Residents of the 79 apartments in the Hogg Palace Lofts are expecting air conditioning in their units to be restored sometime today — for the first time since power went out early on the morning of August 27th. At a meeting earlier this week, attorneys for and representatives of the Randall Davis Company told tenants of the 8-story building at 401 Louisiana St. that they were aiming for Friday for the AC to be turned on, though could not guarantee it — but that work would continue over the weekend if it couldn’t.
A somewhat parallel sequence of events played out after the promised trailer-mounted Aggreko 1 MW generator pictured above was parked along Preston St. in front of the building last Friday; difficulties in connecting it to the electrical system — including a hunt for the unknown owner of a white BMW parked in a tenant spot in the parking garage that stood in the way of a hook-up — delayed the restoration of electrical power until Monday.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON CHILLED OUT AND GREW UP “I have 3 words that explain why Chicago developed as a ‘modern city’ well before Houston: ‘winter’ and ‘air conditioning.’ Think about it . . . Heating a big tall building to make it comfortable is easy. In contrast, cooling that same building is not so easy — especially in the post Civil War and 1890-1920 time frame. Now, the development of commercially viable air conditioners in the 1920-30’s was an expensive luxury. Then the WW2 years and rationing, and voilá — [only] modest growth of ‘big city’ until the late 1940’s and 1950’s. So when did Houston really start to grow? Yup, you guessed it: post WW2 and the 1950’s, when most middle class people could afford air conditioning in their homes and businesses. So if you want cool ‘old’ pre-war buildings, go north and east towards cooler weather. But if you want a modern or post-modern or even contemporary building, just look at Houston, or Atlanta, or Los Angeles, or Las Vegas. (And thank Mr. Carrier for his invention of air conditioning as we know it.)” [In the Doghouse, commenting on A Brief History of Houston’s Future Historic Preservation Culture] Illustration: Lulu
Air conditioning repair guy David Lewis finds what he considers a novel installation of the AC condenser units found on the ground outside most Houston homes. The site (above and at left) is a 6,500-sq.-ft. doctors’ office converted from a house built in 1940, about a mile away from Rice University. Here, the condensers have their own vented add-on room tucked behind an added exterior stair — where they’re protected from the elements, thieves, and offended eyeballs. The expensive setup also means there’s a little more work for repairs: “You must have the area well ventilated hence the brown vents and weird hoods on the units. The greatest downside is that those hoods prevent service to the unit. If the condenser fan motor decides to quit then the hood must first be removed to allow access for replacement.”
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW THEY DID IT BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING “At the risk of stating the obvious, the reason for the interior corridor windows and clerestory, as well as the central corridor slot with metal grid, is for chimney effect for ventilation in the pre-AC days. Apartments of this vintage often had to resort to innovative ways to get ventilation, like the angled window bays of Wilshire Village. The grid looks like it’s part of the floor of the second floor corridor, which would be perfectly reasonable if you’re trying to create a walkable but air-permeable floor.” [marmer, commenting on Taking on a Rough Midtown Trio]
Galveston County Sheriff’s deputies, La Marque and Texas City Police, and officials from the Texas DPS Narcotics unit gathered for a garden tour yesterday in the back building of the purported cabinet-making business of Gregory William Stanley, at the southeast corner of 5th St. and FM 519 in La Marque. Thanks to careful attention to air flow and insulation, Stanley had been able to keep law-enforcement officials off the scent of his 240-plant greenhouse for a while:
The pungent aroma of marijuana was evident only upon entering the metal building.
The building had an extra ridge vent to help push the marijuana smell through the roof, sheriff’s office Lt. Tommy Hansen said.
“It’s all insulated,” [Capt. Barry] Cook said. “Foam board on the walls, silver insulating materials on the ceiling, and ultraviolet lights to help these plants.”
Oscillating fans still were blowing air through the rooms as authorities photographed the evidence.
“There’s a ventilation, heating and lighting system, and they’ve got fans moving the air to keep it cool and damp in here,” Cook said.
Too bad we can’t embed the video here. So here’s a transcript of the rationale — presented by the writers of the Discovery Channel’s Mega Engineering series — for building that massive, mile-diameter geodesic dome over Houston (or at least the Downtown part):
Houston, Texas — the country’s fourth most populous city — is in peril.
Houston has always been vulnerable to killer hurricanes: From the great storm of 1900, the deadliest in U.S. history, which killed 8,000 people, to Hurricane Ike in 2008, which caused more than $10 billion in damage, and forced the city center to shut down for nearly a week.
And it’s not only hurricanes. Searing heat and humidity also oppress this great city. On nearly 100 days each year, the temperature climbs above 90 degrees, which in muggy Houston feels even hotter.
Air conditioning provides relief, but at a cost. Houstonians’ soaring electricity use has nudged the city ahead of Los Angeles in the race to become the country’s number-one producer of greenhouse gases — a dubious distinction. And the problem is only getting worse.
Forced to spend a fortune in a losing battle against nature, and with energy costs spiking unpredictably, Houston finds itself square in the path of an environmental juggernaut, which threatens to make the city unlivable.
That’s why some think that the only way to save Houston is to move it indoors.
The latest in Swamplot’s roundup of entries to the $99K House Competition: This home from Steve Pribyl of dbaArchitects in Los Angeles:
This design is for a relatively modest 1400 s.f. house that utilizes innovative techniques to create an energy-efficient residence. An ecologically friendly house will use minimal natural resources over the life of the house.
A high surface-to-volume ratio is desirable in order to use a minimal amount of raw materials during construction. A sphere is the most efficient shape to meet this criteria, but it isn’t practical in terms of existing timber framing technology. An octagon is the closest reasonable approximation of a sphere using tried and true construction materials and methods.
HOLIDAY HEAT “Fireplaces in Houston are kind of like spleens or tonsils; probably used to be necessary, but really just for decoration now, until they flare up and cause a problem, or allow racoons, birds and rats unfettered access to your living room. Along with all the other picturesque images of family life I gleaned from Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney, I always envisioned my home with a fireplace. The only trouble is, Drew makes so much of his own heat that he can barely stand to be near himself without sweating. I’m always moments from losing a limb to frostbite, so it’s difficult for us to agree on a mutually comfortable temperature. But, as you can tell, the fireplace is lit in this photo, so we must be learning to compromise. Indeed. All I have to do to make Drew thrilled to sit in front of a lit fire in December is turn on the fan. And the air conditioner.” [A Peine for Your Thoughts]
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.