Housing Apartment Units Trending Smaller Nationwide with Washington, D.C. as an Exception

An interesting article in yesterday’s EcoHome Magazine, the official publication for The American Institute of Architects, states that the micro unit trend toward housing is continuing to expand in the United States-with exception in the nation’s capitol.  This downward trend in size impacts the amount of energy used to heat and cool the unit making for an apartment that is more eco-friendly and sustainable.

The average size of a newly delivered apartment unit in the U.S. is now at 982 square feet.  Cities seeing a reduction in apartment size include the Texas cities of Dallas and Houston, Denver and Seattle.  Seattle has seen a 200 square-foot drop in apartment size from approximately 950 to 750 square feet since 2005.

The only urban area that is seemingly increasing its apartment unit size is in Washington, D.C., according to the piece.

unit size

The Recycled Milk Jug Igloo

If a Christmas vacation away from home is not in the cards for you and your loved ones, you may still have time to send out a mass email or Facebook post to friends to collect recyclable materials to create a space for little ones to hang out in over holiday break.  We learned about this super cool igloo from an article last week on Mother Nature Network that incorporates 420 very clean milk jugs, cardboard and glue.  Check out the video below on how children and teachers from a Midland, Texas school built the igloo to see how you can build this for your family.

The space age design is a perfect place for your kids to curl up with a book, play with friends or just take a nap on a mat inside…so you can curl up with your Kindle, call a friend on the phone or just take a short snooze while they do.


The Merging of Prefab, Sustainable Dwellings With Eco-Friendly Transport

We’ve written about houses made out of recycled shipping containers and we’ve also reported on prefabricated, yet sustainable homes.  We have not, however, seen the two concepts merged together:  an ecofriendly, architecturally forward residence shipped in just one eight foot by 40 foot container.  A recent article in Fast Company focuses on Connect Homes, a company started by two architects that addresses the former difficulty of getting prefab, sustainable homes to consumers at an affordable price point.

“What we discovered is that industry wide […] they use these really large modules that are basically as big as the roadways will allow,” said Jared Levy, co-owner of Connect Homes, to Fast Company. Levy said that previously the cost of transporting just one module of a home around the U.S. could cost approximately $25,000.  Many homes require more than one module, with some using up to 10 such units.

Connect Homes says it can fit almost the entire home in the container and ship it anywhere around the world for $5000.  In addition, their homes have such features including bamboo floors, LED lighting,  complete steel framing, and sustainably certified woods, according to the piece.  Rather than the homes being price prohibitive before because of parts made in different locations and expensive shipping fees, centralized production and cheaper transport costs allow the home to total a more price friendly $105,000 to $400,000 for a sustainable residence.

The company is still in a start-up phase but a model home was recently on display at Dwell’s Silicon Valley Home Tour.  Three homes have been sold so far with another five expected to sell within the next quarter.

Sustainability and Swedish Meatballs by 2020

Blaming this two week old news item on Sandy and a snowstorm, it nevertheless bears noting that Swedish furniture giant IKEA has set a lofty goal of being completely sustainable and energy independent by 2020, according to an article in the Huffington Post.  Making a nearly $2 billion investment in wind and solar power projects, the People and Planet Positive initiative will bring 70 percent energy independence to the company by 2015 with the remaining 30 percent delivered five years thereafter.

This massive green push will also have the company planting as many trees as it uses in making many well-loved products by 2020.  They also strive for having a 50 percent wood supply from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests, using LED lights in stores globally and trying to bring in outside products for sale that are sustainable and energy efficient.

Well done, IKEA.  We just love when corporations do the right thing rather than just pay lip service to important concepts like sustainability and environmental conservation.

A Desk (or Table) Grows in Brooklyn

A retired rocker cum woodworker and a residential real estate broker have joined forces and started a sustainable furniture company in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that uses reclaimed wood from NYC water towers and other local sites to create custom tables and desks, according to an article in the New York Daily News.

The items range in price from $1000 to $3000 and sales at the approximately two year old Withers & Grain are expected to reach $250,000 this year and double in 2013.  The company was also one of five finalists and the only New York based firm in the in Ketel One and GQ’s Gentleman’s Call entrepreneurship contest.  If selected as the winner, the firm will receive a $100,000 prize.

The article states that the wood reclaimed from these water towers is actually quite desirable despite its unsightly appearance.  As far as Withers & Grain’s owners are concerned, the older the wood, the better.


The Ark: A Solar-Powered Houseboat Across the Pond

In a city where the cost of a flat can be bloody expensive, a London-based design team design team looking to fix the lack of adequate, yet sustainable housing has instead taken to the Thames and has created a houseboat that is architecturally interesting and sustainable, according to an article in Earth Techling.

The solar powered Ark “demonstrates the potential of houseboats in urban developments,” according to the piece.  It is powered completely by solar photovoltaic energy and the lighting system turns on to 80 percent capacity which is seemingly unnoticeable to the eye.  All lights on the boat are controlled by a bedside panel.

The Ark also uses sustainable wood for the interior as well as recyclable concrete.  In addition, the houseboat’s exterior can be cleaned by a rainwater and grey water system that also hydrates an interior green wall.

Perhaps this is a trend that will come to the coasts stateside?


Tricked Out Playhouses with Eco-Friendly Flair

With Halloween approaching and everything all about kids at this time of year, we thought you’d like to see this incredible Los Angeles Victorian-style playhouse that we found on the Wall Street Journal’s website.  For just $50,000, your little tykes and their friends can romp in a  224-square-foot house with wraparound porch.  Most notable from an eco-friendly standpoint, the playhouse’s custom made furniture is made from sustainable hardwood.

The home was made by La Petite Maison of Fort Lupton, Colo. and designed by the Lollipop Tree of Charleston, S.C.  You can check out more phenomenal playhouses by clicking on the WSJ link above, although we cannot vouch for their sustainable credentials.