New deck will be an outdoor room for relaxing and entertaining

Framing and decking are in place and new posts and cable rails will be installed for this first phase of enlarged deck. Phase II is the enclosure of a portion of the deck for a screen porch. See Deck and Screen Porch Enhance Outdoor Living for complete design intent. 

Maintenance was a concern due to daily traffic of work boots from landscaping job sites. For this reason we considered composite deck material although there were concerns about it looking “fake”. The Arbor Collection from AZEK offers a variety of options which more closely simluate natural wood rather than the stamped repetitive look of many products. We selected Morado for richness of color which resembles mahogany.

 

 

Enclosing porch creates mudroom and sheltered entry

This Arlington couple started out to replace a deteriorating walkway and saw an opportunity to replace and enhance an existing porch. The interior layout offers little space to welcome guests or stow wet shoes and umbrellas. Additionally an enclosed entry would enable us to remove the storm door and reveal the elegant design of the front entry door and sidelites.

We coordinated with Robert Gilmore Landscape Design to enlarge the porch footprint and provide a landing outside the new french door of the mudroom enclosure. Landscape design included a new bluestone paver walkway around the entry as well as reconfiguration of planting beds, a pea stone border for drainage, and a path through the back garden. Contractor David Picazio poured a new concrete base for the porch and wide bluestone steps for a more durable and gracious entry.

Located in an Historic District of Arlington, this modest dutch colonial on a small lot had an existing porch that was neither in keeping with the style of the home nor in good repair. Two abutters have homes of the same style and it was important that we propose a design which met the needs of the client while addressing the requirements of the Historic District and harmonizing with the adjacent properties.

When construction is complete later this month, the new entry will be enclosed in glass and have a built-in bench with cubbies for storage.

 

The art and archaeology of the modern construction site.

Three projects under construction this summer offered ample opportunity for discoveries in the walls; seeing new tools at work; and appreciating vintage design elements.

We found this miniature niche walled up in a Powder Room. Don’t you want to know what is behind the doors? Maybe gold bullion! Or dental floss.

Not a medieval device for encouraging cooperation – unless you are a cast iron soil pipe. This racheting soil pipe cutter snapped this pipe in seconds to allow install of new PVC per code.

This lovely tub filler with hand shower adapter is integral to the tub and could not be reused. But it did provide about 100 years of faithful service prior to demolition.

Contractor art. Just creatively letting us know that the Architect is driving him crazy again, no doubt.

Peabody GreenFest 2012

Exhibiting at GreenFest 2012 with a variety of companies concerned with mitigating our environmental impact. http://www.greenpeabody.org/

Talking to Window Woman of New England about restoring old windows for improved energy efficiency. Several firms are offering Energy Audits – the first step toward charting a course for energy saving retrofits. The Worthmore Group is showing National Fiber cellulose insulation and Solar Hot Water and Heat systems. Independent Power Systems has solar electric systems and is explaining the complex options from utility third-party purchase, leasing, and independent installations that allow owners to sell back to the utility company. And Greenscaping Earth Care is offering earth friendly landscaping and maintenance.
All this on a Saturday when we could be outside soaking up some passive solar radiation (after applying sunscreen, of course).

USGBC MA Film Screening of The Greening of Southie


Join USGBC MA Chapter’s Emerging Professionals group on Saturday, March 31, at 1pm, for a screening of the film The Greening of Southieat the South Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library (down the street from the star of the film, the Macallen Apartment Building.) http://www.macallenbuildingcondominiums.com/ 

This is a FREE event, open to the public; all are welcome to attend. Please, RSVP through the EPMA-USGBC.org website, at http://epma-usgbc.org/events/film-screening-of-the-greening-of-southie

THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE is a documentary about building Boston’s first LEED certified residential building. Check out the film summary and information here:http://www.greeningofsouthie.com/

What: Film screening of The Greening of Southie
When: Saturday, March 31, 2012, from 1pm-3pm
Location: South Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library, located at 646 East Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
Cost: FREE

Locavore Design and the 100-mile house

The path to sustainable design got a new branch recently. Or perhaps it is more accurately characterized as an heirloom scion grafted onto the growing family tree of the green movement. The Architecture Foundation of British Columbia announced a competition to design a new house using only “materials and systems made/ manufactured / recycled within 100 miles of the City of Vancouver.” Additional parameters include a maximum area of 1,200 square feet and 4 occupants. Affordability is not the focus of this competition but certainly an important consideration for any real-life project.

 

While the 100 Mile House idea might seem revolutionary, in some ways it is a return to fundamental ways of designing and building. Materials found close to a site are uniquely adapted to the enviromental conditions of a given region. Vernacular architecture grew out of low-tech (although not unsophisticated) responses to site conditions and building methods and varies considerably from region to region throughout time.

The experience of realizing the design and construction of a 100-mile house near Vancouver provides examples of the challenges and rewards of this approach. Writer and naturalist Briony Penn describes the experience as “fun” in a Good Design article by Mark Boyer. While Vancouver is a major city it is also rich in natural resources and production of wood and other building materials. The 100-mile restriction may be more onerous in a region focused on a different industry or geographically more dispersed. But if this movement gains a foothold it could lead to a revival of smaller and decentralized manufacturing and resource management initiatives to revitalize regional economies and job creation.

Early human settlements were scaled to the distance a person could cover on foot then on horseback/donkey then wooden carriage and bicycle and motorized vehicle. Now we zip from one continent to another in a matter of hours. It is understandable that the footprint of our buildings and their provenance has expanded with our highway systems and passports. Now that we have discovered the whole wide world (superficially or otherwise) the 100-mile House Challenge asks us to reconsider our own backyards and Main Streets. The satisfaction of building a home by supporting businesses that build community is akin to exploring a new country by revisiting our old ways.

 

This is your house on Energy

If you live in an older home in New England, chances are your exterior walls looks like the example on the left: no insulation, questionable vapor barrier, plenty of gaps to allow transfer of air between interior and exterior. Even if you don’t have X-ray vision, your heating and cooling bills will give you some clues as to the state of your building envelope. An energy analysis will show specific problem areas but if your home is already on an old lot which won’t accommodate new construction, a Deep Energy Retrofit (DER) may be your best option.
This approach essentially wraps the existing building in a blanket of insulation. The image on the right shows fiber insulation packed into the existing wall framing as well as a new interior wall which houses electrical boxes and other penetrations which reduce the insulation depth at their locations. Foil backed rigid foam insulation has been added to the exterior out to the depth of the roof overhang for the dual benefit of increasing insulation value and providing a continuous air barrier. All joints between materials are carefully sealed and gaps are filled with expanding foam.
This cutaway model is on view at booth 1010 at the NESEA Building Energy 12 conference in Boston through March 8. Exhibitors are Passive House New England and member representatives from Zero Energy Design and Boston Green Building.