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July 2013

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by Karrah Beck

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA is a remarkable building—setting a much-needed example of how modern technology can help save the environment.

The Center was constructed with the intention of satisfying the Living Building Challenge and becoming a net zero energy space. Through Phipps’ implementation of cutting edge turbines, geothermal energy generators, and more, the building impacts the environment and earth “as much as a flower” (Phipps Conservatory 2012). The center also generates its own energy, and produces more than it actually uses, thus benefiting the outer urban areas as well as itself.

Phipps has managed to save energy in a multitude of ways, including: 1) superior insulation: this building saves on both heating and cooling, by “reducing winter heat losses and summer heat gains” (exact Phipps phrasing here taken from the webpage linked at the end of this post) and 2) an installed geothermal HVAC system stores heat in the summer for later use in the colder months and also integrates with the roof to dehumidify and manage the temperature of the entire building (Phipps Conservatory 2012).

This building also has a significant education component and the Phipps Conservatory has already consented to university students having classes at the center and allowing them to study its renewable energy processes. Indeed, this building was intended to set a living example of green energy usage for the rest of the world as we all struggle to become more sustainable.

The Phipps Conservatory, now in its 120th year, really showcases superior innovation, but in a way that is also simple enough that it can serve as a reasonable example for masses of people to follow and emulate. The Phipps Conservatory has stated clearly that the Center for Sustainable Landscapes stands as an example of future green technology. In other words, this structure is far from just something to look at: it really stands as a reminder that this is just the beginning of a future of responsible efficiency and renewable energy ingenuity.

Photo by Alexander Denmarsh Photography.


Quotes from: http://phipps.conservatory.org/project-green-heart/green-heart-at-phipps/center-for-sustainable-landscapes.aspx

Image from: architizer.

by Karrah Beck

One major challenge humans face today is embracing sustainable living that is realistic to their modern expectations. For the most part, people have proven hesitant to give up contemporary luxuries in the pursuit of helping the environment. But the innovative examples below demonstrate how modern sustainable architecture can accommodate human need while respecting the surrounding nature around, and shows that seemingly Utopian human cooperation with nature may very well be possible in the future.

These two pieces by Hiroshi Iguchi—an artist of the Fifth World Company—display this idea very well. The first piece called “The Camouflage House” (pictured below) truly displays how modern technology can be a part of its surrounding environment and nature. “The Camouflage House” is designed to be a livable greenhouse for human residents, and a real dialogue emerges between human life and the natural world, which is a challenging topic in today’s society that is accommodated beautifully here.

The house is designed to include nature within it; its glass walls make most of the house transparent and provide ample natural light, reducing electricity use. In addition, white canvas is used in the interior to prevent excessive heat buildup, and trees from the original area, instead of being cut down, are incorporated into the house in between the walls.

Photo courtesy of: Alessio Guarino

Iguchi also designed the “Kurimoto Millennium City,” a minimal technology oasis that includes four homes that are not only beautiful, but also environmentally friendly. Similar to “The Camouflage House,” the houses in this project are open to the elements with insulated glass, and deciduous trees surround the buildings in order to ensure coolness in summer and passive heat in winter. Built in the middle of farmland, citizens love to frolic to this area in order to escape the bustling busyness of urban Japan.

Photo courtesy of: Alessio Guarino

Both of Iguchi’s projects demonstrate something very important: that it is possible for humans to have modern comfort while still respecting and cooperating with their surrounding nature. These projects really set a wonderful precedence for the rest of the planet, and we should really pay attention as renewable energy becomes not only an idea, but also a necessity.


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