, above the ground.
Enter the people at Nubian Water Systems and their OASIS GT600 (sounds like a sports car). The OASIS is a fairly compact piece of equipment that stores the incoming grey water, filters and treats it and then stores the treated water again for later re-use. The real beauty of the product is that it treats the water to a standard that is acceptable for most Australian States to allow it's use above ground ie, it can be re-directed to toilet flushing or other non potable water uses.
The OASIS uses a three stage process to ensure that the water is treated to the required standard. The first stage is a filter screen that removes lint and other course materials, the second is a filter media that utilises physical removal, adsorption and microbial induced aerobic degradation to remove contaminants and the final stage is UV disinfection.
The unit is smaller enough to mount beside your house, requires very little maintenance and very little power to run.
This is a piece of equipment well worth checking out.