Join us in July for a sustainability open forum discussion! Food and drinks provided. And one lucky individual could be going home with a few solar panels for their new build!
In the spring of 2018 my colleague and builder partner heard Tedd Benson speak at a Maine Indoor Air Quality conference. During the presentation he mentioned a new division of his company called Tektoniks. They were attempting to use their factory to panelize projects by Architects and Builders who were not part of their in-house Bensonwood or Unity Homes team. In April a press release introduced this new division to the public and we jumped at the opportunity to try panelization with their team. We have been playing the panelization game on a much smaller scale with a great deal of success. But the idea of having the insulation, windows, doors, rainscreen, strapping and a completely air sealed envelope delivered to the site and erected in 4-10 days was a huge jump up from our previous version of panelization. Thus far we have found that there is a disconnect between panelization and modular where architects, builders, and even homeowners don’t understand the possibilities and we hope to be on the front edge of the curb showing custom designs, with panelization that bridge the gap between spending 9-12 months swinging a hammer and the ability to provide truly high performance homes.
There were so many questions and it took from the April discussion until January 2019 for us to get everything together and finally see this first project with Tektoniks go up. We originally had the house all planed out as a double wall construction, site built, zero energy home. We ended up re-working our wall systems with templates directly from Bensonwood so they could panelize the house. We were able to streamline the process since our office uses Revit, the same software they start out with before translating that into the program that actually builds the panels. It also gave a second (and really 4-5 extra) set of eyes on the project to catch discrepancies or things that were missed. We talked windows, walls, and opening locations and then were able to provide their team with a paired down model that they could then use to produce the structure and wall panels. Sharing the model back and forth between our teams was easy, although it took a couple of rounds before everyone was clear on what was needed and what was excess information (think things that clients want to see, but aren’t all that useful for panelization). Once the model was approved, they produced a foundation plan for coordination with the design and panels. It didn’t help that this was a challenging site on the side of a hill with walk out basements, slabs + frost walls, ledge and a 1000 foot driveway. It should only get easier from here, but none of that deterred the team in making this happen. It’s a new venture for them, and it was new for us being one of the first off the assembly line. Over time I think everyone will work to iron out the kinks. One of the things I loved best about their company is their open minded discussions on how could we do this better. It was a discovery process finding out what we don’t know, what we think will work, what they don’t know we don’t know and so on. And then they built our walls in the factory and we got to go on the tour!
If you happened to miss it, one of my fellow architects/colleagues, Bob over at Bluetime Collaborative, joined in on our tour of the Tektoniks/Unity facility and wrote his take on the future of panelaziation. Check out his amazing work and his thoughts on panelization here: Notes from a tour of the Unity/Tektoniks factory
Big thank you to the man himself, Tedd Benson, who showed up to meet the client on the factory tour and took time out of his busy schedule to see the project going up in the field. But let’s talk about the factory, the technology, Jay, Tommy, and the rest of the team.
Every morning for every project on the board, the factory team gets together and discusses QDIP – Quality, Delivery, Inventory, Productivity. They discuss what is going well, what could be improved on, where the project is at, and they are open to all feedback on how to do it better, faster, more cost effectively. That, to me, resounded in a very progressive factory. You can feel the atmosphere is different here as well. You proceed on to the extremely precise cutting machine. 1/32” precision. But it doesn’t just cut 2x4 lumber to length. No it cuts, stamps, draws lines for alignment of attached members, grooves for fly rafters, holes, and a series of other attachements that make things easy to assemble in the field, cutting down on error, but also on challenging geometries that are always complicated to erect on site. You proceed along the factory to wall and roof building panel sections. It’s not just the machines that auto nail pieces together based on the pre-cut lumber and the markings on the panels. Or the fact that pneumatic lifts eliminate age or gender from ability to work in the factory. But the careful placement of carts in each section of the factory that use the same nails, tapes, adhesives, and gaskets to make sure that every panel is sealed, taped, and assembled with the minimum amount of shuffling, searching or distraction. But beyond that, you’ll roll up to the section where a roof panel is being dense packed and you’ll run into your site supervisor dense packing the panel. They aren’t away from home 24/7 installing panels, but they aren’t in the factory 24/7 either. And after a certain number of years (4 I think) they can become owners where they are gifted with a toilet brush. Because no matter your position, no one is above or below any job.
Being the architect and the energy professional for this project, I was keenly interested in all the details. How do you keep the cellulose from settling on over the road transport (increase density). How will the windows be installed (center of insulation level, center of wall), how will they be flashed, will the flashing adhere to the Styco? (new product to me – wax impregnated wood fiber board sheathing with an R-5 rating). How will the panels be connected to our foundation walls? How do they get put together on site – gaskets, interlocking sheathing, etc. Some of these things I already had answers to from our computer model and putting their panels into our design. I love the detail that the floor system sits inside the insulated panel getting rid of those complicated details at band joists.
Then the real coordination happens. How do you get 2 trucks a day to back down a 1000 foot driveway to a tight site filled with vehicles and use a crane to lift the vertical panels off the truck? Very carefully, lots of shuffling, and pray there is no snow. Progress was slow the first week because temperatures were in the single digits or below zero with the wind whipping off the lake. But we lucked out the 2ndweek with 40 degree temps and some sunny weather. The 4-6 person crew led by the team member from Bensonwood worked slowly and methodically through the first layer and attaching to the foundation to make sure every layer after that clicked together as seamlessly as possible. There is someone stapling up gaskets, someone giving hand signals to the crane operator, people straping and unstrapping panels. The first few days on site are adjusting, coordinating, and making a plan and this crew worked together well. Our lead carpenter has done commercial, residential frame to finish, and other panelization projects. It’s interesting to hear the talk and discussion around panelization and how this will change the landscape of building. For us, it blows the doors wide open. We can do a winter build and be in an air and weather tight structure in a matter of days. Our female team members can set walls and signal the crane, our framers can erect interior walls and crank through projects faster and more efficiently. No longer do you have to be the site super who swung a hammer for 10 years, now a new skill set has emerged, and better buildings are being built because of it.
The next goal will be for the factory to provide more and more value arriving to the site. If a whole wall can be panelized it can come with wiring, sheetrock and exterior siding. Every extra value provided in the factory will drive the cost down for the consumer and improve the timeline to build a home. I think this new branch of their business might address future issues of poorly performing homes. With little to no modification to my original design, we were able to panelize the walls and construct the exterior shell of this home in a very streamlined manor. That allows different aesthetic styles to come out of factory aside from their Unity Homes and not venturing into the very custom Bensonwood timer frames. Because we have been building panelized construction for a few years, we maybe inherently had wall heights and thicknesses that would work with their system. We also did not have double height spaces or other challenging configurations that would have to be considered to see if it would work within the available panelization. This idea that a more streamlined style of building exists is fascinating and we are thrilled to be part of the first projects to roll off the line.
I won't say it was simple and easy. No new technique ever is, either for the factory or for us. We had a challenging site and a design that was not a box. We had a system that doesn't just click and lock together, so the team had to spend a considerable amount of time making sure the first layer went together well so that all the other pieces above would fit correctly. It was definitely a puzzle. We didn't know what we wouldn't know. No construction project is ever easy, but pushing the boundaries of what is possible fascinates me. I learn something new every time. And I'll be the first to admit, I often learn things the hard way. I love this female led team that I have created. I love the fact that panels can build custom things. And I love to learn more about how to incorporate efficiency into every aspect of the build, even if it wasn't efficient the first way you tried it. Stay tuned for more on this zero energy home, building with panels, the future of sustainable communities and the crazy team at Live Solar Maine.
We are proud to introduce Tula Modern! This home will become a prototype home for Mottram Architecture's Smart Home division this fall! If you love this beauty, it too could be yours! Stay tuned for more information on the semi-custom plan set roll out! We had an Open House at Tula Modern on November 3rd from 1-3pm. We hope you joined us taking a tour of this energy efficient home. Tula Modern was created when I was approached by a lovely couple that couldn't find a modern house in Maine. With all the traditional architecture they were struggling to find something that they really loved that already existed. They were interested in environmental conservation, they were thoughtful about living in a super insulated home, and they selected a neighborhood who felt strongly about both of these issues.This version of Tula Modern is a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, 1,900 SF home with plenty of room for expansion. There are 3 air source heat pumps that heat and cool the home, along with an ERV for fresh air and triple pane windows.WCheck out more photos of this home in our gallery: Tula ModernAll photos by: Michael Eric Berube, Maine Virtual Home Tours
We love collaborations! So when Susie Wilson of Happier Home reached out to us and wanted to share some tips and tricks for eco friendly living, we were happy to oblige! We hope you enjoy!Green Living: Five Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly, By Susie WilsonA lot has changed in the way we perceive and treat our environment. More and more people are beginning to open their eyes to how much of an impact our daily lives can have on the sky, land and sea that we depend on. Today, we are taught how we each have our own ecological-footprint, and the best way to make a positive difference on the environment is by reducing our own footprint as much as possible.As homeowners, there are many ways we can reduce our ecological-footprint and help preserve our environment that we rely so heavily on. What a lot of homeowners are realizing is that even small changes can have a huge positive impact for our environment. Here are five ways you can make your home more eco-friendly.Make Your Home More Energy EfficientA huge part of being more environmentally conscious, is simply being more efficient in the ways we use energy at home. Most homes are connected to the electrical grid and have running water. The more energy and water we draw from the grid has a bigger impact on the environment, but also costs us more. This creates a direct correlation between saving the environment and saving money. By making sure our home is properly insulated and that our toilets and faucets aren’t leaking we can not only spare the environment, but also save some money on our utility bills.Switch to LED LightingIn recent years, many households have increased their efficiency simply by switching the bulbs in their lighting fixtures. Thanks to advancements in LED and CFL technology, we now have lights that are twice as bright, last twice as long, and draw about half the energy as traditional bulbs. This has drastically cut into the amount of energy a household draws from its local power plant, meaning a significantly less impact on the environment.Go PaperlessMost people understand that paper comes from trees, but trees also play a more pivotal role in our environment. Trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which is integral not only for the air we breathe, but also ridding the atmosphere of chemicals that trap heat and contribute to global warming. A great way to save trees and reduce our ecological-footprint is by using less paper in our daily lives. We can do this by going paperless in our mail, as well as relying more on reusable writing surfaces such as chalk or whiteboards.Ditch Plastic BottlesEach year, billions of plastic bottles find their way in to landfills all across the world. It can take years for these bottles to decompose and what’s left is harmful trash that makes its way into our streams and oceans. The straightforward answer to this ecological conundrum is to ditch plastic bottles all together. Safe, reusable drinking containers can make a huge difference in your ecological footprint, and if you really want to take it to the next level, collect and store your own drinkable rainwater with a rain barrel.CompostWhenever we produce waste, our initial impulse is to get rid of it as soon as possible. To be more ecologically friendly, we need to start thinking of better ways we can use our waste. A solution that many eco-friendly homeowners use is composting. Compositing is when you take waste and other biological dead matter, and save it until it begins to decompose. After this process begins to take place, you can then repurpose your waste as organic material to use as soil for your plants and gardens.These are just a few ways that you can make a difference. As members of the planet Earth, it’s our moral duty to take care of the environment and make sure we use the Earth’s resources responsibly. Whenever looking into your current home, or even when looking into buying a new home, consider how you can make a decision that not only benefits you, but for the environment as well.
Construction has started over at Solar Way on the next house with Live Solar Maine! As we head into summer and building season, we are reminded that the days are long, the sun is high, and the joy of sunshine is in abundance! Stay tuned for details on the construction of this house (paneled walls should be going up at the end of next month) updates from the Live Solar Maine and sneak peaks on New England Smart Home where one of these farmhouses could be yours too...more on that later!
You may or may not have seen that Bensonwood is rolling out a new division of their company called Tektoniks where they are combining their knowledge from Bensonwood and Unity homes to help supply the market with something it desperately needs: Better Homes with Panelized ConstructionPrefab, modular and panelized construction has gotten a bad name over the years. People often associate it with low quality housing, but that's not really the case. Look back to the start of kit housing and the Sears catalog and you'll see that they sold over 70,000 homes between 1902 and 1940. The kit of parts was delivered to the site and often raised in a "barn raising" type style. It supplied a need for housing in the country that was quick and affordable. And to be honest, pretty stylish.Somewhere along the lines we lost some of that stylish design, the adherence to quality, and the ability to move forward in the building industry building BETTER homes, not just cheaper homes.But I digress, what does panelized construction have to do with today's housing needs? As an architect working with zero energy and super insulated houses, I find panelized construction fascinating. We've been using it on one of our developments in Maine for the last several years.We started with a framer that builds the walls in a shop, delivers them to the site, and 3 days later we have a shell. Framing them in the shop cuts down on time, often taking a 9-12 month build down to 6 months. The quality control and material control can cut waste and job site debris down by almost 25%. And when you're building indoors, weather delays aren't an issue. So while the site is being prepped, framing is happening at the same time. But our framer, he's busy. I wish we had 2 or 3 more to help with construction right now.But how are they different? Why is this different than SIPS panels or modular construction? These are prototypes of zero energy homes. We spend hours in design development working out the systems to cut down on thermal bridging, orient the home the right direction, and provide really great spaces. We are very strict about the materials we use cutting out as much foams, plastics, and formaldehyde products. They are custom homes where we eliminate as much square footage as possible while still spending the time to make spacious areas and a spot for everything. More square footage isn't better, it's just more. In a world where we are seeing people going back to their roots, wanting less, spending more time outside of the home or in a community, this seems like the right answer. Minimizing the impact of building, the buildings impact on environment, and most importantly celebrating it's impact on the occupants. Our health and welfare can be directly linked to where we live.So why aren't we building better? Well the answer is, here at Mottram Architecture, we are.Stay tuned for updates on how the next Live Solar Maine house is going:
On Monday 4/23/18 Maine will have adopted a new building code, moving from 2009, which is nearly 10 years old, to 2015. It's not the newest code, but it's a step up. However, they have decided to keep the 2009 IECC (Energy Code) and I just don't understand it. In a part of the country that still uses fuel oil to heat their homes, why aren't we trying to improve the efficiency of our structures?I should say it doesn't really apply to us. We are trying to build zero energy ready homes, which leave the energy code far behind. Where code walls are R-21 ours are pushing R-40. Where code ceilings are R-49 we are asking for R-60 plus. But most importantly, we are aiming for between 1-2 air changes per house. In 2009 compliance is 7 air changes per hour. In 2012 it's 5 air changes per hour. In 2015 it's 3 air changes per hour. So not keeping up with the energy code is going to make it hard for builders to make the jump from 7 to 3 or below. Now mind you, not all builders. I'm working with several that aren't having any issues meeting 1-2 ACH and a few that are meeting passive house standards. Reducing air infiltration is the simple most cost effective thing you can do in a new home, maybe aside from facing it the right direction which costs nothing!So why isn't everyone getting on board? Well, I don't say this lightly, it's because it's work. It takes time and attention to every single detail from the right tapes and sealants to the way your components go together. Your house is a system of directly and indirectly related parts. And it's labor intensive, time consuming, and really easy to screw up. I had an installer tell me a horror story about one area in a super tight house not being sealed, all the moisture migrated to this cold location, and it rained indoors. It's also possible to trap moisture in your wall system where you can't see it and you don't know that it's causing a problem. Does this mean that we shouldn't pursue tighter building? Should we just keep building the same drafty houses with fiberglass that we have always built because it's safe? No, definitely not!Building science is something that can be taught. It's something every builder should learn and keep up with. It's something every trade should understand. It's usually the things you can't see in your home that add the most value. I once met a woman who built a beautiful million dollar home that was so cold and drafty to live in that they sold it and started all over again with an energy efficient design. They were disgruntled by having spent so much to then have a home they felt they couldn't live in. I also did a home replacement project last year with a community action agency in Maine. The house was built by a contractor and a handful of high school students. This winter that couple moved from using many chords of wood to stay warm, to one heat pump mini split head. Even in the 20 below weather, the heat pump only went down once. They turned it off for 10 minutes, and never had another issue again.So no, we don't think we should keep building the same old way. And sure, architecture is a jigsaw puzzle and we don't always get it right. But we feel strongly that we are moving in the right direction. So if you have the opportunity to build a home, spend a little time doing some research first on what it will cost you to live in it, the technologies and resources that are available, and hire a professional to help you get the most for your money. Not just the money your spending now, but the money you'll spend over the next 30 years.
I am hoping to add a series of posts about things you should know before building a home. I am trying to keep a list of "things I don't know you don't know" I know that sounds silly, but when you've been doing this for awhile, you forget what other people know and what they don't. I have a current client who has been very helpful in tracking the things they "wished they would have known or understood" and making a list to help other homeowners through the process.Today I want to talk a little bit about land and the initial legwork when picking a place to build a house.
- Have a survey done on the property
- We always recommend having a property survey done. We love working with Main Land Development Consultants who have done everything from surveys, environmental testings and septic design. It is extremely helpful for the architect, builder, excavation, septic and concrete installer to understand what the topography of the site is. It is also important to call out featured items that you would like to keep or highlight on a property. In the inverse, some property lines are tight and it might be critical to understand the footprint of your lot, where your lot lines are, and exactly how much space you can cover. And it is absolutely critical when building on the water. Anything within 250 feet of a major water body is subject to different DEP rules. Most towns will not accept a building permit for a lot adjacent to a waterbody without careful consideration of the impervious areas, lot clearing, distance to the water body, and flood plane elevations.
- Always get title insurance
- Our friends over at Cumberland Title offer great videos for first time homebuyers on some of the pitfalls or information you'll run into when buying a house. Their recommendation to us, for owners looking to build, is to always get title insurance. It's their job to dig into the history of the property to make sure you are getting exactly what the property states. You don't want to find out, after you have built, that there is some kind of discrepancy or dispute on your property. It can be a very important step when someone is subdividing a property or purchasing a property that used to be part of a larger parcel. On lakefront properties we often find old deeded right of way access or septics on others properties. It's important to understand all the impacts on your property before moving forward with a sale agreement.
- Zoning: Just because you own it, doesn't mean you can do whatever you want on it
- This one can be tough to understand, but every town has rules about what you can do in certain areas of the town. For example, in the city where we live you can not build a house in the Ag zone unless you make 50% of your income from farming. Some zoning regulations like this one are set up to preserve land mass. In towns with lakes you can only build on a small percentage of your property in the shoreland zone to help prevent water runoff from contaminating the lake. In other areas, you may not be able to have certain types of business uses (like an auto body shop) no matter how large your piece of land is. In other zoning districts you may not be able to have an in-law apartment or multiple dwellings. And further still, in some towns or developments, you may be required to follow aesthetic regulations, energy criteria, or adhere to things that are not allowable (like modular homes) in your neighborhood.
- Orientation: How and Where the house is placed on the lot
- You might be thinking "what do you mean by orientation" so let me give you a few examples. First, the cheapest thing you can do to improve the efficiency of your home is to orient it the right direction. Back before we had so much technology, it was ingrained in our building senses to point ourselves towards the sun (namely South). But what happens if you decide to buy a piece of property on the lake that faces North? You end up with a very cold house, because you end up with too much glass on the wrong side of your home. But if you intend to use it year round, it can be a real drain on your energy and your finances to have so much North facing glass. Or you buy a piece of property in a neighborhood where all the houses face the street, but the front of your house should be one of the more attractive sides of your home. So if it faces north, you have the same issue I mentioned above, or maybe it's a busy street and you want to try and cut down some of the street noise. Sometimes we fail to consider the impacts of owning a lot and placing the house further off the road. Initially it sounds like a great idea for privacy or maybe to get to the view on the property. However, the further you are from the utilities the more the site work will cost. Two major factors are the cost of a long driveway and the cost to run electricity from the road (above ground with poles and wires) or (below ground with underground power). If you have a tight budget, what was a 10K site budget can grow to 40K in no time. I don't want to steer you away from those larger land properties, but just a thought or a reminder that there is cost savings to density. To get to the right location for the house to sit you end up having a really long driveway or having to clear too much of the lot. Orientation and placement on a lot can be very challenging. I have to laugh because one of my clients recently said to me "You and the builder couldn't have sited the house more perfectly, even though we were standing in the middle of the woods and couldn't see anything at the time" It was a challenging site, a triangle. But the owner had a clear vision of what they wanted and the builder and I had a pretty good idea of the land layout, even if you couldn't see the forest through the trees.
- Be sure you'll understand what your taxes will be
- And last, but certainly not least: Taxes. It's tax season, so this one is on our minds. It's critical you understand, before building or buying land, what your tax rates will be. You might find the perfect piece of property only to discover that the mill rate on taxing your home is very high. Some areas have desirable school systems or better community services. If this is something you plan to take part in, it might not matter to you. But it can drastically affect your monthly payments if your taxes are $1000/mo vs $150. This is something that many people fail to take into account. You may be able to build in the next town over for a much lower amount, but you may also be sacrificing services that you would like to have. It's something that I think should be factored into the financial decisions as you consider where you might build.
We hope that some of these tips will be helpful as you are out searching for land! Having a plan can make all the difference when building a home you love.
Do you want a more green and clean kitchen but don’t know where to start?Here are 15 ideas that will help you get started in transforming your kitchen into a more environmentally friendly space.1. Clear away clutterReduce, recycle and reuse. Less is more and you will save money if you reduce the amount of food, appliances, kitchen tools and other products you buy or use. A helpful tip from the Minimalists, it takes the dishwasher an hour or more to do a full cycle. But it will only take a few minutes for you to wash the cup, plate and silverware so that it's ready to use again at your next meal. I realize, with larger families, this may not be as feasible. However, it's an interesting mindset and it reduced the stress in our lives by quite a bit. Recycle or give away old appliances and tools. Clean out your pantry and reuse old glass jars and containers for storage.2. Ditch the paper towelsUse long lasting cloth towels instead of paper towels, one for wiping down surfaces, one for your hands and another for wiping down wet dishes.3. Use a compost and recycle stationIt’s definitely important to have a designated compost and recycling bin. You can have these in a pantry closet or underneath the kitchen sick. Reduce the amount of trash you tend to normally keep. Even if you don't garden or have a need for a compost bin, having an easily accessible recycling station will help everyone in the family to participate in recycling instead of throwing everything in the trash because it's too far to walk to the garage. Make things easy.4. Choose a convection ovenThis oven is more ideal for an environmentally friendly kitchen because it uses a fan to heat rapidly from source to food and cooks 25% faster than a conventional oven. As we build more zero energy homes, we find induction ranges and convections ovens are the way to go. They take less time and they eliminate carbon monoxide sources from tight homes.5. Use toxic free wall paintUse paint in low or free of volatile organic compounds. VOCs are gases, some of which can be toxic and are emitted from products such as wall paint.6. Natural flooringConsider natural material flooring like wood or cork, which are also lower and or free of toxins. And instead of cleaning your floors with toxic chemicals or using an old mop that leaves residue behind, consider using a reliable steam mop.7. Energy efficient appliancesIt is best to use energy efficient appliances throughout the kitchen. Appliances with an Energy Star label have met energy efficient guidelines set by the U.S department of Energy and Environmental protection. When you're building a home that is dependent on solar power, it's important to look at efficient appliances and LED lighting. New LED trims fit in standard junction boxes and no longer need recessed cans above the ceiling. This can be great for a kitchen renovation project.8. Use air purifying plantsMany indoor potted plants such as spider plants, peace lilies, aloe vera and snake plants act as natural air filters by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air. Most indoor plants also help remove stagnant air pollutants like formaldehyde and ammonia which can be found in many things from building materials to furniture. Be careful you don't overdo it with plants. Plants also have moisture which can cause condensation if too much moisture is trapped in a tight home. Having a good ventilation system and a moderate amount of plants can have many positive impacts on your home.9. Eat more greensEating more fresh greens and veggies will definitely contribute to establishing a more eco friendly kitchen. Reducing the amount of pre-packaged foods you buy can keep you and your family healthier while also reducing your recycling and trash contributions.10. Eco friendly cleaning productsThere are now a wide range of natural cleaning companies that produce biodegradable, non-toxic, plant-based cleaners. You can also create your own multi purpose kitchen cleaner with essential oils, vinegar and baking soda. This is safe for you, your family and your pets.11. Use pressure cookersPressure cookers are another way to save more energy by reducing cooking time by up to 70 percent. In our busy world, this might be one kitchen appliance you shouldn't do without.12. Buy localIt’s always a better idea to shop for local food in your area. You support the small community by doing so and you get to take home fresh, clean food. Buying locally from area farm stands also cuts down on transportation waste and supports local farmers.13. Stop using plastic bagsPurchase some reusable shopping bags to use while grocery shopping and stop bringing home the plastic ones. You can also recycle the ones you may already have stored in your kitchen. Depending on your community, some areas of Maine make you pay per trash bag. This helps to reduce plastic garbage bags and encourage recycling. Some places also make you pay per plastic bag at the grocery store. But I also find that my re-usable bags are so much stronger. No more dropping groceries when the plastic bag splits open.14. Use glass containers to store foodInstead of plastic storage containers, opt for the glass. Plastic storage containers usually contain more chemicals and don’t last very long.15. VentilateLast but not least,keep your kitchen well ventilated. Indoor air may be more polluted than the air outside and we spend most of our time inside. Excess moisture from cooking can be a problem. We always encourage people to vent their ranges outside. It's not just to get rid of the smoke when you accidentally burn something. Venting excess moisture helps to reduce mold growth and toxins that have built up in your home from building materials, chemicals, and everyday items that we bring into our homes.
The temperatures in Maine have been below zero for more than a week. This is some of the strangest weather we've had since the blizzard of 98, 20 years ago tomorrow. And days like today remind me why we build the way we do. As you watch the news you see people running out of heating fuels and the threat of freezing is a real concern. But people like the Miller's at Live Solar Maine are watching the snow swirl around their house in today's blizzard while 1 or 2 sticks of wood in the wood stove will keep the house above 80 degrees even if they lose power. The solar panels on the roof will keep them from losing power for long periods, and the threat of freezing isn't a concern. They can sit and watch the snow swirl around the house as if they are inside of a snow globe.It takes a little bit longer to build super insulated structure. It takes a little bit more thought to put it all together. But winter days spent inside a home with no drafts, temperatures above 80, and the security of keeping your family warm on these cold cold days makes it well worth it. Not everything in a zero energy house costs money. The simple act of facing the house south can have a huge impact on the way it performs. Spending the time to seal all gaps, cracks, seams, and holes in the envelop is very cheap with an extremely quick return. And air sealing is something pretty much any homeowner can do. The best thing you can do when installing windows is seal around them after they are installed. Instead of stuffing fiberglass next to the windows, use a low expanding spray foam and make sure they are sealed in well. This is where most people see the savings on windows. Put in the best windows you can afford while building, and then seal them. The performance of a window will never equal the performance of an insulated wall. The Live Solar Maine homes have double pane, double hung windows. Although the comfort level of a triple pane window can be really wonderful, if it doesn't fit in your budget it doesn't keep you from building a zero energy ready home.So as you consider building a new home, think about the benefits of building a better home. Take into consideration the costs of building better and the costs of choosing not to on these winter days. It isn't just about the money, it's comfort, durability, and the safety of your family.Wishing you all happiness in 2018 and we hope you are enjoying your coffee inside your warm snow globe as the blizzard snow and wind whips around outside.
Click the link (solar1 maine mag) to see a copy of the write up in Maine Home + Design MagazineWe couldn't be more thrilled with seeing the first house represented in the Architecture Issue!What a great way to end 2017! Wishing you all the very merriest of holidays!Peace and love to you and yours from all of us here at Mottram Architecture!
I belong to a group forum filled with other architects. We bounce ideas, products, and share knowledge. One of the questions posted this week had to do with vapor barriers and insulation systems. Then, a few days later, I met up with another energy professional and we had a discussion about vapor barriers and wall systems. It made me think: Do owners, architects and builders know about moisture in their homes?It is important to understand moisture because trapped moisture can lead to mold, rot, and structural issues. All parts of your home "house as a system" must work together to keep moisture from causing damage and health hazards to the occupants, not to mention the fact that wet insulation just does not work. So let's talk about science.
In conclusion, moisture is a major factor in building. We need to know where it's coming from and how it's moving through the spaces. It's not as simple as it seems. As new products come on to the market and the ways we build change, it's very critical that we understand how to prevent health, safety, and durability issues.
"If you haven’t lived in an energy-efficient home, you don’t know what you’re missing."This is the opening line in an article written on October 1st for the Portland Press Herald by Marina Schauffler.I thought this article hit on a few high points and I thought that it should be shared. First, we love "The Pretty Good House". We are, of course, happy to help you achieve your dreams to make Net-Zero or Passiv Haus a reality, but what if you just want a house that performs better and doesn't come with a label.I loved how Marina put it in her article "Yankee thrift" it kind of makes you pause, but what everyone should know is that there are simple "hacks" that don't cost more money, but make a world of difference between building a standard code house, and building a pretty good house.
"These houses have sensible design features, orienting primary living areas on the home’s south side and placing spaces like pantries, mudrooms and mechanical areas to the north. Rather than having trendy, pricey building components, they rely on proven elements – like Energy Star kitchen appliances, a tankless water heater or an air-source heat pump."
Here at Mottram Architecture we put a lot of focus on orientation and "daylight planning" which takes into account how you use your house throughout the day and where those rooms land in the layout. We also try "hacks" like putting vintage windows between rooms to allow natural light into smaller rooms without adding windows the the building envelop. It adds character and reduces consumption and doesn't cost much.And I really loved the way she closed the article
"The year-in and year-out savings are welcome, but it’s not just the economics that make energy-efficient homes so appealing. A green-designated broker, Marc Chadbourne, recently asked a builder of highly efficient homes who buys them and what reasons they offer. The answer he received is one I would echo: “It’s a combination of everything.” Whether you value a healthier living space or reduced energy costs, a smaller environmental footprint or a higher resale value, the promise of greener houses is clear. We all desire and deserve a “pretty good” place to call home."
The savings, they are welcome. Who doesn't love to save the money. But aside from saving money, what I hear from my clients and the people who visit their homes is how awesome the space feels. "I could have sold this house 15 times in the first year. People would just stop in and say: That's so cool" said Patrice Miller of Live Solar Maine. So as we pursue our goal of bringing energy efficient homes to the market in a soulful and creative way we love hearing that others are doing the same and people are starting to ask for it, if not demand, pretty good homes.We hope you'll check out this article by Marina and read more about the Pretty Good Home
It's been a very busy year for us here at Mottram Architecture, but today I want to take a moment and highlight a project that we are really proud of.If you follow us, you may have already seen some posts we have shared about this project which kicked off in December of 2016. With the help of more than 15 organizations, 30 people and 22 students, this home became a reality for two very deserving people on July 1st 2017. With a lot of love and a few back breaking hours (mostly shoveling) what was a prototype we developed for home replacement with Western Maine Community Action became the first in what we hope is a series of home replacements that might happen across the state of Maine.We firmly believe that everyone should have access to a great place to live. And in Maine, that means having a warm, dry, and healthy home for what we consider "9 months of winter". Okay, I exaggerate, but with a lot of thought we were able to accomplish "less square footage with way more room" The students at Foster Tech were out building this home in the 20 degree weather all through the winter. They shoveled more snow here at the job site then they probably did at their own homes! Shovel the ground, shovel the roof!When I was in high school, my grandfather was a contractor, and together we participated in a number of community projects through our church where we helped to rehab homes. So when Bill, at Western Maine Community Action, asked if I would help them develop a prototype for a home replacement program, I jumped at the opportunity. It meant a lot to me that they wanted to provide the most efficient housing that they could and when I found out that they were partnering with the local trade high school I was even more excited to participate. The ways we build are constantly changing and it's so rewarding to see these students graduate with construction skills and additional knowledge on how to build better in cold climates.If you'd like to read more about this project and the people who were involved, check out the following articles that have been written (and maybe a few I missed) since we started construction in January.Sun Journal August 2017In July this project was shared nationally through the Community Action eNews:It all started two years ago when Pam and Joe, weary of putting out pans to catch the drips from the leaky roof and patching in new flooring where the soggy, particle-board underlayment had finally given way, showed up at Western Maine Community Action to ask about a low-interest loan to replace the roof.Read about how something wonderful happened, all because a community - in the broadest sense of the word - saw fit to help an aging couple stay put. It's a model Bill Crandall, who manages the Housing and Energy Program for Western Maine Community Action hopes to replicate all over Maine.Along with this article written by the Press Herald July 23rd 2017In March, the Maine Community Foundation shared the following article:A HousewarmingAnd below are the three articles written after the ground breaking in DecemberThe Daily BulldogThe Sun JournalThe Franklin JournalAnd if that isn't enough information, feel free to join us at the Maine Affordable Housing Conference on September 22nd, where WMCA, Foster Tech, and Mottram Architecture will be presenting more on this project.Maine Affordable Housing Conference September 22, 2017
Who doesn't love a before and after project! This project really brought this house to life. From a tiny kitchen and a dysfunctional entry to an open concept entertainer's dream! On this project I worked with one of my favorite kitchen designers, Jen with Indisco and our wonderful contractor Jake with Rock Hill Green Homes.Upon purchasing this home, the homeowners needed a total kitchen renovation to functionally use this home as a family. We ended up taking out the walls and extending into the entry and living space to make it feel like a much larger kitchen. Although the footprint of the kitchen isn't much bigger than the original, the functionality is significantly better with longer counter space and more lower cabinets.Before: After:The entry into the home felt cramped with odd shelf lights that lit the ceiling and mirrored doors that did not help the space feel larger. Although the French doors allowed light into the hallway space, having doors that opened into every room was a functional problem that made the entry feel unwelcoming and magnified the tiny size of the kitchen.Before:After:We removed a support wall at the end of the kitchen and integrated two new ceiling beams to open the flow from the front entry and maximize the space in the kitchen. To support our load the beams still need to be large which works to create a dining area without using actual walls to define it.Before:After:New flooring and adding one more window next to the door opened the whole home up to the lake while also giving the kitchen a great view.And a few more After!
We are thrilled to have another guest post by Matt Lee at AlluraGo Green With Your KitchenGreen building design continues to grow in popularity as more options become available to homeowners. With sustainability and lower energy costs on the lists of most people when it comes to their homes today, more companies are beginning to offer significantly more choices in green materials than ever before. Since the kitchen is one of the most frequently updated rooms in the home, as well as well one of the areas that gets the most use, it also makes sense for homeowners too look here for ways to incorporate green designs and materials into their homes. These green design options will help you achieve the kitchen design you want with the sustainable benefits you need.Bamboo Veneer CabinetsKitchen cabinets make up a large percentage of the space in the kitchen, both from a design standpoint and a practical one. So, it makes sense to start here when considering sustainable design options for the kitchen. While most cabinets are built of plywood, which is a more sustainable material than MDF or particleboard, you can take your green design to the next level by using bamboo veneer for your cabinet faces. While often treated like a hardwood, bamboo is actually a fast-growing species of grass. While it takes hardwoods an approximate 70 years of growth before harvest, bamboo can be harvested in as little as five years, which makes the product much more sustainable.Newer bamboo veneers and bamboo lumbers are available with a variety of colors and appearances. This can let you get the look that you want for the kitchen, while making an eco-conscious and sustainable choice at the same time.Reclaimed Stone FlooringWhile hardwood floors sure look good in your living area they have traditionally not been installed in kitchens due to moisture concerns. Natural stone floor is a great alternative for this area of the house. Stone flooring has a look and texture that’s hard to reproduce in any other material, and it’s durable enough to hold up to years of foot traffic in the kitchen. Best of all, stone floors can complement any style of kitchen from Country to Contemporary, letting you match your own personal aesthetic.Standard stone flooring isn’t eco-friendly, however, which can lead some people to try avoiding it. A good alternative, though, is reclaimed stone flooring. Reclaimed stone floors are actual tiles taken from centuries old farmhouses in France. The stone has a natural patina and a history that makes it a natural focal point for the room. Best of all, because this material already exists, no new manufacturing processes went into producing it. So, it’s better for the environment than using a new stone floor.Energy Saving AppliancesYou probably use the appliances in your kitchen more than any other in the house. Your refrigerator runs all day long, while the oven, stove, and dishwasher are often on standby until you need them, quietly using energy throughout the day and night.Newer, Energy Star rated appliances consume less energy when they’re in use, and when they’re merely standing by. This reduction in energy can save you as much as 13% on your energy bill compared to non-Energy Star rated appliances, according to EnergyStar.gov. While this may not seem like a lot each month, over time it can add up to a big savings, both for you and for the environments.Water Saving FaucetsAppliances aren’t the only way you can save energy and go green in the kitchen at the same time. Water saving faucets are also available that can save you thousands of gallons of water every year. Options range from low-flow faucets, which use fewer than 2 gallons of water per minute – compared to older faucets which used nearly twice as much – as well as faucets that use a toe-touch activator. You can operate the faucet even when your hands are full or dirty, so it doesn’t need to be left running as long, saving you water and money every time you use it.LED Light FixturesYour kitchen uses a lot of light. Chances are you not only have ambient, or overhead lighting, but also task lighting beneath your cabinetry and accent lighting, such as pendants above your island, peninsula, or table. All this light translates into a lot of energy use, since many kitchens get used early in the morning and late in the evening – two times of day when energy use is at its highest.LED light fixtures enable you to illuminate your kitchen, while using less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. LED light also comes in a wider range of light colors and choices than fluorescents do, letting you have the warm yellow or bright white light of your choice.Create a Greener KitchenWith the amount of use the kitchen gets, it makes sense to start here when making greener choices for the rest of the home. Whether you’re having a minor kitchen update or a full-scale remodeling project, there are many ways you can incorporate sustainable decisions into the room. Go green with your kitchen to reap all the benefits eco-friendly design can bring.
We are thrilled to announce that the Modern Solar Farmhouse is featured this spring in the Green and Healthy Homes Maine magazine! If you're local and would like a free copy, let me know. Supplies are limited. Or you can pick up a copy on local news stands now!Excerpt from the article: "Why we like it: With this project, Mottram and Live Solar Maine had a strong focus on delivering a highly energy-efficient house, in a simple approachable aesthetic, for a highly marketable price. It's not easy to find a net zero ready home for $205/sq ft. much less one with such comfortable New England charm. The home's simple structure are time tested vernacular forms and expertly combined with higher levels of insulation and tight construction."
On the road today, so how about a few updates on the Foster Tech/ WMCA project!Started adding sheathing, interior stud walls, drip edge - oh yeah and shoveling! Maine is getting hammered this spring with snow, but everyone is still working! 6 people shovel, 1 person works. Just kidding! But seriously mother nature, enough already!
We use REMRate to do energy modeling on our non-passive house projects and in order to submit projects for HERS ratings and other certifications we are part of the Resnet community. We love to hear about energy modeling in the news, so here are a few things:
- We would love to say congratulations to our friends over at Rochester Passive House for winning a very prestigious accomplishment. They won the 2017 RESNET Cross Border Challenge. They had the lowest HERS score without on site power generation anywhere in the US or Canada built in 2016. That includes over 200,000 homes that were rated through the HERS Program. Congratulations! If you're local to Rochester, they are having an open house on April 1st. Go check out the house, it's beautiful and impressive!
- We finally got our HERS Rating on the house in Cumberland! It's designed as a net-zero home, but it was built with 2 rows of solar panels for onsite power generation. It can accommodate 3 rows and would need a few more panels to be net-zero as built. So we rated it as built and it came in with a HERS score of 10! We've been monitoring the data for a year and we can confirm that it performs as the energy model says it will!
- We are thrilled to hear that there is legislation moving forward to help with Energy Efficient Mortgages.We are even very excited that Senator Susan Collins is an early supporter of the BiPartisan Energy Efficiency Legislation Introduced in the US Senate. Check out more on the RESNET Blog