Sunday, February 27, 2011


Saturday morning's coordination meeting went well. We met with our general contractor and foreman, our plumber, our electrician and our architect-of-record to talk through the next couple of weeks of work. We plan to start excavation on Thursday, then assemble the wood formwork for the concrete footings that will support the house's steel frame. The footing need to be poured before we can lay the utilities (plumbing and electrical lines), which in turn need to be set in place before we can pour the concrete slab. All of this work needs to be done before the steel frame can go up in April.

what does sustainability look like?

The technological advances that are leading toward a more sustainable future often don't appear that different from what we make and use today. Electric cars, like the Nissan LEAF we test drive last month, look and move a lot like gasoline powered cars. From a mobility standpoint, they wouldn't change our driving habits or cities much at all. They just have a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional cars.

The same is true of architecture, for the most part. Environmental sustainability often produces no major visible effects. Caulk and insulation are pretty much invisible, for example, and water- and energy-saving fixtures and appliances are often indistinguishable from their guzzlin' cousins.

What should sustainability look like? Is there an innately sustainable aesthetic?

In the meantime, though, be sure to include a 220V outlet to recharge your car.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Another part of David's day job is writing about architecture. The new theme issue of the Journal of Architectural Education (on Precedent) includes his essay, "Misprision of Precedent."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day job

A brief hiatus from blogging the house project while David tends to an awesome academic project: the fifth htc.Workshop, which kicks off with Ola Uduku's keynote lecture - West African Modern: Modern Movement Architecture in West Africa and the discourse of Tropical Regionalism - Thursday evening, 7pm, at The Wolfsonian-FIU.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


This house strives to work efficiently, from its consumption of resources to its use of space. It conserves resources through construction methods that use less material (such as the wall panels, which need just 3" to provide the strength and insulation of a 15" thick wall on a typical Miami house) and techniques that minimize the energy needed to operate the house (like providing lots of natural light to over 90% of the house, and shading the windows to avoid excessive heat gain). Between conserving and generating electricity, the house should only use a quarter of the energy of a new house built to code. Prefabricating most of the shell of the house will help us produce just a fraction of the on-site waste that conventional construction creates, and using recycled materials will reduce the amount of new resources consumed in the building process.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The structural steel for the house should arrive the week of April 4, around six weeks from now. The steel pieces arrive pre-drilled so that they can be quickly bolted together on site. Part of the reason we're leaving the steel frame exposed is to show off the precision of the prefabrication system.

But before the steel can go up, a number of things have to happen in sequence:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

South Miami Green Task Force

Check out the initiatives of the South Miami Green Task Force, including the weekly farmers' market in front of City Hall, and next Wednesday evening's presentation on urban biking facilities.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

why not keep the existing house?

It's agood question. After all, the best course is often not to build at all. Renovation often (usually, in fact) involves less embodied energy, lower costs and less disruption to the surrounding area. So why not keep the existing house?

For us, it came down to two major issues: program and health.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a perspective

The steel prefabricators for our project prepared this rendered perspective, which gives a good sense of what the house should look like. The structural frame is steel, and the walls and roofs are made of panels with thin steel faces on either side of a thick layer of foam insulation. We'll discuss the advantages of steel in later posts, but for now, consider a few compelling things:

a plan

Everything starts with a plan. In this case, it's a plan that's been growing and refining since 2008, when we purchased the lot and started to think about the ways each of the house's components related to the neighborhood around it.

The first gesture was probably the porch. Since the house sits at an intersection of two small streets, we decided to address the corner with a porch, which is analogous to the way we like greeting our neighbors. We'll write more about the house's stance toward social engagement in future posts.

Next came the living room and dining room, which form a single large space on the west side of the site.


On January 5, we had the existing house demolished. The existing house was built in two phases, beginning in 1968. Demolishing a house - even if you sort the rubble for recycling - is not exactly the most sustainable option for development. However, two things made the house unsalvageable: the garage sat on the corner of the lot, right at the intersection of two streets, and thus right at the point where we want to have a porch to greet our neighbors (not a box to store our cars); and the house was riddled with termite damage and mold. It took less than a day to reduce the house to dust, which is pretty humbling for two architects to watch.

rolling out the new blog

Permit? check. Financing? check. Kick-off meeting with steel supplier? check. LEED certification started? check.

Over the next few months, we’re going to post regular updates on the design, construction and commissioning of our new home in South Miami, Florida. Subscribe to the blog (via Blogger, RSS or Facebook) to stay abreast of our progress.