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Hydraulic lime plaster is similar to cement stucco, but with lime rather than portland cement. It is more flexible and more vapor permeable than cement stucco, but it takes more skill and curing time. It also requires warmer temperatures. While making portland cement requires a lot of energy and the chemical reaction releases large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, Manufacturing lime takes energy, but when lime plaster carbonates (hardens) much of the CO2 released during the manufacture is reabsorbed. (From Essential Natural Plasters, Henry & Therrien) According to Strawbale Building Details (Published by CASBA – California Strawbale Building Association)The strawbales themselves sequester 26 pounds of carbon each, preventing the formation of 95 pounds of CO2)

Mixing the natural hydraulic lime, plaster sand & water
Spraying the plaster
Burlap shades to protect the plastered walls from direct sun (It cures better if kept moist and cool)

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W.T. Kirkman lantern style light (Near Flathead Lake MT)
Vine porch curtain (North Hampton MA)

Cranbrook House Dining room light that can shine up and down or both. (Probably a custom design by Eliel Saarinen) Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

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Rosenfeld Affect

 

Art Rosenfled

I was impressed by this little tidbit in a recent Title 24 Seminar I attended.  Sometimes the California energy codes seem behind the technology and sometimes overly technical and expensive, requiring expensive gadgets and fixtures, but look at the energy savings!!!

Here is the whole story from the California Energy Commission.

 

 

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Aalto’s summer house, Muuratsalo, 1953 – brick experiments

I love bricks. The scale of a brick to fit in a human hand allows you to imagine the wall being built one brick at a time. I probably read that somewhere rather than invented it myself, but it’s right. Bricks can also create nice patterns. This photo is of a wall of Alvar Aalto’s summer house on Muuratsalo and maybe was a test palate for different brick options.

I looked up this project up in my one Aalto book, Alvar Aalto by Richard Weston, 1995.  Weston has several pages on these “brick experiments”

“The brickwork is also painted white externally, while inside the courtyard the brick and tile experiments create a rich patchwork-quilt on the walls and floor, which suggest by turn De Stijl-like reliefs, or old walls with redundant door and window openings bricked up and patched over time. The experiments were as much aesthetic as technical: we are in the world of metaphor again , for what are these walls if not imitations of ‘ruins’ – past, or perhaps to come? Is this tiny piazzetta, the atrium of a Pompeian patrician’s dwelling, or the (de)relict room of a large, old house, which has lost its roof and been recolonized as a picturesque courtyard? All these possibilities come to mind: the image is too general to be pinned down to a specific interpretation – it would lapse into kitsch otherwise – and can still be contemplated simply as an abstract collage. Memories of Pompeiana probably played their part. As did those of Italian piazzas. I like to think Aalto intended the walls to be seen as the arch-empiricist’s ironic commentary on the fate of the strict geometric compositions then coming into favor in Finland under the influence of the arch -theorist Aulis Blomstedt, with his pythagorean fascination for number and proportion on the basis of beauty. ” Pg 119-121

There are several more paragraphs of discussion of the meaning of this brickwork in Weston’s book. I think I will let you read the book rather than transcribe it here.

 

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thermal image of tight house

I stole this photo from the website of Fabrica718. It is an image taken with an infrared camera of a block of Brooklyn brownstones. The blue one is the one they remodelled….blue because its envelope is so well insulated that very little heat is escaping. Pretty cool. I’m not sure why most of the other houses have blue second and third story windows. I can’t imagine that the whole block has been upgraded to triple pane. Any ideas?

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Well's underground office entry

Appraisals make me grumpy. It seems brutal to reduce the value of a house to square footage, numbers of bedrooms, and whether the bathroom floor has tile. There are so many intangibles that contribute to the value of a house. For example the two large trees in front of my house that shade my bedroom in the summer with their dense greenery then turn bright orange yellow and red in the fall.  Of course there has to be some way to quantify a house’s worth for banks.

One guideline that seems pretty silly is the rule that square footage that is even slightly below grade is not counted as square footage.  This realestate agent’s article has some funny comments.  One guy actually seems to have hired a bulldozer to unearth his house so that he could qualify for a loan. Another homeowner determined that he has no square footage because his entire house is dug into the earth.

I thought of one of the inspirations of my youth, Malcolm Wells. He was an architect in Massachusetts who built most of his buildings underground.   Here are some of his words about this way of building (from his website):

“…By letting our structure hog all the sunlight wherever we go, we stamp out much of the natural riches of our land. Weather is not kind to building materials. They need to be protected by a blanket of earth. Otherwise, ice cracks the freeways, water rusts bridge structures, floods rage because water cannot soak into impervious ground….”

“…We live in an era of glitzy buildings and trophy houses: big, ugly, show-off monsters that stand—or I should say stomp—on land stripped bare by the construction work and replanted with toxic green lawns. If the buildings could talk they would be speechless with embarrassment, but most of us see nothing wrong with them, and would, given the opportunity, build others like them, for few of us realize that  there’s a gentler way to buildIt’s called underground.”

Here are some nice pictures of one of his houses

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compost heater

A simple diagram taken from this site….full of a lot of similar concepts for sustainable living.

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drawers with cut out pulls

I have always liked this simple and affordable way to open cabinet drawers. This is a bathroom cabinet for a project here in Berkeley, CA.

Remodelista just posted a collection of some other nice examples (follow the link)

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My client would like a surface mounted track light over her bathroom vanity.  I wanted certainty that code would allow a fixture rated only for dry locations in a bathroom.  I found this article written by Mark Ode, a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratory Inc on the website for the UL Company.

According to Mark, a dry location luminaire must be installed in a location that is not normally subjected to dampness but may be subjected to temporary dampness. With the proper ventilation, above a bathroom vanity fits this qualification.  Inside the shower of course, where water can easily splash on a fixture, a fixture must be wet rated.

His article also explains the difference between wet, damp, and dry UL ratings, as well as a few less common ratings for light fixtures.

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Yesterday I attended this lighting showcase at the Pacific Energy Center. Most of the lights on display were LED technology. Here are a few highlights:

http://www.nudnorthamerica.com

http://www.usa.lighting.philips.com/connect/LED_modules/inteGrade-LED-systems.wpd

http://alvalight.com/

http://www.cooperindustries.com/content/public/en/lighting/brands/shaper.html

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