Miami Green Homes

Sebastian Eilert Architecture (S.E.A.) named among best Architects in Pinecrest, Florida

It is an honor to be among such a select group of colleagues and named as a best ARCHITECTS in Pinecrest, Florida by Home Builder Digest.

Ready to start your new home? Contact Sebastian Eilert, AIA For Interior Design considerations, E2 (Square) will happily consider your project.

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

Green Roofing #1
October 2, 2017, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Building knowledge, Hot Topic, Landscaping

Green Roofing provides many benefits to the built and natural environment, as well as its inhabitants. The roof, a simple extension of the existing one, diverts waste from landfills by prolonging the life of all systems in the building as well as filters pollutants from storm water and the air.

With a larger startup cost, many are discouraged from converting. Yet over the past ten years, green roofs have spread to cities such as New York, Chicago, and Miami. Some remain private, only for service access, while there are others that are used as herb gardens, restaurant terraces, and public garden spaces. The larger corporate buildings as well as civic buildings are creating roof gardens, lending the space to employees as well as the public in some instances. But the green roof is also beneficial in residential and smaller scale applications. Not only is it a matter of energy efficiency, but it is also very pleasing to look at!


Typical built-up Green Roof detail

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. 305.253.5786



Brick and Earth Ovens – DIY
October 5, 2012, 12:53 am
Filed under: Hot Topic, Landscaping, Resources, Sustainable Living

Brick ovens provide an exterior option for baking and cooking. The oven originated in Italy, where brick oven pizza is to this day made as it was in the past. Traditionally these ovens were wood-fired, although coal-fired, electrically powered, and gas-fired options are also available. This form of oven is not confined to Italy. It is also seen in France, India – in the form of clay ovens, and the other parts of Europe.

Brick ovens provide two options: build it yourself, or buy one and have it installed professionally. Should money be an issue, building you own is a simple and inexpensive task. They are made of fireproof brick, concrete, stone, clay or cob. The main materials for a DIY project are brick and mortar, both fireproof. This project is not very time consuming. First you must decide what shape and size you want. They can have rounded tops or flat tops. Many restaurants use the round top that is gas-fired. This gives it a more rustic Italian look. Once decided, the following two websites have information and step-by-step instructions on how to build one. They are low cost and aesthetically pleasing.

A few notes on Sustainable Gardening
July 24, 2012, 12:51 am
Filed under: Hot Topic, Landscaping, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency

The term sustainable can be defined as “requiring no outside inputs.” A sustainable garden, although needing to be pruned and groomed as to not become a forest, has many benefits over the tradition flower garden. Sustainable gardens require no fertilizer, less watering, are low maintenance and they improve soil quality tremendously. Due to a concern with the environment all over the world, sustainable garden is coming forward.

Fertilizer is the main concern. In Wisconsin, for example, fertilizer runoff into the smaller lakes has caused many problems. First: water pollution. The water now has chemicals in it that are harmful and cannot be consumed. The fertilizer is also creating rapid underwater plant growth. Lakes that were once blue and clear to the bottom are now grey green with zero visibility. This pollution does not just affect the plants but the fish as well. Many species of fish are dying off and others are mutating over time. Another downside to fertilizer is that the process in which it is created requires fossil fuels. We want to conserve fuels, not waste them on plant steroids.

Water scarcity around the world because of drought and lack of new sources of fresh water is addressed with sustainable gardening. By using native or drought resistant plants in a sustainable garden, less watering is needed. It is also recommended that plant watering happens directly at the root. This keeps the plant happy, well-fed and means less watering of unnecessary dirt patches. Using less water also minimizes a water utility bill.

The basic components of a sustainable garden are the organic methods and inputs, water quality and conservation and plant selection.

1. The first step is to set up the garden space. Reducing storm water runoff and using less impervious surfaces helps in creating a healthy, non-flooding environment. This can be done using rain barrels or rain gardens.

2. Select your plants. Drought resistant and native plants are the safest option, however perennials, larger grasses, and tough shrubs are also very successful for this type of garden. The plants should be grouped together with other that have similar watering needs, so as to not waste. It is also important to consider the health of the plants. Make sure to choose those that are the most pest-resistant and disease-resistant. If planting trees, deciduous trees should be to the south of the home to maximize shading on your structure for example. On the north, plant evergreens for winter wind protection.
3. Remember to conserve. Be water smart and instead of using a sprinkler with lots of evaporation and waste, water the plants directly at the roots; this is also sometimes called xeriscaping. A little side note, reuse that plastic milk jug. Poke holes in it to make a great watering can or use perforated hose pipe with water coming out at a trickle for more direct root watering.
4. Enjoy! Every once in a while the garden will need to be tamed because left alone it can become a forest. Weeding can be done by hand or even with a 10% vinegar solution!

Sustainable gardening has both financial and environmental benefits and creating this unique garden space adds to appeal of your home.

(SE, EB, edit JLD)

5 Quick Tips to Spring New Life into a Dreary Facade

Want to improve the curb appeal of your home without splurging on a new paint job or a remodel? Here are five easy ways to spruce up your home, without breaking the bank!

1. Paint your mailbox, or simply get a new one! The mailbox, in suburbia at least, is the first thing people see when they go by your house. A metal one that looks like teenagers tried to destroy it in a drive-by baseball bat adventure doesn’t help your curb appeal. So spruce it up! Add a coat of paint, put stickers on it with your street number, and if you’re feeling creative and kitschy, add some seashells from the seashore.

2. Lay out some pavers. One way to avoid going to that Orange Box Retailer for them is to find a home in your area that is set for demolition. My mom went and asked the builder if she could take the pavers. They said yes! Construction debris is what they would have become and filled even more precious space in our landfills, but instead, they now make a beautiful path from the sidewalk to the front of the house. Keep in mind though that not all builders are this nice! Laying pavers might seem difficult, but there are many tutorials out there for the beginner. : This link shows how to install a paver patio, but a simply path works the same way.

3. Landscaping. It IS easy to be green. Planting colorful flowers or leafy bushes in your yard (in a tamed manner that is) makes your home look well-manicured and taken care of. Planting along the driveway, along the sidewalk, and along the house give more life to your property. Plant pricing typically begins at $5 for a flowering plant that will cover around 1 square foot of space and then the prices go up from there. If you feel inclined, buying a small tree (investing around $20) will  turn into a beautiful source of shade and privacy. Another planting tip is to add window boxes. These handy inexpensive planters add color to the façade of your home without the responsibility of maintaining a massive garden. (It also hides an exterior that might need a little bit of paint.)

4. Replace hardware. Getting new doorknobs, door knockers, house numbers, and more all make your home look fresh and well-kept. A rusty doorknob just looks sloppy and it makes people want to wash their hands right after touching it!

5. Outdoor Lighting. Lighting your front path or your front porch makes the house feeling more  welcoming, and now you can even buy solar powered lamps that simply stab into the grass, soak up the sun and provide a little bit of outdoor lighting for a very reasonable price. This type of lighting is low maintenance and it is possible to find these types of lights home improvement stores for roughly  $4.00/each.  Nicer ones tend to start around $10.00/each.

7 Xeriscaping Principles for South Florida
June 24, 2010, 7:17 pm
Filed under: Hot Topic, Landscaping, Resources, Sustainable Living

Annotations on 7 Xeriscaping Principles for South Florida

(created by Ronald E. Mossman, Ph.D., edited and revised by Sebastian Eilert, AIA)

  1. DESIGN: Select low maintenance plants. Use few flower beds and only near entrances – not a ring of flowering plants around each tree. Evaluate the site for daily and seasonal wind and sun exposure. Buffer NW winter winds and lightly shade SE areas. Shade the AC compressor and west-facing wall. Determine major Residential uses: public, private, service and shade accordingly.
  2. PLANT SELECTION: Group plants by water needs. Native and regionally appropriate plant community and other plants with specific water tolerances (water, soil, light, salt and wind). Plan for different species to be in bloom each season. Select for wildlife food sources as well as human food sources. Select plants for their mature size, avoid instant landscape. Give the plants room to grow properly.
  3. IMPROVE SOIL: Compost flower beds, vegetable gardens and trimmings. Mulching gradually adds nutrients from decayed organic matter already in your environment.
  4. USE TURF WISELY: Xeriscaping principles suggest that 10% or less of the property should be lawn. Turf uses 50-60% of residential landscape water. Irrigate in the early morning. Water is only needed when a footprint can be seen in the lawn after you walk across. Cut at the highest mover setting and use a mulching mower. Use St. Augustine “Floratam” sod
  5. IRRIGATE EFFICIENTLY: Limit irrigation to first year after planting for non-turf areas such as bedding and patios. Use drip or micro irrigation systems and include recycled water from the roof and redirected water from paved areas.
  6. MULCH: Mulch assists in holding water in the soil by restricting evaporation. Mulch reduces soil temperature by up to 10 degrees compared to bare soil. 18% of all US waste is yard waste! Get mulch from local sources and keep timings from your own yard.
  7. MAINTANCE: do not rake and collect grass trimmings. Spread grass trimmings that are left to rot return nutrients to your lawn. It has been shown that 40% more nitrogen fertilizer must be added to return what has been lost in removal – a waste of money and energy. Keep fertilizers and pesticides to a minimum and use integrated pest management (IPM). Allow natural predators such as lizards, snakes, ladybugs and use clandosan. Read fertilizer labels and use appropriate fertilizer for correct plants. Practice selective pruning and raise canopy to channel wind from the Southeast to reduce temperature around your house and yard. Regularly check your irrigation system for leaks and damage as well as proper coverage.

Extensive plant information can be found at and native plant identification photos at


How to green your South Florida home – Part III

Final post about tips to improve your home and make it a more green building; for your health, for your wallet and for your overall well being…

 Part I will focus on small to no budget items (please see previous post)

Part II will look at medium expenses or items to look at if they break and need (NEED!) replacement

Part III will look at the big changes that will have a lasting impact on your life 9from a green building perspective, but who knows, maybe more…)

Part III. What really works:

Lighting. After changing the light bulbs and also some of the fixtures and installing dimmers, the next big step is to consider a building automation system. This low voltage system can connect all your lighting, temperature control, audio and video systems, including alarms and smart appliances. You can than control these devices much more precise and even get remote access (smart phones already gear up for these features). BY monitoring the output of the building automation system you can optimize power uses and fine tune any waste generated by lights left on or appliances not needed. These systems generally also have a vacation setting, enabling a quick way to trim all the power use you do not need on a daily basis when not in your home. Great feature but a bit expensive. These systems start around $5000 for a small home with limited low voltage tie ins.

Air Conditioning. The general rule is to look at a unit when it is 10 years or older. Typically systems have advanced in efficiency and the payback to upgrade can be realized in 4-6 years. Look for the SEER value. This is the indicator of how efficient the unit is. Current code required a 13 SEER unit; a 16 or 17 SEER unit is considered high efficiency and 18+ SEER is very high efficiency. The later are a choice investment and should be evaluated for Life Cycle Cost and Return of Investment. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)

Remember to upkeep the correct filters and also clean the ducts, if you do not replace them.

Super Therm

Roof / Shell: you already looked at your windows and doors and have sealed all leakage. The next step is to invest in the buildings shell. The big collector in South Florida is the roof. Over 80% of heat gain to the house will come from above with our year round sunshine. Do not just consider Hurricane issue but go beyond and think about the energy savings from this large surface. All roofs in Miami Dade County are required to withstand Hurricane strength winds, by code, so any roof will comply with this general concern. Move away from the low budget option of asphalt tile and a great value are metal roofs. These reflect well and are sturdy. This will overall be my recommendation for it is safe and efficient. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)

You can also consider sealing the existing or new roof with a high SRI (Solar Reflectance Index) coating, such as SuperTherm. I had applied this system over my existing asphalt shingle roof and lowered my attic temperate from over 140 degrees to about 85 during last summer. Great savings translating to your energy bill. A product like Super Therm runs about $2.60 per square foot installed.

If you like to kick it up one more notch, consider adding photovoltaic panels to your roof. A 5kW system will cost about $50,000 initially, but there are rebates and tax credits available lowering the out of pocket cost to potentially less than $15,000; not a bad number, especially when you considering adding this system instead of a generator (and you are sure not to run out gas, should the need arise). The installation of such a system will also require connection to your electrical system and requires assistance of professional services. (THIS OPTION WILL REQUIRE A PERMIT)

In regard to landscaping and water savings, the big ticket item is a cistern. After installing gutters and properly channeling your rain water run off, collecting hits precious water as well some of the waste water already generated to reduce the amount of potable (drinkable) water used ion your home is the final frontier. These tanks are similar to septic tanks in size and can be installed above or below ground.

Currently you can use this water for irrigation, in the future, legislation will adapt to also use reclaimed and collected water for toilet flushing.

For specific help, contact Sebastian Eilert to get a custom plan to green your home. 786.556.3118


South Miami (SoMi) Mag going green article
October 19, 2009, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Building knowledge, Landscaping, Resources, Sustainable Living

A great article by Donna Shelly for the South Miami Town Center magazine, now called SOMi…. Look for a copy around town.

Contact Donna for freelance writing @


Going “green” to reduce greenhouse gasses, shrink the size of our carbon footprint and wean ourselves off an insatiable thirst for petroleum involves a wide variety of potential solutions. In some cases, the remedies are complicated and costly; in others, they are straight-forward and downright economical.     

We would like to share some of those environmentally-responsible practices with you through a series of columns over the next year. We hope to inspire you to adopt new habits and make informed choices for a healthier planet. And we want to hear from you. Tell us your success stories and share your greening tips with us and the readers of SoMi Mag.

The choices you make regarding what you plant in your backyard or on your balcony can have a profound impact on the environment. That is especially true in our neck of the woods where certain exotic plants, freed from the ravages of frost, went from being pretty to being a pest. In some cases these species were brought here decades ago to dress-up the native scrub, sand and palmetto landscape. The list of invasive-exotic flora is quite extensive in Florida. In SoMi, we fight two of the State’s most noxious plants:  rosary pea vine (Abrus precatorius), with enough poison in one pea to kill a human and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), a particularly adaptive member of the sumac family that thrives in all eco-systems from hammock to mangrove swamp.

Selecting appropriate landscape materials can save water, reduce the need for pesticide and fertilizers, and make gardening a whole lot easier for you. Not bad when you think of it—cheaper, less work, and good for the environment.

To start “Going Native,” we recommend some websites that are packed with great information about native, non-native and invasive plant life, xeriscaping, integrated pest management, composting, capturing rain water for irrigation, and more.  (Narrative wc = 309)  Is chock full of information.  Warning! You could spend hours here. This is the University of Florida’s site with particulars about plants that help you make an informed decision before venturing out to your local plant nursery.  Florida Native Plants descriptions and prices Listing and links for many Florida Native Plant providers  Association of Florida Native Nurseries  The Florida Native Plant Society  Your Florida Backyard with a lot of information about all aspects of gardening in Florida, including how to attract butterflies.  Florida’s Online Composting Center  Rain barrel workshop information Make your own rain barrel, with pictures to help you along.