Miami Green Homes


Miami Tiny houses

The tiny house concept, or micro living concept, movement is attracting increased popularity within the US. While it is not a new concept in many other parts of the globe, the awareness and conscious use of space is a relatively new phenomena on this vast continent. Previous planning and construction theories and methods do not focus on small spaces, but rather looks at increased footprints and increased equity – the larger, the better. Thus the typical sub-urban landscape is one of cookie cutter homes, neatly divided into micro squares, one larger than the next. This type of sprawl development has been growing into the design philosophy behind McMansions; the Tiny house movement is the exact opposite.

tinyhouses-infographic-1000wlogo

Excellent graphic from “The Tiny Life” website.

Understanding that larger homes take up more resources, not just to build, but to operate, is one of the key aspects of the interest in a more compressed method of living. Equity is seen as overall value in living quality rather pure dollars of the build size of the house.

Small space living has long been a part of urban city dwellers, but taking the concept to suburbia and other areas not needing restrictions of space is what the tiny home movement is all about. Leave more land for (urban) farming or to otherwise enjoy is one interest of enthusiasts. Another is the possibility of actually creating a custom home, that is small enough to be mobile, should the need to relocate arise. To compensate for the smaller interior spaces, outdoor spaces that are not build up become an extension of the living space and contribute to the overall quality of life. Call it outdoor living rooms, patios, workout spaces, or anything else that evokes the connection to the natural environment over its built up alternative.

Naturally, outdoor living is a favorite option for South Floridians. The caveat for the local market however, is the unique climate within the continental United States. While sunshine is abundant most of the year, so are rain, strong winds and tiny critters – all making the extended life outside challenging for the better part of the year. There is also the challenge of Hurricane safety, a rare but real threat to the South Florida market for micro living. The building codes and insurance providers are keenly aware of the ravaging forces creating a path of destruction and have pushed for many safe features and methods to minimize damage and threat – rather successfully. Incorporating these features into outdoor living spaces, unfortunately goes precisely against the concept of secured structure and property.

shipping-container-house-3-800x500-source-www_imgur__com-min-e1442556355143

Combination Tiny House and Container living. Found HERE

Regardless, the tiny home option is likely to increase in popularity and solutions to the humidity and hurricane challenges are sure to be found. Sebastian Eilert Architecture has already provided numerous concepts to clients and we are thrilled to be part of this growing movement.



Some US – German incentives for Green building…
January 21, 2017, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Over the past 40 years, Germany has maintained a leading position in environmental incentives and benefit programs. The incentives have ranged from PV systems (photo-voltaic), to insulation and windows. What have they done? Is there anything the United States environmental policy makers could learn from Germany’s forward thinking?

The policies encompass many different categories, but the three main areas are energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation. The country’s policymakers started out small, thinking of little changes that could be made to spur forward action. About a year ago, president Obama stated that he wished for eighty percent of electricity to come from clean sources. This goal, of course, was not reached. Germany knew that setting a goal and failing would deter people from believing in the system. Llittle steps can keep the public interested.

The green plan adopted in 2010 is the Energy Concept. This states that primary energy consumption will fall by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2050. With the help of nuclear power and the spike in gas prices (over $7US/Gallon), energy consumption and greenhouse gas pollution has decreased significantly in Germany. The incentive with the gas, however, is more or less a little push to get people to use bicycles, public transportation, or carpool. All of these alternatives are valid in the United States as well; however, we do not see spiking gas prices as good for the environment, but instead, bad for the economy.

“Not living at the expense of people in other regions of the earth or at the expense of future generations living here and today.” Germany defined sustainability in a way to look not at the individual, but at the future and the surroundings. The changes made today will not directly affect the people who make them, but instead, their children, and their grandchildren. Forward thinking is another concept Germany has followed. The incentives for sustainable design and renewable energy originally focused only on  solar power. PV panels to generate energy has been viewed as a tax deduction in Germany for many years. With this known, it is not surprising that Germany made up 50% of the solar power worldwide market, with larger countries such as the US and China falling short. Germany has become a powerhouse for energy efficiency.

These incentives, however, have seen many cutbacks in the past 3 years, while the United States has seen large increases. These cuts in subsidies are due in part to the soaring number of purchases, yet even as the cuts increase, so do the number of solar panels. But Germany is still viewed as a green leader. So what does this say about the incentives and their effectiveness? Germany witnessed years of decreased emissions and energy use, giving other countries the push needed to follow step. Since then , the US  government has begun offering tax credits to homeowners and business owners for solar panel additions, as well as paying for those consumers who give back to the grid (producing more energy than they consume).

http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/news/germany_to_cut_solar_power_incentives/ http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-10-10/how-germany-became-europe%E2%80%99s-green-leader-look-four-decades-sustainable-policymaki http://www.traveldailynews.com/pages/show_page/43246-Germany-leads-the-way-in-sustainability-and-green-meetings http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-02/02/content_14521630.htm http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,811530,00.html

(SE, EB, edited by JL



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.

viola-062

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.

triangles

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.

santos%2006_3184

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.



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.



Building information modeling, or BIM, is the newest generation of software used for design and creation of documents for architectural projects.

For thousands of years, architecture has been worked the same way. The tools have changed, from drawings on papyrus or chipped into stone, to drafting on velum and blueprints. The shift to CAD, computer aided design or drafting, was a major shift in the speed of production but doesn’t really change the way architects work. It was, and still is, essentially drawing on a two dimensional surface. It doesn’t matter if that surface is a sheet of paper or model space in a computer file.

What makes BIM different?

BIM is like building in a virtual environment. The property can be accurately modeled, with the topography recreated and the climate set as part of the information. This includes items such as humidity and temperature, solar information and elevation. The materials used can be accurately described, not only by size but with information that can include insulation values and life cycle costs as well. A CMU, concrete modular unit or concrete block, can be accurately dimensioned. A CMU is 7-5/8” x 7-5/8” x 15-5/8” in size. The drawing convention has been to use the nominal size of 8” to represent this. With BIM we can accurately model a wall with real dimensions which helps during construction as less assumptions must be made.

What can BIM do that CAD can’t?

Information is the most important aspect of BIM. The accuracy of design is much higher and more controllable. This doesn’t just include dimensions but material quantities as well. The content of a material such as cast in place concrete can be much more accurately estimated which can save on costs. The building energy uses can be extrapolated from the model to more accurately size AC equipment. This means equipment can be specified that isn’t too big or to small for the building. This information is not just useful to clients and architects but to contractors as well. They can more accurately price out a project because their material needs are more precisely known.

What are some of the issues with BIM?

The adoption of BIM by design professionals is very limited at this time. There are a few of reasons for this. The first one is the reluctance of established practitioners to make major changes to how they work. BIM is a paradigm shift in how architects design and is not an easy change to undertake. Another issue is once the decision to shift from CAD to BIM is made, the learning curve is very steep and long. It may take up to a year before a design team becomes proficient in the software. During this transition production time may actually be longer than before, however the benefits in the long term will be immense. Finding personnel who can use the software is also an issue. The people who know how to use the software don’t usually have the experience in construction to exploit it fully. Conversely experienced designers don’t know the program.

Our experience with BIM:

There have been two major advantages that we have benefitted from using BIM. The amount of time required for construction document production has been reduced significantly. Depending on the project, we have seen time savings of 50-90%. The accuracy of modeling has resulted in fewer construction revisions and RFI’s, requests for information. The most important change has been how we work with our clients. We deliver 3D models as part of the design process in addition to conventional plans. In many ways, we have found that clients, and in some cases engineers, have a better understanding of their project using the 3D model verses the plans. This allows us to have a very interactive design process and deliver a better project.

BIM has become the foundation for construction and as it is adopted more widely in the future by all members of the building team, will continue to be more useful in making design decisions.

 



Furniture for (outdoor) Miami / South Florida

Miami is a trending town. South Beach and Brickell feature a plethora of high rises, one sleeker than the next; seeking cutting edge contemporary furniture to match. Other places historic charm calls for old world style and serene durability. Yet all of these styles still seek a unique place: the outdoors. Here the style becomes secondary and durability takes over. No matter the design, the South Florida outdoor climate is harsh. Heat and humidity provide minimal opportunity for protection as may be accustomed from northern more climates. What is outside, will slowly demise.

concret

Designers have contemplated many solutions and each have their own success – and failure. Permanent installations out of concrete or keystone are frequently bulky and attract mildew. The latter can be easily cleaned and the essential shape and function of the design maintained. In some cases the aging by the weather may be intended as part of the design. One of the great long lasting examples can be found at Coral Castle (website).

coralcastlemoonpond

Plastics and metals are typically deteriorating the fastest. They offer the most versatile designs, but at an environmental cost. Humidity really goes to town here and high design pieces are best kept conditioned when not in use.

plastic

Composite materials are another option popular with architects and designers. These materials are engineering to withstand extreme weather as well as mold and mildew. Most perform reasonably well. This approach has also grown popular with material choices for decks and patio finishes, as well as sleek 3D design elements and backdrops.

wicker

Lastly all natural materials such as teak and tropical hardwoods are a many designers favorite. These materials must be treated and maintained in order to continue to function and look as intended. Again the design intention may include a certain aging in place, but the functionality and structural integrity will be hard to maintain, even with selective rotting.

With many great examples that are picture ready when completed, maintenance and protection are key to ensure a long life for outdoor furniture in Miami.



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.