Images copyright Ross Stevens
Ross Stevens demonstrated with his Shipping Container House that he has a way with junk. He writes that his "general approach to design is to find materials/objects that have concluded their first lives." He combines his environmental sensibilities with his epicurean love of a long hot shower by building what he calls "Sustainable Decadence"- a wind-powered hot tub and spa made out of scrap.
I wanted to challenge the assumption that sustainable means having less. (I really love long showers). I believe we should try to keep many of the pleasures of life but just reconnect them to local sustainable energy sources. I designed this primarily to change my associations with our very windy weather which can be rather oppressive (psychology experiment). By harnessing the wind I now think of the pool getting warmer when I hear and see the trees bend, which creates a positive feeling. This sense of reconnection with our site also creates more interest in the prevailing weather conditions and life outside the home.
base of wind turbine
My general approach to design is to find materials/objects that have concluded there first lives. This takes some of the financial and ecological responsibility away leaving me more open to play with ideas and try things I am unsure of. The hard part is cohesively combining the diverse pieces into an overall design. In some ways this creates a more difficult design process than buying the obvious and correct new components but the reward is often a more distinct and less obvious answer.
The wind turbine blades are made out of one piece of redundant water pipe (obtained for 12 bottles of beer) cut to make two blades with a helical edge that tappers to the top giving it great strength. The technical description of the blade design is a savonious rotor which is a very old wind gathering mechanism often made out of a cut in half 44 gallon drum. The blades then drive an ancient (1940's at least) reused tractor gearbox that increases the rotation speed (4:1 ratio) that in turn drives an again reused washing machine motor (brushless DC 'smart drive) . In a previous life I was the industrial designer of this washing machine. In theory this can produce up to 600watts of energy.
The pool is made from reused 8 inch thick insulated panels (polystyrene and steel ) from a cool store. [a walk-in fridge] An insulated door left over from the container house slides across to create a highly thermally efficient space meaning the amount of heating is greatly reduced.
It is a classic issue on TreeHugger: does being green mean that you have to give up the pleasures of life and become a sort of hair-shirt environmentalist taking navy showers? Ross shows that we can have our cake and eat it too; that we can still enjoy ourselves if we do it sustainably and creatively, although clearly being handy with a welding torch helps. The term Sustainable Decadence resonates: living ethically and sustainably can still be comfortable and fun.