Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Sustainable Products

Living, Eating, Sleeping, Cleaning, Working:

This is what we are doing in our homes and work places.

Over the past few year I have come closer to defining my work, and the impact with my career as it relates to what I believe in the overall well-being of myself, those who are close to me, and the world. As an architect I believe that I have an opportunity to help people evaluate their current life situations and suggest a different way that they may use their space or acquire a new place.

I promote using what you own, and self-sufficiency. In our Green-saturated world of products, if you build new, I promote using those items for your own health-sake and to abide by nature’s given sequence.

Below is an Interiors Matrix that I have developed in hopes to allow people who want to afford products that are local, good to breathe around, and sturdy, the ability to do so.


Flooring –

Aluminum Floor Tile Eco Friendy Flooring, Madison WI

Daltile Rittenhouse Subway Tiles

Altro Healthcare Flooring

CentreMills Antique Floors

Conklin’s Vintage Wood – NE Pa

Aged Wood Antique Flooring in York PA

Sylvan Brandt Reclaimed Wood PA

The Woods Company PA

EcoTimber Artemis

Goodwin Heart Pine Micanopy, FL

Fritz Tile Texas

Stone Eco Friendy Flooring, Madison WI

Eco-Terr Slab / Tile Floors

SileStone Tiles

Cork Click by Natural Cork           Artemis

EnviroGlass in Plano Texas

Lascaux Tile – Decoritive

Forbo Marmoleum   Stout Carpet Mt. Lebannon 412 563 5600

Forbo Marmoleum  Click 1’x3’    Artemis

Forbo Marmoleum  Click 1’x1’    Artemis

Forbo Marmoleum Sheet             Artemis

Forbo Composition Tile 13”x13” Artemis

Earth Weave Carpet Dalton, Georgia

Interface Carpet Tile  InterfaceFlor

FLOR Modular Tiles Artemis

Flexco Flextuft (rubber tile best outdoor apl.) Bennet

Flexco Tuflex (rubber tile best outdoor apl.) Bennet

Cast Basalt Tile     Artemis

Warm Board

4 x 8 x 1 particle, Recycled Wheat /Straw Plywood

Dragon Fly Bamboo Flooring

Nice Flooring Website – Amtico

Vermont Natural Coating

Mapei Floor Sealer

AFM Safecoat Stains / Sealers

Stained Concrete Radiant Floors 15622 zip


Warmly Yours

Hannel Radiant Direct

Uponor Radient Floors

Heated & Chilled Raised Floors by Lindner

Armstrong Standard Excelon VCT

Shaw Carpet, Anso Nylon

Trim –

Stained Wood Base 5 ½”

Lewislp Reclaimed Trim in Picture Rocks, Pa

Wood Crown

Johnsonite Contour Base

Mdf Base Sierra Pine

Roppe Eco Effects

Forbo Base

Stock Pine 9/16” x 4 ½”

Walls –

American Clay  Artemis & EcoSupply

Trove Wallpaper & Printed Wood Veneer

Fashion Wallcovering

Altro Healthcare Wall Surface

Wall Coverng by Grahm Brown

MDC Wallcovering IL

Carnegie xorele (sustainable wallcovering)

Grass Cloth (asian grasses)

Ppg Primer & 2 Finish coats

Farrow Ball

BioShield Paint

Tabrasa Low VOC Dry Erase Paint

Green Series Caulk

Red Devil Caulk

Modular Arts Wall Panels

3 Form – Translucent Panels / Partitions

Echo Recycled Glass Tile from Crossville Wa

Recycled Glass Tile Eco Friendy Flooring, Madison WI

Surface Materials 

Daltile Rittenhouse Subway Tiles

Ellen Blakeley NJ, manuf. Where?

Aluminum Floor Tile Eco Friendy Flooring, Madison WI

Walker Zanger Tile


Colored Stainless Steel

NovaCork 4’x8’ sheet                  Bennet Supply

Design Wall 4’x8’ sheet               Bennet Supply

Burlap 4’x8’ sheet                          Bennet Supply

Nyloboard (rec.cpt)                    Artemis

3/4″, 5/8″, 3/8″ X 4 X 8 sheets and beadboard

Used for outdoor app. garage doors, rainscreens & pergolas.

Plyboo, Plywood & Sheet Goods                Artemis

Kirei, Sorghum Board, Coconut Panels      Artemis

Sunflower Seed Board, Wheatboard            Artemis

Wedi Board for shower 3’x3’       Artemis

Eco-Cem Panel

Kliptec Exterior Surfaces

Nichiha Exterior Panels

Fresh face on Concrete Panels

Standing Seam Metal Roof & Exterior Walls Light-in in brick ties

2 x 6 Stud, GWB, Batt insulation

Zip System by Huber Engineered Woods

Cement Siding   James Hardie Bldg. Supply

Fiber Cement Board

Green Screen Plant Trellis

Green Screen

Ice Block

Solarbord osb w/ reflective foil – Roof / wall Sheating

DenShield Moisture resistant by Georgia Pacific for Tile Backer


Weka – Wool insulation through Artemis

Ultra Touch Cotton  Gray Group, Altoona Pa 814.949.0371

Bonded Logic


Greensulate by Ecovative Design

Cell Pak Blow in Insulation KY

Green Fiber Loose Fill Insulation

Icynene Spray Foam formaldehyde-free

Stains & Finishes –

AFM Safecoat paint and Caulking

Quartz Lock Grout at Dal-Tile Pittsburgh #169  412 787 2040

Bulkhead –

Studs & Gwb with Paint

Casework & Work Surface –

Gouldsberry Cabinet Shop Middle Grave Crk Moundsville, WV 26041 (304) 845-3466

Products Online


Richlite EcoSupply

Subterra Cork             EcoSupply

Paperstone -1”std   Artemis

ShetkaSTONE in Le Center, MN

Cement based w/ recycled content:

Ice Stone



Vetrazzo Color Palet

Squak Mountain Stone

Epoxy/Resin based w/ recycled content:



EnviroGlass in Plano Texas

Sand Hill Industries Recycled Glass in Idaho

Subterra Cork

Solid Surface:

Silestone – eased edge – Distributor Vangura, 81 miles, pa

Sierra Pine MDF – ½” 4’x8’ sheet Beth B @ Bennet

Sierra Pine MDF – ¾” 4’x8’ sheet Beth B @ Bennet



Formica Signature

Wilsonart Laminate

Formica Laminate

Cambria Quartz Countertop – at Famous and Lowes

Quartz Countertop, Eco by Conentino – made of 75% recycled material and bound by corn oil resin

At Famous Supply & Shuttler

CaesarStone CaesarStone Motivo, wall Tile


Eco-Terr Slab countertop

Eco-Cem Panel For cabinetry face

Staron Solid Surface – Acrylic solid surface with recycled content. Found at Home Depot.

Holiday Kitchens – Wisconsin Cabinet company

Kliptec surfaces

Doors / Frames and Hardware –

Handmade Cabinetry Knobs       Artemis

Eleek Door Handles / Pulls / Switchplates

Spectra Hardware


EcoBuilt Garage Doors by

Larson Juhl Photo Frames

Atlas Homewares

Ceiling –

Acoustic Plaster System Pyrok Inc, NY

2 x 2 Jute ACT  by Armstrong

Heated & Chilled Metal Ceilings

Sustainably Harvested / Repurposed Wood Plank Ceiling

Conklin’s Beams – Vintage Wood – NE Pa

Corrugated Aluminum

Furniture –

Green Grove Design AZ

Salvage Shops:

Arch.emporium, Adams Ave. in Cannonsburg Pa

Construction Junction, Lexington Ave., Pittsburgh

Who’s New 5156 Butler StreetPittsburgh, PA

Bedrock Industries

Mattresses & Linens


Sage in Design Furniture

Some Sustainable Furniture from All Steel from rep Lisa Tomasovich from rep Lisa Tomasovich

Bernhardt – at Macys and Today’s Home in Pittsburgh

Organic Towels  bedside manor

Furniture by Lee


Excel Dryer

Whirlpool Energy Star Dryer

Amish wash tumble

Stoves –

Blaze King Industries

Elmira Stoveworks


Fabric / Curtains / Shades –


Exterior Designer Shades

Mecho Shade (Interior / Exterior)

Lutron (Interior / Exterior)

Earth Shade

Arc-Com Fabrics        Artemis

Brentano Fabrics        Artemis

Solucent Exterior Shades by Cambridge Architectural

Dressage and Strata by Conrad UV Shades of Natural Fibers

Fabric by Distinctly Duralee

Curtain Works

Lighting –

Eleek Sconces, Ceiling, Table & Floor          Artemis

Charles Loomis Lighting Cabin


Exterior – Sternberg Lighting

Insight Lighting – Compact-5 Hanging Fluorescent and EX-5 Linear Fluorescent

Partitions –

Lumicor Recycled content

Plumbing –

Clean Grey Water System by Hansgrohe

Black Water by WET

Sinks by Eleek   Artemis

James Hardie rain Cistern

Tankless heater

Hybrid Energy Touchless Faucet by Kohler

Signange –

Energy Usage & Equipment –

Solar Hot Water

Solar Attic Fan  Artemis

Climate Master Geothermal

Solar Thermal System (Solar Hot water heating) by Apricus

Wood Stoves

Radiant Floors

Misc. Finishes –

Masland silk carpets                       Artemis

AFM Safecoat Paint                       Artemis

Durostain                                       Artemis

AFM Naturals line of oil wax       Artemis

Sealent – OSI Green series            Artemis

Osmo OIl wax (atl. to stain)        Artemis

Garuda Woven Rugs

Eleek Hardware

Upcycled Accessories by Mothology

Rugs by Roubini

Home Decorators – Rugs

Windows –

Serious Logic Window Systems

Roofing –

Metal Galvalume roofing

Semper Green Green Roof

Carlisle Roof Gardnes

Site –

Soil Retention Plantable Concrete Systems

Compost Pail

Recycled Plastic Lumber for Planters/ outdoor furniture



I believe in quality over quantity. There are many products that are competitive to other non-sustainable products in price, and I think in the long run that if the price of things drive us to act or not, then we should evaluate our values again. If something is too expensive then it is probably not necessary, in our country, in America.  When we buy cheap products, cheap food, cheap clothes, too much too often, it is always at the cost of something!

~ Conceptual Work with the Online Green Design Team below~

Other recent products I’ve found:

Upcycled Accessories by Mothology.

Furniture made by artisans at McGuire in San Francisco.

Furniture by Bernhardt at Macys and Today’s Home in Pittsburgh.

Bath Mat of handwoven vetiver root fibers by Gaiam.

Ever Heard of Affordable Comfort?

Look into Deep Energy Reductions and Thousand Home Challenge for more on affordable comfort!

My contact is Linda Wiggington, who is the founder, though her main work now is on 2 initiatives: “Deep Energy Reductions” and “Thousand Home Challenge” listed on this page here.


Free Cycle

Building Sustainably

Ultra Touch Denim Insulation


A few months ago I put in an order for attic insulation. An order which I thought would cover 1/6th of our need. Well, I’m glad I under-ordered, and glad that I don’t do order take-offs for projects. For an hour my husband and I carried the pieces of insulation from the (2) yard by yard by yard pallets of insulation up to the attic. At this point we’re almost halfway through the project.


The attic had knob and tube wiring below the floor boards. We started taking up the boards by hand and then had a nice cousin lend us a circular saw which made the project go much faster. The boards in our attic were sometimes 12′ long and we only needed to get to a few joist cavities.


Before we started, and then after the channels were cut to replace the old wiring.



Then we cut some more. This weekend was spent rearranging the loose boards and our attic storage stuff to make working easier below the attic floor.


We’re using a recycled blue jean material for our insulation. Ultra Touch’s Denim Insulation comes from Arizona and can be shipped right to your doorstep. It is available through both Lowes and Home Depot as noted below in an article by Jetson Green.

There’s been a lot of talk about cotton insulation, but I’ve seen it used in countless projects.  It’s probably worth noting that Bonded Logic’s recycled-content product hit the mainstream with a roll-out of UltraTouch Denim Insulation to 165 Lowe’s stores this month.  The product is made with 80% post-consumer recycled natural fibers and doesn’t have added formaldehyde, VOCs, or chemical irritants, according to Bonded Logic.

Lowe’s offers the R13 and R19 versions, though R21 and R30 can be special ordered.  Pricing is available in select stores; however, for example, I’ve seen a 5-pack of the UltraTouch R19 (15″ x 93″) for $39.97.

In terms of installation, this insulation doesn’t itch like fiberglass insulation and “a portion of each package contains perforations that allow consumers to tear the insulation by hand, similar to a paper towel,” according to a statement by Bonded Logic.

[+] More about Bonded Logic UltraTouch Denim Insulation.

Jetson Green – By D H on Aug. 22, 2012

Architecture Building Sustainably

Day three: Masters of Architecture class


By the end of the second class I realized I needed to buff up on my architectural academic knowledge. Books by Vitruvius, Corbusier, and Louis Kahn are going to be my starting blocks.






We discussed Jeremy Rifkin’s Architects of the Mechanical World View in his book Entropy.

Jeremy Rifkin talks about Entropy, the gradual decline into disorder. There are two ways, historically, in which people make decisions he states. Before the ‘mechanical world view’ Rifkin argues that decisions were made based on the afterlife. Societies’ thoughts were altered when they began to be influenced by Bacon’s Novum Organum, Decartes mathematics, and Newton’s ‘tools of how to unravel nature.’ People began to think that gaining an understanding of nature to provide food, shelter and a more consistent living standard allowed them to make more selfish decisions. Humanity launched into a prosperous life that involved ‘controlling nature.’ These thoughts progressed to become more materialistic with Locke and Smith’s beliefs. The idea that man should acquire unlimited resources is deeply rooted in what society believes today -300 years of trying to make our natural resources profitable for personal gain.

Society now knows more about the earth’s limit of materials and what effect the extraction and refinement of these resources have on the health of our world. Did we humans understand nature’s natural order, and try to grow with that? On a global scale, I don’t think so. We grew with a  limited view and based our decisions on economic benefit.

Let’s examine how prosperous our world is and what technology we use to supplement expiring practices with energy and material use. Humans understand how to use wind and the sun for electricity.  We practice permaculture; that variety of food and a balance of flora and fauna is better than monocrops and overgrazing. According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI – June 2014) about 80% of the world has access to food, sanitary shelter, education, and other quantifiers of a plentiful life. Aristotle argued ‘prosperity becomes a barrier to happiness.’ Bill McKibben writes in Deep Economy that people don’t need to make more than 30K a year -that this income provides sufficiently all that is necessary. (Published 2007, comparing U.S. salaries tbc) The question of how to help the 20% of underprivileged people and how much is enough for wealthy individuals remain. How do the wealthy continue growth and should we provide for the 20%? Who’s role is it to look globally to evaluate when enough is enough for some when others still do not have a good quality of life.

The discussion was engaging, and lasted over an hour and  a half. We debated why we (humans) believe what we believe. What governs us? What do we know now that needs to change in order to survive? What is personally important, versus what is important for our world? It was interesting to hear from the generation ten years younger than me.


The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

Architecture Building Sustainably

What Architects Theorize


The second class became more familiar to me. I was asked to sit in front of the class to lead the discussion on Philosophy for Laymen, a piece by Bertrand Russell, with the other graduate student in the class. What I wrote:

Russell defends the merit of philosophy. He says we must find out ‘how to best utilize our own command over the forces of nature.’ As an architect I read this to suggest I should think from many perspectives to find a solution to my work. This can be applied directly to design questions within projects, questions about how to practice and even in the way a project may be created.

Before I discover where philosophy leads an architect I must ask what are architects questioning? –Sheltering the world, organizing shelter, the materials we use? Each architect must understand that his or her own upbringing is not exclusive. ‘The knowledge that gives most help in solving such problems is a wide variety of human life’, and we are building for more than the common good of ourselves. We are seeking solutions for the good of the world. Russell speaks of dogmatism, or close-mindedness that is against growth. Philosophy becomes an ethical solution to problem solving. When I start to debate or defend an idea, or bring in another person’s opinion, the exercise often leads me to a new place. There are many instances in practice that I should encourage myself to ask more questions. Do I ask myself to question what a client really wants, or do I question the affects of introducing certain solutions thoroughly? Can I take the time to consider what I think cities (places) need? What’s the benefit? This is what Russell suggests with his solution, ‘the love of wisdom’ –we have to believe answers are out there that are better because we’ve considered the alternative. From those alternatives perhaps something has come out of it that was more encompassing, something that works on many levels as a balanced solution.

‘Philosophy has a theoretical and a practical aim.’ he states. At what point do we find that these solutions must be applied and evaluate the move from the theoretical to the practical? Theory can be a tool during the entire process of work. At some point architects must trust that our critical thinking has pushed solutions to be intuitive. We must flexibly produce the work from which we began to question it and be open to where it goes. Why else would Russell say ‘for the learning of suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy’?

Reflecting on the topics the vocal class offered later that night lead me into deeper thoughts. I observed the professor and the role he played with the students. We began to debate the truth of details. Is it better to provide shutters on a home that will never be used to protect the windows as simple screw-down models, or use the type with hinges that have the ability to be used? This is called Truth in architecture. The idea has been with me ever since and has made me wonder if I could develop a list of common things that Architects theorize. I went to the Wiki source with this question in mind and found these voices: Derrida, Vidler, Rowe, and Frampton.

When architects want to discuss Pattern who do we look to? Plato and Pythagoras. German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel painted hundreds of marine organisms to emphasize their symmetry. Scottish biologist D’Arcy Thompson pioneered the study of growth patterns in both plants and animals, showing that simple equations could explain spiral growth.   –Wiki

 Photo above from The Savoia

Architecture Building Sustainably

Revit is Changing the way Architects Draw


-Image from Seattle Daily Journal


Hello, I am an architect, and I have been using Revit for two months.

I am committing something here.

I’m learning Revit.

What a smart program.

The tool takes between three to six months to implement for full advantage. The profession of architecture, engineering, and building is at the cusp of changing how we get from A to B; how we get from dreaming to a standing building.  Revit holds the capability for architects to follow in a futuristic call-out from Le Corbusier. We are again making machines for living.  This time though with the computer’s aid to see in three dimension; the building components put together in a virtual space.

My previous poem is both a venting mechanism as well as it is trying to be smart. Collapsing ribbons, palates, and bounding edges are the terms one must become familiar with to enable smart building. The program is only as smart as the user and in these instances you have to get them right. The architect must first know how to building a building! Then, we must learn the capability of the program.

Thankfully, I received my first instruction by an architect, Mike Pappas, working for MESA out of Crafton, Pa. When he is not heading up the architectural department for CDM Smith in Pittsburgh, Mike is working on BIMworks, a developing company that will train and assist Revit users.

Mike’s mantra led eight students for four days. ‘Let’s build it the way it will be built.’ ‘Make it the way you make it.’ In Revit, ‘Put it in, then get it right.’

His enthusiasm over architecture and everything we offer to this world in terms of intelligent building was contagious. While teaching with quick-wit and straightforward answers he was demonstrating the role of the architect as we all dreamed of the times in ancient Rome when architects were held as high as the profession of medicine.

This tool, when used correctly, has the ability to allow owners to see the spaces during the design process. The program can produce exact quantities for cost estimates, and orchestrate refined materials and systems that couldn’t be accomplished comfortably with two-dimension drafting. Energy studies are sophisticated, as one can place the building on any earth location. By providing solutions during the design phase, the architect is offering a more precise building that will look and act as desired once constructed. As consultants begin linking all of their models to one central model, unforeseen conflicts can be worked out before they are revealed in the field. This translates into savings, avoiding costly change-orders and smarter systems that are guaranteed to work together. Building consultants from Landscape Architects to Roofing contractors can all work together to build a model that is much less expensive than building full-scale models that may not work exactly as planned. When hiring an architect this service is priceless.

Starting a Model:

Building a model takes time. The way architects have prepared proposals for prospective clients have changed as well. While the most time has historically been spent during the construction document phase, to build a better model, more time is spent during the initial phase of a project.

The transition from architect to builder has been truncated in the past, passing from one hand to another as soon as a cost has been assigned. Mike Pappas was sharing his thoughts on collective ownership of the model (the documents for construction), and the building itself between all three parties –the owner, the architect, and the contractor. We all have to work as a team. Mike called us the army of architects. We are the virtual building coordinators who should be offering integrated project delivery.

Back to the Blocks:

The time to build a smart computer model can be time-consuming. The architect must decide what to ‘build’ and what not to ‘build.’ Knowing what contractors need to erect a building requires familiarity with issued drawing sets and specifications. Architects act like editors in this respect. With the future comes a new way of grabbing on to old traditions. The hope is that we are smart enough to take the time to use technology as an end to making our profession and our way of life better, entirely.

Project managers are now technology organizers too; making sure items are locked and kept precise. All of this may sound like Greek, but all we’re doing is learning a new language, learning a new language, and learning a new language. With more exposure, the unfamiliar will become common.

As something different and new is introduced, one has the tendency to reflect on the situation holistically. Architects are reaching forward to something our ancestors knew very well; how to build a building. They depended on architects to actualize cities concurrent with the dreams of moving forward, and they valued people who really knew what it meant to think smartly.


Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Architecture Layering

A few buildings and spaces that have caught my attention lately have had one thing in common -an integration of planes and material, held off or touching one another, laced over or glossed expressing a mirrored place, unraveling as one walks through a place. The architecture is cognoscente of being touched and lived-in and I am fascinated by it! Enjoy~

Navy Federal Credit Union – Rheinzink


Ceramiche Supergres has won the prestigious ECOHITECH 2009 AWARD in the “Hi-tech eco-virtuous products” category for its latest innovative porcelain stoneware collection, A.I.R. (Architecture in Respect), manufactured using a high percentage of post-consumer recycled material (CRT glass) derived from the recovery of the cathode ray tubes of obsolete TV sets and PC monitors.    – Ceramic Industries


Liberty Tiles post industrial recycled content glass tiles that look like sun streaked stain glass through a cathedral window on a sunny day. – Jetson Green

Step Up on 5th in Santa Monica, CA by Pugh & Scarpa

These screens not only play with color, but they dapple light to amuse the passerby and serve as an exterior screen, a passive house strategy, that blocks the sunlight from a window on the exterior side of the glazing. -Architecture Record


Pugh + Scarpa have been on my favorite architect list since I was introduced to their work surrounding the rebuilding of New Orleans. Their Make-It-Right duplex has the true lines of a house that I appreciate. Their houses look like houses, and when they need to rise above the ground they do so with a barely noticeable way of growing.

yankodesign _inspired_interiors 26-May2010-living-TedYarwood 59395_0_4-4049-contemporary-kitchen 392037-Lepere_Looping a closet transformed into a book nook anthropologie_ruffles_skirt_thumb apartment therapy Bahia Palace Heritage sequin trim cowlneck - Winter beige blackliving blog carolyn espley-miller-slimpaley coke bottle chandelier colorboard Corrugated_plathouse davidkaihoi3 davidkaihoi decorpad DonnaKaran__121 eckerman-studios eldorado9 elena mar ricami ellenoneil Ellipse-Sky-Keiko-Manabu-4 Ellipse-Sky-Keiko-Manabu-6 Ellipse-Sky-Keiko-Manabu-7 Ellipse-Sky-Keiko-Manabu-10 emdeeinternational3 glamourai_NuevoEstilo_6 glamourai_TheCoveteur3 Windsor Smith Residence, Los Angeles, CA honeycombshelves INTERIORKITCHEN jeanmichael othoneil leucos ether malcolmjames menossi37 mir officeForDesignArchitecture2 petrucci_clgdetail smith-2-0909-xl timelessTilePittsb TSPJoe-Frances-2011IMG_9195 veltman3

Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Heating your Ohio Home

~ How to efficiently heat your renovated Home ~ 

Five Ideas

1. Geothermal

by The Greenest Dollar

Energy Star reports that a geothermal heating system is the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way to heat your home.

Geothermal literally means “earth heat”. And, to put it bluntly, they’re awesome systems.

 Traditional forced-air systems (like most of us have) use the outside air as a base to heat the house. So, if it’s 10 degrees out the furnace has to heat that 10 degree air up to 70 degrees to make it comfortable inside. This, as you can imagine, takes a lot of energy to do.

A geothermal system, on the other hand, uses the constant, stable temperature of the earth as a base to heat your home. The earth’s temperature stays at a constant temperature, usually 45 degrees to 75 degrees, depending on your latitude. Because the temperature of the earth is much higher than the outside air, it takes a lot less energy to get it to 70 degrees.

The unit works with large coils that are buried in the earth. A liquid, usually a mixture of water and anti-freeze, runs through the tubes. That water (which is the same temperature of the earth) is then run through your home. A compressor extracts the heat from the water, and then raises the temperature to what your thermostat is set at.

The system also works in reverse: in the summer, your geothermal unit can easily cool your home using the earth’s temperature at a fraction of the cost of your air conditioner.

Now, the costs for installing a geothermal heating system are pretty steep. You can bank on spending $7,000 to $15,000 for a complete system.

But, here’s the good news. Depending on your part of the country, the system will pay for itself in 5-8 years and add significant resale value to your home.

Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that geothermal heating systems run at 300%- 600% efficiency on the coldest nights, versus 175%- 250% of air-source heat pumps on cool days.

Many experts claim that a geothermal system in a 1,500 square foot home will heat and cool your home for $1 per day. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty awesome.

And the best part is that you’re not using any fossil fuels to heat and cool your home.


2. Fire Place Heat Exchanger

by Green $ense

A fireplace heat exchanger upgrade or and EPA certified insert which I looked up on E How to try to understand a bit better. The idea is that you can insert a new energy-efficient unit into your existing hearth and allow the heat generated by the fire to help generate heat into your home through a blower door.

Inserts for wood-burning fireplaces improve the safety and efficiency of the unit. An insert is a metal firebox, often with a glass door for visible flames, which fits within the fireplace opening, allowing the smoke to be vented through the existing fireplace chimney.-E How

3. Furnaces

by Lennox

I reviewed gas and electric furnaces, and have based the following on efficiency ratings. ‘A natural gas furnace that operates at 80 percent efficiency–80 percent of the energy used to run the furnace goes into warming the air–will perform better than a gas furnace rated at 70 percent. An electric furnace rated at 90 percent will be closer in cost to a gas furnace rated at 80 percent than one at 90 percent.’ –E How states.

So, the first furnace I looked into, a Lennox SLP98V, is a 98% efficient  gas furnace.

Consumer Reports breaks down a review on the most common brands on their website too here.

Consider also a programmable thermostat that allows you to have heat when you need it most. Not when you aren’t at home, and not when you are under the covers. Places where you have a lot of southern light will be warmer, and tend to need different air conditions than do the shady Northern facing rooms.

4. Heat Pump

I’ve recently been introduced to the Fujitsu Mini-Split heat pump by a friend who uses the system to create a warm room in his super-insulated home. It is a ductless system that runs coils through your walls to a wall or ceiling mounted unit that heats or cools your air for comfort. Though, some people may not like the wall mounted aesthetic.

5. Insulate!

As always, I think it’s best to keep in that warm air with great insulation and to caulk around openings, penetrations and drywall connections.

A few insulation products that I have researched are:  Weka – Wool insulation through Artemis, Ultra Touch Cotton,  Bonded Logic, EcoBatt,  Greensulate by Ecovative Design, Cell Pak Blow in Insulation, Green Fiber Loose Fill Insulation, Icynene Spray Foam formaldehyde-free, and recycled newspaper is used in cellulose blow-in applications such as NuWool, and USA Premium Insulation. Insulation board can provide up to a 7 R value per inch as well!

There you have it.. now develop a  plan to keep warm this winter!

Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

The search for The Greenest way I can build a new Home

The best methods, The best materials

What is Green Building in the Northeast U.S.? I’ve consulted the following book many times in designing new spaces. I’ve found the information in what has been provided to me through searching The Passive Solar House links.

The Passive Solar House by James Kachadorian

Book Review

Rule #1: Build in Reference to your Surroundings

Position the long direction of the house in the East/West direction and plant deciduous trees along the South. James gives direction for how to know your site. ‘Make a point of being on site at sun rise and sunset at different times of the year. Develop a sense for which direction the prevailing wind comes from…in addition to solar orientation, consider access, view, wind, direction, snow removal, power, septic and water.” In the past when I have mentioned Slow Building, this is the direction I was seeking.

Rule #2: Design on a 12 month basis. ‘Accommodate and benefit from the sun’s shifting patterns and other natural seasonal cycles.’

Rule #3: Provide effective thermal mass to store free solar heat in the day time for nighttime use. The above diagram is a graphic from the book where he notes ‘achieve thermal balance by sizing the storage capacity of the thermal mass to provide the heating needs of the building through the night.

4″ slab over 12″ CMU is approximately 10″ of solid concrete.

10″ x by the building x and y dimensions = the ____ cubic feet of volume.

Ways of keeping the heat in include thermo-shutters, as described in the image below. However, you want to make sure that your building envelope is a closed cell construction to protect the R values you’ve invested in it as well as to prevent insect damage. The envelope is something that you may ‘Dress as you please.’

This is a graphic for a wall section, envelope, that you would find in the north-eastern United States. For example, the vapor barrier is always to be on the warm side, and in this area the warm side is the heated side of the home, on the interior because we heat in the winter. This leads us to Rule #4:  Insulate thoroughly and use well-sealed vapor barriers.

While constructing a home for my family I studied Advanced Framing, also termed Value Engineering. This means building with typical construction methods, but arranging the building components  in a smarter way. The simple spacing of 2×6’s at 2′ on center versus 16″ or the ways in which to construct a corner and header of a window frame are two examples in which less wood can be used to build a solid home.  Look at these sites listed:  Building Science Consulting and The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance

Getting back to the book, the author makes it a point to differentiate between house wraps and vapor barriers. House wraps are designed to stop wind, not moisture, and a vapor barrier is an extremely important part of the building envelope sandwich.

Tightly sealed buildings should exhaust and vent to the outside through controlled or deliberate openings. For example, areas that have excessive moisture such as the bathroom, kitchen and laundry rooms. So, what are deliberate and controlled openings about?

I sought out the information on the internet and found Scandinavian Homes; Passive houses who described a Ventilation heat-recovery system by Temovex. These systems control the air-exchanges in a home, and in the winter months when we don’t want to pump out our expensive heated air with necessary ventilation, they have a way of recovering the heat without compromising our inside air quality.  Click here to see how the Temovex works in expanded terms.

With a balanced mechanical system, you control the amount of ventilation in the house. Not too much on windy and cold days and enough on humid and mild days…A whole house ventilation system helps to provide consistent temperatures though-out the house or apartment. The house or apartment must be reasonably well insulated and draft-proofed for the system to work to its highest potential…Temovex units make your home into a thermos! You retain the heat in the building without the need for unnecessary new thermal energy…

In chapter five the book begins to describe floor plans and layouts in the same way it invites you to learn your site. ‘We should layout the home’s rooms in relation to the patterns of the sun; that is, morning areas and activities should be planned for the east side of the home, and evening activities generally on the west side.’ The sun and normal living habits migrate from the east to the west. For example the living room should be well warmed by mid day, but the breakfast area should be warming first. I found these images on this site.

This plan uses space efficiently and uses the space below the stairs for storage of the water tank and air circulation equipment.

This leads us to two important and key rules to this entire passive strategy.

Rule #5: Utilize windows as solar collectors and cooling devices.

Rule #6: Do not over-glaze.

What the book provides here is an in-depth lesson on how to calculate exactly what your home needs to maintain a comfortable living environment. I suggest you find the book to learn about this exactly. You can find the book at Amazon by clicking the picture below.

The author tells us that ‘There are not cookbook recipes for solar design.’  A summary of the design procedure is provided by Google Books, and is represented below.

Rule #7: Consider the contribution of solar energy (indicated by insolation values for your region) and natural processes (including breezes and shade) to the heating and cooling of the home, in order to avoid over sizing a backup heating system or air conditioner. A home that is oriented to true south, is tightly constructed and well insulated, and has operable windows for air circulation should not require large fossil-fuel burning equipment to maintain thermal comfort.  Size the conventional backup systems to suit the small, day-to-day heating and cooling needs of the home.

Rule #8: Provide fresh air to the home without compromising thermal integrity.

Rule #9: Use the materials you would use for a conventional home, but in ways that maximize energy efficiency and solar gain.

Rule #10: Remember that the principles of solar design are compatible with diverse styles of architecture and building techniques.

Other ideas to come… what about Malcolm Wells Earth Sheltered Homes or those by Jacques Couelle?

Architecture Building Sustainably

ReFAB Kitchen

Mid-Century Modern

~ Residential Renovation ~

A friend of mine needed help envisioning a project, that would ideally remove a wall between the existing kitchen and dining room to serve as one large entertaining space.

She had colorful dinnerware, the desire for a large island, and a vintage kitchen sink with sideboard that she wanted to refinish.

Instead of the typical 5 phase design plan (SD, DD, CD, Bid, CA) I met her at her house for 5 hours on a Saturday. We’d met prior for lunch and I learned of her  initial thoughts about the project. I had taken her existing blueprint (real blueprints!) plans into CAD and then developed them into a 3d Sketchup model. By pulling in furniture and showing images that I’d collected, I had everything we could use to begin nailing down a style. She had brought her own ideas forward, and with the books and ideas laying across her dining room table,  we set up our work station for the afternoon.

We talked about how she used the spaces and I took a tour of her house. While talking I determined that we could go one of two ways. I drew two schemes in plan and then we sat at the dining room table for three hours playing with a Sketchup model. We had the plan to go with and determined the next steps as we concluded on liking one scheme, hands down, it was efficient.

Here are a few mid-century-modern photos we looked at to begin our style discussion.

I like to show images to my clients to begin an educated discussion, determine likes and dislikes, and pull something unexpected out of our conversation.

Next, with a desire to renovate in a responsible way, she took a trip up to Pittsburgh to visit Artemis.

On the same trip she also visited Tri-State Antiques in Canonsburg PA to find furniture to fit the style of her new entertaining area. A love seat paired with a mid-century modern table and chairs is what she was looking for. Something similar to these:

She considered paperstone and concrete countertops, looked at Concrete Zen out of Pittsburgh, and decided upon quartz Cambria countertops that could be purchased through a local builders supply store, Famous-Supply, in Wheeling.

There are many ways to determine what building products to use in your home. A large part of decision-making is knowing what is available where you are. Typically, I ask myself, what materials are available locally, or is there someone where I live who can make this? The decision of what to use is also dependent upon the ability of local contractors.

Anyone with a product to sell can make the case for greenness. Furthermore, it is difficult to justify decisions when you are dealing with the shipping cost versus balancing money spent and energy used in local shops. In my practice, I search for the most basic products, that can be made locally, by neighbors in the community. I also have to consider what each homeowner desires, and what’s available in the market.

We have to decide what is important to each of us, and base these decisions on what makes sense. When I talk Green, I mean the true cost, embodying not only the money spent, but the energy required to get what is wanted, here. Determine what the money cost of something may be hiding, and be thoughtful in your choosing.

So, getting back to the renovation, it was important to my friend to be ‘light on the earth.’

The existing wood floors in the dining room were in good condition, and the cost to place bamboo flooring in the entire renovation was decided against. The transition between the new bamboo floors and the existing refinished wood divides the central L-shaped island, and defines each part of the new room in a nice way.

The cabinetry is made by Schrock, a company who seeks to make minimal environmental impact.  She found roman shades made of thin reeds woven with jute at JCPenny and ordered Vapor bar stools from Crate & Barrel.

A few ‘Before’ pictures are below.

This is the sketch we came up with at the end of the day as the direction of our project:

Mid-Century-Modern, Mid-Construction:

And, the final product:

A ReFab Kitchen complete, how lovely.

Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

All about the WC

I have recently completed a lot of research related to bathrooms and thought these tips of finding a toilet could be helpful to others in need of a good WC. The important decision makers for me are water savings and a good flush.

Toilet Performance Data on Low Flow fixtures by California Urban Water Conservation Council rate nearly 1,800 toilet models and the information is here for us to look at!

Other articles of interest are  5 Tips for Choosing a low flow toilet by William Maas and this article titled Sustainable Restroom Tips.

American Standard also offers this nice selection process for those choosing their product. American Standard Help me choose option for Toilets