Andrea Brennen

Andrea Brennen

Posts by This Writer

10 years 1 day ago

Lucien Le Grange, director of the School of Architecture at the University of Cape Town, writes: “The proponents of sustainability for housing or built environments often limit their agenda to building technologies, energy efficiency and environment within a framework of economic feasibility, and completely disregard urban or social feasibility…Urban and social sustainability are of great concern because they have been virtually ignored in current programmes to reimagine the ‘sustainable’ South African city.”

Talking about the sustainable re-development of a place like...

10 years 3 days ago

Sustainability…suggests all humanity has a similar interest in ‘sustainable housing’ or ‘sustainable urban development’; that if we simply recognized our common interests everything would be fine, we could end poverty, exploitation, segregation, inadequate housing, congestion, ugliness, abandonment and homelessness. Yet housing and urban development are conflict-laden areas, and this is very evident in the case of District Six.

-- Lucien Le Grange, director of the School of Architecture at the University of Cape Town.

District Six is a nearly empty chunk of land in Cape...

10 years 3 days ago

Historically speaking, District Six – an area established as the sixth official ward of the city of Cape Town in 1867 – was home to a vibrant mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers, and immigrants. Located close to the city center and the port, this neighborhood was dramatically impacted by apartheid politics. A series of ensuing policy decisions have left the area with a disturbing legacy that complicates discussions about sustainable development of the area today.

As early as 1901, there is evidence of forcible...

10 years 5 days ago

In my last post, I talked about the conservation aspect of Capetonian sustainable development and discussed the implied goal of maintaining biodiversity. As a follow up to that, I thought I’d look at how some of the associated issues are playing out in the midst of a recent conservation-slash-tourism-development effort at Boulders Beach. I’m going to go ahead and let you in on the punch line right now: maintaining biodiversity is more complicated than it seems.

Boulders Beach, a small coastal area just south of Cape Town, is home to a colony of African Penguins . These...

10 years 1 week ago

In my last post, I alluded to some huge and complex political and cultural identity issues associated with sustainable development in a place like South Africa. I’m not quite up to taking those on today, so I think I’ll start with another core idea in Cape Town “sustainability”: conservation.

The urban areas of Cape Town are sandwiched between the sea -- either the Atlantic Ocean or False Bay -- and Table Mountain National Park. Wildlife and nature areas are an extremely important part of South African tourism and Table Mountain National Park in particular is overseen by SANParks , which...

10 years 1 week ago

This post comes to you from the shores Kalk Bay, just south of Cape Town, South Africa. I’ll be in Africa for a month, doing research for an upcoming project. While I’m here, I thought I’d also take the opportunity to look at some local sustainability initiatives and to begin to think about what “sustainable design” might mean in a context like this one -- or, at least, what people mean when they talk about sustainability in relation to their work and/or their daily life

But first, I just want to put a few things out there – a sort of disclaimer, if you will.

I don’t really feel like...

10 years 1 week ago

When it comes to buildings, “green” and “energy efficient” are often used synonymously. There are, if you ask me, a number of problems with conflating these two term, at least one of which will, hopefully, become clear in this discussion of foamed polystyrene insulation.

Insulation is a key component of temperature regulation in buildings and the most common type of insulation out there is foamed polystyrene. It comes in two forms: Expanded Polystyrene and Extruded Polystyrene . EPS is slightly less expensive, but at R-5/in. XPS has a better thermal performance. XPS also has...

10 years 2 weeks ago

So, you want to live in a green home, but you can’t exactly afford to build a new house. In fact, you really like the house you live in, you just want it to be a little more energy efficient; you’d like to lower your utility bills, use less fossil fuels, be a little more self-sufficient. You want to start investigating the world of green retrofits, but you haven’t bothered yet, because you don’t have the money to make that kind of investment right now.

This post is for you. I recently heard a talk by Peter Adamczyk, Energy Finance and Development Manager at the Vermont Energy Investment...

10 years 2 weeks ago

Everyone loves composting toilets.

Okay, let me rephrase that.

Everyone should love composing toilets. And here’s why: The average American uses 7,665 gallons of water every year, just by flushing the toilet. Composting toilets, on the other hand, don’t require any water at all. If done right, they don’t smell, either.

How does a composting toilet work?

A composting toilet uses bacteria that thrive at high temperatures to break down human waste into a nutrient-rich compost, often called humus. This compost can be used to fertilize plants, although...

10 years 2 weeks ago

In contrast to the DIY-solar featured in my last post, I would say that Katrin Klingenberg -- an architect working to bring the German Passivhaus design standard to the U.S. – occupies the high tech end of the green building spectrum. I attended a workshop she gave at the NESEA BuildingEnergy10 conference last week.

What is Passivhaus?

Passivhaus is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings; you might think about is as the German version of LEED, except for...