Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Update on Unsustainably Green

Last month I posted a preview of an article that author and activist April Langschied wrote based on an interview that I participated in. April writes under the pen name of A Brewster Smythe and is the Founder of the Waynedale Green Alliance. The WGA, like the Irvington Green Initiative that I work with, is a grassroots organization that seeks to better our communities by involving our friends and neighbors in efforts to sustain and improve our economy and environment.

In the interview we covered the Green Movement and probed the differences between "green" and "sustainable." Here’s the link to her article which has now been published on Associated Content.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Living Life in a '46 Hudson

The next time that you’re stuck in traffic take a look around and imagine what it would be like if all of the Smart Cars and Priuses and flexfuel vehicles and hybrids and yes, even Hummers were replaced with 1946 Hudsons. What if the whole world drove a Hudson? That would change everything wouldn’t it?

Our roads and parking lots would be designed differently to accommodate the size and performance of the old Hudsons. Speed limits would be different. The environment would suffer differently from the effects of the Hudson’s 1940’s era emissions. Safety standards would be different. Gas prices would be even higher because the relatively poor fuel economy of the Hudson would create more demand. And the list goes on.

So here’s another question: Do you live in a 1946 Hudson?

By and large, there has been very little change in the way that we build houses in the United States since the end of the Second World War. Earlier this year I read a quote in
Dwell Magazine that was attributed to Swedish Architect Anders Holmberg. I think it sums things up pretty well. It went something like this: “we build houses today like we built cars in 1910. It’s an old technique … You wouldn’t build a car piece by piece today, out in the open, exposed to all the elements, so why build a house that way?”

Although they are not widely used in home construction today, there are a number of advanced building technologies that you will begin to hear more and more about in the near future. Most of these processes aren’t new; they’ve typically been relegated to multi-family construction or more commercial applications. All of them are designed to deliver a better constructed, better performing, healthier home that goes up on site faster and produces less waste than any of its “stick built” cousins. Here are just a few of the options that are available:

Structural Insulated Panel Systems: high performance building panels used for floors, walls, and roofs that are made by sandwiching a core of rigid foam insulation between layers of oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs are manufactured under factory controlled conditions and can be custom designed for each home.
Panelization: wall, roof and floor framing constructed in a controlled, factory environment. The process of panelization reduces construction waste while insuring accurate and tight framing. Field erection times are dramatically reduced and labor expenses are typically much lower than with “stick-built” construction.
Pre-fabrication: sections of a home are built in a controlled factory environment, transported to a project site and placed onto a foundation. Depending on the size and complexity of the home there can be anywhere from one or two to dozens of structurally connected pieces.

As you work with your
Architect on your new home or major Renovation or addition, ask about new building technologies such as structural insulated panels systems, panelization, and pre-fabrication. Naturally all projects are unique and there may not be a viable advanced building technology solution for your project. But even if you’re not ready to buy, it’s definitely time to start shopping for a replacement for that ’46 Hudson.