Friday, February 26, 2010

Save trees. Make the whole darned house out these things. InnoVida panels made with composite skins can be almost everything but the foundation!

UPDATE: Turns out two officers InnoVida Holdings LLC were convicted for a massive fraud several years after this post was originally published.   InnoVida Holdings Exec Gets 4 Years For $40M Scheme.  

SIP's (Structural Insulated Panels) have been around for 50 years and there must be 50 variations on them. Generally a SIP is a sandwich with insulating material in the middle and hard material on the outside. Most of the time the SIP's are used only for exterior walls. Occasionally they are used for Roof decking and/or as subfloors.

The SIP produced by InnoVida Holdings LLC, which they call a Fiber Composite Panel (FCP), is used to make exterior and interior loadbearing walls, roof decks, subfloors, columns, beams, connecting pieces and trim as well as built in furniture such as shelves and cabinets.

The InnoVida FCP features composite structural skins made of high-strength E-Glass fiber fabrics impregnated with a fire-resistant polymeric epoxy resin. Unlike wood skinned SIP's the FCP has no food for termites and cannot rot. Unlike SIP's with concrete skins the FCP requires no portland cement. Unlike any other SIP I know of, the FCP's are joined using chemicals to create a chemical bond or "weld".

Also unlike any SIP I know of InnoVida's panels are light enough to allow entire houses (not just demonstration houses but real houses) to be built without the use of a crane. Imagine how light a truly tiny house would be! Yet the chemical welds would create a unitary structure . Also the exterior finish of the FCP could be as simple as paint where as wood skinned SIP's require exterior siding and interior drywall.

In the Innovida system interior walls are used structurally which allows the elimination of trusses in many cases. The interior walls are of course as insulated as the exterior walls which would make small houses much more functionally quiet.

As with most other SIP's the InnoVida's FCP's are made to order at their factory and shipped to the building site. Because the FCP's are significantly lighter than wood SIP's purchasing locally to avoid shipping costs would be less of an issue. InnvoVida's US factory is in Miami Beach.

The video below is an animation of construction with the InnoVida FCP. If you've ever looked into construction using other kinds of SIP, this seems much simpler:

This video below documents the construction of a two storey flat roofed home in Dubai.

This video shows the construction of a demonstration house. What I like about it is the way the FCP's are used to make shelves, cabinets and other built ins.

Meatless Monday Recipe-Macaroni with Broccoli and Cauliflower

Macaroni with Broccoli and Cauliflower
Serves four; 30 minutes prep time

6 oz cauliflower florets, cut into small sprigs
6 oz broccoli florets, cut into small sprigs
3 cups short-cut macaroni
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp pine nuts
1 sachet of saffron powder, or a good pinch of saffron threads dissolved in 1 Tbsp water (I think this is more for the color. Whole Foods actual has saffron for a good price.)
2 Tbsp raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated Pecorino cheese (optional)

1. Cook the cauliflower sprigs in a large pan of salted boiling water for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and boil for a further 2 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan using a large slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the pasta to the vegetable cooking water and bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet until it is al dente.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-skillet or pan, add the onion and cook over a low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes or golden, stirring frequently. Add the pine nuts, the cooked broccoli and cauliflower, and the saffron water. Add the raisins, sun-dried tomato paste and a couple of ladlefuls of the pasta cooking water until the vegetable mixture has the consistency of a sauce. Finally, add plenty of black pepper.

4. Stir well then cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the vegetable mixture. Toss to mix well, then taste for seasoning and add salt, if necessary. Serve the pasta immediately in four warmed bowls, sprinkled with grated Pecorino cheese.

Variation: Use any kind of pasta shapes such as penne, conchiglie or fusilli in place of macaroni.

Found in Fat-Free Vegetarian by Anne Sheasby

Cal Tech flexible composite photovoltaic panels produce as much power as standard panels but using 1% of the materials

MIT's Technology Review reports on the work at Caltech by a team led by Harry Atwater to create a light trapping composite that requires one one hundredth of the silicon used in standard panels. Material Traps Light on the Cheap, February 26, 2010.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Building with Awareness" DVD gives you a taste of building with adobe, strawbale, stained concrete, solar power and rainwater collection

If you'd like an introduction to a number of sustainable building techniques and concepts you might enjoy Ted Owens' instructional documentary "Building with Awareness" (available from Netflix and elsewhere)

Because Ted's home combines a mud plastered, straw bale infill exterior with interior adobe walls.  His documentary gives an introduction to building both.  You'll also learn a bit about a solar power system radiant floor heating and  rainwater catchment. (If you are building near San Antonio though you will likely want to forget about the radiant heating. It just doesn't stay cold enough long enough around here, thank goodness.)

This is a nice introduction for anyone not familiar with natural / green building or the concepts behind it.  The documentary was professionally taped and voiced.  The quality shows.  I kept expecting Bob Villa to show up. (That's meant to be a complement.)

The DVD may be purchased with a companion guidebook.


Don't miss the West side creek restorations workshop February 27, 2010

I went to second of the three workshops for this project.  It was fascinating.  Former Mayor Ed Garza's team is doing an outstanding job on coming up with a blue print to turn these creeks into parks. But they do need your help.  They need your knowledge about the areas.  They need your opinion.   Show up and show the city that this is a meaningful project for you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do you think you need an acre or a mcmansion just to get some peace and quiet? Think again. Hong Kong researchers develop (relatively) lightweight noise dampening panels.

I'm convinced one reasonable reason for gigantic homes and a preference for low density housing is the noise. We don't want to hear our neighbors and we don't want them to hear us.   We place bedrooms on opposite sides of the house just to try to gain a little privacy.  But until recently mainstream builders have offered next to nothing in sound dampening design.  Interest in media rooms featuring very loud speakers and the interests of multifamily developers have led to some advances such as QuietRock sound dampening drywall.

But now out of China comes word of a product that can dampen specific frequencies of sound.

In the January 26, 2010 issue of Applied Physics Letters,  Z. Yang, H. M. Dai, N. H. Chan, G. C. Ma, and Ping Sheng of the Department of Physics, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clearwater Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong announced to the world that they have developed lightweight multi-pane plastic frames covered in latex with a small weighted button mounted in each which vibrate in response to sounds within a specified frequency.  They report that a stack of their panels 2 and 1/3 inches thick, weighing less than 4 pounds per square foot will reduce sound transmission by 40 decibels over a range from 50 hz (close to the frequency of a G note 2 octaves below middle C) to 200 hz (close to the frequency of the G sharp note immediately below middle C).

A 40 decibel drop in volume is like reducing the sound of a motorcycle down to the volume of normal conversation or dropping the sound of hair dryer down to the volume of a whisper. 

Imagine how these panels could be used.  They could provide a reasonable level of privacy in small homes and make a big difference in multifamily living.  They are definitely being added to my wish list.  Even in a naturally built house with thick walls they could make a big difference internally, for instance to isolate the sound originating in a child's room or to absorb the sound from noisy appliances such as refrigerators.

Read more about the panels in the article Latex could silence noisy neighbors in New Scientist and in a Popular Science article, Acoustic Meta materials Could Make Ultra-Thin, Ultra-Effective Noise-Cancelling Panels.

Photo by BarelyFitz used under creative commons license.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipe-Red Lentil Curry

This is a super-easy recipe! You’ll get all the flavor of Indian take-out and enjoy the savings. Leftovers freeze easily!

Recipe of the Day: Red Lentil Curry

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings
This curry is made with small, brightly-colored lentils called masoor dal that are sold in natural food stores, ethnic markets, and some supermarkets. They are ideal for quick meals as they cook in just 20 minutes. If you are not able to locate these lentils, yellow split peas may be substituted in this recipe.

1 cup dry red lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.) Rinse lentils and place in a pot with salt and boiling water. Cover loosely and simmer until completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes (45 minutes if using yellow split peas), and set aside.

2.) In a large skillet, heat oil and add mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and cayenne. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Be careful not to inhale the fumes, as these can be irritating.

3.) Remove skillet from heat and add cooked lentils slowly and carefully to keep them from splattering. Return skillet to heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until lentils are the consistency of refried beans, about 15 minutes.

Per 1/2-cup Serving Cal.: 127; Fat: 2.9 g; Sat. Fat: 0.4 g; Calories from Fat: 20.6%; Chol.: 0 mg; Prot.: 8.2 g Carbohydrates: 18.2 g; Sugar: 0.4 g; Fiber: 5.3 g; Sodium: 199 mg; Calcium: 22 mg Iron: 3.2 mg; Vitamin C: 1.6 mg; Beta Carotene: 14 mcg; Vitamin E: 0.5 mg
From Healthy Eating for Life for Women by Kristine Kieswer; recipe by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Leon Valley's Earthwise Living Day

Looking for a free green event? Looking for a green event where you don't have to travel far? Look no further. Saturday, February 27th is the date for the annual Earthwise Living Day. It is arguably the oldest continuing green living event in the San Antonio area. Visit the website to learn more about the event and the listed presenters on the stage in their community center. There will be information booths, plants and other things for sale, and activities for children. You can't beat free admission, and you can't beat a location between Loop 1604 and Loop 410. I learn something every time I attend and have fun connecting with friends, too.

Can't Wait for the Fredericksburg Roundup?

It's great to get together with the tribes every fall in Fredericksburg, but it is oh so long to wait a full year between each Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair. I guess that's why the organizers are launching for the first time a similar event in Salado, Texas. Called the Renewable Stampede, it will make you feel right at home with two days of tent talks, booths, exhibits, and other fun and great information the Roundup is famous for. Go to the Renewable Stampede for more information. The committee will be reading over the speakers' applications soon, so in no time they will post the speakers and tent talk topics. Salado is located on IH-35 halfway between here and Dallas. April 17th and 18th will be here before we know it, so mark your calendars now. They have Facebook presence, too, so check them out there and be a fan while you're at it. The photo on this post is from a previous Roundup event in Fredericksburg just to whet your appetite.

Revised Website Finally Arrives

Maybe the new site lacks some of the style of the old one, but the site Bill Christensen helped me unveil this week has a lot more information on it. The new site, like many of today's websites has the ability to post articles with opportunities for visitors to leave comments. The old site didn't. It's brand new, so please be patient while I continue to add information to it while continuing to dust the cobwebs off of Stephen Colley/Architecture. Be one of the first visitors and let me know what you think. I haven't even told anyone on Facebook yet about it. Oh, and if you are shopping for any webhosting services, don't sign up with anyone until you have checked into what Bill Christensen has to offer from Sustainable Sources. There are many green individuals, businesses and groups that host through Sustainable Sources including our sister group in Austin, Design-Build-Live. Bill's even running a special for new accounts during the month of February. Even if you are not interested in webhosting, go to Sustainable Sources anyway for a HUGE selection of regional green articles, events, and other cool things of interest.

Texas Rainwater Catchment Conference

Mark your calendars for March 12th and 13th for the Second Annual State Conference of the Texas Rainwater Catchment Association to be held in Kerrville. Go to the TRCA website to get details including a list of presentations and workshops for the latest and most practical applications of rainwater harvesting. All presentations are open to the public. Membership in the TRCA is very inexpensive for individual members and applicators alike but is not required for attendance. Sign up anyway to support one of the most intelligent strategies to incorporate into your life, especially in the light of our regional water quantity and quality concerns. Review the Conference schedule to see the wide range of topics you will not hear anywhere else and get some hands-on experience with related workshops and demonstrations. There will be some tours, too. Hope to see you there.

February Meeting Topic

The February meeting of the San Antonio Sustainable Living group will feature speaker Leslie Provence. In the SASL's new direction of including all aspects of sustainable living in addition to residential design and green building, Leslie will be inspiring us with considerations of food policy. We might not all be ready to build a green house, but we all eat.

There is a growing awareness that in the mainstream food system, we are no longer in control of what we eat--how it is grown and processed, whether it contains chemical residue or pathogens, where it comes from, and whether it is any good for our health. Many communities in the U.S and Canada have formed Food Policy Councils to examine and change their food systems, for a variety of reasons. From Knoxville (formed in 1982 from a student initiative) to Austin, one of the most recent, many examples exist of ways that citizens can reshape policies and rules to help local growers and processors. Rebuilding a local food system offers not only health and environmental benefits, but also economic development and community-building opportunities.

Leslie's background includes a Masters thesis at UTSA on Community Gardens in Public Housing Properties in 2007 and then attending conferences on community gardening and food security. She has been meeting the leaders and reading books, articles, and listservs on the subject, to learn what is going on in other cities. She has a website and blog where she shares this information, and highlight aspects of San Antonio's great assets and needs in this area. She currently works at USAA as a marketing analyst, and engages in collecting and sharing food policy topics in her spare-time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipe-Smothered Cajun-spiced Squash

Fat Tuesday Style Meatless Monday Recipe
Smothered Cajun-spiced Squash
Serves 8; Vegan

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 clove of garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
2 butternut squash, quartered and seeded, each quarter halved
2 Tbs. plus 8 tsp. Cajun seasoning, or more to taste, divided
4 large onions, halved and sliced (8 cups)
4 medium red or green bell peppers, quartered and sliced (2 cups)
8 large celery ribs, sliced on the bias (2 cups)
5 Tbs. flour
1 1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 Tbs. oil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush garlic-oil mixture over butternut squash pieces, and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle each squash piece with 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until squash pieces are tender enough to easily pierce with fork.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and celery, and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir flour into onion mixture, and cook for 1 minute, or until flour begins to brown, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar, remaining 2 Tbs. Cajun seasoning, and 6 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.

4. To Serve: Place 2 squash pieces on plate. "Smother" with 1 cup onion mixture.

Per Serving: (2 squash and 1 cup onion mixture) 201 cal.; 3 grams prot.; 9 grams total fat (1 gram sat fat); 30 grams carbs.; 0 mg chol.; 976 mg sod.; 6 grams fiber; 9 grams sugar
Found in Vegetarian Times-Feb. 2009

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipe-Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Adapted from The Great American Detox Diet, by Alex Jamieson (Rodale Press, 2005).

Looking for a delicious and healthy chili recipe for Super Bowl Sunday? When the winds turn blustery and the dark draws in, we need zesty, spicy flavors to wake us up, and good solid nourishment to see us through the winter months. This richly-colored, flavorful chili is the perfect answer.

Immune-boosting garlic and onion, along with red pepper and lime, combine with black beans and nourishing sweet potatoes to make one very satisfying autumn one-pot meal.

You can serve it on rice, or with Pumpkin Biscuits, taco chips, or corn bread. Either way, it makes a whole-foods, healthful answer to the perennial question, “What’s for dinner?”

Here’s the recipe:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 28-can diced tomatoes
4 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 6 cups freshly cooked)
1 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, washed and dried

1. Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, red pepper, garlic, and salt. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.

3. Add the tomatoes, black beans, jalapeno, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and cocoa, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Serve over brown rice, if desired, with lime wedges and cilantro, or with corn bread, biscuits, or taco chips alongside.

Serves 6.
Found through