Miami Green Homes


Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Interior Design

There are many opportunities to limit our impact on our natural environment. From choosing green, renewable energy sources, driving electric or hybrid cars, or making environmentally friendly choices in how we choose to design our living spaces, we can each make some small positive impact each day.

A Breath of Fresh Air

The air we breathe is often more polluted in our homes and workspaces than outside. This pollution comes from traditional construction or design materials and is released as out-gassing chemicals from flooring, upholstery, or paint. Choosing a Zero VOC paint can be an excellent way to eliminate one source of indoor toxins.

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, harmful, highly solvent chemicals that linger as invisible air pollution. VOCs can cause significant illnesses, including headaches, sore throats, and shortness of breath, and they have even been linked to some cancers.

Zero VOC paint is free of synthetic and petroleum-based chemicals and many other harmful toxins like ammonia, benzene, and formaldehyde. Choosing a Zero VOC paint helps eliminate these toxins and chemicals from the air we breathe inside our homes and removes the threat of more extensive environmental contamination by these same chemicals.

Another excellent way to ensure better air quality in indoor spaces is to include a wide variety of houseplants. Not only will they remove CO2 and produce oxygen, but they can even clean dangerous chemicals from the air.

Natural Light, Cooling Shade

Paying particular attention to window treatments and blinds during a redesign or renovation can go a long way toward increasing how eco-friendly a home can be. Using room-darkening shades, shutters, or light-blocking curtains can drastically reduce cooling bills in a hot climate such as the one we have here in South Florida.

This helps cut down on the use of air conditioning, and on cool evenings windows can be opened to increase airflow and lower interior temperatures. On cooler days, using as much indirect natural light as possible from windows that aren’t directly exposed to the sun can lower the amount of energy used to illuminate interior spaces.

Natural Materials

Using natural, solid wood is always preferable to using particleboard or MDF, which contains synthetic resins and other binders which can be harmful. Furniture or trim made from solid hardwoods like oak or walnut is better for your environment, more attractive, and lasts longer.

Things like rattan, wicker, or bamboo are excellent choices for lighter-weight furniture and have enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. These materials are breathable, easily cleaned, and completely free of harsh chemicals.

Bigger Projects, Bigger Opportunities

If you live in Miami or South Florida and you’re ready to tackle a bigger redesign project or are interested in a new home and want to incorporate sustainable, eco-friendly principles, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture today.

Also available by email or phone, Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world, is US Green Building Council accredited, and would love to discuss your needs with you.



Eco-Friendly Home Spring Cleaning Tips 

Spring officially began on March 20, 2022, and the seasons are changing. The arrival of spring means it’s time for homeowners to do a spring cleaning. Spring cleaning can help declutter spaces and make them feel healthy and airy as we head into the warmest part of the year. If a homeowner cares about the environment and wants to ensure they live in a way that has minimal environmental impact, one step they can take this year is doing an eco-friendly spring cleaning process.

To learn more about what an eco-friendly spring cleaning process entails, read our guide below. These green spring cleaning tips will ensure that the cleaning process simply benefits a home and the loved ones who spend time there, with as little negative impact on the planet as possible.

Clean Blinds and Curtains

There’s no doubt South Florida homes get a lot of sunshine — so much so that many people choose to power their homes with solar energy. In the spring and summer, the sun can be so hot it can significantly heat up any home, causing the people who live there to use more energy from air conditioning. To stop this from happening, people may want to keep their blinds and curtains closed during the day. Make sure blinds are dusted and dirt-free for the spring, so when they’re pulled down they don’t let debris into the air. Take down curtains and give them a good wash. That way they won’t only be dust- and dirt-free when using them to block out the sun, they’ll also look fresh and wrinkle-free, too.

Scrub With Cloth Towels

Forget paper towels for this spring cleaning. When people clean surfaces in their bathrooms, kitchens, and beyond, they should avoid using paper towels to rinse and wipe off cleaning products or soap. Instead, South Florida residents can commit to using only reusable and washable cloth towels. 

Ditch the Chemicals

It may take some research based on a home’s complete cleaning needs, but people should ditch the chemical cleaners as they freshen up their space for springtime, and choose only natural cleaning products. Lemon juice can be a powerful cleaning agent for removing stains and rust, and baking soda also works to remove dirt, grime, and stains. White vinegar is a powerful agent for disinfecting surfaces, and essential oils can help sanitize spaces and make them smell fresh and invigorating. By not using harsh cleaning chemicals, homeowners can minimize damage to the environment as the chemicals spread in the air or get flushed down the drain.

Do You Want a Design Refresh For Spring? Call Sebastian Eilert Architecture

For South Florida residents who want to do more than just a spring cleaning to refresh their home this season, there’s always the option of redecorating or even renovating a space. Get in touch with Sebastian Eilert Architecture. Our company specializes in sustainable and ecologically responsible design, and Sebastian himself has been named one of the most influential sustainable designers in the world. Reach out today via phone or email for a consultation with Sebastian. We help homeowners have a space that feels clean, fresh, and good for the planet through every season. You can reach us at 786.556.3118.



The Psychological Benefits of Filling a Home With Plants

For any homeowner who has gone through the process of decorating their South Florida home, there’s a good chance they’ve picked out furniture, accent pieces, and interior design elements they love. However, one decor element they shouldn’t overlook as they fill up their space is plants. Plants can create a serene, pulled-together home decor aesthetic. But they not only enhance the way a home looks, they can also enhance the homeowner’s quality of life.

Research has shown time and again that filling up a home with plants has numerous health benefits — they even clean the air. However, along with their physical health benefits, plants can also improve mental health. Simply by bringing some greenery into a space, homeowners can actually improve their overall mental and emotional wellness.

It makes sense to fill a home with plants. Here are just a few psychological benefits of houseplants and how spending time around them might help change someone’s life. 

Boosted Mood

Houseplants have been proven to decrease depression in people and boost their mood so they feel better. A study by Urban Forestry and Urban Greeningshows 74% of study participants experienced increased emotional wellbeing and less stress when houseplants were incorporated into their environment. So fill a home with plants, and a home can become an even happier place than it already is.

Decreased Anxiety

Experts know that spending time around plants helps to decrease anxiety. That’s because greenery can engage the senses in ways that a space usually doesn’t. Plants are beautiful to look at, and they often smell good and give people unfamiliar textures to feel, as well. Having all these sensory experiences provided by plants can help increase mindfulness and bring homeowners to the present moment. This is a great way to decrease anyone’s anxiety and help them stay focused and in the present, rather than worrying about the past or future.

Improved Attention Span

House plants can improve a person’s attention span. In fact, a study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that plants in a workspace can decrease mental fatigue and improve people’s ability to stay working on a task. Plus, having plants in a home can boost someone’s ability to focus. It may be especially valuable today since, post-COVID 19 pandemic, more people than ever work from home. For a homeowner who wants something to help them stay on task while they work, enhancing a workspace or home office (in particular) with plants is a good idea. A window can also provide a view of outdoor plants.

Want a Home to Fill with Plants? Work with Sebastian Eilert Architecture

Ready to start filling a home with plants or design and build a new home that can be filled with plants when it’s finished?  Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture for assistance. We are committed to sustainable and ecologically responsible design, and Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world. Sebastian Eilert Architecture can handle anyone’s architectural and interior design project needs. Learn more about our work by visiting www.SebastianEilert.com. Get in touch at Sebastian@SebastianEilert.comor 786.556.3118.



Four Tips for Eco-Friendly Bathroom Cleaning

Most of us look at cleaning as a chore—especially true for bathrooms, as tight corners, grout and our hot and humid South Florida climate make for challenging work. Mold and mildew love heat and humidity, so there’s always grime to get rid of. If you’re environmentally conscious, this becomes doubly unpleasant because so many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals like ammonia, chlorine and formaldehyde. It’s terrible for your mood, bad for your health and bad for the planet. So, what can you do about it?

Green Cleaning

With these four simple tips, you can make cleaning the bathroom eco-friendly, more manageable and quicker. These techniques won’t require any more elbow grease than you’re used to and shouldn’t require a trip to the store. It may be surprising how well you can clean with vinegar and water, but both are potent solvents in their own right—and when combined, they’re even better.

1. Shine Up

Here’s a great example of how powerful white vinegar and water can be together. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix and get to work cleaning reflective surfaces like mirrors, countertops and faucets. Spray on the vinegar and water mix, wait a few minutes and wipe clean. A baking soda paste can be applied before spraying for especially grimy situations.

2. Shower Power

The same mixture as above can be used to clean glass shower doors, but there’s an even better method. Soapy residue or the minerals in hard water can make cleaning glass shower doors dingy and hazy—and challenging to clean unless you know this trick. Pour straight white vinegar into a spray bottle and heat it in the microwave for a minute or so. Immediately spray the heated vinegar on your shower door (or really, any glass surface). Let it stand for about fifteen minutes, then wipe it away with something non0abrasive, like a soft cotton rag.

3. Rub-a-Dub Tub

Baking soda makes another appearance here and the vinegar/water mix with baking soda works well when cleaning tubs—but may require a little extra effort. To avoid breaking a sweat, combine a couple of tablespoons of baking soda with liquid dish detergent or Castile soap and generously apply this mixture to the sides and bottom of your tub. It’s great for cleaning grout, too, because you can use a toothbrush to get in there. Please don’t use an abrasive scrubber for the tub, as it might scratch the surfaces.

4. Last But Not Least: The Dreaded Toilet

Here’s one chore that’s almost universally regarded with dread: cleaning the toilet. It’s no one’s favorite task, but it has to be done (and you can always wash up afterward). That 50/50 vinegar and water mix comes in handy again here, but for extra cleaning power, you can add lemon juice or any essential oils you might have on hand, such as tea tree or lavender. Spray the surfaces to be cleaned with the vinegar and water mixture, then apply the baking soda with a sponge or toilet brush. Let it sit for ten or fifteen minutes, then scrub it off with a brush.

Cleaner and Greener

You don’t need to rely on cleaners with harsh chemicals and getting them out of your routine (and out of your house!) is better not only for your health but also for the health of the planet. Solutions that are good for the environment are also good for us and when you can feel good about chores like cleaning the bathroom, they’re easier to get through.



Top Five Plants That Clean Indoor Air

Plants can do much more than help bring color and life to a home’s interior. They’re a great addition to any room, are more sustainable than cut flowers and offer us a way to bring nature indoors. Though there are plenty of aesthetic reasons to include plants in a home redesign, there are practical ones, too.

We usually assume our indoor air is clean, but harsh or dangerous chemicals can often contaminate it from cleaning products, mold and pollen and volatile organic gasses that leach out of indoor materials like flooring and upholstery. We spend around 90 percent of our time indoors and the concentrations of some pollutants can be as much as two to five times higher than levels found outdoors.

There’s good news, though—house plants are an affordable, effective way to clean your indoor air and act as a natural filter to many kinds of pollution. Having ample greenery indoors also helps you sleep better, helps your immune system be more robust and can even help your ability to concentrate. Here are the top five plants that can help clean your indoor air.

1. Philodendron

There are many different plants in this genus, including the trend-setting large-leafed monstera. These plants were shown to be one of the best at reducing air pollution and purifying indoor air. They’re especially effective at removing formaldehyde, which can accumulate as building materials and home furnishings outgas over time. Perfect for our South Florida climate, these can be kept outdoors as well, but keep children and pets from eating the leaves, though, as they can be toxic.

2. Snake Plant

This household succulent will help filter indoor air in surprisingly effective ways. It’s not only excellent at eliminating toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, it’s one of only a few plants capable of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen without direct sunlight. This makes it ideal for bedrooms or rooms with low natural light access.

3. Areca Palm

This small, cluster-forming palm is one of the most efficient air purifiers and a native of Madagascar, giving it an exotic appeal. It’s a natural air cooler and scrubs indoor air of dangerous chemicals like acetone, toluene and xylene, which can accumulate due to the use of nail polish, certain detergents, some wooden furniture and even cosmetic products.

4. Spider Plant

This little wonder is a beautiful addition to your indoor spaces and is extremely easy to grow. It’s surprisingly effective at removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene, found in some cleaning products and furniture upholstery. One study found that it could remove as much as ninety percent of toxins found in indoor air in just two days.

5. Aloe Vera

Not only does this plant produce a naturally anti-bacterial gel inside its spiky leaves, but it also acts as an effective, natural air purifier. It’s excellent at removing toxic chemicals from indoor air, including benzene and formaldehyde, often present in cleaning products.

Breathe Easier With Sustainable Design

If you’re interested in other ways to make your indoor spaces greener, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to discuss design elements you can incorporate in new or existing buildings. Reachable by email or phone as well, Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world and is proud to be US Green Building Council accredited.



City Trees and Soil Are Sucking More Carbon Out of the Atmosphere Than We Thought


Conserving Water at Home: Things You Can Do To Save the Planet

Most of our planet—seventy-one percent—is water. This might seem more than enough to go around, but there might be less than you think. Wasting water takes a toll on the environment in surprising ways.

According to a study by researchers at the University of South Florida, it takes around 1.1 kilowatt-hours to treat and transport just 100 gallons of drinkable water. That’s enough energy to keep a 50-inch LED TV running for 62,500 hours or over seven years.

Florida residents use about 100 to 150 gallons of water a day, with around 24 percent being used in toilets, 20 percent for showers and 19 percent for running faucets in our bathrooms and kitchens. Half of all the water Floridians use each day goes directly into the ground—900 million gallons, all used to water lawns.

Saving water saves more than just the water, but also all that energy used to treat it. Here are four quick ways you can do your part to save water, save the energy it costs to treat it and bring it to your tap and save the planet.

1. Use Low-Flow Shower Heads

Showering can use up to two gallons of water each minute, making it easy to see how this is the third-largest consumer of water in Florida homes. Switching to low-flow showerheads is a great way to help, as it will cut your water consumption (and your monthly water bill!) by up to forty percent. You can do more by taking quick showers and turning the water off while you’re soaping up.

2. Turn Off the Water While Brushing Your Teeth

It’s surprising how many people do this and it is one of the easiest ways to save water. Wet your toothbrush before applying toothpaste, then turn it off while you brush. You don’t even need to rinse your mouth afterward, even though 62 percent of us do. Rinsing immediately after brushing washes away the fluoride in toothpaste that protects our teeth, which makes skipping this step good for you as well as good for the planet.

3. Always Fill Your Dishwasher Before Use

It’s better for the environment to use a dishwasher than to hand wash dishes, as hand washing as many dishes as will fit in a fully loaded dishwasher wastes as much as twenty-seven gallons of water a day. Using an Energy Star-rated dishwasher uses as little as three gallons for the same amount of dishes. Before loading them into your dishwasher, scrape food waste off of dishes (and consider using food scraps as compost) and only run it when it is full.

4. Water Lawns at Dawn or Dusk

If you must water your lawn, do it in the least wasteful way possible. Water evaporates quickly in hot, sunny conditions and Florida isn’t called the Sunshine State for nothing. Water your lawn once per day, when the sun is low in the sky. Watering just around sunset is better, as the water won’t evaporate as quickly as it would in the morning.

Help the Planet, Help Yourself

Freshwater is a precious resource and though more is being done to provide it, there’s still plenty of reason to do your part. Consider using other water-saving appliances, like energy-efficient dishwashers and toilets or bidets designed to use as little water as necessary.

Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to discuss upgrades and redesigns that can beautify your home—and help keep our planet green. Also available by email or phone, Sebastian is recognized as one of the 30 most influential sustainable design architects in the world, is US Green Building Council accredited and would be happy to discuss ecological options with you.



Residential Insulation Options for South Florida

There’s a reason why an increasing number of people choose to call Florida home. The beautiful weather and gorgeous landscapes can’t be beaten. However, as with any warm climate, special considerations need to be taken to ensure that a house, whether new construction or an existing home, is as comfortable and cost-efficient as possible, all year-round.

The importance of residential insulation

It may seem like a house in a temperate area like Miami wouldn’t need much insulation, but the opposite is true. While houses in colder regions of the country require insulation to keep the heat in, homes in southern Florida must be insulated to hold the heat at bay and minimize the amount of work the A/C has to do. 

The history of insulation use

People have been using some form of insulation for millennia. From fur-covered hides stretched over wooden frames in prehistorical times to the advent of fiberglass insulation in the 1930s and modern blown-in foam, insulation has played a significant part in making homes more comfortable and hospitable. Luckily, there is no longer a need for hair-on hides, but the modern options are greater than ever.

The best types of insulation for South Florida homes

Choosing insulation that matches the architecture of a home is important. For instance, a house with a vaulted ceiling will require a different type of insulation that will work with the home’s interior design, as opposed to a single-level ranch where it will not be obvious. The most crucial factor is the R-value of insulation. R-value indicates how well insulation will perform in keeping heat from either entering or leaving your home. The higher the number, the more efficient it will be. 

Batt Insulation

Batt insulation is sold in rolls or strips. It is appropriate for walls, ceilings, and floors. It is made from fiberglass or rock wool and, while one of the older forms of insulation, it is still popular.

Blown-in Fiberglass or Cellulose Insulation

Both blown-in fiberglass and cellulose insulation gained popularity between the 1950s and 1990s. They are a particularly popular option for attics and walls. Cellulose has been shown to have a higher R-value than fiberglass. The downside to these insulations is that they can be messy if attics or other areas must be accessed regularly.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation has become a popular choice for many homes. It is easily applied (by qualified contractors) to walls and roofs and is shown to be watertight while having a high R-value. 

Rigid Insulation

Also known as foam board insulation, rigid insulation can be used in any part of the home. It can be cut to size and is easily removed if need be. It is advantageous in areas where blown-in or foam insulation may not be practical. 

 

Foil Insulation

Foil insulation is an excellent option in hot climates in that it reflects heat away from the foil surface. Its thin composition makes it ideal for pairing with other insulations, such as batt insulation. Therefore, installing the foil side facing out will keep heat from moving through the walls and roof into the living areas. 

Ready to start your own project? Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture for your Architectural and Interior Design project needs.

http://www.SebastianEilert.com

Sebastian@SebastianEilert.com

786.556.3118



Cultivate These Keystone Plants in Your Yard to Help Bees and Butterflies Thrive and Pollinate

Keystone plant species in North America are important for helping pollinators and insects like bees, butterflies, and caterpillars.

Source: Cultivate These Keystone Plants in Your Yard to Help Bees and Butterflies Thrive and Pollinate



Design after COVID 19. How the virus may affect architectural design for the home – Part II: work, friends, and family

There is no doubt that the “after” will bring with it some changes and lasting adjustments. After looking at how the home needs to adapt for our personal use, what changes may be needed for work from home and visiting friends and family?

In the home – Part II:

The first part of this question is relatively easy: “Remote work from home” now includes some area with a computer setup that has a reasonably clear background for video calls and conferences. Few homes are designed with an extra room or space with this function in mind, so there is another change that will be forthcoming for future design. A home office or home office nook will be a feature that will be standard in post COVID-19 residential design. Even for professions that do not need this setup for their basic livelihood, the feature is sure to become a standard, much like the entry foyer noted in the related post, in the home Part I. Beyond work, this area can be used for a new type of happy hour, remote classrooms and other social interactions. But what about multiple people working or learning from home in the same schedule? To create a home office space for each family member is not feasible, so creative partitions with sound isolation may be the answer.

Built-In Home Office Ideas by Paul Raff Studio

Integrated Home Office Design

Creating an office nook can present a solution to carve out space in an easy arrangement and configuration to shield from view and sound. Similar to an open studio setup, multiple stations may be created in this fashion. Designating an existing room, where possible, allows for more functional use and setup but may be especially challenging for renovations and existing homes that look to adapt. After all, most homes were not designed with a spare room for future use adaption in mind, a concept that will likely change in new design thinking – adaptability!

work nook
Front Entry to the Left, Office Nook to the Right

The challenge with creating a small space or using an existing room within the home however, lies with the psychological burnout, that is showing up in many workers already who are being “on” all the time. The kitchen becomes the breakroom to fill up on coffee, the living room reminds of the chores that are typically left for the end of the workday and the school books on the dining table remind of homework and classes that need attending to. The 8-hour workday stretched to 10 hours, to 12 hours, and blends with the home life. The workday itself is now part of the design challenge.

A better design solution is to revisit the home office space as a separate structure that allows for a mini commute, by taking a few steps into the office and when at lunch or at the end of the day returning to the home. Planning and zoning codes will need to change and adapt, to allow for this to happen. Auxiliary structures are already allowed under most zoning codes, but property size may restrict this function due to requirements for building separation, connectivity, and setbacks.

Let’s return to the design opportunity of the home office as a separate structure: Former site design program choices such as pool cabanas, covered BBQs, granny flats, or storage sheds now present the opportunity to create the at-home office studio instead. The design should be complete with a kitchenette to include the coffee maker, sink and a small refrigerator, etc. as well as a bathroom. This function can be accommodated within a fairly small footprint, 10’x 12’ to start. If more space is available, multiple stations for all members of the family, as well as a meeting area or miniature conference room may complete the layout.

Garden office ideas – garden office pods and garden office sheds ...

The work from home studio would likely be connected to the home with an open covered walkway and allow for independent direct access for clients and visitors from the outside. The home office transforms into a true work from home set up, and at the end of the day, the commute also reduces the carbon footprint!

Prefabricated design solutions provide a great opportunity for quick installation, rather than lengthy construction, as these spaces have urgent need. Design options are growing in this industry, including modern solutions, like the Coodo.

coodo

What about friends and family? The Home office studio ideally should not become the weekend hangout to maintain a dis-association form the work week. Instead, the transition into the home for visitors should start at the foyer, as noted for the personal use in Part I. Just like for our own use, this space will function as a transitional area that allows for an initial disinfecting and reduction of the viral load that comes into the home. Removing shoes should become standard as is already common practice in many cultures around the world. The focus now, however, is on minimizing the introduction of foreign particles. An integrated shoe storage compartment in the foyer will facilitate this process. Hand sanitizing stations and even a small sink may be items that are incorporated into the design. The latter will most certainly be part of the mudroom transitional space on larger homes that feature a garage. This access point, however, is unlikely to be used for friends and family.

Once the initial shedding has been completed more spacious furniture arrangements to allow for groups to maintain a small degree of physical distancing will influence future designs to create overall larger spaces. The need to fill these rooms with a lot of furniture should be balanced with the function and anticipation of people other than the immediate family. If the in-laws visit frequently or the home is the go-to spot for the crew to watch the game, keep it open and spacious.

powder room

Foyer with Powder Room

Already a popular design feature, the powder room will become an important post-COVIT element for families that have frequent visitors. The private bathrooms need to remain just that – private to avoid contamination. The solution is to provide a half-bathroom near the general living areas. Depending on the layout and adjacent functions, this room may expand to include a shower if connecting to the outside or other uses of the home and yard. The powder room should include a small changing area, think mini locker room, that double serves as guest storage and is large enough to comfortably allow for a change of clothes. Ideally, the location is in close proximity to the foyer as well.

Lastly, the space every party always ends up at. The kitchen! Already a focal point in the home for daily use, this is the spot that inevitably any group ends up at some point. To avoid close quarters, the center island, already a popular feature in larger homes will become the single most important post-COVIT-19 design feature. An accessible island without a cooktop or sink provides an excellent workstation during normal use, easily extends to include informal seating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and maintains good physical distance for gatherings – the larger the counter, the better.

SEA_SAKA-4664

Oversized Kitchen Island with Integrated lower seating counter – classic design style

Inspired to adapt your space or design your new homes yet?

www.SebastianEilert.com