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By. Dan Gregory
A window wall that disappears to unite inside and outside. Plan 496-1
If you’re building a new house, you’ll face many window choices. Sliding window walls, in particular, have become increasingly popular as an easy and gracious way to connect living areas with patios and decks. Varieties include so-called accordion doors — panels that slide and fold together like the bellows of an accordion — as shown in Plan 496-1, above, and in the rendering and layout of Plan 436-1, below.
More Plans With Sliding Glass Doors
Architect Nir Pearlson just won Fine Homebuilding magazine’s 2013 Small Home of the Year Award for Plan 890-1, an 800 sq. ft., two bedroom one bath garden cottage in our Exclusive Collection. The magazine recognized the design “for its shared spaces and connections to the outdoors that make it seem larger than its physical boundaries…” The layout is mostly one open space containing kitchen and living-dining area connecting to a large wrap-around deck (photos by Mike Dean). Key elements define individual “rooms” without separating one from another — like the kitchen peninsula and the window seat — making the main space feel larger than it is. Nir designed the house to be energy-wise, with rigid foam insulation in walls and roof and separate photo-voltaic arrays for generating electricity and hot water. It’s definitely the little award-winning cottage that could!
by Dan Gregory, Houseplans.com Editor in Chief
Look for efficient circulation and storage. Walk through the plan from foyer to kitchen and bedrooms. Imagine opening all the doors on the plan. Is there a graceful, efficient flow? See how the kitchen connects to the family room, where most people live.
Follow the path from garage through mud room to the kitchen: coming in with groceries or other items should be as convenient as possible. Is there adequate storage? Are closets, wardrobes, and pantries large enough and where they need to be? Storage areas should suit the type of object being stored. Plan 137-252, below
Is each space right for its function? Is there adequate natural light? Measure the width, length, and height of rooms you’re living in now or of rooms you like and compare to the room dimensions listed on the plan you have selected. Porches should be spacious enough for sitting or dining.
Windows on two sides of a room balance daylight (thus avoiding glare) and create a spacious feeling. Plan 452-1, below.
How will the plan connect to your lot? Think about your site and how the plan should link with it to make the best use of outdoor space and sunshine or shade by way of porches, decks, patios, or courtyards. Every stock plan should be customized to fit you and your lot. It’s easy to add doors for access to the yard and windows for a visual connection to the site. Plan 460-3, below
Written by Allstate
Originally published on Buildipedia.com
In the interests of energy efficiency, financial efficacy and environment protection, many homeowners are selecting alternative means to supply daily utilities such as electricity and hot water. For example,solar water heaters can help homeowners successfully meet these growing interests.
Tankless hot water heaters are popular line items on most “green home improvements” lists. Does installing a tankless water heater pay off and, if so, how long does it take to see a return on your investment? That depends on your usage rate and other factors… check out the cost comparisons below. Read More…
Making an assessment of your energy needs and uses is a valuable way to both save money and stay true to sustainable values. Read More…
Do you know what to do if you have a frozen pipe — or even how to tell if that is the problem? Learn how to identify and remedy frozen pipes or, better yet, prevent them from freezing in the first place. Read More…
In recent years, water issues have become a very hot topic. Water shortages throughout the western United States, as well as severe droughts in the southern, have made water usage a major concern. Many green building experts agree that with a growing global population we can no longer rely only on water conservation. Read More…
Even for residents in gloomy states, solar panels can greatly reduce power costs, let alone carbon footprints. In fact, because of solar power success in Germany, the state of Washington (a state that receives overcast days 65% of the year) decided to copy Germany’s solar financial incentive programs.
Let’s take a closer look at some factors to consider before making a purchase decision.
Energy. By using the sun’s free energy you can reduce your hot water energy consumption by 70% to 90%, depending on where you live. That’s up to 90% less gas or electricity that needs to be produced! This is a significant value because most homeowners are unaware that their water heaters consume about 25% of their total monthly energy.
Money. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the 2011 average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. resident was 11,280 kWh. Assuming the average national cost per one kWh is (and will remain for the duration of your water heater) $0.12 and the average percentage of total energy consumed by your water heater is 25%: how much will your water heater cost you in 11 years?
Your answer: $ 3,722.40 or $ 338.40 per year.
You can purchase a high quality solar water heating system for well under $2,000, meaning it will pay for itself and then some. Plus, you will be eligible for Federal Tax Credit of 30% of total installed cost (no cap).
Environment. Not only will you save on your energy costs, using the natural and free energy resource provided by the sun will greatly reduce your carbon footprint. It may sound like a surprising statistic, but if 50% of North America’s households utilized solar water heaters, the reduction in CO2 emissions would equal the result of doubling the fuel-efficiency of all automobiles in North America.
Assess the solar resource. If you own un-shaded property that faces south, you are a good candidate for solar water heating. As previously mentioned, even if you live in an overcast-prone state, solar panels will work by absorbing both direct and diffused solar radiation.
Direct radiation, commonly known as “sunshine”, refers to solar beams that reach the earth’s surface without hindrance. On the other hand, diffused or indirect solar radiation refers to scattered solar beams. Scattering occurs when molecules and suspensoids in the atmosphere disperse a direct solar beam.
Believe it or not, approximately 2/3 of all solar energy that reaches the earth occurs in the form of indirect radiation.
System size. Before diving headfirst into buying a water heater, you should first determine your hot water demand. This will not only tell you the size of the water heater needed, it will also offer insight into the solar-collection surface area required to maximize efficiency. In any situation, contractors can help determine these variables.
Verify energy efficiency. In order to determine energy efficiency, two units are needed: the solar energy factor (SEF) and solar fraction (SF). The solar energy factor is defined as the energy delivered by the system divided by the electrical or gas energy put into the system. The efficiency scale ranges from 1.0 to 11.0 and higher numbers correlate to better efficiencies. Though, systems with SEFs of 2 or 3 are most common.
The other performance metric, the solar fraction, is the share of total conventional hot water heating load (delivered energy and tank standby losses). Higher solar fractions result in a greater solar contribution to heating the water supply. This, in effect, reduces the energy demand of the backup water heater. The solar fraction range is between 0 and 1.0. Most solar factors fall between 0.5 and 0.75.
Evaluate and compare operating costs. Estimate the annual operating costs and compare several systems. This will help you discover the energy savings and payback period of investing in a more energy-efficient system. It’s important to recognize that solar water heaters are a much more expensive initial investment than traditional heaters. Knowing the appropriate system size is critical before calculating operating costs.
Research building codes and protocols. The U.S. Department of Energy’s “Consumer’s Guide to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency,” zoning and building codes relating to the installation of solar water heaters are typically established at the local level. Potential consumers should research their community’s requirements and find a professional contractor to install the unit(s).
Maintenance. Just like any other appliance, solar water heaters require periodic inspections and routine maintenance to sustain operational efficiency. Professional recommendations vary, but homeowners should drain their water heater tank at least once a year. Draining removes built-up sediment and debris but will also help in maintaining tank holding capacity. Using a maintenance scheduler can help automate reminders.
If choosing a solar water heater isn’t the right option, but you’re still looking to reduce costs, consider looking into tankless water heaters.
by Dan Gregory
originally published in Eye on Design
A good front door does two things: it protects the person and projects the personality. Here’s one that says solidity, security, sophistication, and wealth.
It’s the front entrance to the Charnely-Perskey house of 1892 in Chicago, designed by Louis Sullivan, the father of the skyscraper and the great teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright. The organic-geometric metalwork is characteristic of Sullivan and gives the door its vivid presence — there’s plenty to admire as you wait for it to open. Fittingly, the house is the headquarters of the Society of Architectural Historians and is open for tours.
Another approach, equally sophisticated but now all about openness as well as security in a deft biomorphic balance of opposites, is the entrance to the Casa Mila apartment house of 1910 in Barcelona, by the great Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi.
The view is looking out toward the street, as if you are inside a cage that’s mellting before your eyes.
Lightness and transparency are taken to another extreme in the front entrance to the Farnsworth house of 1951, not far from Chicago in Plano, Illinois (which you can also tour). It’s hard to tell there’s a door there at all — you can just make out the double doors in the middle of the glass wall.
The great International Style architect Mies Van Der Rohe designed this house for a doctor who wound up hating it. So maybe it didn’t fully express her personality. Plus, privacy ultimately became and issue. But the house has influenced modern architects ever since — the idea of openness is very powerful.
This is a repost from Dan Gragory’s “Eye on Design” blogPut A Loop In Your Layout
I always look for the exit when I enter an enclosed public space. My wife will tell you it’s a little irritating. But more than one way in and out isn’t just important for safety, it also balances light, promotes air circulation, and helps avoid claustrophobia. The same principle applies at home. My mantra is “No dead-end-rooms!”
Here’s one of our newest designs, Plan 48-250, that I think does the job very well, promoting an easy graceful flow between the foyer, great room, kitchen, dining room, and office. In other words, the main layout is a loop.
It’s plan #48-250. Guests can move from room to room without being trapped. Kids can chase and be chased by the family dog (a favorite game in our house, anyway) without hitting a wall. Here the exercise room is a dead-end but it would be easy to fix that by opening a door to the porch. A looping layout is even more important in smaller houses to promote a feeling of spaciousness. Tell me what you think.
When you build a new home and push (the wish list) comes to shove (the budget), the house often gets smaller. But how small is too small and what room sizes feel better or worse? This article takes a quick glance at the “minimum” and “ideal” sizes for kid’s bedrooms. Unlike the photo above, it is possible to detail a very small room so that it not only works, but becomes a prized home feature. For most projects, sticking within the safe size guidelines produces better results.
Contractors use “$ per square foot” as a tool to calculate their bids. Kitchens have a higher cost per foot, porches lower. Based on your quality and finish preferences, the per square foot figure will increase or decrease and unusual details or site/program requirements are added to create the bid. But it always starts with “how many square feet?”
When the bids come back higher than expected, and they always do, the impulse is to look for ways to reduce the number of square feet. In the end, bedrooms, particularly kid’s bedrooms often get the squeeze. But how small can you shrink a bedroom and still create a great place?
Image by Eggleston Farkas Architects, Seola Beach House
On Pinterest and Houzz, and the countless “shelter” magazines, every house looks perfectly sited. Neighboring homes are rarely in the picture, hills are obscured, you can’t feel the Winter wind or the searing Summer heat. In real life, siting, the positioning of a house on a piece of property, can dictate the difference between an so-so house and a great one. Here are 10 important things to concepts in mind when you are siting your new home. Think about these concepts, visit your site and talk to local builders and home owners before you decide what house plan to buy.
The first consideration is the “buildable envelope.” Many local codes specify that a house should be a minimum number of feet from each of the lot lines and any body of water. Countless dollars and hours are wasted planning and even buying plans for homes that don’t fit the buildable envelope.
If you are planning to add a well and septic system, these will have setbacks that will affect how and where you place the house on your land.
There are two great reasons to consider the type and siting of nearby homes. First, a house that fits well with the neighbors creates a more coherent and desirable neighborhood. Second, older homes nearby may have evolved to fit the local conditions. Study neighboring homes to learn what works (and what doesn’t).
Views from inside
What do you want to see at breakfast? Can you see or be seen by neighbors? The placement of the house on the lot and the placement of rooms in the house should take into account views in and out.
Think about taking advantage of a down slope for what is usually called a “daylit basement” — that is, a basement floor with windows and doors facing down the slope. Does your site lend itself to the use of decks or porches for taking advantage of good weather?
Some like to wake with the sun, others like to sleep in. Consider which rooms should be sunny at what times of day.