Monday, September 28, 2009

Saturday's Rainbow & Moonrise

Click on the images to enlarge. It might be hard to imagine, at least for some, that the pot of gold at the end is in the federal building downtown. And then we have spheres: the natural and the man made.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Same, Tanzania Update

I've been contacted by Jeremy Lowney, a Cal Poly grad who spends time doing all kinds of interesting things in Tanzania and elsewhere. He runs Wild Kingdom Safaris and has built several schools in Tanzania. The owner's rep is Arup, an international engineering firm. Stay tuned for more updates including possible support for the project from AFH St. Louis. Elsewhere in this blog are other updates and info on a trade school project near Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Architecture for Humanity and Old North Grocery Coop

From: Karen Heet
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 12:36 PM
To: Richard Reilly
Subject: ONSL Grocery Co-op has been funded!


I also wanted to share with you that the food co-op we’re developing in 2718 N 13th Street has been funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health! It’s a three year grant for operational expenses, so we still need to find funding for the building renovations, but your work with the WU architectural students helped MFH understand the concept. You’ll see in our attached newsletter a rendering done by the students. This was instrumental in conveying our vision. There’s also a story about the co-op on the front page of today’s P-D.

So thank you for all of your help!!!

Click on the image to enlarge and read more.

Teaching at Forest Park

We had over 20 people signed up for Continuing Education classes on LEED for Homes and Construction Site Safety Practices at FPCC in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis. The students pay a small fee for the series of classes which also includes instruction in framing, flooring, leadership and trim carpentry. Then the class members volunteer for a few days on the Habitat build sites and put their new training to the test. Maybe (and hopefully) some will enjoy the experience and pursue leadership roles with Habitat. Kent Lytle does an excellant job with the safety instruction and I serve up the LEED information.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Focus St. Louis Toolkit

Focus St. Louis has released its Environmental Sustainability Roadmap. I have been lucky enough to participate in the project and I hope to be involved in the introduction and implementation of the report as well. Click on the image to jump to the Focus website where you will be able to download copies of the report and executive summary.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Green Homes Festival on 9/26/2009

The workshop directory link is here. I'm leading workshops at 11:00AM and 1:00PM and I'll be spending some time at the Architecture for Humanity booth and the HBA's Green Builders booth during the rest of the afternoon. Click on the logo to go to the Festival web page. It is a great learning opportunity for all age groups.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Roof Experiment

Click on the images to enlarge. I have a 20 year old, 3 tab shingle roof on a home built in 1892. I use my storm windows, the attic has been re-insulated, the furnace needs an upgrade along with quite a bit else. I contracted, in March, to have a white, liquid applied, elastomeric roofing membrane applied directly over my existing shingles. Today it is finally going on. The product container promises a 7 year life span though my contractor guarantees the roof for life. I suppose that means I will get no charge on needed re-coats. I will monitor utility bills and the condition of the 17 year old on my 3rd floor to see if there are good things happening on the performance side. The product is sold as an energy saver due to its color. It is water based, so the VOCs will be lower than many roofing products and no material must be stripped from the roof so the landfills should get a break.

As I stated in the beginning this is an experiment. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Tragedy of the Commons

This is a the title of an article published in 1968. Here is a link to the original piece, published in Science. Tied to the Jevons Paradox piece in my blog post below are connections between human nature and human impact on our planet. Our planet is The Commons. How long will it be until enough of us put this 2 & 2 together and take care of business. Inserted next is a small section of the wiki entry on The Tragedy of the Commons. I invite all to read and contemplate the work of some profound thinkers.

"The Tragedy of the Commons" can be applied to environmental issues such as sustainability. The commons dilemma stands as a model for a great variety of resource problems in society today, such as water, land, fish, and non-renewable energy sources like oil and coal. When water is used at a higher rate than the reservoirs are replenished, fish consumption exceeds its reproductive capacity, or oil supplies are exhausted, then we face a tragedy of the commons.
Situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include the overfishing and destruction of the Grand Banks, the destruction of salmon runs on rivers which have been dammed – most prominently in modern times on the Columbia River in the Northwest United States, and historically in North Atlantic rivers – the devastation of the sturgeon fishery – in modern Russia, but historically in the United States as well – and, in terms of water supply, the limited water available in arid regions (e.g., the area of the Aral Sea) and the Los Angeles water system supply, especially at Mono Lake and Owens Lake.Other situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include pollution caused by driving cars. There are many negative externalities of driving; these include congestion, carbon emissions, and traffic accidents.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Jevons Paradox

I found this on

The Jevons Paradox
How Efficiency Improvements May Be Undermining Sustainability
Posted on Sep 4 by Martin Holladay

U.S. energy consumption continues to rise. In spite of continuing efficiency improvements that allow manufacturers to reduce the energy required per unit of production, we’re using more energy every year.
Let’s say you’ve sold your old, leaky house and moved into a new, well-insulated home with Energy Star appliances. With all of its efficiency improvements, your new home requires 30% less energy than your old home. That’s got to be good for the planet, right?
Well, maybe not — especially if you save so much on your energy bills that you decide to fly to Florida for your next vacation.
A new book, The Myth of Resource Efficiency, casts serious doubts on the idea that efficiency improvements will lead to lower levels of energy consumption. The book focuses on the “rebound effect” — the increase in energy use that often follows energy efficiency improvements. (For more on the rebound effect, see “Getting More Efficient, But Using More Energy”.)
The authors of The Myth of Resource Efficiency — John Polimeni, Kozo Mayumi, Mario Giampietro, and Blake Alcott — identify William Stanley Jevons as the first economist to describe the rebound effect. In his 1865 book, The Coal Question, Jevons explained the mechanism whereby energy efficiency improvements lead to increased energy consumption: “If the quantity of coal used in a blast-furnace, for instance, be diminished in comparison with the yield, the profits of the trade will increase, new capital will be attracted, the price of pig-iron will fall, but the demand for it increase; and eventually the greater number of furnaces will more than make up for the diminished consumption of each.”
“Let's Use More!”One hundred and forty-four years ago, Jevons wrote, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.” Economists now refer to this principle as the Jevons Paradox.
The Jevons Paradox takes many forms:
Because of improvements in refrigerator efficiency, consumers can afford more and larger refrigerators.
Because of improvements in vehicle efficiency, car owners can afford to drive more miles per year.
Because of improvements in airtightness, window performance, and insulation techniques, homeowners can afford to build larger houses.
Savings resulting from energy-efficiency improvements — or even savings resulting from giving up meat in one’s diet — allow consumers to take more vacations, resulting in greater energy use.
As Joseph Tainter explains in the forward to The Myth of Resource Efficiency, “An action taken to conserve resources reduces the cost of daily life to such an extent that entirely different kinds of environmental damage become affordable.”
In 1865, Jevons correctly predicted that the development of more efficient ways to harness the power of coal would lead to an increase in coal burning. Worried that Britain’s supplies of easily mined coal would be exhausted, Jevons suggested that Britain prepare for coming fuel shortages by (in Tainter’s words) “using the coal-given prosperity for posterity and for a sort of soft landing at coal’s limits.”
Is Efficiency Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?The Jevons Paradox represents a serious challenge to the energy efficiency community. “The Jevons Paradox questions the pervasive assumption — common in colloquial discourse and even in many academic discussions — that sustainability emerges as a passive consequence of consuming less,” Tainter writes. “This assumption comes in two versions. The pessimistic version suggests that it is necessary for people voluntarily to reduce their resource consumption in order to become more sustainable. Examples might include taking shorter or colder showers, using public transportation, drinking tap water rather than bottled, or eating less meat. … The optimistic version…is that a future of technological innovations and the shift to a service-and-information economy will reduce our consumption of resources to such an extent that we will become sustainable without requiring people to sacrifice the things that they enjoy. … This is exactly the assumption that Jevons showed to be false.”
Communities that have a low environmental impact and live in harmony with nature are not particularly efficient. Our planet’s future is being threatened not by traditional rural communities with old-fashioned methods of livelihood, but rather by industrial economies where efficiencies are highest.
The authors of The Myth of Resource Efficiency note, “The idea that ‘an increase in energy efficiency always promotes sustainability’ is very simplistic.”
In Praise of Higher TaxesIf efficiency won’t save us, what will? One possible response to the Jevons Paradox is to enact higher energy taxes. According to Tainter, however, such taxes will never fly in the U.S.: “The Jevons Paradox cannot be circumvented through voluntary restraint or any other laissez-faire approach. Giampietro and Mayumi suggest that taxes could make up for any savings introduced by efficiency improvements, thereby avoiding the paradox. In the United States, at least, this approach is politically infeasible, but the general principle is sound.”
I agree with the authors of The Myth of Resource Efficiency that we need higher energy taxes, but I disagree with their dismissal of voluntary restraint. Higher taxes will help, but a solution to our global climate crisis will also require a movement towards voluntary simplicity, as advocated by Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi.
À la recherche des loisirs perdusA move toward voluntary simplicity would not only benefit the planet — it might also provide us with more leisure time. (An excellent short video by Peter Smith explores the link between the Jevons Paradox and the disappearance of leisure.) As anthropologists point out, every improvement in economic efficiency — including the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and the transition from agriculture to factory work — has been accompanied by a decrease in leisure. In The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light, William Irwin Thompson noted, “With a labor of a mere fifteen hours a week, hunters and gatherers can provide for all their needs.”
The “disappearing leisure” problem was memorably described in an essay, The Original Affluent Society, by American anthropologist Marshall Sahlins. Sahlins wrote, “Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter’s — in which all the people’s material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognize that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times.”
Needless to say, I’m not calling for a return to hunting and gathering. I’m calling instead for the voluntary adoption of a simpler lifestyle: one with less work, fewer possessions, and more leisure time. A graceful transition to such a lifestyle would be the greatest possible gift to our children and grandchildren.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Team Wins U. City Project

Arcturis, Boa Construction Company and Washington University teamed up in response to an rfp for 5 LEED Homes near Olive and Kingsland. Our proposal was accepted and we have our first meeting on the project with University City on Tuesday.The initial stages of our project will include the search for 5 home buyers to participate in the design and maybe even construction of these homes as we create a uniques process for these times and for this project.Anyone want a LEED Platinum home?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009