Green Renovation 101: Herd Theory Approach

Aia_study_popular_feature_graph_2 You’re thinking about selling your house within the next year and want to make some changes to add legitimate value to the place.  You really want to differentiate your home from other similar homes within a mile (or so), but you don’t know how to do it.  Plus, analysts are talking about how the market is overvalued and house prices may drop–the temperature is rising with the increasing tension in house prices, interest rates, and hold-out buyers.  Well, there’s a report out called "High Energy Costs Inspire New Features in Homes," prepared by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA.  I think this is an excellent source of information. 

Efficiency gains can be found in low-tech or high-tech renovations.  With concerns over high energy prices, one of the most popular renovations, according to the study, was to place extra insulation in the attic.  A cooler roof + attic lessens the burden on your air conditioner in the home.  Also, some other features that declined in popularity were larger hallways/increased circulation and upscale entryways.  These features add space (and energy requirements) to the home but they don’t add any usable space.  If I were building a new house, these statistics would be really important to the design of my house, especially if I were considering selling the place at anytime in the distant future. 

Aia_study_popular_products_1 The study also pointed out home products that are gaining in popularity.  As you can see, the most popular products were those that manage energy consumption and have low maintenance.  The "energy efficient" category includes items such as triple glazed windows.  Notice the popularity of the tankless water heater and water saving devices.  Lots of cities are feeling the crunch of water shortages…it’s nice not to be tied to "hog"-style use of water and electricity.

Look at this study as a trend barometer that lays out what people most demand and will soon come to be expected in future houses.  If you want to replace the water heater and happen to have some extra cash, get the tankless–they have tax incentives for those things and it’s not that bad of an investment.  Homebuilders will catch on to these trends and moving forward, all houses will come standard with energy-efficient features. 

Application:
If you want to sell, get on board and bring your home up to par with features that people want.  It’ll make the broker’s job that much easier.

Extra Links:
Remodeling: Going "Green" May Not Save Green [Residential Architect]
More Home Markets "extremely" Overvalued [CNNMoney.com]

Contemporary Furniture: Going Green with Exceptionally Designed Bicycle Parts

S2_modulus_diningoffice_chair This isn’t just some ordinary, run-of-the-mill furniture, slapped together with no thought for the environment, comfort, or design.  Andy Gregg founded Bike Furniture Design in the 90s with the seminal, original bike chair.  Since then, his collection has grown to include bar stools, high-quality tables, loveseats, and more chairs.  While his furniture is made primarily from recycled steel and aluminum bicycle rims, handlebars, and frames, his collection has grown to include parts from other transportation industries such as trains and planes. 

Again, this stuff isn’t slapped together, it’s pretty darn close to artwork.  Upholstery options include leather, rubber, cork, clear + colored acrylic, and vinyl.  And his business is starting to reach a tipping point.  In 2004, revenue picked up enough to allow Gregg to focus on the business.  Growing demand has pushed him to explore the use of new materials, and he keeps coming up with great pieces.  This can be attributed to his art and mechanics background.  So if you have an idea in mind, I’m sure he’d be able to crank it out (no pun intended). 

S2_swivel_barstool_1Milano_lounge_chair_1S2_bar_table

Extra Links:
Fortune Small Business Article
Silicon Valley’s The Wave Magazine Article
HGTV "I Want That!" Episode #313

ScrapHouse Illustrates Re-use, Recycle, Repurpose Principles (aka Innovation)

Scraphouse The ScrapHouse is a "temporary demonstration home, blitz-built using scrap and salvaged material."  I looks really cool…so cool, you’d probably bid for it on ebay if you saw it.  What?  It’s not on ebay; it doesn’t exist anymore.  But it was built so cheap, you’d think it could be listed.  Buy it Now Price: under $2,000.  When you think about a 1,000 square foot house, you don’t think about building one for $2,000.  That’s exactly what a "rockstar team of local artists, engineers, architects, city officials, and builders" did in association with Public Architecture and ScrapHouse in SFC. 

Reuse is the operative word with this architectural feat.  It was built with materials collected from salvage yards, dumps, and waste piles at active construction sites.  Now, materials DO tend to walk away at construction sites, but from what I understand, there was no five-finger discounting involved with this process.  In all honesty, new building construction (non-LEED structures) generate tons of waste and scrap, and a lot of it can be used for a different project or purpose, depending on the necessity.  Again, another ebay concept applies:  "one person’s junk is another person’s treasure." 

Scraphouse_rending Of course, they used Energy Star appliances inside and low- to no-VOC/formaldehyde free materials in the furniture and paint, etc.  The key take away point is that we need to think outside the box and get creative about using already existing materials (junk that’s in abundance) in nascent, healthy ways.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you live swap-meet-style (not that that’s a bad thing), but it does mean that re-purposed, recycled stuff can be modern and swank.  We just need to get creative about finding that stuff.

Extra Links:
ScrapHouse Official Press Release 5/31/2006
Inhabitat Blog Post About Documentary Premiere

1920s San Antonio Industrial Compound Converted into Eco + Modern Residence

Lakeflato_architects_home Every project is different and depending on the circumstances, one will have a bevy of options to choose from to move forward with a green plan.  Some projects need to be torn down.  Some projects can be renovated and greened.  It depends on the economics, politics, and persuasions of all parties involved.  In this case, San Antonio architects, Lake/Flato, decided to reuse this industrial compound’s existing footprint to renovate the place into a green + modern residence, otherwise known as the Dog Team Too Loft + Studio. 

The house is well-positioned to receive natural light, so the energy requirements for lighting are minimal.  The architects used fritted panes for windows, which is glass covered with tons of tiny ceramic dots that let in light and maintain a semblance of privacy.  The glass is similar to using something like light-transmitting blinds because it allows lower-intensity light into the interior, but it also reduces the heat gain, which translates into savings for not having to use the A/C as much. 

Lakeflato_stairs Lakeflato_living_room_2 Lakeflato_saw_tooth_2

The original roof was lost due to a fire, so the saw-tooth roof visible in the above picture covers the entire residence.  Some of the interior walls are plaster, and their high sand content keeps the indoor air cool.  The architects also used various cheap, but creative, items to finish out the interior.  They used galvanized stair treads ($3 each) and treated the floor with crankcase oil from a nearby lube shop.  The interior dining room window was scrap from another project that the firm was doing, so it was put to perfect re-use.  The Lake/Flato architects definitely prove that re-use can be the perfect option when deciding what to do with that run down place.  Source via Metropolitan Home

Sustainability is Good Business: Obstacles to Green Building Progress

Usgbc_guiding_principles_1 Going green doesn’t mean you’ve turned into a hippy or gone granola, it means you’ve taken a pro-active step to create an efficient, economic, healthy work or home environment.  If you haven’t noticed, there is a nascent (i.e., in terms of popularity), accelerating movement in design + construction towards making buildings sustainable.  It’s likely that 10-20 years from now, the term "green building" will be anachronistic.  All buildings will be "smart" and independent.  But for now, only a small percentage of buildings are heading in this direction and there are a few stubborn reasons to explain why.  In this post, I’m going to talk about sustainable buildings in the context of commercial endeavors, but the principles apply equally to residential.

The fact is, sustainable buildings are better performers: LOWER operating costs, BETTER sales, + HIGHER productivity.  Case studies abound to support this assertion, but the real question is why aren’t businesses flocking to adopt sustainable design principles in their buildings (old + new)?  In a Globe St. article by Brenna Walraven, it was suggested that there are two main obstacles to green building proliferation: 

  1. Energy-efficiency Capital Myth – the myth is that the only way to improve building efficiency is through substantial, significant investments.  My write-up on Adobe’s green building disproves this myth.
  2. Lack of Awareness – this is self-explanatory, but one should consider the impetus to being unlearned on green building, especially for those professionals who make it their line of work to design, construct, + create high-caliber buildings.  Is it political?  Too treehugger-esque?  My response to last-adopters:  sustainable building is to building as Japanese manufacturing is to manufacturing. 

Beddington_zero_energybedzed Buildings that are resource efficient will cost LESS, not more.  Why?  You are using less.  Big changes can be made with slight operational adjustments, and huge capital investments aren’t always required to obtain the greatest benefits for a certain project (new + old).  Further, if you have an architect, property manager, or developer that says it will be too expensive to go the sustainable route, walk the other way and hire someone else.  That group hasn’t been doing their industry homework.  There is a huge paradigm shift in this industry.  If you don’t pay attention, you’ll be like Ford, trying to figure out what makes Toyota so good.  Source via Globe St.

[September] Architectural Record House of the Month: Newport Beach – Heinfeld Residence

House_front_1 Architectural Record always seems to find some of the best modern + green residences in the country:  this month’s spotlight is on Dan + Katherine Heinfeld’s home designed by architectural firm LPA, Inc., in Newport Beach, California.  LPA has a strong commitment to incorporating green concepts in their designs; they’re one of the earliest firms to get involved with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.  Mr. Heinfeld is the president of LPA, so designing his own home included the added tension of getting it right, to prove to clients that green design can be modern + luxurious. 

Green Features:
House_print The house really does include a slew of sustainable features…it’s built with a Glu-lam and composite beam structure that comprises two stories, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms.  Three sides of the house wrap around a courtyard/pool-area.  The pocket glass and screen doors open up to the solar-heated pool area (Suntrek).  The entire house was designed for efficient natural lighting, including a mostly windowless eastern orientation, an extended roof overhang on the southwestern side, an insulated, translucent skylight in the main room (Kalwall Skylight), and mechanical sunshades in every room (Lutron). 

Pool_house Kitchen Living_room

The house is powered almost completely by the 5.3 KW building integrated photovoltaics (Solar Integrated Technologies).  Also, the carpet tiles (Interface FLOR) and floor (Terrazzo) are both made with recycled content.  Of course, the paint is non-VOC, Eco-shield paint (Dunn Edwards).  LPA even provided the Xeriscaped landscaping.  Really, the Heinfelds didn’t hold anything back when putting this green + modern masterpiece together. 

Extra Links:
House of the Month Article and Project Specs [Architectural Record]
LPA, Inc. Website
Cristian Costea Photos

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