I woke up to a great surprise this morning! Another article in the Washington Post. For those of you who missed the live chat last week, tons of Post readers asked some great questions about green design and green living. Today's article has some excerpts from the chat. Also, feel free to post any and all questions on the blog or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Post feature writer, Terri Sapienza, was kind enough to write a great profile on me and Pazzo Verde in today's edition. Check it out here!
Also, I'm doing a live chat at 11:00 AM EST with Terri today. Feel free to ask me any questions about green design and living a greener lifestyle.
Thanks for all the great support!
Warm Board with tubing waiting for Oak floor.
Moving from Venice, California to Washington DC has been a huge adjustment, to say the least. And while the winter wasn’t exactly frigid there were definitely stretches where heat was necessary, especially in this drafty old house.
The sunroom off the kitchen was especially cold this winter. The room used to be a Sleeping Porch and it gets wonderful sun exposure in the morning, both summer and winter. But, underneath it was open to the outside. I wanted it to be usable and comfortable 365 days a year. So, my first step was to make sure it had plenty of insulation in the walls and underneath. The insulation I used for the walls was ROXUL, purchased from Amicus Green Building in Kensington, MD. Roxul is an insulation made from stone, is fire resistant, and water repellent. With varying R- Value you can meet most insulation needs. There was also a step-down from the kitchen, which gave the room a feeling of “separateness” that I definitely didn’t want. I want the entire first floor to be open and integrated so I raised the floor about four inches with 2x4’s, and when the time comes I will run oak flooring in from the existing rooms, blending the space into one.
But here’s where the fun part comes in. Before I run the oak, I’m installing radiant heat flooring. Radiant heating systems basically supply heat directly to the floor or to panels in the wall or ceiling of a house. The heat then transfers out and warms the surrounding area. There are three types of radiant heat: air, electric, and hydronic (water). I am choosing to go with hydronic. It’s best suited for this project and from the existing boiler I can run tubing throughout the joists without much impact. In keeping with the open floor plan, I’m going to remove some of the traditional radiators on the first floor and zone the system into four basic areas: the sunroom, the living area, the dining area, and the kitchen area.
As you can see from the pictures, I’ve already started with the sunroom. Because of the unique characteristics of this room, I decided to use Warm Board as the subfloor. Warm Board can act as a structural subfloor AND a channel board for the hydronic radiant heat. The unique quality of Warm Board is the thin sheet of aluminum that covers the entire panel and is pressed into the channels. When the radiant heat tubing heats up so will the aluminum, allowing the heat to spread more evenly throughout that room. I am also hoping the heat from the sun/aluminum partnership will radiate back into the room in the winter. For this phase of the project I will use Brookville Radiant, Karl was great! He came and installed this phase of the project. Neat, efficient, and honest, wonderful to work with. Once the system is fully installed, I can glue and nail the oak flooring straight to the Warm Board.
Stay tuned for more heated discussion regarding radiant heat vs. forced air vs. puttin’ on a sweater!
Whenever I build a custom piece of furniture I try and weave something into the piece that is special and meaningful to the client. A house is no different. After getting to know the client I look for opportunities to showcase something that will really personalize their custom creation.
Since my family and I are “the client”, so to speak, I took the back of the house, off the sunroom, as a space to showcase our own "something meaningful". My wife and I met on Nantucket, and we were married there. Nantucket has been a special place for us since childhood, and now it’s even more special together. To honor that, I wanted to give the back of the house a modern Cape Cod look so, I chose white trim and Cedar shake shingles to help make this backyard our own little Nantucket oasis.
The view from the alley is often forgotten about. It's usually just a place to park a car, roll out the trashcans, or build a garage. As you can see from the “before” picture, the backside of the house was no different here. The existing shingles were falling off. The windows and doors were old, small, and needed replacement. Paint was chipping and there was rot. Many years of renters changing cable and phone services left a rats nest of non-essential cables leading to the house. It was an unconsidered area and called for a total overhaul.
To get the most from the solar qualities that hit this side of the house I chose windows and doors from Windsor, supplied by The Sanders Co. Double in-swing patio doors are a great opportunity to bring the outside in, and screens will keep the bugs out but let the breeze flow through. Floor to ceiling casement windows let in light and can also be opened for fresh air. They have a different UV and thermal rating from the front windows to take advantage of solar heat gain in the winter. See the Windows to the World blog entry for insulation and Low-E rating information.
I am choosing not to build out here because I place a heavy importance on keeping or renewing greenspace. We will landscape, but I want to leave it an area for family and friends to gather outside and enjoy their own little safe haven. We will still be able to park a car here, if we choose, but we’ll probably just have a lot of kick ass barbecues!
Before-n-After...Notice the thinner window frames after, and 'Look Ma, no muntin."
Windows are the eyes to the world…. Or the street out front.
This house gets great light, but the old windows letting that light in also let in a lot of drafts. I was on the hunt for good-looking windows that were made from good stuff. New windows serve as much more than letting in light. They are now rated for UV protection, heat transference, and insulating qualities. You can make a real environmental impact with your window choice, and my first concern was with the material makeup of the window itself.
Windows are made from a variety of materials, and different climates might require one type of material over another. There is wood, metal (usually aluminum), aluminum clad wood, fiberglass, Fibrex, and vinyl.
The one material I knew I was going to avoid was the dreaded VINYL. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is one of the most environmentally hazardous materials, from production, product life, and product disposal.
So, I kept my search limited to wood, aluminum, or a combo of both. Now remember my earlier post regarding the brickwork for the front deck? Well, for the windows I decided I would leave the brick side replacement widows on the front to other professionals! That way if the were any issues, they would not be mine.
My search led me to Pella. They were the best eco-fit in three ways:
1: They offer an aluminum clad, wooden window. So I could avoid vinyl.
2: They have four types of Argon filled; Low- E rated glass for different applications.
3: They are Energy Star rated.
Argon acts as an insulating agent, and the Low-E coating reflects heat energy. This was important to me because the front windows get half days of sun/heat and half days of shade. These extremes are minimized inside the house by the combo of the argon and Low E coating.
The other benefits of going with Pella are that they were in my price range, and they were a large enough to have a crew come in and bang it out in two days. With the decision made and the details sorted, the crew set to work and they were finished before I knew it. They were polite, clean and efficient. And the new windows are larger with no muntins, or inner framework. No frames = more light.
I'll put an interior plantation shutter type treatment on the inside, but more on that later.