Carbon Neutral Architecture
The built environment is responsible for three fourths of annual global greenhouse gas emissions: buildings alone account for 39 percent. Eliminating these emissions is the key to addressing climate change and meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets.
The American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment sets a goal for all new buildings, developments, and renovations to be carbon-neutral by 203 Read More →
Passive House at a Glance
The term 'passive' in the context of passive house refers to the reduction or elimination of 'active' mechanical systems. There are many compelling reasons why this is a more intelligent and responsible way to build. Here is a quick list of benefits - in no particular order:- Increased comfort.- Improved reliability.- Pristine indoor air quality.- Dramatic cost savings.- Redirect money from equipment to architectur Read More →
Advanced Design Technologies
We design using cutting edge tools and technologies to create - truly - the highest quality environments for human habitation in the history of our species. It's far beyond the incorporation of high technology in components of the buildings... the buildings themselves are technologically advanced outcomes of rigorously applied building science.
Some people think about our work as Read More →
Passive House Northwest
Sam Rodell Architects is featured prominently in the recently published book Passive House Northwest 2016, including several projects recently completed and currently underway and a brief overview of the firm:
"The work of Sam Rodell Architects is characterized primarily by thoughtful attention to the client and the site. Passive house design and certification is simply presumed for any project that inv Read More →
Why We Build Buildings Twice
Before our projects are actually constructed on a site, they are built first in our studios, in a comprehensive computer model. Working closely with specialized experts in each of the disciplines involved, we model every system in the project... not just the architecture, but the lighting, plumbing, ventilation, communications, etc. - It's all virtually integrated and assembled in our studio before it's physically Read More →
Low Voltage Electrical Systems
This article is somewhat technically oriented, but it is also about the larger picture. Our design focus favors taking forward-looking, intelligent advantage of emerging but proven technologies. What we are doing 'under the hood' enhances our work with improved economies and performance - weaving the technical with the artistic, the poetic with the practical, the dreams to the realities.
So even seemingly mu Read More →
HERS Index: The Home Energy Rating System
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured.
HERS scores are designed for new homes (or homes after a complete renovation). When builders need to meet efficiency standards, they use the HERS Index, which has become the accepted industry standard for documenting the energy performance of a building.To get a HERS score, a Read More →
Architecture and Water Vapor
Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature, and one of the primary variables determining the durability and performance of buildings. Depending on the climate, regional building design responds directly to rain, snow, and ice, but another powerful form in which water interacts with structures is vapor. The glass surface seen here shows behavior of water in all three phase states: solid, liquid, and vap Read More →
The Language of Mechanical Comfort Systems
“Environmental control systems tend to be treated rather like the Cinderella of architecture; given only the plainest clothes to wear, they are relegated to a back room to do the drudgery that maintains the elegant lifestyle of the other sisters: light, form, structure, and so forth." ~ Lisa Heschong 
Early in 20th century, architecture was profoundly impacted by the industrial revolution and increasing avail Read More →
NOT Passive Solar
One of the most common misunderstandings we see about our high performance architecture is that we are preoccupied with passive solar design - which is actually something we don't have any particular interest in.
It's easy to see why this confusion happens: Passive House (or Passivhaus) sounds just like passive solar, and both are associated with lower energy use in buildings. That's about where the si Read More →
Triple Glazed Window Benefits
Triple glazed windows are the new stars of window energy efficiency... but why should you care? Comfort. Comfort is the reason you will want to use triple glazed windows. Before we get too far on why you should be excited about energy efficiency and comfort, here is a brief history of US windows. In the 1930’s, double glazed window technology came to the US. Over the following 20 years double glazed windows w Read More →
Why We Build Airtight Architecture
Passive House architecture: Healthy, comfortable places to live and work that use a fraction of the energy of mainstream construction. Many people presume this must be all about insulating really well, and while that is important, the amazing performance of a Passive House project actually begins with extremely well controlled ventilation.
As much as forty percent of the energy loss in a building built to current Read More →
Your Home or Office Can Power Your Car
Passive House: Designing and building buildings so well for a specific site and climate we can eliminate eighty to ninety percent of the energy demands of space heating, cooling, and humidity control. This is fully achievable and affordable today, using readily available technologies and materials. And trust me, the architecture will be stunning, but not odd; I can create nearly any character working in this realm.Th Read More →
Shading Data - No Guesses
One of the many aspects of site specific architectural design now standard practice in our pre-design research process is to acquire a forensic understanding of the shading conditions that will alter how our architecture will be exposed to the sun over the course of each year.Designing high performance buildings, there is far less room for intuition and assumptions commonly taken for granted in the design and const Read More →
Cakes Left Out in the Rain
That natural forces will act on, and ultimately destroy, any contribution we make to our built environment persists as one of the few things we can be sure of about the fate of any building. For architects, this presents a challenge somewhat analogous to that of medical professionals who, destined to ultimately surrender the battle associated with our desire for immortality, heroically strive to help u 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 →
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 →
The Intelligent Choice
Europeans have lived with high energy costs for a long time, and have a strong pragmatic awareness of the costs associated with heating and cooling buildings. So it may come as no surprise that the leading standard in energy savings comes to us from Germany: The Passive House standard.
It's not a brand - anyone with the knowledge and desire can use these technologies. The advantages are clear: a means to create be Read More →
The First Step to Net Zero Energy
A 'net-zero energy' building generates more energy than it needs. The most important item in Net-Zero design is reducing the demand for energy. This is the main principle behind the Passive House concept, so it should be a natural progression for architects designing to the passive house standard to also pursue Net-Zero Energy. A passivhaus project is already over half way toward being a Net-Zero Energy project.Here 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 →
What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
Biomimicry: What plants can teach us about storing energy... Good bye, fossil fuel dependency!
The main challenge with sun and wind energy is storage. Because the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing, we need to be able to bank away renewable energy when it's available for times when it is not. A team from Harvard is learning how to do just that... from plants. They are looking to photosynth Read More →
Building with Organic Materials
All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full. Ecclesiastes 1:7
Waste does not exist in nature. In the natural world, everything is cyclical; everything happens in closed loops and dynamic systems of loops. One familiar example would be the hydrological cycle, in which energy from the sun charges the atmosphere with water vapor and moves it inland on thermal currents, where it falls to th 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 →
Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every corner of our economy. Global demand is steadily increasing as supplies are steadily tapering. It is a problem of epic scal 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 →
Blackened Cedar Siding
The term "Shou-Sugi-Ban" is Japanese (焼杉板) and translates to "burnt cedar board". The term describes the centuries old Japanese technique of charring "Sugi" (cedar) planks.For centuries, Japanese carpenters used recovered driftwood from the coastlines of Japan for an artistic finish that also improved durability. Japanese driftwood was prized for its unique appearance and durability due to the weathering proc Read More →
Phase Change Materials
Putting Nature's Magic to Work For Us: Phase Change Materials
We see it all around us, all the time; temperature changes make stuff freeze, melt, or vaporize. These 'phase change' transformations, in which molecules change from one state of matter to another, are so common we take them for granted. Ice cubes in a drink, no big deal!But there are some interesting physics involved in every instance of these little m Read More →
Art and Science of Architecture
In Western culture, science and art are often thought of as existing in separate worlds. Our higher educational institutions support this notion, for example - coursework is generally offered in the arts, or in the sciences. Yet we need look no further than the rise of Apple to recognize this is a false choice. In design, and in life, art and science are dance partners to the music of quality and innovation.Louis K 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.
Read More →
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 →
Designing with Thermal Analysis Tools
Our buildings are designed to isolate the interior climate from the exterior climate, which means we need to consider every way energy moves between the interior and exterior, including the roofs, walls, floors, doors, windows... literally every square inch of the places where heated or cooled spaces encounter the outside world. Most of these 'boundary conditions' consist of a variety of materials assembled in fair Read More →
Evolution to Rainscreen
Effective long term management of water, in vapor, liquid, and solid form, is crucial to building durability, comfort, health, and safety. Much has been learned in recent years in the building science field about the behavior of water in building assemblies. This film looks at the history of the wall, from the earliest examples of human construction forward, all the way to the sophisticated assemblies now used to m Read More →