Miami Green Homes


Some US and German Green Building incentive considerations…

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 JLD)



The South Florida OUTDOOR kitchen

After looking into all the great benefits the South Florida kitchen can utilize on the inside, let’s move to the outside…

One of the great benefits of living in South Florida is the ability to be outside pretty much year round. With the exception of some heavy rain-days, our climate is ideal to be outside. There are numerous options to add living space to the exterior without much effort.

Going back to some of the earlier settlers that helped define some of the appropriate building features, we see large overhangs and nice elevated porches. The fireplace, serving as the cooking area, is pushed to the outside or located, under cover, outside completely.

Simple outdoor living room

Outdoor living room

A great space to take the concept of outdoor living to the next level is the kitchen. From a simple BBQ area to a full fledged kitchen, with all the appliances its indoor companion would have.

Let’s start with the simple features. Pretty any outdoor kitchen will have, and is likely to be centered around, a BBQ. It makes perfect sense to have the BBQ outside, a favorite summer activity for northern climates and a year round treat for our southern climate to enjoy. Having this heat creating monster outside has another benefit in our backyard: no need to cool down the hot air created from cooking or open flame grilling!

The next best feature for the outdoor kitchen is a sink, preferable with some counter space adjacent to it to wash off prepped food for the BBQ and other items.

Outdoor BBQ South Florida

Since we have created a counter, the next step is under counter storage. Waterproofing is key and the type of storage will be different from items stored inside, especially perishable goods.

After storage we can focus on cooling: refrigeration. Besides minimizing the distance to grab a cold beer, and in the process letting out valuable cooled air by opening your sliding or French doors, the proximity offers many benefits, especially when entertaining.

Of course, when selecting items like cook top/BBQ and refrigerator, look for Energy Star or gas options. For the faucet, get a low Flow WaterSense label type and consider draining into a collecting barrel or rain garden. With limited use, it is easy to control what will go down the drain in the outdoor sink!

Items to avid on the outside:

Dishwasher, Microwave and Toaster/small appliances. Leave them inside and only bring them out for events. The dishwasher required proper drainage and this is an item that you also want to leave inside, to make your outdoor kitchen a reasonable project to complete. Even slightly moist areas will create mold and small appliances tend to rust quickly due to our high humidity. No need for mold and rust in your great new outdoor kitchen.

…remember the best of South Florida: year round vegetation! This means that you can grow your own herbs and even some veggies year round, and it also means that composting is an easy must…integrate it into the layout and have designated spaces close by. Your neighbors/guests just might pick up on the idea after seeing how easy it is.

If you like to get started on your own kitchen renovation, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture today:

786.556.3118 Sebastian@SebastianEilert.com

www.SebastianEilert.com

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The South Florida kitchen

The kitchen is in many cases the main space of the house and there is great opportunity to create a true masterpiece. The kitchen offers a number of sustainable opportunities, probably more than any other room in the house.

To start lets separate outdoor and indoor kitchens. This post will focus more on indoor kitchens. Part II, will be posted at a later date.

Since energy use is one of the quickest ways to make decisions about starting a project and generally have the fastest payback and the most incentives, let’s start with this topic. There are of course the appliances used in the kitchen. Look for Energy Star appliances to start. If you want to go more high-end, carefully investigate that energy uses and benefits of your selected equipment. The choices are plenty.

New Open Kitchen

Stove: efficient cook tops are available but to really go green, go with gas. Many say that it not just saves energy but also cooks better. It certainly cooks faster in many instances. Consider a combination steam oven for your baking needs. These machines are a bit more versed and also use less energy than conventional ovens.

When using your oven, forfeit the pre heat time and also turn the oven off a few minutes before your dish is done. The heat will not escape at a noticeable rate until you open the door, saving you energy before and after…

Dishwasher: if you have a large household, the water savings justify using this neat machine rather than hand wash. The magic number is 3 or more people living in your household. There are many great models that will not just save you energy, but also save you water. My favorite brand is Miele.

Fixtures: get the low flow fixture for your kitchen that has a moveable multifunction head rather than 2 separate units for fixed and flexible use. Again, I recommend to look for the German manufacturers. There are many stunning designs that have a flow rate of 1.8 gallons or less. You can also save energy by not running your hot water to the kitchen, depending on the layout of the house. If it is a long run, consider just adding a small on demand unit to the kitchen sink.

Lighting: If you can’t stand the heat… exactly. Lighting can contribute substantially to the heat load in the kitchen. Here more than in any other room in the house, use cool lighting. The CCT – Correlated Color Temperature level indicated the “blue” appearance of LED lights. Typical car lights are about 4000. You may want to go with a 3500 in the kitchen; still bright but a bit warmer. 3000 is generally recommended for living and bedrooms, you can use the brighter light in the kitchen. LED lights are the preferred choice for me. More on LED lights here.

Hollywood Condo kitchen

Layout: remodeling your kitchen is a great way to improve some of the natural features your space has to offer as well as improve on the flow and use for this space. There is the general consideration of the “kitchen triangle”; the use of stove, sink and refrigerator. If you have space, I recommend the integration of a center island. This is where your designer really makes a difference, so call me to set up an appointment to upgrade YOUR kitchen.

Materials: a kitchen must be warm and user-friendly as well as easy to clean. Countertops, cabinetry and flooring are the main players for the kitchen. There a number of recycled content counters available, so leave the granite top behind; try some recycled glass, reclaimed wood or pressed recycled paper…

For the floor, choose large component tiles (24 x 24 or larger to minimize grout lines) or solid surfaces like polished concrete. Wood replacements are generally not recommended for the kitchen, as this is the space that is likely cleaned most frequent.

For the cabinets, go with FSC wood, or ensure that a composite board is Urea Formaldehyde free! Your carpenter can and should verify this information!

And finally to the best of South Florida: year round vegetation! This means that you can grow your on herbs and even some veggies year round, and it also means that composting is an easy must…

…more to come in future posts; including the South Florida Outdoor kitchen.

If you like to get started on your own kitchen renovation, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture today:

786.556.3118 Sebastian@SebastianEilert.com

www.SebastianEilert.com

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