WIND POWER: A Clean, Efficient, Sustainable Alternative

Our current president, although not the most reliable person when speaking in environmentally friendly terms, has stated that wind power can provide as much as 20% of the required electrity to our nation. The fact that this statement was even made signifies that wind energy technologies are at least being explored by the government and we can hope that the powers that be will accelerate the industries development.

Unfortunately, due to the shear density of urban areas, wind power is not feasible for meeting electrical needs but harnessing the wind can be especially beneficial in rural areas that are often far from the urban locations where their power is produced. If the price of turbines continues to drop and interest continues to increase they may become the most efficient way of powering rural areas, especially in the U.S. central planes where wind can be easily harvested. I think expanding suburban areas should also take more interest in the matter and plan ahead for their growing energy needs, establishing turbine farms on the still untouched farmlands outside their current city limits.

Amongst the most beneficial aspects of wind power are that it's turbines, one installed, produce no pollution or greenhouse gasses and use no natural resources. According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 2400 megawatts of wind generation was installed in 2005 alone, enough to power 650,000 homes. There is no reason for this pace of installation to slow if people are educated of its benefits.

All in all, wind power seems to be of the most promising alternatives to nuclear power, burning coal and consuming massive quantities of oil in order to meet our nations electrical needs. Whereas the silicon in solar panels must be grown and can at times have a shortage in availability and hydroelectric power requires the water from our rivers, many of which are being sucked dry by overdevelopment, wind power requires the only wind, a resource I do not see us having a shortage of anytime soon. Finally, some might argue otherwise, but I believe wind farms are very attractive and in no way spoil the natural beauty of mountaintop ridges or the open plains and in some areas serve to make the landscape even more aesthetically pleasing.



Excess shipping containers, primarily from China, are often abandoned in many coastal cities, left stacked stories high after their use. The containers need not, however, make up their own graveyards as they are still useful in many way, especially in the construction industry as more architects and designers are beginning to take advantage of the millions of containers abandoned in California and the UK alone. I first fell in love with the idea of shipping container construction when I saw Shigeru Ban's Nomadic Museum. It is a temporary warehouse type exhibit space with fabric pulled between container spaces that allows filtered light to fill the large cooridor during the day and give the buildings facade rows of glowing rectangles when the interior is lit at night.

Reuse of such a widely produced product can be very cost efficient when considering construction and manufacturing costs of most materials and the fact that container sizes follow international standards makes them applicable as construction elements in any area of the world. It is this modular aspect of the containers is what makes them so appealing.

As with any product that seems too good to be true, shipping containers have their downfalls. While any double length container would be plenty of floor space for a room, about 320 sf, I question whether the 8' standard width of the containers ever hinder the comfort of the inhabitants, and that is a before insulation measurement. That said, my next concern is the fact that these boxes, metal boxes, can by no means be enery efficient unless coated in interior insulation and given some special treatments on the exterior so that they do not act like heat sponges on a summer day. Porosity also seems to be a factor due to the fact that opening the sides of a container means the designer needs to the deal with the corrugated form of the containers, which is why I imagine nearly every window I have seen on these containers is at one end or the other.

Although I currently see many difficulties facing shipping container construction in climates where temperature changes are a daily fact of life (i.e. not SoCal) their reuse is a step in the right direction towards sustaining our future and making the most of what we have laying abandoned in front of us. Continued experimentation with the excess containers will no doubt yield an innovative and practical alternative in the future.

Some architects and firms who are experimenting with shipping containers:

Adam Kalkin
Peter de Maria
Urban Space Management
Fox & Fowle Architects

STUDIO 804: House of the Year

I posted on Studio 804 in September and I simply wanted to bring them up again to congratulate them on their work for last springs modular house which has earned many accolades, the most recent being the House of the Year designation in Architecture Magazine. I attend the University of Kansas, the home of the non-profit STUDIO 804 design/build class and am proud to be friends with some of these amazing designers. Good work guys.