spacer search
Facilitating a local and worldwide synergy of suppliers, builders, architects, planners, educators, and visionaries committed to Creating a Sustainable Future for ourselves and generations to come
Main Menu
Contact Us
About Us
Home arrow Blog arrow 1302 VALLEJO ST.-"SOLCATCHER"

Written by John Sarter   
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
A New Paradigm in Residential Design



for more information

contact; for more information
A Residence By
Efficient by Design, LLC
John J. Sarter

   I have been in the construction industry in the Bay Area for over 30 years, and owned and created my  Design/Build firm for 22 of those. In my time here, I have witnessed the state of residential design in the area as it has transformed and evolved into various stages of existence, as economic socio-economic factors have influenced different areas in different ways. For the most part, the industry has been driven to change and evolve by these factors. We have all witnessed the ever increasing size and waste of design, space, and resource utilization as areas became more affluent, and incomes and demographics changed along with them. There is now, however, a new and ever more important force which in time, hopefully a short time, will change the way we design, build, and live in our homes and communities. It is a force which most everyone has heard of by now, and has the potential to change the very existence of life on this planet in profoundly negative ways. I am of course referring to global warming.

   The time for debate and denial has thankfully come to a close, and there is no longer any scientific basis for doubt; we are in the midst of a planetary crisis that has vast potential to negatively impact the quality, and indeed even the quantity of life on our planet as it now exists. We can no longer continue to blatantly disregard the obvious consequences of wasting of resources and sources of energy that we have for so long taken for granted. The picture is indeed quite grim if we do not heed the warnings of our top scientists and find new ways to design our future. Generations to come will look back at this transitional time and we will be judged 
accordingly as to our strength of convictions; our actions and our in-actions.

   Forty percent of the energy we use as a society is used by us in the buildings we create. In response to the mounting evidence and growing urgency that we have a serious problem to address; a tremendous responsibility to our children and future generations; We are presenting in this project what we hope to be an ongoing part of our contribution in the evolution of efficient residential design and construction.
   The size and basic architecture is in keeping with the rest of the surrounding neighborhood, predominantly 1950's single story ranch and bungalow style homes with simple hip and gable roof structures. I have brought the scale of living down to the "old scale" of these typical 1950 homes, rather than the excess and waste of more contemporary structures; a more  reasonable volume without sacrificing comfort and privacy. We've designed this residence so that it utilizes natural elements of heating and cooling; The sun warming thermal mass for heating through the south-facing gables and windows over the main living areas, and that same thermal mass shaded and in contact with the earth, and increased air-flow in the summer for cooling. The central courtyard will not only provide comfortable private outdoor space, but will act as a central breezeway, drawing air through the surrounding rooms when desired. Carefully designed elements have been designed for summer shade and air-flow, natural day-lighting, and winter solar-gain. In addition to these passive elements, designed to maximize the "free" energy available on the site, We plan to incorporate the most efficient appliances for living, lighting, heating and cooling of air and water available within reasonable budgetary constraints, and plan to have photo-voltaic panels to help power them.

   Passive House Certified structures are 70 to 90% more efficient for heating and cooling than conventional homes. This level of efficiency, combined with on site renewable energy sources, and a new state of the art lithium ion energy storage system will allow this home to be completely carbon neutral, including transportation, in an affordable way. It will be off-grid capable, or grid tied if preferred for reselling excess power back to the utility company.

   A very important additional goal is to make this level of efficiency affordable to a wide segment of our society. This home should be marketable in the $500,000 range, very affordable for a new single family home in Marin County. On-demand tank-less water heating, and Photo-Voltaic solar panels for electricity mounted discreetly back on the almost due south facing garage roof will be incorporated. I plan also to provide not only a charging station for plug-in electric or hybrid/electric vehicles, but also a plug-in electric vehicle along to the new occupants of this home. In this manner, the energy produced by the photo-voltaic cells can be utilized for transportation around town, and eventually beyond as plug-in electric automotive technologies become more available. The light colored roof is designed to reflect sunlight and reduce any need for cooling equiptment. If we as a society put reflective coverings on all our built structures and surfaces, it may help to offset the continuing loss of reflectivity from the shrinking polar ice caps. The  run-off capture from rain falling on the roof will be collected for irrigation of landscape and/or disposal of sewage within the home, (flushing toilets, irrigation, etc.). The walls of the home will be manufactured from sustainable lumber sources in a factory where the waste coefficient is a mere three percent, then shipped to the site all at one time for installation. Insulation will be from recycled materials. Shear wall materials shall be made from recycled wood fiber. Cabinetry and other wood trims shall be from sustainable sources. Ideally, I would like this home to produce as much electricity or more than it consumes. That will depend to a large part on its overall efficiency and the number of P.V. solar panels installed, but again, I believe it is important that it be done within an affordable budget. Having an electric rechargeable vehicle obviously adds substantially to that demand, but I believe the concept is very important. The P.V. system will be assembled in such a way as to be expandable as well, to grow along with the demands for recharge-ability and range.

   In closing, I want to emphasise that these are times that require us all to begin to think outside the normal and traditional paradigm of residential design, construction, and living. This is my attempt to bring some of my ideas about letting the site design the structure to the table to share, and to contribute to an effort that I believe is worth making, by all of us as architects of the future for which we are responsible. For the good of everyone, and every living thing on our Earth. We are truly all in this together. Sincerely and Respectfully submitted,

John Sarter,
Efficient by Design, LLC

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 April 2013 )
Green Building Resources
Buildin Design & Construction
Common Sense Design, resource page
Environmental Building News
Frank Lloyd Wright
Get into Green, at the National Building Musem
Green Affordable Housing
Green Building Community.Com
Green Sage
International Initiative for sustainable built environment
LEED for Homes, energy certification from the USGBC
List of recycled building products from the Ca.Integratd waste management board
Marin County Green Building Program
Marin Max Reuse
National Renewable Energy Labratory Homepage
Oikos Green Building Source

(C) 2023
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.