Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Sacred Place in Quebec City at Sunset

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday morning inspiration

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Empty Nest: 5 Key Home Design & Planning Strategies

via WalkNBoston from Flicker
     Whether a couple or a single parent household, often times change is afoot at home during the fall and early winter months where children have gone on to college, some for the first time, others returning after a busy summer at home. For many it is a time of excitement and re-evaluation coupled with uncomfortable changes.
      Recently we been talking on and off to those empty nester friends thinking about what's next for themselves and their home. We learn through them this is a time of adjustment and change where the busy times with the kids begins to give way to other thoughts and aspirations for the self, relationships, careers and yes the home of so many years.
     Likely they are wondering what to do next with their house. Suddenly, the home which seemingly a moment ago overflowed with youthful energy now lies quieter and emptier than before. Because of this homeowners shift their focus back to their house asking themselves is this the right place for us to be for this next chapter? All of the incomplete projects, unfinished spaces, broken and worn appliances begin to press in on the homeowner(s), leaving them anxious, and unsure.
     Do you downsize or not? For many that's the key question. Do you move from the large 4 or 5 bedroom home with its living flexibility to a smaller 2 bedroom home or condo downtown with cultural activities, dining and other options? If not downsizing, do you cleanse and simplify at home, seeking to empty rooms and spaces of the stuff of your prior life's chapters slowly?  Are things shifting at work where you may want to work out of the home more often, possibly converting a now empty bedroom to a home based office? Or do you need extra income desiring to renovate your single family home back to a duplex or triplex?
      If  you want to stay in your home, talk to an architect: They're educated and trained to consider the functional aspects of your home and intangibles like beauty, durability, livability, flow and inter-relationship of spaces. They will listen to you, draw out from you your goals and aspirations for the next chapter. Doing so will lead to designing a master plan document and concept plan aligning with those goals. Having a plan will avoid costly missteps, unplanned expenses and lots of heartache later. This kind of plan we call a home masterplan.

Elements of A Home Masterplan:
  1. Gather existing home information: Compile together and dust off recent assessments, past building inspection reports, energy use data and costs
  2. Get an energy audit: If haven't had one before, get an energy audit for your home. The report you'll receive will open your eyes on saving to be had and comfort to increase with relatively low cost measures. You'll  fast see how well it's insulated, air-sealed and how well your heating and cooling systems might be functioning with your building. Make sure to ask for an Infrared Imaging Scan to see where air-leakages occur at joints, window openings, roof to wall junctures, foundation edges and so on.  Frequently if you follow through on the audit recommendations rebates and refunds saving you money on weatherization costs might be available. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

dream. design. build. live.

We architects have a singular mission.

We help you our clients make your dreams real. We accompany you together on the journey of designing and building those dreams. At the end of this creative journey awaits the beginning of living, using the new buildings, places and spaces we collaborated on and discovered together.
We are your Stewards.

We seek clients who inspire us with their strong sense of mission, innovative businesses and commitment to taking care of the environment, building surrounding communities and taking care of their people by providing great resources to do exceptional things together.

In turn, as architects we hope to inspire you with our far reaching creative insight coupled with years of practical field tested experience and knowledge. Because we architects combine together the fields of the arts, sciences, psychology, engineering, politics and planning we offer you a great deal of value. We integrate disparate ideas, unwieldy and yes sometimes impossible, inter-relationships into a seamless holistic experience and outcomes.

We turn complexity, chaos and hard to reconcile design challenges and issues into singular wondrous experiences.

Enjoy this occasional foray into inspirational graphics hopefully inspiring you to contact us today! Whether your upcoming commercial or residential architectural design project, organizational development and/or workplace strategies needs, we can help you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In the News - Rise Up Bakery Project Study Advances

See this link to today's article "Bakery revival advances but more dough needed" by writer David Delcore in the Barre Times Argus Rise Up Bakery feasibility study we are assisting Carolyn Shapiro on.  It's a great project for downtown Barre and the Barre Historical 
Society based in the historic Old Labor Hall next door from the bakery.

Arocordis Design is providing architectural design and site planning services. This includes design for interior improvements to convert the vacant building into a baking education center using classic wood fired bread baking techniques.

Other improvements include accessibility upgrades to the building involving a new unisex restroom inside and an exterior ramp. The building brick exterior also needs extensive rehab work along with new interior rigid foam insulation faced with cleanable wall surfaces complying with food safety regulations. 

The local community supports the project which is attractive to young professionals raising families in Barre and running businesses as well as seniors who remember when the local Italian community regularly visited the bakery and nearby Old Labor Hall store to pick up fresh baked bread a few generations ago. 

Now as David says in the the Times Argus article it is time "to raise some dough" to get this project done. 

Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Net-Zero Modern Farmhaus

View of porch and outside private spaces between home and garage.
Sustainable Design & Living: Where to Start?
      Interested in sustainable living at home? Wondering how to integrate beauty, function and a concern for energy efficiency, low or next to no energy use while creating a more predictable affordable future? Wanting to downsize from your now oversized family home to something simpler, perhaps smaller in size and maybe not so complicated?  Or starting to transition at work and thinking about starting a home based business or working from home more and more often but want a separation from your living spaces? 
      We too have considered these questions over the last few years and have developed and now designed a small net-zero capable modern farmhaus  addressing these many questions. The home design is also inspired by the iconic front house, mid-house, back-house, barn New England vernacular. It's a companion to the Perfect Farmhouse we painted last winter but developed further into a designed home concept.  And it's a relative to the Net-Zero Mountain Retreat we wrote about earlier here. 
Birdseye view of proposed building and site.

Bringing the Outdoors In: The Site Plan
       In our residential work we believe in bringing the outdoors in and extending the indoors out with an ample west facing terrace, garden beds with extensive room for planting around the home and its grounds. We site the home into a fairly flat setting with room for Photovoltaic solar trackers to offset home and the garage live/ work space energy use hopefully to a net-zero energy usage level.  A vegetable and wildflower garden rests to the west of the garage and below the solar tracker orchard.  Rainwater collection barrels lay near garden beds around the house to help reduce use of well-water or city or town water usage. For now the home is oriented long way north to south. Final siting would need to be adjusted to your site, solar orientation, its topography and views.
Ground floor plan
Second Floor Plan - House and Garage

The Floor Plan:
      The lower level has 1,240 square feet of living, dining, kitchen and the master bedroom suite.  Walk upstairs to find an open studio overlooking the lower level with two bathrooms and a full bath. The upper living level is 749 square feet.  The separate live work garage has over 450 square feet of space on each level. 
Open Living: Interconnectedness 
      The floor plans show interconnections and intentional open views across the spaces from Kitchen to the living and dining spaces and from the living / dining areas up to the studio loft above and kitchen below.  Skylights over head bring daylight into living / dining area and studio space with the stair.  A central storage and work area with washer / dryer and electrical and mechanical plant lay near the stair and across from the Kitchen. 
View from living looking back to kitchen and entry
View from Kitchen looking towards living and dining
View of main entry and driveway
What's Next: Refining the Design and Getting into the Details
      In the coming weeks we will be refining the design, getting more specific about what makes this a net-zero capable home and site design.  For starters in our mind those systems might include the following:

  • The building envelope considers fairly high performing insulation levels such as (R40) 12" double stud dense packed cellulose wall framing with 2" rigid out-sulation, (R60) 18" dense packed vented cathedral ceilings with TJI's, (R20) 4" min of underslab insulation and (R10) 2" foundation wall insulation.
  • Possibly a small size air source heat pumps for heating, whisperlite fans or similar in the bathrooms for ventilation on each level
  • Cedar shake siding with a rainscreen gap likely using Huber or similar Zip-sheathing to assist with air-sealing below on the wall and below the vented standing seam roofing.
  • Low-e clear triple insulated glazing and doors with appropriate solar window coverings to mitigate heat gain on the interior.  There may be more specific tuning of the windows and doors depending on the face orientation of the home.
  • There would be an optional very small high efficiency wood or pellet stove, more for the "spiritual" fire with through wall venting to assist with fresh air intake.  Or windows could be opened when the fire is lit for additional ventilation.  
  • Simple durable interior finishes, hopefully locally sourced wood trim, low or now Volatile Organic Compound paint or stain finishes. Deciding on finishes appropriate for you lifestyle, lifestage, family usage are a longer conversation worth paying close attention to ease of long term care, warranties and eventual replacement and recycling or upcycling where possible.

      All of the detailing would be designed and built to low-energy home performance levels helping to potentially achieve net zero-energy usage on a yearly basis.  Another step would be running energy modeling, right-sizing the internal heating and ventilation system, optimizing the window sizes and glazing specifications.  
Depending on the homeowner and family initiative and available time, an extensive vegetable garden nourished by composting might further enrich sustainable living.  If gardening takes too much time, join a local Community Supported Agriculture farm to get your vegetables year round.

Third Party Green Building Programs: An Overview
      Of course achieving those goals depends on the client, their budget and schedule, whether or not to purse local or national high performance building certification and at what level of performance.  This might mean for example here in Vermont, enrolling in the Vermont Energy Star Home program or the High Performance Homes program run by Efficiency Vermont.  Depending on where you're located in the U.S. you may want to consult the National Energy Star website to learn more.
Enrolling and completing such programs benefits the homeowner in a number of ways. Firstly during the construction phase and operation of the home, and then on the back end, providing green certification of the quality of the home for future reselling. This backend grows increasingly relevant as more and more State wide Multiple Listing Services add Green Building related components to available listing criteria for homebuyers.  Called the Green MLS toolkit nationally this initiative has taken hold in Colorado, the Atlanta area, Chicago, Portland, Oregon and increasingly elsewhere.
Qualifying projects for Efficiency Vermont's Residential programs receive energy consultation and performance testing services helping ensure your high performing project complies with their program leading to receiving helpful financial incentives and certification of performance levels reached.  Similarly NYSERDA in New York State,  Mass Save in Massachusetts,  NHSAVES in New Hampshire, EfficiencyMaine  all provide Energy Star and in some cases High Performing home programs like Vermont.
Ask your architect and builder if they have experience with these programs or similar ones near you.  If not, you may want to look elsewhere if you seek a energy efficient high performing home, whether new construction, renovation or an addition.  Green building is mainstream now having matured over the last 20 years and in a sense is the new normal.  
Other more stringent third party verification programs exist such as Passive House, Living Building ChallengeUSGBC LEED for Homes to name a few. These involve  adherence to even more stringent high performing efficiency and whole building and site design standards. They examine more closely sustainable siting, materials, low water and zero energy use, or even positive energy generation,  holistic thinking, life cycle cost analysis and more.  
We Welcome your Comments and Insight:
In the meanwhile, we hope you've enjoyed this story about the design process. the overall design and some of the details of this Modern Farmhaus.  Let us know if you have any questions and comments about the design.  Happy to answer them.
If you enjoyed the links to green building programs, materials and other information and find them helpful do let us know below in the comments section.  We are always looking for helpful information. Don't hesitate to share in the comment section below.  
Follow us to stay in touch with what we share and write, or contact us if you would like us to speak at your conference or participate in a panel or better yet want to work together on a fine green home for you and your family. 

(Originally posted on LinkedIn and adapted for our blog and website)