Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sustainable Landscapes

The American Society of Landscape Architects has a fascinating page about sustainable design concepts. From turning a car-centric community into one that enables active living to converting industrial wasteland into community parks, its interesting stuff.

Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes

Friday, 15 April 2011

Getting the most from your compost

So do you compost? I mean really compost, have a compost bin at the bottom of your garden that you put your food leftovers in? maybe you fill your kitchen waste bin for road side collection. Either way, just when you think you're doing everything you can for the planet, someone comes along with something better... check this out!

Compost Distiller, Lisa Johansson's Portfolio
This is a system in which organic kitchen waste gets processed into alcohol, soil nutients and compost.

The design which I developed is suitable for communal kitchens, canteens and restaurants. The same system can be developed for smaller or larger scale applications.

Via notcot

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Friday, 1 October 2010

Solar News

When Buildings attack! the solar death ray has been around for centuries as is shown at combobulate.com and yet architects designed a building which they knew might have a slight 'ignition' problem, shall we call it!

BLDGBLOG: Las Vegas Death Ray
Las Vegas Death Ray
All that focused sunlight could be put to better use than combusting plastic cups and hair... instead providing the heat for the Vdara Hotel itself via a system of solar collectors.

In other Solar related news, the generation of electricity via photovoltaic cells has long been the least efficient form of micro generation around, however a new type of solar panel could replace the inefficient PC cell capturing lost heat and the scifi sounding Exiton Particles... Go to IO9.com for the hard science, Exciting? no... Exiton!

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Green Roof Research

Spurred on by the possibility of specifying a green roof on a domestic extension, I am trying to find out the best system to use in such an application.

From Wikipedia - "A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems."

The benefits are quite beguiling to an eco-freak like me.
  1. reduced heating and cooling loads on a building.
  2. reduced rainwater run-off
  3. can help to filter pollutants from rainwater
  4. can help to filter pollutants from air
  5. reduced sound transmission through roof
  6. visually attractive
  7. can reduce the visual impact of a building

Given that a lot of information relates to commercial scale roofs, I am going to focus on small scall roofs, and as such found this page on livingroofs.org. which has a very useful PDF which helps to explain the basics of small green roofs.

There are three main types of green or living roof
  1. Extensive - a very shallow system suitable for sheds, garages and small extensions
  2. Semi-extensive - a medium depth system suitable for domestic flat roofs
  3. Intensive - A deep system suitable for commercial applications as it allows for complete gardens to be planted
Of these I will concern myself only with the first two systems, as these are the ones which are applicable in this situation. Essentially we are looking at a structure around 200mm deep that will be low maintenance & will have hardy drought loving plants.

The Green Roof Centre has a number of interesting DIY case studies showcasing a variety of techniques, from the simplest sedum matt upto a deep multiplant roof.

Sedum is the primary plant used in British green roofs. Greenroof.co.uk describes Sedum as follows
They are a versatile and attractive ground cover plant belonging to the Crassulacaea family. Sedums are evergreen, self-generating, drought resistant and capable of withstanding extremes of climate. They flower from early summer through to autumn in shades of pink, purple, yellow and white. Needing very little attention and no mowing or cutting back, they give excellent foliage colour and texture and are attractive to all kinds of insects and birds. Sedums are generally pest and disease free but,like most plants, can suffer from aphids, mealy bugs, thrips or vine weevil which can be controlled by biological means.

Other succulents, grasses, herbaceous perennials and bulbs are also used depending on the project.

Greenroof.co.uk also provides a very interesting product called Nature Mat which is a geotextile base layer preplanted with Sedums etc. which can be rolled onto the substrate of the roof. This can help provide an instant greening effect.

So down to the nitty gritty (there's a pun there somewhere) how are green roofs constructed? again Greenroof.co.uk comes to the rescue with this diagram

As you can see green roofs can be quite complex, although not much more than conventional modern roofs. Especially considering requirements for airtightness and thermal performance which are placed on new domestic roofs of any sort.

Green roofs have been around for years in various forms and one of the most beguiling reasons to have one is that instead of sitting on the landscape, these roofs help your structure become part of the landscape. If that isn't a planners dream... I don't know what is!!
If you want more information, then check out this extensive product listing at the green roof directory. If you are considering a green roof for your own project, please email me to arrange a consultation.

Don't forget you can follow me on twitter and facebook or you could just check out my website.

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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Container Housing

The use of shipping containers as housing has long been something which fascinates me. I have fantasised about designing building my very own home as a way of building with limited funds. There are three things which fascinate me about shipping containers.
  1. modular design - containers come in a range of sizes, all of which can be placed together in any number of imaginative ways (think Lego blocks).
  2. availability - there is a roaring trade in used shipping containers and you can pick up one moderate sized used container for about £1000. 
  3. Infrastructure - This is the kicker for me... you can get containers to almost anywhere on Earth, the infrastructure is there already. Lorries, trains and ships are designed around the standard sizes on an international level.
Having not heard much about the use of shipping containers lately, I was pleased to notice the following on NOTCOT.

Six container cabin design by InterModal Design - part 1 | architecture 4 us
Six container cabin design by InterModal Design – part 2 | architecture 4 us

The company who designed these great dwellings are InterModalDesign and their website is well worth a look around... Enjoy!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

New construction methods

The world of 3d printing has come some way, to the extent that it is now possible to construct structures large enough to suggest that buildings are the next step. looking at some of the photo's, this method of construction could give rise to some seriously trippy buildings that would Gaudi a run for his money!

3-D Printer Creates Entire Buildings From Solid Rock | Inhabitat
3-D Printer Creates Entire Buildings From Solid Rock

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Reduce, reuse and recycle construction materials

Further to the previous post, a recent personal project I've been working on, The Freegan Greenhouse, has highlighted the need to make more of our construction industry waste materials. During the constuction of this and some accompanying raised beds, I had to buy new timber for the structure... which bugged me somewhat. Whilst building the raised beds it was suggested to me that the local timber yard might have some overstock or miscuts, and guess what they did! after that a client of mine suggested that a simple search on ebay might have turned up some interesting results for over stock timber in the local area, and you know what, that did too! a little late for me but not so late I can't pass it on.

The 'Net' result of this (if you'll pardon the pun) is that todays post is all about online resources which cater for the more eco-aware among us who are trying to source materials to keep them out of landfill.

Top of todays list is Freecycle possibly the most well known site for this kind of thing, best thing about it is everything is free, worst thing is you never know when something will posted that you need. Its not a wishlist for those wanting the next big games console, but it is a way of passing on old furniture and the like that would otherwise be wining its way to the tip.

Next up is a new one to me, tradeleftovers.com/ is an interesting site that does what it says on the tin, contractors post up their overstock, miscut and incorrectly ordered materials. The materials posted here is either free, priced or has make an offer next to it. Definitely worth a browse. Be warned it covers the whole of the UK!

Not sure how useful this one is in this context, but I think Gumtree should be included for it's craigslist like qualities.

Another untested one here Selftrading buys and sells overstock,
Self Trading is an international trader of all types of consumer products. From clothing, footwear, jewellery, electrical items, almost anything that the consumer will use! We will make offers on anything from Surplus stock, bankrupt stock, and liquidated stock to Superstore Clearances. We guarantee to make an offer on your stock regardless of where you are in the world!
currently has things like a warehouse mezzanine and some stair balustrading spindles!

ecoconstruction.org has a very useful links page which has lead me to

recycledproducts which is a directory of products containing recycled materials.

Salvoweb is a directory of architectural salvage websites. I love looking around these places... full of so much potential!

Finally, Wrap has a bunch of information about recycling in general, including construction materials.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Somerset Wood Recycling Project

Somerset Wood Recycling Project - Weston super Mare - Reclaimed Timber
Somerset Wood Recycling is a not for profit social enterprise, set up early in 2007 to re-use and recycle waste wood, as well as to support regeneration in Weston-super-Mare.

having investigated used scaffold boards and pallets to no avail, I'm going to give these guys a call.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Reality Building Design

Reality Building Design - Creative Design For Home Improvement And Technical Services for Design Professionals

Blatant plug time, I am an Architectural Technician and Building Surveyor and have recently gone self-employed.

You can see my business website here Reality Building Design

You can see some of my work in the gallery section of the website, including this lovely building