Seminar 10: Passive Design Strategies and Passivehaus

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Group members: Andy, Lesley, Kent, Dale, Kalika, Tyler Y, Chelsea, Leanza, Neda, Jessica M, Caitlin B.

Article 1: Ip, Kenneth, and Andrew Miller. “Thermal behaviour of an earth-sheltered autonomous building – The Brighton Earthship.” Renewable Energy 34 (February 28, 2009): 2037-43.


Earthship Biotecture “Earthship Exterior” Digital Image. Accessed April 6th, 2013.

  • Earthships are buildings constructed from a variety of recycled material including automobile tires. These structures are also self sustaining and can be built anywhere throughout the world. They provide electricity, drinking water, sewage treatment and sustainable food production.
  • The Brighton Earthship serves as an example of such design, being an independent vessel which is earth sheltered and utilizes thermal mass effect. It is constructed of recycled and found materials

Article 1 Discussion:

  1. Would you ever live in one of these houses? Why or Why not? While the aesthetics of the house is not that pleasing at first glance, the overall concept is inspiring – the fact that energy expenditures within the household do not affect the outside environment. However, most of these structures are based in a rural setting, which is not that practical for meeting everyday needs such as work and food.
  2. If you were commissioned a passive house would you choose prefab or site specific? I personally would choose to design a site specific design. Site is everything in determining the functionalities of the house, and in passivehaus design this is particularly key when considering power by wind, solar, or hydro energy.

Earthship Biotecture “Earthship Interior” Digital Image. Accessed April 6th, 2013.

Article 2: “Building a Green Home”

  • The problem of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings
  • buildings are the biggest contributors to GHG’s
  • many strategies available to help reduce these impacts
  1. solar energy
  2. wind energy
  3. green roofs
  • green buildings cost more initially but overall lifetime costs are the same, or less than traditional construction

Article 2 Discussion:

  1. Some of the most popular passive design strategies are heating, cooling, solar energy, efficient spatial planning, lighting, rain water harvesting, envelope sealing and vegetation. Which strategies would work in Winnipeg? What wouldn’t? Rain water harvesting would be a consideration given the amount of rain and snow distributed in Winnipeg, implementing the prairie sun would be ideal as well. The constant fluxes in temperature would be difficult to work with and thus vegetation would be more difficult to maintain.
  2. If a passive house development creates at least 5000 units, the cost is equal to traditional housing development. Could passive housing work in Winnipeg? What if Waverly west was made of Passive houses? While the implementation of such practices would be ideal, many people would be hesitant in solely relying on weather patterns – particularly in Winnipeg where the patterns change all the time.
  3. After a term of learning about ecology and design, have you had any changes in your stance on design, or how do you envision yourself designing in the future? Overall, the course raised various questions pertaining to design, developing thoughtful consideration in properly merging natural and human systems in design. Ecological design is only beginning to take hold in society, and I believe our generation will be a driving movement in implementing more sustainable design practices. Overall, design is about working with the environment, looking like little design as possible – the structural systems must work to enhance or have little effect on the surrounding nature around it. By doing so, we create better environments for human life through wholesome interaction with nature.



Seminar 9: Sustainable Resources – Energy and Greenhouse Gases

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Seminar members: Alicia, Todd, Ivan, Ian, Taylor, Sam, Derek, Krystyl, Chad, Matt

Article 1: Bry. Sarté. “Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design.” John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2010, pp.166-176.

Article 2: Abbasi, Tasneem. “ Is the Use of Renewable Energy Sources an Answer to the Problems of Global Warming and Pollution?” Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 2012, Vol.42(2), pp.99-154.

Summary Provided by the Seminar Group:


Steinke, Lisa. How to Get your Family to Unplug, Even for an Hour. She Knows Parenting Challenge: Turn off the Tech. JPG. Posted June 19, 2012. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  1. What is Renewable Energy: Solar, Hydo, and Wind power
  • Energy systems come in 2 categories: passive and active
  • Passive energy is more economical and better
  • Energy is inherently unsustainable, it cannot be created or destroyed so it will sustain losses. For example, a lightbulb loses 90% of its energy in heat and only uses 10% of its energy for light.
  • We have not designed to efficiently use energy
  • It’s not about where we get it but how we use it
  • The idea of green energy is misleading and is an idea people often fall victim to 
  • Renewable has renewable drive but the aspects are not renewable and produce green house gases

  • Solar system is a renewable form of energy but the systems are not renewable they are infect very harmful on the environment

  • Transition back to renewable resources

2. Is it about the type of energy we use or how we use it?

  • how we collect energy: we cannot leave it up to society to decide we need to make the decisions

  • a mix of how we use it and how we collect it, it is obviously great to use less, but forcing such implementation won’t work, education and encouragement might be beneficial, education is an important factor in supporting cleaner and better energy. There is a lot of education, and its still a problem, how can we educate differently, starting at higher levels or younger, it may not be education, its about enforcement

  • Moral issue, because people know and don’t change

    -Being smarter with the energy we already have

    -Don’t tell them not to do it but spend more time with nature to show them what they potentially are missing because kids spend too much time on the computer

    -Designers need to develop designs to use less energy as well   

    -The facts need to be well known about how much energy doesn’t even reach the consumer

3. Changes to reduce energy intake aren’t going to happen instantaneously. Society isn’t changed by the flip of a switch. We as individuals need to start with the things we can control. Today, or on a daily basis, what can you do as individuals to reduce you energy intake? 


Hacker. Shut Down Your Computer/Laptop Using a Mobile Phone. Posted Friday, February 1, 2013. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • If you are reading a page on the Internet, if you are reading it for over 3 minutes, it is more energy efficient to print it out.
  • 5 points to take: turning off the lights and using natural, walk or take the bus, turn your light off when you leave your room, chargers in the wall all day still uses energy…unplug!, unplugging your t.v.,
  • Make things more efficient in design so that people don’t have to make the effort to unplug things everyday
  • You making the change will decrease the uses and change is the hardest part but once it becomes routine it isn’t a difficult task
  • People choose convenience when they do feel the impact right away, systems that we use are a place to solve the problem, redefine the systems, passing the blame to corporations so they make the change
  • This is everyone’s planet, we need to make a change together with the help of the organizations
  • The only way that people will change is if prices of energy skyrocket, even more than the knowledge of the damages. It has to do with people’s attitudes, we need to design to give the consumer what they want and be innovative at the same time.
  • Texas’ price of energy has gone up and its bad at the beginning but it gets better with innovation, we are used to paying the cost in producing but environmental damages and long-lasting effects aren’t included into that cost and that should be include.

3. Based on the individual changes how do you think this will affect the corporation in terms of producers and gatherers, and then how this will affect the society? 

  • If you build a house and do it with less energy, corporations need to adapt to the new ways to meet the users needs
  • It’s up to individuals to expect this from corporations because we need to push them to designing better, if you want to see that change we need to push for it and say something
  • Give people the incentive to make the change
  • In farming everyone is into organic now pushing farmers into organic farming, it’s an incentive to make the farmers change because that’s where the business is
  • Make it popular for producers to design to use less energy
  • Manitoba hydro has an incentive to spread more around depending on the amount used, if we use that on a bigger scale then everyone has to use less, giving the people the responsibility to use less
  • Hydro also damages the landscape
  • Giving people choices will help to use less because a consumer will choose the producer that uses less to make the other resources try to use less too, using competition as an incentive for change
  • Magnets energy, compelling itself to make energy, this can be a free energy source
  • Not a change that will happen over night
  • Push the government to be doing the best for us, Canada and Manitoba doesn’t allow other forms of energy, electric car that Manitoba doesn’t

Personal Reflection: upon beginning the seminar, the group leaders got everyone to shut off their cell phones and computer. Most unwillingly, people obeyed. As well, the windows of the room were all open, and everyone in the classroom was surprised by the amount of light in the room – obviously we don’t get enough natural light in studio. In the end, such implementation of actions helped to properly put the seminar group’s message through: depleting the reliance on technology to better benefit nature. 

Seminar 8: Stressors, Uncertainties, and Future Needs

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Seminar members: Corey, Devon, Katlyn, Heber, Marco, Alyssa, Branton, Daniel, Kurt, Neilly

Article 1: Richard T. T. Forman, Daniel Sperling, The Future of Roads: No Driving, No Emissions, Nature Reconnected. Volume 2: Issue 5: Page 10-23: Sep 07, 2011


Bear 71: a powerful video that easily got its meaning across to the class concerning transport routes and wildlife passageways
Jam 3. Bear 71 Still. Fisher Innovation. JPG. April 17, 2013)

The Development and Use of Roadways Results in:

  • habitat loss
  • interruption of horizontal ecological flows
  • altered wetlands
  • dispersed land use
  • sedimentation
  • roadkill (one of the most significant causes of wildlife mortality, but don’t have as significant an effect on the overall population)
  • air and noise pollution
  • erosion
  • fragmented habitats (divides populations, creating genetic consequences)
  • alters animal movement patterns
  • barrier effect (greatest ecological impactor, perforating roads could help improve this but would lead to higher numbers of road killed animals)

The Netway system serves as a means to recuperate from the negative effects of sprawling freeways, where the automobile routes would be lifted above ground  or take place underground, being powered by solar or wind energy

Article 2: Richard T. T. Forman and Lauren E. Alexander. Road and their Major Ecological Effects. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1998. 29:207–31

  • The second article plays along with the first, discussing the effects of roadways on ecological systems.
  • Topics: roadside vegetation, animals and animal movement patterns, vehicles and population growth, water sedimentation, chemicals, streams and ponds and the road-effect zone

Seminar Discussion:

Question 1: What are some of the flaws and restrictions of the Netway?

  • Climate conditions, the technology needed to put such a system into action and the cost of its development. Not to mention that the infrastructure would still, in a way have its place in the environment and fragment certain sectors. In the end, it’s difficult to phase the car out in planning, and even more difficult to keep its resurgence to a minimum since it is such a daily factor to human life. 

Question 2: Do you think that the problems that the problems caused by roadways will ever get so severe that a drastic change such as a netway would not be implemented? Which problems push innovation the most?

  • Yes, it would be difficult to change all the roadways into the said netway. However, it would simply be an action that would take place slowly with time and become more used the more it’s implemented. It is not a process that will happen quickly, things have to be removed and remodelled and the people have to get used to the new transport route. Innovation has to be pushed to be truly implemented.

Question 3: Is there a more realistic and practical solution to the problem?

  • Some options include having the freeways put on levels, as well simply making cities more dense rather than spread out can reduce the dependence on roadways.

Question 4: Putting feasibility aside, what are some other ways to solve our transportation problems?

  • With this question the class got very supported of the notions of jetpacks, hovercrafts, and small solar powered aircraft as a future means of travel. The implementation of Maria Aiolova’s soft cars is a possible consideration as well, designed to reduce the mortality rates developed by the automobile

Question 5: What suggestions do you have reconnecting land to nature?

  • Rather than simply bulldozing the landscape to accomodate the needs of human transport, the landscape should be carefully excavated for the roadway to be properly placed into it. Such is the case for the development of freeways, the first highways ever developed – they served as a means of leisurely passing through natural areas, having seemed like they were always part of the landscape. It is a means of promoting interaction with nature and wildlife rather than making it a hindrance such as animals wandering onto the road. 

Question 6: Do you think the public would be accepting to the newly proposed Netway system?

  • Being a strictly public means of travel, people would not want to give up their individual vehicles. They are simply too convenient and everyone of this time is raised with the automobile being a vital means of transport. Altogether, the netway system is a bit too extreme for transport development. Small steps should first be implemented, being the implementation of solar or electric cars, developing denser cities, and reducing urban sprawl.

Matthews, Taco Iwashima. Figure 3. The Future of Roads: No Driving, No Emissions, Nature Reconnected. JPG. Posted September 2011. (Accessed April 17, 2013)


Seminar 7: Biodiversity and Climate Change

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Seminar members: caila, caroline, jane, jesse, michelle, marla, jessica s, julieta

Article 1: Nancy B. Grimm, et al, Global Change and the Ecology of CitiesScience 319, 756 (2008);DOI: 10.1126/science.1150195

  • As global warming and climate change take place, the hydrological cycle is affected. Various degrees of the human population is being affected from droughts and flooding.
  • Measures that societies take to combat climate change
  1. dramatic shift to urban living
  2. urban ecology has begun to shape the discipline of ecology
  3. society and ecosystems are linked
  4. changes in land use and cover
  5. changes in chemical cycles
  6. climate changes
  7. hydro systems
  8. biodiversity changes

Article 1 Questions

  1. Should design and ecology become synonymous? As Maria Aiolova stated previously, it is ideal to become Urbaneers, embracing multiple disciplines to enrich the final outcome. It is a means of collaboration, of having the minds of different trades come together to meet one goal. One person can’t be an expert in everything
  2. If urban centres were spread out across land, would the impact we have on earth be reduced? 

BINA. mil-hwy-fwy-sprawl_cnu. Why Urban Sprawl is a Problem for Sustainability and Health. JPG. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • No, in fact the impact would increase because of urban sprawl. With urban sprawl comes increased transport distances, which means more car travel and more emissions which do not benefit the environment in any way. High density is key for short and alternative transport routes and closer proximities to everyday needs.

Article 2: Robert, McDonald et al. Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. PNAS, 2011, 108-15, (6312-6317)


Amin, Zulfiquer Ahmed. The Water Problem. Global Policy Forum, October 8 2007. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • Impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle, the changing distribution of water, and the changing environmental conditions of areas – the impacts of providing water in a sustainable way
  • 886 million people live in cities that have seasonal water shortages, limited to 100 L of water per person per day.
  • an average of 100 million more people will experience water shortage by 2050 all climate scenarios
  • 3 categories that describe water shortage scenarios are:
  1. water scarcity at 100km
  2. water demand by expanding buffer
  3. no perennial water scarcity at 100km
  • Preparations must be made for emergencies where water may be scarce, where the government would lay aside water in a dam or reservoir for such emergencies

Article 2 Questions:

  1. What are some impacts that climate change can have on the hydrological cycle? As temperature levels rise, the polar icecaps melt and increase the amount of water, developing more flooding which will affect the drinking water in some areas of the world.
  2. Suggest a method for providing water for a city while protecting native fish species? Rainwater connection or recycling water 
  3. Which factor is expected to have a more certain effect on water shortages, climate change or urban growth? There is a correlation between the two, they complement one another. Urban growth results in the development of more greenhouse gases which attribute to climate change. It is a cycle that is interdependent on one another.



Seminar 6: Materials and Construction

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Shephard, Scott. The Art of Seeing. Photo of A Day. JPG. Posted August 28, 2012. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

Seminar Members: Matt H, Evan, Carson, Amanda, Andrew, John, Ryan, and Kyla

Article 1: J. Sarki, S.B. Hassan, V.S. Aigbodion, J.E. Oghenevweta. Potential of using coconut shell particle fillers in eco-composite materialsJournal of Alloys and Compounds 509 (2011) 2381–2385

  • Eco-Composite Materials: made from natural fillers and polynumeric materials, which are non-toxic, biodegradable, cheaper, reduce dependence on non-renewable resources, lower pollution and greenhouse gases, have high toughness, and low density
  • Of prime interest is agricultural waste to be used as a substitute for wood-based raw materials, in this article the main example is the coconut shell

Ceramic Canvas. Split Coconuts. Ceramic Canvas Blog. JPG. Posted June 25, 2009. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • Coconut shell: good thermal stability, biodegradable, and breaks into pieces much the same way as wood scraps
  • Con of its use: takes away from the food supply
  • Studies on the morphology of the coconut shell were put into place, where it was used as a filler and tested for its stress-strain behaviors
  • In the end, studies came to show that the material serves as an adequate substitute to other construction fillers.

Article 2: Bruce Mau and the Institute without Borders. Massive Change. Phaidon Press Limited, London. 2004.

  • Biomimicry: concentrates on the development of supermaterials based upon patterns in nature
  • Looking at thinks at the atomic level to enhance existing materials
  • Moh’s test: Hardness of a material determined by its resistance to scratching
  • Overcoming the hardness of a diamond, the contenders are cubic boron nitride and boron suboxide
  • Superstrong: develop synthetic fiber to surpass the support strength of spider silk and the synthetic adhesive to outperform the grip strength of gecko feet


  • “Mimicking spider silk properties has been the holy grail of materials science for a very long time” – Jeffrey Turner, president and CEO of Nexia Biotechnologies, Inc.
  • Materials family tree: ceramics, natural materials (wood, leather, plant fibers, etc), metals, synthetic polymers, and numerous branches from there
  • Superlight: less is always more, architects and engineers benefit from the versatility of porous gels and flexible films
  • Supersmall: working as a subatomic level to build materials from the bottom up
  • Supersmart: designing materials with stimulus response

Article 2 Questions:

1) What is the benchmark material that hard materials are graded by? Diamonds

2) To harness the strength of silk, scientists are putting protein from spiders into goats so that they can make silk from their milk. Is this process amoral?

  • Yes it is amoral because it is unnatural to mix the two attributes together and it is unknown whether or not the goats will be affected in the long term. If studies show that the goats are not harmed then the process is fine.

3) A self-heading skin is being developed that can sense touch through conductivity. From an ecological standpoint, how could this material be useful?

  • development of various healing methods, increasing the speed of healing. Buildings could also implement this process by being able to maintain themselves

4) Sea gel is the lightest solid ever, edible, and biodegradable. What are some potential uses for this material?

  • floating homes or insulation

Seminar 5: Sustainable Resources – Water Management

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Seminar members: Desiree, Ashley, Rob, Tanya, Wei, BJ, Emily, Samantha, Milan

Article 1: Liao, Kuei-Hsien.  A Theory on Urban Resilience to Floods – A Basis for Alternative planning. Ecology and Society 17(4): 48.


Reuters. People hold umbrellas in a flooded street in Wuhan. China Daily. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • Liao, in his theory, argues about the low amount of resilience that cities have toward flooding. 
  • The development of dams, levees, or any flood infrastructure which keeps water at bay does not truly allow cities to be prepared for flooding, they instead serve as shields which simply push the matter aside. Come the time any breaks happen in these flood infrastructures, the city is left completely vulnerable. The development of such infrastructures also greatly alters the natural landscape which is already equipped with flood-protectors.
  • City development and housing infrastructures should work with water flow, be it through the development of floating houses, houses on stilts, or waterproof houses
  • Engineering resilience: concerned with how to better equip structures to maintain stability under adverse environmental conditions
  • Ecological resilience: how much can we change a system before switching to a completely new method of action? A matter of developing all of the possible outcomes and choosing the best one in terms of the nature and human needs.

Article 1 Discussion: What are the pros to flooding? How can flooding be implemented in a positive way?

  • spreading nutrients
  • hydropower
  • raising houses on hydraulic systems
  • there is not a lot of research done into methods to mitigate flooding, or particular ideas are simply too expensive to put into action (such as houses on hydraulics)

Video: Harmon, Rob. “How the Market can keep the Streams Flowing.” TED Talks. November 2010.


Big Sky Fishing. Musselshell River Running Dry at Ryegate, Montana. Big Sky Fishing. JPG. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • Rivers and streams are drying up due to overusage, and senior watertight holders are losing their rights because they cannot provide the minimum amount of water required to keep their land to shareholders. Harmon puts forward a water dispersal system that gives water back to the rivers to help curb this problem and promote proper water usage.

Article 2 Questions:

  1. What is a senior water right? When the longest property holder on the river system has a proportionately large ownership of the water that flows in that particular river
  2. Two problems with how Rob Harmon’s system regulates water use: need to use water to maintain the water right and it encourages you to take as much water out as you can
  3. How many pints of water does it take to make a pint of beer? 100 if you include the water it took to grow the grains and without that it takes 5.
  4. Who gets paid to do what? And what are the incentives involved? A water use intensive company pays a senior water rights holder to not use his or her water right so it gives a financial incentive to keep the water in the river system.

Seminar 4: Land Use and Biodiversity

•April 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Seminar members: Bethany, Alanna, Kristen, Kate S, Emeil, Cedric, Genevieve, Lukas, Allister

Article 1- Tredici,P. Spontaneous Urban Vegetation: Reflections of Change in the Globalized World. Nature and Culture, Volume 5, Number 3, Winter 2010 , pp. 299-315(17)


Usaku. Medical Building Overgrown with Ivy. Flickr. JPG. Posted June 5, 2009. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

  • Native species come with the urban environment that cities base upon. In most instances, urban development takes dominance and certain plant species are considered simple hinderances. Most natural areas that are left to grown on their own are often considered to be unkept looking and not suitable for the urban environment and quickly removed. However, native species should in fact be managed and integrated rather than eliminated because they can improve ecological, aesthetic, and social values in urban areas. 

Article 1 Discussion:

  1. Do you think it is better for nature to be left to itself, or should we intervene when it begins to take over? I believe it is best to allow nature to take its course. Once it begins to affects the structural capabilities of buildings (whether it is by uprooting foundations or creeping into interiors) then measures can be taken. Altogether, there should be a balance between the two: nature and urbanism. Green spaces in an urban area serve as a refreshing means to get away from the city life and improves the overall liveability of the area by providing contrast.
  2. Certain plants are seen as weeds in some parts of the world, but in others they are seen as beautiful vegetation, like the reed for example. Why are our views towards plants negative and how can we change these views so that native species can grow as they are intended to? In the case of weeds, certain plants are simply invasive species and affect the growth of other plants by quickly taking over the land. On the other hand, leaving them to cultivate on their own presents a beautiful aesthetic as well – as long as you don’t intend on growing any other plants alongside them.

O’Quinn, Erin. Dandelion Field 660. Erinsromance. JPG. Posted December 28, 2012. (Accessed April 17, 2013)

Article 2- Stokes, D., Hanson, M., Oaks, D., Straub, J., Ponio, A. local land-use planning to conserve biodiversity: planners perspectives on what works. Conserv Biol. 2010 Apr;24(2):450-60.

  • This article concentrates on the importance of biodiversity in local land-use planning, providing rich and highly differential living spaces within cities. By properly educating people on the benefits of biodiversity, be it health and well-being or aesthetic means, the community will opt for it. The development of open green space in cities opens great possibilities for wildlife investigation and floral attributes in a local area, enriching the living conditions of the city as a whole.

Article 2 Questions:

  1. How can planners consider biodiversity as a primary concern instead of an afterthought and care for it before it becomes an issue? The political sector of communities can begin to issue policies or tax breaks for the implementation or upkeep of biodiversity-promoting areas. Also, it should be a requirement for planners to work with the natural biodiversity of the landscape: buildings and architecture should serve to have little to no effects on the surround environment, and maybe even further develop the area in the long run rather than simply be put in place. People need to be properly educated in this way and get this process cemented firmly as a task.
  2. Do you think that every person has a responsibility to protect biodiversity or is it solely the planner’s responsibility to initiate protection?

Altogether, it is an individual responsibility. If the planner decides to protect biodiversity, they serve as an example to the person who partakes in their landscape. If the planner fails in this respect then there must be someone else who must take charge. Biodiversity is an important factor in enriching environments, it cannot be continually ignored. Awareness must be risen and from there more appreciation is developed within the public.