Green Building Design Hobby

Designing is My Hobby, I’m Continuously Improving My Skills,
You Benefit

Here are my design-as-a-hobby implementations.  Every example regarding buildings below, I have built personally or paid to have built.  Perhaps an idea may inspire you.

Building Energy Efficiency

  1. Replaced a standard, minimally effective 1 inch air filter with a 4 inch high efficiency filter system for cleaner air quality and once per year replacement.
  2. Hot shower water in less than 10 seconds, really.  No need for tediously capturing water in buckets.  Details soon.
  3. Replaced an 80% efficient heating system with a 95+% efficient system.  Moved from under home tight crawlspace air delivery to attic ductwork and delivery.  The unit is now in the garage for noise reduction and ease of service.  The previous floor location in garage now has a utility sink.
  4. Water saving lawn replacement, use wood chips:  Replace your lawn with wood chips from local arbor company.  Chips and delivery are free.
  5. Water flow restrictors 0.5 gpm (gallons per minute) installed.  Details soon.
  6. LED lighting product selection and install details for both chandelier and covered-bulb fixtures.  Details soon.
  7. For high water emergencies, I built an all-in-one, carry and drop in place pump with leaf and twig filter.  Details soon.

Building Health and Efficiency Outcomes

  • Total Utility $200 (as of Dec 2015) for five people is the result of water reduction, wall, pipe and ceiling insulation, PV solar install, induction cooking.  The result is a considerable lowering of our utility bill. Our 1930’s home with 5 people  is $260 which includes all water, electricity, gas, sewage, garbage/recycling, storm drain and utility taxes. Our building is 2500 sq feet and our lot is 14,000 sq feet including about 30 trees.  We’re also charging an electric car/EV, included in this utility bill.  utility-bill-jun-2015-palo-alto
  • To do:  we have 12 single pain windows that have not been replaced as yet.Ask me how you can reduce your home energy use.

Community Improvement In Palo Alto

  1. City Traffic Flow ImprovementSuccessfully encouraged the City of Palo Alto to revise the intersection at East Meadow and el Camino Way, near the Good Will store.  This T intersection, was a bottleneck as cars turning left or right were in a single lane; quite slow indeed.  The City removed street parking spaces and added a right hand turning lane and a green painted bike safety lane.  Significant traffic flow improvement occurred.  Here is my original note to the PA City Manager, includes before view.  Here is the traffic flow improvement after street revision. traffic-improvement-after1
  2. I recently road VTA, Valley Transit Authority or light rail from Mountain View to San Jose. I was uncertain how to request a stop.  I realized the request stop button is a bar.  A quick-fix; the sign can be further clarified to read “Press Bar for Stop Request”.  Additionally, after touching the bar, there is no feedback to the user indicated an alert has been sent.  Next redesign can include a traditional button rather than the bar; a button with a light would be even better.

Resource Conservation, Water and Energy

  • 5 Simple Steps to Sustainable Living:  Instructables.com details
  • Hot Shower Water in Less than 10 Seconds:Using under bathroom located sub-water heater fed by main hot water system.  Minimal water waste and no need to fill buckets and carry them to your yard.
    Sub water heater image, details later.
  • Water Efficient Sprinkler System:This provides efficient and robust watering system, not easy damaged by gardeners, walking, etc. One of the sprinkler heads provides water in a V flow pattern which waters a tree without wetting the trunk. Wetting a tree trunk continually can cause rot and contribute to the death of the tree. 
    Instructable details here.
  • Water Saving Lawn Replacement, Use Wood Chips:  Replace your lawn with wood chips from local arbor company.  Chips and delivery are free.
    Instructable details here.
  • Water Saving Faucet:
  • Install 0.5 gallon per minute flow reducer (one third lower than 1.5 gpm) for optimal water usage.  Some soaps are quite lathery, they require excess water to rinse cleanKey is faucet flow reducer install and combination soap change to Target brand baby shampoo, used for hands, face and dishes.  Target baby shampoo soap rinses off hands quickly.  Target Shampoo is about $2.75 for 20 ounces.

Water limited or drought tolerant tree planting:

I talked extensively with Jason, the arborist with Davey Tree Service in Aug 2015. He says long term, planting trees that can survive and thrive in our semi-arid northern california is key. Seems trees that require larger amounts of water are simply not a good idea anymore given our drought cycles.

Here is his list of recommended trees if you need to replant after loosing a tree or if you are planning.Crepe Myrtle

  • Cal Pepper
  • California Native oak
  • Strawberry Tree
  • Madrone
  • Hollywood Juniper
  • Podocarpus

Outcome Result:
After these systems above were installed the city of palo alto me sent a note saying our water usage is lowest in our area, reduced by 40%.

Washing machine water efficiency

Front loading machines use more water than efficient top loaders.  I wish I had a water meter connected to my old and new washers to prove this; it’s hard to recreate now.  Below is my theory.

As of August 2015, we replaced our front loading water saving washing machine with a top loader high efficiency machine. Yes, replace a low-water-use front loader with a top loader, seems backwards regarding efficiency.  Not so fast.  We have been through this exercise; perhaps you can make a better first decision.

Aug 2015, my note to Consumer Reports asking to test this water-efficiency theory.

Here is my thinking regarding this experiment:

  • High Efficiency Top Loaders:
  • Huge capacity (18 lb capacity, about two very full laundry baskets) means water use is maximized. This is key.
  • Net is overall less water used than w front loaders and all of their problems. Front Loaders Have Smell and Re-Wash Problems:
  • They smell after in use for about 6 months.  This means re-washing clothes because they are un-wearable. Really annoying is finishing a shower, grabbing a towel to dry and have it smell funky after one use. Re-washing means more water is used for this work around.
  • The door gasket needs replacement after about one year.  My theory is the rubber material breaks down the smooth surface and mold has a place to bind and live.  The gasket becomes sticky to the touch.
  • The machines require deep cleaning frequently with a high bleach concentrate which smells the laundry room.  More water is used for this work around. Disappointing; this deep cleaning step is less effective over time.
  • Finicky elaborate routines are needed to keep these machines mold free, including drying the gasket after use.  I read them, they seem quite time-consuming.
  • The bleach concentrate being drained is not environmentally healthy.
  • Replacing the door gasket is quite involved, $70 for the part and more for labor.  I you do it yourself, two hours may be required. Here’s a how to video for replacing the gasket.

Designs Well Done by Other Designers

    1. Here is my acknowledgement of winning designs by other designers.
    2. American Standard Champion low flow, never clog (really) toilet.  Its so well designed from top to bottom.
    3. Sears Kenmore Induction free-standing cooktop and electric oven. Cooks fast, with fine tuned heat controls. It makes more fan noise than I like, a minor issue.
    4. Nissan Leaf electric car used, about 2 years old.  For about $10k, own a second, around-town car that requires minimal maintenance.
    5. Anti snore, anti sleep apnea mouth device.  By moving your lower jaw forward, your tongue doesn’t block air flow when relaxed.  This is a modification of an Invisiline plate set.  A CPAP unit may not be required.  Outstanding, I know personally.
    6. Project Drawdown, as it is named, will produce a book in 2016, detailing the costs and benefits of scores of climate solutions, from light bulb technology to livestock techniques to literacy for teenage girls. For each, Hawken and his team will “do the numbers,” providing detailed, science-based data and econometric models showing how each plays out, based on current technology and how it will likely evolve over the project’s 30-year horizon.
    7. This bathroom light/fan timer switch is exceptionally well designed and universally installable.  It has intuitive time control and clear countdown lights to indicate status.
    8. My wife’s eyewear that I accidentally crunched under my foot, both the lens and the temple bar; they snapped back together.  So amazing. Details soon.
    9. Apple iPhone ImprovementI so much appreciate multiple lines in the email subject. I can now proof my Sir translation and avoid scrolling to the right; removes embarrassing misspellings. Well done Apple.
    10. I did send a note asking for weather app to include city and state info. I have added Palo Alto Pennsylvania instead of Palo Alto California.  I’d like to see” Palo Alto, Ca” at the very top.

Misc Cell Phone Improvements

If you are having connection issues with your ATT cell phone, have your ATT SIM card replaced at the ATT store, not at Apple.This is especially true if you have a new phone and are using the old SIM card from your previous phone.  This is an easy step before buying a Micro Cell Booster or Pico Cell Booster.  The old card may be not fully compatible with your new phone.  The ATT rep initially said my battery cycle is expended; not true.  Then he said buy a Micro Cell Booster, not necessary.  I told him ATT service worked for years in my home and in the last year, I’ve been having connection problems.  He then replaced the SIM card and my connection issue has been solved.