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Bill Chaleff Innovative Green Achitecture

February 24, 2006 @ 12:00 am EST


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This morning’s meeting was advertised as a discussion of energy efficient homes. In fact it was so much more. Bill Chaleff of Chaleff & Rogers Architects began the session speaking about the reality of global warming. The phenomena known as the “green house effect”is very much upon us, and the cause is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The presentation was surprisingly technical, but delivered in a way that was easy to understand. The means of heat transfer were explained as, conductive, convective, and radiation. Those terms were explained to the satisfaction of this general audience. In explaining radiation Bill pointed out that the sun travels across millions of miles of space at absolute zero, (-453F) and only creates heat when it enters the earth’s atmosphere. He explained that the earth’s greenhouse is what makes life possible. On the other hand, an enhanced greenhouse effect would have devastating effects on the planet.  


Chaleff explained that energy is the main driver in the creation of the modern society. He went on to say there is no direct correlation between energy consumption and the quality of our lives. Americans use 3 times as much energy per capita than modern societies in Japan, Germany, Scandinavia, and other first world nations. The reason that these countries use less energy is the design of their buildings and automobiles.


Of the 82 million barrels of oil we use every day, 10% comes from the Middle East. Reducing our needs by 10% according to Mr.Chaleff would be very easy, and without inventing another new thing.


Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses that were passive solar 60 years ago. This technology made inexpensive to heat, and more comfortable than standard construction. Montezuma’s castle was solar designed to take advantage of the heat gathering design in winter while using the cooling aspects of the design in summer. Today we can parlay that knowledge using materials in buildings such as Structurally Insulated Panels, or SIP’s as they are called..


Structural Insulated Panels are also not new. It has been in use about 40 years. SIP’s create a building envelope that is easy to heat, easy to construct, creates a quiet environment, and is incredibly strong. When hurricane Andrew swept across Florida years ago there were a few house still standing when it was over. Those house used SIP design.


These low energy use designs make all other means of energy more viable, regardless of cost, because we will use so little of it. Can we actually shake this addiction to oil? The answer for me was buttressed by this very interesting discussion. Yes, we can!