Andrea Brennen

Andrea Brennen

Posts by This Writer

10 years 3 weeks ago

In my last post I introduced some of the differences between  low-tech vs. high-tech approachs to green design. The Main Solar Energy Association , based in Lubec, is a great example of the former. Straight out of the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog, MeSEA offers workshops in “do-it-yourself-solar” and publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Maine Sun.

I spoke with the organization’s John Burke and Soni Biehl at the...

10 years 3 weeks ago

There is a general agreement about the problem at hand: the climate is changing and the sea levels will rise; burning fossil fuels is bad and the projected business-as-usual scenarios are dismal; buildings are significant consumers of energy and there is a desperate need to rethink the way they work.

There is less accord and more debate, however, when it comes to deciding how, exactly, buildings should work.

Before I go on, two brief asides:

1. Yes, I am aware that there are those who still maintain that there is no problem – but I’m assuming that if you’re reading...

10 years 3 weeks ago

Last week at the NESEA Building Energy10 Conference, I attended a session called Counting Measuring Reporting: what’s important? where architect Chris Benedict instigated a really interesting conversation about standards, scientific evidence, and accountability for energy efficient buildings.

The premise of the session was simple enough: NESEA is developing a database of energy efficient buildings – a resource for architects, builders, clients, etc. that will include a series of case study projects, providing...

10 years 3 weeks ago

Last week I attended the BuildingEnergy10 Conference put on by NESEA at the World Trade Center in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a solid three days of lectures, workshops, and vendor booths, where industry experts commiserated about the bleakness of climate change, debated the merits of evacuated solar tubes vs. flat pv panels, and nerded out over insulation.

I’ll do my best to summarize it all in the most interesting way possible, but first, here is a little background info about NESEA.

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, a...

10 years 4 weeks ago

As promised, here it is, the coolest new idea in prefab: Blu Homes fold for easier shipping.

At the end of last year, Blu Homes, a Massachusetts-based design build company, announced the launch of their Origin product line. The design of Blu’s Origin homes is based on a logic of mass customization, an approach that takes advantage of computer-aided manufacturing systems to make products which are customizable for individual needs. Aspects of the homes are standardized – wall sections, programmatic components, construction details – but the flexibility of digital modeling...

10 years 1 month ago

In my last post, I mentioned how it often seems that “prefab” is conflated with “green” when it comes to sustainable home design. While I definitely don’t buy that one implies the other, there are, nevertheless, a number of recent projects that exemplify both. Here are 3 of the coolest examples.

Global Sustainable Home : Self-sufficient Prefab

Greggory Cates and John Farag’s Global Sustainable Home is constructed from factory-built components and can be assembled in about a week. Typically, pre-fab homes...

10 years 1 month ago

It seems like every day I read another article about the newest, greenest, most sustainable prefab home. My next few posts will take on the idea of prefab – looking at some notable examples, but first, here are some of the ideas behind this trend.

What is Prefab?

Prefab, short for prefabrication, refers to a construction technique where parts of the building are manufactured and assembled in a facility before they are transported to the building site. Although the term is used quite commonly today,...

10 years 1 month ago

Sometimes, for me, figuring out how to act sustainably in my day to day life seems surprisingly complicated. Should I believe the green-washed packaging? Pay extra for “organic”? Ride my bike in the snow?

This confusion that come from weighing possible options, often without access to all the information needed, is magnified when making decisions about something that consumes a lot of resources, such as a building project. Any given decision represents a series of possible consequences to consider; competing theories and opinions promote one strategy over...

10 years 1 month ago

In my last post, I began to look at some of the differences between rural vs. urban definitions of sustainability in an American context. I drew a comparison between Boston, Massachusetts and Viroqua, Wisconsin – soliciting my friend Lars, a subsistence organic farmer, to help me make my point.

If you ask me, the farm that Lars shares with his wife Corinna and their son Eliot is about as sustainable as it gets. They adhere to a rigid philosophy of minimal disruption to the land – feeding their animals via rotational...

10 years 1 month ago

Let me introduce you to my friend Lars.

Lars is an ex-Wall-Street-trader-turned-organic-pig-farmer. He used to live in New York, but now the place he calls home is a 100 acre patch of Southwestern Wisconsin. I think one of the reasons that Lars and I have always gotten along so well is that both of us can really appreciate and enjoy the benefits of a hyper-connected urban lifestyle as well as the joy of living on a pig farm in what most people would consider the middle of nowhere.

I live in Boston now, but before I moved to this big city on the East Coast, I lived on a farm -- yes, with cows -- that...