Cutting-edge “Cradle to Cradle” winner uses spinach for power
[Seattle , WA]– Architects and planners from Seattle won the international C2C [Cradle to Cradle] Home Design and Construction Competition with a submission chosen from more than 625 entries from 41 countries. The competition honors the sharpest cutting-edge innovation in sustainable residential design.
Inspired by the seminal 2002 book by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” the competition asked entrants to design a home that would reflect the new paradigm and vision of sustainability outlined in that book.
Those standards are based on the premise that the “three R's,” REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – all preferred alternatives to simply dumping waste – are mere Band-Aids. McDonough and Braungart say we should instead eliminate waste in the first place, by crafting our modern systems and patterns of living to more closely mimic natural systems, where waste does not exist. The first place-winning home design doesn’t just eliminate waste in its operation; it creates energy to share – with neighbors and its community at large.
“Our goal is for this project to be a catalyst for community-integrated, sustainable design on a local and then global scale,” said project team co-leader Matthew Coates .
How the Winning Design Works
Coates and Tim Meldrum led a seven-member team of architects and planners to design a one-storied, L-shaped home whose central feature re-interprets an age-old concept: the hearth.
The hearth once provided vital heat for warmth, cooking and light. Yet today, it has devolved into an ornament known as the fireplace.
To return to a hearth based on these new principles, Coates and Meldrum’s team re-envisioned it. Their hearth, a tapered, two-story, chimney-like core, includes mechanisms for rainwater collection, black and gray water treatment, a heat sink, a ventilation stack, a skylight and structural support for solar energy collection materials. The core consolidates these systems, which leverage the SUN, WATER, and WIND.
Energy is neither created nor destroyed. It is collected and returned,” according to team member Brendan Connolly , emphasizing the importance of balance between the natural and the man-made.
While the house uses timeless passive solar strategies to deflect summer rays while absorbing the winter sun’s heat, it also employs astounding innovation to harness energy. The building core extends vertically, like a chimney, above the roof plane, and serves as a louvered skylight and a temperature-stabilizing heat sink while supporting a revolutionary cladding: a super-conductive material that produces photosynthetic energy generated from the protein in spinach. Based on emerging technology and scientific research, cells of spinach protein, sandwiched between glass, has the potential to generate substantially more energy than regular photovoltaics, much more than the home’s residents need.
The additional energy may be fed to neighbors’ homes, street lighting, or simply back to the power grid. Currently available photovoltaic panels may also be attached to the core, until phototropic, spinach-based cladding is technically feasible.
“The energy of a plant’s chlorophyll gives back to our energy cycle, supporting our health and our ability to propagate. This interdependency is the crux of Cradle to Cradle, thinking beyond our own life time and lifecycle,” Coates added.
Systems for collecting and using rain create a design that blurs the line between house and landscape. A green roof absorbs and filters storm-water through its plants and soil while two large openings in the roof funnel rain to the building core. There, the rain is stored to support the site’s subsurface irrigation needs, as well as household plumbing for flushing toilets and other household needs . Potable water is imported only for drinking, bathing and cooking.
Also, a bio-filtration system for the house naturally breaks down and separates solid human waste from black water and then filters that black water under and alongside the house through a series of subsurface gravels and soils, from coarse to fine. The result: the house does not require connection to a sewer system or to a septic tank.
The house comprises only one-third of the narrow site chosen for it, one of four Roanoke , Va. , sites specified by the competition. The remaining two-thirds of the site will feature a storm-water-irrigated community garden and outdoor space on a topographically sloped plane. This long, sloped site encourages prevailing summer wind to sweep upward, into large eave vents. The air is then dispersed throughout the house and drawn up through the hearth, or stack, and released.
How the Winning Design Looks
The competition also asked entrants to consider the context of the four Roanoke , Va. sites, upon one of which the winning submission will be built.
“We thought it would be a greater challenge to use the more common infill site, and it also helped give life to our social and environmental concept of propagation.” Meldrum explained. Another stipulation: the designs should incorporate innovative materials.
The structure is made of concrete and steel while glass and metal panels insulated with soy foam comprise the exterior walls.
Inside, a flexible floor plan consists of moveable partitions to create a space of three bedrooms, two bedrooms and a den, or other configurations. The house also features two bathrooms, a centralized food prep area, a dining room, a living room, a patio and an entry court. “It’s intended to be flexible and a very configurable design,” said Coates.
The competition’s jury included William McDonough, as well as internationally renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind, designer of Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center’s former site and the internationally lauded Berlin Holocaust Museum; Alexander Garvin, a professor at Yale University, a New York City Building Commissioner and author of “The American City: What Works, What Doesn’t”; Sarah Susanka, architect and author of “The Not So Big House”; and Randall Stout, a green architect and designer of Roanoke’s new Art Museum of Western Virginia.
The design team included: Matthew Coates, Tim Meldrum, Ron van der Veen, Brendan Connolly, Julie Petersen, Kristine Kenney, and Richard Franko.