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.