Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

barn door project with left-over siding May 4, 2009

Filed under: Design,Green Rehab,Reuse — budint @ 1:47 am
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Our bedroom has a huge opening which looks out through sliding glass doors at our upstairs patio and onto the backyard.  This also means that the neighbors behind us can see into our bedroom

The opening also lets a ton of light in in the morning and this is annoying to us who need it dark to sleep.  None of this was a surprise and a barn door was always in the plans.

What the barn door would be made of was always a question.  We talked about colored MDF or Maple FSC plywood.  Both nice options, but we were budget conscious and a little concerned about introducing another wood species which might clash with our white oak floors.

The idea came to me as i walked around the house trying to organize the piles of excess building materials.  One pile consisted of left-over siding from our rain-screen.  Another was a pile of rigid insulation.   And obviously, i have a lot of 2×4’s left-over.

So with all of this, i made a frame w/ the 2×4’s, stuck the rigid insulation inside and sandwiched it with the left-over James Hardie cement board lap siding.  (see below and don’t mind messy bed)

barn door

The door is pretty heavy because of the cement board, but rolls really easily with the barn door hardware from Hardware and

We totally love the door and the ability to open the bedroom to bright sunlight or close it off for a nice, dark cave.


the modern house I use to hate March 18, 2009

Filed under: Design,Landscaping,St Louis,The hood — budint @ 1:43 am

modern house on juniata

Back in 2002-03 (can’t remember), I was a big fan of the old architecture in St Louis and still am.  My neighborhood, which is the same one I’m back in today, was full of brick shotgun homes, 2 families and a street of bungalows.  I was really proud of living in an area with such original architecture that when this house was built several blocks away, I was appalled.

Like any new home on a lot in an old neighborhood, it looked out of place.  Just by the fact it was a new structure on an empty lot, it looked odd.   Add to the fact that it was a crazy looking, modern home and folks in the hood (including myself) thought it was a real mistake.  Not sure how much grief the guy took or if he even cared, but I heard about it frequently and saw ppl on the neighborhood chat board mentioning it.

So 5-6yrs later what do i think of the house?

imodern house fitting in

Firstly, I’ve realized that it takes some time for a new house to fit in.  The trees must grow back, the landscaping takes place, the weathering of materials, etc.

Secondly, the owner did a decent job w/ the landscaping that really helped to fill around the large white mass.  The thin and see thru wooden fence also does well to tie the modern structure to more natural surroundings.

Lastly, I’ve come to appreciate a mixture of design styles within a modern urban setting. I personally chose to be a bit more discrete and not disrupt the curb appeal of my street, but I don’t think that option was here for this house.   So if you’re going to go new, then challenge the current preconceptions of new homes and that’s what this guy did.

Only thing I know (or I’ve been told) about the owner is that he’s an architecture teacher at Washington University, here in St Louis.


Hate styrofoam, love Expandos February 22, 2009

Filed under: Design,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 12:08 am

The wife received a sample of glass tiles from Modwalls a few weeks ago and though I wasn’t overly impressed by the quality of glass tiles, I was amazed by the packaging.

You see, one of my biggest beefs w/ getting stuff shipped to us are the Styrofoam peanuts. They’re worse than bubble wrap.  So forever I’ve tried to store them in the basement in hopes of one day reusing them.  Well then you move and relocate and go into temporary housing and all this time you can’t keep storing these peanuts. Until one day you have to throw them out and the guilt is overwhelming.


Well guilt no more (especially if these catch on) and say hello to the ExpandOS packaging cushion system. These little cardboard cut-outs are REALLY neat. I actually spent the first few minutes upon opening the glass tile package to examine these rather than look at the tiles. All of the details are on the ExpandOS site (including a video) and there’s info on cost-savings, etc. etc. for businesses, but I have to say that as a customer, I’d gladly pay an extra 25-50 cents per package to not have to deal w/ the guilt of Styrofoam peanuts.

With the ExpandOS, I can save them for reuse or happily recycle them. Only disappointment is that i didn’t think of it first.


Birthdays, rainbarrels, PEX, ERVs. Where do i start?? September 18, 2008

Filed under: Design,Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 2:48 am
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My birthday is on Friday.  My 2nd birthday while on this project actually, so hoping to not have a 3rd.  I did get a fun gift from my parents which doesn’t make up for a delayed project but does make you forget for a couple minutes.   The gift was a rain barrel. Yes, this big ugly pickle barrel looking thing that I need to somehow incorporate into the facade, but it will save fresh water for my kids.

And over at the house, some things have been happening.  The PEX was completely installed and terminated into the manifold. But there’s a hitch.  The plumbers weren’t all that familiar with PEX and in order to make the install work more easily they 90’d every line into the manifold. (see pic)

Is this the end of the world? probably not.  Will it have some effect on how quickly the water gets to the faucet?? Probably won’t even notice.    It’s unfortunate though, cause there is now a 3rd possible leak point where before I had only 2.

Next we have that ERV that I’ve lugged around for so long, installed. This device should provide us with clean/fresh from outside at all times while not losing energy through introducing opposite temperatures from the indoors.

Lastly, we have our siding and more excitingly our rain-screen installed. You can see the rain-screen on the left hand side.  The underlayer is Vapro-shield and the siding is hardi plank.  To the left we have hardi panels applied directly to the substrate and separated by Tamlyn guide tracks.  These help provide this look and also allow for a place to do some back caulking.  Around the back doors we chose a red version of the hardi panel.

They’ll finish up the siding this week and start the insulation on the inside next week.  Maybe I’ll grab the hose and run a test on the rain-screen before the insulation/dry-wall goes up.


Checking out MOMA’s pre-fab exhibit September 1, 2008

Filed under: Design — budint @ 2:07 pm
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I was in NYC for work last week, so what else would I do in my free time than go to the MOMA to check out their pre-fabricated home exhibit. I remember when the exhibit first started earlier this summer and I thought it was such a great concept, but one I would only be reading about.   So after visiting the exhibit, I can now say that MOMA has done a great job on their website in reproducing much of the experience and information for those who can’t make the trip.

In fact, for some of the outdoor exhibit, I am happy to have read the site since the information was a bit hard to understand over their “call this number from your cellphone” informational system.  And there are better inside photos of the micro-compact home that were hard to get a sense of with so many people trying to see the exhibit.  Touching and getting the sense of size are difficult online, but avoiding the lines and being rushed are also nice. (note pic of line below).

Other than the micro-compact, I was not very impressed by the other designs. They seemed impractical or poorly built.  The cellophane house for example was the most striking from the exterior, but the layout was awkward and use of space poor.   Did I mention how cool it looked from the exterior? Okay and they had a nice integration of PV into the windows/exterior walls.   But practicality wise, I felt it would be difficult to carry drinks/food up 3 floors to the roof-top deck, among other issues.

The outside exhibit was only half of the fun. On the inside (6th or 7th floor) they had a very comprehensive collection of drawings, videos, models and photographs which played out the history of pre-fab homes.  The information was alot to take in, so I had to carefully navigate to insure nothing was missed.  The exhibit was also one where photography was not allowed, thus no pics.    I was pretty amazed my the progress that had been made in pre-fab earlier in the 20th century, both in the U.S. and abroad.    This part of the exhibit is not as well represented online though.

All in all, I was happy to have gone. My expectations were probably a bit unrealistic as I thought I might see something radically amazing, but since a group of fellow bloggers follow this topic closely, it was an unlikley possibility.

As for the other parts of the museum, I really liked the Design & Architecture exhibits.  They were like a step back in time and I really enjoyed it.


Windows are half way in July 20, 2008

Filed under: Design,Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 8:19 pm
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So I’m a believer in small victories and getting half of the windows set last week was definitely one of those. Especially since the day they arrived, they weren’t yet ready to be installed 😦 There’s always that fear of things disappearing, like what happened with some of our steel and some other random items.

The do look really cool though, especially with the black aluminum clad finish we went with. I love how the design has the windows oriented up and down, so the place feels alot bigger (or taller at least).

We went with the Kolbe Ultra-series line because that’s what Sage highly recommended. They were a bit pricey, but the windows are supposedly top quality (cheap windows are bad news) and very energy efficient. They use all of the high-tech glass coatings, gases and spacers, so assuming my place is insulated correctly, the addition of these will make a nice difference. Looking in those insulative window blinds as well.

Kolbe as a company is also supposed to be very green in its practices and they’ll certainly give you a bunch of information on how their products will help make your home LEED certified.

Looking fwd to the remaining windows going in this week, plus we just received our shower base for the master bath. What are the sustainable options for a showerbase??


Green certification won’t make the budget July 18, 2008

Filed under: Design,Green Rehab — budint @ 2:34 am
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It wasn’t always top of mind, but I just always assumed that we’d go through the green certification process when this project really got rolling. However, since i’ve sought out more details and truly understand the costs, I’m sad to say that we won’t be green certifying; at least not right now. I say ‘not right now’ because it sounds like we can heavily document the project w/ pictures and apply later, but will we really go through that? Doubtful!!!

What we were looking at specifically was the NAHB Green Building program and also the Energy Star Home certification. The NAHB is the one we looked into back in January and felt was pretty reasonable for what we needed. The Energy Star component is the foundation of the NAHB certification and provides you w/ computer modeling, site inspections and a blower/air leakage test. Again, it’s cheaper (almost half the cost) than LEED and a bit easier to conform to, but still includes some pretty stringent tests.

The decision came down to 1) How much does it cost? and 2) What will it get us right now? When you’re in the budget building mode, you’re sometimes stuck w/ having to make your decisions for the here and now. So the cost was in the $600-$1,000 range and there was no near-term benefit from our perspective. Especially when you consider putting that money toward a more efficient dishwasher, laundry, A/C or even toward more insulation. It just seemed that we wouldn’t see the benefit until we went to sell the house and since that could be in 20yrs; our city could have worked these sustainable guidelines into the basic residential building codes. Then the ppl in the future would be laughing at us saying “wow, ppl actually had to spend extra money back in the old days to get their home green certified”. (wouldn’t that be a hoot?)
With all the above being said, we’re still not changing how efficient or sustainable the house is being built. Certification or no certification, we’re still shooting for something far, far better than the average home.