Thoughts on Future Cities and Green Materials

I first became aware of a new concept in how green architecture could change our relationship to how we format our lifestyles in the seventies in Detroit. Four connecting skyscrapers went up in the downtown area. One of the towers contained condo-like living structures, another tower contained business offices, there were stores for shopping and a gym etc... Everything that anyone would need was contained in the four towers. There was also a mini sky-rail that traveled all through the downtown area.

With this concept I saw that the need for driving to work had been done away with; you could just awake up and go over to the next tower to go to work. You could do all of your shopping within the four towers as well as go to the movies, nightclubs and other forms of entertainment.

It was not until recently when I saw at what an alarming rate the fertile farm lands in the Ojai Valley were being changed into housing developments that I wondered - what if instead of sprawling out and gobbling up all of the farmland the houses were stacked so to speak on top of each other. Most of the time when you think of skyscrapers you think of urban cities. But what if a skyscraper was surrounded by fields producing food. Then you wouldn't need to truck the food in or drive to the store and the whole town of Ojai could be contained in about ten acres instead of sprawling through the whole valley with the resulting traffic congestion. For the most part it was just a daydream, or perhaps a glimpse of the future.

It now appears that I will be able to play a small part in creating an Eco Village in Ojai. We are now in the process of acquiring 117 acres that is one of the most beautiful properties in the Ojai Valley. It has a stream running right through the middle of it and huge amounts of water under it. It is in a protected little area that will create a micro-clime that will allow us to grow food all year round.

I think that this property can support 20 to 30 people easily with food that can be grown directly on the land. It also incorporates the concept of living where you work so that you don't have to commute. By creating two businesses on the actual property and hooking up high speed internet it is totally possible to create a high tech village of the future with a much lower carbon footprint. The energy will come totally from the sun. We are close enough so that we can ride bikes to any place in Ojai.

I feel that this is one of the few places in North America that this type of project can flourish with its year round growing season and a lot of like minded people in the actual city of Ojai.

We are going through a huge revolution in green architectural materials. Some people like the concept of building strawbale and cob houses. I like the look and feel of these houses but they are organic and they are in a state of decomposing and returning to the earth. Concrete is gaining a lot of credibility, but it has a heavy carbon footprint. Then there are a lot of recycled materials coming onto the market as well as hemp and bamboo being made into types of sustainable woods.

There is also a new concept called eco friendly wood which is a term that sounds a little sketchy to me. Wood has to be treated to keep the insects from eating it. I love the warmth that natural wood brings to a structure but I feel that with creative designing in the actual green architecture one can bring a lot of warmth using organic materials such as adobe, stone and glass.

Right now I'm researching a material which is like concrete but instead of using actual concrete it uses ashes from coal burning plants. And it is actually stronger than concrete. I feel that by using this material in the walls with a form of polyfoam embedded in the center that one can create a structure that is totally insulated from either heat or cold and at the same time it is fireproof, earthquake proof and not being an organic material it does not need to be treated with chemicals which leach toxins into our living environment.

Green Designer: Storm Talifero.