Solar Decathlon 2013 – Orange County Great Park

Flux Home University of Southern California USC

CLICK HERE   See the Flux House in Ojai **** an internationally, renowned, architect moves the 2013 Solar Decathlon Flux Home to Ojai, CA

The Solar Decathlon  is a very cool event – a college competition to build solar homes.  Usually in Washington, DC – last year the 2013 Solar Decathlon exhibit was in Orange County, California for the first time.  Although I follow the event every year – this year I went to see the houses.

They say architects are at their best when they are old – experienced.  This truth exists but there is something really fun, fresh and appealing about these college students taking on the task of building a home – an efficient and new style of home.

  • lots of shed roofs
  • passive solar design using shading
  • open and flexible plans
  • solar systems


The Decathlon was held at the former El Toro  Marine Air Base – which is being transformed into “Great Park” – at 4700 acre real estate development – CLICK HERE for more info

A runway of cool houses …

Continue reading “Solar Decathlon 2013 – Orange County Great Park”

This’ll blow your hair back! Solar Decathlon 2011

Its Solar Decathlon time again ! 

I love this annual competition.  Crazy ideas – experimental – cutting edge – out of the box (as they say!) – weird – fun – they say if you want to learn and be creative – you should take things apart – turn them upside down – backwards – shatter ideas and then put it all together.  Well that’s what they do here.  Watch all 20 of the competitors entries and I guarantee you will get an education.  Watch with an open mind and remember – we are looking for new stuff here!

Press play to watch the SCI-Arc video.  Right in my  back yard – SCI-Arc is cutting edge and a little bit Hollywood too!

Solar Decathlon Teams

The 20 university-led teams that design, build, and operate the competition’s solar-powered houses are the heart of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Learn more about each of these teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2011: Continue reading “This’ll blow your hair back! Solar Decathlon 2011”

Japan Quake – Inconceivable Environmental Disaster

This phenomenal video footage is the most amazing I have seen of the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.  As an ocean go-er from a tiny age  – I have often feared the idea of giant waves and the helplessness of escaping.  This astonishing video shows a  clear sunny day and the view of the lines of waves (walls of water) heading toward the shore.  The incredible strength of the water – pulverizing buildings into scrap – tossing giant boats miles inland – and moving cars like they are ping pong balls – is astonishing to see in such clear footage.  A truly astonishing environmental disaster!

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’][/pro-player]

Environmental Consequences

Can there be a connection between quakes and global warming ?  We are just one planet – we’ve changed the alkalinity of the ocean … I know quakes and storms happen and are part of nature but you have to wonder how we effect the planet !


DEATH – The incredible loss of life from this disaster will make it one of the worst in our lifetimes.   These disasters seem to keep on coming … Katrina almost 2000 dead – the tsunami in Thailand over 5,000 dead, Haitian earthquake over 300,000 dead.

Nuclear Power

MELT DOWN – in a nutshell forget about future nuclear power.  You can’t find a plan for our future energy needs that hasn’t included lots of Nuclear power.   Despite the obvious shortcomings of Nuke’s – they produce lots of power without CO2.  The world seemed to be hot on course to ramping up – warp speed – the development of Nukes – but this quake will kill that!  This puts more pressure on coal, oil  and gas as our primary sources of power.  Hopefully this will also push growth of renew-ables from the paltry 7% of current global energy. Continue reading “Japan Quake – Inconceivable Environmental Disaster”

Show Us Your Projects ! – Bio Diverse Farm – Super Green Building

This amazing project caught my eye !  Just check out the spec’s … containers – green houses – graywater – gardens – solar – Bert calls this the “Bio Diverse Farm” – check it out

Click on photos to enlarge

Send us your projects!


Hi Otis

This Design project might interest you. The main points are:


Southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia

2 acre plot, gentle slope to SE

Winters Wet, Summer very dry limited ground water

Climatic zone 6-8

Continue reading “Show Us Your Projects ! – Bio Diverse Farm – Super Green Building”

Earthships for the rest of us – How to build a code compliant Earthship

I love Earthships – my wife hates ’em !
I love Earthships – the building department hates ’em!

Ahhh life’s challenges.

My visit to Taos, New Mexico to visit the “Greater World Earthship Community” got me thinking …. this is really cool – off grid – independent community.  Why don’t we have more of this kind of thing going on?   Well it’s not as easy as it looks – for some the idea of building a house out of old tires is just too much!  And – most areas that follow modern building codes will treat you like a Communist in the McCarthy hearings!

So here’s my idea to take the Earthship and modify it into a “user friendly” home that still uses a lot of it’s great attributes but allows the rest of us to hire a contractor – hook up to standard city utilities

Continue reading “Earthships for the rest of us – How to build a code compliant Earthship”

Net Zero Home in Vermont

Here’s a cool house that I have seen written up a few times … located in Charlotte, Vermont – right near my alma mater – The Universtiy of Vermont.  David Pill and Hillary Maharam designed their own energy producing green home.  The 2700 sf home uses an all electric system of a ground souce heat pump coupled with super insulated walls and a wind turbine.

Article by David Pill  Journal of Light Construction

Netting Zero in a Cold Climate

How a house in northern Vermont produces as much energy as it consumes.

Netting Zero in a Cold Climate How a house in northern Vermont produces as much energy as it consumes by David Pill As an architect, I’ve been educating myself in green building practices for nearly 20 years, through reading and attending workshops and conferences. So when it came to designing a new home for my family in northern New England, I had definite goals in mind. First, I wanted to create a house with as little environmental impact as possible. Second, I wanted to use the most conventional methods possible, so that the house would be relatively affordable and include …

To see the rest of this article – either buy the current issue of JLC or go to the Journal of Light Construction

You can see more about David and Hillary ‘s home on their web site

Thick Walls – Green Homes – Oregon

Do you know about Passive House or Passivhaus as they say in Germany?  They use wood frame walls – sometimes almost 12 inches thick!  I only heard about Passivhaus a couple of years ago but recently see more and more projects following this philosophy.   Apparently the founder of these ideas started in the USA during the 70’s solar revolution and took the ideas back to Germany and developed super low energy consuming homes.

            Continue reading “Thick Walls – Green Homes – Oregon”

Portland – the Greenest City Ever???

The Portland (and Hood River) Green Building Tours will be the subject of our next Green Building Sessions….

I love Portland!   Here for the Green Building Tour, I checked out the city the night before.   An amazing energy exists here.  The bumper sticker says “Keep Portland Weird.”   My cousin, who lives here, says too many people from California and the mid west have been moving here and trying to “normalize” things.

My friend Joe poses with Portland Superheros ! Continue reading “Portland – the Greenest City Ever???”