Miami Green Homes


What to do with a damaged wood fence from a Hurricane in Miami or South Florida.

A hurricane can leave much destruction in its wake, but even a small wind event may knock over some vegetation and fences.

Under the Florida Building code a permit is required to repair fences, so where to start? The good news is that after a strong wind event, such as Hurricane Irma, the governor has the ability to declare a state of emergency, as he did for Hurricane Irma. Besides federal aid, this status also allows municipalities to provide expedited permits for homeowners to get back to a normal stats of living.

Many municipalities accept a simplified permit application for simple items such as fences. Miami Dade has a standard detail that most municipalities will provide to homeowners to pull an “owner-builder” permit for minor repairs and replace missing sections of their standard wood fence.

 

wood fence

This detail is in compliance with the Florida building code and most contractors are familiar with this type of installation. In addition to the detail, you need a footprint of the home and boundary of the site, like an old survey. Mark or highlight the area of the fence to be replaced and provide the actual linear feet either as a side note or on a separate sheet. Make sure to reference the current building (as of this writing it the FBC 5th Edition) as the applicable reference code, again a simple note to be added to the plan.

Lastly some municipalities request an estimate of the cost of work. Get this from the contractor that is going to install the fence.

 

More damage than a wood fence? A permit will be required. Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to see how we can help. www.SebastianEilert.com 305.253.5786

 

 

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Residential Energy Savings pyramid

Not sure where to start with energy updated for the home? Ready to install PV panels to get off-grid? …or anywhere in-between. This is a great tool to help make sense of where to start and how to prioritize energy related updates to the house. Look also for other posts on this site for solar panels, insulation and design considerations.

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Design highlights. The Master Suite:

The Master Suite is a renovation and addition favorite. Next to the kitchen, this is probably the second most requested item when considering work to an existing structure. Indeed the improvements to this area are not just good for the immediate living situation, but also are key features for future value of the project. Frequently a master suite involves an addition to the house, rather than only a remodeling, thus increasing the square footage of the overall property.

A master suite, as opposed to a master bedroom, involves a grand bathroom and en-suite closets. The design typically begins with a small entry area into the suite. If space and budget allow, a small seating are is the ideal connecting point to the rest of the house. This area then serves as the connector as well as a buffer from the other spaces.

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The bedroom itself is generally larger as compared to the other bedrooms in the house. It is important to maintain an overall sense of scale in relation to the overall home. A good size master bedroom should be no smaller than 14’ x 18” and may be as large as 20’x 20’. Very large homes could go over bigger however, I generally advise to keep the bedroom function as a true bedroom and consider adding a seating area or small den to the suite in lieu of an oversized bedroom.

Once the living components are settled, the bathroom and closet relationship must be laid out next. Options include fully separate spaces, resulting in a large number of doors, a closet to bathroom connection in a corridor style or finally an open connection between them. The latter requires a good amount of area as well as excellent air control to avoid any moisture form the bathroom seeping into the closets.

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The bathroom itself should have a separate toilet room as well as a large feature shower. Here again, the scale of the shower should be larger than those in the rest of the home. Bathtubs are a vanishing commodity and are often forfeited in lieu or a larger shower, possibly used as a steam room. If a tub is desired, it can be integrated with the shower in a single enclose or be freestanding as a feature.

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A spin of off the Master Suite is the guest suite. Similar in approach, these spaces are sometimes referred to as a second master suite and follow the same composition of spaces as above, at a smaller scale. Guest suits are frequently designed in multistory homes and located on the ground floor rather than upper floor to prioritize access over views. They serve as an alternate master suite to allow for aging in place.

 



Age in Place, Part III: Technology

After understating the general concept of aging in place found here: und further the required physical connections found here: the next piece of the puzzle to look at the way technology contributes to the age in pace concept. There are two main areas to understand for the aging in place concept integration with technology: the personal connection and the connected infrastructure.

Personal connections are not new (anymore) and are changing at an amazing pace every day. Smart phones have long replaced personal computers in the way that we connect to each other as well to the business world around us. Video chatting, online shopping, social media and remote services are improving our personal life daily. While the youth is seeking ever sleeker ways to connect, share and integrated, no generation is excluded by these technologies. The simplification of the devices has further enabled anyone to instinctively utilize and access websites and apps. From ordering dinner at the local diner for delivery to connecting with family half way around the world, technology is here to make life easy.

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To take advantage of the network, all is need is a connection to it. This must be viewed as just another basic utility and no longer requires fixed land line connections. The personal network is easily connected to the larger infrastructure. Once established, the advantages and necessities for the age in place concept strongly focus on comfort, security and medical connection.

Of course integration of other features within the living unit are great and convenient, but the connection to outside services and utilities is the true benefit for the aging in place group. Online doctors’ visits to emergency response contacts, the technological lifeline makes remote living safe. Security can also easily be achieved with remote access, cameras and other services providing screening for visitors, deliveries and other concerns. Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” would be very different with today’s technology plug ins!

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Start with an integrated home automation system such as Control4 or Lutron to be part of any age in place design planning. There are many providers such as AT&T, Comcast, ADT, etc. that offer some sort of integration service package.

Lastly, consider researching the overall city integration for smart services. Smart City is a great site to learn more: www.SmartCity.com  or Smart Cities Council: http://smartcitiescouncil.com/



Miami Tiny houses

The tiny house concept, or micro living concept, movement is attracting increased popularity within the US. While it is not a new concept in many other parts of the globe, the awareness and conscious use of space is a relatively new phenomena on this vast continent. Previous planning and construction theories and methods do not focus on small spaces, but rather looks at increased footprints and increased equity – the larger, the better. Thus the typical sub-urban landscape is one of cookie cutter homes, neatly divided into micro squares, one larger than the next. This type of sprawl development has been growing into the design philosophy behind McMansions; the Tiny house movement is the exact opposite.

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Excellent graphic from “The Tiny Life” website.

Understanding that larger homes take up more resources, not just to build, but to operate, is one of the key aspects of the interest in a more compressed method of living. Equity is seen as overall value in living quality rather pure dollars of the build size of the house.

Small space living has long been a part of urban city dwellers, but taking the concept to suburbia and other areas not needing restrictions of space is what the tiny home movement is all about. Leave more land for (urban) farming or to otherwise enjoy is one interest of enthusiasts. Another is the possibility of actually creating a custom home, that is small enough to be mobile, should the need to relocate arise. To compensate for the smaller interior spaces, outdoor spaces that are not build up become an extension of the living space and contribute to the overall quality of life. Call it outdoor living rooms, patios, workout spaces, or anything else that evokes the connection to the natural environment over its built up alternative.

Naturally, outdoor living is a favorite option for South Floridians. The caveat for the local market however, is the unique climate within the continental United States. While sunshine is abundant most of the year, so are rain, strong winds and tiny critters – all making the extended life outside challenging for the better part of the year. There is also the challenge of Hurricane safety, a rare but real threat to the South Florida market for micro living. The building codes and insurance providers are keenly aware of the ravaging forces creating a path of destruction and have pushed for many safe features and methods to minimize damage and threat – rather successfully. Incorporating these features into outdoor living spaces, unfortunately goes precisely against the concept of secured structure and property.

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Combination Tiny House and Container living. Found HERE

Regardless, the tiny home option is likely to increase in popularity and solutions to the humidity and hurricane challenges are sure to be found. Sebastian Eilert Architecture has already provided numerous concepts to clients and we are thrilled to be part of this growing movement.



Design highlights. The Kitchen:

Kitchens are the number one request when looking to improve an existing home and are a vital key feature of any new design. New home projects allow to create kitchens as a feature of the overall style and are comparatively easy to design to the liking of the client.

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L-shape kitchen with recessed refrigerator – design by Sebastian Eilert Architecture. More images from this project can be found HERE.

The larger challenge can be found in renovations and additions. In existing home projects, the kitchen typically represents the largest cost item, and the choice between working within the existing area versus potentially relocating the entire thing, is a first and important step to consider. A simple upgrade of finishes rarely is a viable option to bring an outdated kitchen to modern standards. Moving and removing walls to allow for an expansion typically require new plumbing and electrical work. Next are the selection of cabinet and countertop style and color. Styles are primarily defined by the doors and drawer faces as well as support legs, if applicable. Classic shaker, simplified shaker and smooth are some of the most popular choices. Look for our previous post on countertop options beyond the typical Granite.

As for the kitchen itself, the most common are L-shaped, island style, alley or a combination of them. Laying out a kitchen there are a couple of items to consider. In the design world we refer to the “kitchen triangle” as the relation between the refrigerator, the sink and the cooktop or stove; the 3 key items in preparing meals. These items want to relate in such a way that items can be moved, prepared and cooked without having to cross path with other users or long distances. Accidents happen, but when the sink and cooktop are at opposite ends, the probability increases for slips, drips and spills. Other items such as dishwasher, microwave, cleaning utensils and garbage, including separate recycling options, must also be located with thought. A kitchen is as much about looks as it is about function.

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typical triangle relations for sink, cooktop and refrigerator.

In the design layout the next choices are whether to have an inward or outward facing kitchen. This depends on the user. Some users like to do their cooking in private and then turn around to entertain. Others prefer to see outward to keep a command center while preparing meals and more. Next, there is the question of incorporated seating; a wonderful functioning option. While the 80’s boasted raised bars to have family and guests peek into the kitchen, modern design is more likely to feature either a larger integrated seating area or a slightly lowered included section of the counter or island at table height.

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kitchen with island and lowered seating/eating counter. glass and Quartz countertops – design by Sebastian Eilert Architectrure. More images from this project can be found HERE.

Lastly, there is the question of storage. When possible, a pantry is a great option to house food and other products. Installing a counter in the pantry also allows to get some smaller appliances off the main kitchen counter while keeping them in close proximity for use.

Whatever your choice, work with your design professional to create your dream kitchen. It is after all the heart of the home.



Building information modeling, or BIM, is the newest generation of software used for design and creation of documents for architectural projects.

For thousands of years, architecture has been worked the same way. The tools have changed, from drawings on papyrus or chipped into stone, to drafting on velum and blueprints. The shift to CAD, computer aided design or drafting, was a major shift in the speed of production but doesn’t really change the way architects work. It was, and still is, essentially drawing on a two dimensional surface. It doesn’t matter if that surface is a sheet of paper or model space in a computer file.

What makes BIM different?

BIM is like building in a virtual environment. The property can be accurately modeled, with the topography recreated and the climate set as part of the information. This includes items such as humidity and temperature, solar information and elevation. The materials used can be accurately described, not only by size but with information that can include insulation values and life cycle costs as well. A CMU, concrete modular unit or concrete block, can be accurately dimensioned. A CMU is 7-5/8” x 7-5/8” x 15-5/8” in size. The drawing convention has been to use the nominal size of 8” to represent this. With BIM we can accurately model a wall with real dimensions which helps during construction as less assumptions must be made.

What can BIM do that CAD can’t?

Information is the most important aspect of BIM. The accuracy of design is much higher and more controllable. This doesn’t just include dimensions but material quantities as well. The content of a material such as cast in place concrete can be much more accurately estimated which can save on costs. The building energy uses can be extrapolated from the model to more accurately size AC equipment. This means equipment can be specified that isn’t too big or to small for the building. This information is not just useful to clients and architects but to contractors as well. They can more accurately price out a project because their material needs are more precisely known.

What are some of the issues with BIM?

The adoption of BIM by design professionals is very limited at this time. There are a few of reasons for this. The first one is the reluctance of established practitioners to make major changes to how they work. BIM is a paradigm shift in how architects design and is not an easy change to undertake. Another issue is once the decision to shift from CAD to BIM is made, the learning curve is very steep and long. It may take up to a year before a design team becomes proficient in the software. During this transition production time may actually be longer than before, however the benefits in the long term will be immense. Finding personnel who can use the software is also an issue. The people who know how to use the software don’t usually have the experience in construction to exploit it fully. Conversely experienced designers don’t know the program.

Our experience with BIM:

There have been two major advantages that we have benefitted from using BIM. The amount of time required for construction document production has been reduced significantly. Depending on the project, we have seen time savings of 50-90%. The accuracy of modeling has resulted in fewer construction revisions and RFI’s, requests for information. The most important change has been how we work with our clients. We deliver 3D models as part of the design process in addition to conventional plans. In many ways, we have found that clients, and in some cases engineers, have a better understanding of their project using the 3D model verses the plans. This allows us to have a very interactive design process and deliver a better project.

BIM has become the foundation for construction and as it is adopted more widely in the future by all members of the building team, will continue to be more useful in making design decisions.