NASA Apollo 11 Owners’ Workshop Manual: 1969 (including Saturn V, CM-107, SM-107, LM-5) in the style of automotive owners’ service manuals (via Bruce Sterling)

World’s First Molten Salt Solar Plant Produces Power at Night

Artificial Photosynthesis Research Gets $122 Million DOE Funding

Old San Francisco Mint to Become a Gorgeous Green Museum

Extending Recycling to Orbit

Biomass Energy a Harder Sell in the US

GM Announces MSRP for Chevy Volt, EV Competition Heats Up

“Who wants a plaque with your name on it in some shitty-looking lobby?” – Frank Gehry on the potential demolition of his boyhood home (and a potential acknowledgement in the “awful” (his description) condominium that will replace it) in Toronto

[Originally posted at Inhabitat. I think Mike definitely improved the title, especially for a non-technical audience; my title for this was "Magic Boxes" Provide Integrated Mechanical Systems for Efficient Homes.  There are a few more pictures, as usual, with the original article, although, if you really want to delve further into this topic, you will need to read the source article and then visit some manufacturer websites to get a complete picture of what these systems are all about.  But hopefully this is an interesting article and helps people understand a bit more about this sort of HVAC.]

sustainable design, green design, magic box, passive design, passivhaus, hvac system, green building, sustainable building, energy efficient appliances

Looking at the incredible examples of green architecture featured on Inhabitat, you may have wondered what kind of mechanical equipment is used for these homes. Solar Decathlon competitors, Passivhaus designs, and other high-efficiency houses rely on highly efficient mechanical systems — in addition to the construction and design of the buildings themselves — in order to reach the level of performance they achieve. Obviously, there is not just one system used everywhere, but a number of features common to many of these systems are now being assembled into single, combined unit systems – read on for a look at these “magic boxes”.

Writing for Green Building Advisor, Martin Holladay calls the combined mechanical systems “magic boxes.” These are combination appliances that incorporate ventilation and heat pumps for heating and cooling. In may cases, they also include hot water heating. Because of their efficiency, “magic boxes” may offer reduced greenhouse gas emissions even in comparison with other efficient systems such as condensing furnaces or ground-source or air-source heat pumps.

While heat recovery and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs and HRVs) are not yet common to most homes, they are an essential part of the mechanical systems for Passivhaus homes and other high-efficiency buildings. Most high-efficiency buildings have very tight construction, therefore mechanical ventilation is needed to bring fresh air in and exhaust stale air from the building. ERVs and HRVs transfer energy from the outgoing air stream to the incoming one to recover some of the energy that would otherwise simply be lost in the exhaust.

Since high-efficiency buildings often need only limited heating and cooling, it can be possible to combine that function with the ventilation of an ERV into a single unit. While most of these “magic box” systems are larger than the furnaces they replace, because they incorporate several functions, the total footprint required for all mechanical systems is smaller than what would be required for all of the functions if provided by separate pieces of equipment.

Several of the units are not carried by distributors in the United States. These “magic boxes” are better suited for European conditions (with milder winters) than they are for those in North America. Holladay outlines the reasons for this, noting that the costs of these units are generally higher than the cost of individual pieces of equipment. Some manufacturers point out that the faster installation time for only a single piece of equipment helps offset the higher cost. However, unless space is at an absolute premium, in most cases it is probably better to use separate pieces of equipment.

Via Green Building Advisor

[Originally posted on EcoGeek, and an alternate version earlier on Inhabitat.]


Capturing carbon dioxide from exhaust in order to reduce emissions levels has seemed as difficult as rocket science. And now, some rocket science may provide a solution to the difficult problem of extracting CO2 from industrial exhausts. Rocket nozzles are being studied as part of a new approach to capturing carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal power plants and other heavy emissions sites. The new approach could lead to significantly lower costs for carbon sequestration.

Vapor trails are commonly formed behind jets and rockets. Water vapor in the exhaust is suddenly allowed to expand, leading to rapid cooling and condensation. By pressurizing industrial exhausts and passing them through a nozzle, the same effect can be obtained for flue gases from coal plants, cement mills, and other CO2 sources. Once released, the suddenly expanded and cooled CO2 would form into dry ice. In this form, it would be much easier for the CO2 to be collected. It could then be turned into industrial product, or put into other kinds of sequestration.

ICES (Inertial CO2 Extraction System) is an investigational project under the Department of Energy’s IMPACCT (Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies) program. Researchers on the product say that use of this technology could reduce the cost for carbon capture from current levels of around an 80% premium on the base cost down to a 30% premium.

via: Discovery News and Inhabitat

Image: ATK methane rocket engine (not directly related to the ICES project)

These were supposed to be posted at the end of June, but we were traveling. (That also led to a delay in posting my Workshifting article which will probably go live some time this week.) For completeness, here are a couple other articles from the usual places:

Finland’s Luukku House Wins Architecture Prize at Solar Decathlon!

Solar Car Race Is Underway

[Originally posted at Inhabitat, a followup post to my earlier EcoGeek article about these windows.  And there are, as usual, more pictures along with the article there, too.]

Glassx Windows, sustainable design, green design, green  architecture, green building, energy efficient windows, phase changing  windows

A remarkable Swiss window technology has just recently been introduced in North America. GlassX windows are super high-efficiency windows that use several technologies to make them possibly the most high-tech windows available. First of all, GlassX windows have a prismatic plane that deflects high-angle sunlight in the summertime, rather than transmitting it, to keep the building cool. Lower-angle winter light is transmitted through this layer, and even more interestingly, these windows incorporate a phase-change material (PCM) between two of the panes of glass. Polycarbonate spacers used between the panes to segregate the PCM give the windows a venetian blind appearance.

Windows are the weak point of almost any building for thermal control. However these GlassX windows serve to alleviate many of the problems found in conventional windows. The PCM material stores heat by melting, and then radiates it back into the space at night, as the material cools and re-solidifies. As a solid, the PCM still transmits about 25% of the visible light, and more than 40% is transmitted when the PCM is in its liquid state, so daylighting is not compromised.

Given that they are so high-tech, GlassX windows are very expensive — they weigh in at $60-90 per square foot. However the company states that the payback period on these windows is expected to be only 5 to 10 years. With all the layers involved, the thickness of the windows is another obstacle, but not one that cannot be overcome to produce some attractive and energy efficient designs.

+ GlassX

Via @bglive and EcoGeek

[Originally posted at Inhabitat (with more pictures).]

lumboo, architectural bamboo lumber, cali bamboo, sustainable  design, green design, green building, materials, construction, rapidly  renewable building material

Green designers are well aware that bamboo is a rapidly-renewable resource whose production has less of an environmental impact than the production of other wood products. Bamboo flooring is well-trod territory now, and bamboo panels are becoming increasingly prevalent, as well. Now, Cali Bamboo’s Lumboo offers a dimensional lumber material that is made from bamboo.

Lumboo is an extremely tough engineered material. It is made by assembling long strips of shredded bamboo in a press and then adding a low-VOC resin and compressing it with several hundred thousand pounds of force. This creates a dense, heavy material that looks like dimensional lumber at a distance. It is naturally termite resistant due to the high silica content of the bamboo.

However, due to its consistency, it can be difficult to work with. It cannot be readily nailed — pre-drilling and screwing are recommended for assembly — and very sharp saws are recommended for any cutting. Lumboo pieces are also smaller than comparable dimensional lumber. The distributor for Lumboo is a bamboo fencing company, and the primary uses for Lumboo is for fence posts and rails, but other uses for the material are certainly possible.

Importing bamboo long distances may not be as desirable as using more locally supplied wood, but the tradeoffs between harvesting impact and transport impact may tip the scales toward using bamboo materials in some cases, even if they need to be transported from farther away.

+ Cali Bamboo

[Originally posted at Inhabitat.]

Green roofs in Copenhagen, sustainabel design, green design,  sustainable architecture, green building, green roof policy, living  roof, copenhagen, scandinavia

As part of its overall strategy to become a carbon neutral city by 2025, Copenhagen has become the first Scandanavian city to adopt a policy that requires green roofs for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30 degrees. Copenhagen presently has 20,000 square meters (over 215,000 square feet) of flat roofs. It is hoped that as much as 5,000 square meters of new development each year will be covered with vegetation.

Vegetated roofs, or green roofs, provide several benefits for buildings and their surroundings. They can absorb as much as 80% of rainfall, helping to reduce stress on stormwater systems. They help reduce urban temperatures (the “heat island effect“). And, they protect roof membranes from the sun’s UV rays and the greatest temperature swings, such that roof membrane life is extended as much as double that of an unprotected membrane.


Thanks for the tip @mona_jensen!

[Originally posted at Inhabitat. The graphic is useful, and is probably the best part of this whole thing.  I think this could be a useful way to communicate to an owner about the costs that LEED certification brings.  It's simplistic, but it's a starting point, and that's useful.  Unfortunately there's not a whole lot of content I could add in the small amount of space Inhabitat allots to articles.  I felt like I was really going longer than they would like with this, and I don't really say that much in this.]

The Cost of LEED, sustainable design, green design, green  building, sustainable architecture, leed certification, leadership in  energy and environmental design

LEED is one of the world’s most well-known green building rating systems. But, like any popular system, it has both its supporters as well as its detractors. High-profile architects have sparked debate about the importance and usefulness of LEED, and the issue of keeping LEED buildings green has also been raised. Another frequent issue in the debate is the cost involved in getting a building through the LEED certification process. Seeking to demystify the costs and benefits behind the green building certification, recently produced a report with some of the answers.

Different organizations have looked at the costs of LEED and tried to calculate how much more a green building costs. Building Green’s study does not try to fix a premium percentage (based on the cost of construction), but instead looks at the issue in terms of where the costs arise, and what their relative magnitude is.

Building Green’s list contains four categories of costs related to the LEED process: 1. the fees; 2. cost of documentation time and effort; 3. cost of extra research, design, commissioning, and modeling for compliance; 4. costs of construction.

If having a building commissioned means that its systems are running efficiently and it cuts energy use by 20%, then perhaps it is worth the $0.50-$1.00 per square foot that commissioning services typically cost. And, it should be noted, building commissioning can be carried out for any building, not just one that is being LEED certified.

Construction costs are only one part of the whole cost of owning and operating a building. Operations and maintenance also represent significant costs over the life of a building. Many green building owners find that the investments in energy-efficient equipment, insulation, and other improvements can pay back in reduced building operating cost.

Building Green offers a great set of resources for anyone interested in the field of sustainable building. Full access to all of their resources is an annual subscription, but a number of things are also available to non-subscribers. The complete Building Green report on “The Cost of LEED” can be purchased from

[Originally posted at Inhabitat. As usual, more pictures are included with the original article.

It also looks like the building is part of another green building rating system, but I couldn't find enough information about it or a reference source on the system to link to so that I could write about it. But it looks something like an Italian version of Passivhaus or of the German system I found out about a while ago.]

sustainable design, green design, matteo thun, green building,  underground building, eco hotel, energy efficient building, hillside  building

Architect Matteo Thun has designed this striking eco-friendly hotel to be located on a mountainside in the National Park of Stelvio in the Italian Alps. Composed of a series of underground buildings linked by undulating green roofs, the complex takes advantage of passive design principles and ground-source heat pumps to conserve energy. In addition, the construction of the units, the way the units are situated on the site, and the materials used have all been carefully considered to minimize the complex’ impact upon the environment.

The hotel is comprised of eleven individual units, each appearing as no more than a slight rise in the ground with a large, south-facing window protruding from the hillside. The units are set into the earth and covered with vegetated roofing which serves to moderate the temperatures inside the units throughout the year. A deep overhang above each window shades it from excessive summer sun, and the earth sheltering helps keep noise levels low. Triple-pane windows help with energy efficiency while contributing to the sound control, and heat pumps taking advantage of the constant water temperature of a local natural spring to provide efficient heating and cooling.

The hotel is meant to offer an entire range of green benefits. The architect’s website describes the KlimaHotel standard as having “three pillars of sustainability … the concepts “nature” (Ecology), “Life” (socio-cultural aspects) and “Transparency” (Economy).

+ Matteo Thun

Via Greenmuze and Ecofriend

[Originally posted at Inhabitat.]

sustainable design, green design, industrial reuse, adaptive  reuse, silo building, C. F. Møller Architects, Christian Carlsen  Arkitektfirma, recycled materials, sustainable architecture

In a stunning example of adaptive reuse C. F. Møller Architects and Christian Carlsen Arkitektfirma have transformed an abandoned industrial silo in Løgten, Denmark into the core of a multi-story high-rise. Core services including stairs and elevators are located within the silo, and the individual dwelling units are attached to the sides of the original silo.

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