By Doug Pierson, AIA , LEED AP, BC+C
When Youn and I moved our family and our design firm from Los Angeles to Carrboro, we were happily aware of the thriving artist community, both established and emerging, in and around this very special Southern town. That was important to us because we believe artists enrich a community’s physical, economic, social, and cultural sensibilities, and that the arts themselves enrich our souls. As Pablo Picasso once said. “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
In fact, before Youn and I launched pod architecture + design, I was a founding partner in an architectural practice in L.A. that we located in a creative/collaborative workspace in Inglewood, California’s Artists’ District – “…a haven for artists hoping to escape the high prices, homogeneity, and elitism of more established arts districts,” as the New York Times described it.
A few years ago, a non-profit organization in Cark County, Indiana, asked my former firm to design the buildings for an efficient, innovative, and thoroughly green fire arts studio complex near the Clark-Floyd Landfill in southern Indiana. (Fire arts are art forms that require active flames as part of the creative process, such as glass blowing; pottery and ceramics; metal forging, welding, and/or casting; stone carving; etc.) Known as the Ohio Valley Creative Energy Complex, it would be a destination for anyone interested in the interrelated nature of green engineering and sustainable architecture and construction.
As I was designing the OVCE complex, Ceramics Monthly magazine asked me to offer advice to fire artists who want to design their own eco-conscious studio spaces. I’d like to share those same suggestions with fire artists in and around Carrboro, where, I’m happy to say, the spirit of environmental stewardship is alive and well.
Green Studio Habits
- Design an open floor plan. Several sectioned rooms create many microclimates, which can overwork heating and air conditioning. And multipurpose space means you need less space.
- Use rapidly renewable materials (those made from living things with a life cycle of ten years or less). Bamboo, wheat board (similar to medium-density fiberboard, or MDF) and sunflower seed board can be used instead of gypsum, meaning less mining of raw materials.
- If you use wood, check to see if a local lumber company stocks Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber. This is typically veneer plywood and solid hardwoods.
- Purchase tradeable, renewable energy certificates (RECs). Calculate the amount of energy your studio consumes (in kilowatt hours), and purchase that much energy or renewable energy certificates. To learn more about renewable energy certificates, visit eere.energy.gov/greenpower.
- Use low-voltage, compact fluorescent or LED (light emitting diode) fixtures. LED technology now includes replacement bulbs for traditional incandescent A-type fixtures.
Ceramics Monthly’s editors added some suggestions of their own to lessen your environmental impact:
- Save reject bisque ware and crush it into grog. This is particularly useful when you don’t want your finished pieces to have the grog color show through.
- Recycle all raw clay (or even dig your own clay) to reduce the amount of mined, packaged and shipped material.
- If you have a garage studio with no running water, a gray water (rainwater) collection system can provide the water you would otherwise haul from your house, thereby reducing the amount of water that needs to be treated.
- If you need hot water in the studio, consider a tankless water heater.
- Use an oxygen probe to ensure your fire is as efficiently as possible.
- Consider firing with waste vegetable oil.