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.
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.
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.
Wallpaper is an easy way to change the personality of a space. With so many amazing companies, and all sorts of different styles to choose from, the opportunities are endless. We’d like to share with you some of our favorite wallpapers: a few of our own projects, a couple from other great firms and a few staff picks.
Feldman Architecture Projects:
Lucie’s Nursery – Wallpaper on the ceiling is a great way to add interest in a room. Hygge & West sells this great wallpaper designed by Julia Rothman. The buttercup yellow is subtle and elegant, while the birds and clouds add graphically intriguing figurative elements that aren’t over-the-top.
The Pierce St. Renovation & Fair Oaks Powder Rooms – Small spaces, like powder rooms, are a wonderful place to use large bold patterns. The Pierce St. Renovation makes a whimsical and modern statement with this black & white floral pattern designed byDesigners Guild; provided by Osborne and Little. In the Fair Oaks Powder Room, we also use a large bold pattern but for a completely different effect. Here, Power Plant designed Dan Funderburgh, is dramatic and playful with light bulbs growing in the vines.
Other Favorite Projects:
Envelope Architecture & Design ties the masculinity of taxidermy, the femininity of the chandelier, and Danish modern furniture pieces together with this geometric “Honeycomb” pattern by Tom Dixon.
Jessica Helgerson Interiors uses this “blackbird” wallpaper, designed by Kimberly Ayres, to create a nature-inspired, fun, graphic space that contrasts the stark black & white trees and birds, with bright green accents.
We leave you with a few favorites we haven’t had the pleasure of using yet.
5.5 Designers created this awesome collection of interactive wallpaper games. Both fun and ever-changing, the wall organically evolves over time, providing hours of entertainment. This is a great choice for a children’s playroom. Additional patterns include word search and tick-tack-toe.
Designed by Fern Living and inspired by Scandinavian nature, the “tree bomb” wallpaper pattern has unique modern touches and a fun graphic composition.
We are big fans of supporting innovative adaptive-reuse design. Lori Weitzner has designed a very cool wall covering using recycled newspapers. Woven on a hand loom with strips of newsprint, this wallpaper adds a fun striation and texture to the wall.
Additional Wall Candy:
If we’ve only grazed the surface of your wallpaper taste buds, you’ll love this link to Design Sponge’s Top 50 Wallpaper Sources post.
Enjoy! – Kristy, Bridgett and Lindsey
You’ve probably heard of LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and maybe if you’re in California you have heard of GreenPoint Rated or the eminent CALGreen Code, but wrapping your head around how these standards compare and what they mean to your building project can be a big task. In this article, I’ll try to break it down a bit. For more detailed information, please visit the web sites of each compliance organization: LEED, GreenPoint or CALGreen
LEED, developed by a non-profit organization called the U.S. Green Building Council, was really the forerunner in developing an industry standard for sustainable building practices in the United States. GreenPoint Rated (GPR) is a system used for houses and developed by Build It Green, another non-profit based in California, with the goal of creating a standard that would be less expensive and therefore more accessible to homeowners. CALGreen is a building code that will become effective in California for both residential and commercial buildings on January 1st, 2011. Some municipalities in the Bay Area are even requiring permit applicants to get certification from GPR and/or LEED as a way of ensuring that CALGreen standards have been met.
Both GPR and CALGreen systems of measurement are based loosely on the LEED standards, but there are some differences and modifications made to clarify or make easier the systems of measurement that are in place. For simplicity, I’ll compare the residential measures as a common base for all three systems. All systems break green building components down into areas of sustainability that they are addressing with varying names and sub- categories. However, the general concept is shared: sustainable building practices fall into these categories:
- Water Efficiency
- Energy Efficiency
- Material Resources
- Environmental /Air Quality
GPR arranges their checklist in a way that relates more closely with building systems themselves such as structural frame and finishes, but are then cross-referenced with one of the above categories. All of the systems have mandatory or prerequisite measures that must be met, and the two voluntary systems (LEED and GPR) have additional strategies that go above and beyond to earn points. A minimum number of points is required for certification, and the more points earned the higher the level of certification.
Since LEED and other green building certification systems have begun gaining popularity, there have been a number of articles and independent studies published on the value added by achieving certification, such as “An Inconvenient Value” by www.AwarenessIntoAction.com and “The cost & benefit of achieving Green buildings” by Davis Langdon. We hope the trend continues to catch on and the up-front cost continues to come down as demand for sustainable building materials and methods continue to rise.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into the subcategories and the particular goals of each. The charts below are not meant to be comprehensive, but instead give an overview, hitting the highlights of each system. Note that The CALGreen system has two “Tiers” that can be sought, which require additional prerequisites. I’ve included these prerequisites under ‘additional points/measures’ in order to maintain clarity of the basic requirements in the charts below.
Bridgett Shank works at Feldman Architecture and is a frequent contributor to Green Architecture Notes.
Advances in green technology and a fondness for reused or reclaimed materials have led to more innovative and creative sustainable products for the home. As a new addition to Green Architecture Notes, we will be posting a new section on products that we find to be perfect examples of how green IS beautiful, practical, and inspiring. In this post, the adaptive reuse of reclaimed materials yield stunning furnishings and fixtures which divert materials from landfill and reduce energy used in the production of new materials.
There are no photos with those IDs or post 1362 does not have any attached images!
Products in Top Row:
left – The Scrap Light collection from Graypants demonstrates how simple pieces of salvaged corrugated cardboard become mesmerizing. These lanterns create stunning patterns with light and shadow in any space.
center – The Studio Sectional from Environment Furniture has a relaxed, informal quality. Upholstered with recycled army tent canvas fabric, the distressed and weathered characteristics will continue to develop and patina over time.
right – Urban Hardwood is best known for breathing new life back into trees that would typically be heading straight to the landfill. The Sycamore Slab coffee table positions a pair of slabs side-by-side and fastens them together with steel infill. This simple design lets the wood’s beauty speak for itself.
Products in Bottom Row:
left -The Asturia Armchair from Espasso, designed by Carlos Motta, is strong, durable, and elegant. Built from reclaimed and demolition woods collected in urban centers like Sao Paulo, this chair is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
center – Graypants is redefining the “recliner” with their latest design, the slice chair. Constructed from scraps of flat sheets of plywood, the slices allow the ottoman to slide out, creating a lounge chair.
right – Ending with a PUNCH! of color.… We introduce an area rug from the Color Reform Collection by ABC Carpet. This rug is hand-woven from recycled Indian Sari silk, then over-dyed to create a powerful statement packed with mono-chromatic vibrancy.
Cork is a fantastic, 100% natural, material that has been used as an insulting material for years, although is not well known by most of the people working on sustainable and zero carbon projects.
So what makes this material special?
Cork is the bark of Cork Oak (Quercus Suber), collected every 9 years and later transformed and adapted to different uses. During its life, cork retains an elevated portion of CO2 and requires very low energy to be transformed.
The most common use in construction – as a thermal insulation material – is Insulation Cork Board (ICB). This material is produced using raw cork (which can be a sub product of the cork stopper industry) in granulated form that is placed in autoclave where it stays for 20 minutes under vapor at 360º C (680º F). As the cork starts to expand and forms into blocks, it starts to agglutinate by means of its natural resin and also gains its characteristic brown color. The process is free of any artificial chemicals keeping the material 100% natural.
Cork is particularly resistant to insects and maintains its characteristics over time. In 2000, in the north of Portugal, a very large cold store built in 1969 was dismantled. Cork was used as thermal insulation and it was fully recovered to produce new cork based materials. What is remarkable is that the cork was analyzed in laboratory and had exactly the same characteristics as new cork meaning that its use hasn’t diminished any of its qualities.
In a recently completed K-12 school renovation project where we used cork extensively as a thermal insulation material on roofs (metal and concrete slab), we came to the following conclusions:
• The material behaves very well during construction, in good or bad weather;
• No special skill is necessary to apply this material;
• Any cuts or changes needed during work are easily achieved on site.
In an ongoing project we’re using the same material as a roof and facade insulation as part of a render system and expect to achieve a very high performance for the building.
In recent years, Portuguese architects have been exploring this material as a cladding. The Portuguese pavilion in the Hanover Expo 2000 used cork blocks as a facade. Recently, the Portuguese Pavilion in the Expo Shanghai which was entirely covered in cork panels won a design award and also in Architectos Anonimos ‘s Cork House which is shown below.
Coimbra, Portugal - Pavilhão de Portugal Expo 2000, Álvaro Siza & Eduardo Souto de Moura.
As a conclusion, we can say that cork is a natural, recyclable and environmental friendly product, highly adequate for green or zero carbon projects, as insulation and cladding material, with a guaranty of total reuse in the end of the building life-cycle making it a very good cradle-to-cradle material.
Cork House by Arquitectos Anonimos, Portugal.
For more information from a cork supplier, see Amorim Cork Composites.
Fernando Ribeiro studied in Portugal and England where he obtained a Master Degree in Architectural Design after which he worked in Macau on several high profile projects. He is the co-founder of Arqwork Arquitectura, a practice engaged in a broad range of projects from K-12 schools to retail spaces. His practice is driven by passion in designing buildings and enhancing people’s lives. Fernando’s interest in sustainable design led him to engage in developing a more practical approach to architecture through the use of simple technical solutions and natural materials.
One of the joys of working in architecture and design is experimenting with material and color on both big and small scales. While the computer is the primary tool for cranking out plans and sections, pens, pencils, and watercolors are found at every designer’s desk at Feldman Architecture. While working on preliminary designs for a project, we find that pencils and pen are the quickest way to depict several options and convey them to the client. When running to a job site, picking up a pen and sketchbook is required. And in an office of 10, there are nearly 10 different boxes of pens and pencils to accommodate the designers’ preferences! Here are a few of the staples found in Feldman’s office. – Hannah
1. The Pentel Sign Pen and Prismacolor pencils used to sketch an option for one of Feldman’s kitchen remodels.
2. The Uni-Ball Vision Elite is available at any office supply store and was used to sketch the Cliff House from Sutro Baths.
3. Chartpak Ad Markers and Letrasets Tria markers are ubiquitous at any architecture or design firm and are typically used for rendering plans and elevations such as Feldman’s proposal for this renovation.
4. A Papermate Flair felt tip pen and a traveling set of MiniStaff pencils by the Eye Ball Pencil Co. are perfect for sketching on site. This pencil set includes eraser and sharpener so you won’t forget as you run out the door.
5. When traveling, size and weight are always a concern. Many designers travel with a small sketchbook (this one is just 4”x3”) and a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen for capturing great monuments such as Angkor Wat.
6. Another great travel item is the Van Gogh watercolor set which fits into your back pocket and includes a fantastic array of color.
7. Uni-Ball Deluxe Rollerball pens are also widely available and allow for quick massing studies like this one for a new home in Carmel.
8. If you can’t decide whether to carry watercolors or color pencils, there is no need to compromise with Cretacolor’s Aquarell watercolor pencils. Just add the color pencil to your drawings and brush with water.
9. The ideal sketchbook stays closed in your bag to protect the ideas inside. Three of our favorites are a traditional Venetian leather bound book with leather wrap, a Holbein sketchbook (available with many different paper types – here in grey), and the current trendy favorite Moleskine (available in many sizes, shapes and colors – here in red).
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