Hands on design: sustainable LEGO homes

I was recently back in Chicago for the holidays and while searching for something warm to do downtown with my family, I took them to see the city model and exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Before we could make our way from that to the Chicago Biennial, we stumbled into one of CAF’s LEGO Build Workshops and before you know it, three+ hours had past and we were all creating architectural masterpieces.

20151227_144138

My sister built a bright, airy modern school building. Her partner built a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired party house. My partner built the tallest skyscraper he could (earning envious stares from nearby children). What did I build? Ultra-realist me built three UK-style terraced houses.

20151227_163214

But wait, there’s more! They were not just any terraced houses, they were sustainable terraced houses! Perhaps I’d spent too many hours focused on my work project the week before, but I decided to bring back a little bit of London to Chicago.

20151227_163303

Features you’ll find in these sustainable terraced houses:

  • Simple building form, resulting in improved fabric energy efficiency
  • Front and back gardens, providing ample private outdoor space

20151227_163230

  • Shallow plot with dual or triple aspects, meaning lots of daylight
  • Space for waste, recyclables and food waste/compost bins

20151227_163112

  • Rain barrels/water butts collecting water for use in the back gardens for the middle and one of the end terraces

20151227_163125

  • A greywater recycling system on the other end terrace
  • Shared roof terrace with biodiverse roof elements (ok…there were no landscaping legos, so pretend there are plants & log piles and substrates for holding water and whatnot)

Obviously I don’t win any points for originality, but for my structured mind, it was a nice creative outlet and who doesn’t like to play with Legos?

20151227_165030

Starting a conversation on technology and social media for engaging water users

In a few weeks, I am flying off to the Dead Sea in Jordan for this year’s International Water Association‘s (IWA) Jordan Water and Development Congress. I’ve been involved with the IWA for a couple years now, at first attending conferences, but more recently as part of the leadership team for the Public & Customer Communications Specialist Group, as well as a presenter at conferences, including the Efficient Urban Water Conference in Cincinnati earlier this year.

At the Congress in Jordan, I will be rapporteur for a few sessions under the Turning the Tide on Water Resources theme; co-leading the Specialist Group annual meeting; and, most interestingly, leading a workshop on information and communications technologies (ICT) and social media for the purpose of engaging water users and customers. It’s all part of a project we as a Specialist Group are kicking off to help provide resources to water professionals interesting in using technology for engagement, but unsure of where to start.

I was given the opportunity to write in more detail about the project for the IWA’s blog, which you can read in full here and see an excerpt of below.

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) can improve interaction between those who manage water and those who use it, even in rural areas or resource poor settings that lack consistent internet access. But, which technology is the right one for each community or region? With the vast array of tools available—from social media to apps and SMS to smart devices and more—water professionals need help navigating the options.

A Twitter campaign to map and respond to water leaks may be a useful tool for one community; while another community may need remote sensors that provide information to users to manage their own water use; and yet another in a rural area might gain the most from an SMS platform that allows people to understand and monitor water availability.

For those of you attending the IWA Jordan Congress, please attend the session or get in touch with me! For those of you not attending the Congress or involved with IWA, we’d still love to hear your thoughts. Put them down in the comments or contact me directly.