Musings of a former Rocket Scientist

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  • Category Archives Self-Sufficiency
  • Terps Take 2nd Place in 2017 Solar Decathlon


    WinningFor the third time in the last 10 years (the last three times Maryland has entered, in fact), the TERPS have placed First in the Nation at this year’s Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  This victory includes placing Second in the new Innovation Contest category, reflecting the team’s strong priority for bringing something truly new to the competition in Denver.

    The name Team Maryland chose for their house is reACT, which stands for (R)esilient Adaptive Climate Technology.  reACT is more than an individual dwelling, it is a toolbox of technologies for creating the next generation of housing throughout the U.S. and the world.

    Continue reading  Post ID 487

  • The Challenge of Density vs. Water Independence

    In seeking to create a built environment based on regenerative principles, one goal often cited is to create closed loop systems of water and waste.  Net-positive Water is the sole Imperative for the Living Building Challenge’s Water Petal, for instance.  The idea is that we ought to be able to supply all our potable water needs using filtered and sterilized rainwater that falls on the site; wastewater recycling is another option but using it for drinking water complicates matters even more.

    In our pursuit of lower construction costs and greater efficiency in energy, materials and land use, we often work very hard to reduce the geographic footprint of the project.  This is especially true in the residential sector, and doubly so in affordable housing projects.  Greater density is often heralded as a basic groundrule of sustainable design (at least in urban settings).

    But as we will discuss, density also presents serious challenges to developing projects that are net-zero in energy and water.

    Continue reading  Post ID 420

  • Reclaiming American Independence

    AmericanRenaissaceAmericans pride themselves on being fiercely independent. We have spent the better part of the last 200 years fighting to keep the Government (first the British, then our own) out of our personal lives. Over the past 100 years or so, however, we have been giving up more and more control to others for the sake of convenience.

    Our food is grown by someone else (usually on a factory farm) and driven cross country to the store. Power to provide light and other services is generated for us by the utility company. The utility company, in turn, relies on gas or coal provided by other companies. Our water is taken from distant rivers or lakes or aquifers and treated with chemicals in a large industrial plant before being pumped to our houses. Waste disappears into the sewer or the garbage truck and goes… well… SOMEplace. The fact is that most of us have no IDEA where our food, water or power come from and where our waste goes. We are generally not encouraged to find out.  Most of us can no longer fend for ourselves, but must pay others to do it.

    Continue reading  Post ID 40