Saturday, February 25, 2012


As the house gets closer to being habitable, we're thinking ahead to how fun it will be to garden in South Florida. We're particularly keen to grow food, and were curious about how to design the edible landscapes of planters, vines, bushes and trees. We've taken pains to preserve a great avocado tree, and we'll happily harvest the mangoes that fall in our yard from our neighbor's tree.

Our weekly farm share (also called Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSA) gives a good sense of what grows well here, and when. In addition to the usual temperate food crops (broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries), we're getting used to tropical plants like the delicious betel leaf and surprisingly adaptable papaya. For the record, this photo shows two weekly shares (ours and a friend's), but it gives you an idea of what's in season in Miami in February.

update: last night's dinner featured a sautee of watermelon radishes (with their greens), with orange juice and soy sauce. Really awesome dish.

progress photos

Some photos of the house, now that the doors and (nearly all the) windows are installed. The front door is large (8 feet tall), which makes the porch seem smaller in photographs like this. We're trying to imagine how to furnish the porch, and how to (legally) install the supergraphic street number I've always craved.

solar power, installation details

Some detail photos of the solar panels, up close.

These are peel-and-stick, amorphous silicon, thin film panels that arrive rolled up with a plastic backer sheet. The installers washed the roof and made chalk lines to align the panels down the center of each roof panel, laid out the p/v panels one at a time, rolled them back up and peeled the backer off as they laid them down permanently. The whole process looked like they were installing giant bumper stickers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

solar power, continued

And just like that, the 40 photovoltaic panels were set in place today. Jordan, Jorge and the crew from Electron Solar set the p/v panels in pairs in between the standing seams. Each photovoltaic panel is 15.5 inches wide; they're designed to sit within the 16-inch spacing of standard standing seam metal roofing, but our panels are 42" wide, which allows us to mount two p/v panels side by side between the roof's seams.

solar power

Just when we thought we'd spend the next few days writing about the fantastic door and window installation at tin box, the crew from Electron Solar Energy arrived to install the flexible Uni-solar photovoltaic electrical panels we purchased from the Energy Store. Here's a photo of the first panel going up this morning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Our window and door supplier, Astor Windows, installed the three swinging doors today. That's the front door at left. It has an integral side lite. The sliding doors should start going in tomorrow.

The doors are painted aluminum, like the windows, but are made by  PGT (the windows are from CGI). Like the windows, the door frames are sized to fit tightly into the steel subframes. Our installer has been fantastic about accommodating inconsistencies in the steel subframe and making the final installation look perfectly plumb and square.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

perspicacity and the rearview mirror

At one point, this was the bee's knees. Fifty years ago, smart people thought highways were awesome. They represented freedom and progress. Now, we see them as the embodiment of pollution and alienation.

Fifty years ago, few people questioned whether demolishing whole neighborhoods to build freeways was a good idea. It makes us wonder about the certitude of our beliefs today. What ideas and principles do we hold now that are going to look misguided to future generations?

Friday, February 17, 2012

landmarks and milestones

At some point yesterday, tin box recorded its 20,000th page view (hello, Reykjavik!). Our steel exterior panels are complete (except for a few pieces of trim), our windows are in place (except for one unit that needs to be re-ordered), and we're looking forward to seeing doors installed and rough plumbing complete in the coming week.

A view of the front of the house, looking through the porch to the park. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

digital precision

Over the next week we'll fabricate trim pieces to cover the rough openings between the panels and the structural members. We're using the CNC milling machine at the FIU School of Architecture, with the guidance and extraordinary expertise of my colleague, Eric Peterson. The process is more complex when cutting through steel sheets than when we carved the construction sign. Here is a sample piece fit around one of the W10 beams in the courtyard (the final version will have the same silver paint finish as the wall panels). The fit is pretty precise, and we'll complete the weather seal with a bead of sealant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Big day at tin box today. Astor Windows began installing our windows. Along with Steelcom completing the installation of the exterior wall panels, this is a huge step forward for us.

We'll write about the windows and doors at length, soon, including Holly's trip to the CGI factory. For now, we're just reveling in our gorgeous fenestration...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

further progress

With the last exterior panels installed at the living and dining rooms, we have a stronger sense of the spatial qualities of that part of the house. We're particularly heartened by the amount of natural light that comes through the door openings (to the courtyard) and the windows (toward the park), and by the soft reflections of light off the concrete floor and galvanized roof decking and ductwork.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The shell of the house is nearing completion. We needed to have several exterior wall panels remade, and they are being installed this week. The windows and doors should start going in Monday, and some bathroom fixture might start going in Tuesday.

In the meantime, here are some progress photos of the house. The view of the house from the park gives you a sense of how the color and scale of the building work with the vegetation and topography. This week's rain made the park especially lush (note the thick carpet of resurrection ferns on the limbs of the live oak to the right). We're eager to see the effect of planting the low roofs of the house with flowering plants and vines, though that part of the project will have to wait for at least a year.

We're also psyched about the transparency of the living/dining room. In this photo, you can see through that wing of the house, into the courtyard. And the courtyard is looking good, too...