Favela-Barrio project: Jorge Mario Jauregui Rio de Janiero...

alemao favela

Sustainable cities require sustainable communities as well as care for the environment.  Brazilian architect, Jorge Mario Jauregui has been working in Rio de Janiero for the last fifteen years to use his skills as an architect to bring infrastructure and community facilities to the informal communities throughout the city known as favelas.  Favelas, which house about 20% of the city’s population, have been growing in pockets of unclaimed land throughout the city for the past 100 years. However, since unplanned and originally unsanctioned by the government, these communities lack infrastructure and public social spaces.

Jorge has coined the phrase “favela-barrio” to describe his approach to urban design in the favelas.  Literally translated as ‘slum-neighborhood’, it expresses the idea that these informal developments, or shanty towns, are here to stay and are thriving communities; and with some infrastructure and public space can be transformed into neighborhoods.  Jorge envisions the potential of the existing network of paths and roads.  His architectural interventions involve providing basic services such as water, electricity, and footpaths, and often incorporate the creation of facilities that promote interaction in the form of recreational and community centers. The structures proposed and built by Jorge’s firm are bold and iconic, creating a strong sense of place.

In a project currently underway, Jorge is creating public space in the Manguinhos favela on existing train tracks that bound the community on one side.  These train tracks will be elevated and the space below will become a linear park, defined by the conjugation of spaces, activites, buildings and vegetation.  Facilities in the park will include sport, cultural, and income generating facilities, with a focus on providing children and teenagers with alternative attractions that will integrate them into the community.  The space will also incorporate a new public transportation hub.

This new metropolitan park will be an articulator, attracting favela residents as well as a larger public from the surrounding communities. As an integrated public space it eliminates the existing barrier and transforms the space from divider to connector.  By directly intervening at the physical boundary of the favela, Jorge is directly confronting the deeper socio-economic divide that has plagued the city for decades.





Read more on Jorge’s website at: http://www.jauregui.arq.br/

Bridgett Shank works at Feldman Architecture.  She had the opportunity to work with Jorge Jauregui in Rio De Janiero.

Randall Whitehead blogs about CCFLs...

Those people who want energy efficiency but are turned off by the compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that they are finding at their local home stores should take a look at cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs). They come in the shapes that we all use, such as household bulbs, flame tip and globe; and are available in numerous color temperatures. My personal favorite color is the 2250K.

The household bulb version of this lamp is the Micro-Brite by Litetronics (www.litetronics.com) is the MB-801DL-2250K, which is a beautiful warm incandescent yellow. These dim with a standard incandescent dimmer and have close to full range dimming capabilities. They last from 18,000 to 25,000 hours and retail for around $12.00; saving from $33.00 to $73.00 in energy costs over the life of the bulb. They can be purchased on-line at such websites as www.1000bulbs.com.

A note about the accompanying images- The CCFLs pictured here have clear glass envelopes to show what is going on inside but are available with white glass envelopes as well, so that they look like their incandescent counterparts.

CCFLs come in the most popular sizes

CCFLs come in the most popular sizes

This CCFL globe light shows the warm color
This CCFL globe light shows the warm color
This sconce uses an 8-watt CCFL
This sconce uses an 8-watt CCFL
This six foot pendant uses (3) 8-watt CCFLs
This six foot pendant uses (3) 8-watt CCFLs

To get more tips on lighting or to learn more about our services go to www.randallwhitehead.com

Randall Whitehead IALD  is an internationally known architectural lighting designer, based in San Francisco. He is not only a prolific author, but an enlightening and humorous speaker on the world of design as well. His work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Art & Antiques, House Beautiful, Kiplinger’s, Horticulture Magazine, Designs for Living, Metropolitan Home, Better Homes & Gardens, The Journal of Light Construction and many more.

Randall appears regularly as a guest expert on the Discovery Channel, CNN, HGTV and Martha Stewart Living Radio. He also writes a monthly column called “The Last Word in Lighting” for Residential Lighting Magazine, answering homeowner’s and designer’s questions on lighting.

Randall has written 7 books on the subject, including Residential Lighting, A Guide to Beautiful and Sustainable Design which is an informative…and entertaining reference book for home and garden lighting.

His latest endeavor takes him back to his photography roots. It is a compelling collection of images called Lost Dolls, The Hidden Lives of Toys.

It’s All Water...


Green Building Practitioners are noticing three trends that, while not new concerns, truly speak of the momentum gathering within the sustainable design movement. One is the issue of water scarcity, second is the issue of environmental chemicals emitted by and residing in our built environment and third is the interest in adding the component of social justice to our battery of integrated building design strategies. I see these three paths as critical components of a broadening new way of practice.


At GreenBuild last month, I attended several sessions given by lawyers, educators, builders, planners, engineers and architects on the issues of water efficiency and maximization. Some common themes surfaced throughout the presentations. Most salient were:

  • The relationship of water and energy.  Known as “watergy” or “embedded water,” it is interesting to note that treating and conveying water is not only the most expensive component of the cost of water, but also the most energy intensive. We must start to connect our water use policy with our energy policy and to find more energy efficient ways to deliver water to and within buildings.
  • The end of landscaping.Solutions to current water scarcity involve incorporating at least 50% of appropriate, climate adaptive plant species as part of the landscape and providing alternative means of irrigation through captured rainwater and stormwater and building-issued greywater. Municipal water should be thought of as a supplementary, rather than primary, source. The era of the fantasy landscape is over.
  • We must stop using drinking water to flush wasteOther sources water are on site greywater, rainwater, municipal reclaimed water, mechanical water (from blow-down or condensate) and blackwater.
  • Centralized wastewater treatment is wasteful and inefficient.  Wastewater treatment plants need to be localized, even to the neighborhood scale. They should be thought of as a source of renewable resources, as they offer opportunities to harvest nutrients such as ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorous rather than expend dollars on their removal and disposal. Our infrastructure needs to be re-vamped from a combined sewer system to a split wastewater/stormwater management system. Because wastewater is electron-rich, it is also time to start thinking of wastewater treatment plants as sources of energy.

 What does this mean to green designers? It means that landscape designers need to concentrate on species selection and water infiltration. An example of this “spread and infiltrate” strategy is to divert runoff to a series of tree planting basins or rain gardens. For architects and builders, this means a new way of assessing how we convey water to, in and around buildings. Is the building a treatment facility? Has a water budget (catchment area multiplied the amount of rainfall) and water footprint been calculated? How do we design to make conservation easier for the user?


rainwater harvesting

rainwater harvestingrainwater tank

Barriers:Several barriers compound the challenging issue of maximizing water efficiency. Water prices are artificially low, thus stymying innovative technologies. Another barrier is the apprehension about using greywater indoors due to insufficient treatment of potential contaminants. Last, current rating systems do not consider water issues as a whole. LEED splits water credits into two categories of credits, sustainable site and water efficiency. Rating systems should focus on more than just fixture selection, irrigation controls and stormwater diversion. It’s time to think of water design on the community level, as holistic, land-based management, as a watershed, that will steer building design, community design and infrastructure planning to a greener, more water-abundant future.


Marian Keeler, Assoc. AIA, LEEP AP is the author of Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Buildings, Wiley, 2009.






Greywater: A resource...

It’s Saturday morning laundry time. The washer spins and shakes, clothes are cleaned while the dirty water flows outside to irrigate fruit trees. There’s something satisfying about this

simple shift: a slight change in a mundane chore has reduced water consumption, taken a load off the sewer treatment plant, promoted food security, and saved time and money.

Over the past few decades reusing water from showers, sinks, and washing machines, called greywater reuse, was mainly embraced by the  “do-it-yourself” community. Handy people rerouted their pipes, diverting this resource away from sewers and septic systems, out to trees, bushes, and other landscaping.  Though popular, all this was technically “illegal”, surprising in a state like California, fraught with drought, water rationing, and proposals to spend billions of dollars on new dam construction.

Transforming regulations

Greywater use is regulated by the state plumbing code, which historically was very restrictive and made it overly expensive or outright impossible for people to get permits for greywater. This resulted in almost zero compliance of the code (of the estimated millions of greywater users in the state, there were only a few hundred permits), a lack of professional installers, and a huge amount of misinformation about the best ways to reuse greywater.

In 2008, Alan Lowenthal, a State senator from Long Beach, CA, wrote a “Shower to Flower” bill (SB 1258) that mandated a code rewrite of the old greywater code, moving regulatory power from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).  HCD convened a series of stakeholder’s meetings to gain input from greywater experts, health departments, building departments, water districts, and other concerned citizens, as well as analyzed existing studies and codes on greywater.

Recipe for a code change:


* 3 stakeholders meetings in Sacramento

* hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls in support of a friendly greywater code *drought

* increased water rates

* mandatory water rationing in many districts

*extensive time and research from HCD staff

*greywater friendly codes examples in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico

*media coverage of greywater success stories

*green job potential


Mix ingredients together during a time of “drought emergency”, sprinkle a few newspaper articles about people successfully (yet illegally) saving thousands of gallons of water with simple, safe systems, add a dash of green jobs potential in a failing economy,

season with forward thinking individuals in charge of the process.

Results: A new greywater friendly code

The new code removed barriers for simple, low cost greywater systems. Now washing machine systems do not require a permit, only compliance with state-published guidelines, and no inspection. Permits are still required for systems that alter existing plumbing, larger systems, and the section of code governing indoor reuse is not complete.

Gardens are flourishing

The biggest effect of statewide greywater reuse, aside from the happy plants, will be the ability of professionals to incorporate greywater into their business Landscapers like, Deva Luna from Earthcare landscaping in San Jose (www.earthcareland.com), offers greywater to clients. Other gardeners like David Mudge from David Mudge’s Gardens in Martinez, California, use greywater as part of sustainable permaculture design practices.

a greywater garden

a greywater garden

trenching pipes

trenching pipes

The greywater goes out of the house through the floor and travels across the crawl space underneath the house. The auto-vent is inside the house since it needs to be at the high point of the greywater line.

The greywater goes out of the house through the floor and travels across the crawl space underneath the house. The auto-vent is inside the house since it needs to be at the high point of the greywater line.

Our water future

While greywater policy advances, California water policies lag behind. State government and local water districts continue to seek out unsustainable sources of water; from destructive new dams, overdrawing from rivers and ground water, costly desalination plants, and expensive recycled water. As regulatory barriers are removed, decision makers need to include and promote sustainable practices such as greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, and waterless toilets as a path to a sustainable water future.

There are a few things people could do.

1. Write a thank you note to HCD for the new code: James Rowland jrowland@hcd.ca.gov

2. Write to the local building department/inspectors/city council telling them how happy you are that it’s easier to install legal greywater systems and encourage them to support greywater use. (possibly by promoting it with education, demonstration projects, information on their websites, etc.


Laura is a founder of Greywater Action and has spent a decade exploring low-tech, urban sustainable water solutions. She has a BA in Environmental Science, a teaching credential and a masters in education from New College of CA. She is a co-editor of the anthology Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground

Greywater Action offers presentations and hands-on classes on sustainable water use technologies. See www.greywateraction.org for more info.

Designing for Change...

Grant Street house
Grant Street house

Most buildings leak air, and therefore heat, through cracks in their building envelope.  We get cold in our leaky buildings and turn up our heaters to keep warm.  The heat continues to leak out, and we continue to turn up our heaters, and on and on the cycle goes.  In the end, we may as well be burning our money to keep warm.  Our building systems clearly aren’t working as well as they should for us or for the environment, which begs the question: Why aren’t we doing more to change this trend? 

Actually, some of us are. Slowly but surely, people are building Passive Houses that use around 80% less energy, while keeping us warmer and more comfortable than drafty, conventional homes do. But even this is not enough.
It is critical that Architects, designers and builders begin applying the Passive House Standard during the design stages of their projects. Just as engineers must predict how buildings will survive earthquakes, designers should be using energy modeling tools to predict the energy consumption of buildings before they are ever built.
One of the most valuable tools to emerge from the Passive House Standard is an energy modeling tool called the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), which for years has accurately predicted the energy needs of hundreds of Passive Houses built in Europe.
It makes the most sense to design with Passive House concepts in mind in the design phase of a new building, when it is easiest to accomplish, however it is also possible to apply these concepts to existing homes if a major remodel is in the works. The key areas most important to achieving a Passive House are:
BUILDING ENVELOPE & AIR-TIGHTNESS: The strategy is to focus first on the building envelope so that it optimizes heat gains and minimizes heat losses. The insulation system should be continuous from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the envelope. A designated layer should be continuous from top to bottom in order to achieve air-tightness.
FRAMING: The framing system should conform to all the structural requirements and be designed using Advanced Framing Techniques that eliminate unnecessary wood members and replace them with insulation.
DOORS & WINDOWS: The specified performance of the doors and windows, and their installation methods, should be synchronized with the climate requirements, as well as the orientation and design of the building envelope in order to optimize heat gains and minimize losses.
VENTILATION: A ventilation system with a heat recovery component should be installed to circulate fresh air 24 hours a day, while transferring the heat from stale outgoing air to fresh incoming air. Free heat generated from lighting, computers, household appliances and people is recycled so we don’t have to blast our heaters to keep warm. 
heat exchanger graphic
heat exchanger graphic

After follwing these design and construction strategies, every building designed to the Passive House Standard is comfortable, sustainable, and requires far less energy to run than a conventional home.  Our Grant Street home in Berkeley, CA was the first residential retrofit project in the US with the goal of meeting Passive House Standards. 

Grant Street house AFTER

Grant Street house AFTER

Grant Street house BEFORE
Grant Street house BEFORE
Grant Street house front elevation close-up
front elevation close-up
Grant Street house front door
front door
Grant Street house back cantilever
back cantilever
Grant Street house cabinetry
Grant Street house cabinetry
Grant House kitchen
Grant House kitchen
To find out more about Passive House standards and the success of our remodel, visit our website at www.bautechnologies.com or contact us at 415.526.2777.


Peter Rich of Peter Rich Architects in South Africa has dedicated his career to the service of the less privileged.  His projects include low-income housing, community centers and children’s facilities.  The Mapungubwe Interpretation Center in Limpopo, South Africa, a project recently completed, looks to the local culture and ecology for its design inspiration.  Situated in the site of an ancient trading civilization at the confluence of the Pimpopo and Shashe rivers the in Mapungubwe National Park, the building houses artifacts from the region’s early pre-historic civilizations and reflects the complex natural landscape around it in both form and materiality.

Employing parabolic curves made from locally sourced and fabricated rammed earth bricks, the resulting structure is both elegant and sustainable.  Rich worked with local residents during the design and construction process, teaching them how to manufacture the stabilized earth tiles and how to construct the vaults and arches.  These vaults, called Timbrel vaults, create a composition of light, billowing forms that seem to peel away from the structures below, revealing the history inside.  The building is contained by two hollow cairns, which are reminiscent of the route-markers found in the native South African cultures of the region.

The building, both in its creation and in its final end use is deeply rooted in its site both culturally and physically.  The center is meant to not only display the cultural history of the site, but also to elicit a better understanding for the vulnerability of the local ecology. The building has been nominated for several awards including the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in 2008.  The structure won the World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona, 2009, being praised by the jury for its ‘hand-crafted intelligence, use of local materials’ and the way it “handled issues of sustainability and its relationship to the landscape, responding to vernacular African styles’. 






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