tl;dr We are organizing a workshop where we’ll discuss “green” / ecological houses and buildings with experts. If you have questions around that, you’re welcome to add them below, we’ll discuss them, and I’ll post all results after the workshop here. The workshop happens this Saturday, 2019-11-23. Consider it an offline conversation starter for the online conversation here.
On Saturday, 2019-11-23 we will hold a workshop to explore the tech aspects of green urban living as intended by The Reef project, and of converting buildings for green living. It will take the form of a brainstorming session with two experts: Bernardo from Mama Brussels, an architect working about “building maintenance as architecture”; and Michele from Superlab Engineering, which is a deluxe makerspace made with refurbished industrial machinery. (For those interested in the workshop itself: see here.)
Here, you can add any question you have for the workshop participants about topic of technology of green urban living. I’m adding some example questions as a starting point. As a general point, focus on questions that you need an expert for, not simply an Internet search engine. Otherwise, anything goes.
Anyone on the edgeryders.eu forum is welcome to add their questions. It does not matter if you will be at the event or not – all answers will be posted online afterwards. As this is a brainstormimg session, expect answers to be quick pointers by our experts, pointing you into the right direction to explore further (tools, techniques, publications, organizations etc.). Also expect that for some questions, we won’t have an ad-hoc answer, and that’s ok. Lateron, our experts will hopefully join us here on the forum to continue the discussion, but for now, the questions and the workshop format is what we’ll focus on.
For starters: my questions
1. The Calafou broken roof
The picture shows an industrial complex in the countryside near Barcelona, built in ~1900. The roof of the central warehouse / manufacturing building burned around 2005 and collapsed. The lower story is already in use (by Calafou, a “post-capitalist, eco-industrial commune”). What would be architectural ideas for putting this building back to use for a communal living scenario? Preferably with not much monetary investment, nice final looks, and DIY work. Assume the walls are still good to be salvaged / repaired. Note, the building does not necessarily get its roof back. It just should be useful again for a communally living group.
2. Natural building in Belgium
What would be a the right approach to build with unusual, natural building materials in Brussels? “Right” as in, as little friction and time loss dealing with “authorities” as possible. Assume a material that is not yet certified on a national level for use in residential buildings. For example, that may apply to strawbale insulated wooden buildings. Unusual or extreme solutions welcome.
3. Recycling insulation
We would like to re-use insulation materials for adding to the building during the “green conversion”, to reduce the embodied energy and emissions of the building. These can come from any suitable waste streams, for example glass wool and styrofoam from old buildings, PU foam from broken fridges etc… What would be good ideas for materials to use, and sources for them in Brussels? What would be DIY-friendly techniques to re-use or recycle them?
4. Approaching building maintenance
When you approach a major job of building maintenance / refurbishment, what are your basic steps and priorities of approaching such a a project? What are mistakes you try to avoid? Assume the budget is a constraint.
5. Eco-friendly furniture system
We are looking for a DIY-producable, ecologically sustainable furniture system. It should be simple furniture that uses open source designs, simple enough to create the designs ourselves. It should use local materials and be DIY repairable.
We are looking for a material and processing technique that suits such a furniture. Any tips for us? Example answers, open for comments: locally grown bamboo, joined with glue (“technical timber” fashion), weaving, and 3D printed adapter parts. Or: cardboard furniture, cut with a large 2D CNC machine.
6. Architectural uses of second-hand PV panels
PV panels are becoming a part of the waste stream – they are very cheap that way, and with the right converters can still produce power. This should allow new applications as a long-lasting building material with a certain aesthetic. What would be architectural ideas for such uses during a green building conversion project?
7. Hiding piping and wiring
A challenge when converting an existing building is to keep the interior visually attractive even when installing a lot of new wiring and piping (solar, ventilation for heat exchangers, floor heating, low-voltage DC lines etc.).
What are architectural ideas to make these elements visually attractive, or to make them disappear? Quick and DIY solutions welcome. Extreme and unconventional solutions very welcome.
8. Resource waste in urban living
From your perspective and experience, what are the neglected major ways in which urban living in Brussels wastes resources? Especially electricity, heating energy, water, embodied energy and embodied emissions.
9. Indoor thermal mass
In a low-thermal-mass building (read: the PU insulated box body of my truck), I made the experience that the furniture and equipment inside provides a good amount of thermal mass that buffers heat, preventing temperatures from becoming too high during hot summer days.
If we want to use this in refurbished buildings, large amounts of water placed indoors would be suitable, preferably with a high surface area and good, passive heat transfer between air and water.
What are architectural ideas how to integrate that water into the indoor living environment?
10. Building for DIY maintenance
What are the major things that absolutely cannot be DIY maintained or repaired in modern “eco-friendly” buildins? And what are DIY friendly alternatives for that?
11. How to transform a building while living inside?
To have quick feedback about the usefulness of a “green building innovation”, we want to test them and see them as they are built, and change them where needed. Also for economic reasons, we will need to live in (parts of) the building while transforming it.
Transformation is a bit like building maintenance, just more extreme, as more gets changed. Still, any lessons for how maintenance and occupation for living purposes get along properly will help to integrate this.
12. Beautiful edible wilderness
One of the most ecologically destructive and also most ugly parts of urban housing is front or back lawns, nicely trimmed but dead. People seem to not like wild nature. But if done right (permaculture), it’s both edible and low-maintenance.
What are architectural and design ideas to integrate natural wilderness in the outdoor areas? How to deal with the little annoyance that people usually cite as reasons not to have wilderness (stinging insects, mosquitoes, mice / rats, ranking plants and roots destroying walls etc.).
13. Where to accumulate soil?
Since full food self-supply is not realistic in urban settings, food will be bought, and the residues will be composted. Over years and decades, this will create a lot of soil through on-site composting. In addition, a lot of paper and cardboard can also be composted, and will only add to this.
What are architectural ideas to integrate this soil into the building in an incremental, ecologically beneficial and optically pleasing way? Because why transport something away when it can be of use locally.
14. Low-tech styrofoam remanufacturing
Styrofoam is great for insulation and currently most of it is just discarded when this type of insulation is removed. How can it be re-used or re-manufactured as building insulation in an efficient, DIY friendly way? Also, can other styrofoam items like packaging pieces etc. be used as input materials for that as well?
15. Are there limits for insulation?
Are there any physics related limits to the amount of insulation that makes sense to use? Assume that space consumption is not an issue at all. Then what would speak against 5 m thick walls of re-used styrofoam?