Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Performance Counts!

Building EnergyStar homes for a rental market is a great step towards sustainability, but performance is a major matter. Over the past few weeks we've had a learning curve and some glitches with various systems. Here's some of the highlights from the line of products used:

- Bosch tankless hot water has maintained a steady temperature for three fixtures running at once. With a tankless system, though, just don't call for temperature extremes (ie all the way hot before going to preferred temperature). I think this habit comes from drawing as much hot water as possible from a traditional tank system to warm up cold pipes fast, but this makes the tankless run cold.

- One day after a tenant reported mold growing under the kitchen sink, SERVPro of New Bedford Specialist Gary OToole met me on-site to determine a remediation plan. Could the building be too tight? It turned out the mastic sealing the joint between the wall and floor kind of looks like mold under the cabinet. What a relief to discover the tenant was mistaken! Thank you SERVPro of New Bedford - SERVPro of the South Coast for the reassurance when I called with this "problem."

- In the winter the heat pumps kept things nice and cozy, but this summer staying cool in the high temps and humidity was a challenge. In general the heat pumps seemed to work best with some help such as window coverings, added fans, and keeping the thermostat set high or in dehumidify mode. In general the systems provided relief (after testing the charge and getting the condensate lines to drain properly) but it seems fine tuning will continue. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Completed Project Slideshow

LIvable Slideshow

Through craft design and cost consciousness, this project produced a refinement of our style into a low-cost minimalism. An earlier posting shows the design's floor plans and elevations now completed.

"It's a Beehive!"

A couple times while working on the project, I was told the building was a beehive. I think the beehive is represented in the density and the opportunity it creates for constant activity in the ecoNewBedford mixed-use building. Plus the nooks and crannies used to affect the mass of the building also give an impression of a beehive.

The townhouses have been called "livable housing", which is the result of a stylish and flexible design. The low-cost minimalism has a sophisticated effect with sparseness being "all you need." Amenities of energy efficiency, income potential, and outdoor patios nestled in the trees gives the units the livable qualities that quickly took them off the market! (see slideshow) These units are not your "grandmother's apartment" or your "college rental."

We are now looking forward to completing and occupying the remaining commercial space so the building really hums.

The plaster relief model shown above titled "Selfless Labor" was created by Arcangelo Cascieri, dean of the Boston Architectural College 1943-1947.

Cost of Construction in the New Economy

Properties are investments that are improved by being maintained and fully utilized. Understanding costs are critical to any construction project. Due to the new economy virtually any excess was eliminated, and in the end was not missed. This project revealed that choosing energy efficiency did not really effect project costs, and sensitive design provided for a low-cost high-style impact. 
For an informative and concise report 
click here

Buy Local Impact

Analysis of the project's financials includes totaling payments made to all suppliers, contractors, and employees from New Bedford.  More than 20% of the project budget added to the local economy, and this does not include local small business outside the City of New Bedford. Three jobs are estimated to have been created in New Bedford by this development project's buy local campaign.

Here's the list of New Bedford businesses we worked with:

Reliable Truss, New Bedford, MA www.reliabletruss.com
Beacon Sales, New Bedford www.beaconsales.com
National Lumber, New Bedford www.national-lumber.com
Franklin Bros, New Bedford, MA (508) 998-8270
Olivier and Sons, Inc. New Bedford, MA www.olivierandsons.com
Star Glass, New Bedford, MA (508) 995-0166
Tony's Appliance, New Bedford, MA www.shoptonysappliance.com
KD Heating & Cooling (508)990-9525
DeMello's Furniture, New Bedford, MA www.demellos.com
Fastenal, New Bedford, MA www.fastenal.com
C&M Flooring, New Bedford, MA www.candmfloorcovering.com
S&L Rolloff, New Bedford, MA (508) 996-9939
Santos Masonry, New Bedford, MA (508) 997-3722
ABC Disposal, New Bedford, MA www.abcdisposal.com
F W Webb, New Bedford, MA www.fwwebb.com
Rivet Street Hardware, New Bedford, MA (508) 994-3211
Rogers Paint, New Bedford, MA www.rogerspaintandwallcovering.com
First Citizens FCU, New Bedford, MA www.firstcitizens.org 
Neto Insurance, New Bedford, MA, www.netoinsurance.com
South End Business Association www.nbseba.com


Reducing, reusing, and recycling can all seem like tasks not worth the sometimes painstaking effort, except they contribute to an ongoing sense of accomplishment.  The savings may seem "small" but together add up. This is sustenance, and the efforts towards sustainability do lift us up.

On this project cost savings in disposal and material costs came from practicing the Three Rs, and they also had the benefit of helping the project stay organized. 

We are presently tuning systems and collecting data on utility bills. With the EnergyStar rating these townhouses consume roughly half the energy of a typical home. So far utility bills have been noticeably reduced. A more detailed reporting will follow when more history is available.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Across the Street at Hazelwood Park

This Sunday 8/29 from 1-5pm the South End Business Association is hosting it's first Car Cruise. Throughout the year this beachfront park hosts numerous activities and events just right outside the front door. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Keep Things Real Simple

This is a guiding principle that has sustained this project. Yesterday's Hazelwood Park Summer Fair Open House had a theme of buy-local refreshments that was lower on the week's priority list than getting the townhouses ready. Here's a photo showing the past week's effort.
By keeping things simple with the buy-local theme the Open House just came together. At the Fair we met Howard and Colleen (execellent BBQ chefs with a cafe soon to open on Acushnet Ave) and the west indian chicken and ribs were just thing to go with Fresh Portuguese Cheese from Westport (purchased at DeMellos Market), Cranberry Bread and Chocolate Covered Cranberries from Tihonet Village Market in Wareham and wine from Running Brook Winery in North Dartmouth (purchased at Freitas Package Store). 

Yesterday we were also running a booth for the Coalition for Buzzard Bay at the Fair. The Coalition is having a $10 membership drive that's being matched by an anonymous donor. This membership drive is a way to give local support to challenges being faced in our coastal waters especially now.  Having designed the Smart Growth Mixed Use Project featuring Energy Star Townhouses in response to the Coalition for Buzzards Bay Action Plan for Land Use we want to help spread the word about the Membership Challenge Campaign. See more.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hazelwood Park Summer Fair OpenHouses

Visit the ecoNewBedford Townhouses across the street from the Hazelwood Park Summer Fair on Saturday and Sunday from 1-3pm. Location: 468 Brock Avenue, New Bedford.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Designed for Today's Family

It is hard to believe, but we are wrapping up. Our first tenant came forward with the qualities that were in mind when planning these units. First off they are looking for a nice home for their new daughter. They are also interested in community revitalization and a sustainable future. Like many young people these days they have a tight budget, so they figured out they could enjoy these fresh surroundings by having a roommate in the private first floor bedroom. This bedroom and bath was always intended to be a flexible space. For the roommate,  this is a nice housing option. In addition the tenant owns a small business, and it's exciting to cross paths with N9NEPromotions. See the N9NEPromo posting about evolving their lifesytle. To see their latest streetball promotion click here.

Best Seafood Around

When  you come for the Hazelwood Park Summer Fair Open Houses and Fireworks, don't miss Davy's Locker a couple blocks away for the best seafood around with a spectacular view of Buzzards Bay.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Buy Local Campaign Continues

This project has run on the premise that Smart Growth construction can be completed by choosing local suppliers and contractors. The budget accommodates this through cost-effective design and the economic return to the community of which we are a part of. Often the local supplier competes just as well or even better than the national retailers. To be sure the national retailers have had a piece of this project, but this project is decidedly local.

The South End of New Bedford has amazing local resources for finishing your home. All of these businesses are within a mile, and are great for the income, jobs and street presence they create. Finding what you need in your village center is convenient, saves time and energy, and this hasn't been completely forgotten in this community. 

Appliances have been purchased from Tony's Appliance on County Street; both the selection and price were great. These were the most attractive appliances for the budget that I could find anywhere. The carpet is coming from C & M Flooring on Orchard Street near Goulett Square (click here for a brief slideshow from the South End Business Association). Paint has been from Rogers Benjamin Moore on County Street. Victor came out and did a color consultation that pulled everything together. He help me choose the colors that would be right together. Finally a beautiful modern lime green living room set is coming from DeMelos Furniture whose storefront is wondrously modern, spacious, and you look forward to seeing the changing rooms displayed inside.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sneak Peak

With a punch list a mile long, and floors covered in cardboard, all I can show of the interiors are photos of the kitchen that show the direction the townhouses are taking with a low-budget and  minimalist style approach. Note the stainless steel appliances from Tony's Appliance. (Click to see floor plans showing this kitchen) The cork flooring is from Portugal and sourced through Black River Flooring from my home state of Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"In Search of Eco-Cafe Entrepreneur"

Edible South Shore says it so well in the latest Spring issue. We're looking for a Eco-Cafe Entrepreneur to complete this Smart Growth Mixed Use project that brings innovation and efficiency to this fantastic beachfront neighborhood. As shown by the movement of "Edible South Shore", the Massachusetts South Coast region has a flare for self sufficiency that is supported by a lower-cost of living combined with a high-quality lifestyle. Take a look at the latest issue of Edible South Shore or look for copies at these south shore business locations
See our Eco-Cafe posting to get a feel for creating a friendly neighborhood business in the available space. Also view a posting about the townhouses that offers an ideal live/work setup.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recycle Everyday - Part 2

At least 40 five-gallon buckets containing either joint compound or paint were consumed on the job. Meg Hebert of the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District  directed me to A.W. Martin, Inc. to get these buckets recycled. I was told to be sure the buckets were relatively clean, and that took an hour of effort. When dropping off the buckets, I got an enthusiastic response from all of the staff and the comment that more builders should think about recycling. 
Sorting the trash always rewards me with less trash to pay to dispose of, and it is meaningful to produce less waste. The amount of cardboard and foam on this job is huge, and it would be pointless to cart any of it to the disposal site. Here's a link to my approach to reusing polystyrene  http://alternativearchitecture.blogspot.com/2009/12/affordable-energy-retrofits.html . See earlier post Part 1

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Building Up is Catching On

It has taken the whole recession to finish these townhouses, and we're almost there. Much of what has kept this project going is the belief that it matters to a wide community of small businesses. Every building project has this capacity. It is great to hear more stories like these being told on CNN's new segment "Building Up America." Take a look click here

One of the projects profiled is the adaptive reuse of a 1959 auditorium into a new stuning performance arts center. The techniques used at the Austin Long Center were also being used here in New Bedford in the transformation of a deteriorated commercial building. Recycling and building up this economy have been key to this Smart Growth Mixed-Use Project. Looks like building up is catching on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We've Met The Challenge !

In the summer of 2009, effortlessdesign, inc. signed up for the DOE Builder's Challenge Program where we committed to build homes with an Energy Smart Home Scale of 70 or lower. This a truly a challenge, because we make the effort to do things right. We are enthusiastic about finding air leaks and having our equipment work properly. The following graphic from the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website shows the scale of home performance.  From our building specification and initial blower door testing we will have a performance lower than 70, and our performance is also expected to be lower than the project depicted in the graphic. The eco New Bedford townhouses are roughly 60% better than the existing housing stock, and 40% better than the current energy code. If you lived here, you would reduce your carbon foot-print.