Gaines Group Architects
up cycle challenge

SVBA Home and Living Expo Upcycle Challenge “Turn Table”

SVBA Home and Living Expo Upcycle Challenge “Turn Table”

up cycle challenge

Upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. The Upcycle Design Challenge aims to remind people that, with a little creativity, what was old can be new again—perhaps even better than it once was! Our team of designers at Gaines Group Architects found a mid-century modern side table and record player and created a new “turn table.” We are donating the item to the MTC (Massanutten Technical Center) silent auction with 100% of proceeds supporting the building trades. Please attend the  SVBA Home and Living Expoon April 8th and bid on our “turn table.”

Before

up cycle challenge

After

up cycle challenge up cycle challenge

 

spray foam insulation

Mixed Humid Climate – Closed Cell vs Open Cell Foam

Mixed Humid Climate – Closed Cell vs Open Cell Foam

I posed a question this week about mixed humid climates – closed cell vs open cell foam. In a mixed humid climate, do you use open cell foam exclusively or can you use closed cell in some limited places?

In speaking to a very experienced architect on the subject, he hands down believes that closed cell is the answer for the typical wall system design. My problem – I can only find science that refutes his claim. 

Closed cell foam is a vapor barrier that will not let moisture flow through the wall system.

In our climate, where we have two seasons, we cannot have a vapor barrier. This is because it will produce moisture issues in the wall. The only way to prevent moisture issues is to include a dehumidification system as part of the HVAC design.

While I do want a dehumidification system in every project, we know they don’t always get installed due to budget cuts. However, the bigger issue is when the building is shut down for a few days. When people go on vacation and cut back the thermostat or schools are out for the summer the system is not running as designed. When this happens, you are going to have a mold problem. I cannot find any science to back up the claim that closed cell foam can be used here in our climate. If you want to give me some data, I would love to be able to achieve the higher R values that the product offers.

spray foam insulation

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attic stair air leak

10 Steps to help you “go green”

10 Steps to help you “go green”

There is a tremendous amount of information about going green on the news, television shows, and coming from corporate America. So how do you decide if “green” is right for you? Simple, do you like to save money, want to do less to maintain your home, want to use fewer resources to achieve the same goals? If you answered yes, then you are ready to go green. There are simple things that you can do to get started. Here are 10 steps to help you “go green.”
  1. Turn off the overhead lights and use lamps. Even better use LED or CFL bulbs.
  2. Use rechargeable batteries.
  3. Adjust your fridge temp to 37 degrees and your freezer to 0 degrees. While you’re at it, turn your thermostat back 1 degree.
  4. Recycle – it cost more to send something to a landfill than it does to recycle it. Do your locality a favor, don’t put it in the trash can.
  5. Print on both sides of the page.
  6. Fix any drips and install aerator on your faucets.
  7. Carpool or plan your trips to minimize driving – or even better, walk.
  8. Use reusable grocery bags – this will reduce the overhead of your favorite places to shop which will reduce their need to raise prices.
  9. unplug or use a power strip – a television draws as much electricity turned off as a 60 watt light bulb does turned on.
  10. Shop local for everything from your food to your architect! Less driving is good on the pocketbook and putting money back into your local economy makes your community stronger.

attic stair air leak

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ICF wall

LEED – Cost vs Value

LEED – Cost vs Value

LEED (Green design) and construction does not cost more, quality costs more. When weighing cost vs value in green design it is important to evaluate quality requirements.

LEED

LEED provides some quality standards

In a meeting yesterday it was pointed out that LEED certification would cost more because it is very difficult. The conversation revolved around getting the sub-contractors to do the things that the LEED program requires. For instance, they are not allowed to stack / store all the HVAC ducts within the construction space. They have to bring a trailer to the site to store the materials to be in compliance with LEED standards. The result, the material is not “lost”, abused, dirty, and beat up upon installation. You could save money by allowing the material to become “lost”, abused, dirty, and beat up prior to installation, but do you want a lower quality product?

It costs more to do it right. It costs more if the contractor takes pride in their work. “Because that is the way we always do it” is not a valid answer. The lowest price is often lower, because of less skill, care, or quality. LEED does cost more in some cases, but typically, it adds value to the project. Yes LEED has major flaws that need to be overcome. LEED 2009 is beginning to address those issues. However, we need a standard to measure quality, and LEED is a good start.

 

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energy efficient light

Making small changes each day will make a huge difference

Making small changes each day will make a huge difference

Small Changes will add up to make a big difference for us all. Making small changes each day will make a huge difference for yourself and your community.

There are many ways to go green daily. Many of these strategies save money and are not expensive to implement. Simple ideas done right such as planting a tree to shade your HVAC equipment can cut your energy costs. Even less labor intensive ideas such as changing light bulbs to LEDs or Fluorescent bulbs. You could use shades on your windows to reduce heat gain. You could open your windows when weather permits to cool your house. All of these ideas will save money, cut energy consumption. It can also reduce the demand on the power company to build new power plants. Sure doing all these things is only a small impact, but what if everyone in your community reduced their energy usage by 10-20%? You will then start to see large changes. It is time to stop making “green” a political discussion and start using common sense. Saving money is on everyone’s political agenda, going “green” will save you money – it just so happens that you will also be reducing your carbon footprint.

small changes

 

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energy audit

Easy ways to Save Money

Easy ways to Save Money

There are many challenges that prevent you from saving money each month. There seem to be bills due everyday and if you are like me, the paychecks don’t flow as fast. A house is one of the most complicated machines you will ever own and it comes with all kinds of financial demands. You have to maintain a yard, keep the gutters clean, trim the trees, clean the carpets, and maintain the roof just to name a few. So where do you turn to save some money on your home? What are the easy ways to save money?

The five most important things you should do this summer that are easy ways to save money on your energy bill:

  1. weatherstrip around all doors – if you can see light coming around the door, then air is coming into your home.
  2. insulate your attic access – scuttle or pull down stair, make it air tight and install insulation or an attic tent to keep the cool air in the cool space
  3. caulk around all electrical outlets inside and out – this is a common leak
  4. install a programmable thermostat (take off the cover and make the electrical box airtight)
  5. get an energy audit by a BPI certified professional

 

energy audit

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Construction Specifications Institute

Leaders Growing Leaders

Clay Nelson gave a presentation on Leaders Growing Leaders at Construct 2009 CSI Show in Indianapolis. His position is you have to train your employees to do what you do. This give you the ability to stay on the cutting edge and continue to be the visionary.

Construction Specifications Institute

So this concept, of growing leaders to advance your vision, grows the diversity and depth of your business. If you constantly answer questions and tell people what to do, you will have no time to do visioning. Clay says as a leader your job is to know what you don’t know. So if you set your goal to be right all the time then you have stopped learning.

Hence you should look for things you don’t know and focus on learning those things. Let your employees do all the things you already know. If they can’t, then you have not done your job of giving them the power. This is the only way to be one of the leaders growing leaders. Your staff will do what you let them do through your actions. If you always give them the answer, or if you tell them they are wrong when they bring you an answer, then you have given them no power to learn and grow themselves. Therefore, as a leader you have to stop telling and start asking questions.

Write down all the things you do for two weeks. As a result this will give you a job description of what you do now. What on the list can you have someone else do? Figure this out and you can start doing things you don’t already know how to do and you can grow.

A leader is only as great as the weakest part of his team. Don’t worry about making mistakes, mistakes = growth. Set an example, be what you want other to be. This will give you the leaders that you need in your firm.

This was a great seminar with a tremendous speaker.

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