One Hundred Feet Underground, a Solution to Potomac & Anacostia River Pollution

It’s no secret.  The Potomac and Anacostia Rivers (especially the Anacostia!) are filthy.  Much of the problem derives from raw sewage overflowing directly into them, or tributaries such as Rock Creek, at one of the 53 Combined Sewer Overflow outfalls throughout DC.  This occurs whenever there is more than just a trace of rainfall.  In the case of “significant” rainfall, i.e. more than 1″, the impact can be dramatic.  If you’re not familiar with how or why this occurs, here is a primer.  If we ever hope to see our local rivers cleaned up and returned to life as hubs for outdoor activity, we have to fix this problem.

So, what is being done about it, you ask?  It’s not a simple – or cheap – problem to fix.  At a cost of $2.6 billion, DC Water is undertaking an estimated 15-20 year project to rectify almost all of the sewage problem by constructing 13 miles of underground storage tunnels.  There’s a great video of the ongoing construction here.

That’s all Great, But Can I Get a Rebate?

We’ve added a new section to our links page, under the Sustainability heading.  Here, you can find information on rebate and other incentive programs which can significantly reduce the first cost of sustainable materials and equipment.  We’ll continue to update as programs change.


Is This (Finally…) the Future of Energy?

We heard a lot about fuel cells starting a decade or so ago, then the novelty wore off, media attention died down, and we moved on to other things. Those who have been paying attention, though, have followed the success of companies such as Fuel Cell Energy and Bloom Energy and hoped to see real-life fuel cell technology “trickle down” to smaller installations and more mainstream applications.

Well, there’s some interesting news just out.  Right here in our own backyard, Redox Power, in collaboration with the University of Maryland (Fear the Turtle!) has announced they will bring to market in 2014 a new fuel cell product.  While not yet at the individual household scale, it’s certainly a step in the right direction, and just might be a realistic solution for light commercial or multi-family residential use.

Oh, and it looks fabulous, too!  If they would just turn off the boy-racer neon lights…

For those not in the know, fuel cell technology promises higher efficiency, reduced emissions, a better way to manage distributed power generation (which lowers or eliminates transmission losses), and the potential to switch to entirely renewable sources of energy in the near future.

For the real geeks, here’s an in-depth look at pros and cons, here is a more accessible look at the upside only, and start here for an explanation of the technology behind solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).

Outdoor Learning Environments

The AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education recently hosted a great webinar on design of outdoor learning environments.  An outdoor learning environment differs from the traditional school playground in that it moves away from the simple notion of “outdoor recess”.  It fosters understanding of and appreciation for the natural environment, and supports the continuation of childrens’ learning through creative play and exploration.

You can view the webinar in the window below, and download the 35Mb presentation in .pdf format here.

Green Your Home

If you live in the District of Columbia, and you’d like to make your home more energy efficient, the DC Government wants to help you!  The District Department of the Environment is offering FREE home energy audits.  Your home will be rated on a 100 point scale, and they will offer recommendations for improving your home’s efficiency.

As with any FREE program, demand is high and you will have to take your place in line.  At the time of this post, DDOE is advising there is 6-8 week lead time.  Sign up soon…

SWS @ Goding Elementary

After the better part of an exciting first expansion year at Logan Annex, School-within-School is moving again! This time, it will be to a permanent home at Anne M. Goding Elementary School at 10th & F Street, NE. This building was originally constructed as an elementary school in 1958, underwent a significant renovation in 2004, and most recently housed DCPS’ Prospect Learning Center Program. Summer 2013 will bring modest renovations to reconfigure the space to accommodate SWS’ growing early childhood program, eventually to become a full PS-5th grade elementary school.
We are excited to again work with the SWS staff and community to bring physical form to the Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environment that has made SWS a cornerstone of the Capitol Hill community for more than 15 years. We recently presented photos and drawings depicting the existing conditions to SWS’ parent community. For further details, please view the embedded presentation below, and stay tuned for more information as the planning continues.

Don’t see a Power Point presentation above?  Try clearing your browser cache/temporary internet files.

DC is a Green Mecca

Were you aware the District is consistently among the leading jurisdictions in the nation in delivery of green buildings? Not only do we have one of the most aggressive green building programs in the country, but we may be among the first to adopt the new green building codes. This will integrate sustainability even more into our daily lives, and help promote DC as a forward-thinking haven for ecologically-minded businesses and individuals. Read more here.

Studio Laan Updated Web Site Goes Live!

We have (finally!) finished our first draft of the Studio Laan web site update.  Take a look at the projects we have posted so far.  More to come soon!