Archive for March, 2010

» This is Not a Park

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

There is a well know work of art that was painted in 1928 by the Belgian surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images. His intended goal for his work was to challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality and force viewers to become hypersensitive to their surroundings. The painting is entitled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” Translated this means “this is not a pipe.”  It is, of course not a pipe but an image of a pipe.

So if you live anywhere near Carol Stream Illinois, you may have driven by this small little park located at Gary Avenue and Lies Road. Although it looks like an archeological find, the park was recently built, about five years ago, but has fallen into disrepair. It is hardly visible anymore due to the uncontrolled growth of foliage. This was a formerly vacant corner, and it must have been an expensive build, new trees and landscaping, new retaining walls with masonry, new benches, a memorial plaque, and sidewalk pavers, conservatively maybe $50,000.  But every time I drive by I wonder why it was built in the first place. I have never seen a person anywhere near this park, there is no bus stop, and it is completely isolated from any sort of human activity. In fact in order to reach the park I had to park about a half mile away, and walk through mud, culverts, and tall weeds. But if you could reach it, why would you want to. Why would you want to sit in a park that faces a major intersection? Maybe just watch some traffic on a nice Sunday afternoon?

The problem is, like the painting, the park is not really a park but an image of a park. It is a three dimensional billboard put up by the misguided Village of Carol Stream to spoon-feed passers by a calculated image. But the message it really sends is that the Village of Carol Stream is more concerned about an image than actually providing amenities for their residents. It is sad that our elected officials make these kinds of decisions with our tax dollars. Build parks that nobody can use, what a waste.

So what’s the bid deal, why I am making such a fuss over such a little park? Well, a park is not meant to be enjoyed from a car as you go whizzing by, it’s meant to be a place for rest, to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature, to nurture your soul and recharge. This park is teasing you and not letting you have those things. We chose the image over the real thing. This is a cultural decision that should be questioned. Why have we chosen to replace a real experience with the image that represents it as a substitute? The idea of an image as a representation or substitute for the real is a denial of human experience. What is worse is that it is so readily accepted, and we are confused, we don’t know what’s real.

Ceci n’est pas un jardin .” This is not a park.

» Water Efficiency

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Today there is a lot said about energy efficiency.  This can include everything from energy efficient windows to energy efficient appliances.  I would like to mention a little about water energy efficiency.  Did you know that if you insulated your pipes coming out of the hot water heater by just a few feet, you can reduce your energy consumption.  Remember, there is water in the pipes and the pipes have a tendency to extract the heat out of the water.  This in turns cool the water and the hot water heater has to fire up again to replenish the heat.  Also, place that water heater has close as possible to the main user, typically the bathroom.  The longer the distance the water has to travel then the more energy it takes to heat that water back up.

 Another way to go is the Tankless Water Heater.  Currently there are tax credits (up to 30% of the cost), utility rebates that can help offset the costs.  These water heaters can be a bit costly, ranging anywhere from $150 for a single use to $900 for a complete residential unit.  There are many different brands out there so look around before you purchase and find the right one for your application.

» The Windy City

Monday, March 15th, 2010

The windy city.  There are three different theories why Chicago is called the Windy City. The first is: The Cincinnati and Chicago rivalries, the second: 1890’s World Fair and the third is the weather. 

Cincinnati and Chicago were rival cities in the 1860s and 1870s. Cincinnati was well known in the meatpacking trade and it was called “Porkopolis” from at least 1843. Starting from the early 1860s, Chicago surpassed Cincinnati in this trade and proudly claimed the very same “Porkopolis” nickname. The baseball inter-city matches were especially intense. The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings were the pride of all of baseball, so Chicago came up with a rival team called the White Stockings to defeat them. “Windy City” often appeared in the Cincinnati sporting news of the 1870s and 1880s. For the Cincinnati papers, “Windy City” had meant a Chicago that was full of bluster.

In 1890, Chicago won the bid to host the World’s Fair, also known as the World’s Colombian Exposition. Many prominent New Yorkers were extremely irritated that a “frontier town” could beat them.

We are going to focus on the weather theory.  With Chicago being located on Lake Michigan, the city has a tendency to cool breezes blowing off the lake.  And with its unique city layout and the wind tunnels that form from the tall buildings make some areas a gold mine of untapped free wind power.

To harness that power Wind turbines can be employed.  These wind turbines can typically connect to your home via a 220 volt line run under ground from the turbine to a safety disconnect switch the into the main breaker.  There are typically no changes required in the home.  By using some of these wind turbines your power will first be drawn from your turbine and then the power grid.  If you make more than you use the power can be credit back to the utility company.  There are great software packages out there that help monitor your production.

The downfall of these turbine systems is the price.  They can range from $8,000 all the way up to $20,000 installed.  However there are federal tax incentives and sometime local utility companies will give credits for it use. The duration of time that it takes to offset the initial cost depends greatly on your location.

It is not for everybody but it is a good place to start harnessing the power of the wind.

» Green Water

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

As architects, moisture is usually considered an enemy of any building. It can cause wood to rot, create mold and be an overall nuisance. But what if there was a way to extract that moisture out of the air and then, a little while later, enjoy that extracted moisture as a cool crisp glass of 99.99% pure water. Just think of all the plastic bottles that could be saved from landfills and the overall energy consuption that it takes for you to drink a cold bottle of water.

There is always water in the atmosphere. Clouds are, of course, the most visible manifestation of atmospheric water, but even clear air contains water—water in particles that are too small to be seen. One estimate of the volume of water in the atmosphere at any one time is about 3,100 cubic miles (mi3) or 12,900 cubic kilometers (km3). That may sound like a lot, but it is only about 0.001 percent of the total Earth’s water volume of about 332,500,000 mi3 (1,385,000,000 km3). If all of the water in the atmosphere rained down at once, it would only cover the ground to a depth of 2.5 centimeters, about 1 inch. (to read more go to:

Check out this new product called the DewPointe DH9. It can supply you with up to 8 gallons of fresh pure water for almost nothing. The beauty of this idea of extracting drinking water out of the air is that it helps save water, fuel for transportation and reduces landfills from all those plastic water bottles. For more information go to:

Even how we get water can be considered green. Is there no end?

Check out this video for more information: