Our guest tonight is Dr. Stuart W. Rose, author of Sustainability: A Personal Journey to a Built Sustainable Community . . . And an Amazing Picture of What Life Will Soon Be Like. Stuart Rose is an architect and structure engineer, and tonight we’ll be talking with him about his “Garden Atriums” project, a pilot project of sustainable housing

Listen to the Show.

Background on Global Housing Projects

Earth 911.com reports that one big trend in eco housing is shipping containers.

In an article entitled “The Hottest Trend in Eco Housing.” Katherine J. Chen wrote in February 2010 that  “Upcycle Living, a Phoenix-based construction firm, provides affordable ecological housing for residential communities around the world. In November 2009, a demonstration project at the Green Street Festival showed off what could be accomplished with four remodeled shipping containers.

“We have many ways that we can treat the exterior, and most of them involve putting an exterior skin on the container and concealing the steel from any direct radiation from the sun and also concealing it from view,” says co-founder Jason Anderson.

The display contained two floors, two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, with stylish bamboo cabinets, dual-flush toilets, ENERGY STAR appliances and low-flow showerheads to boot.

“The inspiration for Upcycle Living came from our desire to create a quality housing project that was sustainable yet affordable, durable and mobile in nature,” says Ashton Wolfswinkel, co-founder of Upcycle Living.

As to why shipping containers are his company’s choice of material, he explains, “Shipping containers are very abundant, especially in our country where we import so much more than we export.”

“We thought they would be a great platform for us to start from since they are extremely durable and are designed to be shipped with heavy loads and to withstand the rigors of ocean travel,” he adds. “And because the shipping containers are so plentiful, we are able to get them at a reasonable price, thus allowing us to shift costs, to improve quality and make our homes more sustainable.”

The company’s innovative designs have already attracted a handful of clients throughout Arizona, with one couple now residing in the very first home that Upcycle Living constructed. In addition to these private projects, the firm is currently working on a larger-scale development, which entails providing affordable housing units for a Native American tribe.

Though Upcycle Living is a for-profit organization, Wolfswinkel hopes that once the company becomes a bigger presence in the world of sustainable living, it will be able to pursue nonprofit projects, such as donating housing units to low-income families. . . .

In light of the disaster in Haiti, Upcycle Living has already reached out to a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on what the company can do to help.

“Shipping containers are a very versatile platform which we can convert into almost any type of structure that is needed,” Wolfswinkel says. “From medical operating rooms to basic shelter, we would like to offer our services to design and build structures that would help in the rebuilding of Haiti.”. . . .


A January 2010 International Housing Conference, focused on sustainable housing, had as its keynote speaker the Minister for National Development in Singapore, Mah Bow Tan, talking about efforts being made in Singapore. The Housing and Development Board, sponsors of the conference, are credited for making enormous strides in public housing in Singapore. Mah Bow Tan asserts that public housing has been created that is affordable, sustainable, and supportive of building a cohesive community. Here’s how Mah Bow Tan describes the environmental aspect of the housing sustainability:

Environmental concerns have been a major and constant consideration in the design of HDB towns and flats. This was a journey that started from the planning of the very first HDB towns. These towns are planned comprehensively to include major facilities to create a Work-Live-Learn-Play environment meeting the residents’ daily needs. The holistic town planning approach takes into account various considerations.

First, the optimisation of land use to overcome the constraint of land scarcity. In Singapore, this translates into high-rise high-density buildings, integrated with lush green areas and landscaping, and a network of open spaces within the town to provide visual and spatial relief.

Second, the creation of a work-live-learn-play living environment, guided by the principle of self-sufficiency. Each town contains a comprehensive range of facilities, such as markets, shops, schools and community centres to provide convenience to the resident. It also reduces the need to commute.

Third, we have an efficient transportation network integrated into the land-planning framework to optimise our land-use and resource utilisation as a country.

Besides town planning at the macro level, HDB also developed green strategies for individual buildings. Design guidelines are developed to take into account Singapore’s tropical climate. For example, the orientation of housing blocks, layout and design of dwelling units will need to maximise cross ventilation and minimise heat gain. The choice of materials, design and construction methods are also carefully considered, as they have major bearings on buildability, resource consumption, and future maintenance requirements.

In Singapore, we have a Green Mark Scheme under the Building and Construction Authority. This is a green building rating system, promoting the adoption of green building design and technologies. Under this scheme, buildings are assessed on factors including energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and environmental protection. We have set a target that at least 80 percent of buildings in Singapore should attain Green Mark certification by 2030.

The Singapore Government is taking the lead in embracing the green mark standards for all public sector buildings. For its part, HDB is aiming for the Green Mark Platinum standard, the highest green mark rating, for some important public housing projects.


In June of last year, the US government announced an interagency Partnership of the EPA, DOT, and HUD for Sustainable Communities.  The goal is “to help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. Testifying together at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Secretary LaHood, Secretary Donovan and Administrator Jackson outlined the six guiding ‘livability principles’ they will use to coordinate federal transportation, environmental protection, and housing investments at their respective agencies.

Earlier this year, HUD and DOT announced an unprecedented agreement to implement joint housing and transportation initiatives. With EPA joining the partnership, the three agencies will work together to ensure that these housing and transportation goals are met while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change.

DOT Secretary LaHood said, “Creating livable communities will result in improved quality of life for all Americans and create a more efficient and more accessible transportation network that services the needs of individual communities. Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects and programs will help America’s neighborhoods become safer, healthier and more vibrant.”

“As a result of our agencies’ work, I am pleased to join with my DOT and EPA colleagues to announce this statement of livability principles” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “These principles mean that we will all be working off the same playbook to formulate and implement policies and programs. For the first time, the Federal government will speak with one voice on housing, environmental and transportation policy.….

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities established six livability principles that will act as a foundation for interagency coordination:

1. Provide more transportation choices.  Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.

2. Promote equitable, affordable housing. Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.

3. Enhance economic competitiveness. Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers as well as expanded business access to markets.

4. Support existing communities.  Target federal funding toward existing communities – through such strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling – to increase community revitalization, improve the efficiency of public works investments, and safeguard rural landscapes.

5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment. Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.

6. Value communities and neighborhoods.  Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods – rural, urban or suburban.


The government efforts of Singapore and the United States (and other countries) seem to be following a trend that has been popular in private housing for many years.  Wikipedia says this about Ecovillages, which are more recent versions of the commune:

“Ecovillages are intentional communities with the goal of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Some aim for a population of 50-150 individuals because this size is considered to be the maximum social network according to findings from sociology and anthropology.[1] Larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller subcommunities to create an ecovillage model that allows for social networks within a broader foundation of support. . . .

Ecovillage members are united by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values.[2] An ecovillage is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralized electrical, water, and sewage systems. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster. They see small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact as an alternative. . . . .

Our Questions for Stuart Rose

Stuart Rose, is author of Sustainability and creator of the Garden Atriums project. He is also an architect and structure engineer and has his graduate degree in organizational development.

We want to talk about the Garden Atriums project, but let’s address some larger issues first.

1. You use two words that carry a lot of meanings and connotations in your book: sustainability and change. As we get started we’d like to know more about what you mean by those words and what import they have for you.    First, what do you mean by sustainability?   Second, how do you view change?

2. The book is organized interestingly–sort of as a journey, and the first-person voice is very strong. What prompted you to write the book in this way?

3. You say you were influenced by John Naisbitt’s book Megatrends. In what way?

4. Tell us about the Garden Atrium home and its design.

5. Tell us the story Poquoson  and the zoning battles and site selection.

6. What materials go into a sustainable house–paint, dye, plywood, etc.?

7. How do you provide heat and light–passive and active solar?

8.  Tell us abut the plants and edible landscapes.

9. How much does this cost? Is sustainability in the reach of the ordinary person?

10. What has been the response to your Atrium Garden homes?

11. What else should people take into consideration if they want to live sustainably?

12. What do you see as the future of sustainable home development?

13.  How did you background in organizational development lead you to doing the work you’re doing?What is organizational development? What were some other influences on the direction you decided to take?
We’ve been talking with Stuart Rose, author of Sustainability: A p|Personal Journey to a Built Sustainable Community. This is an independently published book available through Amazon.com. You can also learn more about the atrium project by visiting www.gardenatriums.com.

Playlist for Ecotopia #76: Eco-Housing

1. A Place Called Home   3:43   PJ Harvey    Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

2. Isn’t It Nice to Be Home Again  0:55                         James Taylor        Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon

3. Homeless  4:15  Ladysmith Black Mambazo          Long Walk to Freedom

4. Homeward Bound  2:43  Simon & Garfunkel        Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits

5. Home  3:46  Michael Bublé    Home

6. Weave Me the Sunshine  4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary      The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. House Of Cards       5:28       Radiohead        In Rainbows        From Pennie

8. On The Way Home     3:48         Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young      Four Way Street