Miami Green Homes


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 A simple upgrade of finishes rarely is a viable option to bring an outdated kitchen to modern standards.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.

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Age in Place, Part II: Connect-ability

This post is building on the previous post – Age in Place – Increased focus of future design. Another key aspect to aging in place is to look beyond the actual building or space itself, and consider the larger context the living space is sitting in. In order to have a functioning aging in place concept, the occupant must be able to interact with basic services and obtain daily needs in an accessible fashion. Setting a well structured and support aging in place community in a remote parcel with separated living, working and support zones, will likely require a vehicle or other transportation to properly provide all the essential needs. IN order to truly embrace the concept, dependability on a car or vehicular transportation should be reduced or eliminated. To achieve this, locations must be walking friendly and feature amenities that are useful to the aging population, beyond those of other desirable walkable communities. A great site to check the walkability of any location is: WalkScore. The higher the score, the more integrated a location is.

Of course there are certain services related to the aging populous, that are unlikely to be in walking distance, such as hospitals and other medical providers. Here the connection to public transit can be key to a successful location. Personal vehicles have a decreased value for the aging in place group. Parking spaces and structures limit opportunities for walking, biking and other low impact outside activities. The Smart City Challenge has some great ideas about transportation; find it HERE.

Parks and other shares spaces in close proximity will further enhance the concept of a well integrated or even planned community. Urban planners and architects have for decades attempted to create communities that could work by design. The Congress of New Urbanism has in recent times made great advances in the planning approaches. More can be read HERE. The CNU is a great starting point to learn more about urban and community planning. Technology and infrastructure are yet another angle to the aging in place living and will be covered in a future post.



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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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.

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(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:

County: http://www.miamidade.gov/permits/library/building-permit.pdf

Miami: http://www.miamigov.com/nets/docs/permits/buildingpermitapplication.pdf

Miami Beach: http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/building/scroll.aspx?id=37842

Coral Gables: http://coralgables.com/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=741



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 rush.hood@ieee.org Jeffrey J. Basiaga, Jr., P.E., is an Electrical Engineer and IEEE organizer jb345@tampabay.rr.com



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.

http://www.fornobravo.com/pompeii_oven/pompeii_oven.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/Build-An-All-In-One-Outdoor-Oven-Stove-Grill-And-Smoker.aspx



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.