Monday, September 26, 2011

Long time no see!

I am really not good at this whole posting somewhat regularly on a blog... But I will try to be better! This is another article that caught my eye about green design. And a lot of it is relating to my classes in college! (Weird, I know.) I love the idea of passive green design. It's just so smart!

5 Green Homes That Won Gold

By Mary Umberger, Inman News
September 23, 2011

The gulf between "green" and "gorgeous" seems to be narrowing. EcoHome magazine's second annual design awards singled out an array of houses that are not only environmentally exceptional, but look good at the same time.
It hasn't always been so.
"I don't want to say that good design and green haven't met in the past, but I think that they haven't been considered together as much as they are now," said Rick Schwolsky, editor in chief of the magazine, which recently bestowed its Grand Award designation on five homes from around the country.
Award winning green homes included:
• a subdivision of affordable homes in Hawaii;
• a passive-solar home in Carmel, Calif., that's so energy efficient that it has no air conditioning; and
• a major remodel of a 260-year-old home on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts that also had to meet architectural-preservation standards.
The magazine, which specializes in green products and practices for the residential construction industry, chose a panel of five judges that included architects, builders who specialize in sustainable building, and experts on green technology.
Schwolsky, editor of the 4-year-old publication, said that although various organizations offer design awards for "greenness," EcoHome ups the competition by requiring that the environmental considerations of each home in the contest be certified by an independent third party.
Those third parties can include the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building certification program, or the National Green Building Program administered by the National Association of Home Builders, among others.
What does "green" mean these days? For some time, he said, the ability to cut the heating and cooling bills has dominated consumer thinking, and that's probably still true. Use of recycled content, the end-of-life disposability of products, and site sustainability are all green criteria, he suggested.
Here are the five award-winning Eco-friendly homes:
Project: Caterpillar House
 Carmel, Calif.
Architect: Feldman Architecture
Builder: Groza Construction
The Caterpillar House in Carmel, CA
Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography
The Caterpillar House sits on a bluff in the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif. Its east-west, slightly curved layout maximizes passive solar gain, and additional energy savings come from concrete floors and rammed-earth walls that act as a thermal mass to protect against temperature fluctuations. Overhangs shade the south- and west-facing low-e windows. Ceiling fans and cross-ventilation also work to eliminate the need for air conditioning. A 27,300-gallon rainwater harvesting system supports all site irrigation, and all the plantings are native and drought-tolerant. The house has sustainability-certified cabinetry and reclaimed cork flooring. It has received LEED-Platinum certification.

Project: Kumuhau Subdivision
 Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii
Cost: Homes range in price from $225,000 to $325,000; average $121 per square foot
Architect: Armstrong Development
Builder: Armstrong Builders
The Kumuhau subdivision on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Photo: David Franzen,
Kumuhau subdivision in Waimanalo on the island of Oahu got praise not only for its green attributes, but also its price tag -- the five floor plans in the 45-home subsidized project cost from $225,000 to $325,000. Contest judges applauded the developers for taking a risk by forgoing air conditioning -- the homes use whole-house fans to exhaust hot air into the vented attics. Each house uses solar panels to supply about two-thirds of their electricity, and the homes are wired to accommodate more solar panels and to charge up an electric car. Rainwater is collected in 51-gallon storage for drip irrigation.

Project: Nantucket Island home remodel
 Nantucket Island, Mass.
Cost: $273 per square foot
Architect: Rosenberg Kolb Architects
Builder: Knapp Construction
Nantucket Island remodeled home.
Photo: Steve Moore
It wasn't enough that the owner of a 264-year-old home on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts wanted an addition that was conservation-minded; the house also had to pass muster according to local historic-preservation guidelines. The extensively insulated and sealed 260-square-foot addition included a kitchen, bathroom and entry, and new mechanical and ventilation systems; the project restored the original single-pane window sashes to conserve energy while meeting historical architectural standards.

Project: GO Home
 Belfast, Maine
Cost: $150 per square foot
Architect: GO Logic Homes
Builder: GO Logic Homes
The GO Home in Belfast, Maine.
Photo: Trent Bell Photography.
The GO Home in Belfast, Maine, is 1,300 square feet of near-zero energy use. It's the 12th house in the country to earn the rigorous Passive House designation from the Passive House Institute. Its LEED-Platinum certification is pending. Built with structural insulated panels and passive-solar features, it's expected to save up to $170,000 in energy costs over 30 years -- almost what it cost to build, according to EcoHome.

Project: Celo Residence
 Celo, N.C.
Architect: Samsel Architects, Asheville, N.C.
Builder: Sunspace Homes, Burnsville, N.C.
Home in Celo, N.C.
Photo: David Dietrich Photography.
The contest judges especially liked the pairing of energy technology with the use of natural materials inside and outside a 1,538-square-foot home in Celo, N.C. The house won praise for tree preservation; rainwater storage for irrigation; pervious walkways, patio and driveway to control water runoff; and the use of drought-resistant plants. The home also features sustainability-certified wood shingles and locally harvested stone. The home's walls are filled with spray-foam insulation and the windows and doors use low-e (low thermal emissivity) argon-filled glass.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nooks and Crannies

This article is so neat! I'm technically not a child anymore, but I still want a little reading nook in my room! (Can it be the C.S. Lewis one? Please?)


Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks


reading nook Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
Every child dreams of a secret space like this reading nook, hidden behind a pivoting bookshelf.
cubby bunk beds Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
Each of these bunk bed cubbies in a shared kids’ room feature a curtain that can be drawn for privacy. [via]
reading nook 2 Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
The colorful nook in this girl’s bedroom offers a cozy escape. [via]
hidden kids room Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
An armoire serves as the entrance to this C.S. Lewis-inspired hidden nook. [via]
reading nook 3 Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
A wide bottom shelf creates a perfect little reading nook in this space. [via]
trundle Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
This built-in makes the most of available space with a trundle bed. [via]
kidsroom Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
This child’s bedroom makes the most of difficult space. [via]
nook Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
A nook under the stairs. [via]
coral cubby Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
A lovely coral cubby.
niche Inspired Kids Rooms: Hidden Nooks
Every child’s dream. [via]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Trends in the Housing Market

I found this article to be very interesting about upcoming trends. It is interesting to see how the priorities are shifting from luxuries back to necessities. It is a nice change to see.

(Here is the url if you are interested.

Inside the New American Home

By Jill Krasny, MainStreet
Apr 29, 2011

Experts say the New American Home is small but smartly designed.
Photo: Dan Sandoval

While housing, and homebuilding in particular, have taken a massive hit due to the Great Recession, many housing experts do not expect this trend to continue long term as more unemployed Americans get back to work, empty-nesters begin to downsize or build their dream homes, and 'boomerang kids' who were “doubling-up,” or living with their extended family, decide to move out of Mom and Dad’s basement and strike out on their own.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, this “pent-up demand” for new homes is expected to increase only slightly in the coming months, but the new homes to enter the market will be tailor-made to fit Americans’ changing needs and desires in the post-recession years.
The McMansion home of pre-recession years is on the way out, but a quality home with “well-designed bones” that is relatively inexpensive to operate has become more desirable, says McIlwain.“What’s driving it all is affordability,” says John McIlwain, senior fellow for housing at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., who notes that high unemployment, credit and student loan debt, stricter mortgage rules and a surplus of foreclosed homes will likely continue to scare many first-time buyers from the housing market and keep new home construction relatively slow.
MainStreet talked to homebuilding experts to learn more about some of the key features home shoppers can expect to find in the new American home this year. Read on to learn all about the modern-day dream home and what not to expect on your house-hunting adventures.
Utility & Value
Homebuilders will continue to scale back on luxury add-ons, which are becoming more of an afterthought, says McIlwain, as homebuyers opt for a more modest and functional home, rather than a McMansion with a Jacuzzi and a heated pool.
“People are looking for shelter and value,” says Stephen Mellman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C. “Everyone has their own lifestyle and they want to find a home to enhance their lifestyle and make it more efficient.”
Also with affordability still a huge factor for homebuyers, buying a new home no longer entails “doing fancy things” just for the sake of making a boom era statement, nor does it mean sinking the greater chunk of your cash into a long-term investment, as “the likelihood that that house value will appreciate is extraordinarily remote,” notes McIlwain.
The most noteworthy trend this year is that homebuyers are beginning to see their home as an extension of their lifestyle, whether that means making a strategic move from the suburbs for a shorter commute, having more proximity to downtown hotspots or finding a way to downsize after the children have flown the coop.
“This is shelter,” Mellman agrees, “it isn’t just an investment to sell in a year; you’re going to live here and raise your kids here and that colors everything: how you design it and what you’ll enjoy."
Fuss-Free Kitchens
Whether your lifestyle is fast-paced or decidedly more conservative, Americans are spending more time in the kitchen and less in the formal dining room, which is starting to disappear. The reasons behind this shift vary from more Americans deciding to cook their own dinner to save on the costs of eating out or our increasing dependence on a usable kitchen that can entertain family and friends. As a result, spacious, eat-in kitchens that open up to the common room are now a huge trend for homebuilders in 2011, and the dining room, once its own separate space, is now simply designated by a table and chandelier, as people “try to do more with less,” says Mellman.
Eating meals with a view of the kitchen is considered 'in'.
Photo: Zillow

“You want an open kitchen because when you’re doing the cooking and entertaining, everybody gathers in the kitchen,” McIlwain says, noting Americans’ casual lifestyle and our ongoing obsession with food. “You don’t have a maid in the kitchen, but [when you’re cooking] you want to be part of the action. Cooking has become part of the whole entertainment process. And for couples, cooking together is a team sport, rather than an individual sport.”
But despite being the center of attention, the new American home’s kitchen doesn’t look quite as glamorous as it used to.
“The gourmet kitchen is on the way out,” says Mellman. “You don’t need eight burners” or a Vulcan stove, Mellman says. Americans post-recession are focused on standard appliances that they know they will use every day.
“A great stove, a fridge with an ice-maker and water filters, two sinks, a quiet wash dishwasher, or the equivalent—it doesn’t have to be commercial kitchen grade, but a decent quality kitchen that’s easy to move around in, and therefore cook in, with plenty of counter space and that’s easy to hang out in” is where the homebuilding trend is going, McIlwain says.
To save on kitchen construction costs, Dan Sandoval, a homebuilder with Republic Homebuilders in Fredericksburg, Va., says homebuyers are also forgoing traditionally pricey granite countertops for standard laminate countertops.
“Five years ago, they wouldn’t have sold, but now they’re OK,” he says of the materials. “It’s nice-looking, but very affordable,” unlike the dining room, which buyers now consider “wasted space” and an unattractive feature, says Sandoval.
“What I hear from customers is that they just don’t use it,” he says. “They don’t eat in there every Sunday, like their parents used to do. That’s not their lifestyle.”
Smaller Square Footage
It isn’t your imagination—the new American homes are actually getting smaller, according to a National Association of Home Builders’ report, The New Home in 2015.
In it, the NAHB found that the average size of single-family homes completed in 2009 dropped to 2,438 square feet, and in the first half of 2010, the average size of new homes completed continued its slide, dropping to 2,378 square feet.
What’s more, according to the NAHB study, bedrooms and baths have also downsized as well, as the share of single-family homes with four bedrooms or more has declined for three consecutive years, from 39% in 2005 and 2006 to 35% in the first half of 2010, and most new homes completed in 2008 and 2009 had either 2 or 2.5 baths (68%).
The Great Room living space resonates more than ever.
Photo: Zillow

So what’s the story behind all these shrinking homes? “New homes that are being built by and large are tending to be smaller because that makes them more affordable,” explains McIlwain, who adds that “even the very wealthy will buy a home much smaller than they could afford,” just to cut back on living costs or perhaps to funnel their money into retirement savings and other mid-life goals.
As a result, certain rooms, like the formal dining room and traditional living room, are becoming extinct species or taking new forms in the combination spaces that are beginning to crop up, such as the eat-in kitchen and dining area, or the second or third bedroom, which has begun to do double-duty as a home office, McIlwain says. “Whether they’re working at home or having a room to keep personal information, such as taxes, an in-home office is more to take care of personal matters,” adds Sandoval.
Meanwhile, Mellman says stairways are moving from their traditional post in the front of the house, or entrance/foyer, to the back and the side, in yet another effort by homebuilders to curtail construction costs and provide more room.
Energy-Efficient Materials
EnergyStar homes have become the gold standard, but homebuyers remain hesitant to splurge on solar roofs or eco-friendly siding, says Mellman.
“Some of my customers inquire about those systems, but they don’t see the return on it,” Sandoval explains about pricey green add-ons. “It’s too costly at this time. Unfortunately, a lot of our customers have lost a lot of their retirement in the stock market, and they’re just trying to get a basic house to last them in their retirement. They would love to have those sorts of things, but they have to think of the costs.”
Tax breaks also play a role, and the lack of them in Virginia makes them even less appealing for prospective homebuyers, says Sandoval. Adds Mellman: “People want to have a green home and incorporate those features, but to a certain extent they’re not going to stretch themselves to get those things. Also, appraisers weren’t including those things for awhile, so a home would sell for less than its actual value and the cost of construction.”
Still, energy-efficiency has become a mainstay for empty-nesters looking to cut down the costs of heating and cooling a home, while other amenities, like EnergyStar windows, are becoming more commonplace and widely embraced.
“Green is no longer an amenity,” says McIlwain. “EnergyStar, EnergyStar windows, very efficient HVAC systems, siding to take advantage of solar power—those are the homes that are selling and they’re becoming the standard. They’re materials you’ve got be attuned to.”