Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The most basic home office is the space where you manage the home. A small desk built into the kitchen area often provides adequate space for paying and filing bills, keeping family members’ schedules, and posting invitations and
notices. This office needs space for a computer and printer, file drawers, a pencil drawer, a bulletin board and some bookshelves. Some advantages of the kitchen office are the easy access to view recipes and the ability to monitor homework while preparing dinner.
Many homeowners have an office that is a private retreat where leisure activities or hobbies are pursued. Traditionally these were heart pine paneled rooms with custom made bookshelves and a finely designed fireplace. Currently we are seeing his and her spaces with specialized cabinetry for the individual’s activities such as sewing, painting, and other crafts. In studio spaces you should pay close attention to natural lighting, the durability of the materials, the need for special equipment or sinks, and the elimination of odor produced by the activity.
The third type of office space is used by the remote worker from the corporate office. These offices usually do not need much storage because all the files are stored in virtual space. They do need to be in a quiet spot in the house far from the daily hustle and bustle. They often have separate phone and fax lines from the main house line.
The last type of home office is a home based business. Ideally you want your home business in a separate building or at least with a separate exterior entrance if you have any clients or employees coming to the office. Cabinetry and storage need to be designed for the particular nature of your business. Separate phone, fax and electric meters are common in home businesses. Home businesses are covered in Zoning Codes, so check with your local planning office if you are considering opening a home business.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The roof system is composed of structural elements, insulation and moisture barriers. A moderately sloped hip roof with simple lines is recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the best design to resist uplift for our hurricane prone area.
The roof rafters or trusses should be attached to the wall framing by hurricane clips as per code. The roof sheathing is typically tongue and groove plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) nailed to the rafters or trusses.
The best underlayment is a self adhering polymer modified bitumen sheet covering the entire roof deck instead of the standard building paper. The modified bitumen sheet underlayment provides an exceptional moisture barrier throughout construction and later in the event that the final roof covering is compromised. Insurance companies often will reduce your premium with a high performance underlayment.
When choosing your roof, consider the solar reflectance of the material for maximum energy savings. The higher the number (a decimal between 0 and 1) the better. Generally lighter roofs have a higher solar reflectance but there are new advances in paints that create “cool-roofs” in many colors for metals roofs. Look for an “Energy Star” qualified roof product.
The most typical roofing materials in the Lowcountry are asphalt shingle (both fiberglass and organic) and standing seam metal panels. We also see the occasional clay or concrete tile roof.
Asphalt shingles have the lowest initial cost of any roof and the shortest life. Organic reinforced shingles tend to degrade faster in warm climates so it is best to use fiberglass reinforced shingles here.
Tile roofs are very vulnerable to breakage from windborne debris and then become missiles themselves. It is imperative to have a high performance underlayment with a tile roof. Tile roofs also have a greater thermal mass and will radiate captured heat into the structure even when the sun has gone behind a cloud.
Metals roofs include steel, copper, terne and zinc. Zinc and copper have the longest life span. Terne is the traditional metal for on historic home and is fairly high maintenance requiring paint every seven years. Steel with a “cool roof” paint is the most common. High quality metal roofs installed correctly have resisted extremely high winds according to FEMA. Metal roofing is the most ecologically sound choice due to the energy efficiency with cool roof paints, its long life, durable finish, low thermal mass and its one hundred percent recyclability. Metal roofs also have the advantage of easily shedding leaves and pine straw debris.
Your new roof is only as good as the installation. Make sure you use a licensed roofing contractor. You can look up a contractor’s state license at https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup The National Roofing Contractor’s Association has helpful publications http://www.nrca.net
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The selection of your door hardware is extremely important. It is the first item you and your guest touch when you enter your house. It should feel solid and project the level of quality that will be found throughout your house. I like contemporary door hardware and these are some of my favorites. The two top levers are by my favorite hardware company FSB http://www.fsbna.com/. The left lever was designed by Max Burchartz in the 30's and the right lever was designed by Jasper Morrison. The bottom level is by Valli and Valli www.vallievalli.com.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
While attending the South Atlantic Regional Convention of the American Institute of Architects last month in Greenville, I had the delightful pleasure of visiting the only other project designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in South Carolina. We were entertained by the original contractor and viewed the complete set of working drawings for the house and furniture, all six pages of them!
The 1727 square foot, three bedroom, two and one half bath, Broad Margin was designed by Wright in 1951 for sisters, the Misses Gabrielle and Charlcey Austin. Wright named the house Broad Margins after the passage, “I love a broad margin to my life.” from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. In 1978, the house was listed on the National Registered of Historic Places.
Broad Margin is an Usonian House, a term coined by Wright to describe his small affordable houses that were typically single story, built on a concrete slab of native materials with large overhangs. He was particularly sensitive to building the house to fit into the landscape.
The siting of the Broad Margin is quintessential Wright. The downtown Greenville site is heavily wooded and bordered by two creeks; you feel like you are miles from civilization. The approach to the house is from above and your first view is of the large low sloped roof. The modest entrance is through the carport into a narrow hall that functions as a spine to the building. All the rooms open out to the view and a series of decks that step down the hillside.
The house is constructed of stone, poured in place concrete, Lowcountry cypress and glass. The great room has a magnificent sunken stone fireplace as the focal point. The kitchen is the only room without a view but it has an eighteen foot ceiling culminating in a skylight. The floor is Wright’s signature red poured in place concrete with radiant heating.
The current owner has lovingly restored the house and had the dining room table rebuilt to Wright’s specifications, a previous owner sold the dining room furniture. Most of the other original furniture designed by Wright is still in place.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The man in the photograph below was the original contractor for the house. We also were able to view the original drawings for the project....there were only 8 sheets and that included all the furniture drawings. The original dining table and chairs were sold by a pervious owner. These were made from the original drawings by Michael McDunn of Greenville. The contractor said that these were nicer than the original ones.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Eureka Lighting's Mini Silena Double is a good light for a bathroom vanity. http://tinyurl.com/yelagp9
The "Artichoke" fixture by Louis Poulsen Lighting is celebrating 50th years. http://tinyurl.com/ycgla3y
The candle fixture by Kevin Reilly for Holly Hunt has been copied by many other companies but none of them are as good as the original.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Task Lighting is the lighting that illuminates the area where you are working or reading. These fixtures include under cabinet lights and reading lights. Ambient Lighting is the gentle overall lighting for the room. This light fills the room with a warm glow from an indirect light source that is bounced off the ceiling. Cove lighting, pendant hung indirect fixtures, and opaque wall sconces are some of the ambient light fixtures. Accent Lighting is the dramatic light. These lights highlight works of art, give depth to a room, and wash over interesting textures in your home. Recessed adjustable ceiling fixtures, track lighting and uplights are used for accent lighting. Decorative Lighting is eye candy. Its main purpose is to look pretty. Chandeliers and some wall sconces are for decoration. These fixtures should not be too bright or they will overpower other design elements of the space. Natural Daylight provided through carefully designed windows and skylights gives great light during the day and can reduce the need for electrical lighting.
I incorporate the following three lighting scenarios in almost all of my projects. In bathrooms never locate a wall mounted fixture over the mirror; it will cast harsh shadows and prematurely age you. Instead use two wall sconces mounted on either side of the mirror. The fixtures should be at eye level, which is generally 5’-6” above the finished floor. Tall narrow fixtures accommodate most family members.
The traditional design for bedside reading lights is a wall mounted swing arm fixture which has to be mounted carefully to be at the right height for actual reading. A better solution is two recessed adjustable low voltage halogen ceiling fixtures located over the bed. The lamps should have a tight beam spread, such as a MR-16 ESW. The fixture on the right should be aimed to the left side of the bed and vice versa to prevent your head from casting a shadow on your book. The switches should be located accordingly. The fixtures should be located 18” to 24” from the wall and 2’ from the center of the bed.
Chandeliers over dining tables are decorative and do not provide the accent lighting necessary to show off the sparkle of your crystal and silver. The same recessed ceiling fixtures that were used as reading lights in the bedroom can be located over your dining table as accent lights; the bulb should have a wider beam spread. They should be located on the long axis of the table 3’-6” from the middle of the table. Almost all fixtures throughout your house should be on a dimmer to control the amount of light and extend the life of the lamp.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
During the conceptual design phase, we start by developing a concept for the design. Successful concepts for previous clients include: 1. The design of the house will complement the owners collection of arts and crafts furniture; 2. The house is to be a jewel box for weekend retreats; 3. All major living spaces should have a view of the significant live oak; and 4. The house will be based on a vernacular dog-trot.
We then begin to translate your program into a design that can be constructed. Possible design solutions are developed as freehand thumbnail sketches (often with a bit of watercolor added to improve readability) allowing us to quickly test design and siting ideas. We will also explore sections and elevations of the project. Massing, fenestration (window and door openings), and style are all quickly studied.
A well conducted conceptual design phase is critical to the success of the project as decisions that effect budget, function and your ultimate satisfaction are being made. We must be open minded, creative, and keep asking "what if we…?" to arrive at the best solution.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Owners: The most important team member. There are three intertwined factors involved in the design and construction of a house; 1) project size, 2) cost, 3) quality of construction and detailing. To stay within budget; the owners determine which of the two factors are most important to them. The architect then has control the third factor. The owners involvement throughout the project varies from owner to owner; you can be involved in every selection or rely on the professionals and approve the design decisions at each junction.
Architect: The architect is responsible for translating the owners program into a design that is appropriate for the site and client. The architect is responsible for coordinating with the other professionals. The architect produces drawings and specifications to communicate the design to others. The architect will also present the designs to any review boards.
Structural Engineer: The structural engineer is responsible for ensuring that the structure is designed to meet the local building and hurricane codes.
Geo-technical Engineer: The soils are tested by the geo-technical engineer to determine their bearing capacity. This information is used by the structural engineer in the design of the foundation.
Interior Designer: The interior designer works with the architect and owner in selecting the interior finishes, furniture, fixtures, and window treatments.
Landscape Architect: The landscape architect works with the architect and owner in the design of all exterior spaces, finishes and plant material.
Arborist: We often recommend the use of a certified arborist when there are significant trees on the property that we want to protect. The arborist will trim the dead wood and deep fertilize the trees prior to construction.
General Contractor: This is the team member who actually builds the project based on the drawings and specifications provided by the design professionals.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
August is the time of year when many people ask, “What can be done to lower my energy costs? And how can I get the most bang for my buck with the available tax credits?” The easiest way is to reduce the need for air conditioning by insulating and closing gaps in your house. Start by having a Home Energy Audit which consists of two tests. The first is a blower door test that measures the tightness of your house and helps identify the leaks’ location. The HVAC ducts undergo the same testing in the duct blaster test. The home energy audit will determine if caulking and new insulation is needed. The tax credit for new insulation is limited to 30% of the cost (including installation) and the insulation must meet the 2009 International Energy and Conservation Code (IECC). For Beaufort County the 2009 IECC requires R-30 insulation in the ceiling, R-13 in the exterior walls and R-19 in the floor. The Department of Energy’s (D.O.E.) recommendation for Beaufort County is R30 to R60 in the ceiling, R 15 in the exterior walls and R-25 in the floor.
The window and door replacement tax credit is also 30% of the cost. There are two requirements for windows and doors. The U-Factor measures the heat loss a window allows, the lower the number the better (between 0.2 and 1.2). The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is a number between 0 and 1 that measures the amount of heat transferred through a window, the lower the number the better. The tax credit requires a U-Factor of less than 0.30 and a SHGC of less than 0.30. You will also want to consider Impact Resistance Glass which will protect your openings during a hurricane.
The roof replacement tax credit is limited to 30% of the cost of material only. The roofs must be qualified metal or reflective asphalt shingles as listed by Energy Star. If your house is shaded or has a super insulated roof the benefits of reflective roofing will not have as large of impact.
An air to air heat pump is the most common HVAC system found in the Lowcountry. The tax credit is also limited to 30% of the cost. The deciding factors are the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) which measures the cooling mode of the heat pump. The SEER Rating is a number between 13 and 22, the higher the number the better. The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency of the heating mode of the unit. The HSPF is between 6.8 and 9.5, the higher the number the more efficient the unit. The final measurement is the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) which measures the peak cooling capacity. The EER is between 11 and 14 and the high number is the desired rating. For split systems the tax credit requirements are SEER Rating of 15, EER of 12.5 and HSPF of 8.5. The package unit requirements are SEER Rating of 14, EER of 12 and HSPF of 8.
Currently only gas and propane tankless Energy Star rated Water Heaters meet the requirements for the tax credit, which is also 30% of the cost.
For additional information the following sites may be helpful.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
As incoming president elect of American Institute of Architects/South Carolina Chapter, I might appear to be biased but architects add value to all projects.
- The architect’s trained eye will help the homeowner make the best decisions for their project and often save the client money. In one project, my client thought they needed a major kitchen renovation. We relocated one door and all the traffic flow problems were solved.
The architect can connect you house to the site and take advantage of the views and breezes. We have numerous renovation projects where the original house was a plan book house that was plopped down with a total disregard to the uniqueness of the site. By adding windows and exterior living spaces the homeowner can enjoy the view that they moved to the Lowcountry to see.
Architects are fully conversant in the local building and zoning codes. Another client hired me after they had started a project with an unlicensed jack-of-all-trades. The under-construction guest house was a dysfunctional unsafe mess. We were able to salvage the project to meet their needs and the building code.
Your architect will work with you on the scope of your project and material selections to ensure that the design meets your needs and budget requirements. Making all the design decisions prior to construction is the only way to ensure that your project stays on time and on budget.
The architect prepares a complete set of construction documents that are a graphic and written record of decisions made. The drawings are considered complete in that they include all the information that a contractor needs to build the project. This also allows bids from contractors to be comparable.
Finally, architects are invaluable during the construction phase as the owner’s advocate. They review the work and advise the client regarding design compliance. They also review and advise on the appropriateness of change orders. The architect is with you through good and bad; they help the contractor understand the design intent; and they ensure that decisions made during construction are consistent with the decisions made during design.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
David Cronrath, Dean of the School of Art and Design at LSU, eloquently explains in the following essay why we should not "slavishly reproduce the past" in buildings built today.
I fear Louisianans are increasingly uncomfortable with the future. The recent concern over Trey Trahan's design for the new Louisiana State Museum in downtown Natchitoches reflects this fear of change and innovation that is incongruous with our proud past.
There was a time when Louisianans had confidence in the future and made an imprint of their optimism on the landscape. They creatively adapted traditional ways of building to a strange land with a harsh climate. They utilized the technology at their disposal. They improvised with materials. The buildings these Louisianans built did not look like their European predecessors. By Old World standards they were crude, ungainly, stumpy, and strange – you can be sure some said they were just plain ugly. But today we admire these buildings for their ingenuity and the identity they defined.
What we can learn from our architectural past is that great buildings are not defined by style. Style is the classification of particular forms and shapes. By its very nature style is a formal classification. It never attempts to reveal content or origins. Reproducing a past style of architecture during a period of societal transformation is to reduce cultural processes to stale imitation.
Significant buildings are reflections of their culture – ideals, mores and aspirations. Vibrant and productive cultures change, adapt and transform the way they organize the environment they inhabit. Consequently, dynamic cultures invent new forms and spaces to reflect the future they desire. Only cultures that have ceased to be vital reproduce what they did in the past. Cultural innovation and change are the hallmarks of healthy and robust societies … just like our ancestors.
Given this situation how are we to judge a successful building, especially in an historical context like downtown Natchitoches? The answer is surprisingly simple. Respect the scale of the surrounding buildings, develop a design that is integrated with its context, utilize the latest building technologies, and develop a plan that is respectful of the changing function of our institutions. Strangely, European societies understand these precepts far better than we do. Perhaps because they are centuries older and long understood that vibrant societies must change to new circumstances or become obsolete. Europeans are not disturbed by a medieval structure next to the Baroque, or a Renaissance palace cheek to jowl with a modern building. For them it is not an issue of style or imitation.
When I review the design for the New Louisiana State Museum in Natchitoches by Trey Trahan I find a thoughtful design that matches the principles outlined above. It is respectful of scale, context and technology. Does it look like a reproduction of historical Louisiana buildings? Certainly not and it shouldn’t. To slavishly reproduce the past would tell future generations that we have given up hope for a vital Louisianan culture. It would also be disrespectful of a rich cultural heritage. We demonstrate our respect and love for the historical by preserving it whenever possible and avoiding building deprecating imposters. We should have enough faith in our time to not belittle the past.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
What does it mean to build green? There are several certification programs active in the Lowcountry. They all have third party verification requirements and different programs for different building types. Some require performance -based measurements while others have a prescriptive path to the desired performance level. The non-residential programs are led by the design team of architects and engineers and the residential programs are under the purview of the contractor. The major local programs are listed at the end of this post.
There are five general areas that all the programs measure; Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy Use, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. There are mandatory requirements and a minimum number of earned points in each category. Each program awards different levels of certification based on the number of points earned. For example the LEED programs are LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, and the highest rated LEED Platinum.
The areas overlap and green strategies can often result in points in several categories. The decision to have daylight in all interior spaces can gain points in Energy Use (less need for electric lights) and Indoor Environmental Quality (occupants’ well being is better with daylight and a view).
Sustainable site requirements are focused on minimizing the building impact which includes: locating the project in a developed area, preferably on a pre-developed site within walking distance of essential services; using regionally appropriate landscaping; controlling stormwater runoff both during and after construction; and reducing erosion, light pollution, and construction related pollution.
Water Efficiency rewards water conservation both inside and outside. The interior strategies include high efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings. Water-wise landscaping and water harvesting in rain barrels or cisterns for reuse are exterior conservation options.
The single most important category is Energy & Atmosphere, where the overall goal is to reduce energy consumption and encourage the generation of renewal energy. Strategies include: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, HVAC systems and lighting; use of renewable and clean sources of energy generated on-site or off-site; and natural daylight in spaces by windows or skylights.
Materials & Resources promote the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. This category also is concerned with the reduction of waste both from the construction site and the manufacturer’s site as well as reuse and recycling. Attention is given to the travel distance of materials and resources to the construction site and to the manufacturer’s plant. Reuse of an existing building, recycled materials, and locally produced materials are the high point favorites.
Indoor Environmental Quality strives to improve indoor air quality; access to natural daylight and views; and improving acoustics. The category focuses on reducing indoor pollutants such as VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) in paint and off gassing of irritants found in adhesives, carpets, composite wood products and furniture. Strategies include managing moisture to prevent mold, increasing ventilation rates and mechanical controls to maintain the proper levels of temperature and humidity.
According to the United States Green Building Council, buildings account for approximately 39% of total annual US energy consumption (31% for building operations, 8% for building construction). Building operations (heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, etc.) account for 38% of total annual US greenhouse gas emissions. And 72% of all the electricity produced at power plants in the US goes to operate buildings. So it is time for us all to learn more about green building and consider getting your project certified. You might even qualify for a tax credit.
Non-Residential Green Certification Programs
LEED Programs by
U.S. Green Building Council http://www.usgbc.org
Green Globes by
Green Building Initiative http://www.thegbi.org
Sustainable Building Challenge by
International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment
Residential Green Certification Programs
LEED for Homes by
U.S. Green Building Council http://www.usgbc.org
NAHB National Green Building Program by
National Assoc. of Home Builders http://www.nahb.org
Earthcraft House http://earthcrafthouse.com