Making it Easier to be Green
Green design includes energy conservation, but that's not what it's all about. It's about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources.
This site will provide a balanced, holistic view that includes advice about saving energy, water and other natural resources, improving indoor air quality, using environmentally responsible design and construction techniques and minimizing waste.

I will be focusing on interiors for three reasons:

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoors.
  • Buildings in the United States annually consume about 30% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.
  • As a New York State Certified Interior Designer and a LEED Accredited Professional, I want to share my knowledge and expertise with you.
Sustainable design and construction can be done in many different styles and using a wide variety of materials. There are examples of healthy, sustainable, comfortable and inviting interiors for commercial, not-for-profit and residential clients on the web site for Interior Design Solutions.
You can use the labels on the sidebar to locate entries that you want to read. For instance, most people might want to look at the entries for "Green Homes," but "Green Finance" would be of more interest to professionals involved in the design, construction, management, financing and marketing of buildings.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Solar Decathlon 2013 - A Tribute to Trees

Austria - Toward Media Center
Austria - Toward Deck
Team Austria, which was the overall winner for the 2013 Solar Decathlon, also took second prize in the  Market Appeal competition.  The inspiration for and central design element of this beautiful house was the tree, which has special meaning in Austria. About half of the country’s surface area is heavily forested, and a long history of sustainable forestry assures continued availability of this important natural resource. As the team explains, Austria’s plentiful forests have “for millennia provided environ­mental protection against severe climate conditions and natural disasters, indispensable energy sources and habitats for diverse wildlife, as well as an especially valued, lightweight, renewable resource for building construc­tion. The use of wood as a primary construction material is further­more CO2-neutral and beneficially impacts indoor climate.”

We loved the interplay between the clean, minimalistic design of this house and the warm ambience created by its extensive use of wood.  The craftsmanship in this small gem of a house (a mere 639 sq ft., not counting the mechanical room) was exquisite.  The indoor and outdoor spaces form a single harmonious whole with large sliding glass panels that completely disappear when open (they are concealed inside of the cabinets that line the walls).

This prototype for a pre-fabricated house is designed in modules that fit into standard shipping containers.  The team explained that their design follows the organization of a tree’s main components: the floor-to-ground connections that form the sound “root” foun­dation, the main service core that metaphorically comprises the systemic “trunk” of the house, the structural framework that “bran­ches” out to carry the building envelope, and the changeable textile façade layers that act as protective “foliage” when needed. 

The house and its furnishings are const­ructed almost entirely of domestic wood products.  Both affordability and environmental sustainability are maximized by using the whole tree, including the typically wasted bark, wood chippings and shavings.  For instance, the walls of the bedroom and bathroom are specially-treated bark, and the dining chairs are made of compressed wood chips.  

The team also used outdoor textiles in an innovative and elegant way, creating a passive solar mechanism that mimics the effect of deciduous trees. The whole house, including the outdoor space, is surrounded by a textile façade layer consisting of curtains made of white camo cloth combined with retractable horizontal shading devices. The system minimizes solar gain during the summer months, allowing diffuse daylight to reach the interior and creating a delightful dappled effect similar to sunlight filtering through a tree canopy. The vertical and horizontal textile layers can be fully retracted in winter to maximize solar gain.   

Austria - Deck with Curtains Partially Opened
For Additional Information on the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2013 Visit the Web Site: Solar Decathlon 2013

Photos by: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon


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