Archive for the ‘Green Architecture’ Category

» Green Water

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

As architects, moisture is usually considered an enemy of any building. It can cause wood to rot, create mold and be an overall nuisance. But what if there was a way to extract that moisture out of the air and then, a little while later, enjoy that extracted moisture as a cool crisp glass of 99.99% pure water. Just think of all the plastic bottles that could be saved from landfills and the overall energy consuption that it takes for you to drink a cold bottle of water.

There is always water in the atmosphere. Clouds are, of course, the most visible manifestation of atmospheric water, but even clear air contains water—water in particles that are too small to be seen. One estimate of the volume of water in the atmosphere at any one time is about 3,100 cubic miles (mi3) or 12,900 cubic kilometers (km3). That may sound like a lot, but it is only about 0.001 percent of the total Earth’s water volume of about 332,500,000 mi3 (1,385,000,000 km3). If all of the water in the atmosphere rained down at once, it would only cover the ground to a depth of 2.5 centimeters, about 1 inch. (to read more go to:

Check out this new product called the DewPointe DH9. It can supply you with up to 8 gallons of fresh pure water for almost nothing. The beauty of this idea of extracting drinking water out of the air is that it helps save water, fuel for transportation and reduces landfills from all those plastic water bottles. For more information go to:

Even how we get water can be considered green. Is there no end?

Check out this video for more information:

» 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.

» 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: