Archive for February, 2010

» Siding on your Side

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

One of the major aesthetics of a new home or even an existing home is its exterior skin.  There are many different types including stone, brick, metal panels and wood siding.  We are going to concentrate on siding.

Siding comes in many different styles, materials and colors.  When building Green, it is important to understand what type of materials that can be consider environmentally friendly.  In general, wood siding is not considered a very green product because the most durable solid wood siding products are harvested from old-growth trees like cedar. Cutting down old growth trees is not a good idea.  So in liue of cutting down our forests there are other sidings that can be used.

An affordable and durable product is a fiber cement board.  This type of siding is made of cement and wood fibers.  It can come prefinished or it can be painted in the field during installation. 

Another siding to consider is either aluminum or steel.  Unfortunately these have high upfront costs to produce but on the other side they are made mainly of recycled materials.  It is a bit of a trade off.

Engineered wood can be considered but it needs to be FSC certified engineered wood like hardboard or OSB board and be formaldehyde – free.

So when thinking of siding consider the aesthetics, practicality, and sustainability of your choice.

» Economy got you down?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

We understand that despite the downturn in the economy, families and businesses are still growing and outgrowing their spaces. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of not being able to sell your property to move to a space that better suits your needs, we can assure you that you have options.

You may be able to achieve your goals in your existing home.  Bigger is not always better  — thoughtful design is the key. You may have the space you need and be able to accomplish your goals by reconfiguring space within the existing footprint of your home or with a small addition.

Improving your property in a down economy has many advantages. Construction costs are down, and should you eventually decide to sell your home, the improvements will make you more competitive. Uprooting your family or business can be avoided, and your investment benefits the community as a whole.

Don’t let the economy de-rail your dreams, call us today.

» The Straw House

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In the fabled nursery rhyme, 3 Little Pigs, the wolf blows down the house made of straw, but he never came up against a real straw bale house.    Now, straw bale is a most unusual construction material but it does have its benefits.  With superior insulation value over a 30-year span, a straw bale house could save as much as 75% of your energy cost depending on where you live.  When constructed correctly they can be extremely resistant to fire, who knew?  With the combination of plaster and extremely compact bales the Canadian and U.S. materials laboratories have found that it could take up to 2 hours to burn through a properly constructed wall.

This is just another example that with the right materials and  go old fashion ingenuity you can build anything out of anything.

» Woody Wood

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Wood is a renewable resource if it is harvested in a sustainable manner. What types of woods are called sustainable?  The most popular types of sustainable woods are bamboo, cane (both of which are considered grasses), the mango tree, (which is a great fruit by the way), and the American favorite, maple.  Did you know that a maple tree could grow up to 18” in a year and who doesn’t love maple syrup!  For sustainable wood, look for recycled wood products, or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as coming from well-managed forests.

 Trees are a major reason why we are able to survive on this planet.  We eat their fruit, we construct with their bounty and we breath their oxygen-(O2) while they help rid the planet of dangerous and ever present CO2.  That is why we need to make sure that the wood we use is stamped FSC or is one of the above-mentioned sustainable woods.

If you buy any lumber this weekend or even if you don’t, go out and plant a tree.  Just think everybody planted a tree tomorrow, that would be 6 billion trees.  Not bad for a days work.

» Starting from the ground up.

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

With any good structure a firm foundation is required.  For without one your building would not stand.  A strong foundation can be built both strong and environmentally friendly.

In our first installment about building a green home we examine foundations for which they stand on. 

Green Suggestions for an Environmentally Friendly & Energy-Efficient Foundation

So, just what are your options when it comes to going green with foundations, retaining walls, and waterproofing? Here’s a list of suggestions on going green that will help you to increase energy efficiency, reduce your environmental impact, and create a healthier home.

  • Use Concrete that Contains Recycled WasteThe bad news is that cement production is a major source of world carbon dioxide emissions. The good news is that as much as 50 percent of the Portland cement added to concrete can be replaced by recycled waste materials, including fly ash from coal fired power plants, rice hull ash, and ground blast furnace slag. Even better, these additives can increase the strength, water resistance, and durability of the concrete (though they will slow drying times).
  • Insulate Your Foundation Using Rigid Insulated Concrete Forms or Rigid Foam InsulationInsulated concrete forms (ICFs) are innovative interlocking rigid foam blocks and panels that hold concrete in place during the curing process, and serve as an extra layer of insulation for your foundation once things have dried. If you don’t use ICFs, consider adding a 2-inch layer of rigid closed cell foam insulation to the exterior of your foundation before you back-fill.
  • Use Environmentally Friendly Building ProductsMany products associated with foundation construction, such as petroleum based form-release agents and damp proofing materials, can release harmful VOCs into the air and lead to soil and groundwater contamination. Use environmentally friendly, biodegradable options instead.
  • Reuse Form Boards or Use Metal FormsForm boards often consist of larger, solid lumber harvested from old growth trees that are discarded after a single use. Use reusable metal forms instead, or save old form boards for use on future projects.
  • Use Recycled Concrete for Back-fill and Retaining WallsThere is a lot of old concrete out there that can be broken into blocks and used to build retaining walls or crushed to provide back-fill and facilitate good drainage. You’ll save money over buying more expensive materials, and save some useful “waste” from ending up in the landfill.
  • Install Non-vented Crawlspaces & Insulate Crawlspace AreasSince crawlspaces are uninhabited, outdoor ventilation isn’t really necessary. Unventilated crawlspaces will stay cooler in the summer, and drier in the winter when moisture buildup can be a problem. Furthermore, consider insulating your crawlspace walls and applying a layer of polyethylene sheeting to the floor and walls to keep moisture levels down.

For more information on foundations:

» Move towards the light

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Sometimes we feel like we need more space. One way to make rooms feel bigger is to have light to move towards. Take a look at the main circulation routes in your home, and look at what terminates that route. If its a wall or other dark space, this really effects the way you feel about your home. We respond to light and view, we like to move towards light. To make your house feel bigger look for opportunities to place a new window, for example, at the end of a hallway. If it is not possible to install a window, a lighted painting or piece of artwork will have the same effect. Another great location is at the bottom or top of the stair, instead of descending into a dark hole, descending a stair towards a window can become a daily pleasure.

» RS2 Architects Donates Services

Monday, February 1st, 2010

RS2 Architects has teamed with the Villa Park VFW to design a new ADA handicap ramp for their facility. The VFW provides an outlet for the support of our veterans, and as such we felt it is one small way we can say thank you for their service. The current facility has an elevated first floor with no means for disabled persons to enter the facility. The new ramp will allow the VFW post to better serve its mission and welcome all those returning home from conflict that want to take part in the VFW programs. RS2 Architects is donating its architecture design as well as construction document preparation services.