Which way do you run the streets to maximize solar exposure for dense Net Zero development?
Common wisdom states that the optimal streets run east west, which makes sense if you’re the house on the north side of the street, because there’s nothing shading your house, garden or solar panels. However, living on the south side of the street, you suffer from north facing gardens and probably some shading unless the lots are 5000sf or greater.
Critically, 10 dwelling units (du) per acre is the density with enough inhabitants to support a bus service (*1), a key part of the sustainable urbanist vision for transit, pedestrian & bike use, rather than private cars. An acre is 43500sf.
My conclusion is that the common wisdom is wrong for dense, Net Zero development, that the streets should run north-south.
A Net-Zero house has most of the windows on the south side of the house because south facing windows can be effectively shaded from summertime overheating, and can harvest wintertime solar energy.
Because all the windows are on the south walls, we can’t have another 2-story house immediately to the south as shown in ‘East-West 3700’ below, or the valuable direct wintertime sunlight will be prevented from entering & you’ll have a house that is gloomy all winter.
Sure, if the lots are big, we can keep the southern house away, as shown in ‘East-West 4500’ below, but then we end up with less than 10 du/ acre (du/a) and there’s no bus & everyone’s driving cars.
The ‘North-South 3800’ drawing below shows a 1-story neighbor garage to the south, avoiding shade. Bingo! That’s a 3800sf lot, and offers 11.34 du/a. Additionally the frontage length is reduced which lowers roadway & utility development costs.
(*1) Transit modes related to residential density (Boris Pushkarev & Jeffry M Zupan)
There’s a right & a wrong way to design windows on the southside of a house.
The Murphy windows are done the right way, are a bit high, tucked up towards the eaves to admit the low winter sunshine yet shade-out the unwanted high summer sun so it can’t enter the building & warm up the interior.
This means your windows are a bit high and look to the sky.
I battled Ted for years about these windows because I want houses to look at the ground, and, the sky. However after twelve months looking at the ever-changing sky of the Pacific Northwest I am a convert, and a disciple. It’s just fabulous walking into a cool house in hot high summer, knowing that absolutely no sunshine is entering.
In the summer I want to live in a cool, dark cave. In the howling winter I want to live in a bright, warm sanctuary.
The Murphy house brings this contradiction to life, and then adds space to time:
There is 750 square feet of space inside the Murphy house, and there is 600sf of deck-space outside. The two spaces flow easily into each other. How, why, what?
You walk out onto a very modern pale-colored interior-style floor. It feels clean, like a room that’s outside, rather than a deck. Indeed I used to vacuum that floor with the shop vac, and it came up trim with the clean-house feeling. Add good exterior furniture and a partial roof, lights and pots growing peppers in the sunshine & you have a place to go, even it’s just to water the peppers. Now I’m drifting in and out, and out and in. Stimulation outside, sanctuary inside. I move between the two feeding my appetites and resting.
As my life progressed from summer into winter I was left inside again, with those three sky-windows pointing up, but now I was looking at dark sky, stars, tungsten-lit clouds and tungsten-lit storms. The Murphy house was flooded with ambient night-light. Planet earth travelling around the sun is tilted, and the Pacific Northwest was at its distance-extreme from the sun; dark & cold, & I knew it.
Here’s the secret: if you put the windows above chest height you don’t need shades for privacy because there’s nothing to see except a head. So now there can always be a view out, so you can see it all.
I’m not sure it’s reasonable to write a whole post about 3 windows and a deck, but that’s really where it’s at.
The kitchen is worthy of mention because it formed an epic super-social axis around which I could meet new people; I would cook, and all these new dudes would sit at the bar. I think the concept of ‘defensible space’ bluntly describes how the kitchen/ counter combo lent me ease and accommodated new minds.
The very dark bathroom was the deepest and most welcome part of the summer-cave, a heavy earth-tile retreat, darkly contrasting with the bright, bright apartment (delete repeated word).
I never lived in the Murphy house with anyone, and there remain questions in my mind about privacy & the closeness of the bedrooms to the common areas. To my mind Ted’s Leong house addresses most of these concerns.
The western light poured through the double doors in the summer; orange and yellow and picked up the yellow fir floors. It was a golden place.
Company Culture Blog: Feat. Nicole’s Extra Curricular Activities
Written by: Nicole Miller
At TC Legend Homes, our crew is dedicated to sustainability and environmentalism even outside of work. One of the ways crew member Nicole shows this dedication is through citizen scientist volunteering. With a degree in Environmental Science and a passion for marine biology, she puts these to work volunteering through RE Sources participating in their Intertidal Monitoring. She has participated in 5 seasons of the monitoring starting in 2014. The monitoring consists of specialists and citizens alike taking data on the intertidal zone at the Cherry Point and Fidalgo Bay aquatic reserves. Specifically looking at things like the beach elevation, substrate and what species are living in each section of the intertidal zone.
In the pacific northwest, we pride ourselves on our beautiful landscape, with the mountains to our East and ocean to our West. We love spending time at both but seem to forget the impacts humans have on these ecosystems or were simply not taught what magical worlds lie within. That’s where monitoring comes in! These data sets provide snapshots into the health of the intertidal ecosystem which is crucial as the globe experiences higher temperatures. These aquatic reserves are also located around the refineries, which means the data will act as a baseline in case there is ever any kind of oil spill or other catastrophic event. That way the refineries can be properly held accountable, and we know what species were affected.
Firstly, let’s look at what even constitutes the intertidal zone. The intertidal zone is the point between high tide and low tide, otherwise known as the foreshore. The backshore is the portion that only gets covered in water in extreme high tides/weather events and is often where we hang out on the beach.
For the surveys, profile lines are setup running from the backshore to the water line and transect line are run perpendicular at the +1, 0 and -1 tides. On those transects, quadrats are placed to take data from.
Here’s an example of what one of those quadrats may look like.
The goal is to identify everything big and small. On the left is a moon glow anemone and on the right in the circle is an itty-bitty sculpin (fish) blending in with the shell debris and sand. Notice the barnacles attached the rock below the sculpin and the green seaweed.
The specialists flipped this rock and found multiple different sea stars, a chiton (the plated creature toward the top of the rock) and sea sponges (notice the orange and white splotches). Disclaimer: if you flip a rock on the beach, please be sure to *gently* place the rock *exactly* back in the orientation in which you found it to ensure the safety of the critters living on and under the rock. Otherwise, you may squash the critters or leave them exposed to dry up and die. And I think we can all agree that we don’t want that!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to lift up rocks to observe some cool critters! Here you can see a couple of purple Pisaster sea stars on the side of the rock and the end of a sea cucumber (orange) poking out from under it. This rock didn’t need to be touched to see these beautiful creatures!
Sometimes you’ll see something like this in the middle of a sandy area. These are two sea anemones buried in the sand and protecting themselves during the low tide. Be careful not to step on them! Or any sea critters for that matter.
The intertidal zone is a very biodiverse area that can be fun to explore. Once you know how to look, you’ll start noticing more and more life!
Plans-for-Sale Powerhouse Designs Website is Now LIVE
Written by: Senna Scott
You asked and we listened!
We are so excited to announce that our Plans for Sale website in now officially LIVE!
Our Design team, Powerhouse Designs, have been working tirelessly at rendering our old & new plans, and working out the bugs back end to make a smooth purchasing experience!
Know of anyone looking to build a net-zero energy home? They can now skip the design phase by purchasing one of our plan-sets and get to building! Saving them thousands on design and getting to shovel-ready even quicker! If local to Bellingham, TC Legend Homes has availability for 2024 – 2025 home builds!
Powerhouse Designs now offers consultation and design services on purchased plans, helping you to customize the plans for your needs! Consultation slots are purchasable on the website.
In addition, Powerhouse Designs now offers NEW SERVICES!
Embodied Carbon Calculations
Built Green Certification Consultation
Net-Zero Design Consultation
Are you looking to calculate your carbon footprint or apply for a certification? Are you a contractor that needs to outsource this work for your clients or need support on making your plans more green? Our staff at Powerhouse Designs now offers Embodied Carbon Calculation Consultations, Built Green Certification and Net-Zero Design Consultation services!
Obtaining Built Green certifications and implementing Embodied Carbon calculations have become a rapidly changing part of the industry. Our team has been up-to-speed and pioneering this process! They will walk you step by step through the process for a stress-free experience!
Ted was featured on the KKNW Podcast!Learn all about Building an Affordable Custom Home that Has No Monthly Heating and Cooling Costs on Spotify.
Ted Clifton does much more than just create beautiful homes for his clients, he makes sure that the custom homes he builds not only look gorgeous, he makes sure they also deliver tremendous financial value to the owner. He does this by maximizing the value of every dollar spent during the construction of the home, and further, he minimizes the amount of money it takes for his clients to maintain their home, year after year. N this interview, Ted talks about how he is able to build new, super high-performance, custom homes for a fraction of the cost other custom builders charge to build a similar home. Contact TC Legend Homes Here: https://tclegendhomes.com; https://powerhouse-designs.com/
The U.S. Department of Energy is pleased to announce that the submission for the Samish Solar Home from Powerhouse Designs and TC Legend Homes has been selected as a 2023 Housing Innovation Award Winner!
This national award represents a significant achievement, recognizing the most impressive and advanced homes among leading DOE Zero Energy Ready Home builders. Our standard-setting leadership serves as an example of what every homebuyer in the nation should come to expect and demand from their home.
This Housing Innovation Award helps us celebrate our success in providing our customers with the best in energy efficiency, indoor air quality, comfort, and construction quality. Awardees this year are being recognized for innovative use of off-the-shelf technologies and strategies to achieve advanced performance; innovative use of leading-edge technologies and strategies to achieve advanced performance; market transformation through education efforts; and innovative implementation of decarbonization strategies.
We will find out more details come Awards Summit in October about which category we won!
Here are some quick stats on the house: o Insulation: R-29 walls & R-59 ceiling o PV: 10.8kW solar array with Enphase microinverters and battery ready o Air Sealing: 0.27ACH o HERS Index: -20 o Est. Annual Energy Cost Savings: $2432 o Certifications: DOE Zero Energy Ready Home certified, ENERGY STAR certified, EPA Indoor airPLUS certified, anticipated Built Green 5-star certified