The Laundry List: a fun format

October 14th, 2008 by Mary Schmelzer

When we begin a new project, whether it is a new home, remodeling or for a commercial/liturgical space, we begin with Programming. Programming is an interview process that helps us find out what is driving the project: the needs and wants. By listening and recording, we can find out what the issues are (what is and isn’t working in the current situation) and hear the dreams and aspirations for the constructed project.

One way is to make long detailed “laundry lists,” but we’ve found that using the hand-drawn cards shown above is a much more fun and interactive way to draw out the wants and needs. People are also much more likely to remember a graphic image than an item on a long document of notes, which helps us as designers and the Owners keep items in mind.

Because the Program is in card format, we can shuffle them, well, like cards, to prioritize points, and to build connections that eventually become connected in the built project.

Below is one of my favorite cards that came out of a conversation:

Program card for a custom house

The above is a card for a custom home in which the Owners want a sizeable amount of square footage, but want the house to blend into the landscape and the neighborhood. I just stated that idea in a long sentence, but it is much more profound and memorable in a graphic representation.

Design of your project should be interactive and let you know that you have been heard. Contact us for more information on how we can help you begin your project.

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LEED for Homes Comes to VIVUS

October 10th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

US Green Building Council Logo

As part of our commitment to sustainable residential design, we now have the first edition of LEED for Homes Reference Guide in our office Library.

The guide helps us to navigate the point-based system through which the US Green Building Council certifies homes as sustainable. Here’s a brief summary:

As we design your home, we choose strategies toward your goal of sustainability. The rating system offers points for different strategies in several categories: Innovation & Design; Location & Linkages; Sustainable Sites; Water Efficiency; Energy & Atmosphere; Materials & Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality; and Awareness & Education. The independent third-party rating addresses these ideas in design, through construction, and into operation of the home. If the strategies are implemented properly by all parties involved, the home is granted a certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. With certification, you know you received what you paid for: a high performance house.

We welcome your inquiry about helping your new home or significant remodeling make the grade in sustainability.

LEED is a trademark of the US Green Building Council.

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Quote: Edmund Burke

October 8th, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

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Hardwood Flooring: make a better choice

October 6th, 2008 by Mary Schmelzer

Last Thursday we attended a program sponsored by the CMHC-Canada’s National Housing Agency and the Consulate General of Canada that promoted product applications and sustainable building technologies. Some of the topics were aimed at larger, more commercial buildings, but all of them were applicable to residential construction as well.

The first seminar discussed hardwood flooring and what architects, designers and contractors can do to make more sustainable choices. FSC rating is a good first step to take. (If you didn’t know, the Northfield Smartwood office works with this program.) “Chain of Custody,” the tracking of the end product backward through its distribution and harvest, indicates a more reliable trail of sustainable practices. Not all wood that is stamped comes with this chain of custody. It is more labor intensive to cull out this wood, and often more expensive. Our speaker, Serge Noel, mentioned that the suppliers who are able to use the FSC stamp are very careful to not abuse its use: the entire operation can be denied their certification if used improperly.

Mr. Noel discussed another method to using hardwood flooring more sustainably: specifying different widths of wood. If a particular width is the trend, the remainder of a wood plank may be under utilized. The equipment used to cut the plank to flooring widths typically cuts 2 1/4 and 3 1/4 inch widths. By including a 2 1/2 inch width, they are able to use more of each plank, increasing their output per tree.

Also, by using flooring grades that include random coloration and grading, more of each floor board can be used. (If a 10-foot floor board has consistent coloration except for the last two feet, the two feet will be cut off and placed as a lower grade, such as “cabin.” Streaks and imperfections are handled in the same way.) “Pacific” was the grade Mr. Noel used for the mixed-coloration wood. It is still graded and free from big knots and other imperfections; it just has more character.

So, when deciding what type of hardwood floors you’ll use, ask yourself these questions:
Is the wood I want FSC stamped and does it have the chain of custody paperwork?
Can I use mixed widths of flooring to better utilize each plank? (Think 2 1/4 inch upstairs, 3 1/4 inch downstairs, or call the distributor and see if there is an overstock of one particular width.)
Will the look of a mixed grade be acceptable?

We can help you answer these questions and more to make your project more sustainable and to save unnecessary cutting of trees.

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Red Tape and Green Power

October 3rd, 2008 by Peter Schmelzer

The Network for New Energy Choices has prepared “Taking the Red Tape out of Green Power”, compiled as a resource to help governments understand and correct obstacles to small renewable electricty generation. (Link to PDF Document)

As Northfield rewrites is Zoning Ordinance and puts the finishing touches on its Comprehensive Plan, this will serve as a good resource. Two facts are presented about transitioning to renewable electrical generation: it is not about funding expensive demonstrations of technology; and strong commitment by local officials is vital to making it possible. Obstacles for both solar power and wind power are listed and discussed. Homeowner’s Associations also get some attention. For those with less time to read all 108 pages, skip to Chapter 4 which focuses on recommendations.

Both former Secretary of State George Schulz and former Vice President Al Gore hit regulatory obstacles last year as they tried to install solar panels on their houses.

Consider this a call to action for Northfield staff and citizens to smooth the path for development of renewable energy in and around Northfield.

Source: The Angle

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