Builder’s quote

I read an interesting quote in Fine Homebuilding from a builder in Boulder, Colorado, Fernando Pages Ruiz, the author of Building an Affordable Home. “We all know that the days when a handy backyard mechanic with a handful of tools could fix the family car have passed. Perhaps the days when an old-line builder, an expert through experience, could competently construct a code-compliant house are also fading. Increasingly, the industry has moved in the direction of trained professionals with at least a basic understanding of building science and engineering. It’s no longer a question of when codes will catch up to modern demands; it’s now the builder’s turn”

This quote resonates with me because I feel the same way about architect’s getting up to speed with the latest building science. Our buildings are getting more complex with new materials and air tightness that require a more advanced understanding of how air and moisture flow through building materials. As we all learn to integrate building science into our designs and detailing we will have better buildings. This does not mean we can’t gain a lot of knowledge from the well seasoned carpenter and architect!!!!

Trip to Manhattan

Recently I took a vacation with my family to New York City. We had a great time! We caught two exhibits that I thought might be of interest.

The first was an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York titled, “ Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers” open through September 15, 2013. It is a very interesting exhibit that looks at designing small spaces and the challenges with current codes and regulations in designing small spaces and units for multiple non-related adults. The exhibit has a micro studio apartment installation that transforms from a living room to bedroom with a murphy bed and many models of projects from around the world including some from San Francisco.

As the population of the world ages and family size decreases, there are more single people and elderly living alone. How do we house them? How will we live as we get older? How can we accommodate our elderly parents in our homes or near us? Where do our children live in expensive urban areas before they have a family? How do we create affordable housing for multiple adults living together? These are the questions I have been thinking about as I work with clients to make their homes flexible for today and tomorrow.

If you are interested in these topics, check out the exhibit in NYC or their website, There are also a couple of events at SPUR that might be worth checking out this month: “Micro-units in San Jose” in San Jose, July 23rd and Secondary Units: Adding to SF’s Housing Stock” in San Francisco SPUR on July 25th both are at 12:30pm. In August, “Learning from NYC” on August 5th in SF, Check for more information.

We were lucky to catch MOMA’s current exhibit on Le Corbusier titled, “Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes” through September 23, 2013. I was reminded of one of my favorite small living spaces designed by Le Corbusier at La Tourette, a Dominican monastery in La Chaux-de-Fonds, France completed in 1960. When I was in college I spent a semester abroad studying and we went to La Tourette and spent the night. We had a fabulous dinner with the monks, followed by hearing their chants from the chapel and then retiring in the small bedrooms. I truly enjoyed my night there. The rooms were so comfortable. The scale of the space seemed to be designed for inner reflection with a connection to the outdoors and built in furniture that was functional, divided the space and quite comfortable. Looking back at my sketchbook from many years ago (see photo below), I am reminded of how small the space was. The ceiling height was low, 7’-6” and the width of the room was 6’.    He used color on the back of the interior wall to add interest to a long narrow space and texture on the wall to differentiate between the bath area and the bedroom. A beautiful place and wonderful experience for an architect to be.


SF has over 3000 Solar Installations

SF Environment recently reported 3489 total solar installations in San Francisco. They see the San Franciscans interest in sustainability, new incentives and financing options, reduced energy bills, protection from utility hikes and increased property values as the reason for the quintupling of installations in the last five years. San Francisco has more installations than 29 individual states.

Here are a couple of resources:

SPUR says, “In San Francisco, the Boom is Back”

I started my new year off with an article in SPUR’s “The Urbanist”, outlining why the housing industry in San Francisco is booming. Check out the article, It outlines why the boom and bust cycles of the construction industry effect our urban landscape.

Lighting Design

I just heard two speakers, Michael K. Souter, FASID, IALD, LC, CID  of Luminae Souter Associates and Milena Simeonova, Lighting Program Coordinator at the PG&E Pacific Energy Center talking about lighting design and energy efficiency. Instead of looking at the type of light fixture, whether fluorescent, incandescent or LED to save energy, they were discussing good design as a way to save energy. It made so much sense. Lighting design is so important to the feeling and function of the space. Michael said it was the “fourth dimension of architecture”. They both discussed how natural light changes in quality, color, intensity, and location throughout the day and throughout the year and how our electric lighting should take on the same underlining principles that daylight does in nature. Michael mentioned at the beginning of the talk that we know this intuitively because we experience it, but we don’t always think about it when we are designing. He showed some nice examples of his own work and also the work of architect, Tadao Ando who uses natural light very dramatically and naturally. The key to lighting design is to understand how we perceive light and use it to enhance the architecture.

Integrating natural and electric lighting has always been important to my designs from the beginning of the design process. San Francisco is sliced into little 25’x100’ plots of land with buildings on two sides. We must be creative to find ways to get natural light deep within our buildings and use electrical light in interesting ways to show the volume, texture and form of the spaces. By understanding how we perceive light we can use fewer fixtures and in turn fewer watts by illuminating vertical surfaces and using point sources for tasks and focal points. LED fixtures are evolving quickly and offer so many opportunities to play with color and intensity using controls that can change as desired.

We can learn about lighting through an awareness of the natural light around us and an understanding of the relationship between the angle, color and intensity of the natural light and how it interacts with the natural and built world.

“EcoHome Magazine’s Website, “Living Large”

“EcoHome Magazine’s Website, “Living Large”

Our Austin project was recently published on EcoHome Magazine’s website. Check it out. Small houses living large…

SF “Green Grade” home program

Energy-efficient homes in San Francisco may soon receive an official
certification from the city, potentially boosting their resale value.

San Francisco officials are developing what they call the “green grade,” a designation that the city would place on the property records of homes that meet certain efficiency standards.

Read more, the original article can be found on here:

Working with an Architect

As part of the ninth annual Architecture and the City Festival the Smalls Firms Committee of the AIA is hosting an event called “Working with an Architect” on September 17-18 from 10am-1pm at the B&B Italia Showroom, 2211 Alameda Street. I will be answering questions on September 18th from Noon-1pm. Come by and discuss any home projects that you might be pondering.

The Architecture and the City Festival is the Nation’s largest architectural festival showcasing tours, films, workshops, exhibitions, lectures and more. All events are open to the public. See for more information.

Home Energy Rebates

There is a new home energy upgrade program funded by the California Energy Commission and California Utility customers called Energy Upgrade California.. The Program helps homeowners or renters make home improvements that increase the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes. It is billed as the “one-stop-shop” to guide you through the energy efficiency upgrade process. The one down side for many San Francisco residents is the requirement that your home must be a single family residence. Many of us, including myself,  live in multi-unit buildings.

There are two packages: The Basic Upgrade package and the Advanced Upgrade Package. The Basic Upgrade Package  includes a pre-determined set of improvements to obtain 10% energy savings along with a $1000 rebate.  The Basic package improvements are: air sealing, attic insulation, duct sealing, hot water pipe insulation (where accessible), thermostatic shut-off valve,  combustion appliance safety testing including installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) monitor,  and low flow shower head (recommended). There is a list of approved contractors that must be used. I would recommend using one of the BPI certified contractors. I have worked with the folks at Recurve in the past when they were called Sustainable Spaces. The professionals we worked with were very knowledgeable and were up to date on the latest building science.

The Advanced Upgrade Package optimizes the energy savings you can achieve and rewards you accordingly—the more energy you save, the higher your incentive with energy savings from 15-40% and rebates of $1,500-$4,000.  This package is based on an energy assessment of your home rather than a specific list of items. Recurve currently has a $99 special for their home energy assessment. I would recommend spending the money on the assessment so you know what other issues you need to address in your home. If you can’t afford to do it all at one time, you can always start out by improving the items in the Basic Package and phase the other improvements down the road.

I do not have any direct experience with the other contractors, so I can not comment on their work. I am not sure what the contractors are charging to make the Basic Package improvements. It would vary on each home depending on access issues and scope of improvements necessary, so I do not know what the payback period would be. It might be worth checking out. Visit for more information.

Cabinet Design

Check out the blog of Clayton Woodworks. They highlighted a large cherry cabinet that I designed. The post is titled “Economy of Space”