Designers build green havens… in the woods

    An architectural competition in Upper Roxborough is pushing the uses of sustainable building materials.

    An architectural competition in Upper Roxborough is pushing the uses of sustainable building materials. Design teams from around the world built six small shelters in the middle of the woods. The experiment tests how far you can stretch green building.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090507pcshelter.mp3]

    The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education asked designers to explore the possibilities of sustainable building materials and practices. Six were chosen. The one called looks like an over-sized park bench canopied by a translucent tarp silk-screened with phosphorescent polka-dots. Designer Rashida Ng from Temple University researches emerging building materials, including the tarp on which those glow-in-the-dark polka dots are painted.

    Ng: It’s a high-density polyethylene fiber that has been layered and made into a fabric. It’s almost paper-like, like a wing. But the material itself is 15 times stronger than steel. It’s super-strong, and super-cheap.

    Ng says the fabric is currently being used for sailboats and backpacks, but this is the only architectural application she knows of. All of these shelters can be reserved for camping until fall 2010.

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