Posts Tagged ‘Green Technology’

A Low Impact Woodland Home

A hobbit's houseSimon Dale and his father in-law decided to build their home as inexpensively as possible. So they used natural material and what they could find to build home for Simon’s family of 4. According to Simon:

This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology. These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives.

I’ve always been a fan of underground homes, and this is the perfect example of how locally sourced materials and ingenuity can make an affordable and livable home. Sadly, in the States, it would almost be impossible to get the necessary building permits and variances to build such a home. It would not meet code standards set in stone here in the Puget Sound. Still, it’s a great idea.


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I was listening to my local Public Radio station, KUOW, and they had a story about the Waterpod. The Waterpod is a floating demonstration platform for self-sufficiency and resourcefulness and provide an alternative to current and future living spaces.

This sounds like a great idea. Of course I’d have to divest myself of most of my stuff and getting the permits is next to impossible. But I wondered… Instead of a floating home, how about a floating P-Patch?

Right now in Kenmore, Washington, we have a land shortage. Most of land is forested and there is a push to keep the remaining trees. Second, there is a need for land for youth sports: Baseball and Soccer. Basically, any piece of land that could be turned into a P-patch, can also be turned into a ball field or soccer field.

Second, that land, even in these economic times, is valuable. To get enough land to make a decent P-patch would cost a million dollars.

So what can we do?

The barge that's floating in Lake Washington in front of Kenmore WA.

The barge that is floating in Lake Washington

In Lake Washington, floating in front of Kenmore and Saint Edward Park is a large, 316′ x 60′ barge. It’s a fixture in Kenmore, you can see it from any view of Lake Washington. We use to light off fireworks during the 4th of July and on Kenmore’s anniversary.

There is enough room on the barge for about 170-180 10′ x 10′ P-patches. It gets plenty of sunlight, water is not an issue, and it puts to use something that’s an eyesore to many people.

There are problems with it.

It's a fair bit of distance to the barge from the marina.

It's a bit of a boat ride to get to it.

  • The barge can only be accessed by water. So a ferry would have to be set up for those P-patchers without a boat.
  • Which means you have to have classes for boat safety for all P-patchers.
  • Runoff from the barge would have to be monitored for pollution.
  • Getting the necessary permits from the State of Washington and King County for this project.
  • And the biggest one: Finding out who owns the barge.

But if we can overcome those obstacles, we have the potential for a P-patch that doesn’t use any land.

In the next installment: How to overcome those obstacles.

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In my previous article on this topic, Solar Power Northwest: Remodeling your home, I looked at the numbers behind solar power in the Northwest prompted by two articles in James Lupori’s Kenmore Undressed blog. Now we’re going to take a look at an actual home in the Brier neighborhood, via James’ latest article: Solar Energy – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 3.

Eric’s setup uses 18 panels that provide most of his daytime power needs. The article doesn’t mention if Eric uses Energy Star appliances, which would benefit him by letting him sell power back to the utilities reducing his total utility bill. That’s the smart way to go.

[Edit: In response to the question about how much this installation cost Eric, I don’t have hard numbers, but I estimate it was between $28,000 and $30,000.]

The next step in energy conservation would be Smart Grid aware appliances, heating systems and water heaters.

The Smart Grid, in a nutshell, turns power transmission and production from a centralized system to a distributed system that is self-aware and responds to the demands for power from homes and businesses. This is supported by Smart Grid-aware appliances and heating and cooling systems in your home. As demand spikes, your fridge goes to a longer cooling cycle to reduce it’s load on the grid, your water heater doesn’t reheat the water immediately , etcetera. Ideally, your home will be wired to manage its energy usage. Instead of a water heater, you’d have an on-demand tankless water heater so there’s no need to heat or even store 30+ gallons of water.

However, creating the Smart Grid will take time. Puget Sound Energy is looking into implementing Smart Grid Technology, but like most nascent technologies, there are multiple standards coalescing into a single one. Just another step towards our energy independence!

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So, what would happen if the City of Seattle where to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and not replace it with anything?

According to most pundits: Gridlock!

But according to the Braess Paradox: Better traffic flow and less traffic.

This is the conundrum presented in the Infrastructurist post “Huh?! 4 Cases Of How Tearing Down A Highway Can Relieve Traffic Jams (And Save Your City)”, where four case studies are examined and show that removing roads can actually reduce traffic in a city.


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Vince Carlson

Vince Carlson

Vincent Carlson is a remarkable man. He has over 20-years experience in architecture, construction, engineering, development, design and fabrication. He also makes award-winning meads as well. His architecture company, Architect for the Environment, specializes in green and sustainable architecture, for residential, commercial, and agricultural needs.

Vince lives the sustainable lifestyle in Woodinville, Washington. Here he’s raising a family in a green lifestyle. He grows his own food, raises his own chickens for eggs and makes mead, a honey wine, for sale through his other business, Adytum Cellars.

Vince’s most current project is the 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living. This Center will be a facility that will be a self-sustaining and energy-efficient and renewable structure built with green principles and materials. The building will include stalls for market vendors and farmers, areas for educational displays and produce sales, dry storage and cold storage facilities for farmers, and sit-down eating areas for families coming to the market. The Center will be surrounded by a vast outdoor patio area that will enable pedestrian traffic to flow in and out of the building as people shop, eat, and explore the atmosphere.

A fine glass of mead.

A fine glass of mead.

Beyond architecture, Vince also makes mead. Award winning mead. His Traditional Mead won the 2007 International Mead Festival Silver Medal. As a personal connoisseur of Vince’s meads, I can highly recommend his products. He used to have his own hive, but it swarmed recently and flew off. He’s currently looking to replace it with a new hive when he gets a chance.

His meadery has a partial green roof with drip irrigation to keep it going in the hot months. He has recently renovated the business with a new tasting room on the ground floor of the meadery. He’s always willing to explain the mead making process and uses natural and organic honeys in his products.

Along wit his traditional meads, Vince also makes several fruit meads:

  • Pyment – grapes
  • Cyser – apples or pears
  • Melomel – peaches, cherries, elderberries and most other fruits
  • Metheglin – herb or spice

If you get a chance stop by his place and try his products. You won’t regret it.

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In the GreenTech section of CNET news is a story about how the Solar Trust energy company has acquired the rights to Solar Millenium’s agreement with Southern California Edison and plans to offer a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development:

Solar Trust’s strategy is to offer what it calls a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development. It says it will be a company that can provide not only the design, development, construction, and installation of a thermal solar plant, but also the running and management of the plant once it’s functional.

A parabolic solar array unit.

A parabolic solar array unit.

These solar plants are different from from photovoltaic solar cells in that they use parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a working fluid. This fluid is heated up into steam or run through a heat exchanger to create steam, and then the steam is used through a traditional steam turbine to generate power.

What does this mean for the future of solar power? Well, if this new company succeeds in producing power to California residents, similar projects could be build in Eastern Washington State. So we’ll be keeping our eyes on how this develops.

Read the full story here.

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Since 2002, Michelle Kaufmann Designs and mkStudios, have been at the forefront of green and sustainable prefabricated house designs on the West Coast. Founded by it’s namesake, Michelle Kaufmann, it’s guiding principle is to provide a full service design/build architectural firm that uses off-site modular technology and  prepackaged green solutions as the means to create beautiful, eco-friendly homes and multi-family developments.

Both companies strive to show how Michelle’s five EcoPrinciples can be easily and elegantly incorporated into nearly everyone’s daily life. These EcoPrinciples are:

  • Smart design
  • Ecological materials
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Healthy environment


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