Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home pageNo. 36, Fall/Winter 1994
Desert Architecture III: Building a Sustainable Future



Straw bale construction

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Build It With Bales: A Step-by-Step Guide to Straw-Bale Construction, by S.O. MacDonald and Matts Myhrman (80 pp., illustrated), is just what its title promises: a guide to construction techniques for this low-tech housing solution. MacDonald is a straw-bale building enthusiast and advocate for low-cost, debt-free housing. Myhrman is co-owner of Out On Bale, the outfit that published the book and that describes itself as "a global resource for straw-bale construction information and education;" OOB also publishes The Last Straw, a quarterly journal. The book is available in quantities of 30 or more (US$12 each plus shipping) from Build It With Bales, 1037 East Linden Street, Tucson AZ 85719 USA, or in smaller quantities (US$18 each plus shipping) from Out on Bale By Mail at the same address; write for details.

Responsible building materials

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The following list is reprinted by permission from In Business, a bi-monthly magazine for environmental entrepreneurs published by JG Press Inc., 419 State Avenue, Emmaus PA 18049 USA; telephone, (215) 967-4135.

The Guide to Resource-Efficient Building Elements. A reorganized and updated 75-page edition of this respected directory of building materials and manufacturers has been released by The Center for Resourceful Building Technology (CRBT). Additionally, the ReCRAFT 90 Handbook, a case study detailing the construction of the group's first demonstration house, is now available. Founded by builder Steve Loken in 1990, CRBT has been consulting with utility companies in Seattle, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona, on selection of materials for demonstration homes they're constructing. Price for both the Handbook (US$12.50) and the Guide (US$25) includes shipping and handling. For more information, contact Stephanie Wyse. Program Coordinator, CRBT, P.O. Box 3866, Missoula MT 59806 USA; telephone, (406) 549-7678.

Interior Concerns Resource Guide. Editor Victoria Schomer describes this wealth of information as "a 100-page cataloging of specific groups of products appropriate to designing and building, the environmental issues surrounding their selection. and listings of hundreds of companies offering these products." The Guide costs US$40 (with shipping). The Interior Concerns Newsletter, published by the same company, is US$30. A continuing education course addressing indoor air quality, energy efficiency issues, and alternative materials also is available from Interior Concerns Publications, P.O. Box 2386, Mill Valley CA 94942 USA; telephone, (415) 3898049; fax, (415) 388-8322.

The Sourcebook for Sustainable Design. This guide to environmentally responsible building materials and processes was prepared by Architects for Social Responsibility/Boston Society of Architects and edited by Andrew St. John. It includes detailed explanations of and sources for materials including concrete, metals, wood, plastics, doors, windows, and finishes. Copies are available for US$28 (which includes shipping and handling) from The Boston Society of Architects, 52 Broad St., Boston MA 02109 USA; telephone, (617) 951-1433 . Two other reports, Visions of Sustainability and Architectural Responsibility for the Planet: Exploring Designs for Sustainability, also are still in print.

Building Green: Audubon House. This 28 minute VHS videotape, subtitled In Pursuit of Sustainable Architecture and Energy Efficiency, provides an excellent overview of how the National Audubon Society and Croxton Collaborative, an architectural firm, took a neglected 100-year-old building in New York City and transformed it into a model of environmentally responsible building design. Results were achieved by integrating design principles, technologies, and off-the-shelf products in a manner that is both cost-effective and replicable. The video is US$12.95 and a comprehensive Technical Guide also is available. In addition, the Society has started a Building for an Environmental Future Fund (U.S. tax deductible contributions welcome) to "change the way America builds." Contact The National Audubon Society, The National Audubon Society, 950 Third Ave., New York NY 10022 USA; telephone, (212) 979-3000.

Energy performance

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Architect's Guide to Energy Conserving Products and Systems. This new annual, another publication of the AIA/ACSA Council on Architectural Research, intends to provide accurate, up-to-date information on building products with superior energy performance, including availability, performance data, and other features. The inaugural edition, published for a controlled circulation of practicing architects and schools of architecture, covers glazing and windows, electronic ballasts, fluorescent lamps, and controls. For more information, contact Philip Mitnick, Advertising Representative, at (213) 850-5367.

Energy Tools. The U.S. Department of Energy currently supports a national network of R&D laboratories, several of which have programs concerned with improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings. The eighteen research products presented in this 38-page publication include software and manuals addressing such subjects as daylighting, passive solar design, moisture control, and the thermal performance of windows. Details about each product and its availability are described. Available from the Environment Research Program of the AIA/ACSA Council on Architectural Research, 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington DC 20006 USA; telephone, (202) 785-2324; fax, (202) 626-7421.

CERENET. This energy simulation software can calculate and graphically display a full year's analysis of a building's energy behavior in under three minutes for both retrofits and new designs. It was developed (and is marketed) by the Center for Energy Research/ Education/Service (CERES) at Ball State University. According to a report sent by Robert Koester, director of CERES, the center also is involved in numerous other projects related to sustainable development, such as a prototype computer-based expert system for indoor air quality diagnostics, an exploration of energy in the landscape, workshops that seek "to balance a comprehensive approach to economic development by integrating environmental concerns into the growth of the community," and a "Green Report" that recommends ways for Ball State to become "a model environmentally conscious community from top to bottom." Numerous publications and courses are available. For details, contact CERES, Ball State University, Muncie IN 47306 USA; telephone, (317) 285-1135.

Green Lights Electronic Bulletin Board. Downloadable versions of the latest EPA Green Lights participants list, program information on lamp and ballast disposal issues, applicable software, and upcoming workshops are available. For instructions or more information, call the Green Lights Hotline at (202) 775-6650. A free yearly subscription to the Green Lights Update newsletter is available from Subscription Services, EPA Green Lights Program, 401 M Street SW (6202J), Washington DC 20460 USA.

Plug into a network

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The Environmental Resource Guide (ERG). A quarterly subscription service produced by the AlA's Committee on the Environment, ERG provides information on the environmental impact of building materials, in addition to reports, case studies, and bibliographies on sustainable design. A yearly subscription is US$275 for non-members, US$195 for members, and US$85 for students. To increase distribution, the AIA is considering lowering prices for some subscribers, as well as making the ERG available via modem through the new AIA Online service. Other reports and papers on environmental design also are available. For details, contact the AIA in Washington, DC, at (800) 365-2724; fax, (800) 678-7102.

Globuild-Net. According to Victoria Schomer, editor of the Interior Concerns Resource Guide (referenced above), Globuild-Net is targeted at "designers, architects and builders concerned with issues of sustainability, health, and waste management within their related building fields." In addition to on-line discussions and a database focusing on these areas, the system also offers connections to The Global Internet, providing access to thousands of additional information sources around the world. Fees are US$25 for enrollment, US$12 per month, and then averaging around US$8 to US$10 per hour for connect time. Contact the network at P O. Box 2386, Mill Valley CA 94942 USA; telephone, (415) 389-8049; fax, (415) 388-8322.

EDENet, the Ecological Designers Network. This small but very useful database of individuals and professional organizations is intended to "encourage the exchange of vital information that designers need to expedite progress towards environmental sustainability. Updated twice yearly, it was created by and is available (for two first-class U.S. stamps) from Wendy Brawer, Modern World Design, 157 Ludlow St., 4th Floor, New York NY 10002 USA; telephone, (212) 529-2694; fax, (212) 674-1631.

Building for safety

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The following books are part of the Building for Safety series published by Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd., 103-105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH, United Kingdom. Its publications are available in the U.S. through Women Ink, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York NY 10017.

Building for Safety Compendium: An Annotated Bibliography and Information Directory for Safe Building Programmes in Disaster-Prone Areas, by Y. Aysan, I. Davis, A. Clayton, and A. Cory. 1993. ú6.95; US$13.50 (80 pp., paper). More than a hundred "cheap and available" publications are annotated with keywords. Major organizations, training institutions, and other sources of information also are included. The book is written for development workers involved in building programs and disaster mitigation.

Developing Building for Safety Programmes: Guidelines for Organizing Safe Building Programmes in Disaster-Prone Areas, by Y. Aysan, I. Davis, A. Clayton, and A. Cory. 1993. ú7.95; US$15.50 (120 pp., paper). Included are discussions of obstacles and opportunities, target audiences, and fundamental issues, illustrated by ten case studies.

Communicating Building for Safety, by E. Dudley and A. Haaland. 1993. ú7.95; US$15.50 (80 pp., paper). This book is a how-to guide for those involved in teaching the principles of building for safety.

Technical Principles of Building for Safety, by A. Coburn, R. Spence, A. Pomonis, and R. Hughes. 1993. ú6.95; US$13.50 (120 pp., paper). Designed for builders, householders, and communities, this book includes sections on siting for safety in areas prone to high winds, earthquakes, and flooding, and specific guidelines for building safety in masonry (including block, earth, and stone), timber, and reinforced concrete structures. The emphasis is on improved hazard resistance at minimum cost.

Water-use efficiency

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The following publications are available from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), 1739 Snowmass Creek Road, Snowmass CO 81654 USA. They are selected from a much more extensive list, which is available by writing to RMI. If ordering, payment must be in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or an international money order in U.S. dollars.

Graywater Systems, Composting Toilets, and Rainwater Collection Systems: A Resource List. Pub. W93-18; 14 pp. (seven 8.5 x 11-inch sheets); US$7. An extensive annotated bibliography lists books and articles dealing with these technologies, dozens of manufacturers, and selected organizations and agencies.

Water Efficiency for Your Home: Products and Advice Which Save Water, Energy, and Money. Pub. W91-26; 23 pp. (3.5 x 8-inch booklet); US$1, or US$0.50 each for 10 or more. A concise, practical guide to water efficiency for the homeowner.

Water-Efficient Technologies: A Catalog for the Residential/Light Commercial Sector, Second Edition, by Colin Laird. Pub. W91-18; 200 pp. (8 x 10-inch paperback), illustrated with b&w product photos; US$25. This catalog is indispensable for builders, renovators, and homeowners thinking of making a change for the better. It contains product descriptions of 136 high-efficiency toilets (including one that uses a stingy 1 quart per flush), showerheads, faucets and faucet flow control devices (better, but often inaccurately, known as aerators), lawn and garden irrigation systems, and appliances. Manufacturer names, addresses, and phone numbers, code listings (where applicable), lists of selected installations with contact names and addresses (where available), and sources of product evaluations, lab testing reports, or consumer reviews (where available) add greatly to this publication's usefulness.

Water-Efficient Landscaping: A Guide for Utilities and Community Planners, by Scott Chaplin. Pub. W94-8; 45 pp. (plastic ring bound); US$10. More than two dozen case studies illustrate methods and technologies for water saving of as much as 40 percent in urban landscapes. Target readers include city planners, landscape designers, and water professionals.

Water-Efficiency Sampler. Pub. W92-1; 2 pp. (one 8.5 x 11-inch sheet); no charge. A quick overview of 15 projects, including retrofitting, water reuse and reclamation, transfers, hook-up fee incentives, graywater systems, and use of composting toilets.

Water Service Companies. Pub. W92-12; 5 pp.(three 8.5 x 11-inch sheets); US$3. Outlines a new wrinkle in environmental entrepreneuring: companies that install water-efficient equipment "for free" and take their payment as a percentage of the water savings.

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