Editors’ Picks: Highlights from ICFF and Other New York Design Shows

Product designers and producers descended on New York last weekend for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, Wanted Design, and a large group of other events in galleries, showrooms, and studios throughout the city. RECORD sent out a team of editors to scout the best new products and most interesting exhibitions. Click the image below to view a slideshow of what they found.

Portland to Portland Bike Trip: Dispatch 2

British architect, journalist, and cyclist Peter Murray has embarked on a bike ride from Portland, Oregon, to Portland Place in London. As he makes the 4,347-mile journey with a rotating group of participants, he plans to survey the state of cycling in American cities.

NIST Takes on the Net Zero Energy Home Challenge

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When you think of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), do you think of atomic clocks and hunks of metal that serve as standards of mass and length? Or do you think of cutting edge research in net zero energy (NZE) homes? It turns out, they do indeed still deal with standards, but they also do a lot of great research, including studying NZE homes.

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The photo above is their recently completed Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF), which is pretty darn cool. For its first year, it's going to be operated just as if a family of four were living in it so they can monitor just about every detail of its performance and get a lot of almost-real world data about NZE homes. Here's a nice video about it:

Developing guidelines for NZE homes

In addition to their NZE research, NIST has also been hosting meetings of experts over the past few years to help gather what we know and figure out what we need to know yet about NZE buildings. Their most recent one was Strategies to Achieve Net-Zero Energy Homes, and they just released the report on it last month. It's called Strategies to Achieve Net-Zero Energy Homes: A Framework for Future Guidelines Workshop Summary Report (pdf), and you can download it by clicking the linked title. As they say in the introduction, the purpose isn't to tell you how to do it but rather "to aid in developing a set of future guidelines for the residential building community and homeowners as they design, construct, and operate NZE homes." Some of the folks who were at this meeting are Sam Rashkin, formerly with ENERGY STAR new homes program at EPA, now at US DOE, Dave Karmol of the International Code Council, Asa Foss with the US Green Building Council, and Wes Davis of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. The document reviews where we're at with regard to understanding how to do net zero homes properly. The three main categories they focused their efforts on are:

YOU are the Next “Starchitect”

For decades, a very limited number of architects have broken through to become superstars of our profession. A select few, mostly architects with connections cultivated during their time at the nation’s top universities, were celebrated as pillars of the profession. Elite networks of wealthy individuals decided which works were worthy of support and controlled who […]

Newsmaker Interview: Design, Bitches

What began as architects Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph's provocative response to the question "What is architecture?" became the ethos of the duo's collaboration: "It is design, bitches" was their answer.

Snakes in an Attic — The Ductopus’s Cousin Strangles Bath Fans

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Neville poked his head up through the scuttle hole into the attic and surveyed the situation. Troy immediately heard a scream erupt and had to get out of the way as Neville quickly jumped down off the ladder.

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"I have had it with these monkey fightin' snakes in this monster flippin' attic," he yelled at Troy. "Do these people not understand air flow?!" Neville bolted out the front door and confronted the installer of the bath fan ducts. "Look, man, this house needs bath fans that move air! Do you realize they're trying to get this motor flopper certified for ENERGY STAR Version 3?" "Yo, dude. Chill," replied Dan, the duct installer. "I'm just doing my job." "Well you're gonna hafta pick up your game because we're looking for ventilation that actually works. Vent-i-la-tion. It starts with vent. It's gotta vent and it won't do that through those long, curvy snakes for ducts you put up there in that minnow fishin' attic."
Continue reading "Snakes in an Attic — The Ductopus’s Cousin Strangles Bath Fans"

The Time Value of Money and the Energy Efficient Mortgage

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time value of money and the energy efficient mortgageLet me ask you a question: Would you rather I gave you $100 one year from now or $100 right now? No brainer; it's easy to see that $100 right now is worth more than $100 in the future. Another way to say that is $100 in future value is worth less than $100 in present value. But what if I told you that I'd give you $100 one year from now or $90 today? Which would you take? As it turns out, financial analysts, those other folks who like numbers, have figured out how to calculate the breakeven point. You can tell them a future value number, and they've got a formula you can use to calculate how much it's worth in today's dollars, the present value. They just need two other numbers to figure it out: the interest rate and the period of time involved. Here's the forumula:

present value formula single payment

If I give you $100 in one year (n = 1), and the interest rate, i, at which you could have invested that $100 now is say, 3%, your present value would be $100 /(1+0.03)^1 = $97.09. You can change the interest rate and the amount of time and see how the present value varies. What happens, though, if it's not just a single payment that you get in one year? Let's say you're going to get $100 every year. Those crafty financial guys have that one figured out, too.
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Does Your Air Barrier Work in Both Directions?

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Do you want a good air barrier on your house? Of course, you do. No one who knows anything at all about building science believes that old myth that a house needs to breathe. We want airtight houses, but then we want mechanical ventilation to bring in fresh air from outside (well, at least as fresh as you can get from your outside).

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The air barrier’s job is to minimize the amount of air that crosses the building enclosure between conditioned and unconditioned spaces. Does all of the air moving across the building enclosure always go the same way? No. It goes both ways. The amount of outside air that leaks in is matched by the amount of inside air that leaks out. (Sometimes the air leaking in or out is intentional, and we call that ventilation.) Once you understand that air can move both ways, it’s clear that you’d want an air barrier that works in both directions. Right? But when we test homes for air leakage, we pretty much always test them in only one direction: from outside to in. We put the house under negative pressure with a blower door and then measure the air flow through the fan, which tells us how much air is leaking in through the building enclosure. I’ve written in the past about how house wrap is far from ideal as an air barrier. It can be a great drainage plane, however, and that should really be its primary purpose when you use it on the outside of a house.
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blower door test results house wrap vs taped sheathing
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Continue reading "Does Your Air Barrier Work in Both Directions?"

PORTFOLIO UPGRADE: GOING MINIMAL

Life has been busy lately. However, I have managed to squeeze in a little time to create two new spreads. I have moved to a different project in the portfolio and I wanted to change up the style a little. Much of this portfolio so far has been very graphically intense meaning I rendered or post processed every image on the page. It's very hard for me to accept any "white space". This way of thinking comes from the fact that I am trying to fit as much information into as few pages as possible. The problem then becomes how to manage the hierarchy and avoid having the graphics all compete against one another.

One way to solve this is by taking the "less is more" route. Thinking minimally is outside my comfort zone but at the same time I find minimalist graphic design beautiful and refreshing. The difficulty comes from having to choose what to present and what not to present. If there is white space left on the page, I instantly start thinking what can I fit in there. For some reason, I have this fear that if there isn't a lot on the page then it may appear like not much effort or time was put into the design. On the other hand, presenting minimal graphics successfully could show a certain comfort in the design and clearly drive home the concept.

With that said, I also wanted to explore putting some spreads together that didn't require any rendering time and minimal Photoshop time. This site has many tutorials that look at abstract illustrations (such as this and this) yet there is very little on using these types of illustrations in portfolios or presentation boards. More than anything, I wanted to see if I could get these pages to be as informative and expressive as some of my other project pages.

With the introductory page, I started out with a bold image. You may recognize this image since it was pulled from this post, with the colors desaturated. The only color comes from the highlighted text which also spills over into the next spread. The graphic itself has nice lines and draws the viewer in without giving away too much.

The most important part of this project was how the form was developed. This meant giving up a lot of space for simple line drawings and not over thinking how to graphically explain this idea. These first few pages have set the tone for the rest of the project pages and the goal is not to stray too far off course. It's a good exercise to get myself to think differently about page layout and I'm interested to see what comes out of it.