St. Dominic’s School Outing

May 30th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

As promised, here are photos of our Spudzooka shoot-off benefit for St. Dominic School.

John at the helm

John models the cannon and its trusty tripod.


Here is the crew, enjoying the action and a beautiful May afternoon.


Everyone enjoyed shooting the cannon, including the kids!


Of course, the dads had to experience the recoil directly. Tripod-mounted shooting proved marginally more accurate than the bazooka position. You can’t expect great ballistics from a tuber after all.

Special thanks to Cindy at the Bittersweet Eatery for catering the event.

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All work and no play….

May 29th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

Spudzooka fun

It all started on my brother’s 40th birthday. Somehow, I thought it would be fun to launch him out of a cannon for his birthday. Well, he didn’t want to be launched and I found out you can’t just rent that sort of cannon. In my search, though, I came up with

A spudzooka is a cannon that shoots potatoes and other tuberous vegetables. It became immediately clear that shooting an effigy of my brother out of a cannon would be much more practical, so I downloaded the instructions and built the cannon.

It worked great! My sister-in-law Mok carved the effigy and we shot it into a tree, totally mashing the potato into oblivion. We spent the better part of the afternoon trying our skill on various targets and really had fun. Even Mary enjoyed the silliness of it.

Of course, there is an international community surrounding potato cannons. These people go completely mad building some of these things. I have not crossed that line, but have contributed an engineering improvement to the public realm. Look for “Peter S.” on this link, and you will find my handiwork. Hopefully, this tweak will add to the enjoyment of other amateur spud launchers.

We donated an afternoon of spudzooking to St. Dominic School’s Silent auction. So a couple of weeks ago we co-hosted an afternoon of blasting away with a dozen or so eager participants. Kids and adults laughed and had a good time launching spuds and parachutes. I’ll post some photos of that, too, if I can remember where I saved them!

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Today’s Small Project Medley

May 29th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

Just before the rain started today, I visited several projects that are now under construction in Northfield.

United Methodist Church Kitchen Remodel

At the United Methodist Church, demolition is well underway. Northfield Construction is doing a nice, clean job of removing the parts of the old kitchen that needed to go. Temporary partitions are up, containing the concrete dust from the floor removal for new plumbing. They did a nice job protecting the existing brick where grouted-in-place door frames needed to be removed. The brick is an attractive detail from the original design, but presented a challenge when we needed to remove the frames.

Screen Porch Addition

Next I stopped in at an addition in progress on Third Street West in town. When complete, this addition will provide a spacious screen porch, a new mudroom, and a storage area. Todd Lebens is handling the construction: 507-645-0725. The porch will have a somewhat modern aspect, with a flat room and glulam beams. Stay tuned for more.

Front Entry Addition

All that remains of this front entry addition is the exterior stone and some landscaping. This is another “surgical addition” in which a small, carefully planned addition solve multiple problems. In this case, the plan suffered from a dull facade, tiny entry, illegal stairs to the main level, a poor entry sequence, and poor circulation on the lower level. We solved all these problems and provided some nice garden and patio space to soften the approach.


And, out on Cannon Valley Road, reconstruction is underway for a new four-season porch on the foundation of a previous, but not original, screened porch. Duden & Viken Builders are doing this project. That’s Matt Viken grouting the base plate: 507-321-1754. This addition will be true to the original construction, with solid-sawn oak beams, hemlock ceiling boards, and a stucco exterior.

So, while some of our projects are larger, we also do a nice job of smaller additions that pack a punch!

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Free Thought-provoking Questionnaire

May 18th, 2007 by Mary Schmelzer

There is so much to consider when planning a residential project–either a new home or a remodeling/addition. How do you know if you’ve thought of everything?

We’ve added a free printout to our site titled, “Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Residential Project” which you can find under the Services tab on the header of the site. Most of the questions are not “yes” or “no” but are meant to get you thinking (and researching if necessary) the parameters of your upcoming project. Our goal is always to design a project with you that fits your goals and constraints.

You may want to have each family member fill out their own questionnaire and then discuss it to get everyone’s ideas.

We’d be happy to help you plan your new space!

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Member, U.S. Green Building Council

May 17th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer


Reflecting our goal to design more sustainably, VIVUS Architecture + Design has become a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.

The core purpose of the USGBC is to transform the way buildings are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally
and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous built environment that improves the quality of life in communities. The U.S. Green Building Council is the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are
environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.

The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council representing all segments of the building industry developed LEED and continue to contribute to its evolution.

For more information, see or call us!

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Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair coming soon

May 15th, 2007 by Mary Schmelzer

The 18th annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair is June 15-17, 2007. The Fair will be held at the ReNew the Earth Institute in Custer, Wisconsin. The website for the organization touts it as, “…the world’s largest renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living educational event of its kind.” We have attended the event in the past and there is so much good information through vendors, displays, classes and free events. It is also a warm confirmation that so many people are trying to make a difference in how they use and conserve natural resources. They even have events for the kids!

Visit their site and see all the class options available, driving directions and a vendor list. Be sure to take some time to look at the other workshops and events that the Midwest Renewable Energy Association conducts, including a “Small Wind Power Conference.”

We are excited to increase our knowledge on renewable energy and sustainable living so we can better implement them in our projects and pass the information on.

See you at the fair!

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