MELISSA RAYWORTH, For The Associated Press | It’s a design opportunity that’s easily missed: Even the most stylishly decorated rooms often have bland wooden doors with cheap hardware.High-end designers have always made doors a priority, says Brian Patrick Flynn, an interior designer and founder of FlynnsideOut. “If you look at any Fifth Avenue apartment” in New York City, he says, “you’ll probably fall in love with their doors because they blend architecture with decorating and make it really special.”

But many of us ignore the doors in our homes, not realizing what a difference they can make to the look of a room. Whether your style is traditional or modern, subtle or bold, improving your doors can give your rooms an easy facelift.

Interior designer Emily Henderson, host of HGTV’s “Secrets from a Stylist,” uses doors as a canvas for anything from wallpaper or stenciling to textured paint or artfully applied gold leaf. Decorated doors can “bring a bit of surprise glamour,” she says, and highlight architectural elements.

But know what sort of change you’re looking for. “Sometimes you want your door to be disguised” and blend quietly into the space, Henderson says. Other times, you’re seeking a burst of color or texture to draw attention.


Painting with bold or contrasting colors can quickly make a door the star of a space, Flynn says. Try painting an entire door white and letting it dry for at least one day. Then put painters’ tape over the areas you’d like to keep as white accents, and paint the entire door another color (glossy black is great, he says). After removing the tape, touch up any imperfect spots with a tiny brush.

Another option that Flynn loves: Have doors upholstered with leather or geometric print fabric to add softness and style. Leather is easy to wipe clean, he says, and “if it ages over time, that only adds to the look.”

Bring the door to an upholsterer or do it yourself by wrapping the door in cotton batting and attaching fabric with a staple gun along the sides. Tap the staples with a hammer to recess them, then paint over them in a color that matches the fabric. You can also glue ribbon over the staples to hide them.


“Look at your doors,” says Los Angeles-based designer Betsy Burnham. “Do they all match?” If you want a cohesive style throughout the home, try painting every door the same color and accessorizing each with the same stylish hardware.

Burnham usually chooses white or off-white paint for doors and door frames, “but in one house I did all the doors sort of a khaki,” she says, “which was more modern.” If you want a bolder statement, she suggests painting all the doors a dark shade of charcoal and using oil-rubbed bronze doorknobs.

Henderson and Flynn agree that consistency is important for doors that all face the same hallway. On the sides facing into rooms, you can indulge your imagination. But for the sides facing a hallway, “it could look unintentionally messy” rather than creative if the hardware and paint colors don’t match.


Doors are a great way to personalize a space, Burnham says. A classic six-panel door has a very different feeling than a heavy wooden plank door with lots of dramatic hardware.

Front doors can be a great place to express your style. A custom-designed door with expensive hardware can have a huge impact and be worth the investment, Burnham says. One option is to “keep the house sort of neutral and do a pop of color at the front door,” she says. “We’ve seen red doors used really well. You could even do a bright teal.”

Inside your home, you can use doorknobs and other hardware “like jewelry,” Burnham says. Try crystal or chinoiserie knobs, oiled bronze metal hardware or shiny chrome, depending on your style. Lately, Flynn has merged fun and function by putting elaborate door knockers on bedroom doors.

If you want to highlight your home’s history or just bring a vintage look to the rooms, consider using doors reclaimed from older buildings. Flea markets and antique shops may have great doors for low prices. They can be accessorized with vintage hardware or new pieces in a vintage style.

But Henderson cautions that installation can be tough. “I’ve tried replacing knobs,” she says, “and it’s actually turned into a bit of a nightmare.”

Another nontraditional option: Use shiny, metallic paint or cover the back of a door with chalkboard paint so you can leave quick notes, scrawl grocery lists or let kids get creative.


If closet doors swing out into a small room, consider replacing them with bi-fold doors or pocket doors. Or remove closet doors entirely and turn the area into open shelving. To give it a finished look, wallpaper the closet interior and hang tieback draperies where the doors were.

Burnham loves this idea, but says it only works if you’re someone who will keep storage areas neat. Many clients ask to have doors removed to expose open shelving, she says, “but it’s a really special client who can keep that looking great.”

One last bit of advice: If you do remove bi-fold doors, don’t get rid of them. They make great freestanding room dividers, Flynn says, especially if you paint or upholster them. In a bedroom that doubles as an office, “it’s a great way to delineate work space from sleep space.”


To see more of Trilogy’s unique designs and doors, visit our Instagram page.


Trilogy Partners is to attend The American Institute of Architects Conference in Orlando this April 27th-29th. Trilogy will be the guests of SketchUp at the conference, where they will be demonstrating and talking about Trilogy’s Project Management Modeling and how this process complete with SketchUp software is changing the way homes are designed and built across America. Trilogy wants to educate the industry and market about their process, and the close relationship Trilogy has with SketchUp is helping them achieve this.


Michael Rath, CEO of Trilogy comments “Trilogy Partners is thrilled to be invited to the 2017 American Institute of Architects convention to present our Project Management Modeling process to 25,000 architects and industry professionals. We are excited to share our process that puts clients as the center of a project while showing every design detail of a home’s exterior and interior, all while being more efficient with time and materials. We think PMM is going to blow the roof off of AIA!”

From all of us at Trilogy we would like to say a big thank you to our friends at SketchUp for your continued support of our Design Build firm in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Please see our recent interviews with SketchUp on their website.

Part I 

Part II 

Preserved historic structures line main street Breckenridge giving the town much of its charm.

Much to the consternation of developers and redevelopment agencies intent on demolishing historic buildings and constructing new ones, these days, in the name of going green, preservationists are making the case that “the greenest building is the one already built.”

“When we first started working on sustainability issues and tried to get people thinking about the environmental value of reusing buildings, rather than tearing them down and building new ones, we were greeted with arched eyebrows and polite nodding heads,” explains Patrice Frey, director of sustainability research for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “That’s changing now.”

“This whole idea that reusing existing resources — especially historic buildings — is the ultimate in recycling is beginning to get some traction,” agrees Donovan Rypkema, one of America’s most prominent and outspoken preservationists, and author of the classic book in the field, The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide.

Helping historic preservationists present their case are new studies that calculate what is lost — in measurable environmental terms — when we tear buildings down and replace them with new ones. Plenty of studies have demonstrated the merits of constructing new green buildings, but until recently, there’s been relatively little data available on the economic and environmental benefits of building reuse. Some of the latest reports calculate both the enormous amount of energy and materials already locked into buildings (embodied energy), and the significant carbon emissions they represent.

Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the construction of a building, from the acquisition of natural resources to product delivery. This includes the mining and manufacturing of materials and equipment, plus their transport. A discussion of embodied energy first arose during America’s energy crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Embodied-energy researchers developed a handy calculation: By entering a building’s size and type (residential, commercial, hospital, etc.), it was easy to do the math and come up with a quick estimate of the amount of energy saved by preserving a building.  Embodied-energy calculations had little influence on the old-versus-new building debate, though because it was believed that the embodied energy content of a building was rather small compared to the energy used in operating the building over its life. Most conservation efforts were, therefore, put into reducing operating energy by improving the energy efficiency of the structure

Nowadays, it’s accepted that embodied energy can be the equivalent of many years of operational energy, and that new construction requires enormous expenditures of energy and materials. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 30 to 40 percent of natural-resource extraction every year goes to the building industry.

Meanwhile, to the delight of preservationists, old buildings have been adjudged to be surprisingly energy efficient. U.S. Department of Energy research on the energy performance of existing buildings ascertained that commercial buildings constructed before 1920 use less energy per square foot than buildings from any other period of time except after 2000. Older buildings, it seems, were constructed with high thermal mass, passive heating and cooling. And, obviously, were built to last.
Some builders acknowledge that historic commercial buildings use less energy than buildings of more recent vintage but insist the exact opposite is true of homes — the older the home, the worse the energy consumption is likely to be. Yes, but historic preservationists counter that recent studies show older homes can be remodeled and upgraded to meet energy standards at less cost — and at less cost to the environment — than tearing down and building new ones. That was the conclusion from a study in England by the Building and Social Housing Foundation and another in Scotland commissioned by Historic Scotland. Both studies also looked at the carbon impacts of building new homes compared to retrofitting old ones. The BSHF study commissioned by the Empty Homes Agency found it could take as long as 35 to 50 years for a new green home to recover the carbon expended during the construction process, while the Historic Scotland estimate was 15 to 20 years.
“The idea that even the most energy-efficient new house could require a minimum of 15 years to recover carbon ought to be reason enough to give us pause,” says Frey, “and take a second look at retrofitting our existing housing stock.”

Preservationists admit there is still some fuzziness in how exactly embodied energy and carbon emissions are measured. Noting that well over 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions come from construction and operation of buildings, The National Trust for Historic Preservation launched its Preservation Green Lab in Seattle to conduct further research. “The goal of research at Green Lab,” says Frey, “is to develop tools and resources to enable policymakers and decision-makers to get needed residential and commercial growth and at the same time protect what is already there.” (Run your dwelling through their embodied energy calculator here.) Most everyone, though, remains resistant to reusing and retrofitting buildings. Architects like to start from scratch, developers don’t want the hassles of rehabbing existing buildings, and new construction is a mainstay of the U.S. economy.

“The most unenlightened in this regard are the traditional environmental advocates and the U.S. Green Building Council and their LEED certification,” Rypkema jabs. “If it isn’t about a waterless toilet, solar panels or saving the rain forest, those groups don’t think it’s about the environment.” As Rypkema sees it, the environment and historic preservation have one thing in common: to understand their importance to society, you have to think long term. But in his experience, “The myopically short-term perspective of elected officials means they focus on the next election, not the next generation. “Fortunately, much policy on the national, state and local levels is effectively set by boards, commissions and public employees. With the right set of arguments, they are persuadable.”

More than a decade ago a spec home we’d built went under contract. As a part of the sales contract the purchasers requested a radon test. When the test came back higher than that recommended by the EPA, the buyers requested mitigation. So we installed a foundation fan that completely cured the problem and the house sold. The installation was done by a company that specializes in radon mitigation. The cost was approximately $2500. Now, during construction we always install piping below basement slabs for radon mitigation to insure all our homes are radon free. Radon is a scary word, but the cure is usually simple and not overly expensive.

Quick Facts…

  • Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can enter the home.
  • Most of Colorado contains high concentrations of radon, considered the second highest cause of lung cancer.
  • All Colorado homes should be tested for radon.
  • Radon reduction methods can be planned for and installed during new home construction.
  • Home buyers and renters should ask if the home has been tested for radon and for the results.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas emitted from uranium, a naturally occurring mineral in rocks and soil. Normally, radon rises up through the soil and dissipates in the air outside. Radon becomes a concern, however, when it seeps through openings such as cracks, loose fitting pipes, sump pits, dirt floors, slab joints or block walls and accumulates in the home. See Figure 1.

Air pressure inside the home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around the house’s foundation. Because of this difference, the house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings.

Figure 1. Radon entry locations.

Radon has been identified as a risk factor in developing lung cancer because it decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in the lungs. These particles release bursts of energy that damages lung tissue. It is estimated that radon may be associated with about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States, second only to smoking.

The chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend on how much radon is in the home, the amount of time spent in the home and whether a person smokes. See Table 1. Smoking, combined with radon, adds to the health risk.

Radon in Colorado

Surveys show that homes in most Colorado counties have the potential for radon levels above EPA’s recommended action level. EPA has developed three radon designations, ranging from Zone 1 with the highest recommended action level to Zone 3 with the lowest recommended action level. The EPA map of radon zones for Colorado (Figure 2) shows the majority of counties are designated as Zone 1, with no counties in Zone 3.

Figure 2: EPA map of radon zones for Colorado. Zone 1 (dark gray), high risk (greater than 4pCi/L). Zone 2 (light gray), moderate risk (2-4 pCi/L).

Because radon levels are influenced by a variety of factors—soil type and moisture, how “tight” the home is, type of heating and ventilation system, movement of air and groundwater, air pressure, and lifestyle behavior of the occupants—the only way to know if a home has elevated levels of radon is to test it.

Table 1: Radon risk if you have never smoked (Developed by the EPA).

If 1,000 people who never smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime
The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to WHAT TO DO
20 pCi/L* about 36 people could get lung cancer 35 times the risk of drowning Fix your home.
10 pCi/L* about 18 people could get lung cancer 20 times the risk of dying in a home fire Fix your home.
8 pCi/L* about 15 people could get lung cancer 4 times the risk of dying ina fall Fix your home.
4 pCi/L* about 7 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying in a car crash. Fix your home.
2 pCi/L* about 4 people could get lung cancer The risk of dying of poison. Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L
1.3 pCi/L* about 2 people could get lung cancer Average indoor radon level. (Reducing radon levels below
2 pCi/L is difficult.)
0.4 pCi/L* Average outdoor radon level. (Reducing radon levels below
2 pCi/L is difficult.)
*pCi/L: picocuries of radon per liter of air
NOTE: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.

Radon Testing

All homes in Colorado should be tested for radon. Only individual testing can determine which houses may have a radon problem. You cannot base your radon level on a neighbor’s test result. Every house is different. Measuring radon levels in the home is simple and inexpensive. Test kits include complete instructions and return postage for mailing samples back to the lab for analysis.

Short-term detectors (such as charcoal canisters) are used for two to seven days. They provide quick screening measurements indicating potential radon problems. Short-term detectors should be placed in the lowest livable level of the house, preferably during winter. Long-term detectors (such as alpha track detectors) are left in place for three months to one year. They provide the advantage of averaging seasonal variations associated with radon levels. Long-term detectors are generally placed in main living areas.

Radon test kits cost from $10 to $25 for a short-term kit and $25 to $40 for a long-term kit. Test kits are available from hardware and home improvement stores, or through mail order companies. Many communities provide free test kits at county offices, senior citizen centers or other locations. If test kits are not available in your area, call the Colorado Radon Hotline at (800) 846-3986 or the National Radon Hotline at (800) 767-7236. Research indicates some homeowners buy kits and then never send the samples in for the results. When you buy a kit make a commitment to obtain the results.

When buying a test kit, select one approved or listed by the EPA (see Figure 3) and follow the instructions carefully. If you do a short-term test, close windows and outside doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the testing period. Instructions are specific as to placement and the importance of not disturbing the test kit while it is monitoring the radon level of a home.

Figure 3: Examples of test kits approved by the EPA.

Homes that have a basement or combination slab-on-grade and crawlspace should be tested in each area due to potential differences in radon levels. Generally, radon levels are highest in the lower levels of the home. For this reason, some homeowners prefer to test in the basement and first floor, especially if they are used for living and sleeping spaces.

Once the test is finished, reseal or close the container and send it to the lab specified on the package right away. The lab fee for interpreting the results is usually included in the original cost of the kit. You may choose to have radon measurements performed by a professional. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Radiation Control Division, can provide a list of companies qualified to perform radon tests for homeowners in the state.

Understanding Test Results

Radon measurements show how much radon was present in the home during the test period. This level varies depending on detector location and the time of year it was used. As mentioned earlier, radon levels are generally highest when the house is closed and in the basement or near possible radon entry routes. Readings averaged over an entire year are usually lower than those taken in a basement during winter.
Radon gas is measured in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a standard measure of radioactivity. The EPA set 4 pCi/L as a recommended action level. If a short-term measurement is over 4 pCi/L, the recommended action is to perform a follow-up test to better characterize the radon levels. If a long-term test measures over 4 pCi/L, action should be taken to reduce radon exposure.

Radon levels are categorized as low, slightly high, high, and very high. These levels are interpreted as follows:

Low—less than 4 pCi/L. It is unnecessary to take further action unless you desire.

Slightly High—4 to 20 pCi/L. Short-term results should be followed up with long-term measurements lasting approximately twelve months. Occupants of homes with long-term results in this range should take action to reduce exposure within the next few years.

High—20 to 100 pCi/L. Follow-up testing of no longer than three months is recommended. Occupants of homes with long-term results in this range should take action to reduce exposure within the next few months.

Very High—over 100 pCi/L. Confirmatory short-term follow-up measurements should be performed as soon as possible and action taken.
The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1 to 3 pCi/L in the U.S., but it is over 4 pCi/L in most Colorado counties. The average outside radon level is about 0.4 to 0.8 pCi/L. The level of radon in a home may vary considerably from neighbor to neighbor.

Radon Mitigation

The cost of repairs to reduce radon depends on how the home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for $800 to $2,500. A variety of methods may be used to lower radon levels in a home. These include sub-slab, drain tile, sump hole, and block wall suction. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation and covering sump pump holes are basic approaches to radon reduction; however, sealing alone is not proven to significantly or consistently lower radon levels.

The most commonly used radon mitigation technique, and generally the most effective method, is called sub-slab depressurization. This system uses pipes that extend from a permeable layer below the basement floor (such as gravel or drain tiles) upward through the structure, venting out the roof (Figure 4). This system collects radon gas before it enters the house and funnels it directly up through pipes and out of the home. If natural ventilation through the pipe system is not adequate to lower radon levels, a fan can be added in the attic to help draw gases through the system to the outdoors. Similar systems also can be installed in homes with crawlspaces.

Other methods used, although they have some disadvantages and may not be appropriate for a more permanent solution, include house pressurization and ventilation such as using a heat recovery ventilator (air-to-air heat exchanger). Whatever method you use, be sure to test for radon before and after the system is in place to be sure it is reducing levels to below 4 pCi/L.

Because the right system depends on the design of the home and other factors, most homeowners should not try to fix radon problems on their own. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Radiation Control Division, can provide a list of contractors qualified to perform radon mitigation in the state. Call (303) 692-3030 or visit for more information.

When choosing the mitigation method, consider the radon levels, system operation, structural changes, cost, house size and foundation types. For houses with several foundation designs and levels, a combination of techniques may be needed.

Figure 4: Typical radon mitigation system (EPA).

Simple ways to reduce radon levels:

  • Keep windows open on both sides of the lower floor of your house when possible.
  • Ventilate crawlspaces under your house.
  • Open basement windows early in the spring and keep them open when possible until late fall.
  • Seal cracks in basement floors with polyurethane caulking compound.
  • Pour water in floor drains once a month to make certain that traps do not dry out.
  • Keep stairwell doors, fireplace dampers, and laundry chute doors closed when not in use; keeping them open can suck air from the basement into the living area of the house.

Radon Resistant New Construction

Radon reduction methods can be planned for and installed during new home construction. Installation costs are generally much lower during construction and careful planning allows a variety of strategies to be integrated to ensure the most effective radon reduction system possible. The average cost to install a radon mitigation system in an existing home is about $1,200 to $2,500. Installing radon-resistant features during construction of a new home will cost $350 to $500. New homes constructed in areas of the state known to have high levels of radon should include at least:

  • A passive sub-slab or crawlspace depressurization system.
  • Foundation barrier techniques such as a layer of gas permeable material under the foundation (usually four inches of gravel), plastic sheeting over that material, and sealing and caulking of all openings in the concrete foundation floor or the floor above.
  • Dedicated intake and/or combustion air for exhaust and combustion appliances.
  • Installation of a gas-tight three- or four-inch pipe that runs from under the foundation (under the sheeting covering the soil in crawlspaces) through the house to the roof.
  • A roughed-in electrical junction box for future installation of a fan, if needed.

Home Buyers and Renters

Home buyers and renters should ask about environmental issues concerning property such as whether the home has been tested for radon and what the test results showed. Testing your home does not mean lowered sales value or less chance of selling. It means you can accurately inform potential buyers or renters of the existing condition of the property. Taking precautions now to mitigate for radon means your family’s health is protected against adverse radon effects.

Resources Available From EPA:

  • A citizen’s guide to radon: The guide to protecting yourself and your family from radon
  • Building a new home: Have you considered radon?
  • Home buyer’s and seller’s guide to radon
  • Radon: The health threat with a simple solution

Phone Numbers:

  • American Lung Association: (800) 586-4872
  • Colorado Radon Hotline: (800) 846-3986
  • National Radon Information Line: (800) 767-7236
  • Radon Fix-It Program, Consumer Federation of America: ( 800) 644-6999

Web Sites:

1 Colorado State University Extension housing specialist and professor, design and merchandising. 4/04. Revised 12/07.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.


The Denver Post recently ran a story about a custom home builder that is turning the iPad into a built-in control center for an entire home automation system. The system can control your lights, motorized shades, music and TV systems, baby monitors, and even the swimming pool. Automation systems controlling everything in your house have been available for a long time, but touchscreens for the systems could be pricey. Now with the iPad, the cost has come way down.

Solstice Media, the company that designed the system, installs two iPads in-wall in the house, which communicate with the brains of the automation system via Wi-Fi. “The iPad has brought the entry-level price point down significantly, because an 8-inch in-wall touch screen before cost upwards of $3,000 or more,” said Travis Deatherage, partner at Solstice. “Now we can get a $500 iPad and still provide most of the functionality that an in-wall touch panel can give.”

The iPads are docked in the wall, but can be removed and used just like a normal iPad. A third iPad can be used to control the system, as well as an iPhone or iPod touch running a customized version of the control app.

There are various home automation systems available in both professional builder versions and more consumer friendly self-installed versions. Control4 offers a scalable solution for new or older homes, and an iPad app to control it all. Other companies like Insteon offer control modules and even the venerable X10 open standard can be controlled via iOS apps.

Article Via CultofMac

Photo Credit: Heritage Hills

Most people dream of owning a home. Some people go beyond just dreaming; they make it happen by building their own home. It may be an enormous project, but it can surely be rewarding.

Constructing a house can be very exciting simply because for most people, it is a once-in-a lifetime endeavor. It’s not every day that one gets to build his dream house.

Helpful Tips on Building a Home

Here are several great tips that can help you achieve the house of your dreams and enjoy every minute of it:

Before you buy any property and build a house on in, be sure that the title of the property is clean and free of any legal issues and problems. Consult your lawyer to get confirmation that the title of your property is without any impediments.
When choosing the design of your house, keep in mind that the landscape of the property you bought will greatly influence the design of your house. The house design for a residential property near the beach will be different from the house design for a residential property on a mountain side. Moreover, when choosing the design of your house, be sure to consider that the design is comfortable and practical, the materials are readily available, and the cost is reasonable.
Making your own design for your house would be a good thing, too, because your house should be your place of peace and comfort. Be sure to find an architect to confer with and discuss your designs. Ask him if it is feasible, structurally safe, and suitable for the weather and topography or landscape of your property. The architect can also advise you about the most appropriate materials to use for your house.
Be sure to discuss with your architect the rate for his construction services. Also, clarify with him who will keep the copyright of the design of the house. This is very important just in case you decide to build another house using the same design. Take note that all agreements, terms, and conditions that you discussed with your architect must be written down and in contract form, duly signed by both parties.
Make sure that your contractor has insurance to cover your house and his workers in case of mishaps like fire or injury. If the contractor does not have this insurance to cover your house and his workers, you may lose a big amount of money and get unwillingly involved with responsibilities for the injured worker.
When hiring your builder, look into their work record first. Find out if they are legitimate and certified by the government. Get a consensus on their quality of work. Investigate if they are covered by insurance for both the house (in the event of theft or accidents like fire) and the people who will build it.
It is a fact that building your own house can be costly. Careful preparation and budgeting, however, will ease the problem. If you are in need of financial assistance, you can take out a home loan. There are many offers being advertised by lending institutions and it is advisable to do some research prior to taking out the loan.

Applying for a home loan is serious business. It can either work to your advantage or bury you in debt. This is why it is important to always study the loans you are applying for. By doing so, you can avoid financial problems in the future.



Ooh-arr, straw appears to be the sustainable material of choice at this year’s Ecobuild. The natural material features in board form in the latest home design from eco-architect Bill Dunster, in prefabricated panels in a turnkey retail building from Modcell and there is even a series of straw bale workshops for those planning to build homes, schools and offices from the readily available agricultural by-product.


For the StramitZED house (right), Dunster has teamed up with straw board manufacturer Stramit to produce an eco-house in two-, three- or four-bedroom configurations, all of which meet the latest Lifetime Homes and London Housing Design Guide standards. Its design is based on Dunster’s code level 6, RuralZED development at Upton in Northampton. The homes are assembled from cassettes of strawboard combined with Welsh timber and recycled newspaper insulation.

Hot water and electricity are generated by solar photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, with surplus electricity sold to the grid. The homes costs upward of £135,000, a figure claimed to be £20,000 less than the normal cost of constructing a code level 6 house.

Straw bales are at the heart of Modcell’s retail solution too. This uses prefabricated panels (left) made near the costruction site, in a leased workspace or barn. The panels are assembled from untreated, locally sourced straw set into a panel frame assembled from sustainably sourced timber, which is then plastered with a protective lime render. The turnkey solution is claimed to save energy, money, carbon emissions and build times.

For those that want their straw raw and not pre-assembled, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn all about both load bearing and non-load bearing straw bale construction techniques at the straw bale workshops, which take place twice daily at Ecobuild – for further details and timing check out


Phase change materials

If straw is too rustic and high-tech is more your thing, then check out the various phase change materials (or PCMs in techie-speak) at this year’s show. A good starting point is the Cool Workspace, which is one of the interactive attractions on the exhibition floor. Sponsored by Capita Symonds, the attraction has been designed to showcase how cutting edge materials and technologies can be used to create a more sustainable workplace.

PCMs are just one of the technologies on show. The advantage of these materials is that they can be used to store both heating and cooling energy. In the Cool Workspace, PCMs are embedded in the walls and ceiling tiles where they will absorb heat to help keep the workspace cool and reduce the need for air conditioning.


If you want to know more about the technology visit both the BASF and DuPont stands.

BASF’s Micronal PCM has been incorporated into the Racus ceiling tile system for both new build and retrofit applications. Developed by Datum Phase Change, the tiles feature microcapsules of a special wax developed to store latent heat as it absorbs heat during the day, changing from a solid to liquid – . At night, when the temperature drops, the wax gives out heat and returns to being solid. The tile system has been used in the Victorian terrace refurbishment project at BRE in Watford.

DuPont’s phase change offering is called Energain. It is available in lightweight panels developed to enable thermal mass to be added to lightweight structures. The company claims that using the material can reduce indoor temperature peaks by up to 7ºC, optimising comfort and decreasing air conditioning costs.

Sustainable towers

With the world’s population becoming increasingly urbanised, the need for a fast, economic, high-rise, sustainable solution is becoming ever more urgent. One solution could be to build upwards using timber. As part of the fringe session, Advantage Austria is presenting a case study of a modular high-rise timber construction system designed for energy-generating buildings of up to 20 stories. Not sure about timber high-rise? Hear the discussion at South Gallery 10 at 12.30 on Wednesday 2 March.


The results of a student competition to design sustainable towers located in the Greenwich South district of Lower Manhattan, New York will also be announced at the show. The design must encompass Isover Multi-Comfort principles, which are based on Passivhaus ideas of high levels of energy efficiency and comfort for the occupants. Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passivaus concept and the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, will judge the competition and will attend the award ceremony on Isover’s stand N260, where the winners will be announced at 3pm on 2 March. See below for the shortlisted designs.

Shortlisted designs

Manhattan Sky Podium: a design which aims to connect Greenwich South with its surroundings through a series of elevated pedestrian routes which meet to form a significant green podium in the sky.

Social Tower Experiment: a tower designed to foster vibrant communities and social interaction at height.

The Green Ramp: a design which aims to integrate Lower Manhattan’s green spaces into the city fabric with a building that forms a ramp from Battery Park to theGreenwich South site, culminating in a Passivhaus skyscraper.

Solar Slice: a tapered tower that evolved through consideration of New York’s sun paths, it respects the solar rights of the existing 88 Greenwich Street tower to the north of the site by carving a huge slice out of its mass.

Green Canyons: a prototype to counter the depleting quality of life in vertical urban sprawl.

Green Tower: a design which takes into consideration the forms of surrounding towers and icons such as the Statue of Liberty.

Windgate (below): a tower which aims to make maximum use of wind energy while also utilising the building design to form a new gateway into Manhattan.


Vertical Sunspace Tower: taking inspiration from the Denby Dale Passivhaus, this design features a series of stacked, south facing sunspaces to maximise passive solar gain, daylight penetration and to create social spaces at height in the city.

The three winning UK teams will receive cash prizes of up to £1,000 and will go on to compete in the seventh international final, which takes place from 18-21 May 2011 in Prague and features a top prize of €1,500 (£1,263).

Wolfgang Feist will also be participating in two fringe sessions taking place on 1 March from 4pm to 5pm (North Gallery Room 9) and 2 March from 4pm to 5pm (North Gallery 6 & 7). The sessions will provide an insight into the Passivhaus and Isover Multi-Comfort House concepts.

Bees and biodiversity


With wild bee populations facing a growing number of threats including pests and diseases such as the varroa mite as well as a growing lack of wild flowers to provide food and habitat, is it time for the urban beekeeper to come to the rescue? A small back garden or access to a rooftop is all that is needed to keep bees. What’s more, there is a rich variety of plants in urban gardens, parks, railway sidings and tree-lined roads, all of which can be turned into delicious honey by our pollen and nectar eating friends.

The idea is not as crazy as it first sounds – probably the most exclusive address for bees anywhere in the world is the roof of upmarket grocers Fortnum & Mason in London’s Piccadilly. Even the beehives have been given a distinct architectural style and some rather elegant gold details (

Honey bees rely on a diverse range of garden and urban flowers for their diet, which means it is important to create an environment in the city that not only safeguards existing wildlife but also encourages further diversity and food for bees. Helping designers and planners incorporate biodiversity and meet new regulations is just one of the topics in the Cityscape programme, along with a biodiversity surgery.

For further details and timings, check out the Cityscape area on the Ecobuild website Benjamin, co-founder of Urban Bees, will be offering top tips for potential urban beekeepers on Wednesday 2 March, in Cityscape theatre two, at 11am.

Sustainable materials

In addition to the hundreds of products already made from recycled materials that are on display at Ecobuild, Kingston University will be looking for the construction industry to use sustainable materials seen in other sectors but little used in design and construction.


Rematerialise, a library of 1,200 samples of sustainable materials from 15 countries, is being launched by Kingston University. The materials have been selected to provide an environmentally responsible alternative to more resource-hungry materials and include post-consumer and post-industrial waste streams, scrap and refuse otherwise destined for landfill. The library holds information on a material’s recycled content and its sustainable attributes along with technical data and examples of current applications for each material. The database was recently used to advise retailer Marks & Spencer on the use of appropriate sustainable materials for its new headquarters.


Part of the collection – including finished products manufactured from sustainable materials – will be showcased at Ecobuild to inspire further collaboration with industry and to bring to designers’ attention to sustainable materials not yet used in construction.


by Andy Pearson.
On January 18, 2011, in Observations, by Bob Borson – What is creativity? That was the question presented to a group of us who participate in a event where we are write on the same topic. It is an interesting exercise and one that I take part of quite frequently. So what is creativity? That is a leading question simply because creativity can manifest itself in many forms. Writing this blog 3 or 4 times a week takes an obscene amount of creativity if I do say so myself. In an effort to help define what creative can define, let’s consider some synonyms:

 cleverness   ingenuity   originality   imaginativeness

 Who doesn’t have these traits in some form or another? When I was younger, being “creative” simply meant you were artistic and that you used your creativity to produce items of visual merit. I don’t feel that way anymore – not since I met my wife Michelle – the resident Borson household genius with the masters degree in Mathematics. I am constantly amazed by how smart she is and how her brain processes information. I’m not going to say she is always right but it is hard for me to win an argument against her. My debating technique has more to do with misdirection and confusion but she can rationally and logically peel away what I am saying and befuddle me. Truth be told, that’s one of the reasons why I married her, because I love how she thinks.

I started thinking that creativity has more to do with how a person thinks, views, and processes information rather than their ability to draw or paint well. As a result I think some of the most creative people are scientists – people who don’t generally come to mind when the topic of creativity comes up. These are people who conceive of the unthinkable and envision the unknowable. People like Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, and Robert Oppenheimer, among many, many others. If you are unfamiliar of these men and what they did, take some time and look them up on Wikipedia. If all you know is their work on the Manhattan project, you are considering only a small part of their story. Besides developing concepts that made things like the atom and hydrogen bomb a reality, these people were visionary thinkers.

But you don’t have to be a genius level intellect to have demonstrate creativity. Sometimes it’s about being clever and noticing what’s around you and realizing that you can do something with what you see. Like Velcro.

Close Up Of Velcro

Most people have heard the story about how Velcro came to exist. The idea for Velcro is credited to a Swiss engineer, George de Mestral … in 1941. Apparently the idea came to him one day after taking his dog for a walk and saw all the burs that were sticking to his pet’s fur. He examined them under a microscope and noticed that the burs were made up of hundreds of hooks that were catching on anything that had a loop. Despite not being taken seriously, Mestral continued to develop the idea for Velcro. In the end, it took over 10 years before he was able to create a mechanized process that could recreate the hook and loop system he saw under his microscope years prior.

How about a composer how couldn’t hear? Ludwig can Beethoven was born December 17, 1770 and started losing his hearing in 1796 when he was 26 years old. He lived and continued to compose music for until his death in 1827 having decided that despite his profound hearing loss, he would continue living for and through his art. At the premiere of one of his most recognizable and famous pieces, the Ninth Symphony, he actually had to turn around after conducting the performance to see if people were clapping or not. For someone as interested in music as I am, I can’t convey how unbelieveable that is to me.

Creativity surrounds all of us everyday and there are no uncreative people. How people interact with their world shapes their experience – positively and negatively – but it is unique to their own doing.

Source: LifeAsAnArchitect



While conjuring up comfort in the home seems like a basic principle, it’s a far more complex process for architect & remodeling guru Sarah Susanka, who believes that comfort can significantly influence the sustainability of your personal abode. With her mantra of “build better, not bigger,” Susanka promotes quality over quantity whenremodeling a home. Through transforming your living space into a more beautiful and comfortable environment, Susanka says that any home’s occupants will automatically take better care of their space in a more sustainable way. We sat down with Susanka to get the low-down on how to do more with less when revamping your space.

TIP 1 – Re-evaluate the Space You’re Working With

Remodeling is often associated with building an addition onto a home. However, Susanka is a strong advocate of re-evaluating the space that your home already contains and working within that original floor plan whenever possible. As she says, it’s important to ask yourself how you can make your existing house more tailored to the way you live. Instead of jumping ahead and planning a structural addition without any thorough thought, take a moment to consider whether or not you could work within the space you already have available. Ask yourself these questions: Do you really need more space? How much space do you need to be comfortable in your home? Can you borrow from the adjacent space to conjure the extra square footage you need? Then, as a last resort, consider a bump out or a small addition.

Unfortunately, most people start at the last resort instead of first weighing the other more economical and quality-generating options. Remodeling can be a difficult and often stressful project, so if you doubt anything along the way, look into hiring a professional to assist in the process. As Susanka says, “When we are having surgery, we normally don’t do it ourselves. Remodeling your home is one of the most expensive investments of a lifetime so we want it done well.” If you are in the market for a pro that understands Susanka’s philosophy on renovation, check out her Home Professional Directory for an expert in your area.

TIP 2 – Get an Energy Audit

When you start engaging in a remodeling project, one of the first things to check off the list is an energy audit. This helps you identify some of the most cost effective ways to make your home more sustainable, and those shifts can easily be incorporated into the changes throughout the rest of the renovation process.

Susanka tells Inhabitat that 20% of carbon emissions come from existing housing stock. By incorporating energy audits into the renovation process, not only will you end up with economical savings, but you will also contribute to the larger home emissions issue. This will help make your home easier to maintain as well as reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win-win situation for both you and the environment!

TIP 3 – Invest in Quality Over Quantity

When you get home and enter a space that exudes quality and character, you automatically feel more at home. On the other hand, if you go overboard with quantity because it’s the knee-jerk response to generate change, you end up with a lot of uninspiring stuff. What Susanka reiterates throughout her books is the importance of utilizing the space you have to its highest potential. By creating a room that’s comfortable to be in, we are motivated to care for and sustain its beauty. Instead of tossing dollars around to quantify space, use your budget to induce quality elements that address your particular needs and aesthetics.

Ask yourself what will add more of your own personality into your space. What colors, shapes, or artwork do you enjoy looking at? Which rooms do you spend the majority of your time in? Do you have good heating and cooling systems that maintain a comfortable atmosphere in your home? These thought-generating questions will help you determine the best ways to approach the concept of quality over quantity.

TIP 4 – Use Lighting to Amplify Perspective

The way you introduce light into a space can have an enormous effect on an environment, hugely improving its quality and character. Susanka can’t say enough about how reflective surfaces can influence rooms throughout your abode. Reflective surfaces help bounce light around, augmenting the presence of natural light within a space.

One less obvious way to do this is by adding a built-in bookshelf near a window. The shelving edges act as reflective surfaces, bouncing extra light into the room.

Another option is to place a window adjacent to a perpendicular wall, instead of in its typical central location; that wall then becomes a reflective surface as well. Finally, placing soffits above windows can help transfer light into a room. All of these alternative lighting sources help with the ambiance and feel of a space.

TIP 5 – Enhance Your Space With Color

The way the light falls on different colors can completely transform a room. Determine the most important wall in each room — the place to which you want to draw peoples’ attention — and paint it to your heart’s desire.

This is the point in remodeling that can allow for personal freedom of expression in your home. Susanka points out that there’s no need to be shy in this process; be creative and experiment with a variety of colors to sense how they each make you feel in the space. Paint large pieces of paper in all the colors you could imagine and even all the colors that you’d never expect to use. You might just find that the brightest or most unexpected shade fits perfectly on your favorite wall.

Images from Sarah Susanka and Mark Vassallo’s book, Not So Big Remodeling, published by Taunton Press in 2009; by photographer Randy O’Rourke.

Green Remodeler – Sarah Susanka

Sarah Susanka, FAIA, is the leader of a movement that is redefining the American home and lifestyle. Through her “build better, not bigger” approach to residential design she has demonstrated that the sense of “home” we seek has to do with quality, not quantity.  A thought leader and acclaimed architect, Susanka is the best-selling author of nine books that collectively weave together home and life design, revealing that a “Not So Big” attitude serves not only architectural aims, but life goals as well.  Her books have sold well over one million copies.  Susanka’s most recent book, More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home, was released in February, 2010.  Join her online community at

Article taken from Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World –
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Today we wanted to focus our Team Trilogy series on founding partner, John Rath. John, along with his brother and sister, started Trilogy in 1998. John journeyed to Breckenridge, Colorado after leaving his life producing movies in New York City behind. His love for the Colorado Rocky Mountain Region began in 1983 with his first trip out west. John along with the rest of our Trilogy Team has achieved much success thanks in part to our collaboration with our clients, designers, vendors and sub-contractors. Together we have built homes and communities in which we can be proud of.

Photo Credit: Summit Daily/Mark Fox

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