Green Architecture
Morning trees White Plains, NY

Morning trees White Plains, NY

Sometimes when you are surveying a new project you get some cool photos.

Go Solar

Go Solar T-Shirt design. Pen and ink sketch with colors added in Photoshop.
Available at:
Redbubble – kjadesign

Residential Projects

Residential Projects

Some of my favorite projects from the last few years.

Katonah Residence – Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator

Katonah Residence – Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator

This pneumatic vacuum elevator (PVE) was installed at our Katonah project and connects the basement/garage level of the house with the main living area. Basically, the PVE uses air to transport the elevator cab, no moving parts, eco-friendly, translucent, quiet and can lift up to 600 lbs. The clear pine stained 2 x 4 screen protects the floor opening and mimics an existing screen at the living room. The glass block window behind allows light to filter through the elevator and down into the basement.

Ten Reasons to Hire a Residential Architect

Ten Reasons to Hire a Residential Architect

I wrote this for an article several years ago and still find it to be a good guide for clients in discussing the value of hiring an Architect.

1. Get ideas! An architect applies a lifetime of practical, historical and design knowledge to your project. Present the Architect with a clear idea of what you want, but let the Architect show you how to achieve it. You will be surprised by the variety of solutions that are possible.

2. Develop a Concept: An Architect will help integrate your ideas and develop a coherent concept that pulls the project together. Share the sketch plans, photographs and wish lists you have gathered for your project with the Architect. An Architect will help you review and modify those plans and wish lists to produce a concept that improves on your original vision. The concept for your project can be a simple ordering principal of horizontal and vertical lines that make up the building façade. The shape of the building may define an exterior courtyard. The building may fit closely to the topography of the site. A detail or set of details on the existing home may be exaggerated on a new addition. Whatever the concept for your project is it will help define a design in which everything comes together.

3. Is the Project Realistic? Consult with an Architect early in the process to determine if the project is realistic based on codes, zoning, size budget etc. By being involved early in the process, an Architect can help direct your project to a successful conclusion.

4. Prepare preliminary designs: Before incurring the expense of preparing complete construction documents, for filing with the building department and contractor bidding have an Architect prepare preliminary designs. The initial (schematic) designs will show you what is possible with your project. The Architect can then provide construction budget estimates for the schematic designs that will help determine the next steps for your project.

5. Cost: The costs of Architectural services are a small fraction of the total cost of a building project. A good Architect often saves the Owner a sum much larger than his fee. Paper and computer walls are far cheaper to modify than wood and masonry walls.

6. Construction Budget: Develop a realistic construction budget for your project. Architects are familiar with local construction costs and can help determine preliminary budgets with contingencies for your project. As the Architect develops a design, the budget can be refined to reflect the specific character and details of the project.

7. Reducing Construction Cost: The reduction of construction cost is often viewed in terms of lowering material and labor costs. However, the biggest savings can come from only building what you need. An architect will help you decide what you need and the most cost effective way to achieve it.

8. Environment: Your new building will be in harmony with your property (land). Well-designed architecture compliments the natural environment. Besides knowing local zoning ordinances and building codes an Architect will design a home or addition that takes advantage of and compliments the natural features of you property.

9. Value added: Your addition or alteration will compliment and enhance the existing style of your home. Whether your home is colonial, contemporary, Victorian or a combination of styles an Architect will be familiar with each of those styles and will prepare designs that enhance and add value to your home and the neighborhood. That value eventually transfers to sale price that you can obtain for your home.

10. Think Green: Design green to build green. A green home, addition or alteration is smaller and consumes fewer resources to build, maintain, heat and cool. An architect can help you design an efficient, beautiful and sustainable project. See my blog post “Green Building for Residential Projects” for more on this subject.

Green Building for Residential Projects

Green Building for Residential Projects

The following are practical, cost effective and environmentally friendly design ideas that can be employed in residential projects.  These strategies will improve energy efficiency, reduce material consumption and in turn lower utility bills and maintenance costs for your home.

Kent Johnsson AIA

Design Strategies

a)    Reuse the Existing Building:Whenever possible save as much of the existing structure (or a portion of it) for the new design.  Too often, the entire building including the foundation is removed to make way for a new building.  By keeping as much of the existing construction as possible you reuse and save on materials and labor costs.  In the process, you do create some design “constraints”, but often those constraints can lead to amazing designs.

b)   Keep the Building and Additions Small: Reuse, redesign and reprogram existing spaces to meet your new needs. Make multi use spaces that open to each other and minimize circulation.  By redesigning existing spaces, you can often minimize the size of new additions and meet the same program requirements.  This helps keep construction cost, conditioned space, lighting, material and resource consumption, and site disturbance to a minimum.

c)    Building Orientation: Ideally, a new building will be aligned along an east-west axis so windows and roofs face either north or south. This affords the best opportunity for passive and active (photovoltaic) solar gain strategies.

When possible place smaller windows on the north side and large windows on the south side to minimize heat loss and maximize solar gain during the winter. It is important to shade south-facing windows during the warmer summer months to minimize solar gain during the cooling season. Overhangs, trellises and other types of sunshades can be designed to admit the low winter sun while blocking the higher summer sun. Deciduous trees are also excellent for this purpose, admitting light in winter and providing dense shade in summer.

Proper building orientation can also provide interior day lighting, which helps reduce the artificial lighting load and electrical consumption.

d)   An Open and Flexible Layout: When possible combine functions in a single space, ie a Family Room that also functions as a large Dining Room when extra space is required or a Home Office that serves as a Guest Bedroom.  Break down the barriers (walls and halls) between spaces and they become more flexible.  An open floor plan helps reduce construction cost, improves daylight and natural ventilation, minimizes material use, and eases reconfiguration of the space for future uses.

e)    Solar – Photovoltaic: Consider the location and orientation of photovoltaic panels early in the design process so that they are well integrated in the architecture and do not look like a last minute addition to the design.  In addition, in general, sizable rebates are available from utilities for photovoltaic installations if proper application, filing and permitting procedures are followed.

f)     Solar – Hydronic: Consider using glycol filled roof-mounted panels to harness solar energy, which can be used to reduce water-heating costs and (assist) in heating radiant floors.  Water heated by a glycol loop can be stored in an insulated storage tank or used within in an oil-fired boiler to supply supplemental heat.

g)   Solar – Passive: Use your southern window/glass exposure to heat a masonry or tile and concrete floors during the winter months.  Create an interior masonry mass (fireplace) wall that is heated by south facing windows or skylights. Passive solar strategies have been around for a long time and can be very effective but seem to have fallen out of favor for product based solar solutions.  There is not even a LEED category or points for passive solar design.

h)   Floors: Eliminating floor finishes reduces material/resource consumption.  When practical consider using a finished concrete floor with hydronic heating in lieu of wood framed floors above a crawl space or basement.  This combines a natural floor with an efficient and comfortable form of heating.  In addition, many concrete finishing options are very cost effective when compared with carpet and tile, and easier to clean and maintain.

i)     Stormwater: Almost every community today has regulations related to storm water runoff from new roofs, patios, driveways and other impervious surfaces and how that water is collected and then dissipated back into the ground.  More often than not, this involves the use of drywells.  Two more effective and environmentally friendly solutions are the collection of rainwater for use in site (plant and lawn) irrigation and the creation of “rain gardens” to collect water runoff.


Green Concepts for a Residential Project