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Archive for Green

May 29 2015

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Benefits of a Garbage Disposer and Myths Dispelled


May is National Home Improvement Month, and as the month comes to a close, there’s still time to do one small project in the kitchen that will make a big difference: adding or replacing a garbage disposer.

This hard-working, under-appreciated appliance has come a long way since it was first invented back in 1927 by an architect in Racine, Wis., named John Hammes. Believe it or not, the photo above is what the first disposer looked like.

About half the homes in the U.S. have a disposer, and here’s why:

  • It helps keep kitchens clean, fresh and hygienic – no food waste in the trash can causing an odor to attract pests and fewer trips to the dumpster.
  • Putting your food waste down a disposer is more environmentally friendly than putting it in the trash to be hauled to a landfill where it will decompose and release methane (a greenhouse gas).
  • A good disposer only costs hundreds of dollars and will last for several years.

So, what’s keeping the other half of the homes in the U.S. from investing in this handy kitchen helper? Well, there are some long-standing myths about disposers that still need to be dispelled, and you can explain these to your clients:

  • “Water/energy used by disposers cancel out any environmental benefits.” Actually, disposers only use 1 percent or less of a household’s total water consumption and cost on average less than 50 cents a year in electricity.
  • “Using a disposer is bad for a home’s plumbing.” The fact is, food waste is 70 percent water. If you have a modern disposer with multiple stages of grind and you use your disposer properly, food waste is virtually liquefied, allowing it to move through your plumbing with ease.
  • “My house is on a septic system, so I can’t have a disposer.” If your septic system is properly sized and maintained, this shouldn’t be a problem. If your septic system can handle a dishwasher and a washing machine, it can handle a disposer.

– Leah Kondes, spokesperson for InSinkErator 

May 13 2015

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Save Water with Ease: Water-Efficient Home Upgrades

Image by njaj, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by njaj, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In recent years, low rainfall and record-high temperatures have resulted in a historically devastating drought in California. Some studies suggest the current drought, which most believe started in 2011, is the worst the state has seen in more than 1,000 years. But California is not alone. The country as a whole is in the midst of one of the most sustained periods of increasing drought on record, according to the Palmer Index.

Consumers know their choices can make a difference and are seeking smarter water options to support heightened environmental standards as well as save money. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a household’s leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year – approximately 16 percent of water loss comes from leaks within the water system. But consumers also expect to be able to make these adjustments without sacrificing experience.

For starters, the industry needs to keep encouraging homeowners to upgrade to WaterSense-labeled models that use no more than 2.0 gallons of water per minute. Using these models does not mean sacrificing experience, as some offerings even provide spray heads that create the feeling of more water while using less. Through updated technology, showerheads, hand showers and tub showers can feature innovations that control the water’s shape, velocity and thermal dynamics – creating a warmer, more luxurious spray that blankets the body – all while using a fraction of the water.

Many consumers may not be aware that toilets are the main source of water usage in their homes, accounting for almost 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Homeowners can save 13,000 gallons of water per year by replacing older, inefficient toilets. When getting rid of a leaky toilet, encourage consumers to look for a WaterSense-labeled option certified to use 1.28 gallons per flush – 20 percent less water than the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. Some toilets even offer leak detection and overflow protection to further assist consumers in their water-saving efforts.

 As a trusted advisor for consumers tackling improvement projects in the home, suggesting a faucet swap not only gives the bathroom a new, upgraded look but also saves water in the process. While most consumers are aware that turning off the tap when brushing teeth is a water-efficient practice, they may not know there are product and technology options that help reduce water usage when the tap is on. High-performance, water-efficient faucets and aerators bearing WaterSense labels can save a household 700 gallons of water per year, the equivalent of 40 showers worth of water, by using a maximum flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute – reducing water flow by 30 percent more than the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute.

With communities across America facing water supply challenges, it is more important than ever to encourage water savings and the installation of water-efficient products in the home. For more information about faucet, showerhead and toilet specifications and WaterSense-labeled products that save water and in turn protect the environment, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/.

– By Paul Patton, Delta Faucet Company Senior Research & Development/Regulatory Manager

Apr 30 2015

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Have You Ever Seen a Bathroom Like This?

After 1

A century-old, two-story duplex in New Orleans was subdivided into a four-plex, and the outdoor porch of the ground floor became the sole bathroom to serve directly what became the bedroom of the apartment. The bathroom spanned the length of the northwest wall of the bedroom, eliminating any opportunity for natural light to enter the bedroom. The building was constructed in the shotgun typology of adjoining rooms with no dedicated circulation.


The property was being renovated into a single residence, and this particular bath and adjacent bedroom were to become a guest suite. The intent was to have the window currently relegated to the bath alone to be accessible directly to the bedroom while maintaining a full bath suite.

The result is a sustainable guest suite with a rich interplay of light, views and materials. This guest suite is part of a renovation pursuing LEED certification, and as such there are many sustainable components to the design – with light and views being the primary conceptual drivers.

After 2

The design of the bath suite is the resultant of three programmatic and functional moves:

 Extrude: An aperture was extruded from the existing bathroom window to provide natural light and views to the guest bedroom.

Function 1

 Extend: The bottom of the aperture was extended down to make it programmatic as well as functional as a window seat, reading nook, linen ‘trunk’ and luggage stand.

Function 2

 Pinch: As the initial bathroom had been bifurcated, the base of the aperture had to be pinched to accommodate the bathtub in the wet room of the guest suite. The opposite side of the aperture is the powder room.

Function 3

The result is a sustainable guest suite with an interplay of light, views and materials. Where the existing tub was has now become a wet room dedicated solely to the guest suite. The south end of the existing bath has become a powder room to complete the bath suite for the guest room and serves the formal dining room as well. The door to the powder room is concealed to provide more focus to the aperture, and a single pendant hangs in the center of the aperture for reading.

Kid in aperture

Not only is the guest room now afforded natural light and views, but both the wet and powder rooms have smaller windows focused back to the initial window. Particularly in the late afternoon, the wet room is bathed in southwesterly light. In addition to the indirect reflection over the aperture wall, light shines directly through the small window and into the wet room, glowing against the marble tile.  Even the polished marble ‘sill’ of the small window is reflected onto the wall above the showerhead. The polished surface of the marble allows the profile of the window to reflect again to the opposite wall – the original wall from where it came – its terminus highlighting perfectly the point of ‘pinch.’

Polished marble

The powder room also negotiates the aperture to maximize spatial efficiency. The tank of the dual-flush commode is recessed beneath it with access to its plumbing through the linen trunk. Even the medicine cabinet is recessed to allow more space at the sink. While at the sink, a window is strategically placed to allow a rich view of the taller trees in the center of the neighborhood block.

Northern light

Natural northern light also filters in through this window and is reflected over the aperture wall to reduce the need for power-generated lighting. In this same vein, the upper panels of the existing powder room doors were replaced with translucent acrylic to mine still more natural light from the adjacent window in the dining room.  This complements what is already received from the existing transom.

Material Sustainability
 The recessed panel doors were existing and were heat stripped and sanded.

 The concealed solid core door was purchased from a material salvage store.

 The aperture is clad in lath reclaimed from the renovation itself.

 The baseboard detail is an aluminum reveal: no repainting required.

 The floors were existing and were refinished.

 All paint contains low VOCs.

After Silhouette

Architect(s) of Record: Andrew Liles AIA LEED AP BD+C; General Contractor: Paul Baudean, Paul Baudean Construction LLC; Photography: David Armentor and Andrew Liles AIA LEED AP BD+C

– By Andrew Liles AIA LEED AP BD+C

Mar 31 2015

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Blending Artificial Light and Daylighting in the Bath

The very best illumination for a bathroom, hands down, is daylight. It is natural, full-spectrum, powerful (sometimes too powerful) and best of all, free for the taking. It is not, unfortunately, available 24 hours a day, but the times it is roughly coincide with our workdays.

Here are two “landlocked” bathrooms with our lighting and daylighting solutions.

Bathing in Light Copy Small

Dramatic Spa Bath
Two ordinary 1970s baths were gutted and combined into one grand his-and-her bath in Denver’s Country Club neighborhood. Since the neighbor was just 10 feet away from the outside shower wall, a decision was made to forgo windows and instead create a gabled “roof monitor” that penetrates the flat roof above, which pours daylight into the center of the bath (with a soaking tub) below. The client enjoys total privacy and says she “feels like she’s taking a bath outside.”

"Spa" bath before

“Spa” bath before

A single MR16 lamp illuminates the tub, while recessed downlights provide ambient light. Tall fluorescent sconces on either side of the his-and-her vanities provide makeup lighting. Each person has his/her own water closet compartment as well, while they share the generous curbless shower, which features his-and-her showerheads and controls at either end. A light color palette featuring limestone and glass tile assures that no footcandle is wasted.

Inside Bath After - Copy

Suburban Inside Bath
This 1970s bath was landlocked in the very middle of a 3,300-sq.-ft. ranch home in Westminster, Colo., and was shared by two sisters. By reaching for the sky and installing a tubular daylight device (TDD) up through the roof, daylight reached this bath for the first time since it was framed up and before the roof trusses went on!

Inside bath before

Inside bath before

Reconstruction Experts, the contractor for this extensive remodel, took care to wrap the TDD in insulation to block a common source of heat loss into the attic from the room below. Suddenly, one didn’t need to flip a switch to make a quick visit – unless they were applying makeup or visiting at night. Decorative sconces to either side of the vessel sink provide flattering light for makeup, while dedicated recessed spot lighting at the tub and toilet make sure there is ample lighting for each task.

– By Doug Walter, AIA, senior architect, Godden/Sudik Architects, Centennial, Colo., www.goddensudik.com.