Building Blocks

It seems to be a good time to update everyone on what has been going on behind the scenes for my new home in Fountain Square.

As many of you know, the process of designing and building a new home is a challenging one, especially when dealing with many of the constraints of 955 Hosbrook, primarily being the lot size and budget constraints. But, as you know, I am a firm believer in designing compact, contemporary designs that don’t break the bank. As a result, I have been hard at work behind the scenes weighing options, tweaking design elements, exploring construction techniques, etc, etc.

One method of construction that has quickly moved to the forefront of options and is almost finalized in becoming the chosen method of construction for this house is prefab/modular construction. I have met with All-American Homes (factory in Decatur, IN), toured their factory, and been in numerous talks with them regarding my house. It just so happens, by the way, that the dimensions of my house lend themselves almost perfectly to their construction techniques.

While much of their work is more traditional in its aesthetics, they have certainly not ignored the contemporary housing market and have been involved in a few really interesting projects:

Michelle Kaufmann‘s Smart Home at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago:

smart home


Tryon Farm by Edward Noonan & Associates in Michigan City, IN:

tryon farm

As you can see, these projects lend themselves to a very similar aesthetic. We hope to be able to determine if this is our best direction in the very near future so we can then move forward and proceed with the start of construction.

Stay tuned! These are exciting times!


Yesterday we shot an interview at 701 Shelby for a couple local community-based organizations, IndyHub and the City Gallery, talking about community building and how both the City Gallery and 701 Shelby play a role in doing so.

Interview Shoot, Jonathan Frey Photography

I will post a link to the video once it is up and running.  This is to be part of a larger piece talking about the City Gallery and about community building at-large. Also, make sure to check out both of these organizations as they are great resources for young professionals who live in the city or who are looking to move into the city.

A big thanks to Jonathan Frey for doing the shoot!  Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

Design Inspiration

Seeing how I’ve started getting more and more interested in furniture and industrial design lately…I thought I would share a firm out of New York City doing some pretty cool stuff…and it’s pretty simple too.

Rich Brilliant Willing

Their design approach often consists of taking existing elements and re-imagining them in strategic ways, with much of their work centered around lighting.

Here are a few examples for your enjoyment:

Branch Chandelier - Rich Brilliant Willing

Channel Table Lamp - Rich Brilliant Willing

Appalachian Dining Chair - Rich Brilliant Willing

I’m always looking for some great inspiration which can begin to influence my own work.  It’s great to see these guys not only designing but also fabricating much of the work they do.  Make sure to check out the rest of their work.

The Slab

Yesterday the slab was poured for the first floor.  As you may or may not have known, the home is designed as slab-on-grade construction.  However, the slab has been slightly lifted out of the ground to avoid the slab appearing to be right at grade from the front entrance.  Further, you will notice in the photos that the slab at the front entry is lifted 8″ higher than the rest of the first floor to give that space a bit of definition and also allow for a nice transition from interior to exterior.

The final finish of the slab is to remain it’s natural gray tone, simply sealed with the soy-base sealer Acri-Soy.

In terms of the slab itself, we did some research into proper insulation for both the slab itself and also the foundation walls.  We made some changes along the way and have learned some things during the process as well.  We feel the end solution will perform much better than our initial details had shown.  We wanted to make sure the slab was properly insulated but still stayed within a reasonable budget.  The initial thought, before additional research, was to use 2″ rigid insulation up the interior face of the foundation walls and then to extend it parallel to the slab 2′ in around the entire perimeter.

There were two places in particular, however, that we modified this initial insulation strategy.  We decided, after some research and recommendations, that it would be beneficial and more efficient to provide some sub-slab insulation under the entire slab…as opposed to simply this 2′ band around the perimeter.  As a result, we continued the rigid insulation under the entire slab which will provide a greater insulation value and allow the floors to stay warmer in the winter.

The second modification was to address the issue of the thermal bridge between the foundation block and the slab itself.  Originally, and what is typical in many slab-on-grade details, is to simply allow for the slab and the foundation to essentially butt up directly to one another…with some sort of expansion joint.  This, however, creates a thermal bridge and can cause a temperature differential between the edge of the slab and the underside of the slab.  As a result of this bridge, we placed tapered 2″ rigid insulation between these two elements, eliminating this thermal bridge.  The reasoning for the tapering was to allow the slab pour to extend completely to the interior wall edge.  Below is an illustration found during our research which demonstrates this detail (ignore the radiant heating aspect though):

We are very pleased with the results of the pour and can begin to envision the living spaces a little more.  In other news, we received the money from the city today for the manufacturing of the SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels).  So, we should be moving forward with the walls as final shop drawings come in the near future.  Can’t wait till we see some walls going up on site!

Solar Decathlon, Parsons NS Stevens

Another favorite home from 2011 Solar Decathlon:

2.  Empowerhouse: Parsons NS Stevens’ Entry

The Empowerhouse design was a collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology.  The project took on a slightly different mission than that of New Zealand’s first light house.

The house, much like the New Zealand home, was kept fairly simple, with a straightforward profile and a clean and simple floor plan.  This house, however, is set to become a Habitat for Humanity home and will be sited in a neighborhood in Washington D.C.  Not only is it to be sited in D.C. but the home will actually add a second story and a second home will be constructed which mirrors the first and will create a duplex on it’s final site.

The team’s mission of becoming a Habitat for Humanity home was reflected in winning the Affordability Contest.

The design is comprised of a couple of key features:

Living ‘Dry’ Module

The living module occupies the west side of the home and is comprised of the bedroom, the living loft (which will eventually become the stairway to the upstairs bedrooms), and the primary living space in the home.

Service ‘Wet’ Module

The wet module occupies the east side of the home and is comprised of the mechanical room, the bathroom, and the kitchen.  This condensing of systems is a strategy many of the homes in the competition implemented, including the Ohio State entry.  Further, it’s something we also pushed for in the design for 701 Shelby.

For me, however, the keys features of the home that really stood out were the details on the interior.  There were some really great, beautiful details that took the home from being good to being more than just good.

The first is the way the windows were trimmed out on the interior.  Instead of simply framing out the window, the team took a leap and created more of a faceted, asymmetrical design for the window framing.  The window itself begins to become more than just a window, almost a piece of art in the home.

The other feature of the home that made it stand out from the others was the furniture in the living space.  The furniture wraps the stairway which will lead the eventual second floor bedrooms.  It becomes the focal point for the living space, and serves a variety of functions from shelving, storage, a workspace, to a spare fold-out murphy bed.

Check out the Empowerhouse website for more information on the house, from passive house strategies to systems design and tons of photos:


Solar Decathlon, New Zealand

I thought I would feature a few of my favorite moments from the 2011 Solar Decathlon:

1. First Light: New Zealand’s House

New Zealand finished the competition in 3rd place, and for good reason.  They finished 1st in engineering, 2nd in architecture, and 3rd in market appeal.  Their house was beautifully crafted, consisted of a simple, yet multi-functional floor plan, and a strong connection and flow between interior and exterior spaces.

The design for their home was centered around the concept of the Kiwi bach (for us non Kiwis…it’s pronounced batch).  The bach is a vacation home in New Zealand.  The design features three primary zones in the house which include the living zone, the bedroom zone, and the central kitchen/dining zone with an awesome concrete countertop as the centerpoint of the home.  This zone serves a variety of functions and feeds into the Kiwi bach notion of social space.  The counter becomes the gathering place in the home, from which both the living space and the bedroom space feed into.  It can function as an extension of the kitchen, a dining space, a work space, or simply a space for gathering. Further, this space is flanked on both the north and the south by bi-folding doors and a skylight above to maximize the connection to the outdoors.  Finally, the table is further defined by a custom pendant light fixture above, reminiscent of a boat-like form.

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In the end, it’s a fairly simple plan but just done really well.  The spaces flow nicely from one to the other and the home definitely boasted the best craft in the competition.  The natural wood tones throughout the house create a warm, welcoming environment and work really well with the contrasting concrete surfaces.  Oh…and it didn’t hurt that the Kiwi’s were a great group of teammates and appeared extremely humble throughout the competition.

Solar Decathlon

I apologize for the lapse in posts as of late.  I was actually in Washington D.C. for the 2011 Solar Decathlon Competition supporting The Ohio State University’s entry.  We had a great run in the competition, doing extremely well in many categories and finished the competition in 5th place out of 19 teams.  For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, here is a brief description from the Department of Energy:

“The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The next event will take place at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23–Oct. 2, 2011. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today.”

Our team consisted primarily of architecture, engineering, and construction systems management students.  Here are a few images to give you a sense of Ohio State’s entry into the competition:

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Check out the Ohio State enCORE website for a full rundown on the house’s concept and lot’s of other great information and photos:

The Solar Decathlon is such a great experience and an awesome event to attend.  I highly recommend you go if you ever have the chance.  It’s wonderful to see the diversity in the projects and to see so many young people from around the world committed to such great design work, but with a sensibility to our impact on the planet.  I was blown away by many of the entries and equally as inspired.  Following an event like the Solar Decathlon, the ideas just start flowing.

So, stayed tuned for the next post and I will share some of my favorite moments from the other homes in the competition and also some of the highlights of my time in D.C. and New York City.