InnoTech Construction, Inc.™ is currently working on a project inspired by the late architect Amber Long and working to redesign the housing developments of today in order to shape them into sustainable housing. We are currently developing the prototype which will allow us to develop guidelines in order to adapt the sustainable housing developments to the various climates within the United States.
Amber loved her life, her friends, her work, and her city. She worked to excel in everything she did, not because she wanted to beat anyone, but to simply do her best. She made everyone around her happier. She was green, from secondhand stores to public transit. She didn’t have a TV by choice. She read, she cooked and baked, she did art, was on a pool league that had just won a championship. Her architecture designs were green, thoughtful, impressive.
Amber was a little person who lived big. She had a big heart, an old soul, a passionate nature and a bright side viewpoint. She had a discipline and determination learned from gymnastics that she applied to every part of her life. Amber never expected things to come to her freely- she worked hard for what she had. She cared deeply for the people in her life. She gave great hugs. Her job was joyous to her, architecture was her dream, but even when she was cleaning houses, she was always willing, always there, cheerful and just as determined to do her very best. She lived on her own, keeping a lovely, sunny apartment with lots of houseplants spotless, doing intricate pen and ink drawings; award winning sustainable architectural designs; billiards practice and competition; and always made time for her personal relationships. She shared her eclectic love of music with all who would listen. She was short, sweet, funny and fun. She was the most alive person I knew.
Amber was tragically shot for a secondhand purse and died on January 19th, 2014.
Amber will be remembered by us forever, her smile, energy, passion, and thirst for life. Forever missed. And for all the good she could have done, with her bright inquisitive mind, her passion for sustainable design and her practical determination to make the world a better place - who knows what she could have done?
With the Amber Long Project, InnoTech Construction, Inc.™ is working to reform the housing standards of the future and provide a solution. that will include energy independence, water reclamation, recycling, and organic space efficient gardens within our socially interactive inspired designs.
Housing in suburban developments usually represents lucrative business models, with little attention to energy efficiency and integration of climate and social interaction.
By redesigning the suburban prototype to be adaptable to suit the general and specific needs of different climatic regions, local and regional vernacular design concepts, and public demand, affordable housing can incorporate regional and site responsive passive systems, and concepts of healthier, social community atmospheres while still competing in today's market.
The debate is whether designers should even be supporting or promoting suburban life. Yet many studies have shown that in America, the majority of citizens either already live in suburban areas or, if they reside in a dense city, would prefer a more secure, relaxed lifestyle. 60% of the population lives in suburban areas and over 50% of Americans who live in cities, claim to be unhappy with their current living atmosphere.
Although the suburbs seem to be what people want, studies have also shown that the main reasons people move are for space, security, tranquility, home ownership, and the school systems. Most people do not move away from the city for the architecture. Perhaps the real issue is that suburban developments are just that; they are designed after an efficient business model by developers rather than architects, with little consideration to site or community.
In most of today's architectural programs, students are educated to design in the city or with nature, while across the United States, the suburbs continue to grow as an avoided issue. Repetitive home designs are placed on individual acre plots within a single development, and work efficiently as a business scheme but are not necessarily the best solution to single family housing. In response to what people want, the redesign of this suburban template may eventually solve several issues at once.
Many manufactured homes are designed to meet minimum building and efficiency codes, to save and make money for developers. Typically, manufactured homes have a lifespan of about 60 years, and firms can advertise their homes as "green" by simply adding energy star appliances and thicker layers of insulation.
These houses are more convenient and generally more affordable; however strength and overall quality seem less considered through most design. The companies that have been successful in creating more "green" designs have remained small and for the most part, purely custom. This leaves people with options like Toll Brothers; firms that are repeating the same designs across the country despite the different climates, susceptibility to natural disasters and vernacular styles.
While this process works effectively, the designs available should better represent considerations of the local environment and advertise the homes as part of a community rather than individual units.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard of building is being pursued now more than ever, which certainly makes a difference in the efficiency of the building process as a whole, however in reality, it does little to enforce efficient building in the long run. Unfortunately, clients are generally uneducated on how natural systems should be integrated to make a building more self sufficient. Understanding the area and site are some of the most important research tools that allow homes to be properly placed, both individually, and as an efficient unit.
Other considerations should be taken into account: water control and collection, placement of solar shades and panels in conjunction with the sun, type of insulation, and materiality which are generally covered within the LEED standards, but are not enough. Those things can do basically the same job in any location. An exploration in specific sites with different climatic needs will lead to testing increased efficiency and lower energy costs as a standard. If a home can be designed for a specific region and then repeated with only a few alterations, energy efficient housing in even the most extreme temperatures can be affordable to everyone.
While LEED is important for what it works to accomplish, statistics show that building restrictions will tighten within the next ten years, and ideas such as the net zero house will become standard. These systems are almost completely self-sufficient and create only the needed amount of energy for the site. Secondary mechanical systems are integrated into the design as cleanly and naturally as the passive systems to ensure minimal waste, low electric bills, and less dependency on precious resources. These standards will also play a role in the house and community prototypes.
Mass customizing is a way to address site specific climate needs while remaining within an efficient modular building process and integrating the client's personal wishes. Everyone seems to believe in the idea of mass customization, yet few firms have actually carried the idea out successfully. This seems odd in our capitalist society where everyone wants a customized product for an affordable price; if this were successful, it would quickly settle into its own niche.
It fits into the market scheme because a set of standardized parts would allow for quick and easy design, production, and assembly. This would allow for stronger, better quality designs based on location. These homes would set a new efficiency standard, not only in the short term production process, but in long-term energy use and preparation for future design standards.
Technology now allows many firms and companies to quickly change construction documents to meet a client's specific needs, without having much effect on the cost or manufacturing process. The success of a project like this would strongly depend on the experience and collaboration of clients, architects, manufacturers, and developers, to be sure that the homes are manufactured and constructed properly and timely.
The client could review a basic prototype as well as examples of past designs, then choose from a series of components and modules to meet their spatial and aesthetic desires. The first meeting could even include the developer working with the client personally to put the building blocks together successfully and efficiently depending on the components they choose to use and the location of their soon to be home.
These designs would be based on regionally standardized, deeply rooted passive systems derived from vernacular research conclusions. Everyone involved would have to be trained on how the parts can and should go together, and what materials and orientation will work best. Even the client could meet regularly with the designer or interact through an online process to understand all of the stages of the building process.
The standardization and manufacturing of parts has allowed for better, more stable building codes, a quick, efficient production and delivery process, and a more complete understanding of what is needed to make a building perform properly, however often at the price of reducing quality and style. Many of today's manufactured homes are designed to meet the minimum level of building requirements and, although they may meet regional climate codes, the overall proposal is the same no matter the location.
If a series of components were designed to work efficiently and collaboratively with other parts of the system, these pieces could simply be altered in placement and connection to each other to create easily customized alternative designs. In general, a prefabricated home would consist of the structure, skin, foundation, and systems. Some of these would be operable, others fixed to create a comfortable and efficient connection of spaces. If these pieces were standardized to fit into, on or around each other in multiple ways, they could then be customized in size, material, and arrangement to meet a customer's needs and budget.
Researching two built up cities with distinctly different climates would present the building requirements needed to utilize the elements and increase efficiency. A further understanding of this could then support the design of regional prototypes and possible alterations or rearrangements to promote social interactions within a community setting. These prototypes would prove to be examples of affordable, energy efficient housing, mass produced but still within the limits of the natural systems specific to each region.
Each area has specific needs and design requirements. The chosen sites, Wisconsin and Florida would represent examples of how a region could adopt this idea and spread it accordingly. Wisconsin is consistent with a hot/cold, dry climate, whereas Florida holds a hot, humid climate. The design of homes in Wisconsin would have to support heavy snow loads and protection from negative twenty degree wind chills. This prototype would also need to take advantage of size and placement of windows, thermal heat storage, and fireplaces.
After researching the general trends of Wisconsin, those findings could be integrated into a prototype for dry, cold climates which may then be altered to meet the needs of a site and client. The design for Florida, however, would have to work more against wind, rain, and long periods of high heat. This design would have to make good use of shading devices, high ceilings, vegetation, and open ventilation systems. We expect these two prototype to differ completely in design, materiality, and orientation.