The Green Builder in Little Rock, AR

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Home Design / Custom Build / Live in a Green World near Little Rock, AR

Posts Tagged ‘designing a home’

Couple makes designs for sustainable living.

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Now here is a fun project. An Army barracks?  No, a prospective home. The inspiring couple behind this idea want to make all the right housing choices to utilize green ideas and educate others on how sustainable and green one’s house can be.  They have purchased a 40 foot by 80 foot Quonset Hut from SteelMasters. These can be used as airplane hangers, storage buildings, or emergency structures.  They intend to live simply and comfortably in one as their home.  The Quonset Hut will come to the site ready to be lifted in panels onto the foundation to form the structural shell of the house.  These panels are developed from the World War II units that were used throughout the war effort and are still used today.  EnergyStar has approved these structures as an exemplary building material and method.  Its galvalume finished steel shell is reflective as a radiant barrier and is made of mostly recycled material that in the end can be reused or recycled again for that cradle-to-cradle effect.

The couple has come to EcoHouse to make their simple living choices  as effective for being green as for sharp looking aesthetics.  There are many ways to use the panels to configure a home and we will be exploring several to find that perfect site placement and solar orientation.  The site is 11 acres in the Mountains of Arkansas near Russelville.  They were careful to find land with good soil for landscaping and a great view from the top of a gentle ridge.

We will be busy getting the design together and exploring systems and material choices to achieve strength, tightness, health and responsible living in their new home.  Look forward to design sketches.

Springtime porch remodel

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Spring time is a great time to think about adding on an entertaining porch or BBQ patio to your home.  And when Little Rock Arkansas weather brings you winds that lift and drop giant trees in your backyard, that makes the PERFECT time to do some remodeling.

Here are some hand sketches of just such project compelled with those motivations.  The beautiful Federal styled home gets an outdoor salon porch complete with brick fireplace.  Symmetry is important.  Revisions to this scheme include an even simpler but grander porch.

EcoHouse Architects’ latest bungalow design under construction

Friday, March 4th, 2011
Hillcrest Little Rock bungalow remodel designIn the heart of the Hillcrest neighborhood of Little Rock Arkansas, a bungalow home is being restored, remodeled and enlarged.

Hillcrest of Little Rock has always been a rich neighborhood full of art, music and enterprise.  One local musician is restoring a bungalow right near her haunts in Hillcrest on N Palm St. But before she could move in, the entire house needed work.

The structure was in good shape and the rooms proportioned well, but time was cruel to this house.  It badly needed restoration, energy upgrades and a new second story addition.  Rather than making a big box house according to the pervading style of inner city development, the owner decided to keep the lines of the original roof.  Two bedrooms and a family room with barrel vaulted veranda were proposed upstairs.  New insulation, windows, doors and cement siding have already been added to replicate the original style.

You can see the original sketches for the design on here: EcoHouse youtube channel

Progress is well under way on the interior.  Designs for another second story house addition have just been completed nearby on N  Spruce St.

Remodeling a home I designed and built years ago

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

There are not many modern homes out there.  When commercial clients of mine asked me about buying a modern home, I told them about one I had designed and built years earlier for some other clients.  The old clients were moving and needed to sell.  Everyone was happy.  Old clients moved out.  New clients moved in and bought new furniture.  Happy everyone was, until the second child came along.  Now they needed more room.  This will be one of those strange happenstances when I get to remodel one of my original designs.

You can see photographs of the original design on my website. www.ecohouseconstruction.com In fact, the home occupies the left most spot on this blog’s titleblock.  It has wood siding, cement stucco and concrete block exterior.  In its nature, the house is simple in its construction, complex in its inter relationships, and rich in garden views on a tight lot.  To change the balance of the forms posed a deep challenge to me.  I love a challenge.

I closed in the porches that the clients have never used and made the master bedroom and guest room larger.  Windows span the entire height from floor to ceiling to view the garden and the courtyard with similar panes as used in the living room.  Drywall ceilings are removed to expose wood trusses and mechanical systems.  Siding and cmu finishes are brought into the rooms to give the feeling that they are outside rooms, but the finish materials are upgraded to match the luxurious feel of the inside: siding goes from pine to walnut, concrete block goes to travatine tile in a running bond.  Floor finishes are upgraded and lighting is upgraded.  Overall, the rooms become more open and polished.

This is still a study of possible finishes.  We have much to develop in terms of selection and budget, but I am glad that the design is coming together.  View the presentation animation on youtube.

When designing a home in Little Rock, Arkansas, perhaps select local Ozark stone.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Stone is a powerful material to use on both the exterior of your home as well as the interior. It recalls castles and tide walls, but remains touchable and warm. On this fireplace wall, there are many uses of stone that give depth and functionality to the room.

When selecting an appropriate stone material for your home, determine what style or feeling you want. Each stone choice evokes a particular place. When designing, remodeling or building a home in Little Rock, Arkansas, perhaps select a local stone, such as Ozark brown or blue stone. This fireplace is made of stacks of real Ozark stone. The colors were varied to give the maximum color range. The individual stones were selected to blend and contrast for visually effect.

The roughness of the stone wall was selected to enhance the acoustic properties of the room. A rough wall like this breaks up noise reflection, since sound waves refract differently off the various planes and surfaces, in the same way that the curved ceiling varies the reflection of sound waves and prevents the repetition of echos from reinforcing themselves as they do in a rectangular room. This living room was designed for acoustics. It houses a grand piano for the owner, a pianist with sharp ears for how architecture can affect sound.

One popular installation technique for stone today is a dry stack. Like a stone fence on the side of a pasture or field is the dry stacking by the farmer to use the stone he finds in his field, it avoids the use of mortar to hold the stone together. The natural stacking has a great deal of shadow and interest. These walls tend to be thick to compensate for their inability to handle heights. To get this effect and the height, the mortar could be deeply recessed and the individual stone each cantelevers a bit so as to not show mortar in the joints. The effect is expensive. Its growing popularity on developers’ houses and even shopping centers is a result of the development of precast concrete pieces that look like stone. This method is not used here, because we wanted the real mass and texture of actual stone in such an intimate room. The mortar is colored to match the grey base colors and allow the stone to show off its highlights.

The lintel is the dark beam of stone that spans above the firepit opening. It is also Ozark Blue stone, and reminds you that the stone is heavy and load bearing and must use ancient techniques to be constructed. (Ok, I’ll be honest. There is a steel lintel as well behind it, attached to the concrete block structure.)

I could have cantelevered the lintel beam out or added another mantel of stone, but chose instead to use a contrasting wood for the mantel to relate to the curved wood beams of the room. The mantel is a very special wood from a store called African Odyssey, a name that resonates with the themes of the house. This wood is from South Africa where it was first cut and shaped to be a railroad tie on the African railroads. When that railroad was removed, the ties were used by shippers as ballast to fill their empty ships for the ships’ return voyages. The ties ended up in a port warehouse in Houston, Texas, where an appreciative carpenter refinished them into wonderful beams, tables, and flooring. We took the longest raw tie beam they had and installed it as the mantel. Not only does the rich wood visually work well with the Ozark stone, but it gives the Owners a wonderful story to tell.

The hearth is flush with the floor and is covered in flat flame cut slate slabs that match the Ozark stone colors. The walls of the living room are more formal and black, though they have a silver blue sheen to it. From the floor to the top of the sliding doors, the African silver slate is matt finished, giving it depth and shadow between the wood and glass opening and setting the fireplace off as the major color, while above the doors, the same African silver slate is glossy sheened to give the wondows and height of the living room more sparkle and light. I chose to diferentiate the finishes on the black slate as a detail that the Owner’s and guests would notice only on reflection or second visits. A designer must not give away all his design’s secrets at first glance. The texture of stone or the sheen of the tile should be discovered by exploration. The real miracle of the design is how the light hits it at different times of the day and even different seasons. Without the material’s textures to capture the light, those subtle differences in light may tragically have gone unnoticed.