Milan’s Bosco Verticale On Track to Become World’s First Vertical Forest

Bosco Verticale Forest

Milan, Italy is one of Europe’s most polluted cities, its air quality frequently breaching safety limits set by the EU and causing city officials to install a ventilation system in 2009 in an effort to reduce damage to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper that resides in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. In 2003, a medical study compared breathing air in Milan to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes each day. On top of that, there is less space dedicated to vegetation in Milan than any other Italian city.

Short on space for increasing the presence of greenery, the city turned to architect Stefano Boeri to create the world’s first vertical forests, incorporated into the “Bosco Verticale” apartment towers, currently under construction and nearing completion.

Bosco Verticale Build

The two residential towers, which are part of a rehabilitation project in the historic district between Via De Island Castillia and Confalonieri, loom 111 meters and 78 meters and will be home to over 900 trees that cover nearly 9,000 square meters of terrace space. They are 24 floors and 17 floors high with combined capacity for 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 plants.

In addition to producing oxygen, mitigating smog, and providing an ecosystem for insects and birds, the trees and plants on the terraces will help to cool the apartments and reduce the energy costs for air-conditioning, especially when summers in Milan can get hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The vertical forest idea has inspired a social housing tower in Spain, called the Torre Huerta, and a “Flower Tower” in Paris that features nearly 400 bamboo plants on its ledges.

Bosco Verticale External

Bosco Verticale Forest Build

Bosco Verticale Build -1

13 Reasons to Plan a Foam-Free Enclosure

Spray foam has been the subject of much discussion in green building circles.  Whether the concern is installation safety or global warming potential or better energy performance, it seems there’s no shortage of debate.  Along these lines, the guys at 475 High Performance Building Supply, a Brooklyn-based provider of products for high-performance projects, have a list describing 13 ways foam fails, starting with the “dangerous toxic ingredients.

1.)  Dangerous toxic ingredients
2.)  Irredeemable global warming potential
3.)  Unacceptably high fire hazard
4.)  Hypersensitive on-site manufacturing
5.)  Intolerant of adverse job site conditions
6.)  Unhealthy off-gassing
7.)  Counterproductive vapor retarder/barrier
8.)  Terribly hygrophobic
9.)  Weak and unpredictable air control
10.)  Inflexible and prone to cracking
11.)  Excessive shrinkage
12.)  Difficult to identify and repair air leaks
13.)  Degrading thermal insulation values

So therefore why not go “foam free” in the building enclosure, says architect Ken Levenson with 475 High Performance Building Supply. What do you think about this list? If not foam free, then why?

[+] Foam Fails by 475 High Performance Building Supply.

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acne treatment

Efficient Greenway Townhouses in Oregon

These are Greenway Townhouses designed by Arbor South Architecture and built by Arbor South Construction (the same group behind The Sage, a high-scoring LEED Platinum project in Eugene). Construction just barely finished, and Arbor South will now focus on renting the 11 units of about 950 square feet each. Greenway Townhouses have been certified Earth Advantage Platinum, according to Bill Randall, principal at Arbor South, and will target LEED Gold certification.

Here’s a list of some of the “green” features in these eco-friendly townhomes:

  • Previously-developed site;
  • Existing bike path through the site to the river path system;
  • Transit bus stop right in front and a Walk Score of 77;
  • High fly ash content concrete and locally-sourced lumber;
  • LED parking lot lighting;
  • EcoBatt used for all of the batt insulation;
  • Exterior walls closed cell “flash” for air sealing and insulation with blown-in-blanket system in the rest of the wall cavity;
  • Blown-in-blanket in common fire walls and extra insulation throughout;
  • Rain garden captures and keeps all of the rainwater from the roofs and parking lot for percolation back into the soil;
  • Landscaping needs no irrigation once established;
  • Energy Star appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer);
  • High efficiency package terminal heat pump for heating and air conditioning;
  • Durable finishes with laminate cabinets, plaster walls, and commercial grade carpet;
  • Energy Star/CFL/LED lighting (total lighting wattage in each home is under 300 watts);
  • WaterSense faucets/low flow and dual flush toilets;
  • Zero VOC paint; and
  • A small Panasonic Whisper-Quiet bath fan running a continuous 30 cfm with an occupancy sensor to kick it up to 80 cfm for 20 minutes when bath is occupied (for fresh air ventilation without the expense of a ducted HRV).

Randall told Jetson Green in an email that blower door tests came in between 2.1 and 2.6 air changes (Energy Star has to be 4.0 or less). These figures aren’t quite as strong as, for example, Passive House, but dwellers will certainly benefit with energy savings from a higher performing enclosure.

Greenway Townhouses are located at 785 River Road in Eugene, Oregon. The homes have a two-bedroom, townhouse style and each bedroom has its own vanity and alcove with a shared toilet and shower. There’s also a half-bath downstairs with a full-size washer and dryer in each home. Rent starts at $975 per month.

[+] More about Greenway Townhouses located in Eugene, Oregon.

Credits: Michael Dean Photography.

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LEED Platinum Avant Garage in Fishtown

This is Avant Garage, a four-unit residential project by Postgreen Homes in Fishtown Proper.  Designed by Interface Studio Architects, these homes are targeting LEED Platinum and Postgreen’s President Chad Ludeman tells me he can see no reason why they won’t achieve that level of certification (just like the 100k House which also took home the USGBC’s 2010 LEED-H Project of the Year).  Here’s a little background on this stunning new development in Philadelphia:

This project was unique in that we inherited the zoning of homes with garages on a back alley street with no parking on it. To help get the owners of the land out of a bind, we partnered with them and ran with the zoning in place,” according to Ludeman in an email to Jetson Green.

In other words, Postgreen embraced the situation with a full pass-through garage and doors on both ends.  With three units already sold, one owner turned the garage into an arcade and music room and another pointed an entertainment center out one end for backyard movie nights with neighbors.

Postgreen is an open book in terms of how they’re building these homes, but to give you idea, they have super insulation (12″ double-stud walls with dense pack cellulose), extreme air sealing (ZIP System sheathing and tape), triple-pane windows, HRVs, air-to-air heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, green roofs, and rainwater collection, etc.

The four green homes average about 2,100 square feet, including the garage, and have a base price of $360,000 – $375,000.  If you’re in the area, Avant Garage is located at 401-407 Memphis Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[+] More about Avant Garage by Post Green Homes in Fishtown Proper.

Credits: Daniel Sandoval.

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A House That Fits Like a Good Suit [Video]

Guy or girl, you’ve probably had the occasion to wear a business suit, right? If you have, you know what it’s like to have a good suit — the material, the cut, the look, the feel. It’s a great feeling, and that’s how Dieter Roskini describes his experience living in the first Passivhaus in Germany, according to a new video called Passive Passion.

Passive Passion is a 22-minute documentary by Charlie Hoxie about energy-efficient buildings with a specific focus on Passivhaus, or what’s called Passive House in the United States. It’s quite interesting and certainly makes a case for ultra-efficient multifamily structures.

That said, one should take the LEED comments with a bit of caution. Martin Holladay already noted one stretch of the truth in the video with respect to Passivhaus buildings being certified based on actual energy-use data. LEED, let’s remember, is a green building standard that may not be as strong as Passivhaus when it comes to energy efficiency, but there’s an argument for LEED’s superiority in terms of certifying for water efficiency, materials use and reuse, environmental air quality, and the location of a building. This is probably why some teams pursue both certifications in tandem.

In any event, this is a great intro to Passivhaus for anyone that’s interested. The video can be viewed online here, or purchased as a digital download ($12) or DVD ($15 plus shipping and handling).

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Reclaimed Wood with a Rainscreen Install

I’ve been following Matt Risinger’s blog for about a year, because he’s sharing great videos about high-performance homes in Austin, Texas.  Take this video about using old pine siding from a home built in 1935.  The siding is in a condition to be reclaimed because it’s had enough air to dry when wet over the years.  Now that it’s being re-used, Risinger shares the vented rainscreen he used to make sure the siding lasts another 80 years.

The home was first layered with DuPont DrainWrap, and then covered with a 1″ blanket of Dow Styrofoam extruded polystyrene.  Following that, Risinger put furring strips of polycarbonate plastic on studs to create about a 3/8″ air gap behind the siding.

At the end of the video, Risinger shares the final, painted wood siding, and it looks fantastic.  From what I can see, it looks like new wood and equally as neat as fiber-cement, which is commonly used today to achieve the same result.

[+] More building science videos from Matt Risinger.

Credits: Matt Risinger. 

Read more from the original source: Reclaimed Wood with a Rainscreen Install

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New Blueair Air Purifier Just Makes Sense

This the new Blueair Sense designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune.  It was designed to shatter barriers in the bland world of air purification with a contemporary design, touch-less control, compact size, low energy consumption, quiet operation, and optimal clean air delivery rate.  All Blueair units are Energy Star certified and use “HEPA Silent” technology, and I understand Blueair Sense will be no different.  I’ve asked Blueair for pricing and availability information and will update this article when I hear back.

[+] More about air purifiers by Blueair USA.

Credits: Blueair.

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SolarCity Expands with Home Energy Loans

California-based SolarCity started out with solar and gradually expanded to energy efficiency services.  Now, with more than 5,000 efficiency projects completed or underway, the company wants to help the typical U.S. family save some of about $1,900 that’s spent every year on home utility bills.  The company just announced a plan to make energy-efficiency improvements more accessible with a new Home Energy Loan.

The Home Energy Loan is provided by Boston-based Admirals Bank and, of course, subject to credit approval.  Right now, there are three main loan products available, the one-year “Save Now, Pay Later” option and a three- or 10-year “Pay As You Go” option.

SolarCity starts off with a customized evaluation of a home and uses its own software to evaluate opportunities for improvement in nine area, including air infiltration, insulation, heating, cooling, and duct leakage.  The company then establishes a priority list with home improvement options based on energy and cost savings.

Homeowners can finance the efficiency upgrades, and SolarCity can implement most of the improvements (or make recommendations).  The point is not just to lower energy bills but it’s to help homeowners obtain the benefits of cleaner indoor air and greater interior comfort.

SolarCity currently has energy efficiency services available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Credit: SolarCity.

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The New American Home at IBS 2012

This is The New American Home — a project built every year in conjunction with the NAHB’s International Builders’ Show — in Orlando, Florida.  The 4,000 square-foot home collected eight green building certifications, including LEED Platinum and NAHB Emerald, and is expected to consume 52% less energy than a standard home of similar size.  Plus, a 4.0 kW solar array provides about 18% of annual energy needs.

For the record, TNAH received or qualified for NAHB Emerald, LEED-H Platinum, Energy Star, Indoor airPlus, Florida Green Building Coalition Platinum, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Designation, Florida Water Star Gold, and the DOE’s Builders Challenge.

In many respects, TNAH was built for energy efficiency.  The blower door test measured 0.35 air changes per hour at a negative pressure of 50 Pascals — solidly in Passive House territory for this one measurement.  To minimize air leakage, spray foam was used on the underside of the roof deck and around penetrations and framing.

Elsewise, TNAH has heavily insulated ICF exterior walls, low-e coated and argon-filled windows, an Energy Star roof covering, an 18 SEER air-source heat pump system, sealed ductwork, a solar hot water system, Energy Star appliances, and LED and CFL lighting.

TNAH is completely geeked out with an energy management system to shift energy usage to off-peak periods, full home automation and control by smartphone or tablet, motorized exterior solar screens and interior privacy shades, a home security system with mobile control, and a central vacuum system that vents debris to the outside.

The New American Home was designed by Architecture by Phil Kean, LLC and built by Phil Kean Designs, Inc.  At 4,181 square feet, it’s one of the smallest TNAH projects in many years and could very well be the greenest.  The home has six bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, a gallery and bar, a lanai and pool, and a three-car garage.

[+] More photos of the construction and final home from the IBS 2012 Flickr set.

Credits: James F. Wilson; Timberlake Cabinetry (exterior yard photo only). 

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