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Do adobe homes really work in all climates? – Book review

Posted October 26, 2010 12:28 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: Books & Media, BuildingGreen's Top Stories, Nature & Nurture

The weather is turning cold here in southern Vermont. A friend just got chased off the Long Trail (which she was hiking from the Massachusetts to the Canadian borders) by 18 inches of snow on Killington. While the leaves are still turning here in the Connecticut River valley, it's time to start huddling up by the fire and thinking cozy thoughts.

It was with this frame of mind that I excitedly cracked open Adobe Homes for All Climates Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques by Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree. It's another well-produced addition to the library of natural building tomes offered by Chelsea Green Publishing.

Urban Planning, 1948

Posted December 17, 2009 12:23 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Miscellania, Nature & Nurture
Interesting how it's at once forward-looking and backward.


The Climate Scoreboard

Posted December 7, 2009 10:53 AM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: Miscellania, Nature & Nurture, Politics
Here's a tool that tries to connect the best available science directly to the international climate change negotiations and commitments, and the politicians are using it! Perhaps that, in itself, is progress. "How Does It Work? In the run-up to COP-15, we are scanning UNFCCC submissions and news sources from around the world to collect a list of what we call 'current proposals' — possible scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions by UNFCCC parties. We share our compilation and use the C-ROADS-CP climate simulation to calculate the expected long-term impacts (in terms of GHG concentration, temperature increase, and sea level rise) if those proposals were to be fully implemented." For more info, see the Climate Interactive website.
(click photos for larger versions)
Greenbuild in Phoenix was the usual high-energy panoply of educational sessions, new product introductions in an ever-larger trade show, networking events, and — the reason our company sends so many of us — opportunities to promote our green building information resources. But this year, I was also looking forward to some vacation time following the conference. Jerelyn and I took five days' of vacation after Greenbuild to explore southern Arizona and celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Why are people drawn to design inspired by nature?

Posted October 13, 2009 1:36 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Nature & Nurture, Op-Ed, Product Talk

I received an email from a Design student at Kingston University (London) writing a dissertation on "why people are drawn to design inspired by nature." Three questions were sent; I went overboard answering the first one, and basically wussed out on the second two. I'd be interested in your takes on this highly subjective stuff, and will be sure to let our dissertation author in on the discussion.
1. Why in your opinion are people so drawn to design inspired by nature?

2. What in your opinion is the finest example of design inspired by nature in the field of product and furniture design (my course)?

3. Do you think there are psychological benefits to design inspired by nature, and what do you think they are?


The living space in this new home built by Global Green in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans is elevated four feet (1.2 m) to keep it above expected flood level. Numerous other "passive survivability" features are included.
A lot of people have been working for a long time to try to head off global warming — and some progress is being made. Buildings are becoming more energy-efficient, fuel economy standards for vehicles are finally rising again, and use of renewable energy is burgeoning. We need to continue these efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon dioxide, but the reality is that it's too little, too late to prevent climate change. Even if the CO2 spigot were turned off tomorrow, the earth would still see significant warming and the other predicted impacts of climate change: more intense storms, flooding, drought, wildfire, and power interruptions.

Mud and Straw in the Shadow of the U.S. Capitol

Posted August 21, 2009 11:56 AM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Miscellania, Nature & Nurture

Men Should Pee Sitting Down

Posted August 18, 2009 5:21 PM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: Behind the Scenes, Nature & Nurture, Op-Ed, Product Talk
Men should pee sitting down. Now before you call me a strident feminist, let me say that I'm backed up on this one by male colleagues and the reasons aren't what you think. I'm not arguing for toilet equality here. I'm talking about urine-separating toilets, which are much easier to use for men and women when sitting down. The bowl of these toilets takes urine in the front, feces in the back. It's hard enough to aim for the whole bowl (or so the evidence of many bathroom floors tells me), much less the front part of the bowl. One guy put a pee can in the corner, but that seems inefficient: pee in the can, then pour it down the toilet. Why not just pee in the toilet? Why should you care? Because urine contains up to 90% of the nitrogen and 50% of the phosphorous in domestic wastewater. Those chemicals make for great fertilizer — stuff we have to use a lot of energy to produce artificially. In healthy populations, urine is sterile, and removing it from feces makes composting the solids easier and more effective. Two models of these toilets are available in the U.S., both from Ecovita.

The label says:
Bottled at Source — Hand Pump #1, Atal Ayub Nagar, Bhopal, Madya Pradesh, India.
And in tiny print:
Not suitable for human consumption.

The nutrition label says:
Total Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g
Sodium 22mg
Dichlormethane
Carbon Tetrachloride
Chloroform
0%
0%
1%
-400%
-200,000%
-250%

The website says:
The unique qualities of our water come from 25 years of slow-leaching toxins at the site of the world's largest industrial accident.

The Yes Men's website says:
Twenty Bhopal activists, including Sathyu Sarangi of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, showed up at Dow headquarters near London to find that the entire building had been vacated.

Putting Greenhouse Gases In Your Face

Posted June 18, 2009 3:11 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Nature & Nurture
This morning, at 33rd St and 7th Ave in the middle of New York City — right outside of Madison Square Garden and Penn Station — a 70-foot-tall digital billboard displaying a real-time running total of atmospheric greenouse gases was unveiled. The display reflects a measurement of 24 long-lived greenhouse gases (not including ozone and aerosols) named in the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols, and is based on Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research. The Carbon Counter is part of a "Know the Number" awareness and education campaign by Deutsche Bank's institutional climate change investment and research business, the DB Climate Change Advisors group (DBCCA). In a press release, MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Ronald Prinn is quote as saying:
"It is useful to have an up-to-date estimate of a single integrating number expressing the trends in the long-lived greenhouse gases contributing to that change. This number can help convey how fast these greenhouse gases are increasing, and the progress, or lack thereof, in slowing the rate of increase.

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