Dispatch from Dwell on Design 2013


This past weekend Telios was pleased to participate in the Dwell on Design Show at the LA Convention Center.Image

 Working with Architecture for Humanity,  Harold Powell provided consultations and expert design advice to attendees for their “The Architect is In” presentation.Image

Building a more sustainable future using the power of design through a global network of building professionals, Architecture for Humanity brings design, construction, and development services to communities in need. This was a natural organization for Telios to collaborate with!


Dwell on Design is America’s largest modern design event and there was a lot to see. Here are a few of our favorites:

ImageThis year Dwell on Design hosted an artist-in-residence Tanya Aguiniga. An LA based furniture designer/maker and activist, Aguiniga created and ran an audience-interactive atelier for creating move-in kits for the formerly homeless and recently housed people of downtown LA.


Trying my hand at the knitting machine.

Attendees were encouraged to participate in knitting blankets, making tables, stools and artwork for these kits which will be donated to People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).  It was a great project and we enjoyed participating.

We couldn’t resist the eco-amp from Eco-Made.  It is a passive amplifier that slides onto the end of an iphone to increase sound without any external power.  Made in LA with green electricity, from 100% recycled fibers, no toxic adhesives andprinted with soy based ink, it is smart simple design and works great!


The eco-amp at work in the studio.

Modern-Fabrics has a great line of reclaimed designer textiles. Great for use in your next upholstery project.


Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon: Aquamarine from Modern Fabric

Orta’s self-watering seed-starters are an easy way to start a kitchen garden. 


We were especially delighted to see so many presentations on sustainable design at the event. Great job Dwell!

Occupy Our Food Supply

Today an alliance of food justice groups, environmental organizations and the Occupy movement are calling for a Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply.  It is a call to resist corporate takeover of our food supply and to create and support a sustainable healthy food system for all.  A recent op-ed piece  by Willie Nelson and Anne Lappe highlights the importance of this issue:

 Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about food borne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farm worker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.

When our food is at risk we are all at risk.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one companyMonsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

 The wellbeing of much of our planet is now at the mercy of companies like Monsanto which created  DDT, Agent Orange, Roundup, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCB’s, just to name a few.  Not very reassuring!   We must take back control. It is going to take more than buying organic and going vegetarian. In his excellent piece “Big Food Must Go”  Christopher D. Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis,  writes “to truly ‘occupy the food system’ we will need nothing less than a fundamental restructuring of the economics and policies that currently enable our corporate food system.”  This would include “a radical overhaul….of how our tax dollars are spent on food”  and reforming anti-trust laws “so these companies can’t control entire food and seed markets.” So let’s get going. The time is now. This IS urgent.


  • GO to the Occupy our Food site facilitated by the Rainforest Action Network and see the list of events and actions that they are promoting including Occupying Cargill
  • GET POLITICAL  Contact your  representatives. Here is a list of them. Let them know that this is a crucial issue and that you expect them to do everything they can to create policies to support and promote a healthy and sustainable food system. Call back frequently!
  • Use your purchasing power. Stay informed and only buy products from companies with sustainable practices. Boycott huge agribusiness.
  • Support your local farmers. Buy your food from the farmers market and/or join a CSA. Here in Santa Barbara we are very lucky  to have many wonderful organic farmers growing a huge variety of food. Enjoy It!
  • Plant organic edibles. Support biodiversity and buy and grow heirlooms seeds. Island Seed and Feed is a great resource. Save and Share your Seeds.
  • Look into the Occupy Movement.  Read some of their declarations.   As Eric Holt- Gomez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, writes recently in the Huffington Post,  “The food justice movement has no strategy to address the inter-institutional (i.e. structural) ways that inequity is produced in the food system. By openly protesting the excesses of capitalism, Occupy does address this structure. This is why the convergence of Occupy and the food justice movement is so potentially powerful — and why it is feared.”

There is a power in working together. We can take back our health.  In the words of Santa Barbara beloved farmer and educator Michael Ableman, “We need to focus on what we are for as much as what we are against; occupying our land, our soils with life and fertility, our communities with good food. We need to work to rebuild the real economy, the one based on seeds and sunlight and individuals and communities growing together.”

Photo found here

We are having a “sneak preview” of the art we will be showing at our, soon to be opened, design store Telios Design House. The artwork featured is by James Fodor, an internationally exhibited artist. In his collaboration with Telios Design House, Fodor experimented with environmentally friendly plasters, clays and diatomaceous earth mixed with ochres and oxides and other natural materials to portray nature, specifically the California coast. These new works infused with light and pure color, draw viewers into a kind of communion with a beautiful creative energy.   We hope to see you there!

Santa Barbara Earth Day Celebration

This weekend there is a wonderful Earth Day Festival going at Alameda Park. The festival, sponsored by the Community Environmental Council, provides  a great opportunity to connect with a  variety of businesses and  non-profit organizations  doing work that in some way contributes to sustainable living.  There are all sorts of demonstrations and activities from worm composting to yoga class  going on throughout the day.  Take a look at the Earth Day schedule and guide on the CEC website before you go.  Be sure not to miss Mercury Press International’s inspiring  show “Eco-Portraits : Environmental Difference Makers”, a series of photographic profiles of environmental leaders by photographer Isaac Hernandez and journalists Nancy Black and Carlos Fresneda.

Eco Portraits at the Earth Day Festival

p.s.  that’s Harold Powell of Telios Environmental  in the photo on the right!

World Water Day

Today is officially World Water Day. Of course everyday we depend on clean water  for our very survival, so it seems to me that being impeccable stewards of our freshwater supply would be at the top of our list of priorities. Unfortunately, this is not always  the case. Today the world’s freshwater ecosystems and the species they support are degraded and endangered to a greater extent than any other ecosystem type.   Nearly 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.  Clearly water is a central issue. The Nature Conservancy has a very interesting article on their blog on the role that water has played in catalyzing environmental progress.  It is very important that we understand where our water comes from, how we can keep it safe and clean, and use it wisely.

Things we can do:

Learn about our local watershed.

Volunteer on a creeks clean-up day.

Retrofit your home to be more water efficient.

Try to steer clear of chemicals and pesticides and be careful what you put down your drain

Put into practice as many of these everyday water saving tips as possible.

Would That It Could Be

Well,  it can be, and here it is.

Innovation and Inspiration on the National Mall

I arrived at Dulles,  boarded a sleek modern mass transit system, and  arrived at the Smithsonian on a really cold  (for this California boy) winter’s day. It seemed ironic that the chance for real change was exhibited here in the capitol of the status quo. Positioned between the Washington Monument  and the Capitol building were prototypes of what could and should be the future housing of America and the world.  The forecast of a freezing rain hadn’t dampened the spirits of the people presenting their projects or the curious attendees. I came here to experience and see first hand the array of innovative design and technologies and I was not disappointed.  As stimulating as all this incredible design work and compilation of exciting green technologies was, what had the most powerful impact on me,  and what gives me the greatest hope,  was the exuberant enthusiasm of all the young people participating in this endeavor. That excitement comes out of knowing that they are on the forefront of creating the solutions to one of the greatest dilemmas that plague modern man.  The solar decathalon website. offers an in-depth look at the projects and is well worth a view. I could probably write a book about everything presented, but for now here are a few highlights.

Team Cornell

"Silo House"

Me in the Silo House

Team Cornell’s use of corrugated metal silos as their design focus was a brilliant use of the agrarian vernacular.   The silos are pleasing to the eye and have great inherent  structural integrity, while utilizing  minimal  materials.  There is something about living in a curvilinear environment lacking in right angles which is reminiscent of life in a beautiful sailboat where everything has its place and form follows function.

Team Germany's Winning Home

Taking the idea of form following function to the extreme, Team Germany’s house won the competition by being the largest net energy producer. The most obvious feature is their extensive PV panel deployment on the outside of the house, but the really interesting stuff is inside. The interior finish is a drywall material made of phase changing  eutectic salts that stored thermal solar energy.  This material changes phases when heated and stores energy, then as it cools it once again goes through a phase change and releases that stored energy.  Having  done prototyping work with phase changing materials in the 70’s, it was exciting to see this technology being used.

Team Arizona's water wall

Heat-activated bimetal shade

I felt like I was stepping into the future as I entered the Arizona Team’s house;  the first thing you see is the long undulating southern facing water wall.  Engineered and prototyped by one of the team members, it served as a “heat sink” , deterring heat during the day and releasing it slowly at night.  It was designed with vacuüm formed panels that solved the problem of excessive weight of water and could be evacuated to create an insulating barrier. They also had a unique window curtain  of heat activated bimetal which automatically closed with a rise in temperature.  A greenhouse served as a biosphere, filtering greywater, improving air quality and encouraging food production.   The unique challenge of designing for a desert environment where  you can get “too much of a good thing”  pushed water conservation and cooling strategies to the limit in this house.   My mother lives in Lake Havasu where it can regularly reach  120 degrees. The energy demand in these environments is enormous  and growing, making these type of innovative solutions  all the more critical.

Posted by    Harold Powell
To Be Continued……

Mr Smith goes to Washington

Credit: Stefano Paltera/ US Department of Energy Solar Decathalon

Well really,  Mr Powell goes to Washington for the  2009 Solar Decathalon.  The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon has been taking place since 2002 and is a wonderful showcase for innovative solar energy powered home design. Twenty college teams from around the world design, build and operate homes that are  powered exclusively by the sun. These homes are designed to use off-the-shelf technology to produce all or more of their energy needs over a year, qualifying them as zero-energy homes.(ZEH’s)  Each team competes  in ten separate contests  and a contest for the highest points overall. The contests include categories such as Architecture, Market Viability,  Comfort Zone,  and Net Metering.   Stay tuned for on the ground coverage….