2nd Street Residence enclosed

August 23rd, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

Setting Roof Trusses

A few weeks can make a big difference in the appearance of a house under construction. The roof structure was almost complete during the first week of August.


Despite the rain, by the month’s third week the roof was on, the structural insulated panels were wrapped, the porch floors were poured, and the windows and doors were being installed.

Park View

Now that the form of the house is visible, you can really tell how it relates to its neighbors and Way Park in the foreground. From the outset, our goal was to blend into the historical neighborhood context, which will become more apparent as the siding goes up and the porches get built. Expect to see a welcoming front porch and a comfortable screen porch on the rear in the weeks to come.

This project will be Energy Star Certified and incorporates many sustainable practices:

  • Structural Insulated Panels: Prefabricated, minimal wood usage, little job-site waste, highly insulative, and very ‘tight’ in terms of drafts
  • Insulated Concrete Forms: Highly insulative, minimal labor, no organic materials (no mold)
  • Radon Ventilation
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Energy efficient lighting
  • Spray foam / Cellulose ceiling insulation for R-50
  • High performance windows
  • Properly sized overhangs maximize solar gain in winter and block excessive gain in the summer
  • Natural ventilation
  • Central daylight shaft to minimize daytime usage of electric lights
  • Window placement considers views, glare, and cross-ventilation
  • Low-flow toilets
  • Air-to-Air heat pump
  • Whole house ventilation
  • Much of the site will be planted with native species
  • During construction, we have been working with the Owners and Northfield Construction to make final finish selections, handle small changes, address unforseen soil conditions, add detail where needed for construction, track the Energy Star requirements, and locate switches and receptacles.

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    ArTech Remodeling ready for Back 2 School

    August 23rd, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

    ArTech Remodeled Advisories

    During early summer, we worked with ArTech administration and staff to plan for improvements to the Advisories. Advisories are kind of like homerooms, but they are open to each other and surrounding spaces. These spaces are the core of the educational program, serving many purposes as required. The remodeling provided new carpet, cave spaces and fixed partitions between the advisories. (Cave spaces are small niches for soft seating, conversation, individual study, and small group presentations. See the area against the back wall in the photo below.)

    ArTech Remodeled Advisories

    The logic behind the fixed partitions is multi-faceted. They provide power and data receptacles to the advisories and afford places to display student work. The openings through the walls allow students to change the focus of their eyes, an important part of a healthy learning environment. They are situated to provide visual separation of the grades when seated but to allow a standing student multiple framed sightlines to the outdoors.

    Northfield Construction and their subs did a nice job getting the project done on a tight schedule. VIVUS is currently planning a kitchenette for ArTech’s hot lunch program; construction will happen this fall.

    Furniture is still being rearranged, so things look a bit chaotic in the photos, but never fear, ArTech staff and volunteers will have it ship shape for the start of school!

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    Solar Site Analysis Now Available

    August 21st, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer


    VIVUS Architecture + Design has acquired a new tool to help our clients make informed use of the sun.

    Nearly all of our clients place more daylight in their homes at the top of their priority list. We love that idea! Daylight has been proven to influence moods and productivity, performance and satisfaction.

    Daylight also carries some baggage, which must be properly handled. In our climate, casually located skylights and windows lose heat during the winter and cause solar heat gain in the summer. In the age of high-priced-petroleum, this can mean excessive fuel costs and usage as our mechanical systems work to offset the losses and gains. Considering that we pay more for a window than a wall in addition to increased operating costs for the life of the home, uncontrolled daylight can be expensive.

    So, consider us your daylight baggage handler.

    We will orient your home to maximize the potential daylight in your home, placing appropriate spaces in the sun’s path. We will craft overhangs that block the high summer sun and let in the low winter sun. We will design with cross ventilation to minimize your cooling costs. We will integrate mass as a thermal fly-wheel to absorb the sun’s heat during the day and re-radiate it into your house at night. And we will minimize glare while allowing the sunlight into your home.

    And now, we can tell you when the sun will provide heat and daylight to a specific location on your site.

    The sun’s benefits can be blocked by many things, including trees, buildings, trellises, bluffs, water towers, and church steeples, to name a few. Our new hardware will help us tell you what the impact of the surrounding environment will have on your solar potential.

    Together, we can analyze various locations on your site and immediately understand the shading conditions and how much of the daily sunlight will be blocked by that evergreen tree. Taken in conjunction with other site considerations (views, traffic access, existing plantings, and the like), we can help you make informed decisions about:

  • Window size and location
  • House location on your site for maximum sunlight
  • Site suitability for Active and Passive Solar Heating
  • Site suitability for Photovoltaic electricity generation
  • Site suitability for Domestic Solar hot water heating
  • Already, our clients are benefiting from the simple, real-time solar analysis we provide. One custom home client was delighted to be able to understand where to put their home so the much-loved trees on their site would not block the sun. We helped another client determine the best location for their proposed photovoltaic panel system on their existing site. And we climbed one roof to determine the impact of the many mature trees on a speculative domestic hot water system.

    If you would like to reap more of the sun’s benefits, or just see how available they are on your site, contact us and we can help you achieve that goal.

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    Local Businesses Supporting Cub Scouts

    August 20th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

    Learning about types of wood

    Pack 300 needed a picnic table for its local camping outings, so I called Ray Cox at Northfield Construction and Lampert’s Lumberyard.

    Lampert’s generously donated the picnic table materials, and Northfield Construction offered their shop and Ray’s expertise to help the boys assemble the table. Thank you!

    Working hard

    Job well done

    By the end of the project, the boys had hands-on experience with drills, screwdrivers, squares and sanders. Watching Ray use a router to round the edges was new to many of the scouts. These are a few of the practical skills scouts learn along the scouting path. They also see the results of their efforts: we tried out the table this weekend at camp. It was great alongside the firering for preparing food then eating it as it came off the fire!

    Thanks again, Lampert’s and Northfield Construction, for supporting our local Scouting efforts!

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    Cub Scout Weblos Camp Action 2007

    August 20th, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

    Climbing Wall Preparation

    In July, Cub Scout Pack 300 attended Navajo Camp at the Tomahawk Scout Reservation near Birchwood, Wisconsin. I went along as an adult leader and enjoyed both taking in the scenic surroundings and helping the boys have a great camping experience.

    The week was truly action-packed. In the photo above, three of the Weblos are ready to attempt the climbing wall. Below, one of them slaps the cap flashing in victory!

    Climbed to the Top!

    Shooting sports were part of the fun, too. The boys learned safe and proper handling of bows and BB guns, then had a chance to try their aim, which, of course, they really loved.

    BB gun sharpshooter

    Archery Bull’s Eye builds confidence

    My favorite part of the shooting sports was watching each boy’s confidence grow as we coached them in proper form and technique, as this bull’s eye photo shows.

    For more photos, check out Pack 300’s website gallery.

    Boys, if you would like to join us for learning, fellowship and fun, drop me a note. Parents, Cub Scout camping is great together time with your son. It is one of the few experiences I have found that help me teach core values to my son while having a ball! I strongly recommend you explore the options!

    Cub Scouting is for boys in grades 1 through 5, after which they graduate into Boy Scouts. Northfield has several Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops for you to join. See www.joinscouting.com and our District site for the whole scoop.

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    Northfield Development Regulations Advisory Group

    August 1st, 2007 by Peter Schmelzer

    On Tuesday, I participated in the first meeting of the Northfield Development Regulations Advisory Group.

    The group was formed to provide input to the City Council and Staff on how to bring the Zoning Ordinance into alignment with the Comprehensive Plan and a list of general principles adopted by the City Council. The group consists of a good variety of people including developers, architects, builders, engineers, city board members and city staff.

    These are the basic principles, which I very much support:

    1. The small town character will be enhanced.
    2. The natural environment will be protected, enhance and better integrated in the Community.
    3. The preference for accommodating future growth is in infill locations, then redevelopment opportunities, and then on the edge of existing developed areas.
    4. New and redeveloped residential communities (areas) will have strong neighborhood qualities.
    5. Environmentally-sensitive and sustainable practices will be integrated into new developments and redeveloped areas.
    6. Places with a mix of uses that are distinctive and contribute to increasing the City’s overall vitality are preferred.
    7. Neighborhood-serving commercial will be small scale and integrated into new developments and redeveloped areas.
    8. A wider range of housing choices will be encouraged- in the community as well as in neighborhoods.
    9. Rural character of certain areas of the community will be protected.
    10. Streets will create an attractive public realm and be exceptional places for people.
    11. Places will be better connected, in part to improve the function of the street network and also to better serve neighborhoods.
    12. Opportunities will be created to walk and bike throughout the community.

    As we reviewed the principles, I was struck by the similarity they hold with the LEED Neighborhood Development Rating system.

    The LEED Rating System was created to transform the built environment to sustainability by providing the building industry with consistent, credible standards for what constitutes a green building. The rating system is developed and continuously refined via an open, consensus-based process that has made LEED the green building standard of choice for Federal agencies and state and local governments nationwide (follow the link to learn more).

    Here’s the nutshell summary, although you should look at the links above.

    Projects are certified by the USGBC as an independent third party according to the number of points earned. Projects are awarded Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification depending on the number of credits they achieve.

    Agencies, counties, and cities are requiring LEED certification or offering incentives for LEED certification. Perhaps Northfield should consider doing the same. Review the information above and see if you don’t agree.

    I’d love to hear your feedback as I continue to work with the Advisory Group. You can comment on this post or get to me through our contact page.

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