Posts Tagged ‘passive solar’

I had the privilege of assisting with the hoisting to second floor and installation of this nice big south facing window on Friday.

Big window

John and Oscar leveling



Read Full Post »

This one involves a small addition and reworking the back of the house to better connect with the backyard nature and southern sunlight

Berkeley Remodel/Addition

and this one gets a new master suite on top and a reworking of the entire house. The south-facing back of the house also gets a lot more window and door to connect to the yard and sunlight.

San Mateo Addition and Remodel

Stay tuned for more exciting developments.

Read Full Post »

I was visiting my carpenter friend last week for lunch and got to see this project before the client finished moving in. The architect made a lot of nice moves in renovating this old house.  He vaulted the ceilings, opened up the space, and connected better to the backyard, Sunlight comes in through a few  well placed skylights, big south-facing french doors, and a high window in the hall. I am sitting in the front room and I can see the back yard at the end of the hallway. The hallway has to slice through the house at an angle to make this happen. Unusual geometries result from the angled hallway, but since they result from a purposeful  move they do not seem contrived.


Read Full Post »

More info on this project can be found here:



New Burgee

Read Full Post »

Sometimes the job calls for a very simple addition – bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, and family room all in less than 500 SF, plus a new deck on the south side. and energy efficiency upgrades throughout.

Existing Floor Plan

New Floor Plan

The roofline dictated the easiest place for the addition and the owners preferred a small master bedroom and a small study/ family room rather than a large bedroom.  Adding a deck to the south off the kitchen and dining room seemed like an obvious way to fill in the corner (facing due south.) The fact that it has walls on two sides adds a bit of shelter from the wind.

The owners selected locally crafted light fixtures from Metro Lighting on San Pablo and many LED lights for the project.

Canivet Construction built the project on time and on budget (about 230/SF plus fixtures that the owner bought themselves.)

Read Full Post »

A young man in Wales built this house for his family using a chainsaw, a hammer and a 1″ chisel.  In some ways I am more drawn to this one than the modular one….even though it makes for rustic living. He needed no team of architects, engineers, and modular specialists. It has no green certification, but certainly far greener, except for its location in the countryside. The modular house is more suited for modern urban lifestyles.

Here is the builder, Simon Dale’s website for more pictures and information about the project.

Thank you to my British correspondent, Amanda Soskin, for sharing this gem.

Lloyd Kahn has published several books about similar creative, owner built structures. Here  is a glimpse of a recent Lloyd Kahn book that I have enjoyed very much.

Read Full Post »

This 20 unit apartment complex is layed out in two rows facing each other with a north-south lane down the middle. This way sunshine permeates the entire complex and allows for lovely gardens in front of every unit.  It seems like a very sociable design with all the front porches lined up facing each other. It would be even better if they could eliminate regular vehicular traffic down the lane and provide access to the parking lot at the end from the other side. At least the cars are out of sight.  I suppose privacy might be an issue at times with all of your neighbors easily able to see who comes and goes…but this is also a good safety feature.

Read Full Post »

Last week Akhila gave me a tricycle tour of her crib.

She recently commissioned deedsdesign for an addition including a master suite, expanded kitchen, and family room.  Popping up the roof just a few feet allowed for a vaulted ceiling and high windows over the kitchen and an attic loft over the master.  The kitchen is on the north side, so the high south windows provide southern sunshine while leaving room for enough cabinets on the north wall. (click on the thumbnails to see enlarged drawings)

The dining room gets a lot of southern sunshine and has french doors leading to the deck.

The Lapeyre stairs provide easy access to the loft above.  We enclosed the loft with low walls to hide any boxes stored up there, but added open railings for the last 18″ or so.  This way the required 42″ tall “guards” don’t seem so tall and a bit more light circulates.

I didn’t get any photos of the loft  itself,  but it has built-in shelving and a fir plywood floor, finished with polyurethane. (As you can see the project isn’t quite finished yet)

The homeowner waited for me below while I toured the loft area.

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

Go HERE and HERE for more photos of the project Here is an article about the project on Dwell Magazine’s website and Here you can vote for or against the design.

Total Cost: $24522.47 ($204/ SF)

Design: Free (by owner)

Permit Fees: $111.55 (Electrical only, 120 SF accessory building didn’t require a building permit.

Foundation materials: $1425.79 (incl sand, gravel, plastic, 30% Flyash concrete,  forming materials, pumping labor, tool rental, rebar, etc)

Framing materials: $2661.73  (Almost all FSC Certified includes several large appearance grade exposed beams and FSC Certified sheathing plywood and all the hardware)

Building Paper and Flashing: $397.00   (We had to buy the roofing felt twice because the roof installation was repeatedly delayed by rain.

3 Windows & 1 Door: $1720.02   $750 (half price) for the Loewen half glass aluminum clad fir door salvaged from another project.   The windows are dbl glazed aluminum= inexpensive.  I chose aluminum because It looks good with the redwood.  This is a small outbuilding without heat and they work fine, but metal windows have lower U-value than wood, fiberglass and vinyl.  It would be hard to justify metal windows in a larger project with a heating system.  The glass in the south facing windows is Sungate 500.  This is a special glass that is designed to have a high U-value and also a high solar heat gain coefficient. “In winter, Sungate 500 Low-E Glass transmits the sun’s visible light and directs solar shortwave infrared energy into the home. At the same time, it reflects longs wave infrared (heat) energy — like that which comes from a home’s heating system — back into the room”

Paints and Finishes: $544.90 (Penofin Verde, American Pride, Earth Paint, AFM Safecoat, Bioshield) These are not the cheapest finishes, but honestly way more pleasant to work with than the traditional smelly stuff. Ill have to report back on longevity and durability, but so far so good.

Insulation, Sheetrock install and finish (incl labor), Interior Trim (FSC certified): $1609.93

Roof: $2615.93 (galvanized standing seam painted red by Tri Sheet Metal, James Morgenroth)  I hope this is a long lasting solution.  It was chosen for the clean crisp lines and the cheerful color. I was considering a zinc roof for its infamous longevity advantages, but didn’t find a local installer familiar with the material.

Exterior Siding & Trim: $850.73 (All the redwood siding was milled from logs salvaged from a road widening project in Sonoma County and gifted to the building. (ie free,  just involved a lot of  labor and $200 worth of stainless steel screws)

The siding is installed as a rain screen with a space behind the siding for ventilation and drainage.  The idea is to make everything last longer by preventing moisture from getting trapped and rotting the siding or the framing. I used Penofin Verde, an eco-friendly penetrating sealer on the redwood. I’m hoping that I wont have to reseal it more than every other year.  I have used the more stinky petroleum product Marine Grade Penofin on my wood garage doors for several years.  It seems to do a good job of protecting the wood, but since they are on the south side without much protection, I reapply every year.

I sealed the exposed fir rafter tails with penetrating epoxy before priming and painting.  They should hold up well, but I need to keep an eye on the corner where the high-end rafters meet the wall.  I can imagine water running down the underside and sitting in this corner.

Rain protection & Dump runs: $114.66

Tools and bits: $75.87

Electrical & Plumbing: $1469.40 (includes fixtures, somewhat expensive LED exterior strip light that only uses 7 wAtts. The Louis Poulsen PH5 pendant was a gift)

Landscaping: $1982.88 (brick path by Hornby Garden Design and Construction)

Misc: $585.35

General Labor: $8,004.00  (carpentry, Built-in furniture, electrical, trenching, rough plumbing, etc.  Some of this is discounted because it was done by my good friend John Mcbride.  This does not include extensive work by owner/designer)

Cost analysis: The door, the roof and some of the lights are expensive. The built-ins were inexpensive, but involved a lot of labor that normally would have cost far more.  The unusual shape  involved more labor in framing, siding, and roofing. This building didn’t require a permit except for the electrical.  Many components  that were free would normally have cost a fair bit. The design labor and other extensive labor of the designer also would normally have cost money.   For this reason, one should assume that a similar structure might cost at least $36,000, not including design.  This would mean $300/ SF. 

Things I would do differently or might change later: Insulate the concrete slab, use this sort of window trim detail

Performance: So far the thick and careful insulation (R19 in the 2×6 framed walls and R30 in the roof) and the passive solar features (mainly the south-facing windows with overhangs and a deciduous California Buckeye tree in front of them) perform wonderfully.  The building is very comfortable without supplemental heat.  On the occasional day that is too warm, opening the high windows works magic. When it is too cold I warm up the room by turning on a few lights and my computer. Sometimes I bring a large dog inside or do 10 jumping jacks to generate some heat.  Because of the insulation, the heat sticks around.

Read Full Post »

In honor of the Northern California Fall I am posting a few photos of the glorious trees that might be the most important architectural feature of my apartment. Without this pair of venerable deciduous Zelcova trees I would have much less privacy in my bedroom and the house and yard would be much hotter and sunnier in the summer months. The beauty of a deciduous tree smack on the south side of the house is that in the winter the sun streams into the south-facing windows.  warming and cheering the rooms.  Of course the fall foliage is a nice side benefit.

The seasons in Northern California have always seemed a bit confused to this native of Detroit.  I recently realized why: When the fall foliage begins, it is usually also the beginning of the rainy season.  This means that simultaneously some trees are turning red, orange, yellow and brown, and most other plants and trees are turning bright green from all of the rain. In the spring the reverse is true. The deciduous trees are sprouting little green leaves and buds….and most other things are turning brown as the water supply diminishes.

I painted the burgee on my art studio new colors for the fall.  This building also has the benefits of a deciduous tree to the south. This time it is the spectacular California Buckeye.

Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some fresh photos of the small studio taken by Lenny Gonzalez for your enjoyment.  I will be writing more soon about the design and green features of this tiny building.

Read Full Post »