SUSTAINABLE RESETTLING OF THE GULF:

A GREEN PLAN FOR NEW ORLEANS THROUGH VERNACULAR AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN

Draft September 2005, © 2005 Robert D. Hotten, and Dr. Peter Diprose

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An Archive of Contemporary Thought in Sustainable Architecture

 

Canal Siren, Venice 2000

 

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Published by Seadog Press, PO Box 243, Monterey, CA 93942 E-mail laumana@aloha.net

Draft September 2005 © 2005 Robert D. Hotten, and Dr. Peter Diprose

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SUSTAINABLE RESETTLING OF THE GULF:

A GREEN PLAN FOR NEW ORLEANS THROUGH VERNACULAR AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN

 

This section is under construction

 

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: Home

 

Index

 

Sustainable Architecture:

Vernacular Architecture

(natural building and eco design)

and Environmental Design

(green architecture, landscape, urban design

and regional resource conservation)

 

Plan objectives

This plan is developed on the theory (1.) and practice of sustainable architecture and contains; 1. a set of notes outlining sustainable architecture pedagogy; 2. examples of ecologically sound material practices and environmentalism; 3. design synthesis studios suggesting the process through which sustainable architecture is fulfilled; and 4. a critical conclusion in interstitials.

 

Sustainable Architecture

Section I. History, theory

Sustainable theory

Sustainable design requires, as Derrida and others suggest, the end of history. That is the end of a certain concept of history. In the future of an unfinished universe, higher levels of organization (consciousness for example) may irrigate the field with unimagined possibilities. This then is the post-structuralist challenge for the art of eco design.

Concepts of sustainability

The first concept of sustainability is to exemplify principles of conservation, that is, synergy with nature

The second concept of sustainability is bioregionalism, or the concept that all life is on a community basis- that future shelter technology must function within bioregional patterns and scales.

The third concept of sustainability is ethical, weighing the paradox of our illusion of affluence against the injustice of environmental degradation.

 

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: A Green Plan

Pedagogical Objective 1: Hypertext visualization of goals

Vernacular architecture: Satisfying cultural needs, using available materials, under local conditions.

Vernacular, and trends through history: Malaysian pole houses; Asian wood frame pagodas; Southwest earth sheltered houses

Derrida; deconstructing and reconstructing futures; sustainable concepts: 1. synergy with nature; 2. bioregional fit; 3. ethical foundation

Architecture Uncanny: Transparency, Post Urbanism (Vidler)

Four aesthetic principles (Wang 2003), Architectural profession equals fatalists (Wang 2003)

Sustainable architecture- meaning (The Cultural Landscape: Meaning in Eco Design), form, function, economy

Sustainable urbanism- elements, patterns, boundaries, energy flow

 

Section II. Ecology, materials, construction

Pedagogical objective 2: Environmental assessment

Environmentalism- modernist metanarrative, aims universal, means response to individual (local) conditions (Hagan 2003)

Ecology- patch, edge, corridor

Materials- durable. low embodied energy, non-toxic

Five material principles (Wang 2003)

Eight consequences (Wang 2003)

Construction- landscape and architecture (inside and outside, openess and enclosure)

 

Section III. Environmental design methods and studios

 

Poetic objective 3: Checklist of environmental design goals

Five reasons: for environmental design: 1. intellectual- operations of nature superior; 2. practical- new generative strategies, new ways of construction, (pyrotechnics/consistency); 3. technical- "radiance", environmental computer software, computer analysis and simulation; 4. economic- lifecycle cost; 5. pedagogical- merge nature/culture. (Hagan 2003)

"Guidelines... keeps us continuallly trapped in what is typically done." (Addington 2003)

"Collaboration... pre-defined outcome subordinates that knowledge to produce the desired solution: e.g., the sustainable building... disciplinary knowledge is problem-based, and not solution-based... " (Addington 2003)

"For what purpose do we heat, cool, or light a building?" (Addington 2003)

LEED rating checklist

 

Poetic objective 4: Design synthesis

Total Design (Wigley); space is the machine; Venus Flytraps

Monumental Conceptual ( )

Studios: 1.) Visualizing the imaginary place; 2.) The sustainable house;

3.) 3 times landscaping city (3xl); 4. CEC, green design student competition; 5.) The 3rd Millenium City

 

Sustainable Architecture

Introduction

"Imagine...the day when we will walk a site and simply absorb it. Next we check our computer for the data files about the "vertical layers." On the monitor's screen we sketch a perspective of what we want a site to look like, transformed to its new use. Then the computer lets us walk through our creation so that we can modify it as we go. When we are finally pleased with this "horizontal view" we will request a two-dimensional computer drawing from which someone else can build what we have envisioned." (Wells 1997).

Architecture and building practices today are high cost, fatalistic solutions, that keep us trapped in what is typically done. This is simply because designers, suppliers, and builders, as well as tax, insurance and real estate brokers and banks, i.e., everyone, makes more profit when houses, infrastructures, processes, and components cost more. Alternative ideas and methods exist to design and build effective low cost houses, landscapes and cities.

What follows is a typically sustainable building process that involves these steps:

There are six historical principles (vernacular trends) to improve the energy efficiency and thereby effectiveness and useability of dwellings. They are: 1) siting and design; 2) shade; 3) ventilation; 4) earth shelter, 5) thermal inertia; and 6) air lock entrances. To this list can be added six new techniques of environmental design and planning (technologies, methods of effectiveness, and design synthesis): 7) scale (footprint), insulation, design of future alternatives; 8) on site water collection and waste disposal; 9) solar water heating panels; 10) photovoltaic electricity generation; 11) recycling and use of local materials; and 12) on site growth of food, fuel and building materials. These twelve principles can be combined, as suitable, into synthesized solutions for various locations, users and climates that meet cultural needs with available materials under local conditions. The following begins to describe these methods and technologies and is an outline of twelve things one can do towards the end of poetic and self-sufficient buildings.

 

12 principles of sustainable architecture and urbanism (natural design)

Historical methods of design with energy efficiency, vernacular architecture

These six principles follow from logical use of the elements: heat from the sun, insulation of earth, cooling of breezes and shade.

 

1. Siting and vernacular design

Siting

For effective passive solar heating, a building should face within 25 degrees of north (in the southern hemisphere), and be well integrated with the landscape and topography of the site.

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: Objective 1. Visualization of Goals: Vernacular and Environmental Design

Siting is critical to the successful resettling of The Gulf Region. Much of the Gulf Region immediately adjacent to the Gulf is impossibly near sea level, that is, within a few feet. See the article "Resettling the Gulf Region is Highly Questionable," by Professor Alfred Price, University of Buffalo, (6.) wherein he states: "Building development in this area was a mistake from the beginning," he explains..." "Hundreds of thousands of buildings were built below sea level and protective wetlands and the delta were destroyed in order to make more land available for below sea level development...." This was a disaster waiting to happen. I don't see how there can be any justification for simply building in the same place again. It would not be unlikely that another Category 4 storm would destroy it the minute it goes up." Note that this was published after Hurricane Katrina and before Hurricane Rita. Also see the maps and article "Lands vulnerable to sea level rise" by Titus and Richman. (7.) In "Some Question Wisdom of Rebuilding New Orleans," (8.) the author quotes Jack Chambliss: "What we now have is the law of unintended consequences taking place, where FEMA has come to New Orleans, a place where, ecologically, it makes no sense to have levees keeping the Mississippi River from flooding into New Orleans, like it naturally should."

The city of New orleans is located substantially in the middle of a huge river delta, and whereas these estuarine areas are being used world wide today, they still constitute urbanisation of inhospitable environments. World wide most riverine urban areas today are located above the river deltas and or adjacent to them, not entriely in them. Perhaps the prohibitive cost of reconstruction and resettlement of some areas flooded by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita should be rethought. Some flooded areas could be converted to wetlands restoration, aqua culture, mariculture, future flood control, etc. Populations displaced could be located in new "Urban Village" settings. In "Planning for an Urban World," (9.) Richard Meier outlines the requirements for such a self-help community. It "must be allocated resources sufficient to allow it to work its way up to a minimum adequate standaard of living....The population might peak at 20,000-30,000 members living of 300-400 hectares....The size and layout...are intended to economize upon water, fuel, fertilizer, and labor in that order." See also the High Density Estuarine Settlement in "Ecological Planning and Design" (10.) by the same author. This design has from landward to estuarine: 1. "Streets in the sky" on pilings; 2. Shops and houses also on pilings; 3. Levee settlements; 4. Fish tanks; 5. Intensive vegetable crops; 6. Fresh water aquaculture; and 7. House barges.

"The next stage is fitting together of sea-going experience with the establishment of a new economic base and with modern community organization. Curiously, the first attempts may occur in the developed world, and the motivation will be sport and convenience, rather than necessity. Houseboats have already been accumulating on the canals of Europe and places for clustering are now being sought (Gabor, 1979). In the small harbors and reservoirs serving sailboats and motor launches in America a strong tendency is noted for pleasure craft to serve as a second home. Indeed some owners have abandoned their address on the land, so that the "live-aboard" phenomenon has been growing swiftly with little publicity....The move onto the water surface began in the seventeenth century in China and expanded rapidly going into the twentieth. The initial water settlers were both fisher people and refugees from the persecution of politico-religious movements. The floating population reached its peak in the 1960's and has since diminished rapidly due to resettlement in subsidized, low cost apartments in Hong Kong and Canton."

 

 

Vernacular house boats and barges

 

Waterstudio.NL [Koen Olthuis architect] combines architecture, urbanism and innovation for building in, on and at the water: buildings, functions, living-spaces on rivers, canals, lakes or half at sea.

"The Netherlands have an extensive history with relation to building on water, a tradition which Waterstudio draws from, but is not confined to. The firm tries to develop the existing water-architecture and building-methods further to a new level. Waterstudio is working on this development in several areas of expertise. In urbanism Waterstudio goes beyond the well-known pier with a boat; water in the neighbourhood is exceptionally attractive as a living-quality, but by not only utilizing open water, but also pursuing higher densities, Waterstudio designs neighbourhood that are very much similar to the exisiting ones; the only difference is that the foundations are different, to give water a place. In the architectural field Waterstudio tries to modernize the typology of the dwelling-ark; modern houses and villas in and around the water that rival their counterparts on land in space and experience.

To make this possible innovation is essential. Waterstudio develops both new architectural and urban typologies, as well as technical solutions in dealing with the problems of dynamic watermanagement and building on water. The development of dwelling-, and working concepts provides a new notion of the layout of parcels and regions. Moreover, new techniques make new forms of buildings possible. Innovation is the main force behind the firm: Waterstudio has set itself the objective of converting innovative ideas into feasible and broadly applicable building concepts for the upcoming decades."

 

 

Floating community design by Waterstudio.NL

 

 

Vernacular

Vernacular Architecture

"It may be helpful to start from a process-oriented rather than a product-based viewpoint. Vernacular architecture is based on a knowledge of traditional practices and techniques; it is usually self-built (perhaps with help from family, clan or builders in the tribe), and reveals a high regard for craftsmanship and quality. Vernacular structures tend to be easy to learn and understand. They are made of predominsntly local materials. They are ecologically apt, that is theyb fit in well with local climate, flora, fauna and ways of life. Vernaculer buildings are never ssself-conscious; they recede into the environment rather than serving as self-proclaiming design statements. They are human in scale; frequently the process of building is more important than or equally important as the end product. This combination of good ecological fit, human scale, craftsmanship and striving for quality, together with a strong concern for decoration, ornamentation and embellishment, leads to a sensuous frugality that results in true elegance."

"Six Explanations- ...vernacular architecture is the result of multiple causation

1. The Methodological Explanation; 2. The Dispersion and Convergence Explanation; 3. The Evolutionary Explanation; 4. The Social-Environmental Explanation; 5. The Cultural Explanation; 6. The Formal Aesthetic Explanation."

"As mainstream architecture itself begins to change in response to new ecological challenges, we must collect more information and start on a classification of what we alreadly have to provide a database so that the lessons of the vernacular are accessible to both architects and users. This will be an adventure of discovery to shape the forms of tomorrow through the wisdom of the old." (Papanek 1995)

 

Discovering the Vernacular landscape

Environmental planning and management allow conservsation of both the environment and developed facilities and long range risk control. Effective site design accomodates methods 1 through 6.

Sustainable design can limit the scale of the building and recognises traditional, vernacular and cultural values and art.

2. Shade

Site topography, vegetation and awnings are the simplest forms of shading. Technological shading devices for both the exterior and interior of dwellings are available. These were developed by the building industry since most commercial structures suffer from unwanted heat gain.

3. Ventilation

In the tropics houses are raised and open toward prevailing breezes. Windows, ventilators, and vents ensure air exchange.

4. Earth shelter

Earth shelter design is one method of building a house (passive heating design) that will need no other heating or cooling energy input to remain comfortable year round.

5. Thermal inertia

Thermal inertia in the from of an on grade floor slab can be heated by sunlight passing through north (in the southern hemisphere) facing windows. This middle of the day heat gain (passive solar heating) is then retained by the mass of the concrete and warms the house continuously. This heating, with normal insulation and construction, is adequate without any other energy input for most temperate climates.

6. Air lock entrance

This principle simply relies on a double door system, where only one is opened at a time, to reduce heat loss or gain as from an open single door.

 

New principles (technologies and methodologies of effectiveness), environmental design and planning

These six principles follow from recent developments in standards, technology, and design methods. Integrated dwelling systems can be synthesized combining historical principles, modern aesthetics, and new technologies, into artifacts of environmental design.

7. Scale (footprint), insulation, design of future alternatives

Aesthetic principles, cultural footprint (Wang 2003)

"The most significant determinant of building energy use- size," (Addington, Energy, Body, Building, 2003)

What size of dwelling is enough? Conservation of all resources is well served by limiting the size or scale of house design. Many traditional designs are of compact, functional and pleasing forms. Perhaps a standard range from 60 sqm to 120 sqm is enough for most families.

Insulation installed in the walls and roof can, with earth shelter or thermal inertia, produce a house that needs no other energy input to heat or cool it.

8. On site water collection and waste disposal

Catchment water collection is adequate in many tropical and temperate areas. New developments in filters insure freedom from contamination.

The Clivis Multrum composting toilet very handily takes care of human waste without water. Most wash water can be directed into grey water systems and used for irrigation.

9. Solar water heating panels

There are many types of solar water heating systems ranging from simple pre-water heater boosters (passive heating system) to high technology panels with fuzzy logic controlled heat pump systems (active heating system).

10. Photovoltaic electricity

Continuous gains in photovoltaic electricity generation technology and use are making these applications usually more attractive than grid electric power. Two recent developments are the panel with an AC inverter and pushing excess power back into the grid.

11. Recycling and use of local materials

Many fine recycled building materials are available. Local materials from river rock to timber are often available. Use of indigenous materials saves on processing, storage, wholesaling and transporting costs.

12. On site growth of food, fuel and building materials

A significant amount of food for a family can be grown in a small intensive vegetable garden and many fruit trees do well at the homestead scale.

Wood for cooking and heating is easy to grow. Weeds and brush can be used for heating or biomass generation.

Growing trees for timber requires some planning and special attention. Copicing can fairly easily produce a variety of sticks and poles for use or sale.

 

Conclusion

Effective livable and sustainable building design works well with an integration of historic principles and new technologies and methods. These are some of the benefits:

 

Sustainable Architecture then, is the enduring production of space that constitutes place with artistic,

effective and

low cost and low or zero energy use architecture. It frees ecological, social, and economic resources from

the "black hole",

surplus economies of consumerism, productivism, and scientism, and effects a result that can magically,

after Francois Choy, "accomodate pleasure and the unforeseen". (22)

 

 

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: Notes

1. Theory:

Four aesthetic principles (Wang 2003)

Production: "Production is the repetition of construction/deconstruction of objectivity/subjectivity in the world..." (157)

Subject: "To objectify all of space is to subjectify all of time..." (286)

World: "Wherever hacking has produced the most varied productive possibilities, power arises that subordinates territory to its demands..." (351)

World: "The vectoral class presses the state to privatize all holdings in communication, education and culture,

and at the same time to secure stronger and stronger forms of intellectual property right, even when these

developments are contrary to the logic of expanding the surplus as a whole." (367)

 

2. Concepts:

Sustainable concepts: 1. synergy with nature; 2. bioregional fit; 3. ethical foundation

(See examples in rural cabins of Saarela, Stark, Hotten, and Artist.)

The first concept of sustainability is to exemplify principles of conservation, that is, synergy with nature.

The second concept of sustainability is bioregionalism, or the concept that all life is on a community basis - that future shelter

technology must function within bioregional patterns and scales.

The third concept of sustainability is ethical, weighing our illusion of affluence against the injustice, that is,

unfair and unlawful practice of environmental degradation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Property: "Within the gift relation, nature appears as endlessly productive in its differences, in its qualitative not its quantitative aspect." (205)

 

"A surplus generates class, whether pastoralist, capitalist or vectoralist." (000)

 

3. Culture

Consumerism, productivism, and scientism

"A surplus, from the pastoralist and land, or from the capitalist and capital, provides the means for profligate consumerism.

Even the vectoralist does not consume the surplus of information because it has no scarcity, more can always be produced

by the hacker concepts, perceptions and sensations, all abstractions of the virtuality of nature." (000)

Consumerism: "Tendency of people to identify strongly with products"

Rationalization: "...constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental

process."

Herding instinct: "Identify with and model behaviors and beliefs after a larger group..."

a. media theory- nature and effect of media on individuals and society

b. culture jamming- using media to comment on those very media themselves

Productivism: "Measurable economic productivity is the purpose of human organization and (perhaps) the purpose of life itself."

Scientism: "...acceptance of certain measures or models of reality that are divorced from human experience, as being more "real"

than the experience itself."

 

When culture necessitates an architecxture, it means an architecture of necessity. (Hotten, 2004)

 

4. Siting: For effective passive solar heating, a building should face within 25 degrees of north (in the southern hemisphere),

and be well integrated with the landscape and topography of the site.

 

5.Vernacular architecture:

Satisfying cultural needs, using available materials, under local conditions.

Vernacular, and trends through history: Malaysian pole houses; Asian wood frame pagodas; Southwest earth sheltered houses

Architecture Uncanny: Transparency (Vidler)

Vernacular Architecture

"It may be helpful to start from a process-oriented rather than a product-based viewpoint. Vernacular architecture is

based on a knowledge of traditional practices and techniques; it is usually self-built (perhaps with help from family,

clan or builders in the tribe), and reveals a high regard for craftsmanship and quality. Vernacular structures tend to

be easy to learn and understand. They are made of predominantly local materials. They are ecologically apt, that is

they fit in well with local climate, flora, fauna and ways of life. Vernacular buildings are never self-concious;

they recede into the environment rather than serving as self-proclaiming design statements. They are human in

scale; frequently the process of building is more important than or equally important as the end product. This

combination of good ecological fit, human scale, craftsmanship and striving for quality, together with a strong

concern for decoration, ornamentation and embellishment, leads to a sensuous frugality that results in true elegance."

"Six Explanations- ...vernacular architecture is the result of multiple causation

1. The Methodological Explanation; 2. The Dispersion and Convergence Explanation; 3. The Evolutionanary

Explanation; 4. The Social-Environmental Explanation; 5. The Cultural Explanation; 6. The Formal Aesthetic

Explanantion."

"As mainstream architecture itself begins to change in response to new ecological challenges, we must collect

more information and start on a classification of what we already have to provide a database so that the lessons of

the vernacular are accessible to both architects and users. This will be an adventure of discovery to shape the forms

of tomorrow through the wisdom of the old." (Papanek 1995)

Discovering the Veracular landscape (Jackson)

Environmental planning and management allow conservation of both the environment and developed facilities

and long range risk control. Effective site design accomodates methods 1 through 6.

Sustainable design can limit the scale of the building and recognizes traditional, vernacular and cultural values

and art.

6. Price

7. Titus

8. Bunch

9. Meier

10. Meier

11. Shade: Site topography, vegetation and awnings are the simplest forms of shading. Technological shading devices for both

the exterior and interior of dwellings are available. These were developed by the building industry since most commercial

structures suffer from unwanted heat gain.

12. Ventilation: In the tropics houses are raised and open toward prevailing breezes. Windows, ventilators and vents ensure air

exchange.

13. Earth shelter: Earth shelter design is one method of building a house (passive heating design) that will need no other heating

or cooling energy input to remain comfortable year round.

14.Thermal inertia:

Thermal inertia in the form of an on grade floor slab can be heated by sunlight passing through north

(in the southern hemisphere) facing windows. This middle of the day heat gain (passive solar heating) is then retained by the mass

of the concrete and warms the house continuously. This heating, with normal insulation and construction, is adequate without

any other energy input for most temperate climates.

15. Air lock entrances: This principle simply relies on a double door system, where only one is opened at a time, to reduce heat

loss or gain as from an open single door.

16. Scale (footprint), insulation, design of future alternatives:

Aesthetic principles (Wang 2003)

"The most significant determinant of building energy use- size," (Addington, Energy, Body, Building, 2003)

What size of dwelling is enough? Conservation of all resources is well-served by limiting the size or scale of house

design. Many traditional designs are of compact, functional and pleasing forms. Perhaps a standard range from

60 sqm to 120 sqm is enough for most families.

Insulation installed in the walls and roof can, with earth shelter or thermal inertia, produce a house that needs no

other energy input to heat or cool it.

17. On site water collection and waste disposal

Catchment water collection is adequate in many tropical and temperate areas. New developments in filters insure

freedom from contamination.

The Clivis Multrum composting toilet very handily takes care of human waste without water. Most wash water can be directed into

grey water systems and used for irrigation.

18. Solar water heating panels:

There are many types of solar water heating systems ranging from simple pre-water heater boosters (passive solar system)

to high technology panels with fuzzy logic controlled heat pump systems (active heating system).

19. Photovoltaic electricity:

Continuous gains in photovoltaic electricity generation technology and use are making these applications usually more attractive

than grid electric power.

Two recent developments are the panel with an AC inverter and pushing excess power back into the grid.

20. Recycling and use of local materials:

Many fine recycled building materialsare available. Local materials from river rock to timber are often available. Use of

indigenous materials saves on processing, storage, wholesaling and transporting costs.

21. On site growth of food, fuel and building materials:

A significant amount of food for a family can be grown in a small intensive vegetable garden and many fruit trees

do well at the homestead scale.

Wood for cooking and heating is easy to grow. Weeds and brush can be used for heating or biomass generation.

Growing trees for timber requires some planning and special attention. Copicing can be fairly easily produce a variety

of sticks and poles for use or sale.

22. Choy

 

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: Resources

 

Sustainable Resettling of the Gulf: Projects

 

 

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Robert D. Hotten, MLA, Architect (laumana@aloha.net)

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