Gail of Green Living


GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Building Envelope

3703 Drummond

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the above property for sale in the Medical Center neighborhood called Braes Heights, in Houston.  This owner/builder has researched and studied so many products and methods of green building, that I’m sure we can all benefit from his research.  This week I’m summarizing his research on The Building Envelope, the backbone of  The Building System.  This is where the outside environment conflicts with the inside.

Traditional builders still use the wood framing method, which falls short in regard to durability (termites, wood rot, mold), and it requires added insulation.  Steel framing is quite expensive, and it’s difficult to find people who know how to do it.  It also requires insulation.  Thermal bridging is an issue with wood, and more so with steel.

SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) are easy to manufacture and provide good insulation and strength.  They can be made to various sizes with window openings all pre-cut.  They are easy and quick to assemble.  The roof system can also be SIPs, with modest trusses, allowing for open and attractive interior spaces.  They do not suffer from thermal bridging, which is another plus.  The downside of SIPs is the fact that they limit the design of the home to a simple gable design with relatively few corners.

ICF (Insulated concrete forms) have been around for fifty years.  There are lots of manufacturers and this construction method is widely used in Canada and some northern states.  It is extremely strong, with 5″ foam insulation sandwiching 6-1/2″ of reinforced concrete.  Convection is not an issue and no termite wants to eat it.  The R-value of the system itself is about 25.  But when you take into account the thermal mass, the lack of convection or conduction and add in the radiant barrier/moisture barrier and air spaces, plus the exterior finish (stucco, stone or brick) and the sheet rock on the inside wall, the number is probably more like R-50!  There are no seams like in the SIPs system.  And a 14″ thick wall makes for a quiet home.  OK, this ICF has massive strength, the thermal mass, resistance to heat movement, sound dampening, resistance to convection moisture, bugs, wind, fire…so this is what makes sense!  The additional cost was $3/sq.ft over the cost of wood framing…amazing difference it makes!  They found a company in Texas that makes the product, BuildBlock ICF, and their service and reputation are first-class.

The roof information in my next post will amaze you!  Meanwhile, if you would like to see more photos and details of this beautiful home, click here or contact me for a personal tour.



GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale

3703 Drummond

This home for sale is in the Texas Medical Center area in Braes Heights.  This home proves you don’t have to be “hippy” to be green!

I am going to tell you all about it over several postings, because the design and building processes were thought through so well, with every detail considered, and every system working with the total package.  I am confident you will learn something about green building in Houston, TX, and the materials necessary to make the total package efficient.  The owner calls it a Building System that is specific to the U.S. Gulf coast.  So this system addresses the environmental stressors on a home, as well as sustainability, efficiency and long-term cost issues.  Instead of “traditional” home building, which is done for the day of sale, this one was built for the long haul!

The owner consulted with the inventor of an amazing radiant barrier, and he referred the owner to Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Lab.  The Aggies committed to a project where they would design, build, study and complete the Building System.  Together with the owner, they researched all the sub-systems typical in a house—the walls, attic, roof, HVAC, electrical, rain-water collection, etc., over 300 products and technologies.  They narrowed the list to include products and technologies that actually do work together.

The benchmark for the decision-making was always, “What makes sense?”.  They did not throw in materials and systems just for the sake of “going green”.  The return of investment was critical in their decisions.  Todd Rice, of Rice Residential Designs, took the components of the home that were chosen, and designed a beautiful home that fits in with other new homes in Braes Heights.  Interfield Group was the engineering firm chosen to carry out the ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction, and this group knew how to take the project through the “Fortified” rating process.  This was the first home in Houston to achieve this rating.

Choosing a builder became a challenge, because the green builders wanted to charge way too much, so the owner decided to form his own company, Durable Residential Builders, LLC.  Rice Residential Design introduced him to Jim Kuchenbrod, who had experience with this construction method, and he seemed to have the same level of passion as the owner, so they became partners.

In my next posting,  I will define the elements of this green home.  Meanwhile, if you are interested in seeing this home for sale or learning more about it, please contact me through my website, www.medcenterhomes.com.



A Tall and Tiny House in Texas
August 18, 2011, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Green Building--Residential, Green Living | Tags: ,

Marfa, TX, is known for its community of artists and freethinkers, so it makes sense that the town’s architecture would reflect its populace’s values. Architecture firm Candid Rogers contributed the Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox to the residential mix, and it fits in perfectly with Marfa’s collective aesthetic. At 320 square feet, it’s a tiny, inspiring addition. The home’s architecture consists of two stacked boxes clad in rusty Cor-Ten steel siding. The simple, modern structure features a minimalist awning that opens from one wall into the home. This awning structure pays homage in look to the artwork of Marfa’s most famous resident, minimalist artist Donald Judd. In its explanation of the vision behind the Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox, Candid Rogers noted,

“As a retreat for thoughtful repose, the Marfa Lightbox embraces the site and landscape of the Southwest. Offering unique connections to the local landscape and the landscapes beyond, including the stellar and fictional.”

It makes sense that a building in Marfa would reference the fictional world of artist and writer, since the town has attracted these creative types for decades. And since Marfa’s been rumored to be a prime destination for extraterrestrial visitors, the stellar reference makes sense, in a wacky way, as well. The Marfa 10 x 10 Lightbox won the AIA San Antonio Design Award, 2007 and the AIA National Small Projects Award, 2008.  This tiny house is a great example of green architecture and green building.

Photos courtesy Chris Cooper and Candid Rogers