Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Affordable Green Housing

Jennifer Hoffman 2012

I recently had the pleasure/joy/bliss of attending the U.S. Green Building Council Make It Right lecture in Chicago presented by Jon Sader. Mr. Sader was the former Construction Director of The Make it Right Foundation, who developed a process to build affordable net-zero housing in New Orleans' hurricane ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. Mr. Sader shared what he learned from building 76 affordable LEED Platinum homes for less cost than a conventionally built home.  In fact 30% less - while also achieving a 40% HERS (Home Energy Rating System) reduction. This accomplishment was based solely on the buildings (smart/holistic/good/sustainable) design. Make It Affordable + Make It Green = Make It Right!

Mr. Sader started off his discussion by saying that our intention should not be to create just Net-Zero Energy Homes, but Net-Negative Energy Homes.  Period.  (I knew right then + there that this was going to be an extra-super-awesome lecture!).  He argued that this way you make enough energy to send back to the grid, while “compensating” for all of the existing inefficient buildings.  Instead of paying a utility bill - you make money off of being energy self-sufficient.  He further stated that this still means that you can build the house for less than a conventional property.

Mr. Sader emphasized how we as designers, architects, builders + engineers should all think of ourselves as healthcare workers because of the substantial impact the living spaces we design have on our clients health.  He discussed the impact of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) + how cancer, asthma + other illnesses have skyrocketed as more plastics and new products (without long term testing) have been introduced into not only our environment, but also into our living spaces. This is not new information to me as an interior designer, but it is always greatly appreciated when it is acknowledged - because it matters! We spend 90% of our time indoors + Indoor Environmental Quality effects our health + safety.  He gave an example of one of his clients having to go to the emergency room at least 3 times a month due to severe asthma attacks.  However, once she moved into her new home, she hasn’t experienced one episode – in over 3 years!  He discussed how in the future there will be a building nutrition label - so that just like a box of cereal, you’ll know if you’re buying junk or something healthy for you, the environment + your wallet.

Mr. Sader described how hurricane Katrina fundamentally changed New Orleans forever in just 24 hours + how the earthquake in Haiti killed 230,000 people in only 35 seconds.  He expressed that the fundamental process of rebuilding a city and a nation are the same. The Mission is as follows: 

1. Catalyst 
2. Safe/Healthy 
3. Cradle to Cradle 
4. High Design

Within these fundamentals, Mr. Sader stressed the importance of creating a standard method that allows flexibility, can be easily replicated + is affordable.  When it comes to choices - the products should be available nationwide. The process (modular/stick/SIP) + implementation when it comes to construction should be streamlined. He suggested using local resources only when it makes the most sense.  Above and beyond the LEED process, Mr. Sader emphasized the importance of using Cradle-to-Cradle products for the overall result. Avoiding “green redundancy” when systems can counteract each other is also essential.  He learned that choosing Advanced-framing techniques over Traditional/Conventional-framing can decrease the use of lumber by 30%, of which (of course) the contractors charged 30% more.  However, Mr. Sader was eventually able to promote competitive bidding, which brought the cost down.

Mr. Sader said that what he ultimately learned throughout the rebuilding process is that the following 4 main Methodologies determined the success of a project:

1. Process Innovation
2. Product Innovation
3. Education Innovation
4. Social Innovation

The information Mr. Sader shared was invaluable + the project houses were quite impressive considering all of the strict building parameters + tight budgets of each project house.  For further information, please check out some of our previous posts regarding Affordable + Public Interest Architecture.  

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Site Specific - Detroit, MI

Site Specific - Detroit, MI by Ecohaven Project | Make Your Own Book

Ecohaven Project is pleased to announce that the Site Specific - Detroit, MI art book collaboration between Jennifer Hoffman + Geoff Hoffman is now available for purchase through Blurb.  We chose Blurb to self-publish our book after seeing their collaboration with Dwell magazine in their recent photo competition.  This was our first book + we learned a lot in the process. It's not cheap to self-publish a book, but this truly is a labor of love + an important viewpoint that Ecohaven Project wants to explore.  We feel that as designers, architects + artists we need to really look at how + where we live.  To us, this is part of the holistic + multidisciplinary approach that design is gravitating towards. This way of working ultimately supports sustainability of communities + celebrates where we live.

As the book world becomes more digital - art books are becoming more than just books.  We look at Site Specific as being an art object for display (with lots of beauty + joy inside).  It's an investment that is beautiful + means something.  The book has a hardcover with a dust jacket + is a square 7" x 7"  format - the images themselves are 6" x 6".  This size supports the book being an intimate experience + really shares what our intention was: to make beautiful images that capture the unique character + inspiration that we experienced in Detroit during the short 24 hours we had there. The book is a visual story that works in unison with our corresponding website posts. Please read the Hearts DetroitHeidelberg Project Visit posts for more information on what we learned.

Our books will only be available for purchase through Blurb.

Thank you + Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Heidelberg Project Visit

Get the flash player here:

As a follow-up to our recent trip to research + document Detroit for our upcoming Site Specific – Detroit MI, I wanted to share what we learned about The Heidelberg Project.  The photographs we took are not included in our book + are intended for educational purposes/non-commercial use only.  As stated in my initial “Hearts Detroit” post, The Heidelberg Project is located in a community that, per the 2005 census, is considered the most economically depressed neighborhood in the country.  I understand that most people visiting a city wouldn’t want to go to the most devastated part of that city – but we strongly urge you to go…it’s the Stonehenge of the Midwest.  

We drove a short distance from the center of the city heading northeast on Gratiot Avenue - into an area that became more + more isolated + blighted.  Some stores were open, others shuddered - there were many buildings + homes that were either abandoned or had fallen apart.  We had no idea what to expect.  We found Heidelberg Street – which is where the project is located + drove around to “assess” the area.  Curiosity + amazement took over what turned out to be completely unfounded fear.  The first thing we heard from Tyree Guyton was “Welcome” + to "please be respectful of the neighbors” that live among the art installation that is ultimately a neighborhood.  

The scale of the project is quite impressive.  The heart + ambition is not only inspiring, but for lack of a better word - is spiritual.  Celebrating its 25th year, call it “outsider art”, “activist art” or the “Ghetto Guggenheim” – The Heidelberg Project works on many levels: artistic, social, environmental, political + economic.  The project is an “art as catalyst” approach to addressing social issues such as police abuse, lack of affordable housing, urban renewal projects, economic inequality + rapid demographic changes.  The artist, Tyree Guyton, was 12 years old when the 1967 riots devastated Detroit + the city burned before his eyes.  This riot, as with many riots occurring across the country in the 1960’s, was the beginning of “white flight” from the city to the suburbs.  Once thriving neighborhoods became abandoned, segregated urban ghettos characterized by poverty, neglect + despair. Beginning in 1986, Guyton began using found objects to make art from the very blight + decay that surrounded him.  As an artist, this became his way of protesting the poverty + neglect his community was experiencing. Guyton turned trash into a national treasure by creating single art pieces that eventually developed into blocks of art installations.  The amount of work + passion behind Guyton’s art is inspiring on a level that you have to experience for yourself. Go!

We look forward to visiting the Heidelberg Project again as it continues to grow in its vision + expand the reconstruction of the neighborhood. Through the exploration of ecological + social sustainability, social empowerment through art, urban design + redevelopment - there are many lessons to learn from The Heidelberg Project.  The story of Detroit is not unique compared to other post-industrial “shrinking cities.”  What is unique is that this project + the city are asking the difficult questions + finding innovative solutions to create a sustainable city that supports its entire population.

For more information - please visit The Heidelberg Project's website:

This is the kind of work that makes us believe that art (+ design) can save the world…or at least help make it better!


Friday, September 16, 2011

AFH/SFI Workshop

Sketch image credit to Architecture for Humanity - Chicago, Logo image credit to Architecture for Humanity +
 Design Corps/Structures for Inclusion 

We were excited to receive an update last week from Architecture for Humanity’s Chicago chapter regarding a design charrette we participated in supporting AMPATH at the most recent Design Corps Structures for Inclusion 10+1 Conference.  AFH sent us a copy of the booklet they sent to their contact at AMPATH which included the following information + graphics from the project proposal. AFH will keep us updated if they receive any photos back documenting implementation of any of the ideas proposed from the workshop.

The challenge of this charrette explored schematic design solutions for AMPATH’s container clinic model. We were encouraged to explore any or all of the following concepts to improve their designs: flexibility of layout, potential for prefabrication of containers offsite, modularity of systems for economic savings, portability of structures at the end of the life cycle.  AMPATH has already built 6-8 container clinics + wanted input for the next 8.  At the end of Session One, ideas were documented in a way that could be easily understood by another architect or designer. At the end of Session Two (which we were involved in) ideas were documented graphically in a way that could be easily understood by a non-architect/designer. The schedule was really tight for each session: 15 minutes for project introduction, 45 minutes of work time + 15 minutes for presentations and discussion. Through collaboration – everybody made it work!

Based on the information we were given by AFH - AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare) is working with Moi Teaching + Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya to build + install 14 - 16 shipping container clinics in the surrounding area. The clinics will serve as auxillary buildings to existing medical facilities.  Shipping containers were chosen because they are readily available + have a faster construction process compared to traditional buildings. They are finished + clad to look substantial + professional. These semi-permanent structures are to remain in place for one to three years. At the end of that time they will be relocated (if possible) to new sites. Some past clinics have remained on site permanently. The Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) is Kenya’s most comprehensive initiative to combat HIV. AMPATH is a working model of urban and rural HIV preventive and treatment services in the public sector.

Between each workshop - concepts were switched amongst groups so everyone developed + documented another’s idea in Session Two, while adhering to the Program + cost effective material requirements.  Of the two design submissions, the first design (which we worked on above) looked to break up the long waiting corridors present in the current AMPATH layout. Containers would be cut in half and placed parallel to one another, separated by the modulus of the shipping container. A thatched roof would create a semi-shaded waiting/circulation area while reducing their solar heat gain would shade the internal space.  By spacing out the clinic rooms, this layout creates more privacy for doctor/patient conversations. We suggested calling it “Health Oasis” because it supported the designs intent.

Charrette Workshop Participants:

Erica Carvahlo, Board Member, Special Programs Committee Chair - AFH
Laura Bowe, Board Member, Director - AFH
Matt Dumich
Kara Dziobek
Josef Fuentes
Meghan Gallagher
Geoff Hoffman
Jennifer Hoffman
Maya Janczykowska
Joseph Junius
Annie Lambla
Jorge Cuervo Manrique
Kaitlin McVehil
Shawn Poor
Yoko Saeki
Dan Teed
Brian Yen

Kind regards,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hearts Detroit.

Copyright Ecohaven Project 2011/Jennifer Hoffman

Its been about 17 years since I last visited Detroit during my art school years living in Cincinnati.  My friends + I would go up to see friends bands + other bands play in bars or at St. Andrews Hall.  I've always had a bit of soft spot for Detroit having always had a great time there + always meeting super nice people during each visit. The city was having a hard time back then + I wasn't really sure what to expect when deciding to go back to work on a Site Specific project art book about Detroit. Aside from being the legendary birthplace of Motown, its always had a great music (+ art) scene, as does the rest of the Rust Belt. I gained a deeper appreciation for Detroit + Michigan as a whole more recently in design school learning about the classic + timeless mid-century furniture design/manufacturing, architecture/design movements + pedigree that resided, educated + learned their craft at the nearby iconic campus of Cranbrook Academy of Art.  I was thrilled to learn that many of the modernist greats taught or went to school there + that it was part of the heyday of American design:  Eliel + Eero Saarinen, Charles + Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia + George Nelson...just to name a few.

Aside from all of the negative media about Detroit, more interestingly, what I had been hearing about was that a urban renaissance was happening.  I was hearing more + more about the inspiring + amazing things that are happening in "The D" (Is Detroit the new Brooklyn? - I hope not, we already have one of those).  After seeing various documentaries (PBS - Beyond the Motor City) + reading many articles - it's undisputed that Detroit has become a new frontier for the young, entrepreneurs, visionaries + The Creative Class to "go for it" from all over the country + the world, due to its affordability + blank canvas of opportunity where art, music, design + sustainability are catalysts for change.  In addition, attending the most recent Architecture for Change + the Structures for Inclusion Summit's added another level of inspiration.  Listening to lectures by Dan Pitera, Associate Professor, Architecture at The University of Detroit Mercy; Executive Director, Detroit Collaborative Design Center + seeing the amazing projects he + his affiliations are involved in made it all the more clear that it was important to return to Detroit on a more meaningful level.

Together with my husband + chief collaborator, we set out to learn about the city + its people with the intention of expressing what is unique, inspiring + beautiful about Detroit.  With a tight 24 hour timeline, an even tighter budget + a Chevy rental car - we fully embraced the opportunity to explore the Motor City.  Our first stop was the Heidleberg Project (located in a community that as of the 2005 census is considered the most economically depressed neighborhood in the country) where we will be forever humbled + inspired by the projects ambition + heart, we then headed to Russell Street Deli located in the Detroit Eastern Market where we experienced pure sandwich bliss made of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, followed by a trip to Astoria Pastry Shop in Greektown (we admit it - we're bonofide "foodies", but what + how people eat - tells you a lot about a community) then continued to explore Downtown's architecture + beautifully landscaped boulevards of abundant + colorful perennials (despite the media depiction of Detroit being "the U.S. Murder Capital" crime is actually 26% below the national average in the downtown area), we then navigated through the city's beautiful historic 982 acre Belle Isle island park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, experienced goosebumps of pure joy visiting Mies van der Rohe's modernist oasis in Lafayette Park, were once again humbled + inspired by the TAP (The Alley Project) Gallery project located in the Mexicantown neighborhood, afterwards we finished the day at Grand Trunk Pub (just a short walk from our hotel) where we enjoyed a few pints of  Motor City Brewing's Ghettoblaster, only to wake up before dawn the next morning + quickly fall in love with the charm of Corktown while experiencing the best pour over + ham w/cheese croissant we've ever had at Astro Coffee - which is in clear view of the beauty + ruins of the Michigan Central Depot (where I tend to agree with David Kohrman's view - is the ultimate symbol of the automobile's complete triumph over public transportation in the city - not to disregard the People Mover), with that we ended our journey at Dequindre Cut - Detroit’s walking-and-cycling trail running below street level along a stretch of abandoned rail line just east of downtown.  We were excited to see a lot of new bike lanes + bike friendly signage around the city - perhaps an affirmation of a new kind of sustainable + "Motorless City".

We have a lot of work ahead of us processing photographs, making artwork + a corresponding book that expresses what we learned about how beautiful + inspiring Detroit truly is. A percentage of the proceeds of our forthcoming Site Specific project book will be donated to benefit local charities + art projects in Detroit, which will be listed once the book is finalized.  Thankfully Detroit hasn't changed in the most significant way - the people are still warm, kind + open.  We agree that "Detroit Hustles Harder", where seemingly in most other places lies a kind of profound apathy.  Ecohaven Project truly believes that if we let our cities + its people fail - we ALL fail. Ultimately every neighborhood is connected to one another and is part of a larger community - humanity.

More interesting stories:
Detroit Evolving Into a Haven for Artists
Detroit: Syncopating an Urban Landscape
Detroit Pushes Back With Young Muscles
An Abandoned Symbol Of Detroit's Better Days
Despite Tough Times, Some See Opportunity In Detroit
What's Wrong With American Furniture Design?

We can't wait to share more!

We would like to express our sincere thanks + gratitude to Dan Pitera for his recommendations of places + projects to visit in his beloved city.

Friday, April 15, 2011

ECONNECT (Lotus Flower) - New Delhi, India

Copyright Ecohaven Project 2010

Location: New Delhi, India
Status: Completed exhibition - April 2011
Copyright Ecohaven Project 2010

Econnect – (lotus flower concept, design + structure) Jennifer Hoffman + Geoff Hoffman

Collaboration: Love Motel for Insects - Brandon BallengĂ©e

Ecohaven Project’s design process began with research of New Delhi and India.  We wanted to create a structure + space that related to + celebrated the culture in a beautiful + inspiring way.  Inspiration for the design of the Econnect structure is based on the lotus flower.  The lotus flower is the national flower of India + symbolizes divinity, fertility, wealth, knowledge + enlightenment.  Econnect provides connection to the local environment including graphic design concepts that support the educational components of the interior spaces while fostering the opportunity to reflect + be with nature in an otherwise fast-paced city life.

The Econnect lotus flower structure, in collaboration with the Love Motel for Insects concept, supports a 24-hour habitat:  By day, the plants provide a habitat + food source for butterflies.  By night, the exterior of the Econnectstructure supports the Love Motel for Insects concept by incorporating the use of ultraviolet light to provide a nocturnal habitat for moths.  The collaboration support’s the main project concepts of Connection, Education + Sustainability.

Econnect’s sustainable design strategies include: 
  • Designing in a way that minimizes the overall use of materials. 
  • Constructing with local materials + specifying environmentally preferable products to reduce the negative impact on the planet.  
  • Use of indigenous vegetation reduces water usage, maintenance costs + water run-off.  Utilizing white surfaces with a high solar reflectance reduces heat islands.