The Cool House: sustainable
Showing posts with label sustainable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainable. Show all posts

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Just over a year ago I wrote this post about a sustainable beach house in the process of being constructed on Long Island's beautiful south shore. With the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on everybody's mind right now it seemed the most appropriate time to re-visit the project and ask what measures we can take - and by "we" I mean residents, homeowners, architects and designers - to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to enjoy abundant heat, light and electricity.

Built by Bouler Architecture, the house at Oak Beach received the highest energy rating on Long Island. With its geothermal system, photovoltaic solar panels, white EPDM roofing material and use of passive solar techniques - basically careful placement of windows and roof-lines to shade the sun in summer and heat it in winter - it has been performing at a far more efficient level than predicted. Even in the short, sunless winter days the house was producing electricity.

For the moment these "green" technologies incur a greater initial cost than power derived from carbon but they have irrefutable and overriding benefits. Using renewable energy sources, wind or solar, means less pollution of the air and water, and as we have experienced since April, when a disaster occurs in the extraction of oil or gas, the cost to wildlife and the local economy can be devastating.

For more on this sustainable project click on over to Bouler Design's blog where I guest-blogged today.

To help the wildlife affected by the BP oil spill visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations

Monday, May 11, 2009

Green Beach House

The first full day of summer 2009 is the date homeowner Jill Kornman has set to be lounging on the porch of her newly-built green beach house. The determination she shows to finish construction in the next six weeks is a tribute to her vision, the design plan of architects Bouler Design Group and the skill and dedication of her team of builders.

Situated on a strip of land where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island's Great South Bay, the house with its geo-thermal heat pump, solar panels, extra insulation, and use of green building materials, is a premier example of sustainable architecture. I've been following its progress since I first heard that BDG was building a modern house with a zero carbon footprint in Oak Beach, NY. I was lucky enough to be invited by Creative Advisor Nadine Bouler (seen here on the right with Jill on the left) to see the house at 90% complete.

BDG worked with the owner to create an energy-efficient beach house that fits the scale of the surrounding properties on this barrier beach. Although the house has a unique design, traces of the original cottage can still be seen in the north side of the building - in the remains of the screened-in porch, the arches and of course the ubiquitous shingles.


Superimposed upon the original footprint are two soaring towers. One of these, with its tapered walls and clerestory windows, gives the playroom/library/zen retreat (the purpose hasn't yet been finalised) the feel of a monastery within and a lighthouse outside - and superb views of the bay to the south, east and west.

Facing south the angled roofs are covered in EPDM, a non-polluting synthetic rubber roof that will support enough solar panels to provide for all the electrical needs of the 2000 sq ft house. Naturally the design of the house takes full advantage of the beautiful site. Huge sliding glass doors with transoms above allow 180 degree views of the ocean to the south, while to the east a wall of windows will flood the house with light at sunrise. But Jill goes that extra mile: mindful of the aesthetics of the building and the surrounding shore, she is having the power lines seen in this photo re-routed underground.

Although most of the finishes are chosen: polished concrete floors with inset stone though out the house; reclaimed white oak treads on the staircase and bamboo on the barrel ceiling in the living room, some have yet to be finalized, including the kitchen cabinets and guest bath. All are sustainable, but perhaps the best examples of environmentally-friendly fixtures are the banister posts made from reclaimed pilings.

Jill has been hands-on throughout the process. She interviewed several architects before finding one she believed truly shared her dream of building green and she's been able to keep a close watch on the construction, renting the house next door while her dream house is built. She chose BDG because they believe in efficient design; building smarter, not necessarily bigger, houses. For more information on the Oak Beach house and other sustainable designs visit the Bouler Design Group website.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sustainable Remodeling

When I found out I was the lucky winner of Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live I was just thrilled to win a book on one of my favourite topics, home renovation; I didn't know what a wonderful resource this book is going to be. Taking her mantra of "build better, not bigger" Sarah Susanka and co-author Marc Vassallo have presented a go-to resource book on sustainable design for homeowners and architects alike.
Using her own classic Cape style house as an example Susanka offers three options for efficient remodeling: work within the existing footprint; consider a small bump-out and lastly build an appropriate addition. Often minor changes are all that are needed to fix an awkward layout or improve flow within the house and the authors always emphasize integrating the old with the new so the house is cohesive and aesthetically pleasing.
Although we are living in a larger house, somehow it never feels imposing. Sarah Susanka explains why: it's all about proportion. "It is possible to design a house where everything looks in proportion, but when you approach the house on foot you realize it is out of proportion to our human bodies". I'd go further and say a lot of houses built or remodeled in the recent past don't fit the scale of the surrounding landscape either. The authors challenge the reader to really consider the way we live in these big spaces and offer smart solutions to make them feel more comfortable.
Not So Big Remodeling is glossy enough to keep on the coffee table yet packed full of plans and blueprints and I would be happy to own it for the photography alone. Many of the houses featured have beautiful natural wood trim and doors with a Craftsman ethos that is immediately appealing. But there's so much more to this book than obvious visual appeal, it contains tips and ideas on every page that can be incorporated into any remodeling project - large or small - including the updating of Beach House.
Thanks Susan at for adding this book to my remodeling resources.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Green Kitchens

Maybe it's Spring, maybe it's the Zeitgeist that reflects an era of environmental awareness, but green kitchens are all over the style magazines. Some are green in colour, others manufactured to "green" principles, but all appeal to me. Once I'd have worried that picking such a strong color could quickly feel dated but these kitchens are so fresh and modern I think they'll go the distance.

Andy and Karen Lacey, the UK based designers behind retro children's furnishings collection Olli & Lime, shared their appropriately lime green kitchen with Design Public's Hatch blog. The kitchen pairs bright green cabinets with soothing grey concrete counters. It may be tiny but it's very efficient - when everything is within reach you edit your kitchenware down to the indispensable, and you limit your movements, too. Small is gorgeous!

UK design magazine wallpaper* features another compact kitchen, this time in Hunter Green, in their May issue, styling it with abundant herbs and vegetables. Hunter Green has long been a standard in British kitchens, with AGA stoves to cook on (and warm your house) that have been available for decades but this takes the deep colour to the rest of the kitchen.

Bon Appetit magazine showed an award-winning eco-friendly kitchen from Arclinea San Diego that pairs chartreuse green (they call it Papaya Yellow) cabinets with stainless steel counters and all the bells and whistles you could possibly want from a kitchen.

Think green cabinets are too modern for your traditional house? Check out this pantry that's part of a "green" article over at The Kitchen Designer blog. It's sure to change your mind.
What do you think of the green kitchen trend? Strikingly beautiful and sure to stand the test of time or too reminiscent of the seventies avocado nightmare?
This post is part of Friday's Hooked on Houses blogfest

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kohler Save Water America

Do you know how many gallons of water you use every time you flush the toilet? Take the quick quiz on the Kohler website and they will donate $1 in water-saving products to Habitat for Humanity for every household that enters. Save water, build America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recycle, reuse, resent and refuse

A little gem from the local market.
As I handed the cashier my cloth bag he said he knew it was Earth Day because a lot of shoppers had been using their bags today. "Everyone's saving the planet" he said.
Everyone it would seem except the adjoining cashier who whined "But I like plastic bags"..........
"Why?" I asked "because you can use them to line wastepaper baskets at home? Or because you can re-use them?"
"I just like them"
Rather than bang my head against the wall, I'm off to throw this morning's coffee grounds under the rhododendron bushes. Micro-composting, good for the planet, good for my yard.
But here's some environmental information for anyone else still clinging to their bright, new, shiny plastic bags.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lovely Lulworth

We changed the fitting on the lamp I got on ebay so it could take the spider fitting on the Mibo Lulworth shade but I think it's not quite right. While I love the drum shape and the pattern, the shade really needs to be an inch or two lower at the bottom to cover the fitting. Rats. There's nothing I can do about it until I feel strong enough to tackle the shade shops out in the real world.

On the plus side, though, the 75 watt CFC light bulb provides enough light to illuminate the whole of that side of the kitchen so we no longer have to switch on the five floodlights in the ceiling. Think of the money we must be saving. Each of those spots is between 60 and 100 watts. Ka-ching. And one measly little energy-saving bulb lights it better (light shines out the top and bottom of the shade) and doesn't scorch the top of your head either. Who knows, maybe we'll save enough to be able to buy a Mibo lamp base for the Lulworth shade?