Friday, July 31, 2009

Clunkers Beware

Some aspects of the US government's economic recovery efforts focus on the transition from a dirty energy economy to a cleaner energy economy. The Cash for Clunkers program went into effect this past week and has proven to be a very stimulating initiative with new cars flying off showroom floors for the first time in recent memory.

It rebates up to $4500 for the trade-in of an older, gas-guzzling car with the purchase of a new, more energy efficient model.

In fact, the program worked so well, the well ran dry. Congress appropriated $1 billion for the program, which is set to expire November 1st, but the rush of new car buyers drew that down in the first few days. Late word is that Congress will bump the program up by another $2 billion.

Visit for details on how to trade your clunker in for carbon-eating cash.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

For Sale: Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House

Images: Ennis House Foundation

You can own this home. Don't have fifteen million to shell out? You can purchase this groovy Ennis House print by artist Josh Agle, better known as "Shag"offered by the Ennis House Foundation.

Link to a National Public Radio piece by Karen Grigsby Bates on the impending sale here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Felder's Sustainable Lawn

photos: MPB and Felder Rushing

Every Friday, horticulturist Felder Rushing hosts a lively gardening show called the "Gestalt Gardner" imparting helpful tips, interviewing interesting guests, and topped off with a dose of cheesy music.

A living, breathing example of someone who "pulls his own strings," Felder encourages gardeners to have a little fun and forget about what the neighbors say. A celebration of uniqueness and creativity is encouraged. Bottle trees and pink flamingos are fair game.

Although a turf specialist, grass has traditinally been conspicuously absent from Felder's yard, so after years of constant ribbing from the neighbors, he recently bowed to public pressure planting a lawn in his front yard - in a little red wagon!

Easy to water, easy to mow (he trims it with scissors), and portable, this lawn is as sustainable as grass gets.

OK, here's what the Mississippi Public Radio doesn't tell you: The Gestalt Gardener is really a show about "creative living" disguised as a show about gardening. Tune into the Gestalt Gardner Friday mornings at 9am (Central US time) or listen to the podcast at your convenience - its good for the soul!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BeauSoleil: Hot, Hot, Hot !!!

Solar Decathlon Update: Ev
ery two years 20 university teams are chosen, based on proposals, to design an all-solar home and assemble it on the National Mall in Washington DC for public viewing and judging. Check back each Wednesday as the NAV Blog reports on the process of the design and construction of BeauSoleil, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's entry. For more info about the project, visit their website. And check out a short film about the project.

A report from the field...

We’ve kicked it into high-gear and have been working about nine hours a day (with a lunch break of course) to bring you guys the solar home of the future! The exterior is nearly finished-out and we’ve gotten the sheetrock ready for being finished and painted!

The transitional porch is nearly done as well! The aluminum frame is completed and the plumbers finished installing the fin-based, water heating system on Friday.

Monday the polycarbonate roof goes on and the roof is completed!!! All that’s left is the Nanawall system and finishing-up the cypress and bug screen!

Sorry for having so many exclamation points in this update. Things are just really exciting right now. It’s definitely worth a visit, preferably on Tuesdays!
Have a BeauSoleil Day!

Chris Dufreche, TEAM BeauSoleil

Some BeauSoleil Facts and Figures...

* although the home is only 800 sf, the surrounding porch is another 1700 sf
* the IPE wood (FSC Certified-Sustainably grown) deck on the porch should last 100 years
* the millwork shop which milled our siding for the rainscreen is going to name our unique siding profie "BeauSoleil"
* the UL Ragin Cajun Football team lent us their sideline PortaCoolers to us to help keep the students cool in our warehouse during construction. Thanks Caoch Bustle!
* The interior doors for the BeauSoleil Home will be made from reclaimed cypress and polycarbonate vision lites
* we are using paperless sheetroack in the bathroom of the BeauSoleil Home to reduce the possibility of mold growth
* the aluminum solar fins manufactured by Begneaud for us will be coated with a special silicon paint to increase the amount of heat they will collect

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Made in the Shade

This week's newspaper column:

Here we are, about to enter the dog days of summer. Temperatures and electric bills are predicted to rise as outdoor activities give way to inside endeavors, and air conditioners work overtime.

Noel Coward, in song, famously proclaimed that “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Leaving the Brits out of this for now, have you ever noticed a dog following shade across the yard as the hot sun arcs its way through the sky? A sane dog, that is.

Even the dumbest of our canine friends know how to “go green” with their choice of lounging real estate. Rover instinctively understands the value of shade.

Shade trees can reduce the mid-summer temperature around your house by up to 20 degrees. Appropriately placed, shade trees can cut your air conditioning bill in half while sculpting outdoor rooms that - even in the midday sun – become habitable spaces. Add a big outdoor fan for additional conditioning on still-air days (and for mosquito control) and you can transform your hot-as-heck lawn into a comfortable outdoor oasis.

The best time to plant a tree is when the temperature is cold, but for now, taking note of the harshest exposures will give you a foundation for figuring out where to plant trees come winter. Deciduous trees - the ones that lose their leaves in the winter - planted on the south and west side of your house will be most effective.

“That’s fine and dandy” you say, “but I need relief now! “ OK, I feel your pain. Shade trees, even fast-growing varieties, take years to fulfill their promise. In the mean time, here are a few architectural suggestions that might bring you some comfort.

For instant gratification, install thick-clothed curtains or blinds over south- or west-facing windows. They act as thermal barriers keeping cool air in and the hot rays of the sun out.

Consider canvas awnings over windows as an outside treatment. Awnings can be fixed or retractable, and canvas comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns adding a splash of excitement to a drab facade.

Operable window shutters – in contrast to the silly fixed ones that don’t ever seem match the window width - are an option but this takes a bit more time as these will probably need to be custom-made. Shutters can be installed on the inside or outside of your windows for manual shade control.

And for the more ambitious homeowner, think about constructing a sun-shade trellis. An interesting wood pattern can enhance the aesthetics of your home year-round while climbing vines provide a nice cooling effect in the summer.

So take Fido’s lead, get creative, and you’ll have it made in the shade.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Know Your Bicycle

From The Complete Book of Bicycling by Eugene A. Sloane, 1970.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bring on the Sun

This weekend, I experimented with some do-it-yourself solar cooking, assisted by my furry sous chef, Frank.

The concave reflector below was cannibalized from a not-so-popular torchiere - first wrapped with aluminum foil, then with better results, spray painted chrome.

Alternative prototypes involved cardboard flaps covered with aluminum foil for additional reflectivity.

The earlier, weaker version worked nicely for heating up a tasty tomato and pesto sandwich. My wife Vickie made the amazing pesto from the basil in our garden, tomatoes were homegrown from the farmer's market, and we added fresh mozzarella - all on fresh-baked rye bread, again from the local farmer's market. Delicious!

Vegetables seasoned with herbs from our garden were on the menu for day two. They cooked nicely until an afternoon storm blew up. A bump up on the stove, and the veggies over brown rice complemented Vickie's out-of-this-world gazpacho for a tasty fresh feast.

My dog Frank was in charge of quality control.

Update: Check out this article on how to use a solar cooker for links to commercial and DIY solar ovens.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And More Renewable Energy Fair

Architect William Yudchitz displays his E.D.G.E. home, or Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More Renewable Energy Fair...

Architect Lou Host-Jablonski demonstrates techniques of straw-clay construction.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Renewable Mobility

From the Clean Energy Car Show at the Renewable Energy Fair, electric cars and a solar powered bicycle.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Energy Fair

More photos from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association's Energy Fair.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration of Energy Independence

With apologies to Thomas Jefferson...

WHEN in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Emotional and Economic bonds which have connected them with a destructive Energy Policy, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should chart a New Course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Energy sources are not created equal, that they are endowed by their Nature with certain identifiable Costs and Characteristics that affect Life (Sustainability), Liberty (Energy Independence) and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Women and Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Energy production becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a policy of Alternative Energy production, laying its foundation on sustainable principles and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

The history of the present Energy Policy is a history of repeated Environmental and Economic injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over their Quality of Life. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The current Energy Policy of these United States of America:

Has shackled the People with economic burdens of relentless and unpredictable spikes in the cost of Energy;

Has enriched certain Corporate entities while placing great strain on the Livelihood of the Citizens and the Health of their Planet;

Has fostered social habits among the Citizens so as to constitute addiction to and dependence on Non-Renewable Energy resources;

Has placed their Economic fortunes in the hands of rogue despots and unfriendly nations having control of oil and gas supplies;

Has influenced aggressive invasions of foreign lands by their Elected officials resulting in loss of life and limb and treasure and good will;

Has discouraged and downplayed the viability of Alternative Energies, and has underestimated the ingenuity of the Citizens of the United States;

And, by its short-sightedness, has caused the deterioration of the Health, Welfare and Well-Being of the American People.

We, therefore, the Citizens of the United States of America solemnly publish and declare, That the People are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent of all forms of Imported and Non-Sustainable Energy, and That the goal of Energy Independence shall be a National priority, and That the elected Leaders of the People shall act with urgency, intelligence, and resolve to achieve Energy Independence on or before July 4th, 2020.