I have been contemplating a very sustainable desert community. They could save lots of money and time if they built dwellings out of used cargo shipping containers. But how to keep them cool in the desert? Green Roofs.
The shipping containers would be cheap. They could be cleaned and refurbished to become modular housing components. And by putting a green roof on top, they could keep the dwelling in the cool shade. The containers would have the structural strength to support a green roof since they were designed to be stacked like blocks.
Building soil filled planter boxes on the sides would provide further shade, some insulation, and even thermal mass effects. That last aspect is where the sheer volume of dirt would keep the dwelling cooler during the hottest part of the day and warmer at night.
A follow up on William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, whom I referred to in a prior post. Time magazine named him “Hero of the Planet“. I saw him speak at Stanford on Oct. 15th. He hit his main points from the earlier podcast, but with new detail and data. (Links below.) He discussed eco-efficiency within architecture, civic planning, general manufacturing processes
He states a goal we should conditionally adopt:
I say conditionally, because we don’t know now what we will know in the future. We may need to modify this as time goes one. And overcommitment to any one philosophy is a bad idea. It could then be called an ‘-ism’, like socialism, capitalism, or ecologism. That last one’s from McDonough, who adds that an ‘-ism’ is fundamentally out of balance, leading society inevitably towards troubles. He advocates a balance, where society maintains an equilibrium between being ecological, economical and equitable.
During the Q&A phase, I asked who he would like to see as a Presidential adviser on the subjects of sustainability and energy, he suggested John Holdren, Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center. He was also on an science advisory committee for President Clinton. My impression from casual research on Professor Holdren is that he would bring a balanced approach in advising for sustainablity while reminding everyone of the value of expertise. We need to undo and more the efforts of the Bush administration to devalue science in our culture. One of our dire needs right now is for government to get advice from true experts on how to best direct the limited resources of our declining economy towards climate change mitigation, prosperity and equality.
McDonough also said he would like to see substantial activity at the federal level aimed towards building and vehicular efficiency, sustainable energy, improving infrastructure, etc.
~ In the North Pacific Gyre, the large scale vortex flow in the North Pacific driven by the Coriolis effect, there is a ratio of plastic to plankton of 6 to 1.
~ 48% of the anthropogenic carbon since the industrial revolution has gone into the oceans. This has dampened the atmospheric global warming effects, but we are raising the acidity of seawater. Historically, the Ph has been between 8.8 and 8.2 according to the Ross Ice Shelf cores. We are currently at 8.06 and it could reach 7.9 by 2099. At 7.9 Ph, calcium carbonate goes into solution, meaning that none of the creatures that make shells will be able to do so. This will create a huge die-off at the bottom of the food chain, creating more die-offs further along the food chain. In other words, massive extinctions and a potential end to the fishing industry.
A few of the examples he sited during his talk:
~ Better Place: CEO Shai Agassi has a vision of oil independence for Isreal by employing plug-in electric vehicles with batteries that can be swapped at service stations for trips longer than a single charge. ~ Wiki article
~ Could we just lift farmlands up onto the roofs of buildings, so that the city integrates farms rather than displacing them? McDonough + Partners worked on a plan with the city of Liuzhou in China to implement his Eco-Efficiency standards into an upcoming expansion of the city. All the new apartment buildings will have rooftop gardens & solar panels, and the local sewage treatment plant will provide fertilizer and 20% of the local cooking gas.
~ For the green roof of the Gap HQ in Redwood City, they planted native grasses of the area, taking a first step in reversing the trend of developers reducing the native habitats of local birds and incects.
~ For the roof of a Ford truck plant in Michigan, they made a 10 acre green roof that captures the rainwater that would have had to be cleaned by a waste treatment plant. They saved money immediately, and their roof is consuming CO2 and providing habitat.
Balancing Economy, Equity, and Ecology Through Design – Oct. 15, 2008 – at Stanford, audio & some video
Speech at the Feb. 2005 TED talks, MP4 download
Cradle to Cradle Design, a talk on Feb 11, 2003 at Stanford, audio