Architecture

The designed and built environment

Banking on the Harvest

Petaluma Seed Bank interior 2

Why do banks give up these incredible buildings? The answer is probably very boring and financially sensible, but LOOK at this building and tell me do you prefer an ATM?

Anyway ... on our recent (and too short) northern CA vacation we made a trip to the Petaluma Seed Bank. If you enjoy seed catalogs, you will love this place. We browsed for quite a while and made small withdrawal (i.e. we bought some seeds).

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Slow and Steady Brings Results

Tortoise and the Hare

Over the past several years I've made incremental improvements to the building envelope of our home. Adding insulation above the garage ceiling is the latest in a string of insulation and weather sealing DIY projects. My slow and steady wins the race approach has chipped away at our natural gas usage. But, have I come to the end of the low hanging fruit?

Standing on a Carbon Sink

Installing a Douglas Fir plank floor

This might just look like a new wood floor to you, but it's also a carbon sink. In our search to replace our heavily worn carpet and vinyl flooring we looked at many options, finally deciding on locally harvested and milled Douglas Fir. I've always liked the feel and look of tongue & groove wood floors and this was a reasonably priced, local option for us.

A Long Road to Recycling Carpet

Carpet Pad bales

Out with the old, in with the new. We've replaced much of the flooring in our house (more on that here) and removed some very worn carpet. Before ripping out the carpet, carpet pad, cactus-like tack strips and hundreds of staples and nails I looked into recycling the old carpet. It turns out that you can recycle carpet (at least some kinds) but as usual for us, it required an extra effort.

The Cutting Edge of Water

Watershed Restoration Model

By necessity, life in the American Southwest depends on the availability of water. Aldo Leopold understood the importance of watersheds and those lessons are being re-learned today. Here is a documentary of a two day watershed restoration workshop held in October 2012 at Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center near Madrid, NM. "The Cutting Edge" was taught by Brad Lancaster, Amanda Bramble, Jan-Willem Jansens, Steve Carson and Craig Sponholtz. The workshop focused on catching, sinking, storing and using water where it falls.

Bathroom Remodel Part 3 - Trampled Under Foot

Linoleum roll

While replacing the deck and subfloor we researched bathroom flooring choices. Our criteria for the floor were: low maintenance and water resistant, not cold underfoot, moderate to low price, and preferably a sustainable product. Those requirements quickly narrowed the choices to linoleum.

Bathroom Remodel Part 2 - We Can Rebuild It

Water Pipes - Spray Foamed & Insulated

Our bathroom remodel is now on solid footing. Specifically, two layers of new plywood glued and screwed in place have replaced the water-damaged deck and subfloor. Half of the "wet" wall is replaced with new (full height) and reused (short pieces and blocking) 2x4 lumber. I've spray-foamed each of the water and vent pipe holes in the subfloor and wrapped the hot-water pipes for both bathrooms (they share the "wet" wall) with foam insulation. A can of spray foam and pipe insulation are cheap and help deliver hot water to the tap faster.

Bathroom Remodel Part 1 - Demolition Man

Gutting the Bathroom

Life is what happens when you are making other plans. For instance, instead of doing almost anything else I've gutted and am now remodeling our guest bathroom. Simply put, small water leaks can become big problems, especially given enough time.

A Cabin Full of Inspiration

Aldo Leopold cabin in Tres Piedras, NM

There is something about the Southwestern landscape that inspires people. Whether it's the mountains and deserts, the distant horizon, or the technicolor sunsets I don't know. But, something about this place sparks people's imagination. Case in point - Aldo Leopold. Something happened while Leopold was in Arizona and New Mexico that drove him to write A Sand County Almanac and to think about conservation in a new way.

New Tricks with Old Dirt

Compressed Earth Blocks

Adobe bricks are a traditional building material in the Southwest. Made with water, sand, clay and straw, adobe is simple to produce, has good thermal mass and is appropriate for arid climates. Unfortunately, building with adobe is very labor-intensive which has made this dirt-simple material quite expensive to use. Now there is a modern alternative to adobe that retains its earthen qualities at a much lower price - Compressed Earth Block.

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