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 ‘green’

I’m At Home in Arkansas

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The Green issue of At Home in Arkansas is out online and it features an interview and portrait of yours truly.   Photography by Nancy Nolan.

Mod Backyard Garden Pavillion Remodeling

Friday, July 1st, 2011

The rental apartment behind the house does not have to be second hand architecture. Here is one design that takes the small living space of an apartment attached to the garage, and makes it into a modern garden pavilion.

This was behind my house in Houston.  Originally, the apartment was dark and dank. I wanted an architecture studio and guest house that was green and lush.  We opened up the bathroom and kitchen with floor to ceiling windows and wrapped it with a fenced garden. Now, light pours through the windows onto the shiny new materials of the bathroom and filters through the sleek kitchen into the open plan living room. On the floors we installed cork to make the space warm and soft and cozy. In the bath, we installed black tile to contrast the brightness and in the shower, we used polished river washed pebbles to massage the feet and give you more of a feeling that the bathroom is outside and spa like.

The quarters were upgraded with new privacy fences made from cedar and Brazillian cherry culls from another construction project.

The studio has cork flooring and an open plan.

 

The open kitchen is mostly from IKEA.

River wash pebbles line the shower floor.

$1500 difference in insulation installation grades

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Not all insulation installations are equal.  In fact, there are different grades of installation that your contractor or building inspector may not even know about himself.  RESNET, or Residential Energy Services Network is a non-profit organization that sets standards which energy audit inspectors use to evaluate the residential building industry.  They define grades of insulation that materially affect the energy scores of a construction project.  You can see more of what they do on www.natresnet.org.

For building or remodeling homes in the middle South such as my home in Little Rock, Arkansas, we tend to like the spray foam applications that create a 100% air barrier in the cavities of the structure.  Their pricing has gone down in the years, especially with the hybrid applications of a thin layer of foam and a filling application of cellulose.  Installation is more consistent.  Also, I like the insulation per buck on this rather than the traditional methods.

Still, the most common insulation is inexpensive batt insulation.  This is the rolls of pink stuff that you can buy at Home Depot and looks so temptingly easy to install.  The manufacture of them have improved so much that they are easier than ever to install yourself.  I love DIY projects.  However, the insulation companies have such good deals on the pricing of the material, that it is often the case that they can deliver and install for the same or less price than you can buy the material retail.  And have you seen how much they haul in one truck?  I would never do that to even my own pickup.  Let the installers do it.  But be aware that there is a wide range of quality in the labor.

Variables one should look for in batt insulation is compression, gaps, air barriers and being inspected.  If it is not inspected by a Qualified Energy Auditor at the time of installation, then you can only get the lowest Grade 3 rating on a RESNET rating.  This may or may not be significant and could cost you from getting a possible $1500 tax credit for building envelope efficiency for new buildings.  Check the IRS or your local Auditor for more information on that.  I highly recommend hiring one of this guys.  Not only might you qualify for tax incentives, but you get better inspections and therefore better work products.  I just want to tell you the criteria that the auditor will look at, so that you can look and know yourself.

You don’t get what you contract for.  You get what you inspect.

Grade I

  • There should be no gaps or at least only very very small gaps less than 2%.
  • There should be no compression, or at least not more than 30% compressed in spots
  • Where there is wiring, the insulation should be split around wire, not compressed.
  • The wall needs to be enclosed on all 6 sides with drywall or air barrier
  • The insulation must rest against the inside edge of the space that it is supposed to insulate.  You would not want to walk outside with your coat loose around you so the wind could whip through your coat, now would you?

Grade 2

  • Moderate to frequent defects such as gaps around wiring and pipes is allowed
  • Rounded edges over less than 10% of the area and compressed by 30% is allowed.  You know, like pushing the edges of the insulation in too much on the sides to make it easier to staple the paper to the studs.  Too much ease of installation and your grade goes down.
  • Gaps of no more of 2% of the area that have no insulation at all, (not just the compressed amounts allowed in Grade 1)

Grade 3

  • More than 2% of areas totally missing
  • If more than 5% is totally missing, then the auditor has to count that 5% as not having insulation at all in his energy models, significantly lowering your rating and your energy savings.  My wife would not let me out of the house with a coat with more than 5% holes in it!

What is your contractor’s grade?  Ask an inspector.  For the most part, generals are happy to have a client’s inspectors checking the work.  It guarantees better work from his subcontractors.  It gets better results for you and saves the planet too.

Screens can shield or illuminate a home, or both

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

A rainscreen can be more than an awning or flat layering on your facade.  It can be dynamic!  Using perforated corrugated aluminum, a screen can be diaphomous, turning a house into a lantern.

Diaphonous membrane creates an architectural lanternThese houses face west and want to enjoy the western sunset, but the harsh light of the evening sun prevents a casual view.  No awning over the top of the windows is going to stop the evening sun which is already low in the sky by the time it reaches the western horizon and starts burning heat and light into a building.  Vertical strips of awning might reduce the amount of sun that comes into a window, but only a screen across the entire window will allow view and light.  Imagine placing a sturdy metal screen in front of expensive glass?  This is not an idea that is received well by homeowners.  Yet perforate the metal, and then the eye focuses on the lighter parts of the metal.  When the sun reflects on the metal, the eye sees the metal and no further.  When the lights beyond the metal are brighter than the surface of the metal, then the eye sees right past the holes and the metal which become transparent to the mind.  Its a miracle of the one way mirror on an architectural scale.

The  metal is hot on one side, a cool porch on the otherSeen from the street during the day, the passer by cannot see into the building, but the occupant can see out.  At night, when there is no light on the metal screen, both inside and out can see past the screen, the building becomes light and airy, and building cools.  I like to invite guests to parties starting around 7 pm so that they can see the screen disappear as they approach the building for festivities.

The screen has other functions.  It encloses a welcoming porch.  While the intial steps up to the main living level start on the hot reflective side of the screen, the steps do switchback behin the screen, cooling the visitor and welcoming him into the front porch.  From the chairs in the front porch, pedestrians on the sidewalk in front can be seen and heard without giving away the viewers presence.

The  chairs sit cooly behind the screen