Miami Green Homes


J.R.R. Tolkien’s Paintings and Maps Are Now Online
April 4, 2022, 2:56 pm
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Plant derived plastic option!


Electric Foil Boat Concept – the future or powerboating?


Buzz Off: Plants That Naturally Repel Insects

There’s a lot to love about living in South Florida—the weather is excellent year-round, it’s a culturally diverse place, restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world and there’s plenty to do and see. There are a few things that may be not so great—that excellent weather is occasionally interrupted by hurricanes, for instance.

While you can’t do much about those, another occasional South Florida menace can be dealt with easily and beautifully. Insects love our climate as much as we do—there are over 12,500 species here—and everything from flying insects like mosquitoes, bees and wasps to creepy crawlies like beetles, earwigs and mantids can make spending time outdoors less than pleasant. The following plants are all perfect for our climate and excel at repelling the kind of insects we commonly have to deal with here.

Citronella

This plant is so good at repelling insects that its oil is commonly used in candles to give mosquitoes the buzz off. It’s also an attractive planting, growing in tall clumps typically five to six feet in height. It makes an excellent ground cover but also grows well in pots, providing it has full sun and good drainage.

Pitcher Plant

This one doesn’t repel insects so much as do away with them. It has a lot of exotic appeal … at least for anyone who isn’t too squeamish. Pitcher plants are the product of millions of years of evolution and are pretty amazing. They not only attract insects with scents that are irresistible to the little pests, but when the inquisitive bugs come calling, they’re in for a nasty surprise. They fall into the bulbous base, where they’re dissolved and digested by the carnivorous plant.

Marigolds

Many people might already have a pot or two of marigolds already planted on a patio or balcony and may not even be aware that these plants are excellent at repelling mosquitos. If you don’t already have some of these, they’re a gorgeous addition to your outside environment and can even be kept indoors. You’ll want to position these by doors or any windows that you might leave open to keep the biting pests out of your environment—and off your skin.

Lemongrass

This is a fun one—not only is it a beautiful addition to outside landscaping, but it smells lovely and can even make an excellent addition to your spice cabinet. Lemongrass can be used not only in Asian cuisine but is excellent in soup, salads and is perfect with many kinds of fish. It also contains citronella oil, so it has the same insect repelling qualities.

Lavender

This bushy, beautiful plant smells so good that many people will trim it and hang it in bunches near the entry points of their home, so visitors are greeted by the lovely scent. It doesn’t just smell and look good—it repels insects. Everything from mosquitoes to fleas can’t stand the stuff and making sachets of the flowers and leaving them in bureau drawers or hung in closets will keep moths from eating holes in your favorite sweaters.

Living Well Outside

Planting any of these botanical wonders will not only beautify your surroundings but also keep them insect-free. Most of them smell lovely, as well—and what smells good to us smells horrible to many of the insects that can ruin an otherwise pleasant evening outside.



Portable EV charger option – coming 2023




Passive House Design Principles for New or Existing Homes

Passive House Design began in the 1970s as a response to the energy crisis and increased awareness of climate change. Based on incorporating principles intended to reduce energy needs for heating and cooling, this type of construction can be found all over the world and can be applied to anything from single-family homes to larger buildings. Here are some of the more accessible principles to incorporate.

Continuous, High-Quality Insulation

Perhaps the easiest passive house principle to include in existing structures, the concepts behind continuous and high-quality insulation are chiefly concerned with keeping heat or cooling inside the home and providing an energy barrier between external sources of energy transfer. The effectiveness of insulation is rated by its R-Value—the higher, the better.

When using cavity insulation, the framing material can still transmit energy through a process called thermal bridging. Thermal bridging detracts from energy efficiency and is especially problematic when metal framing is used. Continuous insulation, the more efficient system, can counteract this effect. It refers to a single continuous layer of insulation wrapping an entire structure.

Airtight Construction

While insulation helps guard against losing the energy needed to heat or cool interior spaces, it can’t do its job if the structure it’s installed in is leaking air. Airtight construction ensures direct air transfer, minimizing the amount of heating or cooling needed. Every home has necessary design elements like drains and vents that penetrate roofing or exterior walls and windows and doors must be fitted with adequate sealing (like gaskets or caulk) to avoid unintended energy loss.

Solar Heating and Shading

An ancient design principle, examples can be found in early architecture all over the world. Capturing the sun’s light for heating or blocking it to provide cooler interiors can be as easy as installing larger windows in an appropriate location or planting a tree outdoors to shield parts of a house from direct sun. Deciduous trees work well for this, as they’ll block the sun’s light in the hot summer months, but after losing leaves in late autumn, they will allow it through in the winter months.

Energy Recovery

An airtight house requires ventilation to bring in fresh air and vent CO2, moisture and built-up pollutants. This venting means air exchange, representing energy losses in heating or cooling air taken into a structure. A heat recovering ventilator continuously replaces stale air with fresh air without mixing the air streams, resulting in significant energy retention, sometimes as high as seventy-five percent.

Have a Passive House Project in Mind?

If you’re thinking of remodeling or redesigning an existing structure to incorporate passive house principles or would like to pursue a new construction project, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture for assistance. Committed to sustainable and ecologically responsible design, Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world, he is also available for consultation via email or phone.



Four Tips for Eco-Friendly Bathroom Cleaning

Most of us look at cleaning as a chore—especially true for bathrooms, as tight corners, grout and our hot and humid South Florida climate make for challenging work. Mold and mildew love heat and humidity, so there’s always grime to get rid of. If you’re environmentally conscious, this becomes doubly unpleasant because so many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals like ammonia, chlorine and formaldehyde. It’s terrible for your mood, bad for your health and bad for the planet. So, what can you do about it?

Green Cleaning

With these four simple tips, you can make cleaning the bathroom eco-friendly, more manageable and quicker. These techniques won’t require any more elbow grease than you’re used to and shouldn’t require a trip to the store. It may be surprising how well you can clean with vinegar and water, but both are potent solvents in their own right—and when combined, they’re even better.

1. Shine Up

Here’s a great example of how powerful white vinegar and water can be together. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix and get to work cleaning reflective surfaces like mirrors, countertops and faucets. Spray on the vinegar and water mix, wait a few minutes and wipe clean. A baking soda paste can be applied before spraying for especially grimy situations.

2. Shower Power

The same mixture as above can be used to clean glass shower doors, but there’s an even better method. Soapy residue or the minerals in hard water can make cleaning glass shower doors dingy and hazy—and challenging to clean unless you know this trick. Pour straight white vinegar into a spray bottle and heat it in the microwave for a minute or so. Immediately spray the heated vinegar on your shower door (or really, any glass surface). Let it stand for about fifteen minutes, then wipe it away with something non0abrasive, like a soft cotton rag.

3. Rub-a-Dub Tub

Baking soda makes another appearance here and the vinegar/water mix with baking soda works well when cleaning tubs—but may require a little extra effort. To avoid breaking a sweat, combine a couple of tablespoons of baking soda with liquid dish detergent or Castile soap and generously apply this mixture to the sides and bottom of your tub. It’s great for cleaning grout, too, because you can use a toothbrush to get in there. Please don’t use an abrasive scrubber for the tub, as it might scratch the surfaces.

4. Last But Not Least: The Dreaded Toilet

Here’s one chore that’s almost universally regarded with dread: cleaning the toilet. It’s no one’s favorite task, but it has to be done (and you can always wash up afterward). That 50/50 vinegar and water mix comes in handy again here, but for extra cleaning power, you can add lemon juice or any essential oils you might have on hand, such as tea tree or lavender. Spray the surfaces to be cleaned with the vinegar and water mixture, then apply the baking soda with a sponge or toilet brush. Let it sit for ten or fifteen minutes, then scrub it off with a brush.

Cleaner and Greener

You don’t need to rely on cleaners with harsh chemicals and getting them out of your routine (and out of your house!) is better not only for your health but also for the health of the planet. Solutions that are good for the environment are also good for us and when you can feel good about chores like cleaning the bathroom, they’re easier to get through.



Top Five Plants That Clean Indoor Air

Plants can do much more than help bring color and life to a home’s interior. They’re a great addition to any room, are more sustainable than cut flowers and offer us a way to bring nature indoors. Though there are plenty of aesthetic reasons to include plants in a home redesign, there are practical ones, too.

We usually assume our indoor air is clean, but harsh or dangerous chemicals can often contaminate it from cleaning products, mold and pollen and volatile organic gasses that leach out of indoor materials like flooring and upholstery. We spend around 90 percent of our time indoors and the concentrations of some pollutants can be as much as two to five times higher than levels found outdoors.

There’s good news, though—house plants are an affordable, effective way to clean your indoor air and act as a natural filter to many kinds of pollution. Having ample greenery indoors also helps you sleep better, helps your immune system be more robust and can even help your ability to concentrate. Here are the top five plants that can help clean your indoor air.

1. Philodendron

There are many different plants in this genus, including the trend-setting large-leafed monstera. These plants were shown to be one of the best at reducing air pollution and purifying indoor air. They’re especially effective at removing formaldehyde, which can accumulate as building materials and home furnishings outgas over time. Perfect for our South Florida climate, these can be kept outdoors as well, but keep children and pets from eating the leaves, though, as they can be toxic.

2. Snake Plant

This household succulent will help filter indoor air in surprisingly effective ways. It’s not only excellent at eliminating toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, it’s one of only a few plants capable of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen without direct sunlight. This makes it ideal for bedrooms or rooms with low natural light access.

3. Areca Palm

This small, cluster-forming palm is one of the most efficient air purifiers and a native of Madagascar, giving it an exotic appeal. It’s a natural air cooler and scrubs indoor air of dangerous chemicals like acetone, toluene and xylene, which can accumulate due to the use of nail polish, certain detergents, some wooden furniture and even cosmetic products.

4. Spider Plant

This little wonder is a beautiful addition to your indoor spaces and is extremely easy to grow. It’s surprisingly effective at removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene, found in some cleaning products and furniture upholstery. One study found that it could remove as much as ninety percent of toxins found in indoor air in just two days.

5. Aloe Vera

Not only does this plant produce a naturally anti-bacterial gel inside its spiky leaves, but it also acts as an effective, natural air purifier. It’s excellent at removing toxic chemicals from indoor air, including benzene and formaldehyde, often present in cleaning products.

Breathe Easier With Sustainable Design

If you’re interested in other ways to make your indoor spaces greener, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to discuss design elements you can incorporate in new or existing buildings. Reachable by email or phone as well, Sebastian is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world and is proud to be US Green Building Council accredited.



Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Options

There are plenty of reasons to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles. Rising fuel prices are just one motive, as is a concern for the environment. Awareness of the damage that internal combustion engines and traditional power generation can cause is generally the inspiration most people have when adopting greener personal vehicles.

Zero Tailpipe Emissions

Most vehicles on the road today are internal combustion engine cars; this is one of the most significant sources of non-industrial pollution. Conventional vehicles produce pollution from tailpipe emissions and in the form of fuel evaporation. Electric vehicles (or EVs), which have zero tailpipe emissions, are among the best options available for individuals looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Long Range Choices

Recent studies have shown that 95% of all daily travel in the US could be made in electric cars. Most of us—roughly 85%—travel fewer than 100 miles on a typical day. Nearly all electric vehicles can travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, and newer models can travel well beyond 200 miles on a fully-charged battery.

Electric vehicles typically use one or more electric motors which draw power from large lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are super-sized versions of those found in smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Like their smaller cousins, they’re rechargeable.

Charging, From Home to Work

Electric vehicles draw most of their power from charging stations, both publically available ones and electric vehicle chargers installed in the home. Public charging stations are typically found in places like shopping malls, in the parking lots of many government buildings, and in locations close to public mass transportation, like train stations.

A growing number of workplaces are installing charging stations, as are many condominium and apartment buildings. Many universities are also providing facilities with electric vehicle chargers. The University of South Florida offers charging stations, and maps of recharging facilities are available online, like this ChargeHub page listing charging stations in and around Miami.

These chargers are commonly called EVSE, or Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. There are three types, with the fastest—Level 3—most widely used in larger public installations. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers are more commonly installed in homes.

Bringing it Home

Level 1 EVSE allows an EV driver to plug into a standard 120-volt socket. These types of chargers are entirely sufficient to meet the needs of most commuters, charging a typical battery from empty to full overnight, or in around twelve hours.

Level 2 EVSE relies on a dedicated 240-volt circuit, is more powerful, and can charge a typical EV battery in just under four hours. Level 2 chargers can be installed virtually anywhere and use the same power supply and wiring used for larger home appliances like washers or dryers.

Great Options for South Florida

There are around 28,000 electric vehicles in Florida, making Florida second in the US, just behind California. There are many publically available Level 2 and 3 EVSE locations, with almost 2000 charging stations in the greater Miami area alone. Florida EV drivers currently qualify to travel in the state’s HOV and Express Lanes for free, and state and local governments plan more incentives.

If you drive an electric vehicle or are thinking of purchasing one and would like to have EVSE installed in your home, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to discuss your options. Also available by email or phone to help with all of your architectural and interior design project needs, Mr. Eilert is proud of his commitment to the environment. He is recognized as one of the thirty most influential sustainable design architects in the world, is US Green Building Council accredited, and is proud to serve on the City of Miami Green Commission.