Join me at the Energy Design Conference!

January 27th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer


I’ve just registered for the 16th annual Energy Design Conference in Duluth on February 7th and 8th. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about integrated building design and energy efficiency and to network with people also interested in sustainability.

Carpool? I’ll be heading up early in the morning on Tuesday and taking a hotel Tuesday night, then returning Wednesday evening. If you would like to join me, drop me a note!

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The Tulikivi is In!

January 25th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

--Tulikivi Stove Photo--

Last weekend, we visited David and Laurie Hougen-Eitzman’s house to check out the new wood stove. I must say, that it looks great.

Tulikivi manufactures soapstone stoves designed to burn very hot (and therefore very clean), to store the heat of combustion in the mass of the stone, then to radiate it into the space gradually thru time. Even though it burns so hot, you can put your hand on the stone. The kids immediately gravitated to the stove, leaning against it. Confession: I wanted to do the same.

The heat radiated by the stove was wonderful, and you could press right up against it if you needed more warmth. Likewise, you could back off when you had had enough. And the stone just begged to be touched; it is soft and soapy feeling.

Below is the main firebox, which sports vision glass on both sides. Above, on the kitchen side, is the bake oven, coveted by David for artisan bread and pizza making. We left before the food was ready, and I haven’t yet heard how the inaugural baking went. I’ll keep you posted.

I posted two more images in our gallery. Take a look!

The stove meets many needs in one blow: Heat, beauty, food preparation, sustainability, spatial definition, focal point, energy efficiency, and a place to gather. There is an efficiency here in meeting multiple needs with minimal resources that is truly great. Thinking it through, an average house might achieve the same with a furnace, an oven, a sculpture or painting, and a gas fireplace, without addressing sustainability nor energy efficiency nor achieving similar aesthetics!

The stove was provided by Woodland Stoves & Fireplaces of Minneapolis.

Painting is underway, hence all the masking paper and plastic. More as construction continues…

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A Smashing Success!

January 23rd, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Our second birthday party was great fun! We started a little early and went late visiting with friends, family, clients and colleagues. I had so much fun that we’re considering another party at 25 (months)!

In retrospect, we should have had awards:

Most bicycular mode of transit award would have been Eric Johnson
Distant Instate Visitor award: Brian and Ali Dvorak of St. Louis Park, with runners up Paul, Rita and Julian
Distant Outstate Visitor: Mary Ellen and Bill Schmelzer of Wausau, Wisconsin
Non-Client-Found-their-House-in-our-Photo Award: James Schlichting
Non-Client-who-lives-closest-to-highest-number-of-our-projects: David and Julie Bubser
Most-recently-blogged-client’s-project: David and Theo Hougen-Eitzman
Looks-most-like-me: Paul Schmelzer (highest honor?)

Thanks to all who came to celebrate with us, and thanks to those who sent well wishes with your regrets. Most of all, thank you for your support, friendship, and collaboration in these first two years!

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Responsible design is about providing for real needs, not perceived wants.

January 19th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Responsible design is about providing for real needs, not perceived wants.

I found this one on as part of a blurb on an anti-malaria watch.

It’s bluntness is great. And, it hits at the heart of an issue with which I’ve been wrestling.

Many of the homes that are built today are built based on hypothetical needs of a hypothetical home owner; translated: perceived wants, not real needs. A great example is the formal dining room, which rarely gets used but is often built anyway. Hottubs are another “feature” that are often underutilized (I think I heard that the average hottub is used 7 times in its lifetime).

This may be due to housing being handled as a commodity to be purchased and sold, rather than really lived in. Example: how often have you thought of the resale value of your sofa? Comfort and fit are more important in our sofa selections than the list of features it may have (built-in drink holders, stainless steel legs, double stitched seams, …)

So, do we really need 4 full bathrooms, or is the real need bathing and toilet facilities to get a family of five through their morning routine between 7:00am and 7:20 am (insert your schedule here)?

Responsible design is about providing for real needs, not perceived wants.

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Green, Waterproof Concrete

January 16th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Concrete absorbs water.

Make it salty in the MN winter and you’ve got trouble. Saltwater rapidly corrodes reinforcing steel, which is bad news for parking ramps, bridges and roads.

Cover your damp foundation with insulation and drywall and you’ve got a potential mold problem.

Here is a solution that seems to solve the problem: Hycrete. It is an additive to concrete that fills the molecular gaps in the concrete, making it hydrophobic. From their website:

The corrosion resistant basics of all Hycrete formulations are constant. When used in concrete, Hycrete provides two levels of protection.

Hycrete protects the reinforcing steel. Hycrete coats the steel surface with a monomolecular film. One end of the Hycrete molecule is polar by nature and attaches to other polar particles, such as iron or other metallic molecules.

Hycrete provides water proofing properties to the concrete. Hycrete is reactive. It reacts with metals in the water, metals in the concrete, and metals of the reinforcement. From the reaction, a precipitate is formed where one end of the molecule has a long hydrocarbon chain. Like oil repels water, this precipitate fills the capillaries of the concrete, repelling water and shutting down capillary absorption.

And from a Hycrete press release:

“… According to William McDonough, founding partner of McDonough & Partners and a leader in the sustainable development and green office movements, “The need for external membrane and coating systems is eliminated [with Hycrete]. Any time a process in construction can be avoided, more is accomplished with less, and savings through time and material are realized.””

Via Treehugger.

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Come to our Jan. 17 Presentation: Residential Design

January 10th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

On January 17,2006, I will be presenting “VIVUS: Residential Architecture and Interior Design” to a group of local business people in Faribault, Minnesota, and you are welcome to attend!

The purpose will be to clarify how architects fit into the residential construction scene, to illustrate the value we provide to our clients, and to answer your questions about working with an architect to improve your home.

To start, we will talk about our approach to residential design, including philosophy, customer service, value, energy efficiency, and the process of design and construction. Then we’ll walk you through some of our recent projects to illustrate how close collaboration between Owner, Architect, and Contractor delivers results. We’ll spend some time on the design process and how to work with an architect.

You will be able to order breakfast and will be asked to introduce yourself to the group. They are a fun bunch, and all are welcome.

If you have any questions or would like to attend, let me know, and we’ll keep an eye out for you! The more the merrier!

Event Specifics:
Trucker’s Inn (meeting room)
7:00 am
2519 Lyndale Ave N
Faribault, MN 55021-2612
(507) 334-3333

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Bloggers, check out!

January 10th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

If you haven’t seen and are an online-most-of-the-time type, you really should visit.

It is local community online. At this site, you can do it all, except smell the coffee at Goodbye Blue Monday (Griff, can you work on that?). Check the local news, engage in discussion of issues, read blogs (local businesses – including VIVUS-, school board, councilpeople, senators, non-profits and others), pick up podcasts, find out what’s going on in town, and touch base with both colleges.

From the site:

Our mission is to create an electronic commons that strengthens the fabric of community in the greater Northfield area. We facilitate online access to existing community resources, provide services for citizens and non-profit organizations to electronically publish and communicate with one another, and host online discussions, including timely conversations on civic issues with the community’s leaders.

We think it’s good for democracy for citizens to be more than passive consumers of media. We see weblogs as a tool that can be used for “conversational journalism” or “citizen-driven journalism,” a unique way to have a dialogue among separate sources of information that’s not otherwise easily done.

We think it’s possible that the collective wisdom of Northfield’s Civic Blogosphere (citizens, community leaders, public officials, government staff) can help improve the effectiveness of local government.

Check now, then check back in about a month because they’ll be launching a new platform that promises to be even better!

Well done, Northfield Citizens Online! You’ve set the bar high!

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