DIN Desk by Verena Stella Gompf & Cordula Kehrer addresses the "redefined intersection between the office and home," with an integrated desk and shelving unit, accessible from all sides, that can fit into a home setting as a harmonizing room divider.
one prerequisite of architecture is travel. I think that you should travel as much as you financially and possibly can. Essentially architecture is impossible to understand on the web or in books; it is an experience art. You need to go and feel those places, and see how the people there use them. No matter how much description is given to you, you will not understand until you go there.
Enter the surreal: Epiphyte Chambre by Philip Beesley invites you to explore the intersection of media art, interactive distributed mechatronics and synthetic biology, by strolling through an "archipelago of floating islands, densely interwoven structures and delicate canopies made of thousands of lightweight digitally-fabricated components, interconnected halo-like masses that mimic human sensations through subtle, coordinated movements."
"Live fast, die young": Time Lapse Custom Vintage Racing Motorcycle by Sebastian Errazuriz is a fully restored vintage Norton racer, customized in steel and aluminum, and at the same time, "a fetish object stripped down to its sculptural framework ... a masculine symbol of power and freedom ... on the boundary of fragility and fatality."
To work in architecture you are so much involved with society, with politics, with bureaucrats. It's a very complicated process to do large projects. You start to see the society, how it functions, how it works. Then you have a lot of criticism about how it works.
The pool shophouse in Singapore was designed by multi-disciplinary practice FARM and KD architects. The monolithic lap pool was inserted into the existing shophouse and guides the viewer from the front to the rear of the building. The additional parts of the house hover over the pool and are bathed in natural daylight from the roof.
I love building spaces: architecture, furniture, all of it, probably more than fashion. The development procedure is more tactile. It's about space and form and it's something you can share with other people.
Great architecture always makes you feel great about yourself it's actually the mark of great architecture. It should be almost like the beautiful suit you've ever put on - that elevates you, that makes you feel great
Designed by based architects Garcia Studio, Real del Mar is located on a triangular site in a seaside development in Tijuana, Mexico. Walls of sliding glass blur the inside from the outside whilst the rendered concrete walls conceal views helping to create a narrative for the living areas to embrace the landscape and vistas of the Pacific Ocean beyond.
I think that my architecture is changing. I am going through a cleansing process. [...] for several years I did much to please clients and created fashions - but I am through with doing that. I am now doing what I want to do and doing it honestly.
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.
El X Congreso Internacional de Arquitectura de Tierra tendrá lugar los días 27, 28 y 29 de septiembre, en Cuenca de Campos, provincia de Valladolid. El día 27 el congreso comenzará en Valladolid, en la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura. El 28 y el 29 nos desplazaremos desde Valladolid a Cuenca de Campos. Se disfrutará de una visita al laboratorio y un taller de tierra a cargo de José María Sastre. El grupo TIERRA os anima a participar en el congreso, como asistentes y sobretodo presentando ponencias, con el objeto de poner en común nuestros conocimientos.
The 2014 EBUK conference "Training in Earth Building: from design to construction" will be held in Norwich on 14th February 2014. The broad conference theme includes education and training in building with earth, training in the structural and thermal design of earth buildings, training in safe and reliable construction methods and in the appropriate use of earth as a building material. The conference will showcase design, construction, conservation and research in the UK. Papers and presenters will engage with the conference theme and broader context of building with earth in the UK.
El 13° Seminario Iberoamericano de Arquitectura y Construcción con Tierra (SIACOT) Valparaíso 2013, promovido por la Red Iberoamericana PROTERRA y organizado por el instituto profesional Duoc UC de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile a través de su carrera de Restauración Patrimonial, tiene como finalidad reunir a los científicos, profesionales y técnicos que trabajan en torno al tema de la arquitectura, conservación y construcción con tierra, interesados por los amplios potenciales de este material. Se trata de una oportunidad de difusión y discusión, donde se evaluarán el estado actual de la investigación científica, de los proyectos, e innovaciones tecnológicas en marcha, así como los avances globales de la difusión de esta temática.
If you’re in business, you know all about electricity costs as an overhead. The solution is simple: solar power. Solar can cut your overheads and do a lot to help your business.
Solar power is gaining a market profile as a good option for businesses. Rising electricity prices haven’t exactly been making life easy for business operators, and the chance to cut costs has attracted a lot of interest. Most importantly, the business hardheads have been looking at measurable values and they like what they see.
There’s a reason for the enthusiasm. The outlay costs of office buildings, trade businesses, and retailers for electricity are huge. Cutting those costs is good business practice, and solar is delivering real dollar values upfront.
The cost breakdown for electricity looks like a typical business model:
Amenities (kitchens, gym, etc.)
Plant and equipment (big ticket items, costing big money to run)
The hours of use (peak power usage, times of operation, etc.)
These costs are huge. In some cases, they’re disproportionate, particularly for small businesses. Even a modest-sized business can receive significant hits to cashflow with these daily expenses. Finding a better option to manage these costs makes a lot of sense.
Solar power economics for business
The bottom line approach to business costs is also a major recommendation for solar. The only real cost in solar is the actual purchase and set up, and that’s defrayed by operating savings from day one. The cost breakdown is very straightforward, too.
You don’t need a calculator to figure it out:
Consider your current power costs as a yearly total
Consider the cost of your preferred solar power system
Now cut your existing electricity costs by around 50% for the life of the product, which is roughly 25 years.
The resulting figures are what you save in real outlays.
Solar power really is a very simple, cost-effective solution to business power costs. You might even be able to sell power back to the grid, further defraying your operating costs, and get a solar rebate as well.
The other huge advantage of solar power is the range of choices in terms of power generating capacity. You can get a consultation and have your solar power system made to measure for your business. This also adds a few more options for saving money by further reducing your consumption, as well as the benefits above.
If you’re a manufacturer, a trade business, or a retailer, you can tailor make your costs using the solar power option. Your expensive power guzzlers can become almost cost-neutral, virtually eliminating those outlays.
If you’re a trade business working all over the place using powered systems, you can even get mobile solar to help make your business a bit more agile and cost-effective onsite. You could even recharge your tools onsite.
It’s no wonder solar power is becoming so popular among all kinds of Australian businesses. It makes sense and it saves money. In fact, it can even make you money in terms of giving you more business capital to work with to expand.
Check out your solar options. You’ll be very glad you did.
Carrying out regular awards ceremonies and giving prizes to individuals and groups within your business can help boost morale. It also helps you recognise the efforts of your employees, and provides a bit of relaxation to hard working staff members. The more regular and standardised you make your awards and presentation night, the more successful they can be. It also gives staff members something to work towards and look forward to.
Planning award presentations
Award presentations are the best way to let employees take a breather, and for businesses to acknowledge their work. If you have the resources available in your business, then you can even make it a night out for your staff members.
Planning such an event is relatively simple:
Book a venue for the event
Arrange a series of prizes such as gift baskets, flowers or even trophies
Consider arranging for entertainment such as a guest speaker
Set aside a budget for food and drinks to ‘spoil’ your workers a little
These types of events help bring your organisation closer together, and give everyone some time to reflect on recent achievements. You can use award presentations to help provide employees and owners a vision for the future as well.
Rewarding a wide range of employees
Not only should you reward employees for good work, but also recognise changes and accomplishments in their own lives. Events like marriage can be recognised by sending flowers or cards. It is also good to send a new mother or father baby hampers as a simple congratulations. While this isn’t a reward as such, it does show that the company cares about their employees.
Appreciation goes a long way
While your staff members will appreciate their wages first and foremost, they also need to be rewarded for good work. Small prizes may not cost you much, but they do provide positive outcomes in terms of motivation in the office and other work places. Even more than this, acknowledgement of good work creates more loyalty among the work force.
The danger is that you reward too many employees without much of a reason, as this will negate the effects that prizes and other awards have. Be sincere in your approach to awarding good work, especially for staff that go above and beyond their role. Of course, you should also make sure that you are rewarding staff members from all of your different departments.
Keeping employees satisfied
You also have to make sure that award ceremonies and other ways you use to motivate employees are not just one-off events. Making award ceremonies regular can give workers the extra motivation they need to improve productivity. However, this won’t fix every problem you have with employee satisfaction.
To make sure you are doing the right thing by your business and the workers that help make it successful, you need to communicate and listen to your workers. Having regular catch-ups in groups and with individuals can give you a clearer picture of your workers’ morale.
Use awards and other prizes to complement medium and long term planning within your workplace.
The entry of non-electricity suppliers, businesses for which electricity supply isn’t their core business, has raised a few eyebrows. Dodo, for example, is a telco. It’s now a player in the electricity market, and making some significant headway against competitors. The question is are these companies good or bad news for the market.
Opinions vary, a lot. It’s fair to say the electricity suppliers can claim a pedigree in the industry and expertise. They’re a dedicated service, too, but that’s about as far as the arguments against new, non-electricity suppliers really can go.
Business experts see it differently. Dodo is a case in point. Dodo is a strongly consumer-oriented company, with a very different business model. More importantly, it also has a very different business perspective.
Some market watchers point to this different model and consumer-oriented approach as good arguments for the entry of new suppliers into the market. The theory here is that the electricity market is too “samey”. The traditional suppliers and the networks aren’t seen as innovators.
That’s both a fair and unfair assessment. This is a regulated market, and innovations are restricted, to a point, by that fact. That said, the general model of electricity supply plans does have a real cookie-cutter look to it.
The marketing problem
Let’s face it; people don’t look at electricity plans for their entertainment value. They’re dull, and many would say unimaginative. They seem to be more spreadsheet-driven than consumer-sales driven. Even brand power doesn’t seem to liven up these turgid documents.
Electricity marketing leaves a lot to be desired. All a consumer needs to do is talk to a few door to door salespeople, and the last thing they want to think about is electricity. Not so much as a free set of steak knives ever seems to have crossed the minds of electricity marketers as an incentive to customers. The advertising is bland, boring, and banal.
It’s hard to see annoyed, suddenly highly charged, Australian consumers developing any real enthusiasm for electricity sales in this environment. Electricity is about as much fun as a trip to the dentist at this point in history, and consumers can be forgiven for being hard to shift to cookie-cutter plans.
The electricity industry has been scoring an own goal against itself here. Regulations do impose a certain amount of sameness in electricity plans, but they don’t actually restrict offers to consumers. As long as an electricity plan is compliant, anything else can be added. That may well be what’s scaring the market.
The new player effect
The new guys like Dodo are adding something the electricity companies lack. The image is different. Dodo is very well-known, and has a much more upbeat image. It’s a total contrast to the electricity sector image of “logo on my bill with costs” which is generating such overwhelming apathy among consumers.
In electricity terms:
The generation of interest is totally lacking
The transmission of messages is simply irritating.
The distribution of ideas among plans is uninspired and uninspiring.
Are new players good for the market? Yes. If ever a sector needed a makeover, this is it. The electricity companies need to be seen as pro-consumer, and back it up. The new players are making a big point.
Running a household is expensive when you have a family, but going without essentials like health insurance can endanger your own and your family’s health. While you may think that health insurance is a luxury, it is important to balance your home expenses so you can be covered for dental, hospital and even if you are out of work.
While many insurance costs are hard to lower, you can manage added insurance by bringing the rest of your expenses under control.
Budgeting for health insurance
When you are shopping around for any regular service for yourself, your home or your family, you want to not only find the best price but also the best product. While when you compare electricity prices the product you receive is usually the same, health insurance can vary dramatically. So the trick with health insurance is to find a product that will actually protect your budget when you need health care of any type.
How much will your health insurance cost you per year?
Is this a significant amount compared to paying for your own health care?
What kind of coverage do you need to fully protect your family?
Keep in mind that many health insurance policies are very flexible, which means you can usually add and subtract the services that you are covered for.
Reducing your household bills
As it is much better to be protected by health insurance, if you are struggling to find enough money then you need to reduce your household bills and other costs. Starting and keeping to a clear budget will help, but it is not the only way to save. You should also be comparing prices from health insurance, gas and electricity providers to make sure you are getting the right price.
Any savings made in your home can be used to help you protect your health and even increase your savings.
Tax savings from health insurance
One of the primary reasons people take out health insurance in Australia is for tax benefits. If you are not covered by health insurance during the financial year, then you will pay a higher health related premium called Medicare. While many health services in Australia are available for ‘free’, health insurance will not only save you money come tax time, but it also helps pay for dental, physio, gym memberships and other services that are not covered by Medicare.
Finding the right coverage
Make sure you look at any policy carefully, because it is too late to change once you need a specific health treatment. If you are unsure of what exactly will be covered by your health insurance, then always contact the companies you are thinking about joining or your current provider.
The most important things to check are what kind of health ‘extras’ you are covered for – such as dental – and how much excess payment has to made if you claim hospital or other cover through your policy.
Remember, you and your family’s health is important, and while health insurance is an extra expense it can save you some large medical bills in the future as well.
For all the furore about electricity price rises, some of the ideas for managing them have been less than appealing. “Cutting usage” is actually a bit disingenuous. You use power because you need it. There’s only so far that that option and other quasi-solutions can possibly go.
The fact is that you can’t really “stare down” an electricity bill. Cutting usage can be a real nuisance, and cutting budgets a lot worse. The average household only has so much flexibility in its ability to manage costs. The need is to manage real outlays.
Analyse your real usage. This isn’t really a fix; it’s a definition of what’s costing you most. Old appliances can cost quite a lot over time, for example. They can easily cost you as much as replacement with a more energy efficient fridge or freezer, for example, or a new air conditioning unit.
You’ll see a clear profile of times and rates on your bill, too. You’ll also see comparisons like seasonal variations caused by the air conditioner or heating. If you have onsite equipment like power tools, or other high-grunt energy users, you can also see how they affect your bill.
Swimming pools aren’t necessarily major offenders, but if you don’t have solar and you do have a big bill, it’s easy to join the dots. Keep an eye on when your pool is using power, and then compare with your bills. If you see big spikes in costs, you’ve found the problem.
Having analysed what you need, you now need to think about how to get the power you want at a lower cost. There are multiple options, but you obviously don’t want to be spending enormous amounts of money upfront. The budget element comes next, but start thinking now about exactly how much money you’re prepared to outlay.
Your current electricity costs have to be compared to any option which delivers you with clear possible savings. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but you do need to be absolutely sure about what will save you money and what won’t. This is a dollars and cents exercise, so be a bit patient.
Managing costs at plan level
The next stage is finding an electricity plan that will deliver you locked-in savings in the contract. This is far from easy. The simple fact is that the net difference between most plans really does equate to a few cents a day, more or less. The “savings” can be translated into using a couple of appliances for an hour per day.
The best option to get real savings is group-sourcing. Group sourcing involves signing up for offers of plans by a third party. The third party are electricity supply experts, able to compare plans and negotiate better rates for groups of consumers. The electricity suppliers benefit from a good customer base, consumers benefit by locking in lower prices.
Privatization has always been a very contentious topic. Proof of privatization of electricity being a better option has been as much a matter of principle as anything else, depending on viewpoints. The emerging story is that privatization has been both inefficient and unduly expensive.
Australia’s electricity system was originally state-owned. The main reason for that was that there just wasn’t enough private capital to create or operate a gigantic grid over a huge area in a small market. Privatization started in the late 1980s and the verdict is now in. New studies indicate that it’s been anything but productive or efficient.
The numbers stack up atrociously. A study by the Australia Institute paints a ghastly picture. Electricity prices have risen 170%, compared to a net consumer price increase of 60% since the 1990s. The number of managers has increased by 217% while staff and technicians have increased by 28%.
While it’s fair to say that the sector is under new demands through technology, infrastructure, and a rising population, the Utopian visions get a bit messy:
That 170% is nearly triple the rate of inflation
Why the huge increase in management, at 8 times the rate of staff increases?
Net use of electricity is actually falling in a range of 2.9% to 4.1% across Australian state markets. This means the increases are happening in a falling market, and despite the mining boom.
Prophecies or statements of the obvious?
This scenario was predicted. Anti-privatization pundits pointed to the classic argument that state-owned electricity was providing cheap power, where privately owned electricity would be naturally emphasising profits. This view was no great leap of logic. The overall view was that the cost to consumers would inevitably rise. They did, enormously.
The overall result for the public, business or anyone else using electricity has been negative. People are getting the same service at greatly inflated prices. The irony is that a public asset has been sold at the public expense, and the effect has been a higher cost to the public.
Privatization could have been a good idea if the ideological theory that privatization equates to competition which should reduce prices had ever worked. The current situation is basically a cartel, with price variations at best trivial.
Net prices are different, but the reality of electricity consumption soon wipes out the cosmetic price differences. One plan may cost less than another, but if you consider:
A basic rate of 20c per kWh
A $200 a year cheaper plans
100 hours of a 1000w appliance equals $200
You can have a whole five days, per year, using your appliance, before you find yourself paying exactly the same amount as you would under the more expensive plan.
So the real value of “cheaper” plans, unless the actual rate is cheaper, is at best nominal, at worst farcical.
Privatization has been a failure for everybody but the new owners of electricity assets.
Australian native flowers are excellent for making long lasting arrangements or for creating dried flower masterpieces. Because many of the flowers in the Australian wilderness live without needing as much water as other more traditional flowers such as roses, they are extremely easy to care for and keep for a long time.
The rise in popularity for Australian flowers
Since Australian flowers have become commercialised, they have become popular beyond their native country. Because they are so long lasting and have a woody stem, they do not have a need for constant hydration so are ideal for transportation. If you ask any florist what their biggest problem with stock is, it is that flowers have a short lifespan and so wastage is usually high. This isn’t as prevalent with Australian cut flowers, because they maintain most of their colour and shape even when left without any water.
Keeping Australian flowers
If you want to keep or grow Australian flowers, then you will have to be aware of their environment. Most Australian plants have adapted so that they can survive through periods of little rain or moisture. This can make them difficult to grow well in the gardens of cold or wet areas. However, the cut flowers survive well inside the house and require very little attention.
If you want to dry Australian flowers, simply follow the same procedure as other types of flowers. When hanging them upside down, try to put them in a dark, dry place and use wire to hang them. The biggest difference between drying Australian flowers compared to other flowers is that they do not need to left as long due to their lack of moisture.
Because of the isolated geography of Australia, the flower varieties are generally one of a kind in the world. While some varieties have distant relatives in other countries, flowers such as the wattle and the waratah are completely unique. It took people living in Australia many years to realise the potential of non-European flowering plants in their gardens, and especially as a versatile and long lasting cut flower.
To keep flowers lasting longer, follow these tips:
Cut the stem at an angle – this allows for a wider area of stem to be exposed to the water, thereby increasing the uptake of liquid.
Clean the foliage – to avoid any rotting debris in your vase, strip any excess foliage on the stem that you are going to place into water.
Change the water – change the water every 3-5 days to keep it fresh. Stale and dirty water will significantly reduce the life of your cut flowers.
Popular Australian flower varieties
Eucalyptus – this flowering tree comes in a variety of blooms, and works well as both a flower and foliage. It will also have the distinctive eucalyptus scent.
Kangaroo Paw – named for its look, the kangaroo paw comes in yellow and red hues, and has a wonderfully long stem.
Waratah – this massive flower is red, and is perfect as the centrepiece of any native Australian flower arrangement.
Everlasting Daisy – also known as ‘paper daisies’ they have a remarkable resemblance to traditional daisies but look and feel like dried flowers. These flowers are extremely long lasting.
The new story with electricity prices is that you really can do something about them. A lot of consumers are getting the message and taking the time to find better, cheaper options. The ways of dodging the price bullets are easier than you might think.
Stop making yourself a target for higher prices!
The fact is that if you simply put up with paying more, you have no options. Remember you’ve just been hit with a 70% increase in prices, and consider how that affects your budget. You’ve already lost money by tolerating the situation.
You’re a target if you don’t move to a better plan. You may get one with the same supplier, but there are plenty of others around, too. Don’t assume you’re stuck with higher costs, because you’re definitely not.
Lose the electrical fossils, too
The old appliances are money-guzzlers. They’re not up to speed with energy efficiency. They’re also due for replacement anyway, and the sooner you get some power saving capabilities, the sooner you start saving money.
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of energy efficiency in keeping bills under control. You’ll literally be able to see the difference. You’ll also have more money in your pocket than you expect. The new fridges and air conditioners are a lot more cost effective.
Solar works as a cost cutter
Solar power is no longer a high end purchase. There are a lot of affordable solar power options. You can slash your hot water bills to pieces. The new solar units are very high quality, high capacity, and reliable. If you have a heated swimming pool, these new units are Christmas in a box.
Solar rebates may or may not be available in future, thanks to higher costs, but even without them, solar is a good deal for consumers. A solar unit can save you thousands of dollars, no minor boost to the budget. This is money back in your pocket, so consider your options.
Figuring out your bottom line
The easy way to check your costs is to simply calculate your average requirements. Check your summer and winter bills. These are your top usage. Use these rates as your yearly calculation. You’ll actually use less, but these bills are the cover-all-the-angles costs. They’re your absolute maximum demand.
Now, check out plans for your calculation. You’ll see rates and offers on each plan. The higher figure will give you a top value, which is where you’re really spending money.
Consider which is the best plan:
Which is definitely cheaper, more than a dollar a day? (Call it $400 per year for the sake of simplicity.)
Which offers real discounts, easy to see, as part of the contract terms?
Which has short term cuts, which has an across the board saving for the whole plan?
You need the plan that has the across the board savings. Ignore short term cuts, which deliver very little dollar value in terms of a year.
If you can’t find what you want, others can. Check out group sourcing options online. Just search “compare electricity prices” and you’ll find what you want.
Solar power, like most renewable energy solutions, is a relatively new technology that has been adopted by consumers and governments across the world. The beauty of creating power from something that is freely available, the sun, has captured imaginations around the world. Not only this, but it has also led to improved efficiencies in solar cells as well as new ways to build them and apply them to the real world.
Advances in current technology
Commercial solar power plants have been in existence since the 1980s, but it has only been in the last decade that solar cells have become popular on residential buildings. The main reason for this has been the improvement in energy production from individual cells as well as a huge reduction in the cost of adding solar power to homes and businesses.
The main improvements on early solar power technology are:
Cost improvement – solar panels used to be expensive but thanks to improved production and supply it is continuing to become more affordable.
Productivity improvement – modern solar cells continue to increase their power output.
Lifespan – solar cells naturally lose some of their energy production over time. However, modern cells will maintain close to full production for a much longer period of time.
Paint on solar power
While this is still a technology in development, the possibilities of liquid solar cells that can be painted onto any surface is exciting. It could essentially mean a huge reduction in the cost of implementing solar power as well as the opportunity for do-it-yourself solar installation. A University of Buffalo research team is even looking at constructing cells using organic material. This would mean a reduction in power production, but an easier manufacturing process with reduced costs.
Flexible solar power cells
Another development in the works is more flexible solar cells. These could be used for adding solar cells to office building windows and even work to add solar panels to the roofs of electric vehicles. Traditional solar cells are quite fragile and this means increased costs when transporting. Flexible cells would mean a better solution for rough terrain as well as adding solar cells to almost any surface.
Improvement in renewable energy pricing
Renewable energy companies have been working hard at reducing the overall costs of manufacturing and installing solar power to homes, businesses and commercial power plants. The main aim is to bring the cost of implementing renewable energy such as solar and wind power into line with fossil fuel energy production. In the future the cost of these technologies should fall below fossil fuel energy production to help make a cleaner and more efficient world.
The other factor that is reducing the cost of solar cells significantly is production. With the sheer number of cells being produced, the price of modern solar panels is now falling where it is now highly competitive with traditional energy production. Countries like Spain have been leading the way with renewable energy and while solar only makes up a percentage, it works well with mass wind farm and hydro energy production.
Helicopter parents are the ones that constantly need to ‘hover’ over their child. While it is great you are being protective, you also don’t want to smother your child. If you do not give your baby the chance to develop social skills without your presence then they will struggle to integrate themselves into social groups at a later stage in life.
Children also need to learn to deal with conflict without your presence, so being there for them to run to whenever they are unhappy can be damaging. Here we consider why you should stop being a helicopter parent and let your child fly free.
Letting go can be very difficult, but it is important that you are able to do this. In the early years your child will be everything to you, and you will be showering them with baby gifts. As your child gets older, however, they will become more independent and will begin to let go of you. As they do, it is important to let go of them and let them explore the world for themselves.
This process will be gradual, but you should make efforts to give your baby more and more freedom to explore independently as they grow.
Social development is hugely important for young children and a lot of this social knowledge is obtained from a child’s parents. It is also important, however, that children are able to gain this social knowledge from their peers. Children behave very differently to adults, and your child needs to learn to interact with other children as well as with adults.
It is thus important to let your child play with other children without your interference. Children will fight over toys and upset each other, but learning to deal with these situations is part of growing up. If your children never interact with peers then they will never develop the social skills required to live in this world.
While your child is young they will have little understanding of the idea of self-preservation. This basically entails looking after yourself in the real world. If you hover over your child and stop them exploring the things that they want to then they will never get hurt, but this does not prevent them from being inquisitive and attempting to try something as soon as you look away. While no one wants or should allow any serious harm to come to a child, a few knocks and bruises are both inevitable and necessary in your child’s development.
If you protect your child too much, then they will never learn the true dangers in life and will blindly try everything until someone stops them.
Enjoying your own life
The other aspect of being a helicopter parent is that it stops you and your partner from enjoying your own lives. If you are a helicopter parent, then you will be continuously occupied with caring for your child and will have no time for fun yourselves. If you find a babysitter and step back from this responsibility once in a while, however, then both your child and you will be better off.
Your child needs to learn to be without you, and a babysitter is a good medium through which to do this. You will also get the opportunity to enjoy an evening out with your partner if you make the effort to step back and stop hovering.
The Casa Munita Gonzalez by Arias Arquitectos and Surtierra Arquitectura is 275 sqm private residence built in Batuco, Santiago, Chile. The house is built using Terra-Panel to assure the thermal efficiency of the housing, which is constituted of panels of welded wire mesh filled of light earth that is supported by a main structure composed of beams and steel pillars.
Built in an Afghan Refugee Camp in Kerman, Iran, the 100 meter square meter domed shelter is comprised of approximately 6,000 mud bricks.
Pouya Khazaeli, principal of Rai Studio and architecture professor at Azad University, Tehran and Ghazvin, notes: "Social sustainability in design is our main focus area here. It means to study how these refugees live, communicate, the meaning of privacy in their live, which materials they prefer and use for construction, which kind of construction techniques they use themselves, how much they spend normally to construct their own shelters...."
Architect Sean Connelly's installation A Small Area of Land (Kaka‘ako Earth Room), a "temporary earth sculpture" made from 32,000 pounds of volcanic soil and coral sand, can currently be seen at the ii gallery in Honolulu, Hawaii. The sculpture is a prismatic monolith with dimensions 7' tall, 9' long, and 4' wide, and it features a single sloping surface that aligns with the position of the sun and moon on a key date in the history of land in Hawaii.
Over the course of the exhibit, the sculpture slowly falls apart as Connelly wanted to see "what a version of this might look like in Hawaii, on Hawaii’s terms."
The third International Conference on kerpic’13 - New Generation Earthen Architecture: Learning from Heritage, to be held on 11-14 September 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey. The focus of the conference has evolved from new generation of earthen architecture, environment and health care, towards disaster prevention. We hope that it will bring together the related disciplines of architects and engineers, on material, construction, marketing and environmental science to create database, technology watch and strategy.
A workshop will be organized on site where all the participants can take part. Social and cultural program will offer an interesting historical tour and a distinguished dinner will welcome you. Post Congress program will be a tour to various sites of Turkey. Fore more information visit http://www.kerpic.org/2013/
Earth USA 2013 is the Seventh International Conference on Architecture and Construction with Earthen Materials initiated by Earth USA. The conference organizer is Adobe in Action.
The formal conference will take place on October 4 and 5, 2013 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. October 6th will be dedicated to local earthbuilding tours and excursions. The conference is being held at the New Mexico Museum of Art in the St. Francis Auditorium (107 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM 87501). Earth USA 2013 indicates a wider field of interest than previous conferences and will include adobe, rammed earth, compressed earth block (CEB) and monolithic adobe (cob). Any material or method that uses clay as a binder is considered.
Earth USA 2013 is now accepting abstract submissions (due April 14, 2013) for conference presentations. For more information visit http://earthusa.org/
Located in Glendale, California, the 23,000 square-foot childcare facility, designed by Marmol Radziner, accommodates 236 children between infant and Pre-K ages. The complex is the first LEED Gold Certified building in Glendale, and is the largest rammed earth building in Southern California. The sustainable strategies incorporated into the building, including photovoltaic panel canopies and structural rammed earth walls, are key visual and tactile elements in the design, emphasizing the facility as both a learning environment and an educational tool.
The village of New Gourna was designed and built in the 1940s by the Egyptian Architect Hassan Fathy. He pioneered the use of sustainable materials and environmentally friendly design to build housing for low income families who were being relocated from their original village at Old Gourna.
60 years later, many of the now historic New Gourna buildings have fallen into disrepair and others have disappeared or been changed beyond recognition. A project is underway to safeguard the site, and World Monuments Fund (WMF) commissioned us to produce a film presenting the perspective of the residents…
These food storage jars were made of radioactive earth from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster area in Japan. They were designed by Royal College of Art graduate student Hilda Hellström who contacted the last person still living inside the evacuation zone, Naoto Matsumura, and collected soil from his rice fields that can’t be farmed due to contamination.
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.