Think in Reverse

Assignment 4 Interim October 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — clairelester @ 11:54 am

1)      SUBJECT

For Assignment 4 I chose to examine The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED), In Franklin County, Va. (20 minutes from my hometown, Roanoke, Va.) After attending a lecture at a church in Roanoke on this local project.  CEED is an extension of Franklin County high school, a small school in an extremely rural area of Virginia, with a goal to raise awareness and knowledge on renewable energy technologies and passivehaus design.  This building includes both a classroom and hands on laboratory where high school students study topics like hydroponics, aquaponics, and biodiesel production.  This building is not only a tool for our youth but it is also open to the public so that builders and contractors can see passivehaus systems in action, so that they can more easily apply these in their own work.



An unbelievable amount of systems are applied to the Center for Energy Efficient  Design.  Below I have listed these.

Technologies used:

passive design

earth berming

south facing orientation

solar glazing

solar appropriate overhangs

thermal mass

geothermal energy


solar water heaters

electricity-producing wind turbines

rainwater harvesting

energy-efficient appliances

daylight harvesting

cross ventilation

indoor air quality insulated shading

energy efficient landscaping

            water saving fixtures

            green roof application

For my Project I plan on focusing on the insulation used in the CEED, since that has been our main focus in the most recent class lectures.  I was intrigued by the simple drafted section image that Bill put up of a highly insulated wall that he mentioned simply came from a building standards book.  I think that exploring a detailed part of a building such as a wall or joint section will help me to get a better understanding of the actual construction techniques used in passivehaus building. So far in studio we have only built models at much smaller scales than what I plan to attempt for this project. This unfortunately forces us to edit out many layers of information that are essential for a built structure to function.  Also, by showing this in 3D I hope to be able to make the material palette and proportions a little bit more understandable and interactive to my classmates than the images that we have seen of these sections are.

3)      SOURCES


I would like to physically model an insulation section of one of the highly insulated exterior walls of CEED, or of an eaves joint showing the two different types of insulation occurring on both the wall and roof.  This model will be at either ½”=11 or 1”=1’ scale.  In addition to this I would like to draw some diagrams similar to the one below (which is NOT of my building) showing more detailed construction drawings of what is happening at a few of the important joints of the CEED.



Assignment 3: Energy Systems: from the Body to the World October 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — clairelester @ 3:42 pm

I found diagramming the energy I used in four hours more understandable when using two types of diagrams.  The first is a web of connections that focuses most heavily on the trail of energy flow that happens before any of my actions are completed or choices are made.  I originally began diagramming with my 4 hour schedule placed to the far left of the piece of paper, preparing to diagram what would happen as a result of these choices.  However, I slowly began to squeeze more and more connections in front of my schedule (in the left margin).  First the energy source, then the production of the source, then the raw materials, ect.  I realized from this draft of my diagram that the exact purpose of this assignment was to discover and better familiarize ourselves with the extremely complicated and long energy flow that has to occur BEFORE we make our daily choices.  In my final draft of the first diagram I placed my schedule towards the middle of the page.
The second diagram attempts to show the amounts of each source I used in the above diagram, by proportioning arrow thickness to the amount that I used in the four hour period.

The research I did on my second diagram was what helped me more accurately determine the amounts of resources I was using in the four hour period I diagrammed in the first image.  I tried to show using the sankey method the amount of each source using arrow thickness.  Looking at sankey diagram examples while researching I found the amount of lost energy that we have no control over really surprising.  I know this assignment is supposed to make us aware of the energy trail we have tied on to all of our minute actions but I couldn’t not make note of these losses.  This is the point in the infrastructural network I believe needs to be given the most attention.  The efficiency of our energy extraction from some resources (Coal/Nuclear import) can be less than 50%(energy that actually reaches us).  I believe that another renewable and more efficient energy source needs to be looked into to replace coal, or the methods of extracting coal need to drastically change.  25% of the total energy in the United States comes from coal even though it is so inefficient and is considered the world’s most polluting fossil fuel.  The extraction necessary for coal mining is also tied in first place with nuclear energy as the energy source with the most dangerous extraction process.

At the scale of habitual space the most energy I saw lost was through heating and cooling leaking out of buildings. We talked a little about this in section when we discussed some basic ways to easily reduce this occurrence. One was to not let just one material separate you from the outdoors.  A windows glass pane is an example of this and we talked about how in the winter it can be freezing in studio beside a window because the cold from outside transfers easily through just one material.  Multiple layers are much better at insulating.  Grade space and air pockets that separate you from the outdoors is taking this idea of material insulation a step further.  By creating a pocket of air separating the inhabitable space and outdoor space the air serves as an insulator in itself.  Aside from keeping the cold out, air infiltration and leakage from the home is another way heated air can be drawn from the home and wasted.  The articles on the internet that I read have seem to come to a consensus that this happens mostly from small holes and cracks in the homes joinery, the most heat being lost from the edges of walls and roofs, windows or doors.  These joints can be constructed with more precision or more insulation can be applied in specific areas.

At the scale of the individual choices I made, I found the most lost energy occured while using a gas stove.  After doing some research I found that wood stoves are much more efficient than gas stoves.  However, if I don’t want to buy a whole new stove (which I don’t, and this would also create unnecessary waste) a smaller step that can be taken to reduce this heat loss is by using a pot or pan with the same diameter as the burner.  This is such an easy change and makes complete sense.  I know this piece of information is the one way this assignment will immediately change my choice of pot or pan and I will no longer grab the closest one.



Industrial Ecosystems October 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — clairelester @ 12:09 pm


Industrial ecology is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems. This study involves the application of systems science to industrial systems, while taking into account the environmental interactions and impacts of the processes and products involved (; In the article “Industrial Ecology”, by Valerie M. Thomas, we are taught about the aims and strategies of this science, while given an example of an industrial ecosystem at work in Kalundborg, Denmark (

Thomas begins by explaining the importance of examining both energy and material flows in an industry, and starting to think about ways to use resources in a sustainable way in order to better protect our environment. The article tells us that some approaches to industrial ecology are ‘systems analysis, industrial metabolism , materials flow analysis, life cycle analysis, pollution prevention, design for environment, product stewardship , energy technology assessment, and eco-industrial parks.’ As we talked about in discussion, Thomas mentions the importance of material efficiency and life cycle. Over the past century changes to more efficient and therefore environmentally friendly resources have shown us that it is possibly to at least lessen the carbon emissions involved in world energy use.

Another proposal Thomas mentions in this article, that I thought was really interesting, was to introduce the substitution of services for products. This would mean that customers do not seek out physical products but rather an individual to come and perform a service for them. The example given is of killing weeds with pesticides. If an individual were to go to the store and buy a bottle of pesticide they would also be contributing to the large carbon trail connected to the manufacturing of that pesticides container and contents, the transportation needed to ship that pesticide to the consumer, the energy needed to sustain the home depot that the consumer bought the pesticide from, ect. If an individual were to come to your garden and treat those weeds for you the idea is that less waste would result from this and that only the specific amount of pesticide you need would be provided.

Another strategy mentioned in the article is to use waste products as raw materials. A great diagram of a industrial ecosystem that does this, in Kalundborg, Denmark is given. Another website I found helped to describe this same diagram in a little more depth ( “At Kalundborg, steam and various raw materials such as sulfur, fly ash and sludge are exchanged in what is the world’s most elaborate industrial ecosystem. Participating firms each benefit economically from reduce costs for waste disposal, improved efficiencies of resource use and improved environmental performance.” A specific example of this is that the gas capture from the oil refinery is now sent to the electrical power station, and is expected to save the plant the equivalent of 30,000 tonnes of coal a year. This is just one way in which Denmark serves as an international leader in promoting sustainable development. I find this industrial ecosystem inspiring and encouraging in the efforts the United States should be taking to ensure the health of our earth.







Assignment 2: The Bay Game and the interface between natural and cultural systems

Filed under: Uncategorized — clairelester @ 2:46 am

1)                 In my diagram, I focused specifically on the role cattle farming plays in the bay game, since that is the position I was assigned, In the Rappahannock watershed. In order to make the diagram read a little easier I outlined the choices the bay game gave me in blue. The main elements in my system are the cattle, the food fed to the cattle, the cattle’s waste, the meat produced, the nitrogen and phosphorus produced, the profit, and the bay health. The connections are all of the arrows that connect these elements. A few examples are waste that gets pickup up by runoff which leads the runoff to carry the chemicals in this waste to the bay; Or the choice to farm sustainably and therefore make a little less profit that you did previously. The goal of this system is either to make a profit or to help the bay, or to do a little bit of both. For all cycles of the game I farmed sustainably, and covered my cattle’s waste. However, I could have taken a step further in sustainable practices by also buying a device to remove the nutrients in the waste. My goal was to try to both make a profit while helping the bay. I was ultimately successful, with overall a gradually increasing profit.

2)              It was mentioned in class that the way the bay game measures bay health might not be the most accurate approach. In the game, only the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water are stressed as harmful effects on the bay. Before doing more research, I thought that these two things were all that the game took into account when making the bay health charts. I believe a fault in the game is that we’re not informed on more of the harmful effects of each practice and what these do to the bay. I believe more transparency in this aspect of the game would help to make it more understandable and applicable to real life.

I found a great website from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Manure Management and Water Quality that gave additional information about the multiple ways that beef cattle farming can damage water quality and threaten marine life ( A few ways not mentioned in the bay game: life threatening bacteria and other pathogens in cow manure can not only harm certain marine organism but can also make the water unsafe for us to drink, and even touch-causing a greater disconnect between the inhabitants in the watersheds and the bay itself; and also by over grazing and trampling of cows near river and stream banks that can cause erosion problems and also increase the rate at which the harmful chemicals from the manure are washed in.

3)               After playing this game I feel much more strongly about advocating for a healthier Chesapeake Bay. A real world strategy that I believe will improve bay health is by creating strict government regulations on the amount of harmful chemicals each type of development can contribute to the bay. In our most recent discussion section we talked a lot about what it will take to get people to live more sustainably on a global scale. Some thought that awareness would help or even be the solution while others believed that more concrete and enforceable goals had to be set. I think that unless there is a huge breaking point in the bay system that affects the large majority of the population in a negative way, the people must be forced to change. Although we are past breaking point now, most do not see the fragile systems of the bay that way and continue to practice what works economically for them, while continuing to do harm to their environment- a classic example of tragedy of the commons.

These government regulations would have to be put on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus emitted from each development. However, after developing a deeper understanding on other harmful bay practices other regulations, more regulations may need to be included. An example of one of these additions may be a law against the destruction or development of stream and riverbeds, so that natural runoff systems and stream contours are preserved.

Another reason why I think strong regulations are necessary is because in the game we were able to learn about the short-fallings of green incentives and taxes on major nitrogen or phosphorus contributors. An example of this occurred in the game where by leaving your land fallow, you could actually make money. It seemed a little funny that this could happen and although once figured out it seemed a good strategy, in real life this practice gets us nowhere. The goal should be to produce enough of a certain commodity to satisfy human needs, while either continuing or enhancing environmental quality, making the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources, and “sustaining the economic viability of farm operations” (

I believe that this strategy would increase the bays health almost immediately, but would take a while to level out economically. In class the day we couldn’t get the game to work we talked about how if everyone would chose to practice their trades sustainably, that the prices for sustainable food would rapidly decline. This effect is based off of the simple rule of supply and demand, and since all of the new food would be sustainable, then the scarceness of the product would be lost and the price would therefore have to drop. Perhaps to plan for this effect the government regulators could enforce the new laws in small intervals, helping to provide a more gradual transition both environmentally and economically.

In conclusion, we learn from our Meadows reading that in order to stay a healthy system, we have to keep manipulating our goals and strategies along the way. Rather than getting stuck in one zone of existing we have to listen to Donella Meadows when she tells us to stay humble and stay a learner; “What’s appropriate when you’re learning is small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where its leading” (Meadows, Pg. 180).

Optional Feedback on Improvements for the Game:

In class it was mentioned that the beef cattle farmer specifically has too few choices on the game. I however appreciated the fact that this position was kept simple and understandable. I don’t think any other choices should be added.  Also, before playing the game I think maybe we should be encouraged to test out different methods of farming, fishing, ect. I was a bit confused from the start on the goal of this game. It was made very clear that we could chose to either get rich or be sustainable or be a certain percentage of either one of these. However, I wish looking back that I had known we would have to write about our individual choices and the very specific effects they would have on the bay health. (Exp. Time lags in our changes taking effect). This would have led me to switch things up rather than to try and stay constant with my (somewhat) sustainable methods as I would have in real life.