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Exponential: The Power of Innovation (with Jefferson Ellinger)

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Published on Oct 11, 2016

The building sector contributes up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and accounts
for as much as 40 percent of the world’s energy
consumption, according to the United Nations
Environment Programme. Jefferson Ellinger wants to
turn those statistics around by designing structures
that give back to the environment, making our air
cleaner or bringing farms closer to consumers. “I’m
interested in how we as architects can change the
way we think about building,” he says.

Both as a School of Architecture associate professor
and in his professional design work, he specializes
in sustainable design technique. With his partners at
Fresh Air Building Systems, he recently installed in
the Bronx the first active modular phytoremediation
system (AMPS)—basically, a “probiotic” plant wall
connected to the HVAC system. The result is cleaner
air and less energy use.

Meanwhile, his E/Ye Design partnership recently built
one of the country’s first vertical greenhouses, in
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where short growing seasons
and high elevation limit traditional crop farming. “The
area of land that we’re operating on is one-tenth
of an acre,” he says of the three-story hydroponic
greenhouse, which uses a conveyer system to move
plants and maximize sun exposure. “We can produce
the same amount as a five-acre farm.”

Back on campus, he brings his outlook on
architectural sustainability into the classroom.
“We’re asking students to think about architecture
and buildings in a way that’s hopefully advancing
the discipline.”

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