Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ArchCalc Construction Calculator

This is a great piece of FREEware for your computer.  We've been using handheld versions of these calculators in our office for a long time.   They are simply a "must" for doing quick dimension string checking, and for estimating materials.
This one from Stefan Hampden gives you all of the main functions of a construction calculator. It works in feet and inches, converts to metric, converts between fractions and decimal, solves trig functions and has a tape display.

It is available for:
Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98
Windows XP / Vista and MAC!

Its free, but if you like it and use it, please pay Stefan $20 for his hard work on this...  I did!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Use an Architect?

Architects save money. An architect's services are a wise investment because a well-conceived and designed project can be built more efficiently and economically. As ideas evolve, changes can be made on a computer screen or paper much less expensively than when construction is under way. Other ways architect-designed projects save money include:
• Designs that take full advantage of solar heat and natural lighting to save on energy needs.
• Space-efficient plans use less floor area, which can result in 5% to 15% cost savings on a home.
• Flexible design solutions accommodate future growth and usage needs.
• Accurate construction costs based on detailed drawings and specifications that result in quality materials and workmanship at a fair market price.
• Materials, finishes, and design solutions that reduce maintenance and replacement costs.
• Architect-designed homes sell faster and hold higher resale values.
    Architects solve problems. The architect is the one professional who has the education, training, experience, and vision to guide the design and construction process. This broad knowledge helps architects focus individual home owners' needs to maximize their investment in livable square footage on time and within budget. Architects stay abreast of advances in roofing, brickwork, floor tile, paint finishes, and other building materials to ensure a smooth and cost-effective building process
    Architects see the big picture. Few people realize how complicated it is to build until they find themselves lost in a maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, and contractors. Architects don't just design four walls and a roof; they create total environments, interiors and exteriors that satisfy specific needs and functions. If a project requires engineering or other construction services, an architect can coordinate the team of experts. An architect sorts out complex building codes and zoning laws and can locate qualified contractors, visiting the construction site to ensure that the project is built according to plans and specifications.
    Architects know aesthetics.  Your architect will design a home for your personal tastes that works within the context of the local vernacular style and the community.  Architects design homes to be timeless, with long-lasting appeal.
    Architects give you peace of mind.  Architects hold the health and life safety of building occupants as their highest calling.

    For more information:  AIA, How Design Works

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Net Zero Energy Buildings (BL09)

    Use on-site renewable energy such as PV or wind.

    1 kW of PV produces 1700 kWh/year in NoCal.

    Use polycrystaline PV for highest efficiency. (and keep them cool)
    Other types of PV.:
    Thin film
    BIPV, such as shingles

    Lay PV panels flat to maximize surface area and production. (tilted, the panels need to be moved apart to keep from shading each other)

    2 story buildings allow for a good ratio of electricity production for a given floor area.

    Design circuits to shut small PV strings down when they become shaded.

    Use power purchase agreements to allow third parties to take tax incentives.

    Clean renewable energy bonds. (follow up)

    Electrochromic glass to reduce heat gain? Sounds interesting, but it's expensive and requires MORE electricity.

    Daylighting - 40 foot building width has been found to be optimal.

    Control plug loads - see 2006 ACEEE report

    Americans spend 85% of their time indoors.

    Don't share thermostats.

    Decouple heating and ventilation.

    Nationwide, 15% to 20% of all energy goes to power our buildings HVAC systems.

    Active chilled beams. Deliver the right amount of air ALL the time.

    Radiant cooling reduces energy used to move heat by a factor of 7.

    SF Bay water is being used as a heating / cooling element for the new Exploratorium.

    Target 50% reduction in computer / server plug loads. Look at server virtualization to eliminate multiple servers.

    How do we measure savings?
    It's not as easy as product manufacturers will tell you.

    Circuit by circuit measurement system to see load shapes.

    Commissioning - verify that systems are performing as designed.

    Compare modelled energy use to actual energy use.

    What about colder climates? (no good answer)

    Energy policy in CA makes for less of a difference between the ZEB design and the base case.

    Look for automated diagnostics in the future.

    Peter Rumsey, PE, FASHRAE
    David Kaneda, PE, AIA, LEED AP
    Scott Shell, AIA, LEED AP
    David Lehrer, LEED AP

    Greenbuild pedicabs

    Amongst the seemingly endless sprawl of a desert oasis, a glimmer of hope comes in the form of a human powered vehicle.


    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Carbondale Scenic Overlook



    Here is our proposal for the redesign of this small structure, which is the first representation of Carbondale that you see when driving in from the north.

    We're hoping that this will someday be the home of a new Environmental Learning Center. This is a high profile location, which welcomes many visitors to Carbondale as well as to the upper part of the Roaring Fork Valley. It will serve as a learning center about sustainable principles, and will promote renewable energy and sustainable site and building construction. According to CDOT reports, the Scenic Overlook has over 30,000 visitors per year and we expect that with the proposed upgrades it will substantially increase that volume.

    The project will demonstrate to local residents and visitors the benefits of renewable energy and sustainable construction. The construction will be done in exemplary fashion to promote the best sustainable options, by taking the existing structure, re-using a large portion of it, re-orienting the roof toward the sun, adding grid-tied PV panels with energy efficient lighting and natural materials such as straw bale walls and re-claimed materials, such as the roof structure.

    We see this as a community project, where many local residents have been involved in the design and decision-making, we will also tap into the network of volunteers we have locally to build the structure together. The site will be planted with native vegetation, which will re-establish a healthy xeric landscape. With our abundant sunshine, our local commitment to renewable energy and sustainable construction, and the location scenic overlook, we feel we can give an excellent first impression of Carbondale and the upper Roaring Fork Valley. It will make local residents and visitors aware of the Roaring Fork Valley’s leadership position in regards to renewable energy and sustainable construction.

    The project will serve as an education resource for students throughout the area, and will expand our local sustainable education through the design and construction, kiosks and interactive learning stations. It will encourage students to further explore green education in their school and community. The electric meter itself will become a learning experience, demonstrating the production of energy with the meter running backwards. Once the Satank Bridge is reconstructed we hope to see field trips of students walk over the bridge from CRMS and The Carbondale Community School.

    The Experience

    • The Environmental Learning Center will provide educational programming, information on ecology and trails, and will promote local green businesses.

    • The structure will be a quiet respite from the noise of Highway 82 where visitors can sit and revel in the majesty of one of the valley’s most dramatic peaks, Mount Sopris.

    • It will make local residents and visitors aware of the Roaring Fork Valley’s leadership position regarding renewable energy and sustainable development.

    • It will increase the visibility of clean, renewable energy generation technologies and sustainable construction methodologies through education and community outreach.

    • Climate education – demonstrate the environmental impact of energy savings.

    • It will act as a guideline for sustainable development, exhibiting viable strategies for addressing the energy and environment issues of today.

    • The overlook will educate and inspire people about the potential and the need for renewable energies and design.

    The current scenic overlook energy bill is under $10 monthly. With the new PV system and roof orientation towards the all-day-long sun exposure, the overlook will be putting a great deal of energy back onto the grid. The volunteer based construction vision will be open to all community members, young and old, and will provide a sense of pride and ownership. This project will not only serve Carbondale, but the whole Roaring Fork and Crystal River Valleys. Over 30,000 visitors annually will be stopping at the only scenic overlook in the valley, and learning what all of our communities value most — our environment and how to sustain it’s health and growth.

    Our increasing global concerns regarding energy and environmental issues present a timely opportunity for this project. One goal of this project is to become a change agent by being a source of education to inform individuals of positive developments in the field and how they may participate in fostering responsible stewardship of natural resources, and protecting mountain ecosystems.

    The current conditions at the Scenic Overlook are not exactly “scenic.” The roof structure is in disrepair and does not reflect well on our community.   There are also power lines in the way of the views of Mount Sopris.

    The overlook is designed to be a small taste of the type of solar and sustainable construction structures one sees in the valley.


    Modern Stair

    Soffit of The Crystal Treehouse

    An array of non-parallel floor joists is so much more beautiful...

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Space Efficiency: Smaller Can Be Better

    In the green building world, we believe the best way to limit energy use, reduce carbon emissions, and save money is to focus on efficiency and conservation. One excellent way to accomplish this is “space planning” -- designing spaces that maximize the effectiveness of the floor area they occupy.

    The complexities of working out an efficient floor plan can be quite challenging, but when done right and spaces are stacked properly, the reward is a livable space with exactly the right amount of circulation, volume and storage. And, smaller space means smaller utility bills. A good space-efficient design can save 10 to 20 percent on floor area. Not only does that save on building materials and labor, it also saves on space heating and cooling costs for the lifetime of the home.

    An exercise in space efficiency might be as simple as drawing out the furniture on a floor plan to make sure everything fits. Or, it could be detailing a Mud Room with benches, cubbies and pegs to maximize vertical storage in a small room. One of our favorite design elements – that also happens to save space – is the spiral stair, as it typically uses less than one half the square footage of a straight staircase.

    Ideally, the best way to maximize the use of floor space is to look at it in 3D. We use 3D modeling software to build the space and then fine tune that model for space efficiency. Very often, this means a room carefully filled in with built-in storage options. It could also involve making sure that the space under the stairs is used wisely.

    As in any integrated design process, one must not sacrifice aesthetics or functionality of the home to achieve space efficiency, but should rather balance it as one of the many design criteria.

    When starting a new home design, addition or remodel, consider the layout carefully, identify honestly the functions of the rooms and be careful to maximize the use of precious floor space. It’s surprising how space-efficient you can become with a little creativity. And, you’ll be doing your part, as smaller, space-efficient homes with lower energy budgets will be the backbone of our New Energy Economy.

    by Steven A. Novy, AIA
    Principal, Green Line Architects, PC

    published in Mountain House and Home, Fall 2009

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Hover Tent

    We have been stringing up this trampoline in various locations around the Colorado mountains, to use as a play area, or as an oversized hammock for 6. I've been curious if one could integrate a light tensile structure with a tent-like cover for protection from the elements... Its not quite ready for production, but as you can see, there is an allure to having a completely suspended sleeping space. There are numerous design and technical issues to work out before it would work for sleeping, but it looks promising!

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Next Gen PassivHaus

    Our Next Gen Homes designs in Blue Creek Ranch are shown as examples of the PassivHaus Standard in this technical article by John Straub of Building Science Corporation.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    9 Out of 10 Americans Want Solar, Now.

    Green Builder Dispatch

    Solar Decathlon

    The 2009 Solar Decathlon is going on now on the Mall in Washington, DC.
    Here are some of the daily shots of the designs:

    Jeff and I went to DC for the 2005 competition. My alma mater, CU-Boulder, won that year and in 2003.

    For more, go to:
    Solar Decathlon 2009


    Micro Space Frame Design

    Green Line Architects and David Rassmussen Design are teaming up to create a new line of future-thinking furniture.
    This space frame chair is a good example of a starting point for one of the designs. It uses small wire segments to achieve a super-efficient, open structure. You'll note that the amount of material used to create the structure is minimal. As long as fabrication is not too time-consuming, space frame construction is a model of efficient design. (from David Rasmussen's blog, a product from Milano Design Week 2009) Its more of a traditional chair form, which is maybe too hard-edged and maybe not perfectly comfortable...

    So, our plan will be to do this with the stated goal of achieving the best possible ergonomic designs. Our research started this week with some spirited discussions of how to use small space-frame tetrahedra to create comfortable anthropomorphic furniture, and how to create a better ergonomically designed seat that will help people with posture, and allow for better comfort and productivity.

    The first prototype of an "Ergonomic Wing Seat" has been iterated, and will now be redrawn, rehashed, trashed and rebuilt.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    1000 sq ft.

    The footprint of this passive solar home we designed in Redstone, Colorado is a mere 1000 square feet and is in the form of a perfect rectangle. This is a great example of how to keep the design of the house simple and the size of the house down. The roof lines are articulated to add interest and integrate with the porch. With a SIP's wall system, it has exceptional insulation and airtightness. Thanks to Devon for the photo!

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Top 20 Under 40

    Jeff Dahl
    Green Line Architects
    Carbondale, Colorado

    Jeff Dahl is on a mission. “We’re trying to get
    as efficient as we can, to the point where our
    homes use zero net energy,” he explains of
    the mission he’s embarked upon with partner
    Steven Novy. And although he’s found
    that “greenwashing” has diluted the impact
    of the term “green building,” his firm is doing
    its best to do things right. “As far as we’re
    concerned, energy efficiency is probably the
    most important aspect of green design,”
    Dahl says. Building smaller, ultra-durable
    homes that will last for generations is also a
    priority. The trick, says Dahl, is marrying
    sustainability with aesthetics. “If it doesn’t
    look good, then it’s not worth it,” he says.
    And although the firm’s architectural style is
    faithful to Colorado’s mountain vernacular,
    but with a modern twist, each design is a
    unique solution with a look that’s one-of-akind.
    “We don’t want to get pigeonholed into
    any one style,” Dahl says. “We always try to
    create timeless designs for real people.”

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Spiral Stairs

    We really love designing stairs. This shows the variations we considered for a stair to access a loft space off the living room for an existing home in Carbondale, CO. Vote for your favorite!

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Web Site is LIVE!

    Our web site: has just gone LIVE! (after a long time in development)
    also check out Dave Rasmussen's new web site:


    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Off-Grid Solar Home in Lenado, CO

    Here are some photos of a house of ours that's under construction.
    It is off the grid, and has a current HERS rating of 13! That means it will use 13% of the energy of a code-compliant home, very close to net-zero energy usage, which may be achieved based on occupant behavior. The walls and roof are constructed with SIP's panels. It will have 3 tracking photovoltaic arrays and (8) 8 x 10 solar hot water panels. The exterior is designed to be low-maintenance, and a large part of the exterior materials are coming from existing buildings on site that are being deconstructed!
    It is expected to receive a LEED-H Gold certification.
    Check out our completed projects at: Green Line Architects Web Site

    Also, check out one of staff's new web site at: David Rasmussen Design