Miami Green Homes


6 Sustainable Home Renovation Tips to Improve Your Fixer-Upper, guest post by Ray Flynn
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Photo via Pexels

When planned correctly, buying a fixer-upper can help you save money while creating the house of your dreams. You’re sure to have a few expectations and ideas about how you want your house to turn out, but where do you start? Try taking a sustainable approach to your home improvements so you can reduce your energy usage and feel good about your environmental footprint. If you’re looking for ways to keep your home renovations green, this article is for you!

Use Steel to Create Additional Space

If you’ve found the perfect house but it’s lacking storage space or that workshop you’ve always dreamed of, consider adding an external garage. A separate storage area can help you cut down on clutter inside the house, give you a place to store yard equipment, and protect your car from the elements. Whatever you need the space for, consider using steel as your building material — it’s cheap, versatile, easy to work with, and durable. Plus, steel is a highly sustainable material because it can be recycled almost endlessly. Consider insulating the building to protect your car from extreme temperatures and adding a few windows to light your garage naturally.

Choose Renewable Flooring Materials

Most fixer-uppers could benefit from new flooring. If you’re hoping to replace that dated carpet with sleek, bare floors, choose sustainable materials. Cork, for example, can be harvested without cutting down the cork tree, making it the perfect green choice for your floors. As an added bonus, cork is naturally insect-repellant and fire resistant. Bamboo is another great eco-friendly option if you’re looking to mimic the look of real hardwood floors. Alternatively, you can find reclaimed wooden boards from old houses to recycle into your own beautiful floors.

Avoid Harmful Paints

Conventional paints can leach harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air for up to five years. These compounds are bad for both the environment and your family’s health. When it’s time to upgrade your walls, opt for eco-friendly paint. The Spruce recommends looking for paints labeled as low VOC or zero VOC. Even better, choose paints made from natural ingredients like water, plant dyes, chalk, and resins.

Upgrade Your Kitchen with Recycled Counters

Making minor upgrades to your kitchen is a great way to increase your property value and help your house appear modern on a small budget. Paint your cabinets, replace the floor, and upgrade the hardware. If your countertops are in bad shape, consider replacing them with recycled work surfaces. You can get fun, accent countertops made from recycled glass in concrete or resin. On the other hand, butcher-block style countertops made from old boards are a rustic and homey option to consider.

Optimize Natural Light

Taking advantage of natural light in your home can cut down on your electricity bills and even help your home feel more spacious. Consider installing larger windows in your living room or an entire glass sliding door to open up your home to your backyard and let in more light. Painting your walls in light colors and adding decorative mirrors will also help brighten up your rooms. Real Homes recommends installing skylights since these can easily be incorporated into a variety of roof types. Skylight windows let in significantly more light than side windows and can completely eliminate your need to use electrical lights during the day.

Install Green Appliances

Most old appliances burn through electricity at a surprising rate. Replacing outdated appliances with new, eco-friendly options can help your fixer-upper look more attractive to today’s environmentally minded homebuyers. Plus, energy-efficient appliances will save you a lot of money while you’re living in the home. However, ensure you choose matching appliances for your kitchen to give it a polished look.

When you buy a house that needs some work, you have the power to turn it into your perfect sanctuary. Whether that means creating a separate workshop in the backyard for your hobbies or letting sunshine flood into your living room, these custom improvements can really make your house feel like home. Maintain a sustainable approach while making your renovations to save money on energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Ray Flynn | DiyGuys.net

ray.flynn@diyguys.net

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Architects versus developers (an architects perspective):

Ideas versus money. That is about the simplest way to distinguish the two and also the easiest way to understand why these two groups need each other. While overlap is of course possible, it is not likely. Developers frequently look at a potential project and create a general concept based on location and possible use of the land. Architects then provide a design concept to realize that opportunity and eventually the detailed plans to actually build the initial vision of the developer. Most projects, residential, commercial or otherwise, were created by the synergy of these two groups.

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An Architect as developer has solved the financial puzzle and can move forward not just with the idea and concept, but the execution of the project as well; a developer as architect first must obtain required licenses and typically look beyond function of the project to integration of concept into a larger scope and environment.

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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.



Concrete foundation pour – in progress time lapse

Concrete pour for a large foundation/footing. Steel has been placed and inspected. 

Construction workers actually working! Jokes aside, you can see the setup to pour, the harmony between concrete truck driver and the workers, the vibrator machine to ensure that concrete is packed properly and the general smoothing and leveling of the top. Pretty good work! Pretty large footing. 



For summer, show the ocean a little love
June 17, 2016, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Materials, Resources, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

(Original list from Sportdiver magazine).

Great little guideline for the summer at the beach or in the water. Help preserve the ocean and reduce plastic waste… diver or not.

  1. Help make “paper or plastic?” an irrelevant question by bringing reusable cloth bags to the stores where you shop.
  2. Cut down on needless waste by refusing plastic straws, single service packaging and other plastic items that you can do without.
  3. Do you start your day with a cup of coffee? Make it at home or ask your coffee-shop server to pour it in a reusable mug.
  4. Next time you hit the beach, apply oxybenzone-free sunscreen to avoid releasing chemicals in the ocean that are harmful to coral reefs.
  5. When you get takeout for lunch avoid plastic cutlery by using reusable utensils you keep in your bag or at your desk.
  6. Turn your next dive into a conservation campaign. Project AWARE makes it east to give back with debris cleanups, fundraisers and more.

http://www.projectaware.org/

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Notice Of Acceptance (NOA) – a Miami Dade oddity
January 25, 2016, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Building knowledge, Hot Topic, Materials

If you are building in Miami, South Florida, you may have come across an NOA as part of your required permit documentation. The rest of the country may associate a “Notice of Acceptance” with other things, but for design professionals, builders, and municipalities, this seemingly simple document holds a lot of value for material selection in Miami.

So what exactly is this NOA? It is a document providing results of a test to ensure that any material exposed to hurricane forces complies with an impact criteria as set by the RER (Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources) to ensure compliance with local building codes. Currently the Florida Building Code in South Florida required a compliance with sustained wind speeds of 175mph.

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Sample Notice of Acceptance – for a steel door

The testing protocol is required for any assembly that is on the exterior of the structure, such as wall materials, doors and windows, shutters and roofing… essentially, if it could be hit and damaged during a storm event, it must be tested. How is this tested? In simple terms, the test material manufacturer provides an assembly with every detail as it would be installed in the field and then a 2×4 stud is shot at the assembly at the above noted speed. If it does not break, it passes… and the assembly will be approved for use.

Clients and manufacturers new to this market are frequently amazed by this requirement. Weather events such as Hurricane Sandy will likely promote this application to other parts of the country and the world…as a matter of fact it is already loosely used in the Bahamas.

Here is the link to the Miami Dade NOA portal to search any product for approval: http://www.miamidade.gov/building/pc-search_app.asp

 



S.E.A. awarded “Green Historic Preservation Award” by DHT for the Abbott Residence renovation & addition in Coconut Grove.

It is official:
S.E.A. was awarded the “Green Historic Preservation Award” by Dade Heritage Trust for the Abbott Residence renovation and addition in Coconut Grove.
Congratulations to the owner and the team. Thank you for this great honor!

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Project Description:

The Abbott Residence is wonderful remodel and addition of a 1916 Grove house located in Coconut Grove. The original estate consisted of a two story residence with extension to kitchen, converted garage and maid’s quarter above, as well as a free standing guest house across the yard. The main building was erected with structural oolitc limestone. The building has a full basement with a concrete cistern that seemed to have been used for the adjacent grove.

The project addition includes a connecting covered breezeway to the guest house. The guest house was enlarged by converting a late addition to match the original roof line and finish. An outdoor BBQ area was also added to the guest house. Since the original garage was converted, a new 2 car trellis carport was added as well as an enlarged and improved entry to the main house. Finally a new outdoor eating area was added outside of the existing kitchen featuring a trellis cover.

The renovation included a full upgrade to the kitchen, new second floor layout including a master suite and 2 additional bedrooms with a jack and Jill bathroom and overall upgrade of the remaining spaces. The project received a full upgrade to the electrical system, improved efficiency HVAC systems and new gas lines.

The project combined a number of my key principles and passions. The historic building and its character were well recognized and maintained throughout design. The addition blends with the original structure to improve the overall feel of the house and site. The traditional building style and proportions are typical for that area in the Grove and South Florida. Coral rock, lots of natural features, including large windows for cross ventilation mark the direction for design.

Project Challenges:

A key challenge to this project was the integration of materials to comply with current code. Items included specifically were the upgrade of the doors and windows. The structure consists of 16” limestone without additional reinforcing and boasts oversized windows and openings to allow for natural light and cross ventilation. Finding a Miami Dade approved window to fit the required size was achieved only in combination with a minor reduction on the opening at the ground level. Further, the anchor into the limerock structure to allow for required anchoring was achieved only with the use of 12” anchor bolts.

As with many historic preservation project, matching the existing style and character of the house requires certain decisions that bring with them an increased price tag. Keeping the overall project in budget while also staying true to the original design and construction of the house was a major challenge.

During renovation, it was discovered that the roof had some damage. As a result, the entire roof was replaced with matching tiles to the original installation. Finding tiles that were compatible and within budget proved to be another challenge. The original chimney at the kitchen wing was structurally supported by the floor and as part of the redesign of the kitchen not feasible to be saved. A smaller version of the chimney was reinstalled to blend into the overall design.

The final challenge of the project was the site layout, landscaping and driveway. Being a rather large and very natural site, it was decided that the landscaping should blend as much as possible and that the driveway should be porous one rather than a solid material. The City of Miami did not initially approve a gravel driveway.

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Green Features:

Beyond the green feature inherit by the project being a renovation and thus recycling the original building, there are a number of sustainable features that have been incorporated. The largest component and impact for energy savings was the replacement of all windows and doors. The original windows showed wear and leakage and were replaced with an impact energy savings option. Keeping the original size and location of the windows allow for maximum natural light as well as cross ventilation. This feature was especially welcome during the construction, before the installation of the new energy efficient HVAC units. Insulation was increased in the roof addict to improve the energy performance of the envelope. The interior features non toxic paint and adhesives. The existing wood floors were restored and refinished in the main house.

The site was predominately left undisturbed and native landscaping was installed to further enhance the beauty of the natural Coconut Grove site. The Driveway was lined with reclaimed brick pavers from a portion of the original driveway. Numerous outdoor living areas were added as part of the project scope, to include a new outside dining area at the main house and separate BBQ cover by the guest house. Car storage was designed as a trellis, rather than a garage to provide protection while reducing the amount of new material used as well as to integrate the new structure into the overall design and feel of the site.

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