January 18th, 2011

Rainwater Harvesting and Irrigation Continued

 We have been designing large-scale residential and commercial rainwater harvesting systems in California since 1997, primarily for irrigation use in the landscape. We like to consider our landscapes that incorporate rainwater harvesting as “closed loop systems,” as we begin the design by determining our end-water usage.   It Starts with Plant Selection   It starts with the [...]

December 21st, 2010

Sustainable Sidebar: Add a Little ‘Green’ to Your Home, Inside and Out


Advances in green technology and a fondness for reused or reclaimed materials have led to more innovative and creative sustainable products for the home. As a new addition to Green Architecture Notes, we will be posting a new section on products that we find to be perfect examples of how green IS beautiful, practical, and inspiring.  [...]

December 7th, 2010

Cork: What makes this material so special?

Cork is a fantastic, 100% natural, material that has been used as an insulting material for years, although is not well known by most of the people working on sustainable and zero carbon projects.  So what makes this material special?  Cork is the bark of Cork Oak (Quercus Suber), collected every 9 years and later [...]

October 28th, 2010

Fly Ash in Concrete

There has been a lot of discussion recently about fly ash in concrete as there are concerns about heavy metals in this by-product of coal fired power production.  “Replacing Portland cement is a high priority for all of us…” Russell Perry, Smith Group.  “The Environmental Building News” (Alex Wilson) continues to support the use of [...]

September 14th, 2010

Designing Living Roofs – Part 2

I’ve had several reasons for designing living roofs and have faced many challenges in implementation. Luckily living roofs can come in many forms and serve many purposes. In this post, I will try to briefly walk you through the second of my forays into this exciting and challenging subject. For our House Ocho project in [...]

August 6th, 2010

Cottage On The Green

cottage entrance

My wife, Cathy, and I really liked our one-story cottage near downtown Palo Alto, but the floor plan didn’t work for us at all. The most direct path to the backyard was through the master bedroom, and loving to backyard-entertain as we do, running through our bedroom with plates of meat headed to the grill [...]

June 21st, 2010

Evaluating Green Choices In Sustainable Flooring

People often ask me to recommend the ‘greenest’ hardwood flooring option, expecting me to tell them to use reclaimed wood or Bamboo, and they’re shocked to hear my answer. After years of witnessing the impacts of our purchasing decisions on forests worldwide, I tell them to use FSC-certified tropical hardwood. Reclaimed wood and Bamboo are [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

July 17th, 2009

serious paper play

Wiggle Chair

 Paper bags and cardboard boxes, butchers’ paper and newsprint hats.  Paper plates, papier mache and the versatile matchbox, boxes for packing and moving and play Visionaries like Gehry and Shigeru Ban use it for structure but, whether the blame rests with neat stacking Lego and Lincoln Logs or span-worthy Meccano, most of us don’t consider [...]