HouMinn's new wall prototype - Oswall - is featured in UMN news

Marc recently applied for and received a University of Minnesota Imagine Fund Grant to support the development and construction of HouMinn's latest wall prototype project, called "Oswall" (Open Souce Wall). We will be posting more information on Oswall in the coming months, so please check back. The following will be of particular interest to fellow designers, engineers, or creatively minded folks. We will be soliciting your help to assist us in developing ideas for wall "apps" (applications). We will post on our website the specifications for these apps, in downloadable formats, in hopes that you might submit a design idea or two. These apps could simply be static wall surfaces that keep the rain out (dumb apps) or they could be more sophistocated modules that dynamically adjust how much light, air, or water infiltrate the house (smart apps). We need both varieties. We will be selecting a number of the most compelling apps to fabricate for final production of the Oswall prototype (Full credit given to the designer of course). To learn more, watch the interview (it's only about 3 minutes long) to learn more about this exciting new project.  You will have to scroll down the page a little bit, then hit play on the Flash Movie link at University of Minnesota's website.


Swackhamer speaks at NAED Workshop 

Swackhamer was invited to speak at a National Academy of Environmental Design Workshop on Sustainable Materials on January 16 and 17, 2009. Video of the workshop presentations has just been posted online here. Swackhamer's 20 minute presentation of Drape and Cloak Wall, which can be viewed here, is informative not just of these two projects, but also, more generally of HouMinn's design process. Other presenter's included Billie Faircloth from Kieran Timberlake Architects, Sheila Kennedy from Kennedy Violich Architects, Blaine Brownell from Transtudio, and John Carmody from Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Building Research. Tom Fisher, Dean of Minnesota's College of Design, moderated the workshop.


Preservationist uses Internet to question our obsession with technology

Clem Labine, who writes for Traditional Building Magazine and maintains a blog called The Preservationist offers this considered and ironically delivered observation about Hometta.


More press for Hometta

Hometta, the new modern home web company, for which Blair is an original core architect and HouMinn is a featured designer, has just received more press. This time, the Chicago Tribune has featured the company in an article entitled Blueprints with a Sustainable Vision. The company's founder, Mark Johnson, is quoted extensively in the article and a number of details regarding house sizes and drawing costs are revealed. Remember to check out Hometta's website and look for it to launch later this month.


The use of any tool should support discourse, not drive it.

Sometimes technological and socio-political watershed moments have a life cycle that is painful but necessary for there to be progress. Specific concepts naturally evolve (often gradually and incrementally) toward more refined and responsive constructs and systems. It is these vetted ideas that are ultimately folded into the greater discourse. (image courtesy of TwoBlueDay)


Local Concepts: To date, the notion of “Green” as it is generally applied in the profession is nothing more than an applied response. There are of course isolated incidents where this is not the case (Kieran Timberlake comes to mind). But by and large, and to degree, the idea of Greening something is not considered as a governing idea (See cartoon). LEED, the American governing body of global green, is the bureaucratic construct that is forcing the ideas of sustainability into the business models of architecture firms. At best, it is a mechanism of change that will fall to the wayside as its governing idea becomes ubiquitous. At worst it is the kind of well intentioned shackle that inhibits good ideas. Either way, it is largely the domain of the technocrat.

People who are willing to champion ideas like LEED in their nascent stages are specific. They are often individuals who have the ability to localize ideas/conditions and accept them as an isolated and universal truth. Because of this willingness (or if you prefer, ability) to truly believe, they become proselytizers and evangelists. This is not said disparagingly. These people are necessary to storm the beach head. They do a lot of work that benefits us all by embracing new ideas whole heartedly and basically beta testing them. This is important to recognize because it is the “true believer” that establishes a toe-hold, takes flak, trouble shoots and builds acceptance. But like all sod busters and tera formers, they are useful for a limited time. Storming a beach head is an activity that is unsustainable.

Once an idea is hammered home – the hammer is unnecessary. But as the saying goes, when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail so the hammer needs to be either put on the shelf or pointed at the next nail. When any rule or idea becomes dogma – it is dangerous.

Evangelists are never the best global thinkers. That isn’t their roll. They are people who filter ideas through their particular lens. It is up to global thinkers to seize on the ideas of the specialists and figure out when and where to fold them into the bigger discourse. We would argue that the time is now – for LEED. It is coming for BIM software. In the case of LEED, there is an unnaturally long life span to this early incarnation because the idea has become a public and political hot button. Environmental concerns, political agendas and marketing campaigns have all provided too much loft for the movement. It is correct practice but it is an inflexible mechanism if taken literally. It is time for it to be co-opted and consumed by people who can control and leverage it.

We agree with the sentiment that often there is a lot of bad work that is done in the name of good (ADA, LEED, preservation, contextualism, lobotomies, etc.). It is also clear that there is a lot of unconsidered work that is done with the latest idea or technology (maya, digifab, etc.). We are optimistic that if we pull back and look at a bigger cycle we will see that LEED (or better, simply environmentally responsive design) will become an issue we simply deal with, like gravity and water.


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