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.
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!
TC Legend – A Value’s Based Company – A Feminine Perspective
Written by: Senna Scott (Edited by: Sarah DesRosiers)
Something that we don’t hear much about in the construction industry, is the voice and perspective of the Feminine. I am grateful to say that there has been so much growth, progress, and change over the past 10 years that I’m hoping more women consider entering the industry.
We’ve posted about many of our accomplishments, the houses we’ve built, our team wins, awards, and events. But what is it like for a female, behind the scenes, at TC Legend?
I’m Senna. I am the Office Manager and head of HR, at TC Legend Homes. I primarily run our finances, books, taxes, payroll, marketing, safety, employee relations and IT. We’re still a small business, so we all wear many hats to get the job done!
This topic is very dear to my heart and is an article I’ve been wanting to write for a long time now. For the past 12 years, I have worked in the Energy Engineering & Construction Industry, at various corporate companies. Being a young woman employed in a male-dominated industry, I’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity. Working for TC Legend Homes has been unlike any other experience I’ve had.
I was the first woman to work for TC Legend back in 2015. When I started, I worked half-time on the job-site and half-time in the office. I was eager to learn how to build an energy efficient home. I remember vividly the day that I received my first tool belt from Dan, one of our crew members. I loved being a part of the crew! While I only worked for the company for 6 months, before returning to a corporate job, a seed had been planted. There was something different about this company compared to other jobs in the industry. This prompted me to stay in contact with Ted, TC’s founder, over the next few years. In 2019, the company went through a reorganization of management and ownership. Norm DesRosiers became co-owner of the company and office staff was also going through a major transformation. Life had brought me back to Bellingham, and in early 2020, Ted reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in coming back to work for TC. I agreed, eagerly! The driving force behind my decision to return to this company was that I consider it to be a heart-based company. By heart-based company, I mean we really flipping CARE! We care about the work we do, our clients, and each other.
I’m a very empathetic person, which means I feel the energy and people’s feelings easily. Often, I know how someone is feeling even before they do. I can sense the ‘energy’ of a person or a company’s intentions very quickly. My sense of TC has been spot on and vastly different from that of the corporate companies I have previously been employed. It is a company that truly values equality, integrity, and a deep desire to make the world a better place.
We care about our customers. We care about our employees. We care about the earth. We care about the work we do. We care about every house we build. We care about future generations and about our kids having options to own a safe, affordable, and efficient home one day. We care about the industry and want to change how things have been!
TC is such a contrast from other jobs I have had in the field. Before TC, I worked among money-driven managers, employees, teams, and customers. I had hoped to do meaningful work, but I felt so drained, and even suffered health problems from over-working 50, 60, and sometimes even 70 hour work weeks. I never saw where my efforts and energy went. I have experienced work environments where bosses and general managers have belittled, made sexual implications or jokes, who have completely disregarded what I’ve said, who have taken the credit for my ideas or work, and who have even slapped a female co-worker’s bottom on my shift. Unfortunately, I know there are many women who share similar and far worse stories of misogyny in the workforce. Women have had to ‘fight’ their way to ‘prove’ themselves, particularly in this industry. Often, women in the workforce, have to choose between work and family, missing out on child rearing and homelife. TC Legend Homes is nothing like these other work experiences. It is a safe work environment.
I feel so grateful and privileged to say that I don’t have to sacrifice time, with my kiddo, for work. TC Legend values the importance of family life and caring for our children. I am a single Mom. As an employee at TC, I can work from home. I am able to balance work, family, and social life with ease. Plus, I love the work I do! At TC, my voice and ideas are heard and valued.
Working for this company has healed me in many ways. I have grown as an individual and shed some of my wounding after working in misogynistic work environments. For example, I used to swear a lot because that is how I observed men talking in the corporate world and I was trying to “keep up with the men.” I also used to make crude jokes. I recall Ted pointing out that I swore more than anyone else in the company. This surprised me as I was unaware that I was doing this and it forced me to discover why I felt the need to use foul language around men. This feedback from my boss prompted me to examine how working in a male-dominated industry had not only shaped me, but how this didn’t have to be the way I engage in a work environment anymore. I don’t need to “keep up with the men.” I can be me.
This is just one example of my own internalized patriarchy. The fight against sexism, which is work we all must do, regardless of gender, if we want to build a better future and a safer industry!
At TC Legend, there is a high intolerance for unnecessary profanity. There is also a high intolerance toward misogynistic behavior and sexual harassment. We care about the safety of our employees!
A heart-based company is only accomplished by having great leaders who are solid in their shared values and who hire passionate and value-driven employees.
Ted is one of the most idealistic people I’ve ever met. I laugh looking back over all his soap-box speeches of the future and what we need to do to improve as an industry as well as a society. I met him at a Built Green Conference, in Seattle, back in 2014.I remember vividly his long, grown-out orange beard. He was wearing an orange sweatshirt, with his kids’ painted hand prints. I remember thinking “I want THAT guy as a boss!”
One book Ted lives by is called Let My People Go Surfing, by Patagonia’s CEO and founder Yvon Chouinard, who shares his unique philosophy. Ted has loaned me the book before, and no, I never read it. I’m more of an audio book type *cough* millennial *cough* , but the message is clear in the title. Take care of your employees, give them a good work/life balance, and your business will thrive.
And this is very clear in how we operate. When there’s conflict, I have witnessed time and time again, an honest and proactive approach to find resolve, and a solution that takes care of the employee.
Our crew has a Four Day work week. Hopefully, America can one day mandate this for all . We give Ski season passes as a benefit to boost morale in the winter months. We genuinely want happy and healthy employees. I like to joke that Ted could write the book Let My People Go Skiing!
Co-owner, Norm, is one of the most grounded (for a water sign 😉), neutral, perspective-honoring, humble, objective, and driven humans. He has an impeccable work ethic. He’s such a great balance to Ted. Norm is also caring. He cares deeply about our planet and lives life in alignment with the native philosophy, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Norm cares about our employees and strives to manage the company and client relationships with integrity. Norm has a lovely wife and two girls. One of my first memories of him was being on our weekly meeting call and Jake asking him what color his nails were painted that week. They were pink! He let his girls paint his nails!
What I appreciate most about both Ted and Norm, is the level of respect they’ve given me over the years. They care about my counsel, my ideas, and look to me as an equal. They are both examples of men that honor their own ‘feminine.’ By this, I mean, they honor their own and individual’s emotions, having great respect for women, apologize when wrong, and prioritize harmony, safety and balance for themselves and their employees.
Our not-so-spoken-about philosophy is one of balance and equality. When we recognize the strengths of our employees, regardless of gender, we all thrive. When we also honor and recognize strengths we can utilize from gender, we also thrive. When we offer equal pay, benefits, offer leveraging opportunities for women and minorities, we set a new precedent.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve hired on two more *amazing* young women that have significantly shaped and enhanced both TC Legend Homes and our sister Design Company, Powerhouse Designs.
Talia, a recent graduate from Western Washington University, with her passion for designing and building zero-energy ready homes, has learned the role of a Draftswoman at an incredible pace. She’s gotten down our formula of net-zero energy homes and is capable of leading her own clients through the Design Phase. With her love for the STEM world and all things technical, she’s even developed a whole new sector for our business, offering Consulting services for certifying Built Green (which the requirements have been changing) AND offering Embodied Carbon Calculation Services!!
(I’ll leave it to Talia to educate us more on Embodied Carbon & her calculations in future blogs!)
Nicole, another passionate graduate from Western Washington University with former years of experience coordinating and managing in the housing industry. She has taken on Project Manager and Office Admin support! She supports our clients with product selections, ordering materials, making sure they arrive on site, handling contracts, draws, and profitability analysis. From applying for awards, attending events, being in the ‘know’ about regulations and code changes, she has significantly improved many of our systems! The amount of work she’s taken off of Ted & Norm, so they can spend more time managing on site, handling technical operations, doing more profit- generating tasks, and spending more time with their families is invaluable! Above all else she has significantly improved our client communication and has given our clients even more of a voice – that’s HUGE!
And lest I forget, Jake, our head Draftsman of Powerhouse Designs, who used to be a stay-at-home Dad, is one of the warmest and most eccentric people, with a brilliant mind! He’s been another pillar of supporting myself over the years and training Talia to his level, and beyond!
Our whole crew are brilliant, unique individuals (I’ll be show casing our construction crew in future blogs)! It’s truly an honor to work alongside such educated, progressive and value-based individuals! I know every day I am showing up to make a difference, even if it’s from behind-the-scenes. 😊
We are one of many companies that are raising the bar – stepping in the right direction of creating a new standard. Truthfully, one that should have always been the norm. May we honor the women that have come before us in the workforce, and the men who stand beside us, lift us up, and who strive to make the world a better place for our daughters and granddaughters!
Together, we are creating a brighter future for generations to come!
This just in and hot off the press – the House in the Hollow Case Study! TC Legend built this net-zero house through the winter of 2020/ 2021.
The house-in-a-hollow isn’t really in a hollow, it’s on a knoll, above protected wetlands, northeast of Bellingham. The hollow is formed by the trees, which were preserved to shield the house from overheating, and to conserve the flora of the native wetlands.
Measuring 1950 square feet, this Department-of-Energy certified Net Zero clerestory design has a central kitchen and a 1st floor aging-in-place floorplan. Designed for an Alaskan couple whose love of the outdoors demanded a house that fully engaged with the landscape, plenty of daylight is admitted & access to outdoor living is easy.
“Builder TC Legend Homes of Bellingham, Washington, aims for quality and sustainability in every home it constructs and company founder Ted Clifton Jr. has found the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program is an ideal way to achieve that goal.”
“The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program is a great benchmark not only for ourselves, but for all those looking to build or purchase a home that is eco-friendly. Since the program incorporates ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS, holds high standards for energy efficiency, and is nationwide, it is an easy way to compare homes across the board and that reduces confusion for purchasers,” said Clifton.
“It’s also great that the DOE program has a very low cost barrier. There are many other certification programs that charge large fees, making it difficult for small builders to participate. Or, the cost of the fees gets passed along in higher home prices, increasing the barrier to purchase for many people,” Clifton added.
Since 2015, TC Legend Homes has built all of its homes to the DOE program criteria. The builder typically constructs one spec home and five or six custom homes for buyers each year and currently has nine homes under construction. In 2022, the builder was recognized by DOE for its efforts with a Housing Innovation Grand Award in the category “Custom for Buyer under 2,500 ft2.”
Modeled Performance Data of House in the Hollow:
• HERS INDEX: without PV: 33 with PV: -23
• Annual Energy Costs: without PV: $600; with PV: $-280
• Annual Energy Cost Savings: without PV: $1,200; with PV: $2,150
• Annual Energy Savings: without PV: 8,400 kWh; with PV: 20,350 kWh
• Savings in the First 30 Years: without PV: $48,930; with PV: $86,550