Wall Gardens, Living Walls in Home Decor – WSJ.com

Consumers with deep pockets will find wall-garden systems that are elaborate and high-tech. GSky Plant Systems Inc., of Vancouver, sells a ProWall system that holds plants without soil in 1-foot-square stainless-steel units, watered through an automated drip system. Typical cost of a custom 10-foot-by-10-foot wall ranges from about $10,000 to $15,000, says Hal Thorne, chief executive. The company won’t install the ProWall system unless the homeowner or business agrees to a maintenance contract for at least a year—which for a 10-by-10 wall would cost about $150 a month.

“We don’t just build them and walk away,” Mr. Thorne says. “It’s a living system, and it needs constant attention and care.”

Bright Green, of Hartland, Mich., creates living walls from plastic trays of 10 or 45 cells, which hold plants in soil at an angle so they don’t fall out when mounted on a wall. Hand-watering is required. Water enters through notches at the top edge of the tray and travels down via a “moisture mat” made of a coconut-based fiber. A tray collects water at the bottom.

The system retails for $29.95 for the small version or $39.95 for the large. A kit including a wooden frame to set off the design on a wall costs $95.

Woolly Pocket, of Los Angeles, offers a system of 2-foot-wide planters filled with soil. Each pocket has a plastic-coated mesh liner that is both a moisture barrier to protect walls and a reservoir, focusing water onto plant roots. The systems generally are watered by hand or by an automatic system with a timer that can cost as much as $60.

The single-pocket “Wally One” planter retails for $40; three cost $100, five $150.

via Wall Gardens, Living Walls in Home Decor – WSJ.com.

After some trial and error with plants, homeowner Angela Day, a financial analyst, enjoys tending her collection of kangaroo ferns and prayer plants. “When I walk by, it’s calming, just a little more serene, maybe a little bohemian,” she says. “It’s a lot different from where I am most of the day.”

Incorporated into a sleek interior, a green wall lends unexpected freshness and some appealing contrast, designers say. “It gives an otherwise smooth, straight, linear design some texture,” says Jason Lempieri, a 41-year old industrial designer in Philadelphia.

Mr. Lempieri’s recently remodeled 1920s brick row house has an open floor plan and a sleek, black-and-white interior.

Recalling plant-filled walls he had seen in Europe, Mr. Lempieri installed a wall garden in the dining room, on a partial-height wall 13 feet wide by 8 feet high with a skylight 30 feet above. He used a system of felt-like pockets filled with soil and, working with Philadelphia-based designer Peter Smith, came up with a palette of ferns and tropical plants. Total cost: $1,000.

Jason Lempieri, a Philadelphia industrial designer, installed a wall garden filled with ferns and tropical plants on the wall of the kitchen in his renovated 1920s row house. Wall gardens are a good contrast in linear modern interiors, designers say.

Mr. Lempieri says he enjoys watering and tending to it. “I’ve come to care for it like it’s a member of the family,” he says.

Wall systems are often modular, with stackable cells of plants that can be arranged in customized displays. Irrigation can be an old-fashioned watering can, or a hidden computerized watering system on timers. Plants may require soil, or they may be fed hydroponically, through chemical-nutrient mixtures in water.

For some, living walls can be a bad fit. Conditions indoors are more challenging for plants than outdoors, because there is less light and moisture. Homeowners have to be a little more “in tune” with their plants’ needs, says Kimberly Labno, a Philadelphia designer.

People may forget to set the timer on an irrigation system. Yet with automatic irrigation systems, there are risks of mold problems and overwatering, designers say. Manufacturers say their systems are safe, but many have been on the residential market for less than five years—not exactly a test of time.

Ms. Labno actually advises homeowners against certain automatic watering systems for their indoor wall gardens, because she says there’s too much that could go wrong. “If dust prevents a valve from closing, you could have a serious flooding event,” she says. The wall gardens she designs typically require watering by hand.

“I think the jury is still out,” says Rebecca Sweet, a Los Altos, Calif., garden designer and author of the book “Garden Up,” about vertical gardening. “Because this is such a new field, I don’t know any homeowner that has had any of these walls up for 10 years at a time.”



How to Make Moss Graffiti: 6 steps (with pictures) – wikiHow

Moss graffiti, also called eco-graffiti or green graffiti, replaces spray paint, paint-markers or other such toxic chemicals and paints with a paintbrush and a moss “paint” that can grow on its own. As people become more eco-friendly and environmentally aware, the idea of making living, breathing graffiti has become a more green and creative outlet for graffiti artists. It can also be considered another form of guerrilla gardening.

via How to Make Moss Graffiti: 6 steps (with pictures) – wikiHow.

The Coolest Hideaway Desk Bed – YouTube

The Coolest Hideaway Desk Bed


The Hide Away DeskBed is both a Desk and a Bed. Innovative and convenient, the Hide Away DeskBed is an elegant solution to the need for optimal functionality in limited space. The Hide Away DeskBed provides you with the best of both worlds – an effective work space by day and a comfortable sleeping area by night.

The Hide Away DeskBed locks in place in the up-right Desk position then unlock and lower the desk into the Bed. Your computer, printer, papers and even coffee stay on the desk without removing or spilling a drop. When lowered, the hidden bed is revealed.

The Hide Away DeskBed: perfect for loft living, dorm rooms, home office or a child’s room. Space saving solution at its best! Choose Twin, Twin Extra Long and Full size plus additional Hide Away DeskBed furniture to make your room complete. Please view demonstration video online at http://www.specialtytools.com

via The Coolest Hideaway Desk Bed – YouTube.

CARGOTECTURE | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

I had the great pleasure this past weekend of being invited to a little town outside of Seattle, where I witnessed the work-in-progress prototype of Cargotecture’s Studio 320. Had I arrived by chance in the industrial neighborhood to which my directions guided me, I might not have noticed the faded yellow and orange cargo containers that sat at the back of a large, mostly vacant parking lot. They were barely discernable from the backdrop of discarded industrial material. But closer inspection revealed that something surprising was afoot. These two metal boxes are the seed of an ingenious plan by two Seattle architects to turn old shipping containers into sustainable modular dwellings.

On the spectrum of old to new ways of designing sustainably, Robert Humble and Joel Egan pretty much span the gamut with Cargotecture. They are reusing and recycling post-industrial waste, installing new, eco-friendly systems and materials, and presenting it anew for residential habitation, complete with solar panels, smart walls and rainwater collection.

Studio 320 is just one of a group of designs using cargo containers. This prototype is a scant 320-sq-ft, with a thoughtfully-packed bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and great room. The idea is to create a “box within a box” – the exterior being metal and the interior mostly plywood. I was privy this weekend to the insulation process, where they prepared to fill the space between the two boxes. The insulation was being installed by Progressive Insulation, who use a polyurethane spray foam that is non-toxic, produces no off-gasses and claims to offer energy savings over standard insulation. The process essentially turns the whole container into a thermos. Sound too hot for summer? Later in the design process, one whole wall will be turned into a sliding glass panel, and windows cut to permit true indoor-outdoor living during the warmer months.

This prototype is the forerunner of a whole colony of cargo houses called Cargotown, which is the brainchild of Humble, Egan, and a squadron of others who formed a group called Team HyBrid in 2003. Team HyBrid has proposed a multi-tiered, super-low-impact development plan for one of Seattle’s ports, which would include Cargotown, as well as community spaces and habitat restoration projects. They also designed a Mobile Triage Unit for use by Doctors Without Borders in developing countries where housing and healthcare are acutely needed.

These guys are covering all the bases, from post-industrial re-use to sustainable technology, from humanitarian aid to modern urban cool. And if that’s not enough, they plan to offer up free online DIY instructions on building a cargo dwelling yourself. Needless to say, my little field trip to their site sparked tremendous inspiration and admiration. I hope to offer you all a longer interview with these two visionary architects in the weeks to come.

via CARGOTECTURE | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.

Houston Buying 25 Shipping-Container Offices for Emergency Solar Power » Swamplot: Houston’s Real Estate Landscape

Houston Buying 25 Shipping-Container Offices for Emergency Solar Power

A SMALL FLEET of modified shipping containers outfitted with adjustable solar panels will soon serve as mobile emergency power supplies for the city of Houston. City officials are currently negotiating a contract to purchase 25 of the units, which are based on a prototype originally deployed as the green-themed sales office of a Montrose condo project. The solar-powered containers, called SPACE (“Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone“), were created by a joint venture of local architecture firm Metalab, Joey Romano’s Harvest Moon Development, and design firm ttweak (best known for the popular “Houston. It’s Worth It.” marketing campaign). City sustainability director Laura Spanjian announced at the opening of the University of Houston’s Green Building Components Expo last month that SPACE and energy company Ameresco had been selected through a public-application process to supply the city with the mobile “solar generators.” Spanjian now tells Swamplot the contract should be complete “in a few weeks.”

* * *

After a hurricane or during any prolonged power outage, the containers would power medical devices and refrigerate and store medicines in various locations throughout the city. They’d also be used to charge phones, computers, and communications equipment. The units were built to withstand hurricane-force winds (as long as the panels are folded down). When off-duty, the SPACE units would hang out at fire stations (providing them with a little solar power on the side). Metalab’s Joe Meppelink tells Swamplot the units will be built in the new Campo Sheetmetal Works shop on Telephone Rd., and that several of them will be finished out for use at festivals and city events.

The earliest versions of the SPACE units were deployed as sales centers for Harvest Moon’s Mirabeau B. condo project at the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh in Montrose — where they handily survived Hurricane Ike. With support from the UH College of Architecture’s Green Building Components program, the team later developed an off-grid version that includes a battery backup, allowing the mobile offices to maintain power for several days without sun.

Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone [SPACE]

RFQ for Design-Build Mobile Solar Generator Project (PDF) [City of Houston]

SPACE [Metalab]

Previously on Swamplot: Solar-Powered Shipping Containers Flee; It’s Apartments for the Mirabeau B., Green Sales Offices for Sale: Solar Powered Shipping Containers for Everyone, The Solar Powered Shipping Container Sales Center for the Mirabeau B., Cisterns and Balcony Bikes: What You’ll See at the Mirabeau B.

via Houston Buying 25 Shipping-Container Offices for Emergency Solar Power » Swamplot: Houston’s Real Estate Landscape.

Solar-Powered Shipping Containers Flee; It’s Apartments for the Mirabeau B. » Swamplot: Houston’s Real Estate Landscape

Solar-Powered Shipping Containers Flee; It’s Apartments for the Mirabeau B.

HEY, WHAT’S happening to those fancy solar-powered recycled shipping containers on the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh, meant to attract eco-minded buyers to the $400K+ condo units in the Mirabeau B.?

Up and away they go! Did the Mirabeau B. meet its sales target? Nope . . . but it’s time for construction anyway, developer Joey Romano tells Swamplot:

Our financing is in place and we have signed our contract with Mission Constructors who have commenced work on the site. If all goes to plan at the City, the building work will begin in the next few weeks.

How’d that happen? With a little switch: to rental. But Romano says none of the project’s “green” features will be changed:

We’ll still plant our green roof; our 15 KW solar PV system will still power all common areas; and our rainwater retention system will still irrigate our native Gulf Coast plants. Our units will be large, open, and spacious, offering unique, high-grade finishes, high-end energy efficient appliances, and natural light in every bedroom.

So where are the shipping containers headed?

* * *

To this space: A new shop owned by Campo Sheet Metal . . .

. . . where they’ll await their next assignment.

Moving day for Mirabeau B Sales Center [Metalab]

The Solar Powered Shipping Container Sales Center for the Mirabeau B. [Swamplot]

Green Sales Offices for Sale: Solar Powered Shipping Containers for Everyone [Swamplot]

Cisterns and Balcony Bikes: What You’ll See at the Mirabeau B. [Swamplot]

via Solar-Powered Shipping Containers Flee; It’s Apartments for the Mirabeau B. » Swamplot: Houston’s Real Estate Landscape.

Shipping container to solar powered restaurant in 90 seconds? Meet the Muvbox portable restaurant

Shipping container to solar powered restaurant in 90 seconds? Meet the Muvbox portable restaurant

By Mick Webb

05:29 July 7, 2009

We have already seen the humble shipping container take on many guises ranging from pop-up hotel rooms to relocatable homes. Here to “cater” for the entrepreneur on the move is the Müvbox portable restaurant. This compact and mobile unit uncovers a fully operational kitchen in around 90 seconds at the touch of a button, and brings an eco-friendly ethos to the table to boot.

View all

The refitted 8ft deep and 20ft long shipping container transforms into a functioning restaurant with room for four staff and a wood fired pizza oven. Covered eating space is provided for up to 28 people (with bistro seating for 14) when the walls of the container are folded back and tables assembled. On top of the 90 second initial deployment, complete installation takes around 15 minutes.

The flagship unit, recently unveiled in Montreal, endeavors to promote sustainability by offering largely local produce from its ‘gourmet fast food’ interior. The mobility of the concept enables the investor to move around with demand for business and the basic design means it can be easily adapted to suit other ideas.

“More and more entrepreneurs are seeking affordable, turnkey concepts that reflect their lifestyle while minimizing the financial risk that can often be associated with new ventures says creator Daniel Noiseux. “The Müvbox meets their criteria: minimum staff, minimum cost, and the advantage of not being attached to a fixed location”.

Aside from being a re-used shipping container, the US$150,000 Müvbox concept has an environmentally friendly floor constructed from recycled tires. Added to this, the roof contains two solar panels which enable the unit to be up to 40% self sufficient in terms of energy use.

via Shipping container to solar powered restaurant in 90 seconds? Meet the Muvbox portable restaurant.

YMGI Solar Powered Ductless Heat Pump 12,000 BTU

YMGI Solar Powered Ductless Heat Pump 12,000 BTU

$2,449 online

12000 BTU – With Heater

Now, for those who want to really conserve energy, YMGI created a solar powered ductless heat pump. During periods of peak sun, one photovoltaic panel is sufficient to power the entire system, providing reliable air comfort without consuming electricity. Those features also make it a reliable option for hotels, sunrooms, offices, restaurants, mobile homes and more. Of course, YMGI’s solar powered ductless heat pump …

via YMGI Solar Powered Ductless Heat Pump 12,000 BTU.

Solar Air Conditioning | Solar Cooling & AC | Solar Absorbtion Chillers & Air Conditioners

Solar powered air conditioning systems is one of the most efficient and cost effective solutions for commercial air conditioning. Solar air conditioning employs time tested absorption chillers made by Yazaki.

Absorption chillers are powered by heat (hot water). Many thousands have been installed using gas boilers or by harnessing waste heat from generators or other sources.

Evacuated tube collectors are one of the most effiecient and effective producers of solar hot water. Therefore, absorption chillers run very effectively with a proper solar thermal configuartion.

How Solar Air Conditioning Works

The solar air conditioner / solar heater is powered by solar energy collected in the evacuated tube solar thermal panels (right). The thermal energy collected is then delivered to the solar powered chiller using a Corn Glycol (antifreeze) solution and a simple but carefully designed system of pipes, pumps, and controls.

In the winter, even at below freezing temperatures outside, our evacuated tube solar thermal collectors still produce an abundance of heat. The system can be designed so that this heat is then transferred into your building, either reducing or nearly eliminating the operation of your existing heating system. This means free solar air conditioning in the summer, and free heating in the winter.

See Diagram of Solar Air Conditioning / Solar Heating System for more information.

About Solar Air Conditioners

Absorption chiller air conditioners are not a newly developed technology. In fact, they have been commercially used in the U.S. since the early 20th century and are still very widely used to this day. Absorption chiller AC units are also very popular in Asian countries like Japan, where the high cost of electricity make them very desirable. Chillers constitute up to 40% of all installed commercial air conditioning tonnage. They are simple and dependable, using no harmful CFC (Freon, etc.) and some units actually operate without any moving parts.

When engineered to run on solar energy the absorption chiller AC units provide the lowest cost to operate and the best return on investment of any air conditioning system in the world.

Solar absorption chillers are very low in operating and maintenance costs, and consume little or no electrical energy. Essentially the only parts that use electricity are low amp fan motors and small pumps that move the thermal transfer fluid (Corn Glycol, a food-grade antifreeze) from the collectors to the chiller and then back up to the collectors. Inside the unit is another small pump that circulates the refrigerant. There is no “compressor” to consume power. All of these small electrical loads can run from solar PV panels if desired, meaning zero operational costs for the solar air conditioning system.

This has become an increasingly attractive system for commercial and industrial applications. Air conditioning is one of the most expensive operating costs that a business faces today. Absorption chillers are efficient, reliable, low maintenance – and even better, able to be powered using only the sun. Solar cooling has the direct ability to drastically lower your energy and operating costs.

Solar Panels Plus provides engineering, design, support to installers of solar air conditioning systems across North America. To learn more about this system, please Contact Us today.

via Solar Air Conditioning | Solar Cooling & AC | Solar Absorbtion Chillers & Air Conditioners.

Finally a Solar-Powered Air Conditioner: 6 Tons of A/C Using 4 Solar Panels : TreeHugger

In 2007 we covered a Coolerado A/C system with the headline “getting close to solar powered air conditioning”. Back then, the unit produced 5 tons of cooling using 1,200 watts, getting within the range of what some people and small businesses could afford in solar panels. Now, the new Coolerado design can produce 6 tons of cooling using 600 watts, quite an impressive improvement!

Read on for more details an a video detailing how it works.Boosting Solar Power Production TooOne interesting trick that Coolerado has – and that you can see in the video below – is the use of exhaust air from the A/C unit to cool down the solar panels. The reason for that is that solar panels produce less electricity when they get too hot, something that happens on the sunniest days when A/C is most needed. But cooling down the panels with exhaust air (that would need to thrown out anyway because it contains too much humidity) allows them to keep producing more, reducing costs because fewer panels are needed.

The demonstration video is quite well done, check it out:

One of the downsides of using an evaporative cooling system is that it uses water. About 4 gallons per hour for the 6 tons system, or 96 gallons a day. In some very dry areas, this can be a lot, though it might still be better than using a regular A/C that uses tons of electricity. A good compromise would be the use of gray water (stored in a holding tank underground so it stays cool?).

For more information about how this solar power A/C works, see this page.

If you’re interested in buying a solar powered air conditioner from Coolerado, check out this page.

More Solar Air ConditioningGreencore’s Solar-Powered Air Conditioner (Finally!)Coolerado Coolers: Getting Close to Solar Powered Air ConditioningSmall-Scale Solar Powered Air Conditioning Is Here (in Spain, Anyways)Solar Powered Air Conditioning Just Makes SenseMore Solar Power ArticlesSunSeeker II Solar Airplane to Fly Over Europe this SpringBiomimicry Breakthrough: Butterfly Wings Could Lead to Better Solar Panels7 Awesome Solar Boats You Must See

via Finally a Solar-Powered Air Conditioner: 6 Tons of A/C Using 4 Solar Panels : TreeHugger.