Michael is a panelist at A'18 the AIA Conference in New York City in June. The panel is sponsored by Residential Design Magazine and CRAN the Custom Residential Architect Network. Read more about the panel here.
As we work to make our buildings more sustainable, selecting environmentally responsible building products and materials is critical to reducing the carbon footprint and building healthy buildings. To select materials wisely, we have to understand what is in them, how they were made, and if they can be recycled at the end of their usefulness.
There are over 60,000 synthetic chemicals that were grandfathered when the first chemical regulatory system was adopted in the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act. These materials are considered innocent until proven guilty and the burden is on the public to prove they are unsafe.
Toxic chemicals can be found in many things including paints, flooring, carpeting, PVC pipes, and appliances. One example is Methylene chloride that is found is the paint stripper Goof Off Pro Stripper. Veena Singla, Ph.D Associate Director of Science and Policy at the University of California, San Francisco said, “Methylene chloride is a toxic chemical that can quickly build up to dangerous levels in work spaces. It can cause rapid unconsciousness and death and has killed far too many people already. These tragedies are preventable.” The elimination of toxic materials is most important for interior products where occupant exposure is an issue.
Materials should also be evaluated on their life cycle which includes embodied energy consumed in the raw material extraction, production, transportation, use, and recycling or disposal. This is especially important for large quantities of materials.
A tool that help determine the best materials is an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which is sometimes described as a “nutrition label for products”. The EPD document outlines the sustainability of a product. It includes a list of the basic materials and components, a description of the manufacturing process, the life cycle assessment, the carbon footprint and other environmental impact data such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions or third party certifications.
There are two good resources to find sustainable healthy products. One is The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a non-profit organization that provides independent certification of sustainable products from building materials to cleaning supplies. Their list of certified products are found at www.c2ccertified.org. The other is Building Green found at www.buildinggreen.com
We decided that it was time to invest in a security system for our house and office after our house was broken into on Christmas Day. As we starting researching, we discovered that the options were almost overwhelming. Did we want to self-monitor the system or have a third party monitor? Did we need cameras? Should every door and window be connected to the system? How many motion detectors? What about smart-house options? Did we want a professionally installed system or do it ourselves?
Contemporary alarm systems are comprised of three basic sub-systems, burglar alarms, smoke and fire alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms. Temperature and water sensors are also available.
The burglar alarm monitors the perimeter of the house with door and window sensors and cameras; the interior is monitored with motion detectors. Select motion detectors that are pet sensitive and will not be set off by your animals. Most people opt for a combination of the above. Depending on the visibility of your house to your neighbors, second story window sensors may not be needed.
Smoke and fire alarms can be the basic smoke detectors or be upgraded with a heat detector which monitors a sudden rise in temperature. The building code requires a smoke and fire alarm to be located in each bedroom, outside of each bedroom, and on every level. The alarms must be interconnected (either wirelessly or hardwired) so that all the alarms will sound when one is activated.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. The carbon monoxide alarms are installed on each level of the house and detect when carbon monoxide is present at an unsafe level. The building code requires carbon monoxide alarms in houses with fueled fired appliances and/or houses with attached garages. Most systems offer a combination smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarm. This reduces the number of sensor mounted on the walls.
Temperature sensors monitor cold air inside the house to prevent pipe freezing. The water sensor detects water intrusion or a leaking water heater.
Cost can be a determining factor in deciding whether to have a centralized third party monitor or to self- monitor. A self-monitoring system will notify you on your smart phone when the alarm is activated. It is then your responsibility to call 911 or determine if it is a false alarm. One drawback with this system is if your phone is turned off you will not be notified. Centralized third party monitoring has an on-going subscription fee. Many home insurance policies provide a credit for monitored systems so it might be a break even investment. Both professionally installed systems and do-it-yourself systems offer centralized third party monitoring.
Remote access and the integration with a home automation system is available with most security systems. With the remote access you can log on and control your security system, thermostat, lights, locks, and other connected items. Some systems will even notify you when someone rings your doorbell and you can talk to them by video on your phone. Most systems allow you to add additional automation features at a later date.
Online reviews of security systems and meeting with local security specialists can help you determine the best solution for your needs and budget. The system we selected for our house and office was professionally installed and monitored. We chose it because of the ease of use, the ability to add home automation systems later, and the price was reasonable.
Spring is in the air in the lowcountry! Every day, the marsh gets greener and our clients get closer to living in their dream homes! Here are a some progress photos from a few of our current projects:
Framing is progressing nicely at the Spring Island house. Spring Island is one of our favorite communities in Beaufort County. We love their dedication to preserving the natural beauty of the island!
Port Royal Plantation
It's always fun to see the view that our clients will enjoy from the elevated height. Quite a view from this house!
Framing on the garage for this project is nearly complete, and beginning for the main house.
This renovation project is almost finished. We started construction over a year ago by raising the house 5 ' to get it out of the flood plain. Here is the post of when we raised it.
An exterior rendering is an excellent tool when selecting colors and materials for your home. To decide the window color for our project on St Simon's Island, Benjie prepared three options to show the clients. By using a combination of our Revit model, photographs and stock photos of plants and materials, Benjie can create a realistic image of the house. The live oaks in this rendering are from photographs of the site!
Our clients love to host large dinner parties at their historic lowcountry plantation. A tent erected on the lawn worked well until this winter when it was just too cold! The cold winter inspired them to build a dining hall that will seat thirty. The cozy interior is all antique heart pine. We will break ground soon to be ready for next winter’s cold weather.
Across the south, spring is a popular time for tours of homes. With warmer weather and flowers blooming, it’s a lovely time to get out and explore your own or visit another town. Here in Beaufort, Historic Beaufort Foundation hosts its annual Architect’s Tour. The tour showcases contemporary homes in and around Beaufort designed by local architects. This year the tour will take place on Saturday, March 17. We have the Reynolds' House on Cat Island on the tour. See more photographs of the project here.
Nearby, Savannah’s Tour of Homes & Gardens is from March 22-25. There is a different walking tour each of the four days, as well as a variety of special events and seminars.
Historic Charleston Foundation Festival of Houses and Gardens begins March 15 and continues through April 21. There are a number of walking tours that feature different neighborhoods on the peninsula. In addition to the house and garden tours, the festival hosts a variety of lectures and musical performances. The Festival of Houses and Gardens coincides with the Charleston Antiques Show, March 16-18 and with the Garden Club of Charleston’s Springtime in Charleston House and Garden Tour from March 23 & 24.
2018 Prince George Plantation Tours are from March 23-24 and feature pre-revolutionary and antebellum churches, town homes and plantations in and near Georgetown.
Historic Columbia offers year-round tours of several notable historic homes, including the Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion, Mann-Simons Site and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.
If you are up for a weekend trip, Madison Georgia boasts one of the largest National Register Historic Districts in Georgia. The Madison in May Spring Tour of Homes and Gardens is May 4-5, 2018.
On May 5, historic cottages and contemporary homes will open their doors during the Tybee Tour of Homes on Tybee Island, Georgia.
We just presented this beach front house to the clients and they love it! This is the ocean side with multiple terraces and porches. The top deck will have endless views - probably almost to England!
Our latest project to begin construction is on Spring Island. I included drawings, since its hard to visualize the house at this point. It is going to be gorgeous!
Jane Frederick, FAIA is one of three jurors for the 10th Annual Marvin Windows Architect’s Challenge. The international competition awards winners in six categories, contemporary, transitional, traditional new construction, remodel or addition, commercial, and historic. The majority of the windows and doors in the submitted projects must be Marvin brand products.
The winners will be announced at the American Institute of Architect’s 2018 Conference in June in New York City. The two other judges are Matthew Kreilich, AIA of Snow Kreilich Architects in Minneapolis and Takashi Yanai, FAIA of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects in Los Angeles.
The Wall Street journal recently had an article on The Risks of Buying a Home that is Too Big. It elicited a big – DUH – in the comments because their reasons were the obvious ones… more expensive to build, heat, furnish, maintain, and higher property taxes. What they didn’t explore was how to determine what the right size home is for you, your family, location, and budget. There are five major factors to consider in choosing the right sized house.
1. Who is going to live in the house most of the time? This is one of the key elements, a family of 5 will probably need more room that a family of 2 or 3. The larger family may need more bedrooms, a larger laundry room, and maybe a separate kid friendly space for playing. If the house is for a retired couple who are home most of the day, there might be a call for separate offices or hobby spaces. It is essential to spend time thinking about how the family will live in the house and what spaces are needed to enhance family harmony.
2. How and how often do you entertain? Houseguests two or three times a month require a different amount of space than a houseguest once or twice a year. Large dinner parties require space for guests to both mingle and sit down to eat.
3. How much stuff do you have? Unless you channel your inner Marie Kondō and get rid all of your possessions, most people have a fair amount of stuff. Categorize like items for storage and determine how they will be stored. We once included 500 square feet of storage just for the Christmas decorations for a client. The size of your furniture, area rugs and artwork will also determine the sizes of the spaces.
4. What is your budget? If you need more spaces than comfortably fit within your budget, it is best to see if rooms can be multi-functional. A once a year guest room can easily double as an office the other 51 weeks of the year.
5. What is the average size house in the neighborhood? We occasionally have clients who say “ I will move out of this house feet first and it is up to my heirs to worry about selling it.” That is the rare view; most homeowners do not want their house to be the biggest or most expensive in the neighborhood because of resale.
It is also important to realize that other than the working rooms of kitchens, baths and utility rooms, all other rooms are flexible in their function to fit your needs and lifestyle.