Connected ideas

I come up with an idea or a concept and then the people around me trash it. It’s the way of things and I take it to mean that I need to find people like me, rather than naysayers and the like.

I have written on here about growing plants up walls to reduce the need for air conditioning in summer. I tend to think of this as putting on sun screen in summer and taking it off in winter. Buildings by themselves don’t do that very well in my opinion. Indeed from living in two Tokyo apartments I’ve come to the conclusion that the architects should call themselves solar oven designers and admit they’re in bed with the air conditioning and heater salesmen.

Now people who read my blog and have listened to me talk about this subject sometimes send me links that parallel the kind of thing I am talking about.

This first one was sent to me by my designer brother.

http://www.visionworksaward.com/_Bilder/06-participents/Bremen/GREEN/green.pdf

As you can see it’s basically my idea of growing something up a wall. They have it running like a conveyer belt though and so it seems designed for industrial use.  Additionally, they focus only on growing food in vertical spaces and its aesthetic appeal.

I see a few problems with this.

First, you need two panes of glass on the outside of the building so it’s not something you can retrofit. It seems designed for office buildings rather than homes and for annual crops instead of perennials.

Offices are where you work not where you cook. You cook at home with plants which are close at hand. Besides the people who have the time and inclination to take care of these plants would be the elderly, the housebound, and home makers.

Second if you wish to clean air then the plants which do that best are not the ones you eat. There is a talk on TED.com by Kamal Meattle about this. If you want to clean air inside a building, have the plants, in this case Areca Palm, Mother in Law’s tongue and Money Plant, inside the building.  The TED talk is here:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/kamal_meattle_on_how_to_grow_your_own_fresh_air.html

Additionally, having floor to ceiling windows means its not thermally efficient. If you wish thermal efficiency then you should opt for straw bale construction, or rammed earth.  If you still wish to let more light in then I’d probably use Maerogel (interestingly this product is not the market yet).

So anyway that’s my take on this plant big wheel. If you want to put plants on the side of a building, use a vine, give it something to climb, like a net. Lower the whole supporting structure like a sail on a ship when you want to harvest. Make it a die back perennial such that the building absorbs as much sunshine as possible in winter (you could even have a dark colored wall) on a south facing in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be shaded when a black wall became a liability instead of an asset. I’d tend to go with Air Potato or a hardy kiwi.

Now onto the second thing I was sent recently;  this by my good friend Taylor:

http://dornob.com/secret-garden-sublime-japanese-green-roof-deck-design/

Here we have an architect’s idea of connecting flat roofs, with gardens, across multiple dwellings.  It’s a good one as far as it goes.  If it were me you would have plants down the side of the building, as well as a gazebo up for socializing. Designs like this are just crying out for sun loving plants, shade tolerant plants, vines, raised beds for annuals etc. Being architects all they do is stick something vaguely green on it. They need to expand their horizons and work on things from a multidisciplinary perspective.

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