Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sustainable structures of future will rely on renewable energy, grow own food, maximize use of resources, says green architect Stan Sersen

The sustainable workplace and residence of the future will not only use energy very efficiently and get all of its power from renewable sources, says visionary architect Stan Sersen. It will also grow much of its own food and use all resources as sustainably as possible, says Sersen, founder of the EnviroCenter, a highly sustainable center for green organizations located in Jessup, Maryland. And Sersen plans to make this vision a reality as soon as possible: a much-expanded EnviroCenter now in the works will encompass all of these concepts.

Sersen presented his vision for a more sustainable future – in which we not only employ renewable energy but also integrate where we live with the food we eat and the resources we need – at the February Earth Forum of Howard County, held Feb. 21 at the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Md.

The original EnviroCenter, housed in a converted 1905 farmhouse and now also known as “Phase I,” is very innovative and sustainable itself. It includes features such as rainbarrels, use of recycled and sustainable materials in construction, very efficient insulation, daylighting tubes to maximize natural light, and both passive and active solar design.

The expanded, LEED-platinum EnviroCenter will take Phase I as the departure point for a much bigger (20,000 square feet) and even more sustainable workplace and environmental center. Phase II also will feature:

  • Highly efficient design and construction to minimize need for external energy sources.
  • Geothermal power, in addition to solar, to produce the energy that is needed
  • Natural daylighting and ventilation throughout.
  • Comprehensive rain water harvesting and re-use, which, says Sersen, will mean zero water runoff from the busy road where the building sits (even in a 100-year flood), as well as reclamation and reuse of “grey water” (from sinks, etc.).
  • Use of as many locally sourced, recycled and rapidly renewable materials as possible in construction.
  • On-site biodiesel and electric vehicle recharging stations for employees.
  • On-site, biointensive vegetable and cultivation both indoors and outdoors, with tenants able to buy produce through “tenant-supported agriculture” (a modification of the already popular community-supported agriculture).
During the forum, Sersen also cited several other innovative examples of how vegetation, especially in urban settings, can be part of our sustainable future (and in some cases present):

  • “Greenhouse barges” already operating in New York Harbor where vegetables are grown organically for use by area restaurants.
  •  The Baltimore City Schools’ effort, under director of food services Tony Geraci, to not only provide as much healthy food as possible from local sources but also involve students directly in growing and harvesting the food they eat in their schools.
  • A new type of photovoltaic cell now being developed that is based on how sponges very efficiently absorb solar energy; Sersen called this “the next thing in solar.”
  • Covering the south side of a building with vegetation (such as vines) to help keep the heat down as well as capture runoff water.
  • More broadly, using “vegetables as landscaping” in your home or workplace.
To learn more about the EnviroCenter and Phase II, go to

make green a reality!

No comments:

Post a Comment