Monday, November 17, 2008

Stylish pre-fab playhouse

For fans of modern prefab architecture who are raising young kids, there is the Mini Modern Prefab Playshed. The Mini Modern Prefab proves that kid’s design can be fun and sophisticated at the same time. Architect Ryan Grey Smith, known for his Modern-Shed, is bringing prefab to preschoolers with his Modern Play Shed. Part Case-Study home, part play-house, it is a smaller version of his original design. Better than any treehouse or playhouse we’ve ever seen, it comes fully loaded with a sloped shed roof, dutch doors, 12 windows, and more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Simple steps to improving your overall "greenness" at home

As energy costs skyrocket, warnings of climate change rise and money tightens, Americans are becoming more open to investing in green features for their homes that result in reduced energy costs and clear consciences.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard is the most commonly used green building standard--it was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit trade organization, and tallies points based on multiple criteria. One drawback of this system is that some features may be more earth-friendly than others and not given weighted credit. Instead of relying on this point system exclusively, buyers and homeowners should have a comprehensive green plan in place.

Simple steps to consider in your overall green plan

The key mistake is not taking a global view of what green building is. People focus on health issues, supply chain issues, design issues--but all of these things together are important to living more responsibly. Still, taking any steps to be more eco-friendly is moving in the right direction.

Expensive features such as solar panels are a potential pitfall when there isn't a comprehensive green plan. Putting a solar array on a roof will offset energy costs but if the wood inside is non-sustainable the home is not as green as it could be.

A home's ability to seal in heat and air tops the list of easiest and greenest fixes for existing homes. The most important thing is the energy envelope of the house. The best way to insure a tight seal is through foam sealants, insulation and weather stripping for windows and doors to keep cool air in during the summer and heat inside during the winter.

Lowering your carbon footprint is another good first step. Your carbon footprint is calculated in tons of carbon dioxide output and is a measure of a home's emissions. Good ways to directly cut your carbon footprint are through the use of Energy-Star appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs and proper insulation. Installing Energy-Star appliances can reduce your home’s carbon output by a projected two tons.

Updating your water heating system also helps. On-demand, tankless water heaters use 25% to 35% less energy than conventional tanks. That's because tankless water heaters heat water only as it heads to a faucet or shower head--instead of constantly heating and storing it in an inefficient tank.

Homes that employ multi-use spaces are another promising green trend. Every room in a house decreases a home's energy efficiency because more space requires more heating or cooling and, thus, more electricity or gas. For example, most families often don't use their formal dining room or living room other than holidays, preferring to eat in a breakfast nook off the kitchen or relax in a den. However, the lightly used rooms still consume energy year round. Multi-use spaces combine functions and adapt homes to fit lifestyle patterns.