Author and artist Meinhold spreads housing options through new book
March 8, 2013
Writer Bridgette Meinhold has two degrees in engineering and is an encaustic artist.
She also writes for a website called http://www.inhabitat.com , which, according to hits mission, is "devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future."
A few months ago, Meinhold penned a book about sustainable housing, called "Urgent Architecture."
Meinhold will be at Gallery MAR, 436 Main St., to sign the book during a reception on Tuesday, March 12, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St., is selling the book for the event.
"I learned about green building, sustainability and renewable energy while I was in grad school," Meinhold said during an interview with The Park Record. "I worked as a sustainability consultant and helped businesses in the area to reduce their carbon footprint after I graduated."
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When the economy crashed in 2008, Meinhold began writing for http://www.inhabitat.com.
"I wrote about green design, architecture, sustainability and technology and I had written a couple of book reviews for a publisher (W.W. Norton & Company)," she said. "They contacted me and asked if I wanted to write a book for them."
Meinhold agreed without really knowing what the publisher had in mind.
"They then told me they wanted something about housing in the context of natural disasters," she said. "That sounded interesting, but it was such a broad topic. So, we honed in on what the idea really meant."
The result was "Urgent Architecture," which deals with the different stages of housing that is related to disasters.
"Since I wrote about housing for Inhabitat.com, it wasn’t really that much different from what I was already doing," Meinhold said. "I was just curating more and focusing on a bigger topic."
The writer divided the book into five chapters — Rapid Shelters, Transitional Shelters, Affordable Housing, Prefab Housing and Adaptable Housing.
"Rapid shelters are the kinds of housings that can be built in response to natural disaster," Meinhold said. "These emergency shelters are set up right after a disaster happens. Hopefully within a day, those who have been affected will have someplace they can go to get out of the weather and out of danger.
"These shelters can be tents, a sports arena or even the homes of friends and family," she said. "I tried to cover a different range for these types of housing. And it all depends on the resources and the type of disaster."
Transitional Shelters, which is a type of housing built between the Rapid Shelters and Affordable Housing, deals with the topic of relativity.
"The affordable housing in Park City is much different than the affordable housing in South Africa," Meinhold explained. "So, I made sure I prefaced the chapter by saying the houses should not be compared to each other, but referenced according to their locations."
The chapter is about finding cost-effective ways to build healthy and sustainable houses for more people by using materials that are readily available.
"While these are not permanent, some of the designs can transition into full-time housing over time with more plaster or bricks," Meinhold said
The Prefab Housing section examines the rise of a trend that has developed in the past decade.
"These houses are usually built at one place and then transported in pieces to another area and assembled," Meinhold said. "Most people recognize these types of homes as being modular or trailer homes."
Adaptable Housing, is about building houses that can withstand an array of natural disasters.
"The chapter includes examples of flood-proof houses in Mississippi that was built after Hurricane Katrina and another house in Southeast Asia that can rise with the flood waters," Meinhold said. "It also features a tornado-proof house that was built after a tornado ripped through Greenburg, Kansas, in 2007."
Another home spotlighted in the chapter is one that’s closer to home — the DesignBuildBluff house that was erected in the spring of 2011.
DesignBuildBluff is a nonprofit organization that gives architecture students the chance to design and build homes that utilize local environmental features that are needed by Navajo families in Bluff, Utah, Meinhold said.
"This particular houses was built by an architecture team from University of Colorado in Denver," Meinhold said. "They built a house called the Windcatcher, which is a rammed-earth wall house."
These types of structures are based around one central column that acts as the heating and cooling system, she said.
"Rammed-earth houses are made from baked brick, and local dirt is used to create the back wall," Meinhold explained. "The tower has a fireplace in it and, during the winter, it’s used for heat that permeates through the house via the walls."
Heat from the sun also collects in the rammed earth, which acts as a thermal mass, she said.
"In the summer, the tower acts like an evaporative cooler, which works well because our air is so dry," Meinhold said. "During the summer, the family can take down a couple of panels in the tower and drip water onto some pads there. The air comes down through the tower and passes over the pads and spreads cool air throughout the house."
After talking with the publisher, Meinhold began writing the book in 2010.
"Not long after that, a string of natural disasters happened in the world," she said. "There were earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and the tsunamis in Asia, and they all reiterated why I was writing this book.
"And while those disasters are the big ones that everyone hears about, many smaller ones that we don’t hear of happened all the time," she said. "Those, as small as they are, also add up with costs of damages and lives lost. So, that’s another reason why I wrote the book."
Author and artist Bridgette Meinhold will be at the Gallery MAR, 436 Main St., on Tuesday, March 12, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., to sign her new book, "Urgent Architecture." The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.gallerymar.com.
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