Miami Green Homes

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.



Permits and board approvals! Miami overview and nuances…

Often referred to as the “necessary evil”, getting a building permit is a crucial part of any project. While the process may pose a considerable time impact, it is important to remember that the primary objective of a building permit is to ensure that safe structures are provided. Beyond the building code approvals, zoning codes also guide the local flair and style of many neighborhoods and cities. The check and balance of this process should instead be looked at as a safety net for the owner, to ensure that the hired license professionals are indeed doing their job – beyond just design.

SEA has been blessed with a plethora of approvals in the last weeks and we are celebrating alongside our clients;

The building permit process and requirements in the respective municipality are typically common knowledge, however some of the nuances that are required may not be completely known and can add substantial time commitment to the permitting process. Some of the more common approvals we help to obtain are the Coral Gables Board of Architects approval – a process that requires a preliminary and a full approval to present to a panel of volunteer architects, Historic board approval (typically in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and City of Miami) – and special Planning and Zoning approvals, such as the recent success in Miami Shores.


(Miami Dade County Building Permit Application)

Following are some typical permit applications available online in Miami Dade County; these must be singed and notarized by the respective parties:



Miami Beach:

Coral Gables:

Looking at the Future – An inside report on a Florida Office Building fully powered by Solar Energy
April 5, 2013, 5:15 am
Filed under: Building knowledge, Energy Efficiency, Hot Topic, Resources

A guest post by Rush Hood, P.E., and Jeffrey J. Basiaga, Jr.


The “IEEE FWCS Industrial Tour Series” sponsored a tour of the Landmarc Construction Net Zero Energy Building in Tampa on March 28, 2013 hosted by Mr. Spencer Kass, Landmarc VP.   He has installed and is operating a practical, utility-connected, photovoltaic generation system. The office is approximately 2800 sq. ft. with lighting and HVAC fully within modern standards.  The building operates at “Net Zero” energy consumption and returns surplus energy to the electric grid.   There is an Electric Vehicle charging station installed and free EV-charging is provided to the visitors parked in the parking lot.


As with most engineering projects, there are many factors that are not obvious. A structural analysis  was performed on the building to ensure it could support the weight and wind loading of the solar panels. Special electrical equipment ensures the safety of utility workers by disconnecting the solar generation from the electrical service when the utility power fails. This feature prevents energizing the utility conductors when utility workers would expect them to be de-energized. Additionally, a clearly-marked switch enables easy disconnect of the building generation from the utility in an emergency. Further, the physical layout of the solar collectors must ensure that no portion of the panels are ever shaded by the building structure or trees, as any shading would have a disproportionate impact on the solar generation efficiency.


The electric metering functions are not obvious, either. The meter does not simply “run backwards” when the solar generation is supplying power to the utility, since the utility does not pay full “retail price” for energy generated by the customer. A special meter keeps separate track of energy consumed from and supplied to the utility. “Consumed kWh” and “Generated kWh” appear as separate line items on his electric bill. Of course, energy generated on-site that offsets simultaneous usage on-site effectively gives the customer “retail price” for these kWh.


Participants also discussed other cost and expense factors that impact the payback of the system, including maintenance, lightning damage, surge suppression, potential for weather damage, and vandalism and theft avoidance measures.  It turns out that the overall economic analysis of the project is very complicated, and at this time incomplete. The consensus of the participants, however, was that we were “Looking at the Future,” and we were all very impressed by the progress that has been made.


The engineers that toured the building were very grateful for the opportunity.  We encourage interested parties to seek, learn about, and promote the cutting edge & practical realizations of great ideas.


Rush Hood, P.E.,  is an Electrical Engineer and IEEE organizer Jeffrey J. Basiaga, Jr., P.E., is an Electrical Engineer and IEEE organizer

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 look at Biofuel
June 26, 2012, 3:12 am
Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Hot Topic, Resources

Biofuel can be broken down into fuel made from plants. There are many forms; however, there are a few to focus on. Ethanol, Biodiesel, and Biomass have come to the forefront over the past 10 years, and have even caught the attention of the government. With increasing environmental concern, the government has shifted some focus to the creation and use of biofuel to take the strain off of fossil fuel use. In the U.S. alone, 138 million gallons of oil are consumed a year.

Ethanol is made from corn or sugar cane. It is utile is many different scenarios, from cars to airplanes. Most gas fuel nowadays is made with 10% ethanol, and is marked with an E10 on the pump. This make the gasoline around 6% less efficient than if it were solely gasoline. For airplanes, such as those used by Continental and Lufthansa, the fuel is 50% ethanol, and although it is better for the environment, it is 2.5 times more expensive. In the case of the airlines, it is solely for publicity and has no monetary benefit whatsoever. As previously mentioned, ethanol is made from corn or cane sugar. The process, however, is debated. Is takes three gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol, and fossil fuels are used in the process as well. Although the process of refining corn into ethanol isn’t the most efficient, the amount of exhaust reaching the ozone is significantly smaller. Over the past ten years, this process has evolved to become more and more efficient and with time ethanol will prove to be a solid alternative to gasoline.

The main points politicians and environmentalists are making are that ethanol can be domestically produced, it is renewable, and it is cleaner burning than gasoline. Ethanol, when burned, releases up to 80% less toxins into the air, creating less pollution. The fact that ethanol can be produced domestically also helps to decrease its cost in that we are not paying for transportation from, say, the middle east.

A company in Wyoming called KL Process Design Group is now using woodchips instead of corn to product ethanol. It is believed that the waste to fuel industry will become stronger than the crop to fuel industry.

Other forms of biofuel are biodiesel, made from vegetable oil, and biomass, made from burning plant or tree matter to generate electricity. This process is very common throughout California, Maine, and Michigan.

The biofuel industry has created a much greater demand for crops in the United States, as 33% of the U.S. corn crop goes to ethanol production, and in doing so, the farming industry has become a stronger force. With this great demand, American farmers have seen much improvement in their earnings. But this also comes at a cost. With a third of the corn crop being dedicated to fuel production, the price for corn has increased, as well as many others. So what is better? Planting corn for fuel, or planting corn for food? This debate has been rallied all over the world, as European countries follow suit. Ethanol uses a lot of water, and a lot of crop to create little product, but the positive effects the change to ethanol provides for the environment as the rest of the worlds fossil fuels and resources has over the past ten years overshadowed the increase in price of corn.

The environment has become a central concern of the government as well as the people, so with these fuel processes evolving over time, the negative effects and consequences of biofuel production will eventually reach next to nothing.

Water Heaters: Solar versus On Demand/tankless
June 18, 2012, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Materials, Resources, Sustainable Living, Water Efficiency

Solar water heaters have been replacing gas water heaters over the past ten years at a rapid pace. Consumer interest in them is not solely for the tax credits, but also for their economic payback with cheaper bills and startup costs.

The pros and cons for gas and solar water heaters are lengthy so there are a few things one needs to know when weighing the idea of solar. Solar powered heaters come in many different forms but typically consist of a collector and a heater.

There are three different types of collectors:

-Flat Plate Collector- This collector is an insulated and weatherproof box with a dark absorber plate underneath glass or plastic covers. They are similar to those used to heat swimming pools.

-Integral Collector Store Systems-These are also known as ICS or batch systems. They are made up of black storage tanks and tubes in a similar insulated box. Cold water passes through the solar collector first, heating up the water just a little, and then proceeds on to the backup water heater. This keeps a consistent source of hot water, and is more reliable. However, they are not good in cold climates as the tubes could freeze.

-Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors- These are made up of rows of clear glass tubes. Each tube has a metal absorber tubs which absorbs solar energy but inhibits radiant heat loss.

There are two types of active solar water heating systems:

-Direct Circulation Systems- pumps circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. This does not work in freezing climates.

-Indirect Circulation Systems- The pumps use a heat-transfer liquid and a heat exchanger. They are better for freezing temperatures.










Passive solar water heating systems tend to be less expensive and more reliable than active systems, but they are less efficient as well.

-Integral Collector Storage Passive Systems- This systems does not work well in freezing climates. They are very efficient with daytime and nighttime hot-water.

-Thermosyphon Systems- With this system, water flows through the system when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. These are less expensive than the previously mentioned passive system. The storage tank is heavy, however, so the contractor has to pay special attention to the roof of the home.










After learning a little bit about how the solar water heater systems work, it is important to weigh the pros and cons.

These systems range from $1,500 to $3,500. Gas systems cost between $150 and $450. This difference in price is significant and one must also consider the installation costs of the solar system which can run up to $2,000 plus regular maintenance costs.

Having explained costs, the solar systems last around the same as the gas systems yet they’re payback happens in four to eight years when you weigh gas vs. electrical bills. This means that within four to eight years, it is as though you are not paying for hot water anymore.

Another bonus can be found in tax credits. For any system installed after December 31, 2008, there is no maximum to the possible tax credit. Energy Star also has their own line of solar water heaters, which provides a full line of commercial and domestic energy efficient products.

Solar water heaters are not all mighty, however, and do have their fair share of negatives. For starters, the maximum water temperature that can be reached is lower than that of a regular on-demand system and the heating process tends to be slower.

The reliance on weather also provides a hurdle as the unit needs sunlight to produce the hot water. Many of the newer systems have a backup system to negate this.

One of the biggest concerns is their water storage tank. These can get quite large and if a contractor does not install them properly, there is risk of the roof getting damaged, as well as the interior of the home.

All of the negative aside, solar powered water heaters prove to be an economically feasible and friendly option for homeowners who plan to stay in the same home for an extended period of time and reap the benefits of the payback.

New Residential Client Survey – Architectural Services
June 15, 2012, 12:25 am
Filed under: Building knowledge, Hot Topic, Resources, Sustainable Living

Jane Decker, my co-host of ArchiTalk Radio ( recently sent this questionnaire for feedback about new residential clients. It is a great tool to help anyone getting started on a residential renovation or new project to be aware of and consider:

INSTRUCTIONS: Please read these questions in their entirety before answering. Then, consult with your spouse, significant other, child(ren), favorite pet or whomever to answer this very detailed survey. You’re about to embark on an exciting journey. You’re going to hire an architect. Only Popes used to hire architects, so consider yourself part of the elite. Let’s enjoy the journey together.

  1. Have you ever worked with an architect before? While this might be a silly question, I’d like to know if you’ve done an addition or a renovation or even a commercial tenant improvement as part of your business. It helps me gauge what our relationship will be. We not only protect the health, safety and welfare of our clients, but we are also educators, guidance counselors and more.
  2. Please provide the full address and folio number of the property. Also, let me know if there’s anything eccentric about the property that you’re already privy to. Like, I don’t know, an underground river or a nest of endangered owls in a tree slated to be removed. Tell me everything.
  3. Do you currently have a survey of the property? Typically, contained in your title documents upon purchase. If not, a survey will be needed to obtain a building permit. I prefer to receive this in electronic CAD format.
  4. What municipality do you live in? And what do you know about their current codes, ordinances, etc. This might be a loaded question. While I have worked in many communities in South Florida, I don’t know all of them (yet) so anything you know on that end would be helpful.
  5. Do you plan to submit document for a building permit? I am a licensed architect, trained at the collegiate level for 5 years, interned for 3, and completed 9 licensing exams and have been in the business for 14 years. It is my duty and responsibility to act ethically. If you are asking me to do work for you, I will be signing and sealing documents attesting to integrity of the project.
  6. What is the full scope of work of the project? Please include all items on a potential wish list – whether feasible or affordable at this time. If I know where you’re headed or where you would like to end up, I can be of better service.
  7. Depending on your scope of work, we may need additional consultants. I’m good but I still need help along the way. These include structural engineers, MEP (Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing) engineers, Civil engineers, landscaping consultants, lighting designers, soils engineers, and more. It all depends on the project, who we need and for what. I can provide recommendations, or not. I can oversee the consultants, or not. It’s entirely up to you.
  8. Tell me about your personality and your lifestyle. Is the project intended to create a warm and comfy home hospitable to entertaining? Are you more of a hermit and enjoy your privacy? Do you have a brood of 5 who needs their space, play space and sanctuary space for mommy and daddy? Do you like green space or do you have a black thumb? Talk to me.
  9. Do you have a general contractor? IF not, would you like recommendations? Your distant uncle twice removed might be a gc but I’m sure I haven’t worked with him. Building relationships with contractors is an important role for an architect. We build trust with these individuals to carry out our vision and your project.
  10. Do you have an interior designer? IF not, would you like recommendations? I am adept at creating and maximizing space. I am not privy to your unique individual styles. As such, I also have many favorites across myriad of flavors. You might like New England Colonial or Post-Modern Brutalism. ID Teams can often translate that vision better than I.
  11. What is your budget? I understand that this number is likely to change but I need to know what a reasonable expectation should be. I do not control construction costs, permits, schedules, etc. but I can control, somewhat, what I put down on paper. Thus, it’s important for me to know if you’re in the market for a Camry? Or a Lamborghini?
  12. On that same note, what is your expectation of what an architect provides and what their fees will be? As I have described, I am a licensed professional. We all have perceptions of doctors and lawyers and even service providers like your trainer or mechanic. So, what is it that you envision I will be accomplishing for you and what is your expectation of compensation for such a service?
  13. If required, would you be able to provide a letter of credit from your banking institution? So often, the Camry client starts out as a Lamborghini client and I’ve paid my dues.
  14. What is a realistic timeline? Please note that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is not reality. Homes cannot be designed, drawn, permitted, and built in 7 days. It takes a lot of planning and effort and plenty of different people to contribute to the final product. Only God can accomplish something like this in 7 days. Are you expecting a baby? Or are you moving from another locale? It’s all relevant.
  15. We will be signing a contract if we continue with work. It might be lengthy. I recommend a legal consultant to protect you as well as me. I hate starting out on a bad foot but the contract is built on years of experience (bad and good). Don’t be dismayed by it. It’s a tool to move forward, that is all. Once we agree on the contract, issues may arise before, during or after the work. First and foremost, it’s important to keep our dialogue open. I want to do a great job for you and get you into your project (and me paid) sooner rather than later. So, talk to me. Let me know what you’re thinking along the way and we can course-correct as needed.  I haven’t mastered mind-reading yet despite being married more than 10 years. Help a gal out.
  16. How did you hear about us? So, I can say thank you to my friends. More than 90% of most architectural firms rely on repeat business. So, thank you for seeking me out.
  17. Is it ok for me to include your name, project description and other project data on my website and in brochures, potentially on the radio, and the like? If not, I will respect not revealing your name, address or distinctive details about the project however, your project consists of my ideas and as of right, and I am allowed to use these in my portfolio.
  18. I may have a sense of humor but don’t let yourself believe that I will not take your project seriously. I enjoy what I do and lucky for me, I generally get paid to do what I love. Is there anything else I should know about you, your family, you living habits, or eccentricities that I should know about? I can handle it, whatever it is.
  19.  A quick little bio about me: I am married, a mom, a radio-host, grad student and all around go-getter. I have fun no matter what because I know it’s quite possible that there won’t be a tomorrow. I study hard and I enjoy creating spaces. I watched my parents build their first house when I was a little girl and have had a passion to do the same ever since.  No question here. Just want you to know about me.
  20. So far so good, shall we move to a proposal? Retainer? And concept?

Ready to get started on your project? Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture (786) 556.3118