Sustainable Sidebar: World Water Day Fixtures...

Happy World Water Day!   In honor of the day, we thought it might be nice to be inspired by some pretty bathroom fixtures that help us save water and keep our baths stylish!

Deck Mounted Faucets

Stylish deck mounted faucets that save water too!

01_Deck Mounted Faucets (from left to right)

Toto Soiree 1.5 gpm, HansGrohe PuraVida 1.5 gpm, Fluid Jovian 1.75 gpm, Kraus Decus 2.5 gpm

Wall Mount Faucet

Want a wall mount faucet instead? Try these!

02_Wall Mounted Faucets (from left to right)

Fluid Jovian 1.75 gpm, Kohler Oblo PuraVida 1.75 gpm, Blu Bath Works Pure 2.1 gpm

Showerheads

Let showers rain down without sacrificing the experience!

03_Showerheads (from left to right)

Toto 10″ Square Rainshower 1.75 gpm, Blu Bathworks Round Rainshower 2.0 gpm, Caroma Flow 1.5 gpm

Toilets

And for flushing down the ones and twos....

04_Toilets/Urinals (from left to right)

Caroma Cube Invisi 1.2/0.8 gpf, Blu BathWorks Halo 1.75 gpm,Caroma Cube Urinal 0.13gpf gpm, Caroma H2Zero Waterless Urinal 0 gpm

And if you want to save water with an existing faucet, or have your heart set on a really beautiful, high water usage fixture, the Water Miser is a great attachment that can help limit water use.Water Miser Install ImageWater Miser

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Heron’s Head EcoCenter...

Entrance to Heron's Head Eco-Center

Perched on a knoll at the edge of the bay, the Heron’s Head EcoCenter is a welcome beacon in the gritty, industrial landscape of Bayview/Hunters Point.  The green roof, reclaimed wood exterior siding, and restored wetlands offer clues to the native ecology of the place, and hint at innovative systems that make the project self-sufficient.  In an area where resources have been ravaged and pilfered in the last few decades, the EcoCenter has established itself as a local icon to empower the community to change its situation.

Aerial photo of Heron's Head

Heron’s Head is a small sliver of land along the edge of the bay that resembles an upside down heron’s head.  Two hundredyears ago, the area was a rich wetland estuary, the confluence of freshwater Islais and Yosemite creeks, and the salty San Francisco Bay.  Many aquatic creatures, ground rodents, mammals, insects, and birds, including blue herons called it home.

The contemporary history of the area begins with Naval shipyards, constructed in the late 19th century.  During World War II, many African Americans arrived and settled in the neighborhood to work in the shipyards.  When the shipyards ceased production, the community gradually yielded to a series of other forces.  PG&E constructed a large natural gas power plant, which prior to its closure in 2006, was the highest polluting substation in the state.  In 1952, San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission built the Southeast Wastewater treatment station; today it processes 67 million gallons of wastewater per year in open-air

Tiles made by local youth depicting neighborhood toxins/pollution sources

aerators. EcoCenter’s site is a former landfill, and to the north is the City’s major recycling center, which brings a heavy flow of diesel trucks.  For decades, the effects of these physical structures produced an environment with high levels of airborne particulates, ground contamination, and led to abnormally high concentrations of asthma, cancer and even infant mortality in the local population.

Solar PV panels catch rays near the bay

Given the location’s history and four major surrounding forces, the EcoCenter was intended as a response to educate the localcommunity about the environmental and social effects it has left on the landscape and the neighborhood, and to demonstrate alternative solutions.

Solar PV system & onsite storage – In a response to the massive PG&E substation, the EcoCenter captures and stores electrical energy on site. Bayview is ideal for solargain, with a yearly average of 335 days of sunshine.  Onsite there is a 3.6kwh PV array and lead acid battery bank which stores 3 days of energy. All the electrical wiring inside is exposed to inform visitors of the electrical sources and pathways through the building.

Rainwater cisterns displayed prominently at the entry

View of the planted roof

Rainwater collection & storage – The roof consists of three planes, one for the solar array and two green roofs that harvest rainwater into onsite cisterns.  The rainwater is designed to flush the toilets, but the city has not yet permitted the use.  There is a ½” water line to provide potable water and supply the fire suppression system.

Stormwater treatment – Because the building does not have a direct storm sewer connection, much of the runoff collected from building and site is absorbed onsite and designed to infiltrate to the ground through low-impact development strategies such as green roofs and constructed wetlands.

The living system breaks down wastewater

Wastewater processing – Because the wastewater plant is located within smelling distance, EcoCenter wanted to demonstrate a self-sufficient strategy for processing wastewater.  The two bathroom sinks, two toilets, and a future kitchen sink do not connect to the city’s sewer system, but to a blackwater treatment loop called the Living Machine which then leaches into a constructed wetland outside. Currently, the system is designed to handle 1500 gallons of sewage/day.

Reclaimed wood siding

Recycled building materials – as a response to the local recycling center and the fact the site has been reclaimed fromlandfill, parts of the building were clad in reclaimed wood pieces to transform waste into ”new” building materials.

Literacy for Environmental Justice conceived the project 10 years ago, as a community classroom to educate neighbors about the local environmental injustices.  Around 2003, Laurie Schoeman heard about it, and felt it was an ideal demonstration project for its promise to bring environmental justice to the community and potential for non-profit organizations to take an active role in the built environment. Schoeman joined LEJ as part time staff to work on the EcoCenter, and eventually became a full time employee and primary resource for shepherding the project through the complex community, financing, regulatory and construction implementation hurdles.

Interior of classroom

Funding Because LEJ did not have an independent source of funding for the EcoCenter, a network of grants, donations and services helped realize the building.  Rights to the land were negotiated with the Bay Conservation Development Group (BCDG).  Funding was a mix of public and private resources – 10-12 private foundations grants, city funds from the San Francisco Department of the Environment, state grants by the Coastal Conservancy.  Federal money from the American Reconstruction and Recovery Act (ARRA), enabled completion of the green roof.  There were also significant material gifts and in-kind donations, including BP solar PV panels, landscaping materials, Rebuilding Together labor, and pro-bono legal assistance.

Partners The project would not have been possible without the continued support of quite a number of designers, engineers and contractors.  The list is numerous, but some of the key players included:

Toby Long, Toby Long Design, Architect

Control panel for photovoltaics

Alex Rood, Fulcrum Structural, Structural Engineering

Jeff Ludlow, Tredwell & Rollo, Geotechnical

Noadiah Eckman, Eckman Environmental, Wastewater treatment

Habitat Gardens, rainwater catchment & living systems for stormwater treatment

Greg Kennedy, Occidental Power, solar PV & battery array

Regulatory Hurdles: Many of the EcoCenter’s systems are not conventional and required significant effort to convince public officials of their efficacy and safety.  Building officials wanted to ensure safety of the SIPs and foundation system on this landfill site.  The Fire Department would not approve the project unless a dedicated municipal water source supplied the fire sprinkler systems. Environmental Health and Public Health were extremely concerned about the Living Machine systems, and the greywater usage, especially where children were concerned.

View from the Southeast

The Eco Center is now open to the public, welcoming neighbors, school groups throughout the Bay Area, and even local professionals.  When asked who she would most want to visit the EcoCenter, Laurie Schoeman expressed a desire for President Obama and Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA to see the center.  To Laurie, the center is a model for everything President Obama has stood for with respect to community building, capacity building, jobs training, reclamation of underutilized land, social and environmental justice, independent energy sources and off grid technologies.

Green Focus: Sustainable Residential...

Any architectural style or design can be green. As an architectural photographer, I am constantly inspired by my client’s applications of sustainable design concepts and materials that come together to create spaces of great beauty and comfort. Many of these projects incorporate beautiful natural lighting that does not always translate photographically without supplemental light. My goal is to represent a space that emphasizes the natural state of these projects while employing enough additional light so that no design elements are lost in translation from how it is experienced in person to its representation in the photograph.

There are no photos with those IDs or post 1429 does not have any attached images!

Johnson Residence

Architect: Tri-Tech Design, Russell Johnson

Resilient to most elements and natural disasters that can threaten a building, Russell Johnson designed his home to last for over 150 years, at which point the building can then be disassembled and recycled. This home also utilizes solar power, thermal mass to help reduce its impact on the environment.

Frame Hoskins Residence

Architect: Leger Wanaselja Architects

Contractor: Rick Anstey

Situated in Marin County the remodel of this 1940’s home included a variety of energy efficiency upgrades including a native roof garden, photovoltaic panels, salvaged and FSC wood with low and non-toxic finishes, durable stone finishes, and bamboo cabinets.

Corte Madera Remodel

Architect: Michael Heacock + Associates

Contractor: Creative Spaces

Michael Heacock designed this remodel to minimize site impact, maximize the existing footprint, recycle all possible materials from the existing building and employ a variety of additional green materials and systems.

Emily Hagopian began her career with a thesis exploring the many innovative materials and applications of green design. Over the past 7 years, she has made it a priority to document the work of design firms, organizations and agencies that are focused on sustainability.

Creative Reuse...

When I decided to reuse my Kombucha Tea bottle as vase to bring a little color to my kitchen window sill, I thought it’d be great to ask the rest of the FA staff what objects they’ve reused; below is a showcase of either quirky personal or architectural examples of reused objects that give new life to old materials. They begin to speak about how being green can happen at many different scales and be as simple to achieve as drinking your tea.  – Matt

1. Piece of weathered plywood becomes an art object
2. Salvaged teak as bath trim
3. Crushed windshield glass as roof surface
4. Wine boxes as storage bins
5. An ashtray becomes a dish sponge holder

Creative_Reuse

The Cost of Going Green...

Initial discussions with current and potential clients about sustainability may begin in various ways.  From the first phone call, many clients begin to express that their “wish list” includes making the project as green as possible.  Others are more hesitant.  But both turn to us with all the best intentions but with questions of how much being green will cost, particularly in the current economic climate.  Most tend to believe that green = more expensive, which it can, but there are many, many ways to approach environmental responsibility and many are cost-saving.

There are several moves in the early phases of the design process which can be considered low hanging fruit and best practice.  This includes a thorough understanding of the site and climate and choosing an orientation for the home that takes advantage of both the sun and wind as free and clean resources for energy and thermal comfort.  The placement of the building and its thermal mass in order to capture heat from the sun’s warming rays, or away from the sun’s ray in more tropical climates, doesn’t typically add to the cost of construction for a new building.  A clear understand of how the wind moves across the site and orienting the openings to take advantage of natural ventilation and air flow changes is also cost neutral.

Another discussion that often happens early in the project revolves around the size of the building.  A typical 10,000sf structure uses far more resources to build, and later to heat or cool, than planning and programming for a smaller building.  Moving towards smaller buildings is both cost-saving and generally more environmentally-responsible, as long as other sustainable materials and methods are implemented in the smaller building.  The pre-design phase often allows us to better understand the client’s program and to offer suggestions on multi-purpose rooms that can cut down the size of the program.  A clear understanding of the client’s program also leads to a better understanding of which rooms should allow for natural light and shading.  An office which is only used throughout the day might get all of its needs for light from the sun.

On the other hand, other sustainable products which can be implemented have a higher cost and a lower rate of return.  For instance, water storage tanks are currently an expensive accessory to a building in large part due to the fact that water is so heavily subsidized.  In one of our Northern California homes, three large storage tanks were implemented to capture water for landscape irrigation, largely due to the fact that the client felt strongly that it is the right thing to do.  If water continues to be relatively cheap, the tanks will pay for themselves in about 30 years.  However, it may be forward-thinking to implement such a system, since many experts claim that water will not continue to be so heavily subsidized.

Finally, there are many systems which, of course, add to the cost to construction but have a high and quick rate of return.  These include integrated solar panels in projects that get a lot of sunlight, insulation with higher R values that help reduce heating and cooling costs, LED lights, and the specification of energy efficient appliances.   Wood flooring or framing timbers which are FSC-certified tend to cost more to the client, since there is a certain amount of stewardship that the client is paying for, but we are encouraged by the trend of clients who see that the cost to the planet of specifying non-FSC certified woods is simply not sustainable.

As with any part of a design and construction project, sustainable materials and technologies represent a blend of client’s desires and needs in balance with a budget.  A most encouraging piece of sustainable building in the current economic times is that cost-benefit analysis and consumer demand are bringing sustainable materials more and more into the realm of the affordable.  Also, education of the clients about the hidden costs of certain practices and materials is pushing all of us in the building trades to think creatively about sustainability and to cause a more thorough analysis of the cost of being green.  – Hannah

Rainwater Harvesting and Irrigation Continued...

When installing underground storage tanks you must always consider the level of the water table, surface pressure and an anchoring system. A great solution, if feasible, is to install tanks under a driveway, building or patio with access through a fitted manhole.

 We have been designing large-scale residential and commercial rainwater harvesting systems in California since 1997, primarily for irrigation use in the landscape. We like to consider our landscapes that incorporate rainwater harvesting as “closed loop systems,” as we begin the design by determining our end-water usage.  

It Starts with Plant Selection  

It starts with the type of plants we choose. We look at the irrigation requirements for the proposed planting areas. In our design we hydrozone, i.e., put plants together with similar water needs and choose a high percentage (75–90 percent) of our plants from a rich, diverse native and drought-tolerant plant palette. This way we get the most aesthetics and the most efficient water usage out of our site. Many of these plants add more water-saving benefits to the site, in that they help bind the soil and prevent erosion and excess runoff.  

Lawns, of course, are the biggest water users, so reducing lawn areas reduces water needs, which in turn requires a smaller rain harvesting system. Our goal is to supply most (or all) of our plant irrigation needs with harvested rainwater.  

Three 7,500-gallon “Short Boy” water catchment tanks are placed beneath a patio.

ET Rates 
 

Other site-specific factors we consider in determining our end-use needs for irrigation water include water percolation rates (dependent on soil type), and evapotranspiration (ET) rates—how fast the water evaporates from or absorbs into the soil. These rates determine how often and how much we need to apply water to the plants. My experience is that most homeowners over water their plants by a factor of two to three times. With the use of “Smart” ET- based automatic irrigation controllers we can now plug in the data for each zone, including the types of plants, soil type and topography. The controller sends this data to a local satellite station to determine the ET rate for the day. Only the amount of water needed on any given day is then administered to the plants. Usually included is a rain sensor that automatically turns the irrigation off if there is any precipitation. When operating on a rainwater system, the irrigation water supply is limited for the year, so we also recommend the irrigation system includes a flow sensor, which when a leak is detected informs the owner or landscape management team of the problem via email or cell phone.  

Drip Irrigation  

We use drip irrigation as our preferred method of irrigation. Subsurface drip is becoming more popular in the U.S. Subsurface drip is said to deliver 90 percent of the water directly to the roots of the grasses and plants, compared to 60 percent when using a spray system. It is also estimated that subsurface drip irrigation can save up to 70 percent more than spray heads, and up to 25 percent more than regular drip systems. We then add a two to three inch thick top layer of woodchip mulch to the planting areas to add to the efficiency of the system.  

This component system of pumps and pipes source the water stored in above ground tanks and is connected to a “Smart” ET- based automatic irrigation controller. The controller sends this data to a local satellite station to determine the ET rate for the day, ensuring only the amount of water needed on any given day flows to the plants. The irrigation system should include a flow sensor to detect leaks.

Filtered Roof Water  

In most cases, the roof surfaces of the home (or other buildings on the lot) can provide the quantity of water needed for a full planting design, so importantly, we determine in advance our irrigation needs and design for the greatest efficiency. Roofs are the cleanest rainwater source, as opposed to surface drained storm water. Because of the particulates that storm water picks up on landscape surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, it is typically of a lower quality. From the roof downspouts the rainwater may be directed through filters, which are usually quite simple, to appropriately sized storage tanks and then pumped and filtered again before entering directly into the efficiently designed irrigation system. It is important to size the pipes, filters, and storage system appropriately, based on the runoff rates of a heavy storm in a particular area. There also must be a well-planned solution to accommodate overflow during a particularly heavy storm.  

Above or Below Ground Tanks  

There have been many successful rain-harvesting systems installed in California. An above ground rainwater storage solution is the least expensive, but most space-consuming alternative. We typically install above ground tanks when there is enough room to screen them from view, although some landscape architects are now specifying attractive rainwater tanks as site features if the planting area is small and does not require much water storage, such as a small inner-urban back yard.

Underground tank systems usually cost twice as much to install because of the excavation, but of course have far less visual and spatial impact. One must always consider the level of the water table, surface pressure and an anchoring system when installing underground storage tanks. A great solution, if feasible, is to install underground tanks under a driveway, building or patio with access through a fitted manhole, such as is typical on a city street. Either way, the overall water savings is well worth the investment, if the system is well designed, and there is enough water captured to handle most of the irrigation needs of the site.  

Ready for tank delivery! The water gets to the underground tanks from roof downspouts, then is directed through filters, which are usually quite simple, to appropriately sized storage tanks and then pumped and filtered again before entering directly into the efficiently designed irrigation system. It is important to size the pipes, filters, and storage system appropriately, based on the runoff rates of a heavy storm in a particular area.

Bobby Markowitz is Principal of Earthcraft Landscape Design and a frequent contributor to Green Architecture Notes.

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