Aug 11

Barbie Goes Green

Barbie gets a green roof

Posted: 2011-08-10 21:58:03 UTC

Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities & Smart Growth, Washington, DC

I vacationed in Prague not long ago and wandered into a museum full of Barbie dolls.  Pretty impressive, in its way.  Barbie has come a long way over the years, and her newest incarnation over the years, and her newest incarnation is as an architect with a green home.

Architect Barbie (via Inhabitat)Bridgette Meinhold previewed Architect Barbie in Inhabitat:

“Various people and organizations have long been vying to get Barbie to become an architect and, finally in 2010, Mattel agreed.  University of Buffalo professor Despina Stratigakos and Kelly Hayes McAlonie consulted for Mattel and made suggestions about Architect Barbie’s clothing and her accessories.  While many disapprove of Architect Barbie’s choice of footwear, the architecture plan tube, and her choice of pink, the designers had good reason to choose all the items. They had to find a balance between stereotypes and pushing the boundaries.”  

I don’t have a big problem with that, actually, and would sooner hire an Architect Barbie than a hypothetical Architect Ken to design my building.

If I did, chances are the building might have some cool green features.  This summer, the American Institute of Architects held a design competition for Architect Barbie’s “Dream House.”  Among the guidelines, according to Meinhold, were that the home should reflect “the best sustainable design principles” with a smart home office, a top of the line kitchen “and tons of space to entertain.”

Architect Barbie's Dream House (via AIA)

The winning entry, designed by Ting Li and Maja Parklar, provides Barbie with the latest technology.  From the AIA press release announcing the winner:

“The winning house design features entertaining space and chef’s open kitchen on the first floor, along with an office / library / meeting space. There is also a terrace on the second floor.  The third and fourth floors are Barbie® doll’s private enclave, her bedroom and her inspiration room respectively.  The roof has a green house and a landscaped garden for her domestic pets.  The design elements include solar panels, landscaped rooftop and irrigation system, operable shading devices, bamboo flooring, low flow toilet and sink fixtures, and locally sourced and manufactured materials and furnishings.”

Go here for Meinhold’s latest coverage of the dream house, and lots of good images.

Of course, this being an AIA competition, the house has nearly 5,000 square feet of living space and is sited on a three-acre lot in Malibu with a three-car garage.  The Institute isn’t known for giving much weight to green locations with walkability and transportation choices in its competitions, unfortunately.  So I think “the best sustainable design principles” should come with a disclaimer in this case.  Even Barbie can’t have everything, apparently.

The series on NRDC’s sustainable communities agenda will resume tomorrow.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog’s home page.


Jul 25

The Next Generation Of Turbines Go Underwater

The Next Generation Of Turbines Go Underwater, And They’re Coming Soon

BY MICHAEL J. CORENWed Jul 20, 2011

As the U.S. slowly abandons its dams, more and more pilot programs pop up for deriving power from tides and river currents. Welcome to a new age of water power.

Every day, enough water flows down America’s rivers and streams to power tens of millions of homes. With the era of big dams effectively over in the U.S., halted by the lack of suitable sites as much as environmental concerns, the time for hydrokinetic energy may just be dawning.

The ideas of using turbines, or other mechanical devices, to capture the energy of moving water is not a new one. Yet the technology for such hydrokinetic energy has met serious resistance from conditions below the surface. As water is 832 times denser than air, it poses tough engineering challenges for power generators who must contend with corrosion, stray electromagnetic fields, and rules to safeguard sealife.

“There’s a lot of electricity to be had from these device and probably fewer environmental impacts, says Glenn Cada, senior researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the Department of Energy’s program to improve hydrokenetic technology and minimize the environmental impacts. “It’s not as easy as taking a taking a wind turbine and putting it under water. The forces are much greater. We are trying to understand how to make them sturdy enough to generate electricity from river currents.”

Demonstration projects in the Mississippi and New York’s East Rivers have been steadily perfecting the technology needed to capture this energy for almost a decade. Verdant Power’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project in New York’s East River (soon to be expanded) has successfully operated six underwater turbines between 2006-2008, and delivering 70 megawatt hours to a nearby supermarket and parking garage in what the company called the “world’s first grid-connected array of tidal turbines.” Free Flow Power Power has installed its own turbines, resembling jet engines, in the Mississippi and is eying more than 50 expansion sites.

Now, everyone from state agencies to universities are racing to get into the game. Applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for new hydrokinetic sites have soared in the last three years: 79   have been approved since 2009 (almost double those as of 2008), and 145 more are awaiting final approval in  Missouri, Maine, Louisiana, New Jersey and other states.

Eventually, based on the ambitions of several energy developers, underwater fields of hundreds of turbines could generating enough megawatts to power cities around the country.

“We’re trying to prove these things right now,” says Cada.

[Image: Atlantis Resources Corporation]

Reach Michael J. Coren via Twitter or email.

Read More: World’s First Floating Wind Turbine Installed, Ready for Testing