Friday, January 31, 2014

Causes of Fading in Residential Design

We recently had a client express concern about potential fading of the finishes and furniture in their living and dining rooms – where we had designed a large wall of sliding glass doors to capture the dramatic waterfront view.  

We reached out the door manufacturer, Dynamic Architectural Windows & Doors, for assistance. They turned out to be quite a resource on the various causes of fading, and provided us with some helpful information:

Essentially there are 3 causes of fading:

1. Chemical - This type of fading has little to do with light or of windows at all; it has more to do with chemical reactions in materials over time. Chemical reactions that lead to fading can be influenced by many environmental factors, such as the type of coloring agent, the chemical environment of each coloring agent in the material, the ambient chemical environment of the material, and the temperature, humidity, and radiation environment.

2. Wear and tear - Wear can cause color to be removed from a surface and this can look much like

3. Solar radiation (light) - The sun's energy is made up of light we can see and light we cannot see. Ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the human eye and has the shortest wavelengths of the three types mentioned, from 300 to about 380 nm. Visible light covers the approximate range from 380 to 780nm, while the near infrared radiation (sometimes called invisible solar heat) has the longest wavelengths, from 780 to 4045 nm.

Fading of interior furnishings is often attributed to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun passing through windows on to interior surfaces. However, UV is not the only portion of the solar spectrum which can damage artwork or furnishings inside buildings.

It is important to understand that while ultraviolet light is the most damaging type of light with regard to fading, it is not responsible for all or even most of the fading that occurs as a result of direct sunlight. In the past, window manufacturer’s efforts to reduce or eliminate fading have been primarily focused on reducing the amount of UV light by adding a laminated glass layer in their sealed units. While this does reduce, and almost eliminate, the amount of UV coming through the glass, it does nothing for the visible and IR radiation that can cause much of fading.

The doors we specified for our project are impact resistant as required by building code for a coastal location. The glazed panels in the doors are built up from a combination of Sentry glass for impact plus high-performance low-e glass for our climate zone. The glass has a UV transmittance of zero and performs twice as well as regular glass at blocking fading. In addition, the living room and dining room are north-facing, meaning that fading will not be a major concern for this particular project.

Since applying any kind of film to the doors would void the manufacturer’s warranty, (heat build-up from the film inside the sealed units could lead to seal failure), the only other measure our clients could implement would be to block some portion of the visible light coming through the doors with widow treatments like solar shades or drapery. But since blocking the visible light would also block the spectacular views that are nearly the most important part of the rooms’ design, the clients were satisfied with the level of protection already provided by the doors’ glazing and the northward orientation.

In this instance our clients can breathe easier knowing their furnishings are relatively safe from fading, but it was a good reminder of the many considerations when designing or renovating a home.

Special thanks to Randy Ratch at Dynamic Architectural Windows & Doors for providing us with the information we needed!

Monday, November 25, 2013

All of that’s above my ceiling? A St. Bonaventure Project Update

Last spring, as the concrete floors for the St. Bonaventure church were being poured, I posted some photographs of all the components that were soon to be hidden within the monolithic floor. A lot of time and hard work has passed since then. At our last site meeting, as the drywall ceiling was flying up quicker than I could even photograph it, I was struck again by how much of our work is ultimately hidden in the final building.

The design goal for the interior of the church is a calm, bright and spiritual space. The final ceiling finish will be crisp white painted wall board activated by delicate painted steel trusses and lit with large, high windows. But before we get to that, all these components had to be designed, fabricated, delivered, erected, attached, sealed, and ultimately…. hidden.

The steel frame was erected in the early spring.

The SIP panel installation followed.  First with the wall panels.
Then onto the roof. 

With the installation of the panels, the rhythm of the windows and dormers became evident. As did the importance of the light provided by the dormers and the skylight.

All of the seams between the panels were taped to prevent air or water migration between the interior & exterior.  And a system of sprinkler pipes was routed around and through the steel structure.

A layer of drywall was added to the underside of the SIP panels to create a non-combustible space above the finished ceiling.  And wood blocking was added where needed.

Below the sprinklers, a suspended metal grid system was hung. And all the electrical wiring for the lights in the ceiling was installed.

Just this week, the ceiling board went up and the steel was painted.  The space was immediately brighter and calmer.

Again, the light from the dormers and skylight became the most prominent feature of the ceiling.  Part of the creation of this spiritual place.

~ Kimberly Barnett, LEED AP

Friday, November 8, 2013

BSA Ethics Committee: Upholding Human Rights: The AIA Code of Ethics, and Design of Certain Spaces Within Correctional Facilities

This past Wednesday, LDa Principal Peter Nobile (an elected member of the 3-member BSA Ethics Committee) facilitated a discussion titled “Upholding Human Rights: The AIA Code of Ethics, and Design of Certain Spaces within Correctional Facilities.”

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), represented by Soros Justice Fellow Raphael Sperry, are advocating that the AIA change rule 1.4 under Canon I (General Obligations) as follows:

Current AIA Ethics Code: Ethics Standard 1.4: Human Rights: Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.

Proposed Rule 1.402: Members shall not design spaces intended for execution or for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including prolonged solitary confinement.

The discussion centered on the following question: how specific do you think our Code of Ethics should be in terms of regulating professional conduct? The evening was an enlightening and engaging and honest exchange of views and ideas around Raphael’s advocacy position and panelists included Elizabeth Minnis AIA, deputy commissioner, Office of Planning, Design and Construction at the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Raphael Sperry, Soros Justice Fellow and president of ADPSR; Jeffrey J. Quick AIA, director, Division of Resource Management at the Department of Correction for the Commonweal; and Brad Walker AIA, principal at Ruhl Walker Architects.

The BSA Ethics Committee, which includes Elise Woodward, Principal at Shepley Bulfinch, and Jim Collins, President of Payette Architects, and LDa Principal Peter Nobile will be making a recommendation for action to the BSA Board for their January 2014 meeting.

Thank you to all who participated.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Budget-Friendly Home Automation

When designing a renovation or new home, we often work with technology consultants to integrate custom home automation and A/V systems into our projects for things like music, powered shades, security, television, home theater, lighting control and heating / cooling systems.

Often, many small to moderately sized homeowners would like to have a greater handle on the technology in their house, but don’t have the budget or the opportunity to add major new equipment, new wiring or a fully integrated system. We have compiled a list of some smaller independent systems and devices that are cost effective and provide many of the same features for smaller homes or condos. These systems have become far more user-friendly, reliable and affordable with the addition of smart phone and tablets as controllers, managed through app based systems.

They not only enhance enjoyment and ease of use in the house - no ugly cable boxes at the TV's, the ability to turn off lights from the driveway, turning up the heat from the airport, or remotely viewing the pool camera on your iPad - they also allow homeowners to monitor a home's energy performance.

Sonos Music - a wireless music system that allows music in many rooms and zones and allows streaming from your iPod or from the internet services such as Pandora, Sirius and iTunes. This is a plug and play system with a reasonable price tag.

Apple TV - a very cost effective way at $99 to get all the different online music, video streaming on your TV in one easy devise that also communicates with your itunes, photos and other content your computer or ipad.

Nest Thermostat - They are not only pretty to look at and simple to use, but they are inexpensive and offer a great way to save energy and get a strong return on the investment price of the thermostat unit. The Nest device learns your behavior and creates a program that responds to the way you live in the house. It can be programmed from your phone and can be one of the largest energy savers in a home, up to 50% of your energy bill is controlled by the thermostat. Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents are eligible for a $100 instant rebate. They’ve also just announced a smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor as well!

WaterBug Alert- the smart system shuts down your whole house water when it detects a leak. Great for second homes, travelers and large households. The devices speak to each other when a leak is detected and will shut the water off, saving potential flooding, mold, and construction after damage.

Energy Meter - simple plug in devise that tracks energy usage at the outlet and allows you to see if you should turn off computers at night, replace the old fridge with a more energy efficient one, AC and washing machines and track savings on LED lights vs. CFL or incandescent.

Multi room light control - a simple system that allows smart phone control, programming, motion detection, lamp diming, outlet control and a host of scalable features that will save energy and add convenience.

Lutron battery shades - Lutron battery powered shades are a great automation add on that does not require wiring and other hard cost elements. They can help insulate at windows, block solar gain and can be timed to help add or reduce day light as needed to reduce dependency on lights. The batteries are 3 year long life and they have honey comb with light filtering, black out, and thermal versions among others.

Maestro vacancy switch - Works with your existing wiring and has a motion sensor that will turn off the lights when you leave for a period of time. Reliable RF connect radio technology switches that you can swap out with two standard switches at locations in your home where you would like turn the lights off remotely. Perhaps the front walk and the foyer or mudroom when you arrive or leave. A very simple and cost effective bit of control and energy savings.

Solar powered attic venting fan  - helps reduce heat load in the attic, turns on when necessary with a thermometer device and is self powered for easy install. Venting an attic helps reduce cooling loads and demand and extends the life of equipment in un-insulated attics.

Video monitoring - Great value and perfect for travelers, second home, baby monitoring, pools and hot tub monitoring, parents and business' - has night vision, two way audio and works with web monitoring or smart phone devices.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 LEED Project Showcase

A special thanks to the USGBC’s Massachusetts Chapter for the first inaugural “Massachusetts LEED Project Showcase” celebrating the many LEED certified buildings and the owners, architects, builders and collaborators who bring these green buildings to fruition. In total, there are 682 LEED certified buildings in Massachusetts, with 220 certified since January 2012 - of these LDa is proud to have contributed 13 certified projects, three since Jan 2012!  We are one of the top firms in Massachusetts helping clients achieve LEED for Homes certification, with projects ranging from large addition/renovations to ground-up new construction.  One of our most recently certified projects achieved a HERS rating below 30!

Hosted at Google’s regional office in Kendall square, this sold out event was a great opportunity to reconnect with our peers and design teams. Principal Peter Nobile and Associate Dean Hofelich were in attendance, and spent the evening exchanging views and ideas with some of the Boston area’s most enthusiastic ecologically-focused designers like Rick Ames of Next Phase Studios, engineers like Chris Schaffner of The Green Engineer, utility representatives like Mark Stafford of National Grid, suppliers like Sterritt Lumber, and client groups including Boston University and Google.

For more images from the event, visit USGBC's blog!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mudrooms: Design Guidelines and Considerations

We take photographing our projects very seriously and work hard to capture the spaces that we feel demonstrate our high level of design as well those that will resonate with future clients - one of those spaces is the mudroom. Particularly in our ever-changing New England climate, mudrooms require careful consideration and offer designers the opportunity to think past the typical storage options and create multi-use spaces that beautifully integrate technology and utility.

Boston Design Guide magazine's blog, BDinG, has put together a summary of some of LDa's best designer tips and photos of some of our favorite mudrooms.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Riverfront Farmhouse earns LEED Silver!!

Our thirteenth project to be certified by the USGBC's LEED for Homes program has earned SILVER!  The "Riverfront Farmhouse" project, a 6,200 square foot new home features a well-insulated and tight exterior envelope, FSC certified materials, an insulated concrete form (ICF) foundation, a structural insulated panel (SIPs) wall system, engineered wood trusses, a geothermal heating and cooling system, a stand-alone Heating Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system, and an electric car charging station. The home also received HERS Index rating of 34, and participated in last year's NESEA's Green Buildings Open House program.

Congratulations to Doug, Kyle and the entire team!
Baypoint Builders
Conservation Services Group

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Raise The Roof!

It’s the nature of our work that architects spend more of their time in the office than we do in the field where our work is getting built, and since we’re not contractors we also don’t often physically build the structures we design. This can lead to a sense of disconnection between what goes in a drawing and what goes up in the field, which is why I jumped at the chance to volunteer at the Madison Cares Raise the Roof event this Mother’s Day Weekend.

The Raise the Roof event is held annually on the green in downtown Madison CT and is basically an all-day build-off in which shifts of volunteers prefabricate walls for houses being built by Habitat for Humanity. Habitat and Madison Cares have a pretty well-oiled machine for how to manage several dozen barely skilled volunteers swinging hammers in close quarters. There were several platforms set up on the ground that were sized to frame walls on and a supervisor would guide us through laying out the pre-cut top and bottom plates, and the volunteers would take studs from a palette, lay them out to pre-marked locations, and start nailing away. Things slowed a little when we had to frame blocking for an interior partition, door or window, but for the most part things went smoothly.

When a wall was finished we gathered extra volunteers to lift and carry the wall into place on a trailer that would take the walls to the actual building site. A few walls were stood up in place to give volunteers a sense of what we building. The building site is on Congress Avenue in New Haven, a tough area of the city that Habitat has built other homes in over the last few years.

According to the Madison Cares website first floor walls for three different homes were completed, as well as 14 sections of porch railing were assembled and prime painted.  My family and I worked through the rain on about 7 different walls, completing at least 3 of those start to finish. For me personally it was a great reminder of how buildings go together and to the connection between our drawings and assemblies in the real world, as well as being a great contribution to those in need.

Madison Cares is a non-profit based in Madison CT that works closely with Habitat for Humanity to try to eliminate poverty housing along the shoreline communities of Long Island Sound.

~ Andy Hinterman, AIA, LEED-H, Architect

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Aged-in-Place Trusses in a Hingham Kitchen Renovation

To enhance the modern-rustic aesthetic of our renovated Hingham kitchen, LDa worked with Mike Handrahan and Mitch Powers of Michael Handrahan Remodeling to create non-structural trusses built up from dimensional lumber and then wrapped and finished to evoke the antique timber beams of a beloved farmhouse in southern France. 

The trusses were built up from three 2x6s, following the shape of the existing ceiling, with a flat bottom chord and two diagonal web members.

To find the right surface texture and character for the trusses, we worked with Pat Hunt of Hunt Custom Milled Floors to source aged spruce beams from Tom Mann of Mann Lumber.  Tom milled the beams into ¾” thick boards with mitered edges.  We requested boards with stable checking, or long cracks, for covering the vertical faces of the bottom truss chords, where a solid beam would exhibit checking from expanding and contracting over many years of seasonal change.  We also liked the knots.

We experimented with having Tom hand hew the boards, but found that when we tested the finishing on the hand-hewn boards, the texture looked inauthentic.  We decided instead that the boards would be hand-gouged and wire brushed once they were in place.

Pat put us in touch with Gregorio Hernandez of Wood Touch-Up Master, an architectural finisher extraordinaire.  Based on our description and a photo of the French farmhouse beams, Gregorio created three samples with variations in color and texture for approval.  He blends colors, oils, and bleach (but holds his recipes close!), employs wire brushing and hand scraping, and even creates deep knots to mimic true aged timbers.  This sample shows the right color but the wrong texture.

Gregorio produced a second sample that was right on the money.  He even carefully textured the corner joints to match the chamfered corners of a solid beam.

Meanwhile, the spruce boards were wrapped around the 2x6s by our talented carpenter, Keith Johnson.  The mitered joints were biscuited to ensure a tight connection, which was crucial to creating the look of heavy timber members.

When the trusses were completely wrapped, it was time for Gregorio to work his magic.  The entire kitchen was tented to protect the new ceiling, cabinetry, countertops, and floors.  Gregorio and his team hand textured and finished every surface of the spruce boards wrapping the trusses. 

The end result is a spectacular testament to a client’s clear vision and to a fun and successful collaboration among talented team members!

~ Carter Williams, AIA, LEED AP, Architect

Friday, April 26, 2013

Stunning Stairs on the BDG Blog!

As the manager of our substantial image library I've always thought about doing a blog post on some of the many, many images of stairs that we have taken, but I hadn’t yet found the time. So when the Boston Design Guide emailed looking for blog post ideas for their newly re-launched blog, BDinG, I knew right away I wanted to share our stairs!

- Amanda Hanley