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Did you know that architecture takes up 48% of energy consumption in the United States? This past week's discusion started off the round of presentations for the final project. First up was the Sustainability and Local Materials Group. Their overall focus was on reducing our impact on the environment and making our built environment more nature friendly.
The first plan was to introduce more "greenroofs". As of now the city of Chicago has the largest square footage of these roofs which come in two different types. The first was intensive, which is short greens and maybe a few small plants. The other kind is extensive, which is dominated by larger trees, shrubs, and plants and could even make a rooftop garden. The problem is that the cons could quickly outweigh the pros on this point. The biggest problem of all is the cost. At a commercial or corporate level it is possible that these roofs could be successful but for family homes and smaller buildings the cost of all the materials could be half the cost of the whole house. The other issue is insurace on the building that the roof is on. Most companies will not insure the materials or the damages that could be caused from this idea and again the issue of money comes into play. With the cost of the insurace so high or impossible to find, doesn't it seem like the costs of this would be more then the benefits one would recieve?
Another idea presented by the group was Cob building. Cob is basically a mud and straw mix made into bricks and then kneeded together to form one seamless wall. The benefits of these walls as a building material are numerous and could be greatly exploited in the right climates. One big advantage of this material is the ability to build it in virtually any size shape or pattern. This alows for very organic surfaces throughout the building which could lead to building designs that can essentially adapt to anything. Another benefit of Cob is how easy it is to repair. All one need to do is to fill the hole or crack with a mixture like the one originally used and wait for it to dry. Cob is even capable of keeping a constant temperature inside the building and effectively insulating it as long as the conditions aren't to extreme. The down side to this mud and straw mixture??? As you might have guess the walls slowly erode from winds and rain if they are not properly treated and that could lead to problems in a rainy environment. Past that the only other caution is to keep it out of climates with colder climates seeing that it can not keep heat in very well.
The last big issue brought to attention during the presentation was the use of bamboo as a building material. The major benefit of bamboo is that it is one of many easily renewable woods. This means that the impact on the environment is virtually nothing seeing that it can grow almost as quick as it would be harvested. Another advantage is its amazing strength and flexibility. This makes it perfect to hold up a thatched roof or be used for makeing the "skeleton" of a domed ceiling. Past that there are not many more practical uses for bamboo. It does have some decent insulation qualities but its size makes it very impractical to build with. Overall, unless your living on the beach or in the jungle bamboo is not your ticket to local materials.
Not to take away from the quality of information that was presented, but I think that the group could have found a few more ways to help sustainability and use of local materials. Cob and bamboo answer the problem for some climate types, but what about all the other ones? Are the people in cold climates (like the one we happen to reside in) just screwed? I think that despite the good ideas brought forth there are plenty more that were not discussed and could have easily been brought up. Another thing that I noticed was that the group didn't really have their own idea for the goal's solution. They really just focused on what is being done for this goal now but offered no way to further advance it or evolve it into a worldwide or even nationwide solution. Besides these two minor grievances I think that the information was very well presented by the group memebers and the visual aid was set up very well.