Future Ecology Designed

Sustainable design theory manifested in products, infrastructure, and graphic representation. A utopian glimpse of a future New Zealand where environmental considerations are of tantamount importance, and society is designed to accommodate the native ecosystem.

Architecture 2030

Over at the ever-essential BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh interviews Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030. Required reading....

Also related, G. Monbiot has published an essay, The New Friends of The Earth?, a nice antidote to earnest attempts to convince us that continued consumption, if green enough, will save the world:

"But there is a bigger contradiction than this, which has been overlooked by both the supermarkets and many of their critics. “The green movement,” Terry Leahy tells us, “must become a mass movement in green consumption.” But what about consuming less? Less is the one thing the superstores cannot sell us. As further efficiencies become harder to extract, their growth will eventually outstrip all their reductions in the use of energy. This is not Tesco’s problem alone: the green movement’s economic alternatives still lack force.

The big retailers are competing to convince us that they are greener than their rivals, and this should make us glad. But we still need governments, and we still need campaigners."

On a purely linguistic note, why must writers insist on using 'green' as a verb? so gauche..

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World Wetlands Day

February the 2nd is World Wetlands Day, and an exhibition is being held at Waitangi Park. The artificial wetlands there are a beautiful model for how our own landscaping might progress, so I anticipate the talks should be very interesting.

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Some quick updates from Sustainable Future.

Greenpeace has released their 2007 Global Energy Report. It's a great source of research data on the decentralisation of energy supply resources. Wonderful to see substantial projections of our possibilities.


"But now, four and a half billion years after the formation of the planet, nearly four billion years since the emergence of life on Earth, after five major extinction events, a single species is responsible for much of planet’s destiny. A species that through the power of its technology, the sheer size of its biomass, its ever-expanding energy and resource requirements, has changed the course of our planet’s history forever. And that species is, of course, us. The choices that we make now and in the future will have an effect on life on Earth just as great as that asteroid 65 million years ago. "

"Some of the measures needed to combat climate change may be incompatible with the WTO. For example the European Union is currently looking at introducing a border tax against energy intensive goods coming from countries that have not made commitments to reduce their greenhouse emissions. After all why should European companies internalise the cost of greenhouse emissions while American companies continue to pollute for free? If American companies can get away with polluting the planet for free then what’s to stop European companies moving to the US and simply exporting their products into Europe? Hence they need a climate protecting border tax to even up the playing field. But such a climate border tax may be against the rules of the WTO, as a restriction on trade. "

Excerpts from Courage and Climate Change by Russel Norman, Green Party Co-Leader. Third Annual State of the Planet Speech

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A few links further to my intended course of study this year. I’ll concentrate on the idea of modular housing (or rather the power supply thereof, more on that later), viewing small low-impact habitation from the perspective of an industrial designer.

Some interesting ideas involve structural walls which could be built from either
rammed earth or straw bale (with timber framing). I really love the idea of manufacturing rammed earth surfaces on site, but using a set variety of jigs which could be reused indefinitely. With steel reinforcement, earthquake resistance is possible. I can’t find anyone that has tried carting rammed earth pieces around, reinforced or not, but if they are hard enough, sealed, and protected I can’t see any immediate issue. This is where consultation comes in!

Perhaps a hybrid of
rammed earth and earth blocks (the same material, but dealing with the compression of earth into blocks rather than entire walls on site) would work? A series of interlocking panels extending from ground to stud, but perhaps 2m or so wide. They would need not support the roof completely, as the thermal mass they provide is a principal benefit in this context. All the power points and fixtures could be positioned between panels, leaving the rammed earth itself fairly low-tech. Wiring would need to be dealt with, but could again just run through panel gaps. Floors and ceilings would also suffice for plumbing etc- exposed copper piping would be a beautiful touch next to the patina of rammed earth. A spaceframe from timber or steel could support and lock into the earth panels, relieving them of a proportion of the structural stresses.

The beauty is that rammed earth is built ‘from’ the surroundings, so will revert to its natural state eventually. Adding concrete to the mix actually destabilises the structure, and prevents this cycle. You are faithful to the inherent nature of the surrounding material, and avoid shipping most of the eventual mass as you would a prefab. A prefabricated timber frame would support this construction where necessary. See also,

Some inspirational Examples:

Kapelle-Versoehnung, Berlin

Red Hill Residence, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Loco Architects, AR Awards for Emerging Architecture 2006, Tsukuba, Japan (photograph above)

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Some links [by Nikolai]

Here are some links that have really changed some of my recent thinking....

Vertical gardens. Beautiful. Surely this would work with any undulating impermeable sheet as a base? how about moulding parts of the sheet outwards through the foliage and concealing lamps within?

Paul Gipe interview.

Parlimentary Commission for the Environment on local energy systems: Of particular interest is this report on microgeneration potential in NZ, a parallel to my own literature review. It suggests that standalone small wind is not feasible where grid connection is assured (I postulated comparative costs, but moral superiority). However, the report finds favour in roof-mounted wind turbines of 1 - 1.5kw capacity, as a private relief on grid reliance. Most of my scepticism is founded on the structural stresses applied to buildings as well as inherent site turbulence, while the report cites noise as a primary liability. Some sort of cantilevered pole using the building as support would channel stresses, and I have some ideas for both turbulence (think splitter-plates in front of jet intakes on aircraft- I always knew a childhood obsession with aerodynamics would prove useful) and noise (wait and see, just remember most noise is caused by blade tip turbulence). In any event, if focusing on 1 - 1.5kw turbines, it would be vastly more practical to actually manufacture some sort of working prototype.

Finally, I implore you to purchase a copy of Endgame, by Derrick Jensen. I haven't read enough to write an analysis yet, but first impressions are of a similar approach to my own ranting vis the inherently destructive nature of our current productive-consumptive world order. Review Amazon page with reviews