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LEED, Reclamation and Tiny, Tiny Houses

Green Architecture is hot right now. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the new black, emerging as the latest trend in a green-focused consumer economy. In one essence, it is a blessing that the basics of LEED architecture are widespread enough now to travel beyond the confines of large buildings and retail projects (for instance, the world's first LEED certified pizzeria!). If a new building is to be built, or an older one renovated, then it only makes environmental sense to use the most sustainable products possible.

However, building LEED only for the sake of saying you built LEED turns out more of an environmental burden than not. It is important to remember that the #1 way to help save our planet is to reuse. If your car is getting on in years but still has some life left in it, keep driving that sucker instead of sending it off to the chop shop for a new Prius. Instead of redoing your kitchen in all bamboo veneer and 3-form simply because they are eco-friendly products, wait until your kitchen really needs an upgrade. And instead of clearing an acre of land to build your LEED dream home, work with your existing confines to create an eco-dream home. Because at the end of the day, less is more, no matter what materials you are using.

That said, here are a few eco-friendly building projects that have caught my eye lately for their various levels of eco-awesomeness and ingenuity.

Gruene Homestead Silo

This old 1940's grain silo was converted (beautifully) into a 1-bedroom loft style house. You can stay here for $175 / $210 if you ever visit New Braunfels, TX. I love buildings like this that have been totally repurposed - it takes a creative eye to look at an old silo and imagine a home.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Are you a fan of tiny houses? Well you can build your own with plans from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. All of the houses that Jay Shafer has built and planned are between 65 and 837 square feet, with the "tiny" title reserved for those that are under 140 square feet. They are all beautifully crafted and absolutely adorable. I'm not entirely sure I could live in 65 square feet, but the home I currently live in could be considered in the "small" category at 700 square feet. It really is all about how you use your space, not necessarily how much you have. And hey, using less space means using less resources in both building and utilities.

Studio 804

Studio 804 consists of a group of architecture students at the University of Kansas. Since 1995, the class, which is only a single semester, has taught students to design and develop an affordable building. During the semester, students explore and develop architectural solutions which promote efficiency, sustainability, and creative use of materials. Without the luxury of huge budgets or time, the students are taught to think creatively about how the building interacts with the surrounding environment and how that relationship can be capitalized on to create a more sustainable building.

In 2008, Studio 804 completed the Sustainability Prototype, a LEED platinum building that serves as the Arts an Culture center for Greensburg, KS, the whole of which was destroyed by a tornado on May 4, 2007. The new building employs the following:

Passive Systems - architectural and energy saving elements that work with the natural flow of air, rising and setting of the sun and the four seasons, and water recapture.

Active Systems - Includes elements such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Modular Prefab Design - 804's buildings are prefabricated in Lawrence and upon near completion, moved on site for finishing touches. This decreases the environmental impact on site and reduces the amount of waste created.

Tulsa NINE Project Lofts

In my quest to represent for the midwest, I bring you the Tulsa NINE Project Lofts,which stands for New Inspiration for a Natural Environment. These lofts are the first LEED Platinum projects in Oklahoma, are are absolutely gorgeous. Boasting nearly every eco-initiative imaginable, these lofts are both beautiful and functional. From Inhabitat.com:

Inside each loft there are VOC-free bamboo floors in the main living areas and Eco-Terr recycled-glass terrazzo floors in the bathroom. The bedroom floors are covered in Shaw nylon carpet squares made from 27% post-industrial recycled content. The 2-foot modules, which carry the Green Label Plus certification from the Carpet & Rug Institute, are easy to replace one stain at a time and can be returned to the company for recycling at the end of their life. Stair treads, counter tops and handrails were crafted from 120-year old wood reclaimed from a barn in Wisconsin.

Prefabricated Structural Insulated Panels from USA-SIPs hug the exterior, helping to regulate temperatures and increase wind resistance. The SIPs were made to order right up the road from Tulsa, reducing industrial leftovers and shipping waste. Both apartments also feature dual flush toilets, tankless water heaters and Energy Star appliances. After a long day of LEED Platinum living, residents can climb up to a green roof overlooking downtown Tulsa.

The only issue: the initial cost. These puppies sell for somewhere in the low $400,000's. But while the pricetag may scare some people off initally, as with anything else, the more green building we see, the lower the cost will be. And besides, the long term energy savings will most certainly outweigh the initial sticker shock.

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Reader Comments (1)

Oh, I really love this!
I assume you are going to post about the other elements too?
Can’t wait for fire!!!!
Great great series!

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAllem

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