photo of heavily treed building site

Vacant Land For Sale

This has actually happened. A client contacts us. They want to build a new home. They’re about to close on a lot in a neighborhood development. At our introductory design meeting they  describe to us the kind of house they wish to build. A certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms. Energy effeciency. Passive solar design. Sustainable building. A two car garage. A relatively simple design without complex rooflines. And then we go to the site for the first time.

The site the clients had chosen was steep and in the trees. The building envelope was rather small, and because of height restrictions, the home would have to be built so that it stepped up and down the slope, complicating construction dramatically. Solar gain would be limited by shade and trees that by development covenant could not be removed. The steep lot also made it imperative that we locate the garage up-slope and to the front of the home so as to meet requirements that stipulated the maximum slope of the driveway at 7%. Expensive retaining walls would also be necessary. As much as we at Trilogy enjoy a challenge, we had to tell the clients that the lot they had chosen was not conducive to building the rather simple, super energy efficient home they were seeking. The clients did not take this news well for they loved that this lot was adjacent to community open space. They purchased the lot and hired another architect. About a year later the lot was back on the market, I suspect, because the clients had finally discovered for themselves how difficult a lot they had purchased.

Building in the mountain regions often means dealing with slope and trees. But even when the lot is relatively level, the site can still have an enormous impact on budget and design. Today, modern design and technology allows us to create passively energized, super insulated homes with dramatically decreased energy consumption.  But if the lot orientation is north or if the lot is shaded then energy costs will necessarily increase. Views are always a concern and in some developments, homes are built without taking into account that the vacant lot next door won’t always be vacant and views may be impeded when the neighbors build. Other subdivision and local government codes can also severely limit design opportunities. Some neighborhoods put limits on the amount of glass, or the use of solar panels, limiting the use of sustainable energy resources.

Which is why, if at all possible, the Trilogy Design Team likes to assist our clients in the selection of the site for their new home. If the lot is indeed going to constrain design, it’s a great idea to have the design and build team assess exactly what those limitations are going to be.

What would be the ideal site for the home of your dreams?

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



Every once and a while I think it’s probably a good idea to take a step back and think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. For instance, I’m currently in LA at the Design Bloggers Conference. I’m meeting people who work in the design world, like myself, who are also spending a lot of time these days writing, or blogging, about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Which begs the question: why am I writing this little piece right now? What’s this blog all about? It’s a question I think I know the answer to.  We at Trilogy Partners are different than most other firms in our industry when it comes to design and build because we are fully integrated and truly a “one stop shop.” We see it from all angles. We are designers and ditchdiggers. We are builders, planners, and accountants. We are carpenters and tradesmen and we are passionate about how things look and feel. We are storytellers. In effect, we wear a whole lot of hats around here for one reason. So that we can serve our clients fully and completely. And we want people to know that. But there’s more to it than just what we do.

We’ve been doing this for quite a while now. In the course of each project we learn a whole lot, and I want to take the time now to pass along some of what we’ve learned. The good lessons, the hard lessons. Each project is a journey and is its own story. Building a home is a rather long process that grows from concept to creation to a lasting realization of a vision and a dream. These journeys oftentimes take years, and during the course of these years things happen that are worthy of words and remembrance. Each project brings with it a separate wisdom. So I’m here to pass along the stories, and the knowledge of what it takes to design and build homes because, honestly, I couldn’t find anyone else who was. This is the only place where you can get a complete picture of both sides of the home design and build process that I’ve yet to find.

I can tell you this: designing, building, it’s hard work and harder still to do really well. But it’s a lot of fun. And it’s really rewarding to drive by a spot where once nothing stood and see, now, a wonderful home alight and alive with the people that live within its walls. That’s also what I want to write about. The joy and the how of what we do. And the gratitude we feel for being allowed to do what we truly love. With the hope that some out there will read our words and benefit from what we’ve learned. And be inspired to move forward, with confidence, in pursuit of their dreams.


Posted By Mike Chino On February 11, 2011 – The idea of energy-efficient lighting appeals to most homeowners, but many people don’t have the time to research and understand all the complexity out there when it comes to finding the most energy-efficient and environmentally responsible lighting systems. That’s why Inhabitat is here to help in our Green Lighting 101 editorial series (which is generously sponsored by Philips). So far in our Green Lighting 101 series we’ve showcased the state-of-the-art in energy-efficient lighting tech and shared 6 green lighting tips to help cut down your energy bill – but what about the actual lamps fixtures that bring green energy technology to light? There’s a million ways to make a lamp – but all lamps are not suited to the same purposes, nor are they all made from eco-friendly materials or able to illuminate with energy-efficient light. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the 15 most innovative, interesting eco-friendly lamps that bathe your home in low-energy light – read on for our top picks to suit any lighting situation!green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Different types of lighting

Directional Lighting

Directional lighting refers to light fixtures that focus illumination in a single direction. When set in a series, these fixtures provide dynamic focus to a room and can efficiently distribute light throughout a room. Directional lighting is commonly provided by bulbs affixed to a ceiling-mounted track, where individual lights can be angled and rotated on a pivot. Another popular choice comes in the form of recessed downward lighting, where the light is regulated by “can fixtures.”

Task Lighting

Task lighting is a specific type of directional lighting that is focuses illumination upon a specific area where a task needs to be performed. Task lighting should not be used to replace overall lighting needs, but rather to complement or fill the void of existing lighting. Task lighting typically comes in the form of table and desk lamps, clamp-type flexible arm lamps, book lights, and for the more adventurous, headlights.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is designed to illuminate an entire room in a uniform and low-key manner. Ambient lighting should never be harsh on the eyes — it should create a comfortable environment that accommodates basic lighting needs. Popular lighting solutions for achieving this type of illumination include floor lamps, chandeliers, hanging lamps with low-watt bulbs, or hanging lamps filtered by cylindrical shades.

Hanging Pendant Lamps / Chandeliers

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Bic Pen Chandelier by En Pieza

Bic Pen Chandelier by En Pieza

The Bic ballpoint is an iconic writing utensil that has been honored by the MOMA for its refined utilitarian design – so imagine the attention that this recycled pen chandelier will draw in your home! Each brilliant recycled chandelier is designed by En Pieza using hundreds of Bic Crystal pens that refract and disperse light from within. You can also step up this chandelier’s eco cred by popping in an energy-efficient CFL or LED lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Cola Bottle Lamp by Sarah Turner

Cola Bottle Lamp by Sarah Turner

It’s hard to believe that Sarah Turner‘s brilliant starburst pendant lamps start out as a bunch of plain plastic bottles! The UK-based designer sandblasts old coke bottles, carefully cuts them into ribbon-like shapes, and then assembles them into orbital lanterns. Each elegant pendant lamp can be lit with a CFL or low-energy LED bulb.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Clothes Hanger Chandelier by Luis Teixeira

Luis Teixeira‘s elegant recycled chandeliers are composed of cast-off clothes hangers fanned out in a circular array. We love how each unique hanging lamp lights up with a sparkling gleam that rivals the finest crystal chandeliers.

Pop Pendant Light by Mauricio Affonso

We love seeing innovative new uses for everyday materials, so we flipped our tops when we spotted this Pop Pendant Light painstakingly crafted from soda can pull tabs by Mauricio Affonso. Like a disco ball or punched tin lamp, the 15″ sphere casts a beautiful array of light beams and shadows when illuminated from within by an energy-efficient bulb.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Recycled Coffee Stirrer Lamp by Studio Verissimo

Throwaway plastic coffee stirrers are a tremendous source of waste that plagues cafés around the world. Capitalizing on the way that plastic mimics the light-refracting properties of crystal, Studio Verissimo transformed hundreds of single-use stirrers into a stunning translucent chandelier!

16 Green Lamps to Light Up Your Life, green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Philips Ledino Suspension Light

Philips’ Ledino Suspension Light is a streamlined fixture that consists of a single strip of glass fused with brushed aluminum and three 7.5W LED lights. The fixture boasts a lighter-than air aesthetic that complements any interior space, and its array of dimmable LED lights can emit four different shades of light — from warm white to cool white.

Floor Lamps

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Urchin Lamp by Molo

Urchin Lamp by Molo

Molo’s brilliant flat-pack Urchin Softlights start out as condensed reams of craft paper – but they unfurl into beautiful hexagonal honeycomb forms. Simply install a CFL or low-energy LED bulb and these cloud-like lamps will lend a warm, enchanting ambience to any room.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Traffic Cone Light by Laura Haaker

This clever cone lamp by Laura Haaker is constructed from 6 connected traffic cones that expand outwards in a brilliant burst of color. This funky floor lamp can be easily outfitted with an energy-efficient LED or CFL bulb to add a dose of urban flare to any space.

Task Lamps

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Leaf Lamp by Yves Béhar, herman miller

Leaf Lamp by Yves Béhar

Although it was initially released in 2006, Yves Béhar’s Leaf Lamp continues to set the standard for energy-efficient task lighting. The desk lamp consists of two beautifully-sculpted strands of aluminum that are highly recyclable and keep material use to a minimum. The adjustable arm bristles with 20 bright LEDs, and a set of touch-sensitive controls at the lamp’s base allows for easy adjustment of light intensity. The entire lamp is made of 37% recycled materials and is 95% recyclable.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Equo Desk Lamp by Koncept

Koncept’s svelte Equo lamp benefits from a pared-down profile that is as easy on the eyes as the light it sheds. A set of 28 bright white LEDs consume just 6 watts of energy, and a counterbalanced arm makes adjustments a snap.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Ledino Desk Lamp by Philips

This minimalist Ledino Desk Lamp by Philips packs a powerful LED light source and a lighter-than-air aesthetic. Its streamlined aluminum arm can be easily adjusted into any position, and its warm white light source is rated to last for 20 years of use.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Seagull Light by QisDesign

Seagull Light by QisDesign

This streamlined Seagull LED lamp by QisDesign takes off with a lyrical design reminiscent of a bird in flight. The pared-down light improves upon conventional task lamps with a dual-panel design that can be easily adjusted to suit a wide range of lighting needs.

Table Lamps

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Paper Tube Lamp by Ruth Oh

Paper Tube Light by Ruth Oh

Ruth Oh transforms everyday paper postage tubes into elegant cylindrical table lamps by simply slicing away sections of carboard. They’re designed to use energy-efficient bulbs like LEDs or CFLs which run at cooler temperatures than incandescents.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101, Crystal Light by QisDesign

Crystal Lamp by QisDesign

Designed by QisDesign, the Crystal Light consists of a series of modular icosahedron LED blocks that snap together to form practically any shape. This gorgeous glowing table lamp can be also configured to light up in an array of colors and patterns – perfect for setting the mood in any interior space.

16 Green Lamps to Light Up Your Life, green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Ledino Table Light

Philips’ Ledino Table Light is a versatile lighting solution that makes a great centerpiece for any room. The space-saving compact lamp is illuminated by a 3 LEDS that can cast either a directional spot light or a diffused lighting effect for at least 20,000 hours.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Bedroom Lighting Tips

When it comes to lighting your home, there are a few little technicalities to consider — but thankfully they’re easy. Lets start with bedrooms, which are actually one of the easiest areas to light in your home. For general lighting you have three options: a flush-mounted fixture, a semi-flush mounted fixture, or a chandelier. Chandeliers can only be used if the bottom of the chandelier is at least 6 feet from the ground — more space is preferable unless it’s directly over a bed, in which case no one will be hitting their heads on it. The question of flush-mount vs semi-flush mount is also simple — the advantage to having a semi-flush is that light bounces of your ceiling, so you get more illumination for your buck — but of course it also depends on your style.

Supplement your general lighting with table lamps for good ambient lighting, and remember these table lamps aren’t for reading — lower wattage is great here! You can save energy with lower-watt lights that are gentler on your eyes if you need to turn them on in the middle of the night. If you do read in bed, purchasing a task light instead of a table lamp could be a great idea to maximize the light when reading and save your eyes from straining. In general floor lamps can also be used in bedrooms that do not have power in their ceilings. In this is the case the best thing to do is to look for a torchiere-style floor lamp which typically uses a high watt fluorescent to shine light at your ceiling so it can reflect and light the room.

green lamps, energy efficient lighting, sustainable design, green design, energy-efficient light bulbs, philips, interior lighting, low-energy lighting, green lighting 101

Kitchen Lighting Tips

As for the kitchen, pendant lamps look great over counters/islands/peninsulas and provide good light for cooking. Just remember to mount your pendants about 32-34 inches from the top of the counter. If the island is very narrow or isn’t a sit-down island, around 36 inches is the sweet spot. Determining the light size is simple — most pendants categorized as mini-pendants will do just fine for islands that are not very large. Just take into account how many pendants you would like, and space them out as symmetrically as possible for the best results.

Hanging a Dining Room Chandelier

The next part of lighting your kitchen or dining room that many people find frustrating is putting a chandelier over a table — just how big should that chandelier be? Well, there is a simple formula that will fix the frustration — take the shortest width of the table if it’s rectangular (or if it’s round then take the circumference), divide it by two, and then add a couple inches. For instance if you have a 48 inch table, you would use a 24-26 inch wide chandelier. The same rule for hanging pendants applies for chandeliers as well — mount it about 32-34 inches above the table, depending on the style of the chandelier. Take all these helpful tips and combine them with some of these green lighting options below to have your home look and function beautifully.

Green Lighting 101 >

+ 6 Green Lighting Tips

+ Your Guide to Energy-Efficient Lighting

Article taken from Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World –
URL to article:

Some things about this industry so amaze me. Take for example the client who is hoping to get the best house for the least amount of money. So they hire a builder, any builder, who is willing to build for less. It’s a logic that even the clients don’t believe. These clients are driving expensive cars, not cheap cars. They spend more money to send their children to school. They have all of their lives invested sensibly but in quality. So why is it when it comes to one of the most important investments that they are every going to make, that they suddenly want to go cheap? Suddenly quality doesn’t matter. And that amazes me.

Lowest Bid Could Cost More

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a big fan of the bid process when it comes to complex residential builds. There’s just too much room for things to get overlooked in the bid. And it’s pretty much always the case that if a construction bid comes in low, that a lot of things are being overlooked. Left out, intentionally or not, there will be a day of reckoning. The rewards to the client for hiring quality are immediate and lasting. Quality building companies bring not only construction expertise to the table. But accounting know how. Problem solving abilities. A work hard ethic. And essential creativity. Not to mention that quality building companies are, for the most part, comprised of intelligent people with more than an average level of integrity. One need only check the builders’ references to separate quality builders from used car salesmen. In a “zen” sense, the house is ultimately a direct reflection of not only the architect and owner, but the builder as well. And chances are that if you blend all the above ingredients together, that the price of the construction is going to be what it should be, and both the owner and the builder will continue to have a strong relationship long after the last nail is driven home.

Quality Is An Investment

My belief is that in construction, as in other aspects of life, quality costs more. A quality builder is going to cost more than someone who is desperate for a job and will do anything to get it. Low bids go hand in hand with insufficient allowances for finishes and features. And with hidden costs and fine print. Quality costs, but quality is an investment. And we are used to hearing this, saying this, living this in life. But why is it when it comes to home building, we’re willing to forget about quality and be suckered in by the cheapest bid from fly by night contracting incorporated? It just doesn’t make sense. But I see it happen again and again. The construction industry may have a bad reputation, but it doesn’t help that clients sometimes encourage poor behavior by buying into it.

Structural Insulating Panels for Roofs and Walls

Introduction to SIPs

  • Buyer Benefits: Two years ago, Norm Abrams of This Old House stated on TV and wrote in articles that he wouldn’t build his own house any other way than with SIPs. See the reasons below
  • Builder Benefits: SIPs can be a little intimidating to builders who haven’t used them. But experienced SIP contractors sing their praises. Many have switched exclusively to panels,citing the following reasons for their decisions.

SIP Benefits for Buyers

  • Extremely strong structure. There is considerable evidence that homes with SIP wall and ceiling panels have survived natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, straight-line winds and earthquakes better than traditional stick-framed homes right next door.
  • Lower energy bills. Discounting the “human factor”-thermostat settings and so forth-a number of side-by-side tests show that between 15% and 40% less energy should be needed to heat and cool a home with SIP wall and ceiling panels. In tests by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, SIP walls outperform fiberglass walls by over 50%.
  • Improved comfort. Thanks to extra R-values and tight construction, the wall and ceiling surfaces in a SIP home will stay warmer than in stick-framed homes. The warmer those surfaces are, the more comfortable the home is.
  • “Freeze proof.” What happens if the power goes down? During the late 1990s, several New England SIP homes survived over a week without power or a wood stove and never came close to freezing.
  • Indoor Air Quality. While there is no guarantee here, most homes built with SIPs are tight enough that builders can’t ignore upgrading mechanical ventilation compared to that found in a standard home. In many studies in North American housing, the best indoor air quality is found in homes that are tight and equipped with upgraded mechanical ventilation.
  • Green building product. On a life-cycle basis, a more energy-efficient house built with SIPs will be less damaging to the environment, in terms of overall resource consumption. Much less dimensional lumber is used in a SIP home than in a traditional framed structure.
  • Interactive systems benefits: For example, a more energy-efficient home may cost slightly more to build but in turn can be heated and cooled with smaller equipment that costs less to install.

SIP Benefits for Builders

  • Speed of construction. You can order the panels with all pre-cutting performed in a factory. They show up on the jobsite all pre-numbered, ready for assembly corresponding to numbers laid out on a set of shop drawings. On most jobs you should be out of the weather and dried in sooner. Time is money.
  • Fewer framers. A crew can consist of one lead framer assisted by minimally skilled helpers. Whenever a job involves craning panels up to frame a roof, it helps to have two people familiar with panels: one on the roof and one on the ground.
  • Shell installation option. If you’re having a tough time locating skilled carpenters, a growing number of manufacturers have regular crews who will install a shell on your foundation for you to finish.
  • Rigid frame. It’s easy bracing SIP walls. In fact, once you have two corner panels up, you can lean a ladder against the panels when needed.
  • Less jobsite waste. If you’ve ordered a set of panels with all rough openings for windows and doors pre-cut at the factory, the only true waste you’ll have is taking a few cases of empty tubes of adhesive caulk containers to the dump. And the factory can efficiently collect and recycle their cut-outs much more effectively than you can at the job site.
  • Less theft. While 2x4s and 2x6s are prone to “walking off” unsecured job sites, panels are too specific to the site’s building system to be worth hauling off somewhere else.
  • Cost competitive. While most builders say they pay a little more for SIPs than for the comparable framing and insulation package in a stick-built home, as a group they believe the benefits are worth the costs. The amount extra they pay varies; while a few say it costs them an extra $1 per square foot of finished floor area, the amount may be higher when roof panels are used. However, when roof panels enclose extra living space in a loft, the price per square foot is surprisingly competitive. If at the design stage you optimize a structure to use panels, the most experienced SIP builders then say a house framed with SIPs should cost about the same as a house framed with comparably sized dimensional lumber, and maybe even a little less.
  • Easier to hang drywall. There is solid backing for all drywall against exterior walls, which means there is less cutting, faster attachment and less waste material.
  • Fewer framing callbacks. Wall panels go in plumb, square and straight. Once in place, a SIP won’t warp, twist or check.
  • Increased referrals. A fair number of small builders report their marketing efforts have decreased ever since they started using SIP building systems.

Reprinted from

Timber Frame Construction, compared to stick built or conventional framing, is a very sustainable building technology. Unlike stick building, the materials used in a timber frame will inevitably be reclaimed and recycled. In fact, many timber frames are made from reclaimed and recycled frames from barns, bridges, warehouses, and factory buildings. An argument is sometimes made that Timber Frames use old growth lumber. In fact, some do. But Timber Frame homes typically last much longer than conventionally framed homes. Timber Frames in Europe and Asia are more than 1000 years old. One way to preserve old growth forests is to build homes that last a lot longer so fewer trees will be cut for construction purposes. One other fact about Timber Frames is that they are frequently build from fast growing farm raised southern yellow pine which is kiln dried. Farm raised Southern Yellow pine is a renewable resource.

Further supporting Timber Frame as a sustainable building method is that Timber Frame combined with SIP panels provides a highly insulated, tight structure that uses much less energy for heating and cooling than conventionally framed structures.

A Timber Frame home, though generally more expensive to build than a conventionally framed home, also brings with it the beauty of posts and beams, open floor plans and soaring ceilings. So Timber Frame construction is not only good for the planet, but beautiful as well.

Top Ten Reasons Why Design and Build Simply Works Better

The Steamboat Project was Design Build

  1. Comprehensive budget – prepared by experienced number crunchers who are intimate with every phase of the project from planning through design to construction and interior design.
  2. Beginning to end supervision – One entity supervises the project from inception to completion creating continuity and project expertise.
  3. Seamless multi-disciplined integration – All the necessary disciplines (architecture, planning, engineering, construction, interior design) are housed under the same roof and answer to the same authority creating simplified workflow.
  4. Single entity accountability –  If something ain’t right, one entity is responsible for correcting the supervision and has the authority to do it.
  5. Breadth of knowledge – The team is experienced in all phases of a homebuilding project, not just a particular discipline. The result is a synergistic knowledge base.
  6. Parallel track design and construction – During design, construction budget, timeframe, and  logistical issues are examined while during construction, design changes can be readily implemented.
  7. Design guidance and input – Builder sits at the design table. Who better to provide relevant design guidance than someone experienced in homebuilding.
  8. Budgetary input during design – A builder intimate with the design process can provide cost management advice during the design phase.
  9. Proven team member/players – The team members know each other well having worked on many projects together
  10. Accessibility – The client always has access to the entire team through any single team member.

Note: Design and Build projects by Trilogy Partners include Caleb’s Journey, Rounds Road, Calecho, Steamboat, Kauai, and others featured in the project gallery.

Boiler Room with Geothermal Heat Exchange System

From earlier writings we described the environmental commitment of Breckenridge homeowner Kyle M. to build an 8,000 sq. ft. luxury zero energy home. We continue today with the inside story of this net zero home. This writing focuses on the renewable energy systems chosen including solar electric and geo-exchange, along with an integrated lighting and electronics program that dually functions as an energy management system. Once Ambient Energy produced the energy modeling for the 8,000 sq. ft. home, the engineering and building team went to work to choose materials that would conserve as much energy as possible. Step one: Design and build a tight well-insulated energy-efficient home. Step two: Incorporate renewable energy and smart-home control systems geared to energy conservation.

The environmental heating and cooling solutions for the Breckenridge Timber Trail home demonstrate a high degree of integration among experienced professionals not unlike the workings of a well trained sports team. This team’s goal: design and install an efficient geo exchange heating ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system to provide 100 percent of the home’s space heating needs with a natural gas boiler backing up system. First up to bat was Barry Engleman of George T. Sanders Companyof Silverthorne. George T. Sanders did the heat calculations for the home to determine how much radiant floor tubing was needed to keep the house warming properly even down to 20 degrees below zero. Engleman designed the layout and Tekmar control systems that control the radiant floor hydronic system. Next to bat was Eric Atcheson of E.W.A. Mechanical Inc. based in Silverthorne. E.W.A worked closely with Engleman, and was responsible for the home’s plumbing, heating, and automated Tekmar control systems. Following Engleman’s layout and his own expertise, Atcheson installed the plumbing system for domestic hot water production, radiant floor heat tubes to supply heating for the home, and the optional snowmelt system for the driveway. The house received two high efficiency boilers that integrate with the ground source heat pumps and ensure the home’s comfort on the coldest of Breckenridge nights. Our third and fourth batters were Jim Dexter from Summit Professionals of Silverthorne and Bob Major of Major Heating and Cooling in Wheat Ridge. The two companies managed the installation and integration of the ground source geo exchange heating and cooling system, heat pumps, air handling and humidification. Summit Professionals designed systems and duct work to provide a fresh supply of air to the home and comfortable environment. Dexter installed an integrated air handling, humidification and Energy Recovery Ventilator which gives the homeowner complete control over the indoor environment. The Breckenridge home receives 100 percent of its space heating and summer cooling from a geothermal heat pump system. Geo exchange uses the constant 50 to 55 degree temperature of the earth to warm the home when it is cold outside and to cool the home on hot days. Before excavation of the home, the geo exchange wells were drilled. Major Heating and Geothermal in conjunction with Can-America Drilling Inc., installs a closed loop system consisting of 19 boreholes, each 300 ft deep, around the foundation and under the driveway.

Solar PV System

Photovoltaic Panels

SolSource, Inc., a solar engineering and installation firm based in Denver, was engaged to design and install the solar photovoltaic system, through their partnership with Breckenridge-based Colorado Building Company.

The Making of Breckenridge’s First Custom Net Zero Home

Dave Lyskawa, Sol-Source VP of Residential Sales, met the homeowner’s goal of designing a solar electric system that provides 100 percent of the home’s electrical needs. For phase one, SolSource installed a 9.89 kW solar PV array. The solar energy installation consists of 43 SolarWorld 230-watt panels with black frames. SolarWorld modules are 100 percent manufactured in the U.S. The solar panels are connected to Enphase micro inverters and an Enphase energy management unit which provides 24/7 system monitoring. Enphase increased the energy production of the solar array by maximizing the energy generated by each individual solar panel. SolSource also selected Enphase to allow for system expandability and is pre-wiring the home for an additional 7 kW system in phase two. The energy produced by the 9.89 kW array prevents an estimated 29,907 pounds of C02 from entering the atmosphere every year.

Lighting and Energy Management Systems

A final component to creating Breckenridge’s first custom net zero home was integrated lighting, energy management, and whole house automation system. Players were Chad Ballard of Paradigm Systems, Inc. based in Denver using the Vantage Control system and Daniel Stern with Electronics by Design in Broomfield. All lighting fixtures installed were evaluated for functionality and energy efficiency. “We focus on correct color, intensity, dimming and usage of the lights required in a luxury residence, while ensuring that the house is performing at the minimum energy consumption,” said Ballard. The Vantage system was chosen for its ability to provide automated and remote control of the home’s lights, HVAC, shades, fans, audio/ video and home theater distribution systems, security through sensors, timers, keypads and energy consumption meters. Lights in high use rooms were programmed with occupancy sensors that turn on when some one enters the room at a set intensity and turn off when motion is no longer detected after a set time interval. This simple house-wide lighting/motion sensor system enables the homeowner to masterfully manage the home’s electricity usage and significantly conserve energy. This Breckenridge residence is likely the “smartest home” in town. If homeowner Kyle wants to, he can press a button on his cell phone as he is driving up to his mountain chateau and engage a “Welcome” mode. With one button the lights turn on, the blinds go up, the garage door opens, and music begins to play.

Steamboat House and Japanese Garden

These 10 elements are key essentials for sustainable homebuilding.

  1. A Leadership Attitude – The owners of the home are the leaders of the effort toward sustainability and must be willing to enforce sustainable standards and practices during design and construction.
  2. A Commitment to Preserving Environment and Resources – A willingness to confront the environmental and resource issues created by putting a structure where there was none before.
  3. A Sustainable Lot – Choose a lot which makes sense. Some building sites are inherently better for building sustainably. Consider orientation, exposure, topography and accessibility. For example: choose a southern exposure in a cooler environment. Choose an accessible lot to minimize resources expended on infrastructure. Don’t fight the topography. Embrace it.
  4. A Supportive Community -Does your community or owner’s association support sustainable standards and practices. Some towns and subdivisions restrict the use of solar panels or wind turbines.
  5. An Interest in Research – Sustainable Practices and Principles require study. Technologies change quickly so it’s important to stay current.
  6. A Sustainable Design Team – Do available Architects, Designers, and Engineers have the knowledge and commitment to support a sustainable project?
  7. A Sustainable Build Team – Do available Builders have the knowledge and commitment to support a sustainable project?
  8. A Reasonable Concept – Is your concept compatible with sustainablility. Are you willing to compromise to achieve sustainable objectives?
  9. A Reasonable Budget – Is your budget adequate to fund a sustainable project. Sustainability is seldom less expensive than standard construction standards.
  10. A Reasonable Timeframe – Designing and Building the sustainable home takes time. Inflexible deadlines don’t allow for design optimization or project planning.

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