Author Archive

Off to the Clouds (computing), I Shall Go!

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From the moment the studio4llc website was launched, I realized my workstation pc and faithful Blackberry would no longer fulfill my requirements. 24/7 access, mobility options, pen and power are now the prime parameters for restructuring my operations.

For mobility, there seems to be little choice than to migrate as much as I can to the cloud. My available options here were pretty much pre-established, given my long time dependence on Microsoft and the decision to trade my Blackberry for a Windows 7 phone. And this is fine, as Microsoft has no equal when it comes to enterprise operations, IMO. Not that I have anything against Apple, other than the fact they cater to the general consumer market and are highly proprietary, and I won’t even consider letting anything Google near my computers. I’ve had a Windows Live account for a number of years, so all I needed to do was install additional Microsoft software.

Windows Live Messenger 2011, Windows Live Essentials 2011, SkyDrive, Windows Live Mesh 2011

To help with the cloud migration and Windows 7 phone selection, I have been following Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows. Continue Reading →

Building Green on a Budget: Advice from Leading Architects

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What are the best ways to build sustainably within budget constraints? Writing for, Lisa Taylor asked several leading architects for insight on this timely issue. Their collective advice on building green on a budget is to return to the fundamentals of good design and choose climate-appropriate materials that offer a quick payback.

Back to Basics

…building green on a budget is as simple as returning to the roots of good architectural design. When you build things with a sense of craft and purpose, they are more frequently cared for and looked after, which makes them last longers. “Good, beautiful design is a large part of sustainability.

Site Matters Continue Reading →

How to Install a Branched-Drain Greywater System in a Green Home

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Although many communities regulate and/or prohibit private treatment of wastewater, this installation may be a suitable option where public sewers are not available or on-site greywater treatment is permitted. This is a very well documented installation, complete with photos and a downloadable greywater system proposal used to submit for permitting. From the Energy Vanguard Blog,  follow me »

How about that Atlanta BeltLine?

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As cities continue to implement creative redevelopment plans that would revitalize the business community while simultaneously encouraging migration back to urban lifestyles, one of the more aggressive and interesting programs is the Atlanta BeltLine – hailed as a national model. In November 2005, the Atlanta City Council approved a plan that would lead to a 22-mile loop of parks, paths and transit linking 45 neighborhoods in intown Atlanta. Opponents of the plan argued the proposal leaves out low-income families and focuses too much on development. However, the 25-year, $2.1 billion program could spur economic development by linking affluent sectors with struggling, isolated neighborhoods south of the city.

The Atlanta BeltLine concept is to implement a combined system of trails and transit that will connect Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods and economic development centers with existing and planned Atlanta BeltLine parks, existing transit networks like MARTA and major regional activity centers and attractions, such as Piedmont Hospital and Zoo Atlanta. The transit and trail systems will complement investments in parks, streetscapes, and other infrastructure projects to create a smarter framework for new denser development in the city. In most cases, the transit and trail system will follow the Atlanta BeltLine Corridor.

Trails: The Atlanta BeltLine will create more than 33 miles of multi-use trails within and around the railroad corridor. The trails will be multi-use – for walkers, joggers, bikers, roller-bladers, and people with disabilities. This trail system will include the core 22-miles that follow the railroad segments plus spur segments to link together more neighborhoods and the existing parks and trails surrounding the Atlanta BeltLine. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s partner in trail construction is the PATH Foundation, an organization with over 20 years of experience building multi-use trails throughout Georgia. Continue Reading →

Form-Based Codes – Designing the 21st Century City

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It seems fitting that we kick-off our new neighborhood design blog with a discussion on form-based codes. Form-based codes have been used for centuries (e.g., the planning of cities in ancient China and Roman town planning), but were summarily dismissed in the U.S. during the turn of the century by the adoption of zoning ordinances. Considering the continual depopulation and decay of our urban neighborhoods and increased urban sprawl, is it then important that we, collectively, discuss solutions? Most recently the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) entered the fray by releasing the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System  (LEED ND) that integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Perhaps it may be best to analyze the information on form-based codes presented here by, first, offering arguments contesting New Urbanism. Lolita Buckner Inniss, Associate Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio gave a presentation on October 18, 2008 at the Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights titled The Façade of New Urbanism& the Form-Based Code. A few of her more salient talking points critiquing both New Urbanism and form-based codes: Continue Reading →

A-cero Ltd.

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We just added A-cero Ltd. to the list of Studio4’s favorite chillin’ websites. A-cero is an architectural and town planning studio, established in 1996 and home based in Madrid. An impressive website where you can easily be consumed by the stunning collection of contemporary, and modular architectural works, both commercial and architectural. 

Private Residence

 Wave Tower

To visit the A-cero website, follow me »

Mixed Use: Too Many Eggs in One Basket?

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Normally, this article would be rotated in and out of the Current News & Events section. However, given the growing focus on urbanism, urban redevelopment and form-based codes, events such as the tragic occurrence in Brattleboro, Vermont need to remain with us as reminders whenever we perform our duties as responsible professionals.

Can “pedestrian friendly” mixed-use communities, where people want to live where they can work and play with streetscapes that invite them to walk instead of drive, present logistical problems for fire and EMS response teams? Should fire engineering consultancy be considered on certain projects where large, open spaces often impose a serious threat in case of fire, due to the rapid spread of smoke and fire?

From BuildingGreen Sounds Off:

Making the right choices about where and how to build is a big responsibility, and every choice, it seems, involves tradeoffs. Sustainable design, by definition, plans for the long term. Most of the time, it works great–but some outcomes are out of our hands.

Brattleboro, Vermont is still in shock over the sudden and complete loss of one of its Main Street buildings early yesterday morning, apparently because of an electrical fire. Brooks House, a former hotel with a distinctive mansard roof, was built in 1871 on the ashes of an even older building also destroyed by fire. It was listed on the National Historic Register, but its historic status means nothing compared with its significance to our town. This is like a cigarette burn on the bodice of a silk gown.  Continue Reading →

What’s in a Green Building Product Label?

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This recent article in Professional Remodeler, written by Michelle Desiderio, director of Green Building Programs, NAHB Research Center, provides an overview of the major green product certification programs for the home building industry. The following briefly outlines the various programs involved in green product certification.

What’s in a name?

In the residential construction industry, third parties test, certify or verify that a product meets the criteria of an established industry standard or code. For green product labeling specifically, third parties provide scientific expertise in testing, assessing and auditing a wide range of environmental attributes. While there are multiple legitimate third parties providing green product certifications within the construction industry, it would be impossible to be comprehensive in a brief article. The article provides a summary of some of the third-party product certifications that currently touch the broadest array or volume of building products, including who offers them and what they mean when you see them on products and materials.

ICC Evaluation Service Sustainable Attributes Verification and Evaluation
What it is: The ICC-ES SAVE Program provides independent verification of manufacturers’ claims about the sustainable attributes of their products.

Who runs it: The ICC-ES is a subsidiary of the International Code Council. ICC-ES is a non-profit company that evaluates building products, components, methods and materials for compliance with code.

How it works: ICC-ES provides verification in accordance with one or more of nine ICC-ES SAVE program guidelines.

NAHB Research Center Green Approved Products
What it is: Green Approved Products have been pre-approved by the NAHB Research Center as being eligible for specific points in the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard. The NGBS is the first green rating system to be approved as an ANSI consensus standard. Continue Reading →

Energy Efficient Home Landscapes

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How to use the landscape to reduce the energy consumed by a typical suburban home. See how smart tree placement and green roofs and walls dramatically improve energy efficiency.

Please visit the Home>Portfolio>Video Gallery to view this video.

To read the entire article about energy efficient home landscaping, visit the American Society of Landscape Architects website.

Demolition or Deconstruction?

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Demolition and Deconstruction – aren’t they effectively the same? In a sense yes, as each requires the removal of a building and/or its contents. But this is where most similarities end – here one day and gone the next day (or two…). Demolition is the destructive removal and disposal of the building and/or contents with a total disregard for material salvage. Tear it down, toss the materials in a dumpster and transport everything to a landfill for disposal. On the other hand, Deconstruction selectively dismembers the materials that make up the building. Today Deconstruction is “green speak” for the removal of materials with the intent to reuse, recycle, or incorporate into a Waste Management Plan (WMP). 

What are the issues to consider when determining whether to select Demolition or Deconstruction? There are 2 fundamental factors to consider – costs and the environmental benefits associated with Deconstruction. First is the cost factor, and this can be somewhat difficult to accurately assess. Some studies show the cost to be 2 to 3 times as much for Deconstruction as opposed to Demolition. However, with Deconstruction you can factor in adjustments such as the market value and after-tax benefits of the salvaged materials. The leading authority on Deconstruction and Reuse is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has recently focused a great deal of attention on Waste as it relates to Resource Conservation. Or as the EPA refers, the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Additional information relating to cost comparisons can be reviewed at these sites: The ReUse People and Building Abatement Demolition Company, Inc.

Builder Magazine has an article titled Picking Up the Pieces that exemplifies the many benefits of sustainable deconstruction. The article follows the process of clearing an urban infill lot for the New American Home 2011.

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