Saturday, January 30, 2010

New York Sun Works ~ Greenhouse Project

* About New York Sun Works
* The Greenhouse Project
* The Science Barge
* Press
* People
* Donate
* BrightFarm Systems ...(more)

New York Sun Works Greenhouse Project

The Greenhouse Project is a program of New York Sun Works dedicated to improving environmental science education in NYC public schools through a hands-on integrated curriculum and professional development.

In partnership with Manhattan School for Children (PS 333), The Greenhouse Project is building the Sun Works Center for Environmental Studies, a model laboratory based on our vision to empower grade-school children to make educated choices about their impact on the environment.

Construction of the Sun Works Center will begin in the spring of 2010 on the roof of the PS 333 school building at West 93rd street and will serve students from Kindergarten through 8th grade, in addition to training educators from around the city, the region, and the world.

Like the Sun Works Center, subsequent Greenhouse Project laboratories will typically accommodate an urban farm and an environmental science laboratory. Students will grow food, while learning hands-on about nutrition, water resource management, efficient land use, climate change, biodiversity, conservation, contamination, pollution, waste management, and sustainable development. To facilitate a hands-on learning environment, the Greenhouse Project laboratory will include solar panels, a hydroponics growing system, a rainwater catchment system, a weather station and a kitchen corner. The greenhouse laboratory will operate as an integrated part of the school’s curricula and will prepare children to exceed New York City’s science standards.

In addition to enhancing the science curriculum, the facility will enrich the school’s arts and social studies curricula by connecting nature to culture. Students will learn the relationship between humans and the environment and will gain a greater appreciation of sustainable development and its direct relationship to cultural diversity. An adapted version of the curriculum is being developed for motor impaired learners and will be implemented at the pilot site.

The Greenhouse Project laboratory will also serve as a site for teacher education and professional development through school day collaborations with neighboring institutions, as well as after school and weekend workshops for teachers and students. These activities will help sustain the project financially, while expanding the scope of its reach.

The Greenhouse Project has its own website: please click here for more information, or please send mail to srobards at ...

Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology)

Mitchell Joachim TED2010 Fellowship: Mitchell Joachim The Colbert Report: Mitchell Joachim ... Mitchell Joachim is #83. Architect Magazine cover story: ...

TerreFarm Lab

Eliot Hodges
More results from


Terreform ONE [Open Network Ecology] is a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities. Through our creative projects and outreach efforts, we hope to illuminate the environmental possibilities of New York City and inspire solutions in areas like it around the world.

Terreform ONE is a unique laboratory for scientists, artists, architects, students, and individuals of all backgrounds to explore and advance the larger framework of green design. The group develops innovative solutions and technologies for local sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, buildings, waste treatment, food, water, and media spaces.

TEAM Terreform is a winner of the Infiniti Design Excellence Award - History Channel City of the Future competition.
The Future of New York City 2106: MOVIE
All volunteers directed by Dr. Joachim.

Tax Exempt Status: View our 501c3 Letter of Determination.


Terreform ONE
33 Flatbush Avenue, 7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

TEL: (617) 285-0901 or
(917) 921-0446


Vertical Farm

The Vertical Farm Blog

Rolling Stone Magazine
100 People Who Are Changing America;
Mitchell Joachim is #83.

Mitchell Joachim, Ph.D.

Dr. Joachim is a leader in ecological design and urbanism. He is a Co-Founder at Terreform ONE and Terrefuge. He earned; Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MAUD Harvard University, M.Arch. Columbia University, BPS SUNY at Buffalo with Honors. Dr. Joachim is faculty at Columbia University and Parsons. Formerly an architect at Gehry Partners, and Pei Cobb Freed. He has been awarded the Moshe Safdie Research Fellowship, and the Martin Family Society Fellow for Sustainability at MIT. He won the History Channel and Infiniti Excellence Award for the City of the Future, and Time Magazine Best Invention of the Year 2007, Compacted Car w/ MIT Smart Cities. His project, Fab Tree Hab, has been exhibited at MoMA and widely published. He was chosen by Wired magazine for "The 2008 Smart List: 15 People the Next President Should Listen To". Rolling Stone magazine honored Mitchell as an agent of change in "The 100 People Who Are Changing America". He was selected to be the Frank Gehry International Visiting Chair in Architectural Design at the University of Toronto for 2009-2010. Mitchell has also won the TED2010 Fellowship.

Archinode Studio
cell: (617) 285-0901


3D Printers To Build Houses

Slashdot | 3D Printers To Build Houses
15 Jan 2007 ... 3D Printers To Build Houses. Posted by kdawson on Mon Jan 15, 2007 04:38 AM from the spray-that-right-here dept. Robotics · Technology ...

Robotics Technology

gbjbaanb writes to point out an article in the Sunday Times describing two separate programs where robots are being developed to build houses. The Los Angeles project is farther along than the one in the UK, but the article provides more details on the techniques employed in the latter. Liquid concrete and gypsum will be sprayed from nozzles in a manner analogous to an inkjet printer. From the article: "The first prototype — a watertight shell of a two-story house built in 24 hours without a single builder on site — will be erected in California before April. The robots are rigged to a metal frame, enabling them to shuttle in three dimensions and assemble the structure of the house layer by layer. The sole foreman on site operates a computer programmed with the designer's plans... Inspired by the inkjet printer, the technology goes far beyond the techniques already used for prefabricated homes. 'This will remove all the limitations of traditional building,' said [an architect involved with the UK project]. 'Anything you can dream you can build.'"


From The Sunday Times
January 14, 2007
Robo-builder threatens the brickie
Robert Booth

IS THE writing on the wall for the brickie? Engineers are racing to unveil the world’s first robot capable of building a house at the touch of a button.

The first prototype — a watertight shell of a two-storey house built in 24 hours without a single builder on site — will be erected in California before April.

A rival design, being pioneered in the East Midlands, with £1.2m of government funding, will include sunken baths, fireplaces and cornices. There are even plans for robots to supplant painters and decorators by spraying colourful frescoes at an affordable price.

By building almost an entire house from just two materials — concrete and gypsum — the robots will eliminate the need for dozens of traditional components, including floorboards, wooden window frames and possibly even wallpaper. It may eventually be possible to use specially treated gypsum instead of glass window panes.

Engineers on both projects say the robots will not only cut costs and avoid human delays but liberate the normal family homes from the conventional designs of pitched roofs, right-angled walls and rectangular windows. ...

Rapid Re(f)use: New York City Rebuilt From Its Own Trash
by Bridgette Meinhold, 01/29/10

New York City, much like any big city, disposes of a lot of trash — but what if that trash could be used in a constructive manner? NYC-based architects Terreform have proposed a new form of construction for the City that uses industrial sized robots to create buildings and islands from waste instead of sending it to landfills like Fresh Kills. They’re calling the project Rapid Re(f)use, and the first design is a reverse of the Statue of Liberty that would be built out in the harbor. ...(more)


GreenCorbu Says:
January 30th, 2010 at 11:04 am

Just Excellent.
It is a the POWER behind the image that makes the message convincing.
see from their Terrefom URL;
“New York City is disposing of 38,000 tons of waste per day. Most of this discarded material ended up in Fresh Kills landfill before it closed. The Rapid Re(f)use project supposes an extended New York reconstituted from its own landfill material. Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash at Fresh Kills. With our method, we can remake seven entirely new Manhattan islands at full scale. Automated robot 3d printers are modified to process trash and complete this task within decades. These robots are based on existing techniques commonly found in industrial waste compaction devices. Instead of machines that crush objects into cubes, these devices have jaws that make simple shape grammars for assembly. Different materials serve specified purposes; plastic for fenestration, organic compounds for temporary scaffolds, metals for primary structures, and etc. Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.”



Every hour New York City produces enough waste to fill the Statue of Liberty. Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash. Automated robot 3d printers are modified to process trash and complete this task within decades. Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.

YouTube: City, Ecology, Mobility - With Mitch Joachim, Terreform 1 (and more)


Rapid Re(f)use - Terreform
2006 - 2008 Terreform ... Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash at Fresh Kills. With our method, we can remake seven entirely new Manhattan ...

Green Brain - Terreform


3D Printing and Rapid Manufacturing machines: Rapid prototyping

RepRap Project:

Low Cost 3D Printer for Desktop Manufacturing of Bio-material Scaffolds

Turning Trash Piles Into a Bird-Watcher’s Paradise

NY Times
Published: January 25, 2010

Every other month for the last year, the parks department has led birders through Freshkills [a public dump site for NYC for 50 years]. This explains why Mr. Wollney, a public programs associate from the Staten Island Museum, was climbing a 150-foot mountain on Sunday morning, trailed by more than 20 others who had signed up for the tour...

Enter the bird-watchers, their high-powered binoculars and long-lens cameras around their necks, their illustrated reference guides in their pockets.

Every other month for the last year, the parks department has led birders through Freshkills. This explains why Mr. Wollney, a public programs associate from the Staten Island Museum, was climbing a 150-foot mountain on Sunday morning, trailed by more than 20 others who had signed up for the tour.

The mountain was once a garbage pile. Now it has been sealed off with a plastic membrane and covered with a special kind of grass. Maybe on a clear day a Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner song would come to mind. Sunday, with blustery winds and a spitting sky, was not that day.... (more)

Flat Pack Tree House

Zelfbouwboomhut by Aandeboom
January 28th, 2010

Utrecht designers Rogier Martens and Sam van Veluw of Aandeboom have designed a flat-packed play house that can be attached to the trunk of a tree.

Called Zelfbouwboomhut (Build-it-Yourself Treehouse), the playhouse is made of wooden panels that can be slotted together and strapped to a tree using the ties provided.

... (more)


Here’s some text from Aandeboom:

A boys dream hanging on a tree

“As a little boy we already build three houses: Making an unique place to play outside in the branches of a tree. However we could not go any further than a diagonally strip floor made from some old pieces of scrap wood. The designers Rogier Martens (1978) en Sam van Veluw (1982) combined their experience and made a innovative design making this boys dream accessible to everyone.”

The build-it-yourself tree house is a design made of water-resistant panels, straps and lashings. The tree house can be made using the panels and fixed to the tree using the straps and lashings. The ready to use format is handy and accessible for everyone. At the same time you can give it your own character and design. A boys dream comes within reach.

Designers: Rogier Martens en Sam van Veluw
Material: Water resistance clued multiplex, straps and lashings
Dimensions (l x w x h): 1220 x 1000 x 1220 mm
Price: on request

Friday, January 29, 2010

Innovida ~ Innogreen

InnoVida is a manufacturer of building materials. They have developed a composite building material called InnoVidaPanels (Composite Structural Insulated Panels or CSIPs), an alternative to traditional construction materials, whith the goal of allowing for faster and cost-effective construction. InnoVida's 'sandwich panels' are similar to the materials used to make watercraft and aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

InnoVida's panels are becoming more accepted as an alternative to traditional construction materials. They are sold as being stronger, more flexible than cement, steel or bricks and also non-flammable, waterproof and hurricane resistant. ...

World Headquarters
InnoVida Holdings, LLC, InnoVida Services, Inc.
560 Lincoln Rd. Ste. 303
Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA

Tel: +1-786-837 7200
Fax: +1-305-674 8369
Email Us for directions to the factory

Advanced Technology for the Construction Industry

InnoVida™ manufactures building solutions utilizing its patented, state-of-the-art Fiber-Composite products. At present, the company's core products are Composite Structural Insulated Panels and bonding materials. InnoVidaPanels™, InnoVidaResin™ and InnoVidaBond™ are produced using proprietary synthetic composite materials and industrial processes similar to those now generally accepted by the marine and aircraft construction industries. InnoVida's cutting-edge approach addresses, in a totally new way, both components of the built environment: what the structural material is made of, and how the materials come together during construction.

Structures built using InnoVidaPanels™:

* Are built fast. Structures that are 375sft, 700sft and 1,291sft, can be built in 24 hours, 48 hours and 7 days, respectively. This is nearly 70% faster than traditional construction.
* Are high-quality, durable, non-flammable, waterproof and do not provide a food source for algae or mold growth.
* Are strong enough to withstand the catastrophic elements of earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters.
* Promote a healthier global environment by producing very litle construction-site waste, air pollution and natural-resource consumption.
* Can be built with no heavy equipment and nominal skilled labor is required.
* InnoVidaPanel™ insulative core, significantly reduces the amount of energy needed to heat and/or cool the structure and provides excellent noise reduction.
* Can be furnished with built-in platform beds, table, desk, closets, cabinets, and more, made from InnoVida™ materials
* Can include curved shapes and be covered with any desired finish (stone, stucco, wallpaper, etc.)

InnoVida respects the Green initiative in housing worldwide by providing products and processes that result in a significantly reduced "Carbon Imprint" when compared with traditional building systems. ...(more)

Projects: Floating Homes:

Projects: Self-Sustainable Home:

This InnoVida house is totally self-sustainable by utilizing solar panels and rain water collection, which is treated through our water treatment system.

Global Village Shelters

I want to build these (really, just assemble). Starting at $550.00, flat pack plastic coated cardboard, 2 person setup. Good for 18 months or more. Can be made to last longer. Let's try one out at Life School for starters, and one as a studio / workshop / tool shed on my lots in Panajachel. Pretty great idea. Use four spread apart, with ramada in between, and fountain / pool in central patio. Beautiful! Then produce longer-lasting ones as another business here in Guatemala, in partnership with Global Village? This could help finish the last of the rebuilding after Hurricane Stan and create more classrooms for the schools.


The 20 meter shelter can be linked together in many configurations making larger structures immediately possible. The shelter is designed so the doors will line up, still allowing for maximum interior wall space when linked. This is important when creating a facility for medical purposes, security offices, food storage and preparation, staff housing for NGO's, educational buildings, etc. The possibilities are endless. ...(more)

Materials and Design

The design is a simple structure that would give the affected person/ family stability (durability) and safety during a disaster or refugee situation. To accomplish durability, the shelter has a concentric “ring” structure; the units have withstood winds up to 80 mph. The shelter is built out of a very strong 13mm Polypropylene profile sheet (thick UV resistant white plastic, often used in outdoor applications). Materials safety data is available upon request. The material is biologically inert, does not off gas, and can be reground (recycled) throughout the world. All edges are reinforced with polypropylene extrusions to prevent wear in this high traffic area, also adding strength to the door area and other stress points. All shelter components are pre fabricated and installed prior to shipping and packing. Material samples are can be requested by emailing

There are no comparable shelters actively on the market. The cost and ease of set up are both significant benefits for GVS as disaster relief housing. GVS allows any person to set up their own housing without much guidance or strength- no tools are required. GVS also offers several comfort factors: a removable acrylic window with a screen, dual locking door system, and optional fire safe stove pipe aperture in the wall. There are several options that can also be added to the GVS, such as various flooring solutions (including, but not limited to tarps, plywood/ foam, elevated flooring). The cross ventilation creates a temperature equilibrium with the outdoor temps in warm climates- it will not get warmer than the outside temperature.


The shelter will last 18 months or more. It is possible to extend this time period by using the walls as a footprint on which to build either with brick, mud, hay-bale materials, wood, corrugated tin, et al and providing a more substantial floor (not a tarp); basic maintenance like this can greatly extend its life. We recommend putting shelter units on raised platforms, creating a stable (you can screw the unit onto the platform) and level floor.


Global Village Shelters LLC
221 Looking Glass Hill Morris, CT 06763 USA
email for information and inquiries:
telephone: 860.567.4118 fax: 860.567.4265

Global Village Shelters LLC is a for-profit company based in Litchfield County Connecticut, USA. It is co-owned by father-daughter team Daniel A Ferrara and Mia Ferrara Pelosi.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Structural insulated panels (or structural insulating panels), SIPs, are a composite building material. They consist of a sandwich of two layers of structural board with an insulating layer of foam in between. The board can be sheet metal or oriented strand board (OSB) and the foam either expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) or polyurethane foam.

SIPs share the same structural properties as an I-beam or I-column. The rigid insulation core of the SIP performs as a web, while the OSB sheathing exhibits the same properties as the flanges. SIPs replace several components of conventional building such as studs and joists, insulation, vapor barrier and air barrier. As such they can be used for many different applications such as exterior wall, roof, floor and foundation systems.


* 1 History
* 2 Materials
* 3 Benefits and drawbacks
* 4 Dimensions and characteristics
* 5 Standardization and design
* 6 References
* 7 External links


Although foam-core panels gained attention in the 1970s, the idea of using stress skinned panels for construction began in the 1930s. Research and testing of the technology was done primarily by Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wisconsin as part of U.S. Forest Service's attempts to conserve forest resources. In 1937, a small stressed-skin house was constructed and garnered enough attention to bring in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to dedicate the house. In a testament to the durability of such panel structures, it has endured the severe Wisconsin climate and is currently being used by University of Wisconsin–Madison as a day care center. With the success of the stress skinned panels, it was suggested stronger skins could take all of the structural load and eliminate the frame altogether.

Thus in 1947, structural insulated panel development began with corrugated paperboard cores were tested with various skin materials of plywood, tempered hardboard and treated paperboard. The building was dismantled in 1978 and most of the panels retained their original strength with the exception of paperboard which is unsuited to outdoor exposure. Panels consisting of polystyrene core and paper overlaid with plywood skins were used in a building in 1967 and the panels have performed well to the present day.


SIPs are most commonly made of OSB panels sandwiched around a foam core made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) or rigid polyurethane foam, but other materials can be used, such as plywood, pressure-treated plywood for below-grade foundation walls, steel, aluminum, cementitious panels, and even exotic materials like stainless steel, fiber-reinforced plastic, and Magnesium Oxide. Some SIPs use fiber-cement or plywood for the panels, and agricultural fiber, such as wheat straw, for the core.

Benefits and drawbacks

The use of SIPs brings many benefits and some drawbacks when compared to a conventional framed building. A well-built home using SIPs will have a tighter building envelope and the walls will have higher insulating properties, which leads to fewer drafts and a decrease in operating costs for maintaining a comfortable interior environment for the occupants. Also, due to the standardized and all-in-one nature of SIPs construction time can be reduced over building a frame home as well as requiring fewer trades for system integration. The panels can be used as floor, wall, and roof, with the use of the panels as floors being of particular benefit when used above an uninsulated space below.

An OSB skinned system structurally outperforms conventional stick framed construction in some cases; primarily in axial load strength. SIPs maintain similar versatility to stick framed houses when incorporating custom designs. Also, since SIPs work as framing, insulation, and exterior sheathing, and can come precut from the factory for the specific job, the exterior building envelope can be built quite quickly.

The EPS insulation is a closed cell insulation whereas fiberglass is an open cell insulation. When tested under laboratory conditions, the SIP, included in a wall, foundation, floor, or roof system, is installed in a steady-state (no air infiltration) environment; systems incorporating fiberglass insulation are not installed in steady-state environments as they require ventilation to remove moisture.

With the exception of structural metals, such as steel, all structural materials creep over time. In the case of SIPs, the creep potential of OSB faced SIPs with EPS or polyurethane foam cores has been studied[1] and creep design recommendations exist[2]. The long-term effects of using unconventional facing and core materials require material specific testing to quantify creep design values.

Many asphalt shingle manufacturers will not warrantee their product over a SIP. Shingles tend to overheat and research has shown a shortened life span [3]

Dimensions and characteristics

In the United States, SIPs tend to come in sizes from 4 feet (1.22 m) to 24 feet (7.32 m) in width. Elsewhere, typical product dimensions are 300, 600, or 1200 mm wide and 2.4, 2.7, and 3 m long, with roof SIPs up to 6 m long. Smaller sections ease transportation and handling, but the use of the largest panel possible will create the best insulated building. At 15−20 kg/m², longer panels can become difficult to work with without the use of a crane to position them, and this is a consideration that must be taken into account due to cost and site limitations. Also of note is that when needed for special circumstances longer spans can often be requested, such as for a long roof span. Typical U.S. height for panels is eight or nine feet (2.44 to 2.75 m). Panels come in widths ranging from 4 to 12 inches thick and a rough cost is $4-$6/sq. ft. in the U.S.[4]

EPS is the most common of the foams used and has an R-value (thermal resistance) of about 4 K·m²/W per 25 mm thickness, which would give the 3.5 inches of foam in a 4.5 inch thick panel an R value of 13.8 (caution: extrapolating R-values over thickness may be imprecise due to non-linear thermal properties of most materials). This at face value appears to be comparable to an R-13 batt of fiberglass, but because in a standard stick frame house there is significantly more wall containing low R value wood that acts as a cold bridge, the thermal performance of the R-13.8 SIP wall will be considerably better.

The air sealing features of SIP homes resulted in the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program to establish an inspection protocol in lieu of the typically required blower door test to assess the home's air leakage. This serves to speed the process and save the builder/homeowner money.

Standardization and design

The International Building Code references APA, Plywood Design Specification 4—Design & Fabrication of Plywood Sandwich Panels[5] for the design of SIPs. This document addressed the basic engineering mechanics of SIP panels but does not provide design properties for the panels provided by any specific manufacturer. In 2007, prescriptive design provisions for OSB faced SIPs were first introduced in the 2006 International Residential Code. These provisions provide guidance on the use of SIPs as walls panels only.

Aside from these non-proprietary standards, the SIP industry has relied heavily on proprietary code evaluation reports. In early 2009, SIPA partnered with NTA, Inc., a product certification agency, to produce the first industry wide code report[6] which is available to all SIPA members who qualify. Unlike previous code reports, the prescriptive provisions provided in the SIPA code report are derived from an engineering design methodology[2] which permits the design professional to consider loading conditions not addressed in the code report.

While the use of SIPs has many potential benefits, caution must be used to ensure that the lack of consideration for such effects does not lead to the creation of ill-designed structures. Use of an experienced architect or designer will minimize this potential issue.


1. ^ Taylor, S.B, Manbeck, H.B, Janowiak, J.J, Hiltunum, D.R. "Modeling Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) Flexural Creep Deflection." J. Structrual Engineering, Vol. 123, No. 12, December, 1997.
2. ^ a b NTA IM 14 TIP 01, Engineered Design Guide Using NTA Listing Report Data. NTA, Inc. Nappanee, IN. 3/19/2009, 12 pgs.
3. ^ Structural Insulated Panel Association
4. ^
5. ^ APA. Plywood Design Specification Supplement 4: Design and Fabrication of Plywood Sandwich Panels. Document U814-H. March 1990.
6. ^ SIPA code report information SIPA code report requirements at SIPA web site

* Breyer, Stephen (October 1972), "Copyright: A Rejo…", UCLA Law Review 20: 75–83

External links

* Structural Insulated Panel Association - Industry association for manufacturers of SIPs
* SIPA code report information - SIPA code report requirements.
* NTA SIPA120908-10 - Latest version and current status of the SIPA code report.
* NTA IM 14 TIP 01 Engineered Design Guide for SIPs Using NTA Listing Report Data - Engineering Design guide for SIPs manufactured under the SIPA code report.
* PATH Tech Inventory: Structural Insulated Panels
* PATH Tech Inventory: Fiber-cement Faced Structural Insulated Panels

Retrieved from ""
Categories: Building engineering | Building insulation materials | Building materials | Composite materials


Friday, January 22, 2010

Area, arquitectura

Detalle de corredor de ingreso y piscina (POSADA DEL ANGEL)
English: Detail of entrance corridor and swimming pool (House of the ANGEL), typical Spanish Colonial Architecture of Guatemala

Fotografias de Algunos Proyectos Realizados.
Projects photo page (click for more photos):

El lugar perfecto para que sepa como contactarnos. Nuestras oficinas centrales estan localizadas en:

* La Calzada Santa Lucia Sur No. 5, de la Antigua Guatemala
* Telefonos (502)7 8328-224
* Fax (502)7 8328-224
* Mobiles: (502) 56635525, (502)41790474

Contacto: Guido Echeverria
correos Electronicos:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sketch and Floor Plan - Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Casita 900 sq. ft.

Floor Plan 900 sq. ft.

Art Studio, guest house:

Casa pequeña (500 sq. ft)

From my wonderful architect, "Eddy" Amilcar Ovalle:, tel. (502) 4198.1877. His office in on the ground floor of my apartment building on Calle de los Tigres (near the Post Office) in Panajachel. What could be better? These are first drafts for lot #1 or #2 (out of four building lots I have near the Lake) along with an even smaller "casita," guest house "Casa pequeña." More to come... CT

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Building With Whole Trees

Paul Kelley for The New York Times

Roald Gundersen built his home and greenhouse using whole tree for structure and support. More Photos >

Published: November 4, 2009

The Forester-Architect
Paul Kelley for The New York Times

The loft in the Stoddard, Wisc. home of Amelia Baxter and Mr. Gundersen. More Photos »

ROALD GUNDERSEN, an architect who may revolutionize the building industry, shinnied up a slender white ash near his house here on a recent afternoon, hoisting himself higher and higher until the limber trunk began to bend slowly toward the forest floor.

“Look at Papa!” his life and business partner, Amelia Baxter, 31, called to their 3-year-old daughter, Estella, who was crouching in the leaves, reaching for a mushroom. Their son, Cameron, 9 months, was nestled in a sling across Ms. Baxter’s chest.

Wild mushrooms and watercress are among the treasures of this 134-acre forest, but its greatest resource is its small-diameter trees — thousands like the one Mr. Gundersen, 49, was hugging like a monkey.

“Whooh!” he said, jumping to the ground and gingerly rubbing his back. “This isn’t as easy as it used to be. But see how the tree holds the memory of the weight?”

The ash, no more than five inches thick, was still bent toward the ground. Mr. Gundersen will continue to work on it, bending and pruning it over the next few years in this forest which lies about 10 miles east of the Mississippi River and 150 miles northwest of Madison.

Loggers pass over such trees because they are too small to mill, but this forester-architect, who founded Gundersen Design in 1991 and built his first house here two years later, has made a career of working with them.

“Curves are stronger than straight lines,” he explained. “A single arch supporting a roof can laterally brace the building in all directions.”

The firm, recently renamed Whole Tree Architecture and Construction, is also owned by Ms. Baxter, a onetime urban farmer and community organizer with a knack for administration and fundraising. She also manages a community forest project modeled after a community-supported agriculture project, in which paying members harvest sustainable riches like mushrooms, firewood and watercress from these woods, and those who want to build a house can select from about 1,000 trees, inventoried according to species, size and shape, and located with global positioning system coordinates, a living inventory that was paid for with a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to research by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, run by the USDA, a whole, unmilled tree can support 50 percent more weight than the largest piece of lumber milled from the same tree. So Mr. Gundersen uses small-diameter trees as rafters and framing in his airy structures, and big trees felled by wind, disease or insects as powerful columns and curving beams.

Taking small trees from a crowded stand in the forest is much like thinning carrots in a row: the remaining plants get more light, air and nutrients. Carrots grow longer and straighter; trees get bigger and healthier.

And when the trees are left whole, they sequester carbon. “For every ton of wood, a ton and a half of carbon dioxide is locked up,” he said, whereas producing a ton of steel releases two to five tons of carbon. So the more whole wood is used in place of steel, the less carbon is pumped into the air.

These passive solar structures also need very little or no supplemental heat.

Tom Spaulding, the executive director of Angelic Organics Learning Center, near Rockford, Ill., northwest of Chicago, knows about this because he commissioned Mr. Gundersen to build a 1,600-square-foot training center in 2003. He said: “In the middle of winter, on a 20-below day, we’re in shorts, with the windows and doors open. And we don’t burn a bit of petroleum.”

“It’s eminently more frugal and sustainable than milling trees,” he added. “These are weed trees, so when you take them out, you improve the forest stand and get a building out of it. You haven’t stripped an entire hillside out west to build it, or used a lot of oil to transport the lumber.”

Mr. Gundersen had a rough feeling for all of this 16 years ago, when he started building a simple A-frame house here for his first wife and their son, Ian, now 15. He wanted to encourage local farmers to use materials like wood and straw from their own farms to build low-cost, energy-efficient structures. So he used small aspens that were crowding out young oaks nearby.

“I would just carry them home and peel them,” said Mr. Gundersen, who later realized he could peel them while they were standing, making them “a lot lighter to haul and not so dangerous to fell.”

Mr. Gundersen, who built most of the house singlehandedly, also recognized the beauty of large trees downed by disease or wind, and used the peeled trunks, shorn of their central branches a few feet from the crook, as supporting columns in the house. “I thought they were beautiful, but I didn’t think how strong they were,” he said.

... (more)