Gizmag’s Top 10 sustainable houses

You can click over to the article to wander through all ten. I’d like to feature a few I really like.

The ZEB Pilot House

International architecture firm Snøhetta has partnered with Norway’s Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB) and to design and build a remarkable experimental house that helps move the development of very efficient buildings forward. The ZEB Pilot House is claimed to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires, with the significant surplus available to help run an electric car, for example…

A lot of sustainable technology was used on the build. The roof sports a 150 sq m (1,614 sq ft) photovoltaic array, and a 16 sq m (172 sq ft) solar thermal panel array, in addition to a rainwater collection system that provides water for toilet and garden use. In order to ensure all available rays are caught, the roof also slopes 19 degrees toward the southeast.

A Snøhetta representative told Gizmag that the photovoltaic array is expected to produce 19,200 kWh annually, while the home’s total electricity needs are calculated at just 7,272 kWh per year.


Pop-Up House

Whatever kind of home you live in, the chances are it took longer to build than the Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod, which was erected by a team of builders in just four days with no more tools than a screwdriver. The firm likens the construction process to building with Lego.

The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000). Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the home in its location in Southern France, and it meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard.


The S House

Vietnam’s Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing practical, sustainable, and most importantly, cheap, homes. The result is the S House, a US$4,000 dwelling part-built using local, easily-obtained materials, including Palm leaf thatching and bamboo.

The interior of the S House is very basic and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft), with one large interior space. The building is prefabricated and can be disassembled into multiple small pieces for easy transport by local builders. Vo Trong Nghia Architects is still working on the design of the S House but the eventual plan is to mass market it.

I could wander off into the tech of these three. I shan’t. Wander through the series and reflect on your own choices – and why.

The last two, the S House and the Pop-Up are my favorites of these three because of size. I firmly believe smaller is usually better. My wife and I [and a dog, of course] first lived together in a 2-bedroom guesthouse that encompassed 650 sq.ft. – and we didn’t use one of those bedrooms. We lived day-to-day in about 450 sq.ft. and that still was more than we needed.

We live in more space, now, and once again have a room we don’t use at all. The guesthouse is back to being a guesthouse. A functional design when you live within a destination. It’s convenient to have two bathrooms; but, still, the main room could be smaller and that would simply encourage sitting closer to the TV set watching a football match or a movie. 🙂

Yes – weird science can be interesting


This one is simply titled “Belly button cheese”

We’re no strangers to unusual food here at Gizmag, but this latest culinary masterpiece is probably the most unappealing treat we’ve yet come across. Dubbed Selfmade, the cheese in question is made from human bacteria which derives from samples taken from people’s armpits, toes, and noses.

The Selfmade cheese is the work of scientist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas, and is being exhibited as part of the Grow Your Own … Life After Nature exhibit, at Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery. The exhibit also features other projects which blur the line between art and science, such as I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin: a project proposing that future humans give birth to dolphins.

Each Selfmade cheese is created from cultures taken from the skin of a different person, and the process involves a strange combination of food preparation and microbiological techniques. This results in signature cheeses which are unique to each person – such as a “Christina” cheese, and “Ben” cheese, for example.

However, if the image of human bacteria-based cheese is making you salivate, be aware that the human cheese isn’t actually available for human consumption, but is rather intended as a means of promoting discourse on microbiology.

Our readers in Eire can wander by Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery. The signature cheeses will be on display until January 19, 2014.

No one’s offered any recipes using the self-made fermentations, yet. No doubt one or another of the purportedly avant-garde element in posh urbane restaurants will want to give it a try.

Inside the box: Shipping containers in architecture


Starbucks drive-through store in Tukwila, Washington

Gizmag picks ten of our favorite shipping container-based structures

The widespread use of the modern metal shipping container can be traced back to the mid-1950’s. According to Marc Levinson, in April 1956 an oil tanker traveled between Newark and Houston with 58 rudimentary “shipping containers,” (actually refitted aluminum truck bodies) sparking a modern revolution in moving goods around the world. However, an unexpected result also eventually transpired: shipping containers became recognized as an attractive building material by many architects. Gizmag gives a nod to ten of our favorite uses of shipping containers in architecture.

I’ve covered some of these in previous postings. Wander through the article and enjoy your favorites.

Before retiring, I was lucky enough to work with a few of our talented local architects here in Santa Fe. A couple did some amazing work with shipping containers – one, in fact, building his own million-dollar home from these, his favorite structural module.

Glass roof tiles let a little sunshine in to cut heating bills

Swedish company, Soltech Energy, recently received the gold medal for this year’s hottest new material at the Nordbygg 2010 trade fair in Stockholm, Sweden. The award was fitting because it was for the company’s home heating system that features roof tiles made out of glass. The tiles, which are made from ordinary glass, weigh about the same as the clay roof tiles they replace but allow the sun to heat air that is then used to heat the house and cut energy bills.

Thankfully, although the tiles themselves are transparent, they are backed by a special black absorption fabric so sticky beaks won’t be able to sit on the roof and watch what’s going on inside. This fabric absorbs the sun’s rays, which heats the air underneath, with the air formed into columns by beams within the roof to ensure it is heated sufficiently.

The most common way to connect the system to a house’s existing heating system would be to a water based heating system via an accumulation tank but the system is also designed to be integrated with both air and water based systems, such as a ground source heat pump, air heat pump, pellet boiler or electric boiler – the only requirement is some form of central heating system.

This setup allows the system to heat the house during winter and transfer the heat absorbed in summer to a ground heating system through a heat convector and a fluid based system to help achieve a cooling effect.

Delightful, attractive – and I wonder about the cost vs. the usual clay tiles?