The Chain of Eco-Homes Competition for Greensburg


McLaughin Design Group's Homestead Eco-Home via Jetson Green

TreeHugger and Planet Green have been covering the rebuilding of Greensburg with posts and TV; TreeHugger has also watched closely the development of FreeGreen, which produces and then gives away house plans. (Why? I try to explain in Free Green Turns House Design Business On Its Head)

Now they and their partners at Greensburg GreenTown are giving away money too,in a design competition to build The Chain of Eco-Homes ( video with sound will start). Three houses will be built in the town as demonstrations of affordable, durable and innovative homes.Competitors have to meet an unusual list of requirements, including a tight budget:

We’re asking for each Eco-Home to be buildable with only a modest mortgage. We welcome designs of all sizes, as long as they cost less than $110 per square foot. That means that a 1400sf home would cost $154,000. On a 30-year mortgage set at 6% interest that means a monthly payment of roughly $1,000. Rule-of-thumb says that an annual household income of $51,000 should be able to afford this payment.

and an unusual program:

Design your home with education in mind. We envision interactive demonstrations of the latest in green products, technologies and concepts. At the same time, we want families to be able to imagine what it would be like to live in each home. Get creative about how you demonstrate heating/cooling, electricity generation, green materials and passive solar/ventilation design. We’re looking for innovative, yet practical solutions.

But one of the more interesting aspects is the use of material for the basic structure of the house. One of three systems must be used, and the best of each will be built:


Environmental Masonry Units are work like concrete blocks but are made with technology that has been around for a while, like six thousand years. They use lime instead of cement, (like they did in Rome), which they say creates 75% less CO2 during manufacture than cement, and it absorbs much of it back as it cures. Not much info on their website at Virginia Lime Works yet, but they should basically work like concrete blocks without the greenhouse gas burden, and it is a way to build for generations.



Pre-fab Wood Blocks
This is a really interesting system of interlocking wood blocks made from sustainably harvested wood, woodchips soaked in clay and mussel shells. You stack them up like lego and then fill with the insulation of your choice.

They are imported from Germany right now, but these houses are demonstration projects, so perhaps they are looking at manufacturing them in North America. More information from the manufacturer, HIB Systems.

Insulated Concrete Forms I have always had trouble calling a sandwich of polystyrene and concrete green when there are alternatives for walls that do not have such a big carbon footprint, but this is Greensburg and they are nothing if not strong and hurricane resistant, and provide good thermal mass in the exterior wall, which is great for climates like that of Greensburg. The Amvic design seems to be better than most, with some recycled content and an efficient design that reduces waste. More information at Amvic

View from a grain elevator in Greensburg. Nearly all of the town's buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged by the May 4, 2007 tornado via earlier TH post

President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, got in a spot of trouble earlier this year by saying "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." But he was right, and they are not letting the disaster of Greensburg go to waste, but using it to build a different kind of community. Greensburg Green Town says "the community came together and decided to rebuild sustainably, striving to become a model green town for the future."

This competition is a great opportunity for the design community to be part of this. Register before July 15 at the Chain of Eco-Homes

See all of our posts tagged Greensburg on TreeHugger here
and on Planet Green here

Tags: Design Competitions | Designers | Housing Industry

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