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Responses to Sustainable Design
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Below are the 16 most recent journal entries recorded in Courtney's LiveJournal:

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
4:31 pm
Design like you give a damn, damnit!

The 139 Shelter was designed by Future Systems in response to a famine in Ethiopia. All the people who were trying to get food aid were being exposed to the harsh elements, scorched and dehydrated during the day and freezing at night. I think this shelter in particular is really cool because its design is based off the concept of an umbrella. Its basic function is to provide shelter for people giving and receiving food aid, and for the people to be able to chill out under and gather their strength a little. Its canopy is made of PVC-coated polyester [  PVC = :-(  ] which reflects sunlight for temperature control.

The Paper Log Houses in Kobe, Japan, are built on top of foundations made out of crates that beer was shipped in, which is really cool. Way to reuse, reduce and recycle! According to the book, the crates are not susceptible to water damage and they're durable--a big plus. These houses were designed by the firm Shigeru Ban Architects in response to earthquake victims' need for temporary housing, and they are easy to assemble, dismantle and recycle. How cool is that?

The most awesome design of all is the Barefoot College that was built for the people of Tilonia, India, and it was designed and built by the people who were going to be its intended students (with the help of Bhanwar Jat, Neehar Raina, Rafeek Mohammed and a group aptly named the Barefoot Architects). It cost only $21,430 to build, which just blows my mind. There are a lot of really cool things about this project. Everyone who lived in the area and who were going to study at the college was consulted for their opinions about how it should be built. Solar panels generate power for the college. Instead of using wood and contributing to the area's deforestation problems, geodesic domes were made from discarded building materials. Again, way to reuse, reduce and recycle! I'd love to be able to check this out in person some day.

Saturday, June 26th, 2010
10:18 pm

I've been having a good time visiting with family in Huntsville, but I found a little time to update my blog. I searched livejournal and found a couple other cool blog entries that pertain to the issues we've been discussing in class--concerns about the environment, sustainability, and generally the world's problems (economy, US government, etc).

"End of Days"

"the libertarian view of small stores closing"

"Bike Bubble"

I like reading other people's blogs because each one shows a small facet of the personal implications of big issues, like the personal money troubles of people affected by the bad economy and bad decisions made by the goverment, or people talking about how they transport themselves around while they're trying to be green, and the social implications of their decisions (i.e. hipster bike movement).

Thursday, June 24th, 2010
9:27 am
Trashy Art

I've been thinking about the different ways "trash" can be used as art. Although my art project for this class isn't nearly as cool as these, I turned litter into an art piece and I think this is a really interesting concept (this is the first time I've made a mixed media piece with litter, but I've been making "found object" jewelry for the last year or so--who knew you can make a fabulous pendant out of your old gift cards or a wire-wrapped rock or chunk of brick or broken glass you picked up off the ground?).

Without further ado, "trashy" art done by Tom Deininger:

clamshell made of cigarette butts:

lips made of various trash:

self-portrait made out of trash he collected from his studio for 2 months:

portrait of a woman created out of various trash:


 *  *  *  *  *

A random photo I found that appears to be the exterior wall of a house made with glass beer bottles:


By the way...a cool recycled art blog I found: Ruby Reusable
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm
Raised Garden
I'm excited about the raised garden idea! With it we can avoid some of the issues we were having procuring pots, including price and where they were made and out of what materials, etc. It would be really cool if we could use some of the brick Maintenance has laying around! But who knows...anything could happen!

10:25 am
Concrete decorating ideas

I will be out of town next Monday, so if that's when we pour the concrete and decorate the bench tops I will not be there. However, I am collecting decorating materials. I got a few things yesterday (I have some small brick chunks, flat-bottomed glass pebbles like the ones in the above picture, and some sedimentary rocks from the Tallapoosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama, that I collected last summer) and will get some more today after class.

Although these pictures are of everything but benches, I wanted to show some funky things people have done with concrete/mosaic glass/pebbles/brick chunks/leaves/etc.


Sunday, June 20th, 2010
10:45 am
The bench saga continues...

I talked with my dad about the concrete benches. I don't remember if we talked about this in class, but the bench that I found with the wooden legs that we liked so much has a support frame--there aren't just wooden legs stuck inside a concrete slab. It's also a lot smaller than the benches we want to make. In this picture, the legs and skirt are probably attached to each other with lag bolts. The support frame on the bottom is not a solid piece that goes under the concrete. There are notches cut in the legs and the support frame goes around the outside of the slab. Wood is a compression material and this setup helps support the weight of the concrete.

Also, they're going to be really heavy. I hope we'll have a way to move them without losing any limbs! (Dad made a joke about this on his bench plans....)

So, I asked an expert for his suggestions on how we can make a bench that looks like the one above. Here are the sketches Dad drew that show how we can make a similar bench. He suggests that we use pressure-treated wood, which is pine, and also that we use carriage bolts to attach the legs to the support frame:

Also, I checked with my grandmother about the brown eyed susans, and apparently they do not transplant well. If we want them for our container garden, we do in fact need to purchase some because they will have already been living in a pot. (I hope I didn't mess everyone up by not including them on the plants-to-buy list.)

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything! Again, the above sketches are just suggestions, but they may prove helpful.
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
7:27 pm
The flower saga continues...

Here's the chart I made for Angela with all the information that I have. I know she requested size, but we didn't record that and I didn't want to just guess.

Also, I did not put the black eyed susan on the list because I am going to try to get some for free from my grandmother's garden when I go home this weekend.

Any questions or anything to add?
Monday, June 14th, 2010
7:11 pm
Some of our flower picks in their natural environments
Confederate Jasmine

Knock out rose

(The Knockout Rose is decent, but I'm not excited about it. The Confederate Jasmine seems really cool.)

Laceleaf Japanese Maple

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Weed (I read that it is drought-resistant)

Thursday, June 10th, 2010
8:02 pm
My lunch today

These were all the things I ate for lunch today. I researched the companies that made each product I consumed:

Silk soy milk
  • parent company: Dean Foods.
  • Silk has been a five year recipient of the Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency
  • In 2009 the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) called for a boycott of Silk brand products. The OCA reported that a portion of the soy beans used in Silk are sourced from countries with unacceptable labor and certification standards including Brazil and China. The OCA has called for boycotts of Horizon Organic brand milk, as well as other subsidiaries of Silk's distributor Dean Foods.[4]
  • The official Silk web site reported in August 2009 that all its soy beans are sourced from North America including organic and non-GMO soybeans.[5]
  • In the fall of 2009 the Pioneer Press reported that the Cornucopia Institute had made complaints to the U.S. Department of Agriculture accusing Silk producer Dean Foods and its WhiteWave Foods division, of shifting their products away from organics without properly notifying retailers or consumers.[6][7] According to the Star Telegram and other news sources, Silk brand soy milk was made using organic soybeans until early 2009 when Dean Foods switched to conventional soybeans while maintaining the same UPC barcodes and prices on the Silk products while replacing the word “organic” with “natural” on the Silk product packaging
Earth Grains Bread with "Eco Grain"
  • parent company: Sara Lee
  • Eco-Grain was developed by Horizon Milling, a joint venture between agribusiness giant Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and farmer and rancher owned CHS Inc (CHSCP.O). It is grown using farming practices that reduce fertilizer and it requires less land than organic farming.
  • The Eco-Grain, which comprises about a fifth of the grains in each loaf of bread, reduces the need for fertilizer because it is "precision farmed." However, in order to grow the grain for the bread, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are still used and therefore it is still bad for the environment.
Grape nuts
  • parent company: Ralcorp
  • Unlike with the first two foods on my list, "grape nuts controversy" didn't have any hits on the first page of Google, which may or may not be a good sign. However, I'm not spending all night trying to dig up my cereal's dirty laundry. Not tonight, anyway!
Smuckers Organic Peanut Butter
  • Product seems to check out okay. Smuckers is a huge company with a lot of money, factories, employees, and influence, and surely their hands can't be clean. However, their "sins" are not so bad as to be extremely obvious with the smallest bit of research like Silk and Earth Grains. Again, I'm not spending all night tonight trying to dig up the dirt on my peanut butter.
  • Conclusion: STICK WITH IT?
Jelly and Peach
  • both were purchased at the farmers' market in Montevallo in the parking lot behind Regions (the farmers' market will be here in mo-town every Monday from 3-6--check it out!). I believe the peach was from Clanton, and I don't know about the jelly (although I know it was homemade, I don't know what ingredients went into it).

Other things I found out:Two cool sites where consumers review foods:
During my research I discovered the Organic Consumers Association.
What they have to say for themselves: "[We are] an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation's estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers."
additional sources:
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
8:41 am
A couple nurseries in the area


  • Cedar Creek Nursery Inc
    • (205) 665-5237
    • 2979 Highway 119, Montevallo, AL 35115
  • Green Valley Farms Inc 
    • (205) 665-1355
    • 12975 Highway 17, Montevallo, AL 35115
  • Barton's Greenhouse And Nursery
    • (Their website says they're open to the "trade" only and not open to the public)
    • 401 Primrose Dr, Alabaster, AL 35007

Monday, June 7th, 2010
5:34 pm
Possible plant materials
(We're in USDA Zone 7b, 5 to 10 degrees Farenheit, I think?)

Possible plants...
To grow up the wall, or to cover brick wall from the parking lot side:
  • carolina jessamine (pretty yellow flower)
  • trumpet creeper (funky pink/red flower)
  • clematis (pretty purple/blue flower)
  • creeping fig (if we're just going for greenness)

To grow in containers:
  • lantana (very pretty little flowers in different colors, prolific)
  • geraniums (pretty, bright, prolific)
5:09 pm
Concrete bench ideas
As far as making the bench(es) "pretty," I've considered using "found" objects (i.e. chunks of Montevallo bricks, rusted metal o-rings, bottlecaps, etc.) and, of course, the leaf imprint method that our professor suggested is also a very cool idea. Implementing colored concrete might be cool. I haven't researched how it works yet, but maybe it could be used to accentuate the leaf imprints (or whatever) rather than make the entire bench a solid color.

Cool concrete benches I found, some of which are are in no way practical for us to make/use at Hill House but I thought were cool, and others that look simple and do-able:

4:56 pm
My three links
Links to 3 blogs about sustainability/being "green":
  • Re-nest
    • green ideas for refurbishing and maintaining your living space--little things like re-imagining an ugly coffee table instead of throwing it out or uses for eggshells, etc.
  • Treehugger
    • articles about sustainability issues concerning many different areas, including a cool Design + Architecture page
  • Sustainable is Good
    • info on sustainable packaging design and companies who are making "green" innovations
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
8:34 pm
Sun positions over patio
* * * * * * * * * 1:00 * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * 2:00 * * * * * * * * * * *

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
3:44 pm
Patio remodeling ideas
Flooring/"ground cover":
  • Refurbish the preexisting slab
  • adding colored concrete
    • perhaps in some sort of artistic fashion. perhaps in brown, green or gray hues to complement the colors of the surrounding landscape without making the ground cover so dark as to make it hold in heat
  • adding stamped concrete
  • triangle-shaped cloth, such as canvas or another material
  • (of course, you see how it's not actually shading the seating area because of the way it's placed--it would do better at an angle--it would be cool to make the triangles removable/adjustable so we could adjust the angles of the triangles for different times of the year when the sun will be at different locations in the sky)
  • vine-covered pergola/trellis/arbor--not sure what the correct term for this is. this is a cool idea, but I think the triangle awning idea would be more efficient at temperature control/blocking sunlight, as well as being instantaneous and adjustable.
  • Vine-covered awning

Brick wall:
  • stucco
    • widening the walls on the parking lot side so as to make them more comfortable seating--they are at a good height for seating, but their narrowness makes them uncomfortable for many people.
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
5:07 pm
vinyl chloride

This is my apartment building. I have never felt warm and fuzzy feelings towards vinyl siding by any means--mostly for aesthetic reasons--but before watching Blue Vinyl I never had any idea how horribly toxic it really was.

As always, now that I possess this bit of information about the horrors of PVC, the big question comes up:

So, what can I do about it?

And the answer always seems to be: spread awareness--talk about it. Don't buy it. Tell other people not to buy it. But to me, it always sounds like--"not enough."

And, believe me. I'm no stranger to the world of big corporations polluting the environment and giving cancer to a bunch of people trying to mind their own business and lead their own lives. I'm from Anniston, where PCBs--much like vinyl chloride--were manufactured by Monsanto and embedded into the soil, water, and bodies of animals and humans. (In fact, I'm a third generation Annistonian--my grandmother, father and I were all born there. Excluding my time at Montevallo, the three of us have spent our whole lives in the city.)

If you're curious about the details of what happened there, check out these two links:
The second link leads to a 60 Minutes transcript. Here are a couple of interesting quotes:

KROFT: (Voiceover) The problem is polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, one of the most pervasive and profitable industrial chemicals of the 20th century. They were used as insulators in electric transformers and mixed into everything from paint to newsprint. They were invented in Anniston in 1929 and manufactured here by Monsanto for almost 40 years, a source of wealth and jobs until the 1970s, when it became clear that PCBs were doing more harm to the environment than good for industry. They were banned in 1979, but the people here are still living with the legacy.

Dr. DAVID CARPENTER: In my judgment there's no question but what this is the most contaminated site in the US.


KROFT: (Voiceover) Dr. David Carpenter is a professor of environmental health at the State University of New York in Albany, and an expert on PCBs. He says every national and international health agency in the world lists PCBs as a probable human carcinogen.

What does that mean?

Dr. CARPENTER: That means that there's absolute, definitive evidence that they cause cancer in animals, and that there is evidence in humans consistent with the conclusion that they cause cancer.


KROFT: (Voiceover) Dr. Carpenter says PCB exposure increases the risk of almost all major diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. PCBs were so widely used and last so long, that almost all of us have minute levels in our bloodstreams. The people who live in west Anniston, the area closest to the plant, have some of the highest PCB levels in the world. Anything above one and a half parts per billion is considered unusual.


KROFT: (Voiceover) Stewart uncovered close to a million pages of company documents that show Monsanto knew PCBs were a problem as early as 1938, when scientists hired by the company reported that rats exposed to the chemicals developed liver damage. By the 1950s, Monsanto was urging its own workers to wear proper protective clothing and respiratory equipment when handling PCBs. Many of the documents were marked 'confidential: Read and destroy.' In one, from 1966, a scientist working for Monsanto found Snow Creek so polluted with chemicals that it was devoid of life. Healthy fish submerged in the creek turned belly-up and died within three minutes.

* * * * *

I know that was a lot to read, but I just want to bring attention to the fact that the toxic chemical crises--the scientists who warn the company early on but get ignored, the huge cover-ups, the poisoned soil, the tainted water, the hordes of people in poor communities who are ravaged by cancer--are myriad. This isn't just restricted to the vinyl problem.

What are we to do when faced with all this? Most of us will not be able to face the companies head-on like William Baggett, the lawyer in Blue Vinyl. We will only be able to do our own small parts, including not buying products from companies that do this to people and, most importantly, getting pissed off and talking about it.
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