Monday, December 28, 2009

Shelter & Beyond Exhibit

In 2004 with fellow Boston Architectural College alumni and students, effortlessdesign curated and installed an exhibit titled Shelter & Beyond: Innovating for Communities in Need. One year later we purchased the underutilized commercial building on Brock Avenue (see before photo) with the intention of rehabilitating the building and innovating for efficient and affordable housing. In New Bedford, building innovation combined with a range of pressing issues from sustaining a watershed to investing in local business and recognizing vibrant neighborhoods. Over the course of the past five years the  need - both for the economy and the ecology - to design for these conditions has become more apparent, and the project became expressed as econewbedford. A portion of the Shelter & Beyond exhibit is now hanging in the smallest commercial space at 468 Brock Avenue. The title board to the exhibit included a passage inspired by Buckminster Fuller that can be read at

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the Season!

Due to the incoming storm, the Winter Solstice Brunch will be rescheduled to Sunday January 3, 2010 11am - 2pm

You are invited to tour the Energy Star Certified Townhouses in New Bedford’s South End.  Choose a date that works best for you to celebrate with effortlessdesign for getting the work done in 2009!

Winter Solstice Brunch

Sunday, December 20th 11am – 2pm

Lunch Hour Pizza Party

Tuesday, December 22nd 11:30am – 1:30pm

Smart Growth Mixed-Use Project

464-468 Brock Avenue

New Bedford, MA 02744

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Clear View

Leaves are mostly down. Photo taken on a recent super beautiful clear day. See before photo.

Heating System Turns On

This past week the heating and air conditioning system was turned on. From the neighborhood, very clued up, KD Heating and Air Conditioning brought the LG LMU185HV air to air heat pumps online. Ken DeMelo and Kris DeMelo are participating contractors in the CoolSmart program and are very in-tune to efficient hvac systems. This install is now being monitored for performance in the townhouses which are essentially a completely sealed foam box (integrated to a rigid frame of course).
The primary observation is that a room temperature in the low sixties feels completely and satisfyingly warm because there are zero drafts. 

Outdoor Condensor Units (one per townhouse)

Concealed Ducted Units for three bedroom spaces (same both units)

Wall Mounted Unit for central living area (same both units)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Energy Star Audit

This past week the two townhouses were evaluated for Energy Star and the Home Energy Rating System Index (HERS). 

Before the sheetrock goes up we will fix all of the leaks found through the blower door testing. The blower door sucks air out of the building and then an infrared camera is used to see where air is being pulled into the building. During the heating season these leaks push out warm air and let cold air in on a windy day.

Fixing leaks identified by the blower door test means valuable warm air won't  just be leaking out of the homes year after year. Despite very tight construction each townhouse was leaking 1800 CFM. Many people ask "but aren't tight homes unhealthy?" This is true if the house doesn't include a ventilation system. Stale air will be exhausted through a system called Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV). An HRV warms up the fresh air coming in with the stale being exhausted outside. 

In the attached video, conversations with Chris Mazzola of Building Diagnostics Sandwich, MA were recorded. Chris is a home energy rater who inspects the construction and measures its energy characteristics, such as insulation levels, window efficiency, wall-to-window ratios, the heating and cooling system efficiency, and the solar orientation of the home.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pictures From Hazelwood Park

A beautiful Fall day perfect for taking a stroll in Hazelwood Park across the street from the Smart Growth Mixed Use project.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Be a Bioneer - Connect for Change

The Marion Institute’s 5th annual conference Bioneers By the Bay will be held in historic Downtown New Bedford, MA, on October 23-25, 2009. We will be in the exhibition hall featuring sustainable businesses and organizations. Looking forward to meeting lots of people and introducing them to the Smart Growth Mixed Use project.

If You Lived Here, You Would Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

In a couple weeks we will begin the Energy Star certification with Building Diagnostics in Sandwich, MA. These two  three-bedroom townhouses have been designed to reduce energy consumption throughout. 
The systems include:
steam based dishwasher
water saving fixtures
fluorescent lighting throughout

Plus bus service right out the front door! And a beautiful shoreline all around... If you're interested in the lofts at Wamsutta Place, you'll like this location more!
Contact if you would like to lease one of these efficient homes. Move in after the holidays!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great System

A glassblock panel provides daylighting at the rear commercial vestibule. We used Pittsburg Corning ProVantage Glass Block Installation System, and it was the one of the easiest products I have ever used. Big Impact.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Green Building Open House October 3, 10am-4pm

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association has organized a Green Building Open House this coming Saturday. Visit the Smart Growth Mixed-Use project to tour and learn about the sustainable building practices we have used for high value solutions.
View Open House & Studio in a larger map

Just down the street you will find Fort Tabor with fantastic views of Buzzards Bay and an impressive fort and walking trails.

New Bedford Open Studios is also being held on Oct 3rd & 4th. effortlessdesign practices modern artisan design/build. Include visiting our project on your tour to the studios at 21 Cove Street. 

Putting the Pieces Together

The final touches are being brought together on the storefronts, new accessible entrance, and exterior. 

The rough construction phase of the townhouses is nearing completion, and we are planning to schedule walk-thrus and energy performance testing prior to starting the interior finish.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Recycling Everyday

Recycling has been a daily practice in the construction of the townhouses. This photo shows roof tiles saved from the original side parapets now  capping new parapets.

Other recycling has included:
- use of leftover flat roof insulation in the rear bumpout walls.
 - donation of leftover insulation from the EIFS to an area cultural group (see results).
- use of shipping panel from metal siding as a ceiling soffit.
- mixing paint leftovers to create the color and amount of paint needed for small areas.
- contractors putting drink bottles and cans in the recycle bin!
- cardboard packaging put out on the curb.
- all raw wood has been separated for wood stoves.

Throughout the construction of the townhouses, a dumpster has not been on-site. All construction debris has been transported as needed in the back of a hatchback, making the recycling  even more useful and practical.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Super Wiring

Medieros Electric passed our electrical rough wiring inspection. It was truly music to my ears to hear Larry Medieros, son of Joe Medieros, say how impressed he was with the wiring chases in the SIPs. The credit belongs to Branch River Plastics and R Control for their consistent, systematic layout.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


These photos taken last week show the completion of the exterior of the townhouses. Almost like a cocoon, lots of work has also been going on inside the two commercial units in preparation for the new storefront to be installed. The ATAS standing seam metal roof sourced from Beacon Sales is one of the elements used to distinguish this building from its traditional surroundings. 

The rear elevation shows the horizontal install of James Hardie Sierra 8 cement board panels to wrap the two story entry vestibule. In contrast to these "before" pictures, the transformation is almost complete.

Assembly Model

Our Masters Student from the Boston Architectural College, produced this model of the SIPs panels from the shop drawings. Generally these days physical models have been replaced by 3-D computer  modeling. However, this model was a test of the shop drawings and provided a visualization for the contractor that drawings just can not produce.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Take a Look

The New Bedford Economic Development Council has posted the brochure for the South End on its homepage. The brochure is part of a collection promoting the commercial opportunities of New Bedford neighborhoods. The demographic information included by the NBEDC is worth checking out.
Also see earlier posts "Mixed Use Prospects" and "What's Taking Shape"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Urban Life Sustains Us.

From Architectural Record, how the rough economy will strengthen our cities. Strengthening and bringing new engaging business into neighborhoods makes these villages more attractive and economical. You don't have to leave home to find something interesting and worth going to, and it is super healthy to get out and walk around. Well-maintained or newly constructed residential units compete very well on the residential market, and adding some more of these brings in more energy and diversity now as a preferred choice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's All About Adding Value!

"Sustainable, Eco-friendly & Green...all add up to Smarter Real Estate"

This tag line is from the
metroGREEN+BUSINESS webpage, and it repeats the premise of this project and blog that Smart Growth properties, particularly at the community-scale, are good investments. In return these projects are also important to the local economy both during construction and later by adding density to existing neighborhood and commercial districts. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Fair at Hazelwood Park Opens Today!

Over the next four days, June 4-7, the South End Business Association hosts the Hazelwood Park Summer Fair. The carnival rides and ocean views are truly breathtaking. The fireworks Saturday night will be thrilling too. Details at is sponsoring an announcement at the fair, and our SmartGrowth Mixed-Use project is just across the street. Take a look. We have flyers promoting the community market and internet marketing programs we are developing with the South End Business Association. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Added Two New Local Contractors!

During the month of May, two new contractors from the area began working on the project.
Medieros Electric of Dartmouth, contact, is experienced in wiring with the SIPs.
Ramiro Garcia also of Dartmouth, contact, was recommended by Joe Medieros for being a skilled general contractor with experience installing the Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS) with a sand, stucco surface. Ramiro has also recently completed a project in Westport using SIPs.
Both have begun working, and it is reassuring to see the SIPs now protected. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Latest Photo

The facade parapet is nearly complete except for caps to be added at the end piers. DeMaesschalk Restorations did a fantastic job on the "cool" standing seam metal roof from Coastal Metals. In the weeks ahead, looking forward to installing a new storefont into the center bay and completing the entry vestibule.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Contractor's Photos From the SIP Install

Putting the pieces of this project together is a specialty of DeMaesschalck Restoration. These photos taken last December are where it all started; putting in walls and even floors using SIPs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Community Markets

View Larger Map
Two parks in New Bedford's South End Neighborhood are particularly central to their immediate surroundings. Ashley Park (furthest north) faces the Goulette Square commercial district, and Hazelwood Park is midway down Brock Avenue where the Senior Center is located and adjoins the beaches facing Clarks Cove. The creation of a Community Market at either or both of these sites would be an important new community resource. The market brings a new and sustainable routine of picking up fresh food in a social setting. Since so many gardens are already cultivated in the neighborhood, the market would be a place to sell surplus and increase involvement in growing produce, sharing plants, and walking to shopping. Since Spring is in the air, planning needs to begin soon. More postings will follow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Transportation Connection

As a student from the Boston Architectural College , I've spent the past several weeks learning about Smart Growth and how the Brock Ave. project fits under the rubric of Smart Growth urban planning and development. Designing communities that provide a variety of sustainable transportation choices for the people who work and live there is a core principle of Smart Growth. 

The three restored commercial units create opportunities for goods and services to be provided locally, creating a "walkable" neighborhood. The project at 464-468 Brock Ave., although nestled in a predominantly residential area, lies within walking distance of other several other small businesses, shops, a public park, and a senior citizen's community center. The development of walkable neighborhoods provides multiple quality-of-life benefits, including lower transportation costs, greater social interaction, improved personal and environmental health, and a greater range of choices for consumers.

The Brock Ave. site is also favorable in terms of the availablity of mass transit. High quality mass transit services will reduce auto-dependency, alleviating the ever-growing problem of traffic congestion, and will overall improve commuter quality of life. Brock Ave. lies on the SRTA Bus Route 1, a direct route to New Bedford's downtown core. The downtown bus terminal provides the connection to SRTA Bus Route 9 to UMass Dartmouth and Fall River. Also departing from the downtown bus terminal, DATTCO provides daily commuter bus services to Boston, and Peter Pan Bus Lines provides daily commuter services to Providence.

Looking to the future, the Brock Ave. site also lies on the proposed routes for the South Coast Commuter Rail System, currently in the planning phase. The incoming commuter rail system will ultimately connect our small South End project to multiliple urban centers, and holds tremendous promise for the entire community of New Bedford.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We Get Around

This photo is a stretch of Rte 122A in Grafton, Massachusetts that links two ends of a mill village. We just submitted a proposal to work on streetscape, engineering, and planning to bring this village together. This is one of those landscapes where I look out and see opportunity at the community-scale. It is pocket to be developed. See earlier post
We partnered with Thompson-Farland,, a New Bedford engineering firm, and Community Design Partnership (see ) in Boston. 
This a great Smart Growth Project, and it would be fantastic if we all got to work together on this sustainable site.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eco Cafe

Here is an interior view of the cafe being considered in the center retail space. Work is planned to begin in the in the next couple weeks. The retail space is across from Hazelwood Park on a public bus route that connects UMass Dartmouth’s SMAST, the Sea Lab, amenities at FortTabor and the neighborhoods of the south end with downtown New Bedford. The “place” will have:
WIFI Connection
Fresh Bakery
Boar’s Head Sandwiches
Homemade Soups
Space For All Ages To Meet, Work & Relax

See previous post

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The BIG price we can no longer pay?

Working with our building from 1920, we get a glimpse into a world operating from a different perspective. Once looking a lot like the sketch on the right, our commercial building began as an investment property of three stores meant to serve the neighborhood. This building type is well-known throughout pre-WWII  neighborhoods, and our thesis advisor and mentor, Bill Boehm ( at the Boston Architectural College researched and classified this building type as a "taxpayer block."

Back in 1920 small (again by today's perspective) was the standard, and I suspect this was because it was economical. Yesterday with our architecture student, I attended a Regional Energy Strategy meeting (organized by the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District,, and UMass Dartmouth) where it was emphasized that reduction, conservation, and efficiency are essential for energy independence. 

As we layout plans for the coffeehouse our perceptions about space are challenged, BUT all of the stores in our commercial block offer limited overhead and plenty of street exposure. Efficiency makes them work, and especially for our neighborhoods and small business maybe it is time to think again that "less is really more." Could efficient be the new big? In a recent conversation with Bill Boehm he called this project "Smart-Growth for Main Street."

Working at the small-scale community level has been the on-going thread of our design business. Visit and call to schedule an assessment to improve the efficiency and increase revenue from your project or property. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roof's Going On

If I didn't have a fear of heights, I could tell you first hand about the fantastic view of the peninsula and harbor from our roof under construction. Instead I just hear from the daring carpenters that they can see all the way to downtown and then everything all around. I need to investigate adding a widow's walk to our modern lofts! 

Here are recent photos showing the roof trusses being craned into place.
This is one view out from the rear window at the top floor of the townhouses.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mixed-Use Prospects

Here is a spectacular aerial view of New Bedford's South End Neighborhood. More than 7,000 people live in the neighborhood, and more than 50 businesses operate shops providing goods and services to the community.

There's been a lot of discussion about opening a coffeehouse in this neighborhood. A venue with a relaxed open setting to meet, study, work, and access internet doesn't currently exist for the residents, students and professionals located here. 

On this blog's survey you have the opportunity to add to this discussion. We have tried to identify uses appropriate to the site. Please enter your preferences in the survey.

Below is the layout of three neighborhood commercial spaces on the ground floor of this project. The store on the corner is currently a convenience store. The center store is available for the coffeehouse and can be combined with the adjacent smaller store. Please contact if you would like further information regarding opening a business on Brock Avenue.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

SIP Assembly

Below is a sequence of photos of showing a wall being assembled as described in the shop drawings. Mark and Walter would like the manufacturer to group the panels in a wall together when delivered to the site.

Our Contractor and Local Suppliers

This recent sunny day photo was taken 12-23-08 on-site, and since then there's been just a few holidays and snow days. Given those conditions and the learning curve of installing SIPs on this project, our builder DeMaesschalck Restoration ( been doing quite well. In my experience it is best to work as a team, and over the past 6 months we have enjoyed a good working relationship with Mark DeMaeshalk and his partner Walter Collins.

Generally through the interview and bid process you find people you can have confidence in, and most folk's intentions are to do a good job. This is critical to remember, because it is easy to get frustrated during a construction project especially when it is rainy and snowy and there are plenty of details. On this project, Mark and Walter are in the process of becoming certified R-Control installers. Not only is this a smart growth project, it is a smart build project that requires the discipline of collaboration. Each member of DeMaesschalck gets this.  As designer I have seen there's a lot of detail in this project, which will be considered differently in future projects. It's a humbling experience.

Tony and I first met Fred Jacques and Kevin Arcand from Branch River Plastics ( at the Build Boston Convention. Located in the South Coast area, we contacted Branch River Plastics to prepare the first estimate when deciding to use SIPs. We looked at suppliers all over the Northeast and there are quite a few good suppliers to price panels. Branch River has a well-equipped production floor and the R Control system for producing panels. A building system should impact a design, and R Control details helped shape the townhouses.

When finalizing our construction drawings, the entire perimeter of panels in elevation was laid out. Walter and Mark made useful suggestions and pushed us to work with the advantages unique to SIP construction. The 4-foot module of the SIP panel was coordinated with the existing conditions, the intended form, and the available coastal window sizes with the intention of keeping the manufacturing and install as repetitive as possible. 3D representations tied to the shop drawings are a good idea, and even a 1/4" scale model would aid the construction process. (see model)

Our engineered framing supplier is Reliable Truss in New Bedford, who has worked very well with us. Identifying and working with Reliable Truss has been part of the strategy to support local business and support New Bedford. I really appreciate RT's understanding when our small site and trouble with the weather has delayed the shipment of our trusses. Reliable Truss and National Lumber have an extensive facility off exit 5 of Route 140.

The coastal windows arrived on-site Monday. We chose Jeld-Wen windows suggested to us by STOCK Building Supply in Lakeville. Because of the protection they offer, coastal windows cost significantly more than average windows and there are a limited number of suppliers in the Northeast. STOCK provided valuable guidance, because Jeld-Wen offers a good price, clear documentation, and availability in 3-4 weeks. The Smart Growth Residences have been designed to meet newly released updates to the Massachusetts State Building Code for 110mph windspeeds and improved energy performance; another example of smart design and smart investment.

Below is a list of other excellent subcontractors and suppliers we have used from New Bedford and the surrounding area.

Medieros Electric, Dartmouth, MA
Reliable Truss, New Bedford, MA
Beacon Sales, New Bedford
National Lumber, New Bedford
Franklin Bros, New Bedford, MA (508) 998-8270
Star Glass, New Bedford, MA (508) 995-0166
Jorge Drywall, Inc, North Dartmouth, MA (508) 999-2940
H.R. Cardinal HVAC, Fairhaven, MA (508) 995-5110
JCM Electrical Contractors, Inc., New Bedford, MA (508) 995-0165
Roger Caron II Plumbing, Fairhaven, MA (508) 991-6674
C&M Flooring, New Bedford, MA
S&L Rolloff, New Bedford, MA (508) 996-9939
Santos Masonry, New Bedford, MA (508) 997-3722
Labor Ready Systems, New Bedford, MA
Stock Building Supply, Lakeville, MA
Rivet Street Hardware, New Bedford, MA (508) 994-3211
Rogers Paint & Wall Coverings, New Bedford, MA (508) 992-2844
Blue Eagle Printing, South Dartmouth, MA (508) 994-2064
Fairhaven Lumber, Fairhaven, MA
A#1Crane Co.
South End Business Association

What's Taking Shape

A two-story residential addition is being built on top of the commercial building sometimes referred to as the olde "Crystal Market." The residences are side by side townhouses with modern open plans, and this blog has been included on website. On this site you can find information and inspiration about all things modern. 
The detailed plans are shown below, but the plan will be completely open when the SIP shell is finished being built. At this stage, the layout is adaptable to a range of alternative plans.

Below are the exterior views.