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My Thoughts About the Article…

The following article written by Gerard Arias Fuentes lists the top ten things wanted in a new home and is further broken down into wish lists for men and women.  The number of people quieried for the survey was 1000.  As the author questions the wish lists, he follows with future residential building trends.  I agree with some trends, others need to be more aggressive.  It’s a start…

What Would You Want In A New Home? « The Complete Residence.

What I find interesting yet sad is that the wish list includes a garage or parking space as number one in both the men’s and women’s list.  Each wanted master bedroom suites which I concur.  Both wanted ample storage and large closets… an indication of our consumer ‘accumulation of stuff’ mentality.

Gourmet or updated kitchens were include as well as a large yard.  I understand the kitchen want but the large yard typically means perfect manicured lawns, shrubs and trees requiring mowing, fertilizer, watering which ultimately pollute our soil, air and waste water.

No where in the wish lists was there anything about conserving energy, conserving water or minimizing waste much less… trying to create a home that even attempts to strive for zero waste, zero emissions, and zero ecological footprint.  This should be the ultimate goal.

I agree with the article the use of personal transportation needs to be minimized by access services via non polluting means such as walking or bicycling.  This requires a mindset change with in society and/or new modes of transportation that is independent from fossil fuels.

Building vs Transportation Energy Use…

Buildings, however, are the biggest sources of energy consumption by nearly 2 to 1 over transportation.  Check out the following organization Architecture 2030 to see what this group is attempting regarding issues of energy consumption goals by the year 2030.  As quoted from their site Architecture 2030 website:

Data from the US Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings are responsible for almost half (48%) of all energy consumption and GHG emissions annually; globally the percentage is even greater. Seventy-six percent (76%) of all power plant-generated electricity is used just to operate buildings.

Buildings account for almost 2 times the amount of energy consumed than transportation.  While others are working on the transportation fuel consumed and emissions and my interest and experience is in building design, my focus is how to work towards zero… waste, emissions and ecological footprint.

Rethinking How We Do Things…

Currently I’m reading “CRADLE to CRADLE… Remaking the Way We Make Things” written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in 2002.  I’ve not finished but their mindset is not for energy efficient design but rather energy effective design.  The concept is to not lessen the mistakes of our current thinking making a bad system better but to totally rethink how we do things.

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Types Defined

This is fairly simple to define. The activities, once defined, are not so simple to perform if your end result is to build a beautiful usable functional space utilizing local materials, minimizing waste and energy consumption.

The first type of construction is ground-up or new construction. But isn’t all construction new. Yes but in this definition, the second type of construction is renovation work on existing buildings. So there is ground-up new construction and renovation construction of existing buildings.

Renovation Construction

In my opinion, renovation construction is more complicated than ground-up new construction because one must work with the existing idiosyncrasies of previous owners and builders.

Years of implanting an owner’s personality into a building need to be erased to accommodate a new owner. Previous renovations done by the owner or his contractors may have been done with varying degrees of success or competency… or maybe no capabilities at all.  And work could have been done without permits or worse, not  built to minimum code standards.

Ground-Up New Construction

The other type of construction is ground-up new and this is like starting with a blank palette. Of course, I don’t mean to cut down every tree to plop a house or building in the middle of the lot.  As has been said to me too many times to count, “We used to just throw a rock on the site and that’s where we built…”

Site planning is an integral part to ground-up new construction. One needs to consider the exact locale regarding solar orientation, winds during summer and winter, vegetation, frost-depths, water tables, soil conditions, etc.

What I mean building with a blank palette is to do it right. Homes in suburban tracks are on straight streets with the houses… facing the street. Newer developments are done are winding roads with the houses… facing the street. Most of these homes are mass produced with time and budget being the driving force with little regard for quality.

Doing it right means to orient the home to maximize solar gain during the winter, minimizing it during the summer. Aligning the home to direct prevailing winds through the home during the summer and blocking them during the winter. Minimizing waste and using local products versus getting that gorgeous marble from Italy is doing it right. Designing spaces to accommodate more than one use is doing it right. Making the home efficient by conserving energy and even harvesting energy is doing it right.

What’s Next?

You want to do a construction project and it’ll be one or the other.  If you’re not accustomed to the process, where do you start?  Future blog entries, will hopefully help organize the information and thought processes required to undertake a construction project.  As a friend, colleague and mentor used to tell me, “Construction is not a venture, but an adventure…”

I’ll tackle renovation work first because in this economic climate, renovating your existing home can be more economical AND more aligned many Green Pundit advisors.  Where do you start?  Next up: beginning a  renovation project… is to dream.

We’ll use the following home as an example…

Existing Front Elevation

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