Here’s a rendering of the classroom studio (and vegetable garden and recycled shipping container) that’s now under construction at the Monarch School in Spring Branch. North of the Katy Fwy. near Kempwood and Gessner, the school serves students with neurological disorders, and it says that the design elements and architecture of this very green 1,120-sq.-ft. studio from Architend will become part of the curriculum:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: SOLAR ENERGY MARKETING SECRETS — REVEALED “As soon as these things can be leased at a price that’s less than the cost of electricity they produce, it’ll be a home run. No one seems to offer long term leases that would last the lifetime of the hardware. I’m not sure how many years of amortization it would take so that the payment was smaller than the savings, or even if they last long enough to ever pay themselves off, but if such a model could be devised it would be great. Then you’d have tons of buyers, which would drive costs down, getting more buyers, etc.” [Cody, commenting on Pods Appear on Downtown Building, Grab Solar Panels with Wrench and Garden Hose]
A few months after Ike, this tricked-out FEMA trailer rolls into Houston as . . . art?? Paul Villinski’s reworked 30-ft. Gulfstream “Cavalier” trailer, which took the artist 7 months to mod, will be parked outside the Rice University Art Gallery starting later this month.
Re-born as the Emergency Response Studio, the trailer’s formaldehyde-ridden original materials are replaced by entirely “green” technology and building materials, including recycled denim insulation, bamboo cabinetry, compact fluorescent lighting, reclaimed wood, and natural linoleum floor tiles made from linseed oil. It is powered by eight mammoth batteries that store energy generated by an array of solar panels and a “micro” wind turbine atop a 40-foot high mast. Not only practical, Emergency Response Studio is a visually engaging structure with an expansive work area featuring a wall section that lowers to become a deck. A ten-foot, elliptical geodesic skylight allows extra headroom and natural lighting in the work area. Though designed as an artist’s studio and residence, Emergency Response Studio is an ingenious prototype for self-sufficient, solar-powered mobile housing.
Party on the back deck!
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AND JUST IMAGINE HOW WELL THEY’D DO IF THERE WERE JOBS OR SHOPPING NEARBY! Discovery at Spring Trails, Land Tejas’s gated and solar-panel-badged community north of Spring, is selling well, says Lisa Gray: “. . . only a few weeks after Discovery put itself on the market, and without even a finished house that would-be buyers can tour, most of the lots ready for building have been optioned, and the developer is scrambling to make more available fast. In fact, Discovery is off to the fastest start of any development in the company’s 11-year history, and Land Tejas expects demand to pick up even more this fall. Already, propelled mostly by Google searches, 200 to 300 people a week are touring the neighborhood’s ‘Discovery Center.'” [Houston Chronicle]
Near the end of a short New York Times feature on Houston’s downtown tunnel system is this historical nugget:
[“Tunnel Lady” Sandra] Lord, a writer and Houston historian, traced the origins of the tunnels to Ross Sterling, an oilman and governor during the Depression, who, inspired by Rockefeller Center, linked two of his downtown buildings underground in the early 1930s. Soon after, an entertainment entrepreneur, Will Horwitz, connected three of his vaudeville and movie theaters to save on air-conditioning.
And they say geothermal cooling is something new for Houston.
Photo: Flickr user The Rocketeer
Sure, everybody’s excited about biodiesel because it’s new and rare. But just wait until smelly biodiesel production plants start littering the landscape like fast-food franchises.
If you’ve got $1.95 million, you can set one up too. A company out of Florida is selling “prepackaged,” turnkey biodiesel plants from a German factory. Let them come, and they will build it:
As part of its business-in-a-box plan, Xenerga promises long-term, exclusive deals to purchase waste cooking oil from a network of suppliers whose clients include McDonald’s Corp. and Chili’s Grill & Bar. Xenerga’s supply side also focuses on rendered animal fats like beef tallow, chicken grease and pig fat, all of which are plentiful in Texas.
Interest from this region has been strong, the company told the Houston Business Journal: a plant in west Houston is planned already.
Xenerga also promises to deliver customers willing to buy the estimated 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year that the plants produce.
Each Xenerga plant only takes up half an acre, requires two employees at a time, and can be sited almost anywhere from light industrial parks to rural farmland.
Photo: Biodiesel production plant in Carl’s Corner, Texas, by flickr user Nicola Matsukis