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Posts Tagged ‘green’


Lumenhaus -- photo by Jim Stroup, Virginia Tech

More photos and information can be found on Lumenhaus.com , Treehugger, and, in the NY Times, this review of the project.

Except for the slightly odd beams that stick out to support the opened sliding screens (see some of the other photos at links above) the design of this experimental and technologically advanced house is quite elegant. The basic idea is to use technology to allow a glass house to be comfortable and energy efficient in all seasons…and to take this a few steps further to enhance quality of life in the house with these same features.

It has been criticized as too techy and too expensive to be marketable, which might be valid, and with almost all glass on the north and South walls, its needs a big suburban or country lot for privacy. (It currently resides next to the famous Farnsworth House (Mies Van Der Rohe) in Plano, Illinos.)

The concept of having stackable modules, so that the house can expand and contract as the family does, would change the real estate profession. The ease of adding and subtracting modules would be an important factor in whether it would be worth the hassle of removing part of your house and selling it to a neighbor.

Be sure to check out the adjustable perforated shade screens that can become more or less opaque depending on the temperature inside.  These screens are a much simplified version of Jean Nouvell’s beautiful screens on the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

This is a picture of me inside Jean Nouvel's Institute Du Monde Arab (photo by Amanda Soskin)

Exterior Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris

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Michael Kimmelman is the new chief NY Times architecture critic. His debut architecture review, In a Bronx Complex, Doing Good Mixes With Looking Goodis a critique of a new housing development in the Bronx, NY.  He calls the building handsome, but focuses more on the practical aspects of the design. It does sound like a nice place to live.

Here is another review of the review with photos.

Here are some words from Michael Kimmelman about his visions for his new job.

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The city of San Francisco is close to passing new regulations for new or modified buildings to reduce danger to birds. This document outlines the hazards and some solutions.

The most dangerous buildings are those next to lush parks with a lot of windows facing the park.  It might seem like a hard sell to eliminate windows facing parks for the sake of a few birds, but the solutions are things like screens and external shading devices…and less glass….which are all good things for many other reasons.

It is also important to reduce light pollution because this can disorient birds flying at night. Less light pollution is also a good general practice.

Read more about the San Francisco Planning Department’s Progress on the issue here.

The New York Times published an article on this topic today.

I once had a dove crash into my living room window. The neighbor saw the incident and claims that the dove was being chased by a hawk.  It was very sad to find the little bird dead on the window sill.

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I took a trip to Fairfax this morning to check out the progress on this creekside addition. The owner and many of his family members are undertaking the construction of this 800 SF addition and remodel of an 100 year old cabin themselves.

Justis Fennell, a passionate Passive House enthusiast is seen here on the front porch talking on the phone to one of his air sealing product suppliers. Justis is the Air Sealing Specialist for the project.

This is the house from afar. The decision was made to carefully remove all of the old painted redwood siding, add plywood sheathing, 3/4″ xps insulation (R4), and a drainage plane, and reinstall the original siding as a rainscreen.

This is the client, his brother and uncle working on installing the last pieces of roof sheathing.

Here you can see the start of the airsealing process – bright blue Ecoseal that is installed using a high powered airless sprayer to make sure it gets deep in to all the gaps and crevices. You can also see the 24″ oc 2×6 framing.

Framing Photo here.

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1) Insulated headers

2) 24″ on center 2×6 studs

3) windows placed and sized so as to minimize extra studs.

The main reason for advanced framing is to minimize thermal bridging, side benefit:  less wood used.

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For those of you who are house painters or who have done some painting you know that oil based interior house paint has been virtually eliminated from the market because of the dangerous off-gassing.  The mainstream paint companies have replaced traditional oil paint with latex semigloss trim paint that in my opinion is kind of rubbery and sticky and unpleasant for the perfectionist painter to apply.

I am not a professional painter, but I have done a fair bit of painting- around my own house and also artistic painting on canvas with both oil paints and acrylic.

For a trim paint that flows like  oil paint, dries to a low sheen, can be sanded between coats for a super smooth result, try:

Bioshield Aqua Resin Trim Enamel

I am not being paid by Bioshield, I just love their paint. In addition to the pleasing qualities,  I am pretty sure the paint is zero VOC and compostable.

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I have been searching for a material for building decks that meets the most rigorous requirements of the wildfire interface zones. I found a new product called TimberSIL that seems to fit the bill and more.  The product literature makes some big claims:

TimberSIL utilizes recycled non-toxic water glass, extracted from rice hulls (an abundant waste product) to surround and protect the wood fiber. TimberSIL wood is unrecognizable as food source for insects, protected from flame and resists rot. The glass extraction process is so heat intensive that it creates more energy than it uses (Energy positive).”

BuildingGreen.com has given the material great reviews,  and they explain the energy positive claims a bit:

“Timber Treatment Technologies switched entirely to this waste agricultural source of sodium silicate about a year ago.  The sodium silicate the company uses in its treatment process is derived 100% from burning rice hulls. Rice hulls have a high silica content–up to about 60%–and this silica is extracted in a gasification process in which the hulls are heated to produce three products: hydrogen (which is burned to generate electricity), carbon (used in making activated carbon for filters), and amorphous sodium silicate. ”

This is a relatively new and unproven product as of yet, but it seems like a good one to try.  The TimberSIL installation manual provides a lot of helpful tips.  I think only southern yellow pine is available now, but perhaps it will expand to other species and maybe they can switch to FSC certified wood as well.

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I’ve made progress on the prototype. The lid is installed. I fashioned a hinge out of retired spectra running rigging from the 5o5 Bar-ba-loot (pictured below). The hinge needs a little fine-tuning, but I like the Xs. I handcarved the curves in the lid.  Nice soft fir makes for easy carving.

Treasure chest Post 1 Treasure chest post 2

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  • 60 Watt GE frosted incandescent bulb: 820 Lumens (initial)=13.6 lumens/watt; dimmable; 2700 Kelvin (warm white, when dimmed the light is warmer, up to about 2000 Kelvin;) rated to last 1500 hours; $2.20 apiece (1000 bulbs.com)
  • 13 watt Philips Lighting spiral CFL (energy star rated): 900 lumens (initial)=69 lumens/watt; not dimmable; 2700 Kelvin (warm white;) rated to last 8000 hours; $5.26 apiece (1000 bulbs.com)
  • 12.5 watt Philips EnduraLED (I have one of these and can attest that it is a great bulb so far): 800 lumens (initial)=67 lumens/watt; dimmable; 2700 Kelvin (warm white); rated to last 25,000 hours; $42.89 apiece (1000 bulbs.com)

This quick snapshot reveals that the CFL is the best value, assuming you don’t want to dim the light, this mercury business is a racket,  and the light quality is equivalent.

These dimmable CFLs are a bit more pricy.  I have never used one so cannot comment:

  • 16 watt dimmable CFL (Neptun): 900 Lumens=56 lumens/watt; dimmable; 2750 Kelvin (warm white;) rated to last 8000 hours; $11.93 apiece (1000 bulbs.com)

There is some concern that the mercury in a CFL bulb is dangerous and ends up polluting the environment. The LED bulb might be a better choice for that reason.  Another reason to choose the LED over the CFL is if the fixture is hard to reach, the LED bulb should last more than four times as long as the CFL. The incandescent will help heat your house and certainly has the least embodied energy.

In order to make a complete comparison I need more information about the embodied energy of each bulb, the environmental impacts of manufacture and disposal, and how the luminous efficacy degrades over the life of each bulb.

Dimmer switches can save a lot of energy and extend bulb life, although the performance allegedly varies a bit with new technology (LEDs and CFLs.) The aforementioned Philips EnduraLED dims very nicely.

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On Tuesday I visited the Water Conservation Showcase at the Pacific Energy Center.   Water-saving products large and small were exhibited.  There were many irrigation products including ET Water’s Quickdraw timers controlled from your cell phone and time release water capsules from Driwater. Niagra Conservation gave away a Stealth Toilet that uses .8 gallons per flush as a door prize. Unfortunately they did not have a demonstration toilet on display.  D’mand Systems was there with their latest models of pumps to recirculate the lukewarm water back to the heater and not down the drain.  CUDO water storage system showed off their stackable cubes for water storage.

Pacific Interlock demonstrated their porous paving stones. It was enlightening to watch them pour a glass of water directly on top of the paver and it soaked right through. I had been under the assumption that porous pavers meant pavers with holes for water to drain and plants to grow through. These look like conventional bricks, just have tiny pores to drain the water.

There were also many representatives of grey water and black water treatment systems.  I think you get pay back pretty quickly on a large building or development if you can recycle some of your water. These systems are still too expensive for the average single family home owner.

In a place like the bay area, where rainfall is concentrated seasonally, storage often does not make sense.  It is more practical to use rain water in wintertime for wash or toilets, and to reuse shower and sink water for toilets and irrigation during summer. Expensive filtration is required by code for any reuse of rainwater or grey water for plumbing purposes. It is now permitted in many jurisdictions to use grey water (only from laundry and bathroom sinks and showers,) for irrigation without filtration.

Dual flush toilets are another great way to conserve water!

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In the fall of 2009 I visited this Passive House on the south side of  Chicago, Illinois.  I didn’t really know much about Passive houses at the time, but I was impressed by one thing in particular.  The homeowner opened a window on the first floor and there was no rush of cold air. In fact there was no perceptible air movement at all. This was because The house is very “tight” The air didn’t rush in because there wasn’t anywhere for it to go.  I won’t go rambling on about what a passive house is here. Follow the link to my article on the topic, or just Google “passive house” or passivhaus.”

More information about this particular house:

Green Building Advisor

Interview with one of the owners

I need some more information about how it has been performing since commissioning. Perhaps the owner will make a comment on this post.

Beyond its Passive house status, the house has many fine recycled details such as these vent covers made from 100 year old soffit:




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