Category Archives: Green Building

The Zero Home

The Zero Home is the first single-family smart home to be certified as net-zero energy-efficient, meaning that all the energy the home consumes is produced on site via renewable resources. To dive into the systems and building practices that made this feat possible, read here: http://www.techhive.com/article/2045771/a-floor-to-ceiling-tour-of-americas-most-energy-efficient-home.html

“The 4300-square-foot Zero Home is the result of a partnership between Vivint (a fast-growing company best known for home-security and home-control systems) and Garbett Homes (a residential development company that builds between 400 and 600 homes per year). Both companies are based in Utah, and the Zero Home was built in the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman.”

“The Zero Home defies the home-of-the-future stereotype of being too impractical for large-scale implementation: “This home is designed to be replicated on a mass basis,” said Garbett Homes marketing director Rene Oehlerking. “It costs about $150 per square foot to build a home like this—the same amount it costs our competitors to build conventional homes.”

Algae Powered Apartments

These apartments in Germany are 100% self powered by algae fueled bio reactors. Algae panels on the building also provide shade and temperature regulation, as the sunnier it is the thicker the algae grows in the panels.

Algae Powered Apartment

Read more: http://homes.yahoo.com/news/net-zero-apartments-powered-live-algae-151500406.html

Algae-Powered-Apartments-2

 

Learn how to make algae biofuel: http://organicmechanic.com/algae-biofuel/ or to make an algae based business to take advantage of these and other algae business trends! http://organicmechanic.com/algae-business/

Triple-Pane Windows Theory

A shockingly simple blueprint for big cities to save the planet without wrecking the economy.

Climate scientists have estimated that, in order to avoid runaway global warming, the world would need to cut its carbon emissions roughly in half by 2050. Since emissions in developing countries like China and India are still rising fast, meeting this target would require developed nations to aim for a figure more like 80 percent. When you consider that the United States, the largest polluter in the developed world, has no real strategy in place to achieve that—and that no binding international agreements appear to be on the horizon—the goal can start to sound nigh impossible.

Read more here!

Artist Spotlight: Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

With such a push for ecologically responsible materials in home construction these days it is vital to also be mindful of the size of a home so materials and energy are not wasted and this is just the concept Jay Shafer put behind Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Sebastopol, CA. With one of his homes it is possible to attain a living space, sleeping space, kitchen, bathroom, office space and four closets all in 65 square feet. Yes, that reads exactly right. His designs range in size from 65-774 square feet but no matter what layout a client selects there is no lack for amenities, storage or sustainable materials inside.


Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

I have no alarm clock so I get up when I wake up. I go to whole foods and sit with friends out by the parking lot while I eat breakfast. I check my PO Box and call my business partner to see if there is anything I need to know about. Assuming there is nothing pressing I go home to design tiny houses all day (usually forgetting lunch). I eat dinner with friends before renting a movie. That said, I have never actually experienced a “typical” day all the way through. Life always gets in the way.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

Yes. Only talent stands in the way of true creativity. Ironically, it is our desire to set ourselves apart with displays of talent or “self expression” that gets in the way of the creative abilities we all possess.

Who or what influenced your work with home construction?

I look at vernacular houses more than anything else. I am less a fan of celebrity art and architecture than I am of buildings built by people for people. Usually the simpler, the better.

When did you first become interested in the planning and execution of building structures?

I can’t even remember when I started enjoying design, but I know I was doing it even as a little kid. The building part came later. No one else would build my designs for free so I had to learn how to do it myself.

Did you personally draft all of the home plans your company offers?
Originally yes, but I recently turned all of my pencil drawings over to a draftsman to be converted into AutoCAD.

Can you tell me about your creative process?
I believe in secular piety. When I can get my own ego out of the way Nature and Society are allowed to do their thing. It is only when a higher power is allowed to design my houses that the houses turn out well.

Where did your first inspiration come from?
Les Walker’s book Tiny Houses was very inspirational.

Was the Green Movement a major factor in your decision to create Tumbleweed?
It was one factor. Aside from that, I just don’t like house work.

What materials do you feel can make the largest impact toward a healthier life by choosing green?
Fewer materials are the best materials. Beyond that, it is important to use things that will be healthy for a home’s occupants and the environment as a whole.
Are there products or materials you spec that may not immediately be viewed as sustainable but hold up better over time thus negating additional manufacturing needs?
Yes. I use foam board insulation. I can think of no better place to put fossil fuels than into something that needs to last. This stuff also does a great job of cutting back on my heating needs and more fossil fuel consumption.

Do you live in one of your designs? If so which one and for how long?
I live in the 100 sq ft Epu. I have been living in the particular house for 2 years, and I lived in an even smaller house before that.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
I am thinking about writing a book called “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”. In it I would explain that the best thing you can do for the environment is often nothing at all. Drive less, shower less, live in less, travel less, and do it better.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
Preserving our quality of life.

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?
My house is my favorite design.


What challenges have you had in your work?
The biggest challenge is, in fact, designing small. It is much harder than creating a big house because there is no margin for error. I not only love this challenge but I am addicted to it.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?
The internet is one of my favorite tools. I can’t remember how I got along without it. Now, instead of traveling to the Metropolitan Museum or a village in Quebec for inspiration, I can just click a few buttons.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?
I love creating works that have a positive influence on individuals and society. I really am a person who needs a sense of purpose.

What are you currently working on?
I am now finishing a revised edition of my “The Small House Book”.

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
Stay away from the art world and just make things that are beautiful.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
My houses.

What is your best going green tip?
Know what makes you happy and get rid of the rest. All of the extras just get in the way.

How would your friends describe you?
Very good looking for such a smelly person.
To see all of Jay’s amazing designs please visit the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company Website


Photographs courtesy of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: David Bergman, Architect and Lighting Designer

David Bergman of David Bergman Architects and Fire and Water in New York City believes strongly in the concept of well designed spaces that are ecologically responsible. For over twenty five years David has been conceptualizing structures with both eyes on the impact on the planet in the process. He firmly reasons that just because a design or product is deemed green it does not need to be out of reach financially for a client and that choosing green should be the paramount decision to ensure the client lives a long and healthy life in their space.


Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

One of the great (and sometimes difficult) things about having a multi-headed career is that I really don’t have a typical day. At any given point, I may be involved in my architectural projects (designing, researching, site visits) or lighting development for Fire & Water (design, research, production) or teaching (research, writing, grading, speaking).

As I wrote this, I noticed that research was the common element to all three. A hefty portion of almost any day is spent reading articles or books, or checking out new materials or just online searching. I’m not sure whether Bloglines has helped or hindered my day!

Though I risk succumbing to “green fatigue,” the never ending new information, new solutions and new ideas are a constant stimulus.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Oh, there are many. A professional model is the Eames. The range and originality of their endeavors, as well as the fact that they worked together as my wife and I do, is inspiring.
And though my father had his faults, the fact that he was the best at what he did (he was a science journalist, who covered, among other things, the early days of environmentalism) was, when I was younger, both a positive and a daunting example.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

I don’t think I’ve ever given this much thought. For one thing, it’s a really loaded question: what is creativity and what is art and all that? Then I’d have to ask: does it matter where it comes from and whether it’s innate or not?

When did you first become interested in the planning and execution of building structures?

That probably goes back to the fact that, as a child, I had every conceivably building toy: wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, Legos, Kenner “Girder and Panel” sets, etc. And there were the model railroads and the slot car tracks as well as Matchbox cars and trucks that I played with until I was way too old. Mountains and tunnels made of Plaster of Paris and chicken wire were great fun.

I recreated the Matchbox cars collection via the early days of EBay, so I guess I’m still playing with them.

My parents built a house when I was about 12. They had a messy falling out with the architect/builder — lawsuits and all that — so I was afraid to tell them for a few years that I wanted to be an architect.

Are you LEED certified? Can you explain that to us?
Yes, I took the test and got my LEED accreditation in 2004. (Being a bit nitpicky here: buildings can get certified, people get accredited.) LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system for buildings. Depending on how many criteria a building fulfills, it can be LEED certified or silver, gold or platinum LEED certified. And the test for a person to become a LEED Accredited Professional looks at your knowledge both of the LEED system and eco building design in general.
I swore after passing my architectural licensing exam (which is an ordeal, often spanning several years), that I would never take an exam again. Twenty years later I had to break down and take the LEED exam.
What types of passive energy do you specify? How have your selections changed over the past decade?
Passive energy design is often the best way to achieve a green building since it is inherently less complicated and often less expensive. A lot of my work, though, has been in renovation (that’s changing now — more new construction projects) and many passive tools, such as controlling sizes and directions of windows and overhangs or ventilation are pre-ordained in existing structures. In my apartment renovations, light is a major theme and consideration. One recent loft had most of its light coming from one narrow side so the opposite (entrance) end was very dark. Our design opened this up so that the windows were visible immediately when you entered, there were very few full height walls and most those were translucent.
I’m working on a house renovation/addition now in which we’re adding a central two and a half story space that will act as a natural ventilation chimney and help cool the house in the summer, while the south facing skylight will warm it in the winter.


Are there products or materials you spec that may not immediately be viewed as sustainable but hold up better over time thus negating additional manufacturing needs?
I once asked a trade show exhibitor (not naming names, but it was one of the big chemical companies) if his new plastic material had any eco qualities. He answered “well, it lasts a really long time.” This is often the rationale for materials such as stone or, worse, vinyl and other not-so-eco materials. While there are times when durability can balance out other negative aspects, I try not to get myself into a place where I have to make that kind of choice. Today, there are so many great green materials, that there’s almost no excuse for deliberately choosing something environmentally nasty.
What materials do you feel can make the largest impact toward a healthier life by choosing green?
A little known fact is that we spend, on average, 90% of our lives indoors That means that, despite all the emphasis the environmental movement has put on clean air since the 60’s, we need to look even more carefully at the quality of our indoor air. We don’t, for example, want to use materials that offgas toxic chemicals such as VOCs into our homes and offices. Carpets, paints and cleansers are among the products we should evaluate for offgassing and other problems. And I don’t want vinyl in my home (or elsewhere for that matter) because, among other issues, its fumes are deadly in a fire.
How did your clients respond the first time you recommended a green product?
I assume you’re asking about clients who are not already into eco design before they come to me. I usually load the dice by framing the question like this: if we can create a green design that doesn’t add to the cost and doesn’t sacrifice design, are you open to it? Put that way, it’s pretty hard for them to say no.
For my already converted clients, I ask them where their green interests lie: (A) in saving their family’s health, (B) saving money or (C) saving the planet. More often than not, it’s all three.
Where did your first inspiration come from?
Probably somewhere in that mix of building sets and Plaster of Paris and artificial model railroad lichen, making a mess of my parents’ basement.


How long have you been teaching sustainable design at Parsons School of Design?
I’ve been teaching there around 15 years. Though my early courses weren’t about sustainability, I began to sneak some elements into them. Then when the topic started to heat up (around 2001), the chair of the Product Design department, knowing my work and interest in the field, asked me to create a syllabus for a new course. Following that, I developed courses for several other departments as well.
Have you seen an increase in interest from students in this field of study recently?
Definitely, and perhaps more significantly, their “eco-literacy” coming into the courses is stronger than in the past.
I’ve also seen an increased emphasis on sustainability in their theses. I’d like to think that’s at least in part due to the influence of my courses.
Can you tell me about your creative process?
I’d say it goes back to that emphasis on research. What usually happens is a series of explorations in various directions which simultaneously engenders a deep level of familiarity with the specific issues and goals involved while showing which paths are fruitful and which aren’t. In the end, there is often a synthesis of those results and paths that I like, with the result being a solution that seems inevitable when looked back upon.
Were you influenced by the Green Movement?
Of course, though I’d have to say it came in two waves. I missed being a hippy by only a few years, but I still got caught up in the early environmental movement and then literally caught in the 1973 gas lines. I had just gotten my driver’s license, so one of my chores was filling my parents’ cars. It wasn’t so much about price (as it is now) as it was about the lines and availability and rationing. The eco movement on a local level at that point consisted mainly of sporadic protests and paper recycling drives. I recall heading my high school’s “Ecology Club” and volunteering for local wetlands surveys.
My involvement took a hiatus in the eighties. Eco design didn’t exist in architecture school back then, and was barely, if at all, on the radars of most architecture firms. In the early nineties, though, I had started my own architecture practice and then started Fire & Water, my lighting company. In the same period, new materials and new technologies began to be available, along with a renewed public awareness of eco issues.My light fixture designs have often been a result of being inspired by new materials, while anticipating new technology.


What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
The most visible example would probably be my folding bicycle. I’ve always been a cyclist — it’s one of the best ways to get around NYC. It’s faster than driving in the city, it’s free and you get exercise as well. What a deal!
I switched to the folder a few years ago when I was commuting once a week to New Haven (to teach a course at Yale). I could bike to Grand Central Terminal, fold the bike for the train ride and then bike from New Haven station to campus.
Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?
I mentioned the Eames as a sort of role model. As an eco designer, I admire Buckminster Fuller, who brought a perspective on who and what we and our planet are, and used that perspective to come up with strikingly innovative ideas.
What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
It’s part and parcel of how we see ourselves and our relationships both to each other and to our environment. How can you be a “good person” (I try to write that unsanctimoniously) without considering how you interact with everything around you?
What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?
The one just finished! I’d like to think my work is a continuous evolution, combining all that research with new experience, so each finished project is better than the last one.


What challenges have you had in your work?
Until fairly recently, it was hard to find enough eco materials and products that didn’t have the granola look or didn’t break the bank. That made it hard to convince both clients and me to use them.
Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?
When I was in architecture school, we used to refer to “xerox architecture” because it was the early years of post-modernism, we were all looking at historical design and there was a huge temptation to tack up photocopies of influences and then, in turn, be overly influenced by them.
There certainly is that risk in the Internet as well, especially in terms of how fast trends spread and how regionalism is falling to globalism, but I think the downside is more than offset by the tremendous value of information availability. (There’s that research aspect again.)
What is your greatest ambition as an artist?
Seeing oneself as a designer versus an artist yields a different perspective on that question. A designer, and in particular an architect, has a different set of responsibilities because of the applied art nature of the work. Our work unavoidably affects people. You can choose not go to a museum to see fine art, but you can’t really choose to see or occupy buildings, or not use products. So I might answer that my ambition would be to have a lasting positive impact — on both people and the planet.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on some rooms in an eco showhouse and having a lot of fun both selecting green materials, borrowing eco furniture from designer friends, and designing some new pieces. My favorite is a color changing LED chandelier I’m designing that will hang decadently over a free-standing bath tub. The chandelier is made from recycled glass “pebbles” and a salvaged bicycle wheel.
And there’s the East Hampton house renovation/addition I mentioned earlier. I convinced the clients not to tear it down and start over, so now I have to show them that we can do as much or more by re-configuring the existing house. The two story “tower” is being inserted into the center of the house where it currently has an odd open air court that’s mainly useful for accumulating leaves. This allows us to create more usable space without expanding the footprint, while simultaneously making that ventilation “chimney.”


What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
This is probably better directed to designers than to artists, but one of the things I often advise my students is to question their assumptions, that truly innovative designs often require going back to square one in order to come up [with] solutions that are more than tweaks to existing solutions.
What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
I don’t think it’s a useful approach to anoint a “top green product” because the issues and, therefore, the solutions are complex. A focus on one product, for instance changing one light bulb to CFL, can lead people to think that once they’ve done that, they’ve done their part.
That said, of course I can recommend my light fixtures!
What is your best going green tip?
We have a rule in our house, which is that we have to have needed something three times before we actually buy it. The point of this, aside from the fact that we have a NYC apartment and hence not enough space, is to address over-consumption and the accumulation of “stuff.”
I’ve borrowed video cameras three times in the past year, so we’re now going to finally get one.
Do you have a website or online presence where people can view your work?
Sure, our website is http://www.cyberg.com/ and from there you can go into either our architectural work, or to Fire & Water, our lighting company, or to Lori’s graphic design work. We also have http://www.swagologie.com/, which is Lori’s new company working on green gifts for the corporate world. While working on events, she got tired of seeing all the wasteful things put into “goodie bags” and other gifts, and decided there was a need for better, greener alternatives.
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: Paula Baker-Laporte, Home Designer and Architect of EcoNest

For fourteen years, Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte, based out of Tesuque, NM, have been designing and constructing EcoNest homes. The homes are built from a clay, straw and timber frame and are finished with Earth plaster and additional harmless finishes all through the home. This makes each home not only ecologically responsible but adaptable to just about any climate. Clients are always involved in the construction of their own homes and this is just one of the many ways the finished product of an EcoNest is truly unique.


Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

When you are an architect and married to your favorite builder, as I am, then the line between personal and professional life is a blurry one. Luckily we love our work together so that is not a problem. We live and work in the same compound with house, guest house, architectural office and woodworking shop. If it is not winter, I typically begin the day in my organic garden. I also pick up lunch and dinner ingredients there on the 30 yard commute from home to office to home.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

I believe that we are all creative beings. I also believe in the 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration prescription. It takes years to develop a comfortable skill level with the design and building process.

When did you first become interested in the planning and execution of building structures?

I began architecture school in 1972. I went in to it on a whim unlike many other students who had dreamed of becoming architects from a young age. Of course when I was young girls didn’t dream much about careers.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

My first inspiration came after I began architecture school. I had a professor, called Douglas Engels, who saw some promise in me and took me under his wing. He gave insights into the creative process by showing us amazing examples of architecture from around the world and throughout history. He challenged his students to think critically.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

The creative process is a mysterious one. I have learned to trust that, if I listen carefully and work hard, it won’t desert me. However it also does not always show up on my desired schedule and it is not something I can force. When a design is right it is right. Up until that moment it is not right yet.

Was the Green Movement a major factor in your decision to create EcoNest?

No. The green movement has come along as a welcome surprise. I began to search for healthier ways to build when I became chemically sensitive in 1992. Until then I was unaware of the need. I studied Bau-Biologie and that lead me to search for ways to build using massive walls that worked dynamically with the natural environment. Which in turn lead me to Robert Laporte and his work with clay/straw wall system. EcoNest evolved out of that collaboration. Natural homes that are designed and built to be climatically responsive and resilient are “by their nature” both ecologically sound and health enhancing.

What materials do you feel can make the largest impact toward a healthier life by choosing green?

Certainly the wall system or “skin” of the building is a major decision. A good home from the standpoint of health and ecology however consists of thousands of right choices and there are many ways to go that are equally good.

What are the benefits of using clay, straw and timber frame?

There are many benefits too numerous to briefly mention. We have written a whole book about this. It is called “EcoNest-Creating Sustainable Sanctuaries of Clay, Straw and Timber” GibbsSmith Publishers


Do you live in one of your designs? If so for how long and how do you find the experience?

Yes. We built our first EcoNest in New Mexico in 1999. I had visited Robert in his clay/straw home in Iowa previously. It is because of my own home is so nurturing to me that, ironically, I often have to leave it so I can travel around telling other people about it. Robert and I both do a lot of educational work these days.
What type of interior materials do you specify to avoid toxicity?
My book “Prescriptions for a Healthy House” lists thousands of resources for building without toxins. But absence of poisons is only one criteria. We choose natural materials for EcoNests because they have additional properties…visual liveliness, beauty, hygroscopicity (the ability to regulate indoor humidity), softness, negative ionization (they don’t gather static electricity) etc.
Are EcoNest homes appropriate for all climates? If so what makes them able to transition from warm to cold so easily?

EcoNests work best in four season climates. The mass walls are not needed in the tropics and not insulative enough for the arctic but have a wide range of applicability in between. They have been built in 12 states and in several locals in Canada and Scandinavia.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
We do not use fossil fuels to heat or cool. In addition we have a very large organic garden, we preserve food, we have a root cellar. We often cook with a sun oven and we compost. We buy locally, belong to the food co-op and support the farmer’s market. We collect and re-use rain water and gray water. We buy organic. We line dry our clothes. We drive Priuses but most importantly we try to be conscious. We forgo the packaging whenever possible, we turn off lights etc., we try not to be wasteful purchasers of things we don’t really need. On the other hand…we travel via air quite a bit and know we need to cut back even if that means forgoing green conferences!

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
I don’t understand the question. Everything. Obviously our survival is intrinsically linked to the health of the natural environment. We either become better stewards or suffer.
What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?

Our projects are always designed for the needs and wishes of our clients. Since Robert and I got to be our own clients for our own house, this is the one that I love the best. Of course there are aspects of other projects that we don’t have in our home that I like very much. The Little Residence is like a sacred temple to me and that has to do with their love of their own home and the consciousness that they have brought to living in it. Our clients have all brought their unique “essence” into their homes and we have been fortunate to have special and wonderful clients.


What challenges have you had in your work?
Because we are doing something that is not “main stream” we have often had to swim up-stream. Many building officials (especially outside of New Mexico) who don’t understand earth, appraisers who don’t have comps, homebuyers who don’t understand the value of a home that deeply nurtures and takes little energy to achieve comfort in. Building small ecological and natural homes for ordinary folks is not a get-rich-quick proposition but it is fulfilling in other ways.
Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

I can’t comment on the fine art /internet connection but it has been positive for us. Lots of people visit our website. It has become an educational forum for us and people sign up for our workshops on it. It is a wonderful research tool. The first edition of “Prescriptions for a Healthy House” was done before we had Internet. I don’t know how we ever did it!

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?
An architect, or at least the type of architect that I am, is more like being a craftsperson than a fine artist. Our objects are objects of use. If I can continue to create environments that are nurturing and that bring joy, health, peace and beauty to my clients and those who come after them throughout the life of those homes, then I consider that to be work well done. My ambitions do not extend beyond that goal.
What are you currently working on?
We have several homes in various stages of planning and building around the continent but mostly in Santa Fe. I am doing a lot of writing these days. I am also developing courses and teaching with the Building Biology Institute (IBE). Robert and I do some speaking engagements around the country but have concentrated our efforts this year on developing the seminar that we co-teach and builder training workshops that Robert leads here in Santa Fe.


What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
Seek inspiration. Work hard. Be patient.
What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
I assume you mean for a home. I would have to say that one of the most dramatic and quickest way to change the feel of an environment would be to plaster it with natural clay plasters but there are no real silver bullets. It all starts with your reader’s circumstances at any moment and then deciding the next logical step.
What is your best going green tip?
I don’t think we can consume our way out of this one! Become informed, act with conscience.

How would your friends describe you?
You would have to ask them. Hopefully they would say that I am a good friend. They might mention my off-color sense of humor.
To view more of Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte’s work please visit the EcoNest Website
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Spotlight: Susan Rodgerson, Executive/Artistic Director – Artists for Humanity

While on the hunt for green inspired artists, a building in Boston called the EpiCenter continued to show up in searches. Upon reading various articles related to this building one thing became clear, the crew that helped construct this eco-friendly structure was certainly inspired to be hands on. The EpiCenter is the headquarters of Artists for Humanity, a group of at risk youth who are offered a chance to succeed through training and job placement in various areas of art. The students took an active role in every aspect of the completion of the structure, working with AIArchitects, from design to the opening of the doors. Susan Rodgerson, the founder of Artists for Humanity and an artist herself, was excited to share additional information related to the EpiCenter and its unique design concepts as well as how much she enjoys working with the youth in Boston who create inspiring art every day. All pictures are of art created by students.


Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

I’ve been working with folks at AFH for so long that my personal and professional life are one in the same in many ways. I have the great good fortune to work with folks I love and care for and want to be with. However working in the city in a very people filled and intensely creative environment, leaves me very little time to be alone in nature where I am in touch with my personal creativity and spirit. I live with a great guy in Hull, MA which is a beach town. When I am not at AFH I am probably on the beach or in the woods.

Who or what influences your work and why?

I am influenced by the spirit that has created and continues to direct the mission of AFH – because it is my fate.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Absolutely

Who or what inspired the construction of the EpiCenter building?

For 8 years AFH had the luxury of working in a 35,000 sq. ft warehouse loft in the Fort Point District and were spoiled by the open and light filled spaces that were constructed in the last century. The space was flooded with natural light and ventilation. We tried to replicate the space that helped to create us. And, since we were embarking on a capital campaign and going to the bother to renovate or create such a space, why wouldn’t we also think of how we could reduce our energy costs on into the future and incorporate renewable technology. I was somewhat involved in a solar project in the 80’s and was aware of the effectiveness, so seized the opportunity to make it happen.

What do you consider the most unusual aspect of the building’s construction?

When you build green – everything is important and considered. Probably the aspect folks want to hear about most is the natural ventilation system. Our cooling system is essentially designed to work like a simple attic fan. At night we open our operable windows and from 1 – 4 pm fans on the roof draw cool night air across the concrete floors, through the spaces and up an empty shaft to the roof. In the morning we close the windows and draw the shades. The night air has chilled the mass of concrete and helps to keep the building cool through the day. The system works reasonably well except when the night time temperature does not drop 10 degrees or so for a week at a time. In that case we take a sun day like we take a snow day in winter. It’s all good and we feel we have a partnership with the weather.

(Editors note: Please see this article for additional green aspects of the EpiCenter building)

Why was it so important to go green?

It is time for each and every person to take personal responsibility for living on this planet and most importantly take action and make change happen. I feel it is important that we the people do what needs to be done and not allow government to ruin our children’s future because we choose to be lazy and irresponsible.


How did you find neighboring residents and business owners responded to the construction of this structure?

Everyone that visits the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter leaves with a smile… honestly it is difficult to separate the building from the program and the program gives you such a sense of hope and inspiration. I guess the building leaves you with the feeling that a sustainable world is possible. If a grassroots organization such as Artists for Humanity, dedicated to the voice, vision and virtuosity of urban kids and the arts can build a platinum LEED building than others can too. It is just a matter of time and time is the matter indeed.


What type of artistic industries employ the youth in your organization?

At AFH we do business with all kind of industries – from designing and printing T shirts for Jasper Whites Summer Shack (a restaurant chain) and green centered designs for KEDS brand sneakers to designing a fountain made from antique plumbing parts for a local plumbing museum. We do lots of design work for other non-profits including arts organizations such as the Mass Cultural Council and the National Grant Makers in the Arts as well as local grassroots groups and young entrepreneurs. We have probably worked with nearly every type of business at one time or another.


Can you tell me about your creative process?

My creative process is one of intuition and response.


Where did your first inspiration come from?
I have always been a creative person – don’t think I have ever had a bored moment, but the highlight of my life as an artist was meeting the young people who co-founded Artists for Humanity. Something undeniable happened [in] art that time to set off the intuitive response that created AFH and the EpiCenter.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

I was greatly influenced by the green movement of the 70’s which unquestionably informed our plan to build the EpiCenter. When we began our building process in 2001 we were at the very beginning of the current movement and I guess you could say we were in the right place at the right time.


What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I practice all the basics – replaced my incandescent lights, conserve water and energy, am very conscientious about buying products with little packaging, reuse and recycle everything possible and embarrass everyone I meet to do the same.


What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
Without it nothing else matters.


What challenges have you had in your work?

On the job training is exciting and creative but has its challenges. There have been many times when I have had to think on my feet and make lots of intuitive decisions. I like making decisions so has been great fun but a bit scary at times. The hardest part of all we have done is fundraising for a start up organization.


Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

That’s a tough question. Most things are both good and bad. I’m really not sure what I think about the question beyond acknowledging that it makes designing much easier and faster and is really good for business.


What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To someday make a living selling my paintings.


What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I am currently working on dozens of things and the one I am most excited about is a feasibility study to examine the viability of an Artists for Humanity in Portland, Maine.

What are your long term career goals?

To expand the EpiCenter and employ more kids. To live a life inspired and useful until the end.


Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

My taste and admiration is very fickle and I love, love, love certain artists when I am attracted to specific things.What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
Practice, practice, practice and you will get results and the results will inspire you to practice more.


What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

I believe in simplifying- such as using natural products like baking soda and vinegar for cleaning.


What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

I believe we need to reprogram the way we live – giving daily thought to how we live with and are dependent on nature. However, probably for most people driving our vehicles as little as possible is the best way to reduce our carbon footprint.


How would your friends describe you?
Lucky!


Please visit the Artists for Humanity website for more information on this group.

Photos © Artists for Humanity

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com