Rammed Earth Architecture
It comes as a surprise to many people to see an architect working in the Pacific Northwest designing and building with rammed earth, which is generally associated with very arid, hot climates and low tech, indigenous building traditions. I became interested in working with rammed earth as an unexpected outcome of research I was doing during the programming phase of a project for a writers' retreat that led me t Read More →
The Path to Health and Happiness
Health and happiness cohabit in a powerful alliance. It is a close partnership; one does not fare well without the other.
Neither just happens. Both require attention, both require work. To this simple rule, no exceptions are allowed, no excuses are granted. There are no shortcuts. Anything that presents as such is inevitably a Devil's deal - and of course, the Devil never loses on a deal. Wealth does not afford a Read More →
Chemical Hazards in Consumer Products
Building with toxic materials is such a bad practice, in part because we are embedding them into environments where people then tend to have long term exposure to them. It's good to be aware that carcinogenic and toxic material is not only found in scores of products in the building industry, but also in common consumer goods. One informative website that works to provide helpful information about this is healthySt Read More →
Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
A view of earth from space reveals a trace band of blue - our atmosphere - just visible across the sunlit edge of our planet. Below, eighty percent of the globe is coated by salt water but a fraction of the depth of that atmosphere. The remaining surface area rising just above the seas supports an exponentially thinner layer of organic soils. David Suzuki has offered the observation that if we accurately modeled th Read More →
Toxin Free Consumer Products
This is the first TV free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), built by Philips Electronics. We need to support industry leaders who are demonstrating that innovation can move us away from industrial production that poisons the environment. BFRs, used in circuit boards and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment. Long-term exposure can lead to impaire Read More →
David Suzuki Explores Rammed Earth
In this short film clip, David Suzuki visits a home built with SIREWALL - rammed earth walls that are insulated, steel reinforced, solid sandstone. Unlike traditional rammed earth, SIREWALL is a top tier, cutting edge contemporary architectural material appropriate for any climate.
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Designing for Natural Light
One of the first things we do with a new project is build a detailed and accurate three dimensional computer model of the land and its physical features from a survey. The survey work is usually completed using both a laser theodolite and satellite GPS data. The topographic model created from this data is calibrated with the specific altitude, latitude, and longitude of its physical location on the planet.
This co Read More →
Steer Clear of Toxic Tile
Most ceramic wall or floor tile is now manufactured out of the United States, and the use of highly toxic heavy metals in the glazes is common. Most of the tiles you will see, especially in retail outlets, were manufactured in China, or in Cambodia or Vietnam by Chinese companies. The environmental impact of the manufacturing practices of these companies is severe, as are the health risks to laborers and regional r Read More →
Breathing Clean Indoor Air
Optimum interior air quality has become an increasingly prominent concern in my work. Passive house interior air quality is pristine because highly filtered fresh air is constantly being exchanged with the interior air. The passive house standard requires filtration systems that achieve a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 12 or better - meaning dangerous contaminants have been removed from the air, Read More →
Optimizing Walls for Energy Performance
We assign a very high priority to comfort in buildings - specifically, thermal comfort. One of the basic distinctions between being inside' and 'outside' is that when we are inside, we expect to be comfortable. We essentially live in two climates - interior and exterior - and the construction assemblies that make up the floors, walls, and ceilings of our buildings, often referred to as the building envelope, mediates Read More →
Environmentally Optimized Commercial Laundry
You might not think of architects as being particularly interested in laundry as a design issue, but we get really excited about saving our clients money and easing the impact that the facilities we create have on the environment. And when we're talking about thousands of tons of laundry being processed annually, the stakes are large... very large. We can cut hot water usage by 90% or more and dryer energy usage in Read More →
Reintroducing China to Rammed Earth
China is undertaking the largest building boom in the history of the world. A young and talented pair of Canadian architects are working to introduce SIREWALL rammed earth as a healthy, sustainable option for building beautiful and durable architecture in China.
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Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers insights into how thoughtful architects and lighting designers pay attention to light (and to darkness) to design more healthy, delightful spaces and integrate the built environment into the world in more gracious ways.
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You are quietly being poisoned...
Most people assume there is some level of oversight protecting them from unhealthy building. That is not the case. No form of regulatory oversight is concerned with the levels of toxic materials embedded in building materials.
Building codes, for example, primarily focus on issues like life safety in the context of fires and earthquakes.The construction industry is a toxic disaster, from source to installation, and Read More →
Responsibility and Gratitude
"Our life work is built on a foundation of reverence, responsibility, and gratitude." ~ Sam Rodell
Imagine building a scale model of the earth 75 yards in diameter. The biosphere in this model would be roughly the thickness of the skin of a tomato. It is here, between earth and sky, where the story of each of our lives, and indeed the history and future of all terrestrial life is written. It's a dynamically Read More →