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 ‘small house’

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.

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.

Hillcrest guest house remodeling

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

A client in Hillcrest has a very special guest house that needs a little updating.  The lead paint on the siding is special indeed and will require special handling according to EPA standards.  EcoHouse will remove and rebuild the guest house on the same foundation to preserve the yard and the oak tree roots.

Look for design sketches and progress pictures as we remodel.

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.

When is a large green house, too large to be green?

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The first premise in green design is to conserve energy and natural resources to create a healthy, sustainable environment.

Various green building programs have been written to perpetuate that thinking.  LEED for Homes for one, penalizes a large house by setting its standards higher as the floor area per bedroom increases.  A 2000 sq ft 4 bedroom house can achieve platinum status easier than a 4000 sq ft 4 bedroom house.  In the same logic, a 2000 sq ft bedroom house 4 bedroom house can achieve platinum status easier than a 2000 sq ft 1 bedroom house.  As designers and builders focus on the numbers and the rules set up by the green guideline agencies, they begin to play the numbers.  They lose sight of the first premise.  Once green becomes  a game of numbers for an arbitrary certificate, then we begin to question the value of those certificate.  Anyone can make a claim of being green.  Some can provide the certificate from a third party saying they are green.  We must still ask the question, are we being good stewards of this earth and are we providing a good environment for our families.  Two houses, one on each far flung coast, have been in the news illustrating this inherent problem with the label “green.”

  50,000 square feet of living space. Photo by RICHARD MESSINA /  HARTFORD  COURANT / February 4, 2010 on HartfordCourant.com.   Fine Homebuilding posted an editorial blog that incited some heated discussion of a very, very large house.  Questions for the Man with the Big House – Fine Homebuilding asks how can a big house ever be green.  The argument is simple.  Don’t build more than you need.  Anything else is wasteful.  Assumed is that since the average home built in the US is somewhere around 2400 sq ft, that’s all you need.  The house has 50,000 sq ft.  There is no one arguing that it is small.  On the sheer size only, the editors of Fine Homebuilding railed against the designer claiming to be green.

The first comment rallied the defence of this big house:

…Are you usually in the habit of judging a home by looking at a single picture of a side?

While the bricks obviously do not generate electricity, the 17 Kilowatts of PV certainly do. If you bothered to really study the project you mock, you would find a list of extraordinary energy saving measures (geo-thermal systems, R-values greater than 50 in the exterior walls, underground earth-mass HVAC utilization, total DDC operation of all valves and air handlers, etc). For 2009, the property was carbon POSITIVE.

To accomplish all this in a home that is architecturally correct as to design, materials, and installation makes one wonder what you would consider “Fine Homebuilding” to be?

The house has certainly forsaken the first premise, but the owner himself defends the construction which involves harvesting the stone and wood primarily from the site and state of the art building thermal envelopes and air handling equipment to be as efficient as possible.

The owner certainly built his house with all the New England frugality that his coast is famous for, but also with the showiness of that coast as well.  It is hard to place this house in either tradition without considering the other.  I once saw a custom car plate that read “Humble”.  Does that mean the car owner is or isn’t?  Does a green label on a large house mean the house owner is or isn’t?

On the opposite coast, in the heart of liberal, environment advocate central Berkley, another house intends to challenge these notions of size and greenitude.  Neighbors Oppose Green Label for the Software Mogul Mitch Kapor’s Big House – NYTimes.com

As opposed to an uncertified claim of green by the New England house owner, the battle lines for this West Coast house are drawn in a community driven green building label.  And again, the labeling is structured and codified to the point that a clever designer can achieve a green label without the rigor of explaining its size.  Unlike a more general standard such as LEED for Homes by the USGBC or a energy efficiency centered program such as EnergyStar by the Department of Energy, this local green building program does not factor for size or consumption.  Instead of looking to the first premise, the program follows a more mild objective which is to encourage those that build to be “more” green than they otherwise would.

This is weak policy, when such a house consumes such a swath of resources and energy, and still can get a government certified stamp of green approval.  I applaud the citizens of that community for being outraged at the hypocrisy, and yet I am sympathetic to the local government for moving our collective whole toward a greener way.

As a design/build professional caught in the middle, literally in Little Rock, Arkansas, I navigate the green ways and by ways of various building programs such as LEED, EnergyStar, HERS, and just good ole fashioned common sense.  Of the choices, I trust the latter.