With NWGHVT (“v” for Virtual) coming to you over three successive Saturdays in May 2021 on your Internet connected device. We hope that you will join us again at this event. We offer conversations on topics you are interested in, virtual tours and discussions of new Green Home construction trends, products and ideas. It is a highlight of our professional year and a chance to show off our work and talk about your projects. Check out the plans for this year at https://www.nwgreenhometour.org/ and we hope to see you again in May!
As you have probably heard, Punxatawney Phil has seen his shadow and we have another month and a half of winter assigned to us. Great. It is actually quite a pleasure to be following innocent, non-news about a groundhog and not another emergency.
The sun setting later and later, is a reminder that the season is changing. The dogs appreciate the extra walking time and increased focus on getting outside. Of course, February is also good at reminding us it can still pack a wintery punch. No days off for remote workers or scholars this year, though the snow is still nice to transform the landscape for a few days.
We had the opportunity to get up to the mountains for some snowshoeing a couple weekends back. Getting a break from everyday rushing around, and being enveloped in a world covered in white was the balm our family’s collective souls needed to embrace another busy week, finishing up a 2nd-story addition, continuing work on a basement ADU while preparing to start another, all the while working away on a kitchen while talking about all the potential in store for our company in coming months. It’s a lot to juggle sometimes though we wouldn’t trade the work (nor the play) for the world.
I relish filling my lungs with Northwest air. I can taste how clean and different our air is from rest parts of the world every time I leave our region. The new summer smoke season makes me appreciate when I can really fill my lungs with the good stuff. Especially during COVID, air awareness has become a greater consideration in rooms and buildings; cross breezes are mapped to minimize sharing your breath with others and we anxiously take a deep breath of unmasked air as soon as we are in our safe zones.
And the summer smoke season really brought home (literally and figuratively) the importance clean air in our homes as the smoke particles found their way in through the tiny cracks and crevices in our walls and windows. What can you do to minimize your chances of breathing viral particles and standing smoke? There are many approaches, including:
- Attaching furnace filters to box fans.
- Window fans blowing outward to expel stale or polluted air.
- Avoid unconditioned spaces.
- Improve central air filtration.
- Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air WITH the right filtration (that is a whole science on it’s own!)
- Wear a mask, yes even in your home or vehicle.
- And, of course, air purifiers.
While it is easy to see when you need to dust or sweep, it’s a lot harder to see when your air needs cleaning. Air purifiers work by creating finer and finer filters. Purification can be improved by conducting a static electrical charge. Purification efficiency is measured in MERVs, a higher MERV rating means increased filtration from 1-16. Airborne viruses can be caught by any filter MERV 13 or greater.
Many of our design partners consider air quality in their design work and have seen an uptick in demand lately. One of them, Entero Design, has gone as far as to supply some great systems – such as one in which the air is filtered through a proprietary Coconut Carbon/Purafil media for a 99.26% efficiency, capturing particles of .3 microns and larger. The whisper quiet operation is Multi-Function, removing both gases and particles from air. Mighty House had one at our office that now (as that space is abandoned) is much appreciated at our home.
The New York Times Wirecutter article analyzed what they considered the Best Air Purifiers on the market.
Another option for more whole house ventilation and air cleaning is the Lunos HRV System. The system is composed of paired through-wall paired fan units with regenerative heat recovery cores. This captures heat from escaping air and puts it back into incoming air. These take a lot more forethought and finessing to install than a plug-in air purifier though also have a number of additional benefits too. Reach out to us to learn more.
The term pocket neighborhood sometimes referred to as “bungalow courts” or “cottage clusters,” was first coined by Ross Chapin of Ross Chapin Architects. Pocket neighborhoods tend to consist of about 12 homes that all face a common area that residents must walk through to access their front door.
Pocket communities really took off in the Pacific Northwest in collaboration with developers and builders, including The Cottage Company in Seattle, Triad Associates in Kirkland, and Artisan Fine Homebuilding. Third Street Cottages in Seattle, is a community of eight detached cottages located on four standard single-family lots. To help this vision come to life, the municipality adopted an innovative Cottage Housing Development (CHD) zoning code. The code allows for up to double the density of detached homes in all single-family zones.
Pocket communities also serve as a great solution for increasing the number of affordable units within a municipality. Creating small homes on small lots allows more compact development, which uses land efficiently and can offer greater access to amenities. Residents may also enjoy a smaller mortgage, with the option to enhance their home by selecting higher-end finishes. Then there’s the increasing value of these small homes. The Third Street Cottages, the first of the pocket neighborhoods, have resold for as much as 250 percent of their original price, proving their enduring appeal and value.
Small homes feed our recent fascination with resilience and sustainability because they meet the needs of communities that wish to increase density and reform land use patterns without losing the feel of a single-family community. Smaller homes also can reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through the use of passive solar energy, low water-use fixtures, and the abundance of vegetation in these communities found in the interior courtyard, personal gardens and surrounding open space. Additionally, the demographic shift toward smaller households and the rise in single-person households is driving a need for a more diverse housing stock that includes small homes.