These are a few sketches for a conceptual mixed-use building which contains a small coffee shop and three 2-story live/work  units.  Unfortunately, the original program for this competition has a lot of problems with it — the kinds of things that an architect and client could examine and discuss and come to terms with what the client’s needs really are, and hopefully make it an even better project.  But as a competition, that level of discussion isn’t available, so assumptions are made and liberties taken with items that are part of the given requirements.

But even if the process has its flaws, the ideas behind it — the mixed-use building, the live/work elements, the small-scale urban building — are all an appealing mix, and it’s been fun project to experiment with, even if it’s not a real project.

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The tall stretches of glass are channel glass, which allows for very long spans, to give the verticality to the building, which is otherwise very height constrained.  Since the pieces of channel glass are each only about a foot wide, it  is also very workable for making segmented curves, like by the coffee shop entrance.

Inside, the coffee shop has room for only a couple of cafe tables and a minimal floating wood service counter and back bar.  Some materials are left raw and exposed, such as the CMU walls between each space and the exposed concrete floors.

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The studio lofts are so small that there is only room for a fold-out futon to serve as bed and seating, but the office space on the lower level could also serve as additional living space.  The bathroom is very small, as befits a studio, but there is still enough room for a reasonable galley kitchen.

This project overcomes the very restrictive height limitations through the use of long pieces of channel glass to provide much of the glazing for the building.  The channel glass also allows the creation of a curved wall at the corner to provide a dramatic and inviting facade to direct customers to the entrance at the end of the building.

This project overcomes the very restrictive height limitations through the use of long pieces of channel glass to provide much of the glazing for the building.  The channel glass also allows the creation of a curved wall at the corner to provide a dramatic and inviting facade to direct customers to the entrance at the end of the building.
The building uses a limited palette of simple materials for a minimalist aesthetic that serves the essential needs of the building.  Party walls between units and the coffee shop are all simple CMU which provides loft-like urban sensibility and contrasts with the refined channel glass and wood panel cladding.  The exposed ends of the CMU walls help give each of the live/work units individual definition as well as providing another vertical element for the facade.
Inside the coffee shop, a minimal floating wood service counter and matching wood back bar provide necessary work space and room for storage and display.  Storage units are located beneath the service counter.  The WC and storage are in the partial height cube that projects within the back of the space.
The live/work units have front entrances on the streetfront, as well as private access for the residents from the back side.  Skylights in the roof provide additional openness to the three small studio lofts, without increasing the height of the building.

Starting to go through the pictures from this weekend’s photoshoot of the JK Residence, and this one is good for giving an overview of the addition.

The project incorporated an extension of the back of the house, with a new kitchen and a new laundry room (out of view to the left). Existing kitchen and a small room (nicknamed “The Vortex”) were torn out and extended to create the new kitchen, dining area, and TV area for a family of three.

[I thought this was going to be a minor little article in between the interesting things I write about for Jetson Green. I only wrote it because it was somewhat timely for spring, although I missed Arbor Day (which would have been the ideal time to post something like this, if I was an obsessive problogger).

So I was more than a little surprised when I got a message that this article got picked up and reblogged by ‘Remodeling magazine’s blog. I’ve seen a number of shares and reTweets about it, too.

It’s still interesting to me to see what resonates with other people and what doesn’t. I’m glad that this was something that people are finding useful and interesting. It was as much a reminder to myself as it was to the people who read it that simple measures can sometimes be the best answer (or at least a part of the solution) instead of always looking for a product to solve a particular issue.]

While green homes often sport all manner of technical solutions to keep them optimized and efficient, the landscaping can have a significant effect on the building and its energy use. Site orientation and landscape can also be powerful tools to control the energy needs of a building. While it’s not practical to reorient most homes, in many cases you can still make improvements by planting trees.

[Read full article…]

Last month I posted a brief article of my own after seeing a Residential Architect magazine piece about some of the considerations in the ‘tear-down and build new’ versus ‘renovate what’s existing’ debate.

At the time, the only link to the article was to an online magazine which is an absolutely awful format. Fortunately, the article is now in a more normal and much more readable page and I’m happier to link to it than to the original. If you were intrigued at the time, but took my advice and held off, now you can read it.

While it is undoubtedly true that renovating what is already existing is usually a greener option, just as it’s true that LEED is not a good excuse for demolishing an older home. But sometimes what is old doesn’t work anymore. Maybe only part of the existing building is really valuable, and other solutions, including a more radical renovation or partial demolition and reconstruction, make more sense.

I’m not advocating for any one particular approach for every case. The point, I think, is that thinking more creatively can sometimes find some middleground solutions. The interesting cases are those where a part of the building is valued by the owner, but other parts of the building don’t work. Holding on to the important parts and yet being able to improve the building overall can be the greenest strategy.

Deciding whether to renovate or rebuild with an existing property isn’t easy. Architects face a lot of questions about these projects, as do the owners themselves. Determining which route to follow, or forging a middle way, needs a lot of discussion and evaluation of wants and needs. I came across a really good article (in my opinion) about the question of renovation versus rebuilding (ie tear-down) from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Residential Architect.

I’m somewhat reluctant to provide a link to this article* because the “read the magazine online” interface is so awful. But the information about renovating versus rebuilding is of interest, and this is a very good article about the pros and cons behind such a decision. Although the primary audience for the article is architects, I think it would also make for good reading for people who are considering renovation/replacement projects.

The questions in whether to try to renovate an existing building or to tear it down and rebuild can be complicated. The article covers a number of different conditions and cases, and discusses how the owners and architects arrived at their decision and how the project turned out. Some examples are cautionary tales rather than success stories.

This article also acknowledges the usefulness of preserving the materials and embodied energy of existing buildings, but without advocating for saving every last standing stick of framing.

In any case, here’s the link to the article. I should have this article in hardcopy, as well, for easier reading, at least for local friends. If I can find a better link to the content, I’ll add that in, too.