Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The "Green Screen"

An innovative exterior shading device has been installed on the south facing facade of the Breakell, Inc. headquarters in Downtown Roanoke. The custom-made device includes two steel pipes bent to form a wave-like appearance. The pipes are permanently attached to the building through anchor plates that penetrate the wood siding and connect to the frame of the building. The pipes alone are not expected to have much of a shading effect on the building, which is where the project gets pretty interesting. Through a fit stroke of genious, Stan Breakell specified wisteria bushes to be planted below the devices and connected via wires to the shades. The plan is for the wisteria to grow up the wires and fully encompass the steel piping.

The use of plants as shades allows for super-shading to occur in the warm spring and summer months while allowing plenty of natural light into building. When the leaves disappear in the fall and winter months, the shading devices will allow for passive solar heating of the building. The indirect benefits of this new vegetation include aesthetic improvements to the building and a small reduction in the building's CO2 footprint via reduced operating costs and the natural processes of the plants. Overall, this solution to solar shading tackles multiple issues through creative thinking.

More info on living facades and passive shading:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Downtown Roanoke Development Part II - May 2010

A host of exciting new development projects are currently ongoing in the downtown Roanoke central business district, with numerous others in the planning and conceptual pipeline. Continuing the recent trend for downtown revitalization, the new projects focus on increasing the critical mass of downtown residents and improving the quality of life of those that live and work downtown. Mixed-use facilities and recreation/entertainment venues seem to be popular in the market at this time. The following photos document the progress of some ongoing downtown projects.

House of the Rising Sun

Update: Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus recieved the first place award at the European Solar Decathlon in Madrid!

The Lumenhaus, a joint venture between the Virginia Tech departments of Architecture, Building Construction, Engineering, and Computer Science, departed last week for an overseas trip to Madrid for the international Solar Decathlon Competition. The house combines passive heating and cooling with cutting edge technologies such as solar photovoltaics and geothermal heat transfer to create a net-zero residence that can be controlled remotely via i-phone and could be replicated on a commercial production line. One of the coolest parts of the house is its ability to connect to a gooseneck trailer hitch and become a mobile home. The international competition serves to act as a catalyst for technology transfer, and should be an amazing event. Look here (solardecathlon.gov) for more information on the Solar Decathlon and here (http://lumenhaus.com/) for more information on Virginia Tech's entry.
Here are some pictures of the house to whet your appetite...