In a city known for its aversion to development and proudly celebrated with the phrase "Keep Austin Weird," what does it take to get the go ahead approvals on what will be the tallest tower in the skyline?  Quite simply, a commitment to green building.  The Austonian, developed by Benchmark Development and designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects, is going to be one of a kind in Austin.  And judging by the renderings, it’s going to tower over everything else in the city, too.  The 56-floor building will have 188 residential condominiums, with pricing from $550,000 (rough revenue analysis = 188 * $550k = $103.4 M).  But there’s also going to be some ground floor retail, and according to Emporis, construction is expected to be complete in 2009.

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What does the future have in store for us?  In whose hands will design be?  What economic trends will prevail?  Bruce Sterling provides the answers to some of these questions.  But some of the answers are hard to understand.  He foresees monumental changes in the world of design:  a transformation of conventional users, with their currently available user-alterable gizmos, into “wranglers” with blobjects, spimes, and arphids in their pockets and briefcases. 

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UMB Bank Colorado, a chartered bank of UMB Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: UMBF), is getting ready to unveil their new “green” banking center at Stapleton, which opens to the public on Monday, October 1. The UMB Bank at Stapleton is Denver’s second building to incorporate a grass roof into the structural design. The banking center is located at 3515 Quebec Street in Quebec Square at Stapleton.  Speaking of the building’s green roof, Mariner Kemper, chairman and CEO of UMB Bank Colorado, said, “Amidst growing concerns over the health of the environment and the rising cost of natural resources, there is a national trend to develop ‘green’ buildings … green buildings are designed to reduce the impact on the environment by conserving resources such as water and energy while blending with the features of the natural landscape. Our new banking center in Stapleton further supports UMB’s commitment to a cleaner, safer, and sustainable environment.” 

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As you may already know, Jetson Green is a proud media sponsor of West Coast Green, the first and largest residential green building expo and conference.  I’ve received word that West Coast Green is seeking volunteers to help staff this year’s conference, to be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on September 20th – 22nd. As a volunteer, you will provide crucial support enabling the success of the event. Volunteers also have the amazing opportunity to see over 250 exhibitors of the latest innovative building materials, hear from the 220 leaders and visionaries in green building, and experience how beautiful green can be firsthand by walking through the mkLotus show house by Michelle Kaufmann, celebrated architect of the Sunset Glidehouse.

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I received an email from a reader recently about the progress of 300 North LaSalle, which is a 60-story office tower under construction at the northwest corner of North LaSalle Street and the Chicago River in Chicago.  It received LEED-CS Gold pre-certification and should be ready for occupation near January 2009.  Back in 2005, developer Hines signed Kirkland & Ellis to occupy a mind-numbing 24 floors.  (too many lawyers in Chicago?)  The rest of the building, comprising about 400,000 sf will be available for lease.  And unlike many of the wicked shapes we see in some green buildings, the pragmatic, modern 25,000 rsf floor plates are good for tenants that like to use what they’re paying for.  The building was designed by Pickard Chilton, an architectural firm that is becoming increasingly known for their green office and professional buildings.  I’ve included some interesting background and images/renderings below. 

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In China, there’s a massive exodus from the rural to urban areas, but it’s controlled because the country doesn’t have enough housing for everyone that wants to live in a city.  At the same time, urbanization accentuates the air and soil pollution problems.  So, Knafo Klimor Architects proposed an agro-housing project that blends agriculture and high-rise housing in one structure.  This agro-housing project brings the food-supply directly to the building, and to the extent that residents can realize the benefits of urban farming, there is a decreased reliance on transportation for agricultural products (shopping and delivery to stores).  Plus, with the building’s integrated water capture systems, the project has the potential to reduce water consumption and runoff.  Residents could make money off the crops, too. 

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The City of Austin, after a year of serious research by the Zero Energy Capable Homes Task Force,  announced a huge initiative towards requiring all new single-family homes to be zero-energy capably by 2015.  Here’s how it works.  Today, the city adopted the first in a series of code amendments and a  road map of code amendments that will be implemented through 2015.  Due to this first series of changes, roughly 6500 new homes built in Austin will be about 20% more efficient.  Through 2015, as the code changes ratchet up the efficiency baseline, homes will end up using about 65% less energy than those built today.  Then, owners will have the option of adding solar or some other clean tech to get the home to zero energy status. 

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About ten years ago, I worked at UPS in their "boneyard" — a place where all the pallets were unloaded and strewn in huge heaps on an asphalt parking lot.  We’d neatly stack the pallets, place them in a trailer, and UPS would get rid of them, netting about $0.25 per pallet saved.  At the time, I didn’t realize the amount of pallets in circulation around the globe.  It’s estimated that there are about 2 BILLION ordinary unit load pallets in circulation globally, and about two-thirds of these are only used once.  It’s further estimated that U. S. companies throw away roughly 4 billion board feet of wood pallets every year.  Pretty crazy, I know. 

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Looking for a simple, affordable, and eco-friendly way to furnish a home?  Check out Victory Vintage Home for vintage furniture and accessories.  One of the most environmentally friendly things that you can do is to re-use materials that already exist.  Even new, environmentally-friendly materials often have some negative impact on the environment.  For instance, furniture made from bamboo is called eco-friendly because bamboo is a rapidy renewable resource, but you then have to figure in the distance that bamboo usually travels to get to the United States.  You would also want to know how it was harvested and a variety of other environmentally important factors.

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I’ve not blogged about this interesting and innovative Rotating Tower, which was designed by David Fisher of Dynamic Architecture, because critics have downplayed the concept saying it’s not capable of being built.  But now comes news that the Rotating Tower is not only on the cusp of construction in Dubai, but it’s in advanced design phase for Moscow and intended for New York.  Let me say that again: Fisher intends to design a Dynamic Tower for the Big Apple!  If you haven’t heard about it yet, make sure to watch the above video.  Here’s the general idea:

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Wentworth Commons is a 51-unit, 65,800 sf affordable housing complex in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood.  As a home for at-risk and formerly homeless families and individuals, Wentworth Commons has been recognized for its trendy aesthetics and functional green design.  The $13 million project has a slew of green features, including a 33 kWh PV system that provides 25% of the building’s power, a hyper efficient mechanical system, extensive use of locally sourced materials and rapidly renewable materials, and native plantings and bio-swale to reduce storm water runoff. 

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This is a guest post provided by Maria Surma Manka direct from WINDPOWER 2008.  Maria writes about renewable energy policy, innovation, and private sector leadership at Maria Energia.

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A little over a year ago, we featured Shelter Architecture’s 5ive and later placed it on our Top Five Super Green Modern Homes list. In a year, a lot has happened. The home is now complete. It’s going to be honored with a 2008 AIA-MN Rave Award. And now, the USGBC has officially certified it as a LEED Platinum home. Congratulations on the noteworthy accomplishments!

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I teased this earlier in the week, but today — July 23, 2008 — is the two year blog birthday for Jetson Green.  Seriously.  It’s actually been two years and we’ve been going strong every day, having a dang good time in the process.  In the tradition of the blogosphere, we’re celebrating the blog birthday, but we decided to use the ocassion to celebrate you, the reader.  We appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, tips, and everything you bring to the Jetson Green community.  It’s tough to say thanks in a meaningful way for giving us another good year, but here’s how we’ll try:

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The AIA has been publishing some interesting analysis of U. S. green building programs, which I wanted to share with all you enthusiasts.  In their report, Local Leaders in Sustainability, the AIA looked at 661 communities, or cities with a population greater than 50,000 people, and conducted research of each communities’ green building programs.  The AIA spoke with planners and other officials from 606 cities, getting a 92% response rate.  They found that 92 of the 606 responding cities had green building programs — or to put that in perspective, over 42 million people live in cities with green building programs.  The report also elaborated on program trends and includes case studies of programs in Portland, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Chicago, Austin, and Atlanta. 

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Finally some good news about global change: globalization is making us cooperate!  This is no minor discovery.  Poverty, global warming, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss - all of these will only be solved when all of the people of all nations collaborate sustainably in doing so - though all these solutions must ultimately be local as well, because all global problems are ultimately local!  As Alfred North Whitehead put it: successful organisms modify their environment so as to assist each other (1925 – paraphrased, see quote below).  And as Bertrand Russell put forth in the 1950s, we humans now create our biggest problems (1962– paraphrased, see quote below).  So the key to solving global problems is cooperation – both globally and locally.

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Millennia ago, our species reshaped the ecology of this planet and we have continued to reshape it ever more rapidly and intensively ever since.  Today, we directly use or alter nearly all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems - the rest we alter indirectly through climate change.  Is it still relevant to discuss “saving the planet”?  If so, who or what is this planet to be saved from?  If the planet is to be saved from “humans”, which humans are being discussed here?  Is it you? Some other humans? Can the planet be saved by “leaving it alone”? Or is the future really about doing a better job of creating and managing a biosphere that will continue to benefit both us and our fellow travelers on spaceship earth? The latter is my vision for a “postnatural” environmentalism (postnaturalism).

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I 'm a professor of environmental science at UMBC and have been experimenting with Amazon’s Kindle DX since Friday (June 12, 2009).  When the Kindle DX was first announced in May, I was very excited by the possibility of reading journal articles and other materials in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format on an e-reader, and the DX promised to do the trick.  So I ordered one as soon as it was announced.  I avoid printing pdfs to save paper and so I usually just read them on my computer screen, but this is really hard on the eyes and just not the best way to have a good read. Now, with the Kindle DX in hand, I’ve had a chance to see whether my dreams would come true. 

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For thousands of years, humans have been changing global climate, maybe even helping us avert the next ice age, all long before the Industrial Revolution.  Interested?  Then you should read Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by Paleoclimatologist Bill Ruddiman. 

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I received an email from Modern Dwelling in relation to this contemporary, green pad and pretty much had to share some details.  First things first, if you’re in the Seattle area, there’s going to be an art showing at the home this Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 7 pm, so make sure to check that out.*  Otherwise, the Mount Baker Residence, as it’s known, is perched on a slope with views of Rainier Valley to downtown Seattle.  With tons of natural lighting, four bedrooms, two and a half baths, and 2470 sf of living space, it’s tough to go wrong in a home that looks like this.  Here are some of its green features:

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This is part of the Jetson Green birthday giveaway, so make sure to leave a comment by midnight Friday, July 25, 2008, if you want to be considered for the contest.*

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A while back when we heard about MoMA’s prefab exhibit, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, we were pretty psyched.  I mean, if you can’t tell by our archives with over 135 articles, we’re pretty obsessed with green prefab as the future of home building.  The MoMA exhibit will tell an interesting story of the history of prefabrication starting in 1833.  I’m sure we’ve come a long way in over 175 years, but there’s also the possibility that we’ve forgotten a few lessons in the process.  So I like the juxtaposition of the historical with the modern.  The modern will include five contemporary prefab structures, all of which have been assembled on the museum’s 54th street lot.  Starting this Sunday, July 20 through October 20, visitors will get the chance to tour the below designs in real life. 

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If you’ve been listening to the chatter on prefab and thought: "What’s the big deal with prefab homes?" or "Why would anyone ever want to own a prefab?", now’s your chance to find out.  In his most recent update from A Prefab Project, Chris dropped a link to his shiny new website for Lost River Modern, a prefab cabin in Lost River, West Virginia.  And as you can tell from the images on the new website, Lost River Modern is quite incredible to look at.  Designed by Resolution: 4 Architecture, creators of the original Dwell Home, Lost River Modern is the first and only res4 home available for guests.  You can (and probably should) rent the place and completely chill out.  I see some slots are already filled up, so if you’re interested in testing the prefab waters on the East Coast, you better get on it quick. 

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The innovators of this new technology, if they get it into production, may just be the green building revolutionaries of tomorrow.  At the end of the week, MIT engineers published research of new technology showing that the sun’s energy could be harvested from a large area, such as a window, and concentrated at the edges by solar cells.  With this so-called luminescent solar concentrator, the potential for low-cost electricity seems almost within reach.  Technically, here’s how it works: 

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When we first brought news of Method Homes in April, we were pretty excited because they were cruising along with construction at a pretty quick clip.  Their design was mountain modern and the founders, Bryan Abramson and Mark Rylant, were executing on a plan to build this smart green home in three months. 

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Martin Eberhard calls it "Solar Synergy" — his own phrase for the benefits derived from having an electric car and a home that's powered by solar photovoltaics.  Eberhard was a founder of Tesla and he just received his shiny new Founders' Series Roadster.  It's an incredible car, don't you think?  Eberhard explains the synergistic benefits to having a 5.2 kW photovoltaic system (dead link removed) and all-electric Tesla Roadster (dead link removed).

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Buying vintage furniture is super green, but it’s not always easy to find pieces in great shape, especially upholstered items.  Lotus Bleu has fixed that problem for us.  They offer vintage pieces redone in new, modern fabrics.  Lotus Bleu is located in San Fransisco, but if you’re not in the area, you can order right online.  Current items for sale are displayed in addition to items that have already been sold, to give you an idea of what might be available at any given time.

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In conjunction with The Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit in Japan occurring right now from July 7-9, 2008, Japan and Sekisui House have released details of The Zero Emissions House, a high-tech, prefabricated home designed in the vernacular of traditional Japan.  As the G8 Summit focuses on various issues pressing on the world right now, representative nations will be discussing the environment and how to deal with climate change.  In that regard, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) is constructing the house a short distance from the summit to show Japan’s potential contribution to cutting emissions in the world’s built environment. 

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This is a post and beam house in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles owned by Elaine Wakeland and Eric Garcetti, President of LA City Council.  As you may have previously read in this Dwell article, they’re both environmentally - conscious and highly active in their community.  As a result, they wanted to update their 1950s home and retained the help of Scrafano Architects to suss out its modern traits.  They also wanted to make the home as energy efficient and healthy as possible.  So they removed walls, took out an extra bathroom, and found ways to draw in more natural lighting.  They installed a tankless water heater and solar panels on the roof — a move that now provides 50% of the home’s energy. 

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There’s some stunning green work being featured on Dwell right now as a result of the "How Green Are You?" competition.  The basic idea of the competition, co-sponsored by Dwell and the AIA, is to find inspiring entries assessed on their sustainability, functionality, originality, cost effectiveness, and design.  Entrants can provide up to four images and a simple, 250-word description of the project — about all you need to find some incredible designs.  I understand 100kHouse (pictured above) just entered their project, but I didn’t see it on Dwell yet.  Below are a few of my favorite entries so far. 

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I’m in Huntington Beach this weekend taking a little r&r and didn’t realize how much of the housing here is built like the townhomes above: with an urban feel — tightly together with at least 2-3 levels.  These townhouses are located on 19th Street in Santa Monica and called Green on 19.  Three are already sold with the remaining two ready to go.  Green on 19 was designed by Jesse Bornstein to provide modern living while supporting the global community’s need for energy efficiency. 

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Pringle Creek Community is comprised of 32 acres of re-developed land, including protected wetlands, in Salem, Oregon.   The community boasts a wealth of sustainable features.   More than 80% of the existing trees have been preserved and the homes will be constructed using 100% FSC certified wood.  The streets in the community are narrow, allowing for more green space and their well-designed "green street" system means that 90% of the rainwater will filtrate through the soil, recharging the aquifer. 

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Earlier this week, GM announced that they were adding the world’s largest, rooftop, solar photovoltaic power installation to its car assembly plant located in Zaragoza, Spain (a factory that manufactures Opel vehicles for sale in Europe).   When the project is completed in the fall of 2008, the solar installation will have 85,000 solar panels covering about 2,000,000 sf of roof space.   Bloomberg further reports that the $78.5 million installation will avoid about 7k tons of emissions per year.

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One thing we’re seeing for sure is an increasing amount of activity in the masterplanned, sustainable city area.  Last January, schmidt hammer lassen architects won an international competition to design ECOBAY, a new town situated on the Paljassaare peninsula near the Estonian capital of Tallinn.  In collaboration with Buro Happold Consulting Engineers and Moller & Gronborg, ECOBAY has been designed with everything one would need in close proximity: housing, schools, local shops, businesses, and other amenities — all within walking or biking distance.  In addition, the town will utilize geothermal, small-scale wind, and surplus energy from the nearby wastewater facility. 

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This is part of the Jetson Green birthday giveaway, so make sure to leave a comment by midnight Friday, July 25, 2008, if you want to be considered for the contest.*

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This isn’t really new news since the Duke Smart Home opened almost a year ago, but I thought I would pass along images and information of the home because it’s another compelling example of the livability of smart green design.  Realistically, the 6000 sf Duke Smart Home is more of a dormitory than a house, with roughly 10 students living in it at any given time, but it has at least a modicum of credibility with LEED Platinum certification already in hand.  The students, in addition to experimenting with various green projects and modifications to the home, are ambassadors that conduct tours and explain its sustainable features.  This active involvement between students, faculty, The Home Depot, and other sponsors, has created what seems to be abundant opportunities for everyone involved with the Duke Smart Home. 

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