November 17th, 2009

Designing for Change


Grant Street house

Most buildings leak air, and therefore heat, through cracks in their building envelope.  We get cold in our leaky buildings and turn up our heaters to keep warm.  The heat continues to leak out, and we continue to turn up our heaters, and on and on the cycle goes.  In the end, we [...]

November 12th, 2009


Peter Rich of Peter Rich Architects in South Africa has dedicated his career to the service of the less privileged.  His projects include low-income housing, community centers and children’s facilities.  The Mapungubwe Interpretation Center in Limpopo, South Africa, a project recently completed, looks to the local culture and ecology for its design inspiration.  Situated in [...]

October 19th, 2009

Pushing the Envelope in Green Architecture innovation: Team California takes home the Best in Architecture at the 2009 Solar Decathlon

For a few weeks in the fall the Solar Decathlon will transform the Mall in Washington D.C., stretching out before the Capitol Building into a laboratory for Green Architecture. The competition, sponsored by the US Department of Energy, brings students from around the world together to test the houses that they have designed, built, shipped [...]

July 29th, 2009

The Dream of the All-Electric House, Revisited

Not General Electric’s home of the future, this demonstration project, scheduled for construction in 2010, envisions a home that is completely energy neutral.  An eight kilowatt solar array, grid connected and net metered, will produce all power necessary for domestic and transportation purposes, without any on site carbon emissions.  The owner, who has been working [...]

June 25th, 2009

Ventilated and Insulated Rain Screen Cladding (V.I.R.S.C.)

Information Based on Euro Panels Overseas Literature.
The basic section of an external wall construction composed in accordance to the VIRSC principle consists
1: a load bearing structure
2: a layer of thermal insulation on the outside of the load bearing structure
3: a ventilated air gap / cavity
4: intermediate supporting structure to connect the load bearing structure [...]

May 28th, 2009

Windows for Passive Solar Homes

Although much has been written about passive solar design, and some mention is made of selecting glazings appropriate to the building aspect, sourcing windows with glazing both optimized for passive solar buildings, and reasonably priced can be less than straight forward.  Window manufacturers in the U.S. tout the insulative properties of their windows (their u-value) [...]

May 26th, 2009

Trivett Distribution Center

Our friend at Baskervill in Richmond, Virginia offered us some insights into how green design strategies can be applied to a large commercial distribution facility to yield tangible savings. They were able to achieve 5-year pay-back for all of the green design investment incorporated, while making it possible for the client to realize an additional [...]

May 14th, 2009

The Envelope, Please – Cost Effective Energy Savings in Buildings

First and foremost, green building needs to be about energy savings.   The Architecture 2030 challenge provides milestones for the reduction in energy use in new buildings and retrofit projects with the goal of zero energy buildings by the year 2030 –   The explosion of green building as a concept confronts reality in this challenge.  [...]

April 28th, 2009

Rammed Earth

Rammed earth has been a part of the alternative materials scene in Northern California since the mid 1970’s, when we first broke through the building permit barrier. Initially our goal was to develop a resource-efficient construction system that would be affordable and widely adopted by the building industry.  We began with a strong commitment to construction [...]

April 25th, 2009

Waste Diversion

My first exposure to waste diversion on a jobsite was a response to LEED requirements. Of all the standards we had to meet, practices we had to modify, and requirements we had to satisfy waste diversion presented the most tangible upside – across the board. It’s obvious, too. Once you have modified your waste handling [...]