Law about choosing materials with smaller carbon footprints excludes cement

You would hope that one of the materials responsible for the emission of huge amounts of carbon dioxide (Portland cement) would be included in a law about choosing materials with smaller carbon footprints. Nope.

Portland cement, the major binding agent in concrete, is one of the single largest emitters of greenhouse gases. But thanks to lobbying by industry groups, you won’t find concrete in California’s new carbon legislation, the Buy Clean California Act.

Read more here

 

Fallgren Strawbale Home receives Net Zero Energy certification through Living Building Challenge

On Jan 3, 2018, the Fallgren Home in Campo, CA, became the second building in Southern California to be awarded “Net Zero Energy Building” status through the Living Building Challenge. This third-party certification is based on actual performance data and verifies that the building uses less energy than it produces annually, as well as meets the program’s criteria for sensitive development, beauty, and education.

California has set a goal that all new residential buildings will be Zero Energy by 2020. This house is one example of how we can meet that goal using carbon-sequestering, non-toxic materials that are better for people and the environment.

Super-insulation, thoughtful design and careful construction mean that this home stays a comfortable temperature year round in this extreme climate while using little energy. The smaller than the average photovoltaic solar array (4.1 kW) provides almost twice as much electricity as this home uses even though every system in the home is electric (no gas or propane).

“When it was cold this winter, the house stayed at about 70° without any heat. When it got hot this summer, the house stayed at about 74° without air conditioning. It’s a very comfortable house.” – Brian Fallgren, Homeowner

This home is one of only 27 in the world to achieve this certification through the International Living Future Institute, a nonprofit working to build an ecologically-minded, restorative world for all people. Using principles of social and environmental justice, ILFI seeks to counter climate change by pushing for an urban environment free of fossil fuels. ILFI runs the Living Building Challenge, which is the world’s most rigorous green building standard, as well as the Net Zero Energy Building Certification (now Zero Energy), the Living Product Challenge, and the Living Community Challenge. The ILFI NZEB certification draws from the Living Building Challenge and is a highly rigorous and regarded standard in its own right.

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Why are houses in San Diego so unaffordable?

On average in San Diego, it will cost about $500k for an existing house with land or about $200k for land plus $300k for a new house to be built on it: either way it’s a pretty steep climb for many of us.

Wondering why you can’t find an affordable home to buy in San Diego? This article explains many of the forces at play. There aren’t a lot of easy answers. I’m glad they touch on ADUs / Granny Flats as one part of the solution.

Exciting new rules about “guest houses” in San Diego!

Whether you call them guest houses, granny flats, or second dwelling units, there’s some exciting news about them! New legislation passed in CA lifts some of the restrictions around these units, which are now all called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

Two of the most exciting features of the new rules, which went into effect on Jan 1st, are that detached ADUs can be as large as 1200 sq ft no matter what size the main house is, attached ADUs are now allowed to be as big as 50% of the square footage of the main house, and, if the project is located close to public transportation, the requirement to provide extra onsite parking has been waived. The new rules also make permitting an ADU faster and less expensive. A permitted ADU can legally be rented out, generating steady income for the owner.

This could be huge for San Diego’s affordable housing crisis! Now combine that with natural, non-toxic, carbon-positive building and we can do something real to address our housing crisis in a more sustainable way.

If you would like to explore the possibility of building a high-performance, non-toxic ADU on your property, we’d be happy to help you evaluate your options.

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Wakeham Strawbale Home on the USGBC Green Homes Tour Oct 22

The Wakeham Strawbale Home in Solana Beach (top photo) will be featured on the Tour

For the 5th year in a row, one of our projects has been selected for the San Diego Green Building Council’s Green Homes Tour!

Join us in Solana Beach to tour the Wakeham Strawbale Home. Many of you visited this home during the construction at our Open House-in-Process event, now come and see it finished!

This is just one of the homes on the Tour, check out the USGBC website for more info and to register

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Workshops for the tiny strawbale building for Coral Tree Farm

We’re excited to be making progress on the 120 sq foot turmeric growing building for Coral Tree Farm. We held three wonderful workshops already (framing, straw bales, and clay base plaster) and are looking forward to the Finish Clay Plaster workshop on 8/12. As of 8/8, there is only one spot left in the finish clay plaster workshop, so register soon if you are interested in participating (link to registration).

foundation work
the framing workshop
the straw bale workshop
progress on the clay base plaster
Bales are in, ready for plaster
The last workshop

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Simple Construct honored by CASBA

Mike & I were deeply honored to receive the coveted “Traveling Straw Dog Award for advancing straw building while having fun doing it” at this year’s CA Straw Building Association conference. We couldn’t have done many of the things we’ve been able to do without the knowledge and support provided by CASBA: thank you!