Royal palaces in the UK to receive green upgrades. Even the Queen sees the value of saving money through energy conservation . . .
Steven Hill from the New America Foundation has a fantastic op-ed piece in the New York Times outlining the many ways in which Europe’s investments in energy efficiency measures and renewable energy infrastructure has (Surprise!) dramatically reduced their carbon footprint. As a result, the average European today emits half the carbon of an average American. Buildings are of course a major component of Europe’s success in transforming their energy policy. The image above is the latest fruit from this tree, the Stephan Behnisch designed Unilever HQ in Hamburg that uses about one quarter the energy of a typical American office building. But he points out that the hole we have dug ourselves is also an opportunity:
Improving energy efficiency in buildings would translate to a whopping 25 percent reduction in America’s carbon emissions.
Mr. Hill has written a book about all this progress across the pond, Europe’s Promise. Its on my list and should be on yours as well.
Continuing on our recent European theme- I’ll point you to a couple articles on high performance windows from across the pond. The first focuses on triple glazed windows, and the second on Passive House certified windows. It’s amazing to see the difference in technology and quality of the units available from places like Germany and Sweden- most of which are triple glazed. It’s a shame that our codes don’t require these type of windows but it’s even more of a shame how difficult it is to source them even if you want to take the plunge. This is one of the issues we hope to address at our conference, Urban Green Expo 2010, the theme of which is Pushing the Envelope.
James Russell has a great piece in Bloomberg news today on the stunning headquarters of Unilever by the German architect Stefan Behnisch. The building, which uses about 1/3 the electricity of a typical office building in the States, is remarkable in many ways- daylighting, an operable envelope, lush public spaces- but Russell also draws a stark contrast between Germany’s focus on efficiency and renewable energy (which in some ways makes a building like the Unilever HQ possible) and our own moribund political scene. As he says:
Germany benefits from refining green technologies and pushing them into the market. Americans are left to pray that global warming is a fraud, energy prices won’t skyrocket, and drilling — as in the Gulf of Mexico — will be the answer.
Post Occupancy Evaluations are gaining traction here in the States but, like a lot of things, are significantly more advanced in Europe. NYAS brings together a panel that includes local luminaries Adam Hinge of Sustainable Energy Partnerships and Brian Schwagerl of the Hearst Corporation as well as Stephan Plesser from Braunschweig Technical University in Germany. Should be an excellent dialogue on an important emerging subject.
The biennial European Prize for Urban Public Space has announced their 2010 winners. There are “joint winners” this year; the impressive Norwegian Opera House by Snohetta, and a remarkable project I had not seen before, the Open Air Library in Magdeburg, Germany. The library has been constructed from the modular pieces of a warehouse facade and itself replaces a community constructed library composed largely of beer crates. The new project serves as library, community center and town square to this economically challenged community on the industrial east of Germany.
You can find more info on the project here.
I have experienced Spain’s AVE high speed trains first hand. Unfortunately, it was not from the inside. While backpacking in Europe (during a college year abroad) a friend and I tried to get on the AVE in Madrid with our Eurorail passes. The conductor looked down his nose at our unkempt clothes and backpacks and let us know that our passes were no good on this train. He pointed us to the train we were eligible for- which looked like one of the old New York City subway redbirds had been used to transport livestock. It had permanently open windows and metal trim that looked like it was trying to escape. It made a comical tick-tock sound as it rolled, slowly, south to Seviile. It rocked back and forth in a lazy cadence, like a train in a cartoon, and in corners it listed like a galleon taking on water and shuddered violently. Several hours into our journey, and not very far from yet from Madrid, we heard the soft sound of rushing wind in the distance, almost a whistle. The sound grew closer and louder and we grew alarmed. The sound surrounded us- as if a 747 were attempting to land on our train. And then it was beside us. A gleaming white bullet train moving at incredible speed. It pushed the air aside and our entire train rocked sideways, the metal frame protesting as if tearing apart. The rush of supersonic air through the open windows of our train was like your ears popping at altitude. And then it had passed. The sleek sound of it’s remarkable engineering receding as the train reached the horizon and disappeared. Ever since that day I have wished we had something similar in the U.S. This was in 1993- and we still have nothing even close. The New York Times covers the recent addition of a line from Madrid to Barcelona that is quickly supplanting air travel. When is it our turn?
The excellent passivhaus blog written by Bill Butcher on the building of the Denby Dale house in the UK to the passivhaus standard has come to a close with its final entry. The series will stand for some time as an incredible resource to anyone interested in attempting to meet the rigorous German standard.
Kieran/Timberlake’s winning design for the US Embassy in London features an elaborate facade of ETFE and thin-film photovoltaics to control daylight and produce energy. The thin-film PV of the facade is supplemented with a traditional PV array on the roof. Among other green features the design includes interior vertical gardens that spiral through the volume adjacent to vertical circulation. Pictures at ArchDaily here.
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