It's that time of year again — the AIA Committee on the Environment ("COTE") just published its annual list of Top Ten Green Projects.  There's some definite superstars in the group, and we've mentioned a few of them already, including the Chartwell School and Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation.  Perkins+Will has two projects in the group, but this just confirms what we already know: the firm is a leader in sustainable design.  Below, we've included direct links to AIA case studies for each project, as well as a link to the lead architect. 

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JG covers all sorts of innovative homes, but to be entirely honest, we prefer the affordable.  So Caleb Schafer nabbed our interest when he emailed us about his efficient, modern home.  Four years ago, after graduating from architecture school, he and his wife moved to Texas and began building the home on a 1.5 acre site due north of San Antonio.  They built it for ~$70,000 — it's a 1400 square foot home — we're talking about $50 psf.  Not bad!  Here's how they did it:

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Wow, it's been an incredible month!  This site has seen the most activity in its history, and I'm constantly amazed at the pace of green building innovation.  We're in a crazy market, yet this space isn't letting up at all.  Certainly, we now know that Living Buildings can be cost effective, Earth Day will be controversial, homes can be better and more affordable, and buildings should consume less energy.  Check out some of the articles we've written in April — right click and open?  Also, try Twitter, if you're looking for a greener job. 

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Autodesk recently completed tenant improvements at their new headquarters building on the East Coast. The company retained the services of KlingStubbins and Tocci Building Companies to design and build the interior to a LEED Platinum level of certification using LEED-CI.  The result is modern office structure with abundant natural light and, of course, plenty of style.  My favorite design element is the custom, prefabricated millwork explained in the YouTube video below.

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Wow, these turned out nice!  We mentioned Celadon a long time ago, and now the twenty-four unit development is complete.  The Charlotte Business Journal gave Celadon their Green Multifamily Project of the Year Award, and despite this crazy real estate market, buyers (who committed to a unit at the top of the market) are getting appraisals at the contract price.  I guess you could say green and modern design holds market value … we certainly think it does.  The interiors are minimalist and just right. 

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With all the LEED certified buildings in the world, hotels still comprise only a small portion of the total.  Hotel Arista, for instance, is seeking the first LEED certification for a hotel in Illinois.  Designed by Lohan Anderson, this 144,000 square foot building is part of the CityGate Centre lifestyle development in Naperville, which also is undergoing LEED certification.  The 144 room hotel features luxury amenities wrapped up in the style of classic modernism and some of the following green features:

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Some of the students of tomorrow will have the opportunity to learn in incredible, well-designed buildings.  Take for instance this $28 million building designed by Ross Barney Architects with the assistance of The Sheward Partnership.  Commodore John Barry Elementary School was designed to LEED Silver certification but ended up obtaining LEED Gold (at no extra cost to the School District of Philadelphia).  The District has obtained certification for two other schools and committed to build all future schools to LEED Silver certification.  Four such schools are on the boards right now. 

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Today the Cascadia Green Building Council published their findings of a financial study of Living Buildings.  The study — officially named The Living Building Financial Study: The Effects of Climate, Building Type and Incentives on Creating the Buildings of Tomorrow — is extensive and we're still going through all the details.  But there's one major takeaway that I noticed: investing in Living Buildings is the financially smart thing to do, especially for institutions, corporations, and homeowners looking to hold on to their real property assets for more than a few years.  The study was put together by Cascadia, SERA Architects, Skanska USA Building, Gerding Edlen Development, Interface Engineers, and the New Buildings Institute (referred to below as "contributors").  Let's look a little deeper. 

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This is an affordable green home that is also the first, LEED-H Platinum, single-family home in Ohio.  In addition, the home is said to be the first in state to feature both solar thermal and photovoltaic solar panels on one roof.  It's beautiful and traditional — definitely the kind of home our non-modern readers dream about — and accented by a leisurely large front porch.  If you're in the area, there's an open house on Thursday, May 21, 2009; if you're not, we have some great photos to give you a peek inside.  Check out its green features:

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We've heard about ecocities in far away lands, but now there's one planned for the Unities States.  Located near Fort Meyers, Florida, Babcock Ranch will be powered entirely by solar power.  It's a bold and progressive plan, and if Kitson & Partners can secure all the necessary regulatory approvals, construction will begin this year.  The city includes a 75-megawatt, on-site, photovoltaic facility constructed by Florida Power & Light for nearly $350 million.  

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It is incorrect to think that something is not possible when considering how remote sensing tools and technology can be used to improve our understanding of local, regional and global landscapes.  Publications and texts from just 15 years ago assert that remote sensing technology was not being used to its full potential and that improvements must be made in order for progress to occur.  I found a great example of this from 1994 in the article Grasslands by Dean Graetz - in Changes in Land Use and Land Cover (eds. William B. Meyer and B. L. Turner II).

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Even if we manage to slash our carbon emissions, planet earth is going to get a whole lot warmer this century.  But maybe we can just chill the planet!  For more than a decade, Ken Caldeira and many others have been discussing geoengineering solutions to global warming by cooling the planet using technical means – especially by altering the albedo, or the reflectance of the atmosphere, to keep heat from the sun from reaching the surface.

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Are pristine rainforests the only ones that matter?  We know that forests do change as they age, developing some unique characteristics when mature, and that some species cannot live outside of large swaths of ancient tropical forests.

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R software is creating an open-source statistics revolution.  It is powerful, easy to use, popular and free! And it just keeps get better all the time!  In many ways, it has already surpassed what can be done with any other purchased software.

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It will not be possible to solve global warming without dealing with the dramatic global and local inequalities in carbon emissions and the wealth created from them.  Since the Industrial Revolution began, some people and some nations have been pumping a lot more carbon into the atmosphere than others (and you know which one you are!).  Moreover, those burning the most fossil fuels have tended to become the richest people and nations in the process (and vice versa!).  So how fair is it to ask everyone to equally bear the burden of using less energy and cleaning up this carbon mess? 

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While you are driving to work, plume of carbon drifting lazily into the sky, do you ever wonder where all of your carbon will end up?  Now, work by Simon Lewis and a large team of collaborators (Lewis et al 2009) have shown that about 1/6th of the carbon emitted annually to the atmosphere by combustion of fossil fuels (total ~6 Pg = Petagrams = 1015 g) may be stored in the biomass of trees in tropical forests around the world (~1.3 Pg per year).  More specifically, they have shown that about 0.3 Pg are stored annually in ancient trees in the relatively undisturbed forest regions of Africa.  The reason?  “Carbon Fertilization”- increases in carbon dioxide concentrations have stimulated their photosynthesis, leading trees to grow faster and larger than they would at lower concentrations.

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When we change our landscapes, we change the clouds above and thereby climate - this from new evidence just published by Jingfeng Wang (Wang et al., 2009) and a team of researchers in Rafael Bras’s climate lab at MIT.  By observing cloud patterns and other climate parameters in deforested areas of Brazil, their work demonstrates that local and regional patterns of land use change substantially altered cloud patterns - in this case by deforestation in the classic “fish-bone” pattern” along new roads in the tropical moist forests of Brazil. 

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The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has recently released the first comprehensive digital map of wetlands across China, based on remote sensing imagery.  The effort was led by PengGong, of CAS Institute of Remote Sensing Applications in Beijing and University of California, Berkeley.  Wetland map classification was based on Landsat (ETM+) imagery (1999 to 2002) obtained from University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility and reference sources including GTOPO30 (elevation), Land Cover maps of China, marshland database of China, and Google Earth imagery.

The digital map, being the first of its kind to be publicly released (1KMresolution ESRI GRID available), is a valuable resource for ecologists, conservationists, planners, and scientists alike.  It appears, however, to primarily be a remote-sensing exercise with minimal ground-truthing (mainly cross-referencedwith Google Earth imagery) and it will be interesting to see how it translates on the ground!  Apparently, China’s State Forestry Administration is currently working on a wetlands mapping project( $14.6M USD) that includes remote sensing and substantial ground data – looking forward to that release in the future.

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Now you can be your own remote sensing platform on the cheap - in 3D!  Microsoft’s Photosynth application (installs in your browser) allows anyone to combine pictures taken from any angle from the ground or kite, balloon or radio-controlled airplane - what have you - and make a geometrically-corrected aerial view or 3D virtual world.  Just upload your photos!  The technology is based on work by Noah Snavely (now at Cornell)- unleashing a magnificent new force on the remote sensing scene - the plain old digital camera!

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Here is an open question to the group and readers:

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According to a recent press release, a sustainable energy company called Beautiful Earth Group just unveiled this containerized electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Red Hook, Brooklyn. With a soaring array of photovoltaic panels, the BMW Mini E pictured runs exclusively on fresh, green power generated by the off-grid, modular station. You’ll note that the station just so happens to be built with recycled shipping containers, too.

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Kids with special illnesses, disabilities, and other challenges received a new toy this summer at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Georgia.  Designed by Amy Leathers, senior associate at Lord, Aeck & Sargent, the treehouse serves as a play area and educational space for learning about nature and sustainability.  It's wheelchair accessible and outfitted with a number of environmentally-sensitive features. 

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Early this month, Blu Homes announced the launch of their new product line dubbed Origin. As you can see below, Origin is built using Blu’s folding technology, which allows the company to ship homes nationally, and then unfold them to widths up to 17-20 feet. It’s an interesting take on factory-built construction. And Blu just delivered four Origins to the new late night talk show Lopez Tonight in Burbank, California.

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Chicago has a new 82-story tower on its skyline that is due for completion in the Spring of 2010. But in a city of grids and rectilinear forms, the AQUA tower has a distinctive character with a more fluid appearance coming from the deep projecting balconies which are reminiscent of geologic rock formations. Designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, AQUA is also currently the tallest structure designed by a woman-led firm.

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In North Boulder, there's a new, green neighborhood development called Spring Leaf.  The neighborhood's first home, its model home, has been completed.  In total, Spring Leaf will include six single-family homes and six townhomes that will be all-electric, super efficient, and easily LEED Platinum.  Moreover, they'll all be net-zero energy homes powered by solar and geothermal systems.  

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Yes, it's that time again.  For the eighth year in a row, BuildingGreen has just announced their list of Top-10 Green Building Products.  BuildingGreen sifts the products from new additions to the GreenSpec Directory, a print and online guide that organizes green products according to LEED credits, as well as from coverage in Environmental Building News.  The GreenSpec Directory has over 2,100 products, and these ten are some of the best of what's been added to the directory.  Any favorites among the group?

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We've seen solar-powered transit shelters, but this eco-friendly transit center with transit stops outfitted with green walls may be a first.  With the help of greenscreen green walls, the City of Tempe Transit Center is seeking LEED Platinum certification.  The mixed use facility, designed to be 52% more efficient than a traditional building of its kind, went with green walls to provide a buffer from the harsh Arizona sun and heat. 

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About a year and a half ago, we mentioned a project designed by seed architecture studio called the SIPs House in Portland. Built by Kaya General Contractors, the home is now complete. Since it hasn’t sold yet due to market conditions, the developing partner is going to move in.

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Last week at Greenbuild 2009, Perkins + Will unveiled its new Precautionary List, which tracks 25 of the most common dangerous chemicals found in commonly used building materials. The list provides an explanation of the properties of the chemicals with suggested alternatives. Some of the chemicals on the list include: arsenic, lead, urea formaldehyde, and cadmium, just to name a few.

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Several months ago, we profiled all three finalists in the Re:Vision Dallas competition.  The purpose of the competition was to design a sustainable urban city block near Dallas City Hall.  Of these finalists (and several hundred other entries), the Forwarding Dallas entry has now been announced as the winning design.  The off-the-grid block, designed in collaboration between Atelier Data and Moov, is scheduled to break ground in 2011. 

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Hope you had a moment to relax during Thanksgiving last week!  Being November, we're thankful for a lot.  Definitely, thanks to you for coming back every day and thanks to all our advertisers and supporters.  With the holiday season approaching, it's going to be busy, so stay tuned.  If you're looking for Christmas ideas, give a good green book to a friend.  Or catch up on some of last month's coverage:

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The USGBC has unveiled a half-dozen new credits for LEED which are being investigated in a pilot program currently underway.  Pilot LEED credits include: Life Cycle Assessment of Building Assemblies and Materials; PBT Source Reduction; Medical and Process Equipment Efficiency; Innovative Ventilation; and Preliminary Integrative Project Planning & Design (2 credits).

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Michelle Kaufmann is continuing her work on a modern green home in Northern California.  Located on a constrained lot, the 1,550 square-foot home will be prefabricated — as currently planned — with two modules.  And although the home will be a lot smaller than the average new construction home in this country, Michelle Kaufmann Studio has designed it to feel bigger. 

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This is the Ross Street House in Madison, Wisconsin.  It's located just a mile from the University of Wisconsin campus and the first LEED Platinum home in the entire state!  I first noticed the home in an article on Cadalyst, where author Kenneth Wong discussed the use of ArchiCad software to model the home and neighboring properties for context.  Owner Carol Richard, partner in the Atlanta firm of Richard Wittschiebe Hand, also used modeling to optimize the amount of natural light brought into the home. 

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This video of Blu Homes recently hit the Innovation Economy column of The Boston Globe. In This New House, columnist Scott Kirsner gives us a look at the folding prefab technology that Blu Homes uses for homes built in their Littleton, Massachusetts factory. The folding style of construction presents an interesting new wrinkle to prefab, and Blu is able to save transportation costs by shipping more house and less air.

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Hive Modular, a Minneapolis-based company that sells modular, contemporary homes, recently sent us photos of this X-Line prefab in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota.  The X-Line 003 features an exterior of fiber cement, steel, and locally harvested cedar, while the interior features stylish modern elements.  Pay particular attention to the translucent polycarbonate walls by Polygal, the red IKEA kitchen, and the custom tables from Eastvold Custom Woodworks. 

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