If it’s Not Beautiful, it’s Not Sustainable?

Lucas Hamilton

Let’s face it – we don’t take care of things that are ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, correct? Then why is it some things are universally agreed upon to be beautiful?

When we consider the buildings of the world which we all look to as a part of our shared heritage, I struggle to think of any that are not beautiful. Sometimes we get lucky and points germane are captured in a first draft. When talking about buildings in general we need to look to the Romans who were the definers of architecture.  For them three rules applied:

  • A building must be durable.
  • Serve the purposes of the people inside.
  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.

Today we may add a fourth requirement which is sustainability but as the title of this blog suggests, you won’t get sustainability without beauty. To understand beauty we must have a working knowledge of aesthetics. One of the things we know to be true is that aesthetics remain consistent. It is style that changes. Style is an expression of aesthetic principles based on a current philosophy, trend or societal influence.

A great example of this can be found in Chicago on the river with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s IBM Tower.  Directly behind it is the Marina City complex which was designed by his protégé Bertrand Goldberg. Having a teacher and student design side-by-side doesn’t happen often so it is a fascinating place to observe the style change that took place from one generation to the next. It’s like we need to show our teachers and our parents that “we’ve heard, we’ve learned, and we’ve grown.”

As a society, we are seeing a shift in style once again.  Prior to the great recession, many people where building McMansion style homes which were the expression of more, more, more – look at what I have accomplished or gained. 

Now, we are seeing a maturity to the thinking – wouldn’t my life be easier if it were simpler? This is manifesting itself in a smaller footprint of our homes. We’re choosing darker colors to make our homes appear smaller and using coordinated palettes to bring the sense of harmony we seek.

I believe as a result we will create a generation of homes which will hold their aesthetic appeal much better than the recent phase.

Do you think that in 50 years anyone is going to be chaining themselves to a bulldozer to prevent a McMansion from being torn down?

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Off-Site Manufacturing Could Play a Larger Part in the Building Renaissance

Danny Small

Danny Small

Danny Small is Manager, Building Science Development for CertainTeed Corporation

Lately I’ve been revisiting the benefits of modular or prefabricated home construction, otherwise known as off-site manufacturing (“OSM”). There are several advantages to this method of construction that could be attractive to consumers looking to build a custom home.

This isn’t your daddy’s mobile home we’re talking about here.  The traditional manufactured (“mobile “) home is built to special Housing and Urban Development (HUD) building codes.  These homes are extremely simple, lower-end homes constructed in one or two pieces on a steel frame.

Today’s modular home can be beautiful, complex, exquisitely detailed and of the highest quality.  It’s built in modules or panels, in a clean, climate-controlled facility to meet (and often exceed) standard building codes for the area where the home will be finished.   The modules or panels are then shipped to the construction site, where they are permanently assembled on a full foundation, and the final details are finished.  Once completed, these homes are indistinguishable from site-built homes.  For some examples, check out Haven Custom Homes’ gallery.

While off-site construction has been around for decades, most of the earlier homes fell into that category of mobile (HUD-code) homes.  However, the move toward more sustainable, energy-efficient, healthy homes creates compelling reasons to look at modular as a truly viable method for all construction.

Some of the advantages of offsite construction are:

  • Construction can begin while foundation work is done, reducing the overall build time by several weeks.
  • Because building is done indoors in a climate-controlled facility, there are no weather delays.  Crews can work year round with no problem.
  • The home is built dry and clean because the wood is not subjected to dampness or dirt.  This could make for a healthier house.
  • Greater accuracy in cutting is possible because precision equipment can be utilized.
  • Lower costs because of consistency with crews and minimal lost time.  An off-site built home can cost up to 15-20 percent less than the same home built on-site. (Source: NAHB)  Savings for commercial construction can be much higher.
  • Very low waste.  Just about all remnants can be re-used for other projects.  This enables contractors to purchase more wisely.
  • Off-site manufacturers can ship up to 500 miles from their factory.
  • The building envelope is fully customizable, enabling increased energy efficiency in the wall and ceiling systems, as well as design features that meet the needs of the occupants.
  • Modular building, especially in commercial, enables easy expansion to buildings when needed.

Although off-site construction currently accounts for only two percent of construction in the U.S., the industry is gaining popularity.  In Europe, especially countries like Sweden, this type of construction is on the rise and accounts for up to 40 percent of new construction. 

If you are considering building a new home, a vacation home or a small office, do a cost comparison for on-site versus off-site construction.  You may be surprised by what you find.

Social Media Mavens at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition

Twitter activity was most definitely a flutter last week at the 2012 AIA Convention & Design Exposition in Washington D.C. Using the social media-monitoring tool, UberVU, we extrapolated some interesting insight from the Twitter activity at the show. For example, a report on activity using the #AIA2012 hash tag showed that:

  • There were 5,528 tweets from May 10-21 — just prior and one day after the show.
  • 36 percent of mentions were re-tweets.
  • Nearly half of all tweets occurred on the first day of the show, May 18.
  • New York-based architect Vanesa Alicea posted the most frequently, with 141 tweets.
  • Of all of the Twitter accounts active during the show, Architectural Record magazine has the largest following, with a whopping 323,335 followers.

All in all, we enjoyed following and participating in the Twitter stream to keep a pulse on the show, however, we were most fortunate to have in-person conversations that spanned well beyond 140 characters!

New Product Snapshot from 2012 AIA Expo

For the past several years, Snap magazine has organized a “Say it in a Snap” session at the AIA Expo, offering building product manufacturers a chance to talk about their newest product innovations. Products showcased this year demonstrated a broad array of form and function:

  • Sherwin Williams announced the expansion of their environmentally conscious paint products — Emerald TM zero-VOC interior paint.
  • BluWorld of Water shared a new white paper that dispels some of the microbial concerns around water features in health care settings.
  • Construction Specialties launched two new louver products that offered very distinct design aesthetics.

Architectural Record Makes Photo-sharing Easy

Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, photo-sharing is most definitely in vogue. While all of these networks create a sense of community and connectedness in their own special way, Architectural Record magazine has launched a photo-sharing mobile app designed specifically for architects and designers. At the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exposition, the Architectural Record editorial team touted the new tool, which is available, free-of-charge via iTunes.

Google SketchUp Brings Design Inspirations to Life

Architects are known for having boundless imaginations when conceptualizing their designs. Traditionally, they have put pen to paper to bring their ideas to life. However, a growing trend is to use Google SketchUp — as evidenced by the bustling flow of traffic in their booth at the 2012 AIA Convention and Design Exhibition. An inituitive, easy-to-use tool, Google SketchUp is used to create quick 3-D imagery for conceptual stages of design. It also includes a repository of 3-D building objects — the Google 3D Warehouse — that expedites the design process. Building product manufacturers, including CertainTeed, are making brand-specific building objects available through the warehouse to more closely align concepts with real-world applications. Is Google SketchUp the wave of the future? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts.

Design Inspiration at 2012 AIA Expo

Spend only a few minutes at 2012 AIA Expo and you’re sure to be inspired. Revolutionary product innovations such as the Dyson air multiplier or SAGE electrochromic glass are capturing the attention of many at the show. At the AIA/DC exhibit, Claire Conroy of Residential Architect magazine hosted a panel of seven Washington D.C.-based architects and their impressive breadth of recent work.  Philip Esocoff shared his strategy on leveraging height restrictions through pre-cast concrete ornamentation. Travis Price highlighted excerpts from his most recent book, “The Mythic Modern.” And, Mark McInturff spoke of the trials and tribulations of designing a roof top pool that weighs the equivalent of four Prius cars. All in all, it was an awe-inspiring day. Looking forward further exploration tomorrow…

AIA 2012 Off to a Busy Start

Thus far, the AIA 2012 Convention and Design Expo seems to have an exceptionally high level of traffic and energy on the exhibit floor. Is it the convenient Washington D.C. location? Renewed optimism of a rebounding economy? An expansive display of innovative new building products? Most likely, all of the above.

At the Saint-Gobain booth (#3339) there’s a wide array of technical experts on hand to talk about solar, building science, glass technology, and more. If you are unable to join us at the show, feel free to post your unsolvable problem on our trade show page.

Stay tuned for more updates from the show…

Living Building Challenge Alive and Rising in Seattle

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

In the early days of my blogging, I talked about the Living Building Challenge and the early adoption taking place in Portland, Oregon. The Challenge aims to certify green buildings around seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. It is so comprehensive that it is “whole-istic”. Sorry.

An exciting “Living Building” project is currently underway in Seattle that was highlighted in U.S News on MSNBC  on March 20, 2012. This could be a true showcase for the ultimate in sustainable office buildings. There is also a slide presentation in the link that is worth reviewing.

Denis Hayes, who co-founded Earth Day with Gaylord Nelson, now heads the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation.  He is partnering with architect Jason McLennan, who is CEO of the International Living Future Institute on this project.

With everything from harvested rainwater to geothermal wells, solar energy and lots of natural light, this building has no parking lot on the premises but is accessible by bus, bike or on foot. One day this could truly become the standard for new urban construction but in the meantime it can also provide valuable data to fuel the movement on retrofitting existing buildings.

Great project with great potential!

The 12 Months of Homebuilding by CertainTeed

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications for CertainTeed Corporation

In the first month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a piece of land overlooking a scenic ravine.

In the second month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, an awesome set of architect house plan drawings.

In the third month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a Form-A-Drain™ 3-in-1 Foundation footing system for drainage ease.

In the fourth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a high quality, two-story wood framed home built to please.

In the fifth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, CertaWrap™ weather-resistant barrier and Cedar Impressions® Polymer Shake Siding in ivy green.

In the sixth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, thermally efficient Optima® blown-in wall insulation and Air Renew™ drywall to rid me of those VOCs.

In the seventh month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, Ecophon® Focus Ds acoustic ceiling tiles for my media room and a 70-inch big screen TV.

In the eighth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a well-insulated attic filled with InsuSafe® SP.

In the ninth month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, a roof featuring Landmark Solaris™ solar reflective shingles complemented with Apollo Solar Roofing® to make my own energy;

In the 10th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me, an EverNew® LT Deck and a yard surrounded by a Chesterfield Vinyl Fence for privacy.

In the 11th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me;  Restoration Millwork Trim® to finish our dream; an EverNew LT Deck and a yard surrounded by a Chesterfield Vinyl Fencefor privacy; a roof featuring Landmark Solaris solar reflective shingles and complemented with Apollo Solar Roofing to make my own energy; a well-insulated attic filled with InsuSafe SP; Ecophon Focus D acoustic ceiling tiles for my media room and a 70-inch big screen TV; thermally efficient Optima blown-in wall insulation and Air Renew drywall to rid me of those VOC’s; CertaWrap weather-resistant barrier and Cedar Impressions Polymer Shake Siding in ivy green; a high quality, two-story wood framed home built to please; a Form-A-Drain 3-in-1 Foundation footing system for drainage ease; an awesome set of architect house plan drawings; and a piece of land overlooking a scenic ravine.

In the 12th month of homebuilding, my true love gave to me:  the keys to a brand new dream home built with CertainTeed….

Happy Holidays from all of your friends at CertainTeed!