Best of 2011

December 15, 2011

This year, through our partnership with The Riverview Company, we’ve had some fantastic opportunities to see our design work constructed in Wellesley, Stoneham, Newburyport, Amesbury, Sudbury and Copake, New York. Our project in Copake was by far the most challenging, exciting, and interesting. We thought a recap of the project might be of interest to you and hope you’ll agree.

Copake is about 3 hours away from us, around 2 hours away from most of our subcontractors – a logistical challenge. The clients are an amazing couple we’ve done several projects for at their Wellesley home.  This is their vacation home, so  they couldn’t be there to see day-to-day progress.  In order to take on the project,  they wanted the extra assurance gained from our relationship with them. There was never a question in Steven’s (my husband and co-owner of The Riverview Company) or my mind that we’d take this project on; we’d do anything for them.

Program and setting

The multi-acre property is on the outskirts of Copake, a town in the upstate New York Berkshires, on an expansive lake. Ed, the husband, fully aware of its problems, loves this getaway and its quiet and rural character. His wife Mary is of a more urban taste, but cares about the home because he does.

They knew that they wanted to make it look better!  Besides that, they also needed a new main entry and a screened porch with a fireplace and grill. New cabinetry and millwork would improve the interior, but they didn’t want to make major changes to wall locations. Other aspects of the project’s requirements included major upgrades to the insulation and mechanicals.

IMG_1940

Approach to house, view from street: the awkward entry door opens onto an undefined bedroom or den. It was unclear where to enter the house; the preferred entry was on the garage side. The windows have no trim and the exposed foundation is unattractive.

IMG_1948

View toward lake: lots of glass doors in the Living/Ding Room face the view, but the doors were failing. Other than those, one small window from the Kitchen and one from an upstairs bedroom faced the view.

IMG_3192

View from the Living Room to the Kitchen: the cathedral ceiling created some sharp, uncomfortable shapes.

IMG_3197

View toward the Stair: the large opening was unorganized and plain. The stair (behind the wall with the 3 frames) was narrow and closed.

IMG_3193

Kitchen: the owners wanted to keep the same layout, but upgrade appliances, finishes and add color.

The project

Working closely with the owners over the course of several months our plans took shape….

Copake plan

First floor plan: the dark lines show new construction and the tightly dashed lines indicate construction we removed.

The major plan changes were on the left side facing the garage and the rear, or water-side (top of page). The new Screened Porch makes the most of the expansive view and is designed to be a multi-use, multi-season room. In addition to the new Screened Porch, we added French doors from the Kitchen and a large bluestone patio accessible from the Living/Dining Room, the Kitchen and the new Screened Porch. On the garage side of the house, we added an inviting entry porch, with wide stairs accessing the front and rear yards and leading to an enlarged mudroom.

Riverview’s team of carpenters and subcontractors stayed at the house for many overnights during the work. Their continual positive attitudes and talents are what made the project a huge success.

071

On the interior, we rebuilt the stair and added an open rail to the stair and the balconies. In the large Living/Dining Room, we defined the spaces and ‘dressed them up’ by adding cabinetry and trim. The Dining Area cabinet is built for use as a buffet table and to store the owner’s plate collection.

065

The Screened Porch floor is bluestone and the fireplace wall is made with American Granite. In cooler months, a radiant floor and storm panels make this a 3-4 season room. This quickly became everyone’s favorite space.

076

We gave the Kitchen a facelift with a new countertop, appliances and window, and we painted the cabinets and walls. The new French doors open up the room to the lake view.

150

From the drive, the landscaping and new walk lead to an inviting covered entry porch. We added a stone veneer to the exposed foundation, replaced the siding and added trims.

136

The lakeside of the home and its outdoor spaces are open to the lake and the view.

Gratitude

For this project, we were fortunate to have incredibly committed and thoughtful clients and dedicated subcontractors. We want to thank The Riverview Company’s stellar carpenters, Stephen Tucker and Brett Belisle and their wives, the subcontractors: Kevin Thibodeau “The Plumber”, Pacewicz Electrical and Nelson Landscaping (stonework) and of course our fabulous clients, Ed and Mary.

010

Ed and Mary

Happy holidays and best wishes for a joyous new year!  Juli and Steven MacDonald

www.greenbridgearchitects.com

www.riverviewcompany.com

A Fable of Light

April 10, 2011

goldilocks Once upon a time there was a precocious little girl called Goldilocks who ventured into an inviting cabin nestled in the woods. She was so tired from her journey, she decided to have a rest. She wandered into the sunlit living room (too bright) and pulled across the curtains. Too dark! She pulled down the light-filtering shades. Ahhhh just right; she had a lovely rest.

When it was near evening, she woke and found that she was famished. So the bold but independent girl made her way to the kitchen to whip us something delightful for herself. She was cutting up some apples in the corner and needed more light, so she flipped the switch for the overhead fluorescent, happy in an ‘I’m green’ sort of way to see the familiar swirly bulb. PING! Out it blew, too dark again. Another switch brightened the countertops with beautiful LED under-cabinet lights. Oooooo, just right, perfect for preparing a steaming bowl of porridge topped by her chopped apples.

Then with her feast to the dining room, where the motion sensor spotted her and flipped on to a preset dimmed setting, leaving her surprisingly and for the first time, calmly satisfied with what she had…until in her silence she heard a growling sound in the distance just as the motion sensor lost her and the lights went out.

The moral of Goldilocks’ story is that lighting design is more than lumens and watts…it should also take into account our personalities and how we live in our spaces. High-quality and efficient lighting design includes a mixture of lighting choices and the use of controlled natural sunlight to the greatest extent possible. In recent months we’ve been researching lighting efficiency and current technologies for a kitchen renovation project. We can’t help but be influenced by our own prejudices, such as our big disappointment with the compact fluorescents we’ve installed in our own home’s light fixtures. We guiltily feel nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when we didn’t think about our energy use every time we flipped a switch, and when our faces were always soft-lit by the old-standard incandescent.

We are also looking to January 2012, when the federal energy standard phasing out the incandescent will go into effect….one of our friends is hoarding them in anticipation of the phase-out. We are excited about the new technologies, especially by the great strides made in LED lighting and systems controls (dimmers, motion-sensors) over the past years.

bulb philips-master-led-light-bulb

We found some robust websites with loads of information about design strategies for efficiency, comparison of different light types (incandescent, fluorescent, LED, Halogen), and the new federal standards. California adopted the federal standard for efficiency in January of this year, and the State’s web site has some of the best information and links we came across. Energy Star is an especially useful resource since the standards are a reliable measure of a product’s effectiveness in a quickly changing and competitive market. All Energy Star fixtures are required to use at least 75% less energy than incandescents, and both CFLs (10x) and LEDs have far greater longevity (20x) than incandescents.

From our reliable standby The Green Building Advisor comes the practical advice, “The right combination of task and ambient lighting can save energy. A mix of lighting sources allows you to use the type of light you need: task lighting for reading, food preparation and other activities — where strong, concentrated light is helpful — or ambient lighting where more general illumination is better. Not all lights have to be on all the time, and natural light can be a significant contributor when floor plans are designed accordingly.”

Even with all the benefits of web research, we rely on our local experts. So we asked Lucy Dearborn at Lucia Lighting, what she recommends for efficiency and quality of light. She says one of her favorite combinations for ‘being green’ is to combine Eco-Friendly Halogen Lamps with the Lutron Eco-Minder dimmer. “You get fabulous bright white light when you need it and can dim down t a softer, warmer tone when you don’t need task lighting. The Eco Friendly light bulbs work with a regular dimmer, but we recommend an Eco-Dim Diva (perfect for The Divine Miss Goldilocks!). The Diva dimmer only allows light bulbs to go to 85% of their full capacity, so you can more than double lamp life and save energy at the same time! This solution is a great alternative to compact fluorescent light bulbs that sometimes don’t have a warm enough color & do not dim.”

clip_image001clip_image001[4]

The Eco Dim Diva (Lutron)         Color Kinetics LED under-cabinet light

For our kitchen project, we’re planning on a combination of Color Kinetics LED under-cabinet lights (as recommended by Lucia), some track and general lighting using dimmable Eco-Friendly Halogens, and big south-facing windows!

What are your lighting preferences and what are your plans for 2012’s changes? As always, feel free to contact us to find out more about what options may work best for your home. Best wishes for Spring and long days filled with daylight!

Juli

juli@greenbridgearchitects.com

Some links to find out more:

Lucia Lighting

Bulbrite Eco-Friendly Halogen Lamps

The California Energy Commission: Frequently Asked Questions – New Light Bulb Standards

U.S. Department of Energy’s description of the national regulations: Lighting Choices to Save You Money

Energy Star Products, describes the Energy Star requirements for all products offered

Whole Building Design Guide – Energy Efficient Lighting

Lighting Options for Your Home (National Electric Manufacturer’s Association)

Heating Season Begins…

October 11, 2010

As we slide into the heating season again, it’s a great time to look at the energy usage in your home. Will it be the same as last year or are you looking to make some changes to add efficiency and reduce costs? As part of our GreenBridge/Riverview Builders design and construction services, we want to offer our clients alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal) analysis and options as part of their building projects.

We looked to Adros Energy to be our collaborator for those clients interested in pursuing alternative energy options for their properties. Adros Energy is a company that offers engineered analysis of different alternative energy systems and weatherization for a given property. They work hard to keep up to date on current products and technologies, including geothermal, water, solar and wind. I’ve known Oliver Sheridan, their local regional representative, for years and was excited to hear about his joining Adros. To see how the collaboration might work, I decided to ask Oliver to visit, using me and my house as a model client and project. As a follow up, I hoped that my sharing my experience might give insight to the process and open up options for others for their own homes.

Our House

DSC01820 Winter 2009

We live in a house built in 1796 – it has a granite rubble foundation with the original structure and no wall insulation. We have a 10 year old oil-burning boiler and are hoping to install a high-efficiency gas unit this season. Our hot water is currently heated with gas.

To get the greatest benefit from any alternative energy system, weatherization, or ‘buttoning up’ of the house should be taken care of first. We’ve made some progress in that regard; Two years ago, we used the Green Cocoon to install soy-based insulation in the roof framing and at the connection of the 1st floor framing and the outside wall (the band joist). These are high-payback locations and in our house, were also the most accessible. Our heating and cooling have been reduced by about a third. We still have weatherization ‘issues’, but also want to take advantage of tax and rebate incentives while they are still available.

The Assessment

Because we have already had an audit done and have a good understanding of our weatherization needs, Oliver limited his review to alternative energy options. We were primarily interested in solar hot water heat and although pricey, we also wanted to learn about the opportunities for a photovoltaic (PV) system for the future.

Oliver came with the solar orientation of the house in hand, so he knew that we have a pretty good roof for solar. It’s a hip roof, with one of the long sides facing predominantly south. Oliver usually takes enough measurements to be able to estimate the space available and to roughly design a system, but I had drawings and measurements he could use.

He came last week, on what was (I think) our last hot muggy day of the year. I gave him a tour of the house ending in the basement, which was stuffy and muggy as usual. He noticed our dehumidifier and suggested that we consider an Air to Air Heat Pump instead of a solar hot water system for our water-heating needs. A less expensive system up-front, it pulls the heat from the air around it and uses it to pre-heat water before it goes to the water heater. Extracting heat from our basement is an advantage since it provides free air conditioning and dehumidification–because it cools air as it is circulated through the heat pump. For us, Oliver suggested it as a more affordable solution that would help us with our humid basement.

Alternative Energy Options and Proposals

Oliver followed up with proposals and analyses for a 2.3 kW photovoltaic system on the roof, an air to air heat pump water heater, made by Geyser, and a solar hot water heater option.

Photovoltaic system

image

Schematic layout of a PVC system for our home

The photovoltaic array proposed by Oliver and Adros would generate 2,500 kwh annually.

Besides saving us money on our electrical bill, the proposed system would also enable us to earn money by selling solar renewable energy credits (SREC’s) from the kWh’s the system produces. In MA it is predicted that we could get anywhere from .20 to .40 cents per kWh. Using the lower end of that range, .20 cents per kwh, our system would earn an additional $500 annually. This SREC program is in place until the year 2025.

The Adros proposal includes installation with all necessary components and labor for a completely operational system including all electrical work needed and manage the connection to the grid.

Costs and Incentives:

PV array components, installation and wiring      $13,400

Total Financial Incentives*                                          -($6,320)

Cost after Financial Incentives                              $7,080

*  Financial Incentive Summary: Federal Income Tax Credit (30% PV) of $4,020 + MA CEC Rebate $1.00/watt $2,300 =Total Financial Incentives of $6,320)

Using Oliver’s estimates for savings and the SREC’s, based on current energy prices, we’d save $925 annually. The system would be paid for in approximately 7 years.

Air to Air Heat Pump Water Heater option:

installation diagram

The Geyser system illustrated

This price is for parts and labor for a turnkey installation of a fully operational unit.

Costs and Incentives:

Geyser Heat Pump, supplied and installed                   $2,900

30% Federal income tax credit                                       –($870)

Total after incentives                                                   $2,030

Annually, Adros projects a savings of $147 annually from the current gas-fired hot water heater cost, and $200 for the cost of the electrical dehumidifier, for a total savings of $347 annually. The system would be paid for in around 6 years.

Solar hot water heater option:

image

solar collectors on a roof

The pricing includes a complete system with all necessary equipment including solar collectors, roof mounting system, collector connections pipes, pump station, system controller and storage tank, all installation labor, plumbing work and electrician work. The system uses flat plate solar collectors with an 80 gallon storage tank (sized for 2-4 people).

Costs and Incentives:

System Costs                                                                          $11,200

Total incentives  **                                                                -($4,110)

Total after incentives                                                     $7,090

** Financial Incentive Summary: Federal Income Tax Rebate of $3,360 + Federal Solar Hot Water Tax Credit $750 = Total Financial Incentives of $4,110

Adros projects a savings of approximately $240 annually (at current fuel prices), so system would be paid for after 29 years!

Our plans:

Each year, we hope to increase the efficiencies of our home and its use of renewable resources to meet our energy needs. Based on these proposals and projections by Adros, we are most excited about the heat pump. We also really want to make the move on the PV system, and can’t wait to see solar panels on this 1796 roof, but will need to assess our home improvement budget for this year.

For more information on alternative energy options, feel free to contact me or Oliver at Adros Energy. ollie.sheridan@adrosenergy.com. You can also see the Adros website for more information. www.adrosenergy.com

Happy heating season!

Juli  juli@greenbridgearchitects.com

This week, we were approached by a local builder who would like to build an Energy Star home. The bulk of our work is additions and renovations, and although we bring much of the same principles to our projects, we needed to look at the program (Massachusetts New Homes with ENERGY STAR) again to see what are the benefits and costs of getting the certification. New Homes with Energy Star is a straight-forward program built on common-sense good building practices. Basically, you can’t go wrong with the program – besides available incentives there is quick payback with dramatically lower energy costs and increased property value. The following is basic information on the Energy Star for Homes program from information found at the energy star website www.energystarhomes.com :

__________________________________________________________

brown

Program Overview

The Massachusetts New Homes with ENERGY STAR program is a new construction program based on an energy efficiency standard developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ENERGY STAR qualified homes are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-savings features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than homes built to local residential construction codes. The EPA’s initiative is supported in Massachusetts by a consortium of utility companies and energy efficiency service providers who collaborate to promote the benefits of energy-efficient, high performance homes. ENERGY STAR qualified homes are five-star rated and nationally recognized for greater value, lower operating costs, increased durability, comfort, and safety. Homebuilders are eligible for various benefits for building ENERGY STAR qualified new homes and homebuyers are demanding homes built to these specifications.

Features

clip_image002

Save significantly on home heating, cooling, lighting, and appliance costs with an ENERGY STAR home.

A high quality ENERGY STAR home combines the best of traditional craftsmanship with the latest advancements in building science and technology for a home that’s more durable, efficient and economical to maintain. ENERGY STAR homes help eliminate builder callbacks for problems which are common in code-built homes, such as interior moisture damage and roof ice dams.

Many homes built today lack certain basic energy performance features — features that can save the homeowner thousands of dollars in energy costs. When properly incorporated into design and construction, energy-efficient detailing can significantly increase the comfort and quality of a home.

Some of the performance features that distinguish an ENERGY STAR home from an average quality home are:

Enhanced Insulation
Insulation is measured in R-Value: the higher the R-Value, the greater the insulating effect. Higher insulation levels in walls, floors, and attics result in better energy performance and improved homeowner comfort. The insulation value of windows and doors is also an important determinant of comfort.

Air Sealing
Simply caulking, foaming, and gasketing the holes and gaps in the heated building envelope can reduce annual heat loss and utility bills by over 15%.

Ventilation
All ENERGY STAR homes come equipped with mechanical ventilation, which ensures a continuous supply of fresh air to the home.

High-Efficiency Appliances
ENERGY STAR homes typically have high-efficiency household appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling systems, which use less energy to perform the same job.

With an ENERGY STAR qualified home, you get more home for less money. That’s because ENERGY STAR homes use proven technologies and advanced building practices to make sure your new home performs as well as possible. Each ENERGY STAR qualified home is inspected and “performance tested” to help ensure better energy performance, greater comfort, and a healthier living environment.

replacement windows

ENERGY STAR Homes Benefits

Homes built in the 21st century are judged by how well they “perform” for their owners. The top two performance indicators are comfort and lower costs. A truly comfortable home is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, free from stuffiness and drafts, and quiet. At the same time, a home must be economical. ENERGY STAR qualified homes cost less to heat and cool than conventional new homes built nationwide. That means big savings every month, every year, you own the home.

ENERGY STAR Homes offer a variety of benefits to help you build a more comfortable, affordable home that is better for the environment. Discover what makes an ENERGY STAR home so much better!

  • Comfort and Health
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • Performance Tested
  • Smarter Investment

A few questions from the ‘frequently asked’ page that we often hear:

How much does it cost to build to ENERGY STAR Homes standards?

Typically, the upgrades needed to meet ENERGY STAR Homes standards are in the range of 1% to 3% more than code levels. Of course, if your builder is already building at a level higher than code, the cost is even less. Unlike a hot tub, marble countertops or hardwood floors, the ENERGY STAR Homes energy upgrades begin paying for themselves from the moment you move in. How? Let’s say all of the upgrades total $1,500. This amount added to your mortgage, assuming a 30-year fixed rate of 7 1/4%, will cost $10 more per month in your mortgage payment. These upgrades, in turn, could easily result in a reduction of $360 or more in your annual heating/cooling costs. At a savings of over $30 per month, this gives you a positive cash flow for the life of your home. An ENERGY STAR home is a home that pays you back, while helping to protect the environment.

It all seems a bit complicated. What help can I expect throughout this process?

When building an ENERGY STAR home in Massachusetts, a consultant from ICF International will be your resource to help make the right energy decisions and to guide you and your builder through the process of building a high performance home. For all of your energy related questions, ICF will work hard to find the right, cost-effective answers.

___________________________________________________________

For more ‘frequently asked questions’ and plentiful information on the program, visit the Energy Star for Homes website at www.energystarhomes.com.

We are excited about our upcoming project, and see our involvement and the New Homes with Energy Star program as a means to help the builder create a better product, that will perform better throughout its years of use.

As always, we’d love to talk to you about this post topic and how it can help you in your upcoming project.  With best wishes for a wonderful summer,

Juli MacDonald, GreenBridge Architects  978.518.2811

When I first started working as an architectural intern in Rockford, Illinois, Larry, the curmudgeonly head draftsman loved teasing me about my main job of drawing toilet rooms. He didn’t let me say ‘bathroom’, insisting that I say ‘toilet’. He was right – we were working on commercial toilet rooms and nobody was taking baths there…well, it’s been a lot of years, and now I’ve got a lot to say about toilets – Do you want your toilet in a separate room? Do you like an elongated bowl for comfort? What do you think of the water-saving dual-flush models? Do you have young sons? Discussing the toilet still isn’t my favorite part of the bath design process, but it’s important, because habits and details make all the difference in a successful bathroom. In the last greenbridge blog, we wrote about kitchen design and renovation. This month the focus is on bathrooms.

Guide-to-modern-bathrooms

The Bathroom. What does yours mean to you? Often the first room you enter after waking, it can set the tone for the day. For many, their master bath is a calming, restorative place to get away, an oasis. A powder room can be a showplace for guests. The hall bath can be a flurry of kid activity, requiring organization and compartmentalization. For some of us, our bath is a frustration. Common problems are outdated or failing fixtures, inadequate lighting, old finishes that are difficult to keep clean, and poor layout and storage.

Although it is usually one of the smallest rooms in the home, the renovation of a bathroom can be surprisingly complex and costly. A bathroom renovation usually requires the several skilled trades during construction – carpenter, electrician, plumber and heating contractor. Some bath renovations will also include custom cabinetry and special tile or stone installations. To keep costs in line, we offer rough design and cost estimates prior to undertaking full design work on a bathroom. The earliest phase in the design process is the best time to scale back if budget requires. Why spend time effort and money on a design that will not be feasible for you and your family?

In order to create a cost estimate and design, we ask a lot of our clients early in the project. As we discussed in other blog posts, while we are measuring and drawing the existing conditions, we assign our clients the task of thinking about their personal goals for the rooms that are included in the project. We then meet with them to review their goals for the space. What follows is a summary of the items covered for a bathroom renovation:

Getting Started

Start tagging those favorite online bathroom images! Pull out all those clipping or copies of bathrooms you’ve been enjoying in the magazines and newspapers. (We have great magazines and books to lend if you haven’t been doing this yet.) Make a quick note on each describing what you like about that bathroom. (example – ‘great colors’ or ‘beautiful tub’ ) These notes are invaluable for the designer who will pull these items together for you.

Before our initial design meeting, we’ll ask that you give some thoughts to the items below – again, you don’t need to have an answer of even a strong feeling about each item, but if you do, we want to be sure we’re including those items that are important to you.

kohler-yin-yang-wading-pool-lavatory

The ‘Yin-Yang Wading Pool’ sink by Kohler

ErinAdams_Mosaic_InterlockingCircles

Erin Adams mosaic tile by Ann Sacks

General Feeling

What words describe your dream bathroom? Soothing, tranquil, cool, cozy, a retreat, huge, modern, old-fashioned?

Layout

· How does your bath work for you now? If it doesn’t work so well for you, what have you thought about as a solution? Is there an opportunity to enlarge the room into part of an adjacent space?

· Are there any items in the existing bathroom that can be reused such as cabinetry, lighting or plumbing? For the items not being reused, we donate or recycle the items when possible.

· Do you have good natural light and ventilation in the room? Is there an opportunity to add more if necessary?

Fixtures and controls

· List the plumbing items: sink, toilet, tub and/or shower. Do you prefer separate sinks? Choose the basic style, for instance, pedestal sink or vanity, a freestanding tub or one that is mounted in a tub deck.

· Think about the shape and finish of the controls.

· Use low-flow faucets and low-flow or dual-flush toilets

· Consider a tankless hot water heater.

Floors and Walls

· What floor and wall materials will give you the look and feel you’re after? Can these materials be used to create patterns, and do you want to use them that way?

· Have you considered an in-floor heating system?

· Use low VOC paint and wood finishes.

· Consider eco-friendly finishes – wood flooring, recycled content ceramic tile, stone tile, or exposed concrete. Natural linoleum is made from natural materials can be finished in a range of colors, and can be installed without the use of adhesives.

Storage

· Will you have a vanity, and if so, what will be stored there?

· What other storage or display needs do you have in the room?

· What styles and finishes of cabinetry do you prefer?

· Make sure that cabinetry built with plywood (which often contains an urea formaldehyde glue which can cause a range of health issues) is properly sealed before entering your home. Better yet, use solid wood cabinetry and solid surface countertops to avoid the use of plywood.

Lighting Fixtures

· You’ll need lighting at the mirror(s) and some general light from overhead fixtures.

· Do you read or shave in the shower?

· While you are considering light, think about dimming and control options.

· Use halogen and LED lighting for light quality and energy efficiency.

Window treatments

Consider privacy needs, style, color and pattern (and contact lmk interiors ltd!)

Accessories

Mirrors, towel bars, tissue holders, soap dishes, and robe hooks are useful items with decorative importance. Think about size, style, finish, practicality and ease of cleaning.

Air Quality

· Install an exhaust fan that properly vents to the exterior.

· Plants improve the air quality and are an attractive balance to the otherwise hard surfaces in the room.

bathroom-green

Greening the Process

The early planning stage is the best time to consider opportunities to ‘green it up’, or to make selections or decisions that will improve the environmental impact and energy and water use for the space. In addition to some of the considerations noted above, the following are sustainable practices and detailing we include as standard in our renovation projects:

· A well-designed and ‘timeless’ space won’t need to be renovated again, saving energy and resources for the future.

· A bathroom renovation usually involves demolition of the wall surfaces – this is a great opportunity to not only improve the wall, ceiling and floor insulation, but to also better insulate all plumbing and heating pipes ductwork.

· Sealing leaks in doors, windows, plumbing, ducting, and electrical wire, and penetrations through exterior walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets will save additional energy.

A bathroom renovation involves a lot of planning and decision-making. At GreenBridge Architects and Riverview Builders, we work with you to ensure that the process is a smooth one and that it is ultimately rewarding for you and your family.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss your upcoming project, or to chat about what your bathroom means to you, I’ll even talk about your toilet!  Next month’s blog will take on the home offices.

juli@greenbridgearchitects.com  978.518.2811

 pizza

I make a GREAT pizza, and love every minute of the cooking process. Kneading the dough and waiting for it to rise, while the oven and baking stone heat up…some of my favorite memories in my home include making pizza with one of both of our boys hanging out with me, sketching or chatting away, while I work that dough.

The Kitchen! One of the most central spaces to our lives, the room that provides sustenance and satiation to us and our family, a place where the cook’s creations come to life, and the focus point of most of our entertaining, whether we like it or not!  A kitchen renovation grounded in the creation of a beautiful environment and on the practical efficiency of the layout and selections will add enormous value to quality of life in the home. In recent greenbridge blogs we’ve talked about big picture design and master planning; once those items are in place, it’s time to start focusing on the spaces themselves, starting with the kitchen.

modern

image: www.insideview.ie

Greenbridge_2_7

image: greenbridge architects

allkit

image: www.hometogether.net

At GreenBridge Architects or at our partner design-build company Riverview Builders, we ask a lot of our clients early in the kitchen renovation project. While we are measuring and drawing the existing conditions, we assign our clients the task of thinking about their personal goals for their kitchen. We then meet with them to review their goals for the space. What follows is a summary of the items covered in a kitchen renovation:

Getting Started

Pull out all those clipping or copies of kitchens you’ve been enjoying in the magazines and newspapers, or even online. (We have great magazines and books to lend if you haven’t been doing this yet.) Make a quick note on each describing what you like about that kitchen. (example – ‘love this floor’ or ‘great light’ ) These notes are invaluable for the designer who will pull these items together for you. Don’t worry if there are conflicts or if you aren’t sure about some items – your architect or designer is there to help you. We love a million questions at this stage!

Before our initial design meeting, we’ll ask that you give some thoughts to the items below – again, you don’t need to have an answer of even a strong feeling about each item, but if you do, we want to be sure we’re including those items that are important to you.

General Feeling

What words describe your dream kitchen? Historic, country, modern, charming, warm, cool and clean?

Layout

How does your kitchen work for you now? If it doesn’t work so well for you, what have you thought about as a solution?

Color

Even though color can be selected far down the road, early design is a great time to consider a color palette – that palette may drive some of the big selections, like appliances, countertops and flooring.

Cabinets and countertops

What style and materials do you like? What color? Will they be all alike, or will you vary the style and color around the room? Will your appliances have door panels to match the cabinetry? What style of knobs will you use?

Appliances

What style and finish to do like? Will you have any appliances in addition to the major appliances (stove, refrigerator and dishwasher)? Will you install door panels to match your cabinets?

Sinks and faucets

How many sinks do you need? Have you chosen the size, style, and material for each? Do they work with your countertop? Does the faucet complement your look and work the way you like? Selecting low-flow faucets is an imperceptible water-saver.

Floor

What material will give you the look you’re after? Can it be laid in a pattern and do you wish to use it that way? Will it be comfortable to stand on and easy to clean?

Lighting Fixtures

Will you use decorative or unobtrusive fixtures, or a mix? Consider the color, finish and size of whatever you choose as well as the style. Will they take energy-efficient bulbs? Will they work with dimmers?

Walls

Do you prefer paint or wallpaper, or have some other treatment in mind? Will you use tile for backsplashes or wainscoting?

Window treatments

Use them for privacy or to complete your look. If they’re near the stove or a sink, keep them simple and easy to clean.

natural%20home

image: www.thekitchendesigner.org

Greening the Process

The early planning stage is the best time to consider opportunities to ‘green it up’, or to make selections or decisions that will improve the environmental impact and energy and water use for the space. Items to consider when renovating a kitchen include:

In General –sustainable items included as part of our standard practices and detailing:

· A well-designed and ‘timeless’ space won’t need to be renovated again, saving energy and resources for the future.

· A kitchen renovation usually involves demolition of the wall surfaces – this is a great opportunity to not only improve the wall, ceiling and floor insulation, but to also better insulate all plumbing and heating pipes ductwork.

· Sealing leaks in doors, windows, plumbing, ducting, and electrical wire, and penetrations through exterior walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets will save additional energy.

· Insure air quality by proper ventilation at the stove or cooktop.

Sustainable opportunities to think about while making selections:

· Are there any items in the kitchen that can be reused such as cabinetry or appliances? For the items not being reused, we donate or recycle the items when possible.

· Use low-flow faucets for water savings and improve water quality by adding a carbon filter to the faucet

· Shop for Energy Star rated appliances.

· Use halogen and LED lighting for light quality and energy efficiency.

· Make sure that cabinetry built with plywood (which often contains a urea formaldehyde glue which can cause a range of health issues) is properly sealed before entering your home. Better yet, use solid wood cabinetry and solid surface countertops to avoid the use of plywood.

· Use low VOC paint and wood finishes.

· Wood flooring, recycled content ceramic tile, stone tile, or exposed concrete are desirable surfaces. Natural linoleum is made from natural materials can be finished in a range of colors, and can be installed without the use of adhesives.

A kitchen renovation is life-changing. The process is an exciting one, filled with many decisions, each having impact on achieving your initial goals for the space. At GreenBridge Architects and at Riverview Builders, we are passionate about getting you there, by providing all design work, helping with selections, and by providing coordination and guidance through what can be a challenging, but enormously rewarding process.

We’d love to talk with you about your upcoming kitchen project, even if it looks far down the road. We can provide an initial design and cost estimation to help you launch your dream kitchen.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss your upcoming project, or to chat about your favorite kitchens and kitchen memories, or about New England pizza.  Next month’s blog will take on the ultra-important bathroom renovation!

www.greenbridgearchitects.com 978.518.2811

www.riverview-builders.com 978.518.1863

As we head into the holidays, a lot of us start planning for next year’s home renovations.  Options for making changes to your home include working directly with an architect or designer, hiring a builder for those smaller projects that don’t require design or drawings, or a Design-Build option.  Design-Build is a term you’ve probably heard before, but may not be clear on  exactly what it means.  The Design-Build process combines the work of architectural design and construction, with one company having oversight over the entire project. The benefits include one-stop shopping, attention to the budget from the initial phases of design, and reduced project schedule.

I have always been an advocate of the process because of the benefits  it gives the homeowner and the design-build team.  Now with GreenBridge’s partnership with Riverview Builders, we are able to offer Design-Build services to our clients.  We want to get the word out on why your choosing this process with GreenBridge/Riverview makes great sense for your home.

IMG_1423 

Riverview Builders’ complete exterior restoration project of a home in Sudbury nears completion

A Team Committed to You

As architects, we work closely with you as we develop the design to include your dreams and vision while taking great care to understand and incorporate your home’s existing style and attributes. As builders, we bring superior project management, client-centered responsiveness and technical ability throughout the project, from early cost-estimation through your move-in date.

Throughout the project we will be your single contact. We will handle design and design revisions, project feedback, budgeting, permitting, construction issues, change orders, and billing. Dealing with only one entity simplifies your responsibilities, improves communication and gives you peace of mind – allowing you to enjoy the transformation of your home.

Constructability/Efficiency

We are dedicated to constantly educating ourselves on both the most current and traditional methods of design and construction. We are committed to sustainability in our projects and make use of natural passive methods of design as well as the practical application of new technologies and materials. Inherent in the design/build process is early involvement of the builder during design. Including the builder’s knowledge early into design fosters creative, cost-effective, and practical design and construction solutions.

Establish and Reduce Cost

A design-build model allows us to establish and agree to a fixed construction cost and scope of work early on in the project. Early knowledge of construction costs help us to design the project that you want that fits in your stated budget. As the design-builder, we have control over the design, scope and budget, so we give you clear cost and schedule adjustments for any changes you consider or make during the project.

Establish and Reduce Schedule

A design-build model also allows us to establish and agree to a fixed schedule of work early on in the project. An integrated design and building entity eliminates time otherwise required for the contractor and designer to coordinate their efforts and understanding of the project. In addition, the design-build process reduces the construction schedule because it allows us to work on several facets of your project at the same time. For instance, while the building permit is being approved, we can be working on the interior design and assisting you to pick out doors, windows, and appliances. We are also able to anticipate and order items with long lead-times.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.  Have a wonderful and flavor-filled Thanksgiving!!! – Juli

juli@greenbridgearchitects.com

Do you have shoes, backpacks, gloves and coats piled on the floor next to the door?  Does your bedroom have a big blank wall with a little IKEA or Target shelving unit?  Are your books in boxes in the attic or in precarious piles next to your bed?

In my experience, built-in cabinetry ranks as a top ingredient in making a house a home (right after paint).  This month, Steven, my husband and the backbone of GreenBridge’s partner company Riverview Builders, built and installed a built-in bench in our mudroom.

IMG_1164 We’ve been dreaming of this since we moved in, seven years ago. (!)  It has absolutely changed our lives.  Our two boys  are not patient, organized or neat, to put it mildly.  So, the bench was carefully designed with storage options, interest and organization in mind, all with the goal of getting them to use it!  The bench has hooks (easy and within-reach), a lift-top bench (fun, with safety hinges to save little fingers) and is divided so each of us has our own area.  Overflow is anticipated with high shelves and baskets for each person.  I still have to remind them to use the storage, but now items have someplace to go…..

IMG_1154 This shelving unit is on a large master bedroom wall.  This built-in has adjustable shelving that will be removed when our clients purchase their big-screen TV, a small desk area for the mom of the house’s few quiet times and lots of storage for their books and decorative items.  This formerly blank wall was transformed and now reflects our client’s personality and interests.

0809colinbed This cabinetry is built around the twin bed platform and gives a cozy feeling to the sleeping and reading space.  Book and toy storage is easily accommodated in the shelves, and the closed cabinets below allow for more messy storage – drawing materials, Legos, and train equipment…. The built-in is also sometimes used as a climbing apparatus, and so far, has held up.

With Riverview Builders, we can provide affordable solutions for your home from initial meeting and design to the painted finish.  If you’d like to talk about possibilities, contact us at www.greenbridgearchitects.com and we can help with some options and estimates.

Stay tuned for our upcoming library (man-cave) project!

Historically Green

September 9, 2009

As an architect, I approach any renovation or alteration to historic properties with deep respect for the occupants, designers and builders before me. The fact that historical buildings still exist and are useful is a testimony to their design and construction.   Maintaining and improving these building is the ‘greenest’ construction option - when our work makes or keeps them viable and useful, we aren’t creating waste through demolition, and we aren’t using valuable resources and energy to create a replacement. Most of all, it connects us to our past.

Our family vacation this year was to one of my favorite places, New York’s Hudson River Valley, where there are some of the finest homes in America dating from the early settlers in the 17th century, to the estates of the landed gentry of the 18th century, to the summer mansions of the 19th century moguls of industry. My husband and I have great memories of traveling through the area in years past, sauntering around these historic properties and enjoying the buildings and their histories.  This year was different, with an 8 year old and 4 year old in tow, we had to make concessions to visit the houses: one of us would visit a property while the other would hang out with the kids or watch a movie with them in the car. I was lucky and got to spend the time span of a whole movie on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park.

When visiting grand homes, I love to check out the ‘back-of-the-house’ areas – the kitchen, servant’s quarters, carriage houses, garden buildings. In these areas, I feel more able to see how life was lived on the property, and I am often struck by the attention to detail and craftsmanship found in even the most unimportant of spaces. The Vanderbilt Mansion and grounds have great examples of this type of construction.

These photos are of one of the carriage houses – intricately carved details and masonry are glorious:

IMG_0710 IMG_0708

These photos are of one of several small garden structures in the formal gardens:

IMG_0712 IMG_0717

It is true that these ultra-wealthy owners could do what they wanted and it was easy for them to spare no expense. But being in these spaces and seeing their beauty, I appreciate that the money was well spent, and that the craftsmen building these masterpieces walked away proud of their creations. 

GreenBridge Architects was honored to be the architect for a renovation and addition to a Newburyport home constructed in 1630.  These last photos are of the just completed project (construction by Henry Becker Construction):

Greenbridge_2_32s Greenbridge_2_33s Greenbridge_2_3s Greenbridge_2_24s

It was wonderful to see our clients moved in and using the much-improved spaces. The older parts of the home have been restored and freshened-up with careful improvements, and the addition and renovated newer sections of the home work seamlessly with the antique home and with our client’s modern lifestyles. This 17th century home now has a gracious entry foyer, a master bath, a chef’s kitchen, and is super-insulated with energy efficient mechanical systems. We hope that our ‘green’ piece of the home’s history will ensure that it is valued and cared-for for at least another two or three centuries!  If you would like more information on this project or would like to discuss an upcoming project, contact me at juli@greenbridgearchitects.com.

This month, I met with a friend to discuss the fit-out of a relatively non-descript office space.  What the space lacks in amenities, it makes up for in potential, with planned windows opening to views of historic Newburyport in one direction and an expanse of marshland in the other.  Adjacent to this space is a large flat roof that is nearly at the same height as the office’s floor -a great opportunity for a roof garden or a green roof.

Green roofs, also called living or planted roofs, are systems of living plants and vegetation installed on an existing or new structure.  Popular in Europe for decades, the technology has seen continued improvement, making green roofs available in and appropriate for nearly all climates and areas of the United States, even in New England!

 chicago city hall2

Chicago City Hall (photo by Roofscapes)

I relocated to the east coast from Chicago in 2002, just as the greening of the city was taking off.  The then and still-reigning king of Chicago, Mayor Daley, was inspired by a trip to Germany in the late 90’s.  The rest is Chicago green building (and green roof) history – In 2001, the first green roof in Chicago was installed on City Hall.  Mayor Daley and the city’s efforts have been successful through mandates and incentives for green roofs and other green building features on public buildings and new developments that receive money from the city.  Chicago now boasts more than 600 green roofs, or 560,000sf of green roof – my favorite view over martinis from the Signature Room in the Hancock Tower will never be the same!

holyoke college
Holyoke College, Holyoke, MA (photo by Roofscapes) 

boston childrens

Boston Children’s Museum (photo by BCM)

As part of my research for this project, I sought local experts.  Through Roofscapes,  a green roofing product manufacturer, I made contact with two Massachusetts local green roof design/builders:  Apex Green Roofs in Somerville and Earth Our Only Home in Boston.  Both have vast experience in the construction of public/commercial and residential green roofs.  Their websites offer loads of information about green roofs and photos of their work – we’re happy to have them as local resources.

Green Roofs – Some Basics:

I found clear and concise information on green roofs from Toolbase Design and Construction Guide.  The following detailed descriptions are mostly gleaned from that site.  I’ve also included other useful links at the bottom of the post.

What are the Benefits?

  • The added mass and thermal resistance of green roofs reduces the heating and cooling loads of the building. These systems reduce the ambient temperature around the roof, decreasing the building’s urban heat island effect; reduce the ambient temperature of the roof’s surface; and slow the transfer of heat into the building, reducing cooling costs. They also provide added insulation to the roof structure, reducing heating requirements in the winter.
  • Green roofs reduce stormwater runoff by absorbing and retaining the water in the soil medium for plant growth. The plants can filter pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air and rain water. These systems reduce rooftop temperatures and can reduce air and noise pollution. They also serve as living habitats for birds and other wildlife.
  • Vegetation protects the roof from extreme temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, and harsh weather conditions, resulting in a longer lasting roof system.

axon

Image by e-roofing.com

 

What are the components of a green roof?

All green roof systems consist of four basic components: a waterproofing layer, a drainage layer, a growing medium, and vegetation. Some green roofs also include root retention and irrigation systems, but these are not essential.   There is a wide variety of materials used for each component of the green roof system, depending on the chosen plants, type of system employed, climate, and underlying structure.

  • Waterproofing Layer – The waterproofing membrane is a critical component of the system and should include a root barrier to ensure the underlying roof surface is not compromised. If the weatherproofing material is not root-resistant, an additional layer must be applied to serve this purpose.
  • Drainage Layer A drainage layer is required to adequately distribute water and prevent pooling. To minimize the weight of the system, drainage layers are often made from plastic or rubber, but may also be made of gravel or clay. The drainage layer may or may not include filter media to ensure aeration.
  • Growing Medium – Growing mediums include soils, peat and other organic materials, gravel, and other aggregates
  • Vegetation – Plants used in green roof applications must be easy to maintain and tolerant of extreme weather conditions including heat, freezing, and drought, and must have relatively shallow, fibrous root systems. The plants should also be resistant to diseases and insects, and not generate airborne seeds in order to protect surrounding plantings. Climate-appropriate succulents, mosses, and grasses are often best suited for extensive green roof systems. These types of plants are available in a variety of colors, in both deciduous and evergreen options. Many nurseries throughout the country specialize in vegetation for green roofs.

What are the types of Green Roofs?

Green roof systems are often broken down into two types—extensive and intensive systems.

Extensive systems:

  • Consist of low-lying plants such as succulents, mosses, and grasses
  • require relatively thin layers of soil (1-6 inches), and plants usually produce a few inches of foliage.
  • weigh 10-50 pounds per square foot on average
  • typically accessible only for routine maintenance
  • most common for residential applications

Intensive systems:

  • feature deeper soil and can support larger plants including crops, shrubs, and trees
  • harder to maintain, depending on the plants used
  • weigh from 80 to more than 120 pounds per square foot
  • typically designed to be accessible to building inhabitants for relaxation and/or harvesting

How difficult are they to install?

Green roof systems can be implemented in new and existing construction. The roof’s structure must be carefully considered to accommodate the additional loads. Roofs do not need to be flat to support green roof systems, but different systems have varying pitch recommendations and limitations, which should be considered during the design phase. The systems also require selection of appropriate plantings for the climatic region. Flood testing of the roof membrane should also be conducted prior to placement of the green roof system.

What are the costs?

Costs for research, design, and materials of the green roof system and structural support are higher than a conventional roofing system. Extensive systems can cost as little as $7 a square foot, though ranges tend to be $10-15 for extensive, and $15-25 per square foot for intensive systems.

There will be some additional costs involved with maintaining the roof top plantings, but overall maintenance of the roofing membrane will be reduced. Since planted roof systems increase the life-span of the roof, repairs and replacement should be minimized.

                                             ____________________________________________________________________________

If you have any additional local information on green roofs or want to talk about possibilities for your project, I’d love to hear from you!  juli@greenbridgearchitects.com

                                               ____________________________________________________________________________

Some useful links:

Roofscapes

Toolbase Design and Construction Guide

Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council – resource for all aspects of green roofs

The Green Roof Industry Resource Portal

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Green Roof Industry Association

Local design/builders:

Earth Our Only Home 

Apex Green Roofs 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.