Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cool, Affordable Modular Construction

Efficient and Affordable Wood House Made From Shipping Pallets. See the full article by Bridgette Meinhold on Inhabitat.com.

The designers are also working on a low cost unit that cost $11 a square foot in South Africa.

 Paletten Haus, designed by two students from the University of Vienna. View the full slide show of images here

In the U.S., there would be many issues to work out before this could actually be used as housing, like thermal insulation and earthquake resistance. But it is a great start to demonstrate how an abundant item can be re-purposed for building, much like straw bale, an abundant by product of agriculture which can be used for building (see our design for the Bale House, a straw bale house on San Juan Island which will be constructed this summer: http://dandastudio.com/portfolio/residential/res_ontheboards/balehouse/).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy 5th Anniversary, D+A Studio

Our 5th year has been a big one for us, complete with being featured in numerous publications both regional and national, a regional design award, invitations to speak and present our projects, forays into writing with the launch of design.banter and articles for Builder/Architect Magazine, and of course, continually striving to provide quality design to our clients.

It has been a good year in particular for the San Juan Channel House, a green custom home on San Juan Island. (More photos of the San Juan Channel House can be viewed on our Facebook page)

Here is a look back at some of the highlights of the past year:

March 2010: BuilderNEWS, a national building magazine, features the Hare House Guest House and an interview with Anna

November 2009: The San Juan Channel House is certified Built Green 3 Star.  

October 2009: D+A Studio is selected by the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) to give a presentation on transitioning to Design Build.

October 2009: The San Juan Channel House is featured in Builder/Architect Magazine: "Small House, Big Design." 

This also marks Anna and Anne's debut as some of the resident "Green" experts for the Seattle/Puget Sound edition of Builder/Architect Magazine. Our articles have appeared in a handful of issues this past year (including "Simple Steps for Greener Interiors," January 2010 and "Design Build: An Avenue for Women in Construction and Green Building," March 2010).

September 2009: The San Juan Channel House was chosen to be presented at the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild's Annual Green Building Slam.

July 2009: The San Juan Channel House is featured in Seattle Magazine Northwest Home: Island Adventure


April 2009: The San Juan Channel House is named a Top 10 What Makes it Green? Project by the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The winning projects were featured in  AIA Seattle's traveling exhibition.

In 2010, we look forward to the completion of our first official Design Build project through Studio How, the Hare House Main House.  

Thanks to all who have helped make our first five years a success!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Construction Progress

Construction is picking up speed again on our current residential project in Friday Harbor. The electrical inspection was approved last week and we are finishing the rough plumbing and mechanical needs this week. I had a fun trip off-island with our client to choose the final plumbing fixtures for the entire house. The process took approximately four hours in Burlington's Keller Supply Showroom. We are working with the requirements of the new Watersense Certification which has strict regulations on all faucets and shower heads. I was nervous this might limit our selection too much, but I found that most companies are carrying Watersense certified products. Hansgrohe Axor Massaude Series is one of the many products chosen.

The exterior of the residence is closing in and allowing us to move toward the hardscaping of the courtyards and driveway. The Corten Siding application has taken longer than expected, but is looking great. We originally screwed the Corten every 16" o.c. to align with the studs, but came back and added screws every 8" in order to eliminate any warping of the steel. The battens were installed over VaproShield as an open joint rainscreen application. VaproShield is a weather resistant, breathable membrane used as a house wrap for wet walls and rainscreen assemblies. It allows any trapped moisture on the interior to escape thus preventing any mold or mildew. For more information on VaproShield go to: http://www.vaproshield.com

The insulation has had me in a quandry the last two weeks. The argument for blown-in cellulose insulation is growing rapidly. People consider it the "greenest of the green". However, there is a huge debate developing against it as well. This debate will be a blog post of its own, but you can read more about it at http://www.cellulose.org/CIMA/GreenFacts.php. I have to admit a large part of my decision making process was the price. The blown-in cellulose turned out extensively higher in price than the EcoBatt insulation which seems to be just as "green". Finally, a decision has been made! This product is amazing if you're used to the feel and look of typical batt insulation. You can actually touch this soft, brown material and install without wearing a mask to breathe. Read more at http://www.ecobatt.us

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are CFL's a better choice?

For years, we have been hearing about the energy-saving benefits of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL's) over traditional incandescent light bulbs for residential uses. Incandescent bulbs use a large portion of their energy as heat instead of light, making them less energy efficient than CFL's. CFL's have been touted as a great hope for energy efficiency and savings on utility bills (up to 75%, and lasting 10 times longer), and governments and codes are working to phase them out completely. According to the EPA, "If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars."

A few of the disadvantages of CFL's are known, but can be mitigated. For example, they cannot simply be thrown in the trash because of the trace amounts of mercury. The Seattle City Light website offers recycling advice (Seattle area: Bartell Drug, Seattle City Light’s North or South Service Centers, King County’s Household Hazardous Waste sites. Anywhere: www.takeitbacknetwork.com, Home Depot storesIKEA.) CFL's are more expensive but last longer than incandescent lights. Their lifespan can be shortened by being turned on and off frequently, so they may not be the best choice for a bathroom, for example.

Some of the practical and aesthetic complaints about CFL's include the time they take to reach full brightness (which varies, but in my experience at least 30 seconds) and the color of the light, which (subjectively) has a colder, more institutional feel than incandescent light. 

Health-wise, a worry about CFL's has been mercury content and disposal. The EPA finds that the amount of mercury in the environment caused by emissions from electricity (e.g., coal fired plants) saved by using CFL's over incandescent light bulbs far outweighs the amount of mercury released by disposing of CFL's.

However, Prevention Magazine reports a more serious disadvantage of CFL's. Scientists are exploring the connection between the increasing electromagnetic field (EMF) that surrounds us and diseases like cancer. Michael Segell, reviewing the work of epidemiologist Sam Milham, MD, writes that:

"A..kind of EMF, a relatively new suspected carcinogen known as high-frequency voltage transients, or 'dirty electricity.' Transients are largely by-products of of modern energy-efficient electronics and appliances...to compact fluorescent lights and dimmer switches-which tamp down on the electricity they use. This manipulation of current creates a wildly fluctuating and potentially dangerous electromagnetic field that not only radiates into the immediate environment but also can back up along home or office wiring all the way to the utility, infecting every energy customer in between."

According to Segell, These transients "are created when current is repeatedly interrupted. A CFL...saves energy by turning itself on and off repeatedly, as much as 100,000 times per second." Electrical Engineer Dave Stetzer says that your body basically becomes charged up as you are "coupled to the transient's electric field."

We are far from knowing the full effect of modern technology on our health, and I look forward to delving more into this issue in the future. Though the EPA, the City of Seattle and many other outlets are unreservedly pushing for the use of CFL's, the choice of lighting should be left up to the individual taking in all of the current scientific information available.
Read More:

Seattle City Light offers tips for using CFL's including common CFL "killers" and myths about CFL's.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury Fact Sheet (PDF)

The Swiss Reinsurance Company's 1997 report  "Electro-smog: a Phantom Risk (PDF)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vote for your favorite "Dwell--Houses We Love"

Go to http://www.dwell.com/houses-we-love/ to check out the Top 20 "Houses We Love" from Dwell Magazine. Click on the house to view a more detailed description, see more images and vote for your favorite.

A "House We Love" that I love: the Niederwieser. (Photo Credit) Silver Lake Neighborhood, Los Angeles. Read more.

The Thacher. (Photo Credit) "The Pop-Up House in Petaluma was built in just 3 months for a total cost (labor, materials, furniture and all) of $250,000."  Read more

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our Seattle office has moved.....

We are now located at:
1220 E Columbia Street #302
Seattle, WA 98122

New fax number for both offices:

We are also making updates to our website. Please excuse our dust while we work on a new and improved www.dandastudio.com

As always, design.banter will have the most current news and photos.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking Beyond the Paint: Tips for House Hunting

As the gray Seattle winter days drag on and weekends are spent at home, my remote seems to frequently find its way to HGTV. I must admit that I could watch Property Virgins, House Hunters and Bank for your Buck for hours. It's interesting and educational to see property values across the country, and see many houses without feeling guilty about popping into open houses when you are not buying anything (sorry Realtor friends...we designers have a tendency to do this!)

As is inevitable with all reality TV, I at times find myself yelling at the people on the shows about the comments they are making, and, well, how truly "virginal" they are about property. I know this isn't fair, as I work in the field and my husband works in the financial side of real estate, so it's something we think about and discuss a lot. So, I have to remind myself that for some people, this is just a place to live, and some things that seem silly to me right truly be important to them. But, there are some things that are more important to look for than others, and make a big impression even though they may be a tiny cost. This also applies to someone selling a house that wants to make an impact on buyers.

  • Know what you can change, and what you cannot. You cannot change: the location, the neighbors, your budget. You can change: pretty much anything else within your budget, the building and zoning codes, Home Owner's Association guidelines, and the laws of gravity. 
  • Closets: Storage space makes a big impression on buyers, especially the master closet. It seems that wire shelves and rods are universally despised. Hangers are not made for them, so they are difficult to deal with and not very attractive. Buyers always make a negative comment when they see wire shelves, and even though it may not be a deal breaker, this does add to the overall impression of a home. Wood shelves and metal rods are good; a closet system (like one from Ikea or California Closets) is better. This goes for both buyers and sellers: inconvenient or unattractive storage is a relatively easy fix on either end.  
  • Carpet can change...and should. I would never voluntarily specify wall to wall carpet for any building unless a client specifically requests it, because of its ability to hold on to every piece of dirt and dust, not to mention liquid. But if you prefer carpet, don't feel bad about changing it out when you move to a new place, especially if the previous owners had pets. It's relatively inexpensive and there are many green options available. 
  • Paint, trim, crown molding, and baseboards can cover a multitude of sins. 
  • Noise will never go away. "Location, location, location" is not just about proximity to good things, but proximity to bad things: traffic noise, noisy neighbors, etc. Highway noise can usually be heard up to a mile away. I would recommend visiting a potential new home at at least two different times, during the day and in the evening, to gauge any potential noise issues. If you are buying a condo, have your Realtor go into any nearby stairwells, trash areas, or even neighboring units to make noises, slam the trash lid, etc.  
  •  While noise is hard to block out, privacy can be built. If you are patient, with trees, or with shrubs, bamboo, or a built feature if code allows. For interior privacy, of course standard window treatments can be used, but a window can be replaced with opaque or decorative glass, a non Feng-Shui friendly entry (one that is too direct and open, therefore allowing bad energy to sneak in) can be obscured with a folding screen (which can also be used to divide rooms). 
  • Aisle Shop before you House Shop: Before you go house hunting, cruise the aisles at your local home improvement store.  Become familiar with the costs of different finishes, fixtures, and materials in order to educate yourself about how much things really cost. And be realistic about what you are willing to do yourself or how much you are willing to pay someone else to do it; contractors profit & overhead can run anywhere from 10-20% of the job cost.
As a seller, it is important to know what things buyers will remember, however illogical or adjustable those things may be. As a buyer, it's important to look at things with a practical eye and not be turned off to a home in a perfect location by something you can change.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chance for Free Tickets to Eye on Design 2010 with David Bromstad of HGTV

Friend of D+A Studio Amy Woidtke, founder & lead designer EcoKind Design, spaces for love: invite, celebrate and rejuvenate the love you dream of, is offering a chance for free tickets to Eye on Design 2010 with David Bromstad of HGTV, Saturday, April 24th, 10:00am-3:00pm, at the Seattle Design Center

Submit a question for him on Amy's website and if he selects your design question to answer during the program, you will receive a free ticket to Eye on Design 2010. She will also be interviewing him, so your question could be included in her interview if its not selected for the program. Otherwise, the event is just $20 and tickets can be purchased here