Posts Tagged ‘green’

First here is a 3d model we built as a schematic design tool. A few things changed and not all the details are there, but you can get a sense of the overall layout.

This one was a rebuild of an existing garage. (We had to rebuild it to meet the energy standards for habitable space, but we had to keep it the same as the garage in footprint, height, and roofline. ) The owners wanted to keep it simple…and kind of traditional. We think it turned out well.

The heating is a Fujitsu minisplit, the insulation is beyond code including slab edge insulation, lighting is all LED, high efficacy, & high CRI. A spot HRV keeps the air fresh even when the owners are out of town.

Big doors to the patio open wide on a nice day

We kept a flat ceiling and a traditional attic for simplicity
A wall of cabinets on the property line side…120 Volt LED track lighting
McBride construction planned ahead and added flat blocks for mounting all the exterior electrical and plumbing
Very durable solid oak counter and painted cabinets and shelving
Kitchenette – induction cooktop with a toaster oven and microwave covers most cooking needs..and a remote fan in the ceiling
The back side patio
The electrical panel got a little roof and side screens
efficient full bathroom
My helper, Éowyn, enjoying the cool tiled shower

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We are excited.

Photo by John McBride

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The painted ridge beam went in this week. You can see, if you look closely, another castle post to complement the beam.

We also did a preliminary blower door test to check for airtightness and passed with flying colors

And finally we had a ceremonial sage burning inside the building last night…to bring the good sprits and chase away the bad. Due to the airtightness, the building was still smokey in the morning after the ceremony! (The ventilation system is not yet operational and no windows were open)

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McBride Construction (and others…foundation by Caliber Structural and rough plumbing by Braco Plumbing) have this 484 SF ADU well on its way . It’s nice to see it take form. You can’t see one green innovation that is hidden under the slab. Instead of rigid foam insulation we used rigid rockwool. Concrete is high volume flyash. The framing lumber is FSC certified. The building will get a blower door test and it must meet a high standard for air tightness. (You can still open the window or turn on the ERV for fresh air, but your air won’t be trickling in through dusty cracks and crevices) Stay tuned for more. .

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I am excited to see this backyard studio take shape. Happy to have a skillful framer and a pile of kiln dried FSC certified lumber.  I stopped by just in time to help lift that big beam into place. A challenging job for a solo framer. 


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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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My client is choosing between two very different woods for their flooring throughout the house. The samples are both very nice, so I thought I’d share them.  Both of these are finished with clear Rubio Monocoat, an environmentally friendly wood finish that is more matte than conventional floor finishes.  We are also hoping that since it is not shiny it might not show wear as much. It is much easier to repair scratches in this type of finish.

The first sample shown here is Rift Sawn Oak. It has a very regular grain pattern of tight straight lines. It is a medium warm brown color.

Select Rift Sawn Oak with Rubio Monocoat

Select Rift Sawn Oak with Rubio Monocoat

The second sample is ash. Ash has a very pretty, much less regular grain pattern and an ash blond color.

Ash Flooring with Rubio Monocoat

Ash Flooring with Rubio Monocoat

They can’t go wrong with either of these, but I am particularly partial to Ash.

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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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grey water with bouganvilla

Yes, my Bougainvillea looks pretty sad, but hopefully soon Ill have some good “after” shots for you. I just installed a bathtub greywater system! (See the green hose attached to the drain line?)

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The building energy code for California is getting stricter in January 2014 and the new rules have been published.

The real goal is for all new homes to be net zero energy by 2020.

One of the biggest hopes for energy savings is LED lights, and the CEC is cracking down on the industry demanding tighter tolerances and standards so that consumers can trust that they are getting the amount and color of light and the longevity that they are paying for.

I just got home from a presentation of some of the latest in LED lighting technology by Param Electric at Laner Electric Supply. I learned a few new tricks and I have some of their product recommendations to share.

1) You can add a current limiter to a track lighting system so that it can pass inspection in a kitchen where lights are required to be high efficacy

2) This one isn’t strictly for LED lights: MR16 fixtures need filters to diffuse the light and eliminate spotty wallwashing

3) The amazing new Cree “A Lamp” only dims to 40%. The new Title 24 for 2014 will require it to dim to 15%, so hopefully Cree will be able to make that happen. These sorts of LED bulbs that can screw into traditional sockets are a great and simple solution for energy savings without throwing out the whole fixture. Beware that overheating is a problem for these bulbs. Many cannot be installed in enclosed fixtures and some cannot be installed facing up. Most are directional, which can be a good thing, but doesn’t work so well in situations where you want light to shine up and down and all around.

3.5) I have used Cree recessed LED lights myself for at least the last 5 years with success, but learned from these specialists that Cree has good quality control and makes the lamps for many of the more high end LED fixture manufacturers. Cree itself keeps it simple and is able to produce basic recessed lights for a very affordable price. If you want something with more bells and whistles you will need to go to their competitors, Juno, Halo, Tech lighting and more. Many of their more expensive competitors are using Cree lamps in their own products.

4) Creative Lighting Systems makes a 2″ diameter recessed light that puts out 800 lumens for 11 watts. (Laner sells the whole package for about $220, the 4″ version is about $160) You can get lenses to change the lighting effect/ beam spread. According to Param, the color of CSL LED lights is not well controlled. You might get one where the color is off, otherwise they make great lights.

5) The color in Kelvins of LED light varies a lot. There has been poor regulation of this standard, but this is one of the things that the regulators are cracking down on. Soon the LED manufacturers will be held to a higher standard of accuracy. Read this for more info on color temperature in lighting.

6) Tech Lighting makes very high quality recessed lights and they are the only option if you need something that puts out a lot of lumens.

7) Diode LED makes very user-friendly strip lighting. A remote driver is required, but it can be far away and it isn’t very big. I have one of these strip lights over the door to my office. I love it so far…been about 3 years.

8) Max Light and Phillips Color Kinetics both make some good self-contained LED fixtures for undercabinet, closet, cove etc that do not need remote drivers.

9) RAB makes some great exterior LED fixtures. I can vouch for these myself.

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