architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designWe have all heard of all the many fabulous and ingenious ideas that have been developed over the years for conserving energy consumption or ways of generating energy through renewable resources for both new and existing homes. Far too often it is soon discovered, however, these options are usually expensive and out of our budgetary parameters.

From its inception, a main goal of mine was to build an environmentally friendly home that I could afford and be so basic in its concepts that it could be used as a housing model for anywhere on our planet.

Previous writings have illustrated step-by-step methods of conserving and generating energy for my home’s operations just by taking advantage of what our planet already offers for free. Now I am going to discuss the way it is constructed, in a manner that is only slightly more expensive than conventional construction. The reason is it IS local conventional construction, only with a twist.

The construction methodology wood framing with a concrete “basement”, conventional to the Cleveland area. The only “twist” is the framing of my home is “beefed-up” a little to provide additional insulation. Instead of using 2” X 4”’s for the walls, I used 2” X 6”’s and so on.

Read more: Cost


architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designA home is a manmade object and must be constructed. The question that presents itself is “how should it be constructed”?

The integration of the manmade and natural worlds forms the foundation, the construction methodology decides the “how”. It is grounded in the core concepts of conservation, utilization, adaptability, and the needs of the user. These are addressed culturally, aesthetically, morally, physically, environmentally, and spiritually. Its modular approach is based on local influences and is independent of preconceived styles and imposed methods.

To be built in Cleveland, Ohio, its modularity is a product of conventional, or “off the self”, locally available materials and building techniques respecting its context and user. However, this housing model may easily be factory manufactured utilizing system components, new high tech materials, containerized, put on a boat, and erected in the hills of Chile by local inhabitants.

Read more: Spatial


architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designA house is more than an idea; it is a human generated physical entity; it must be constructed. It should be constructed to conserve nonrenewable resources and in a manner that is lifting to the human spirit. Now, the question is “how is to be constructed”?

The construction methodology for this home is independent from the ridged dictates of architectural style and predetermined construction methods. The flexibility of this home is derived from a modular concept that allows for adaptation to varying locations, cultures, and construction techniques. The modular concept allows it to be constructed in Cleveland utilizing local materials, craftsmen, and conventional methods while respecting the character and scale of its neighborhood, or it may be factory manufactured utilizing systems components, new high tech materials, containerized, shipped, and erected in South America by local inhabitants. This home is planned utilizing standard sizes of the material for its module. In this instance, poured in place concrete and timber/lumber control the module from which to work.

With carbon neutrality as the ultimate objective, this home proactively addresses the issue of heat loss. Its envelope must withstand natures degrading forces. It must limit conduction and infiltration as the major sources of heat loss. This home reduces conduction by means of insulation and infiltration by reducing or eliminating opening in the exterior walls exposed to these degrading forces.

Read more: Construction

Cooling Mode

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designLet’s take a look at passive cooling and how my home utilizes naturally occurring phenomenon and techniques to cool the space. However, you have to realize that the term “cooling” in this context is a relative term.  This approach will never give you the ability to have a 72 degree indoor air temperature when the outdoor air temperature is 90. Rather, this approach will provide you a relatively comfortable in door environment while reducing the consumption of planet’s non-renewable resources and just might leave our planet a little better.

The three primary components of a cooling system are insulation, reduced Sun exposure, and evaporation. All three components must be addressed with equal importance to ensure the maximum passive cooling effect. The insulation portion of the equation has been earlier discussed in “The Earth Mode” discussion.

If you also look at a previous discussion, “It’s Location”, you will see that the structure is oriented to take full advantage of the Sun and prevailing winds of Cleveland, Ohio. This however does create problems as the seasons change. During the winter, when it becomes desirable to use the Sun, we don’t want the wind. During the summer, when it becomes desirable to utilize the wind, we don’t want the Sun. The question now becomes what techniques do we utilize to both maximize and minimize these two naturally occurring phenomenon during the changing seasons.

Read more: Cooling Mode

Heating Mode

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designThe most significant energy components of any home lie with the conditioning of its space and water. With that in mind, the primary objective of this homes design was to reduce the consumption of nonrenewable resources through the use of renewable resources. You may already understand the Sun may help with this endeavor, but let us explore how by using the Sun to heat its space and water, this home will leave our planet a better place.

Two concepts are important in accomplishing this goal. First, if exposed to the Sun, a large and dense mass will heat up and store heat over a long period of time. The term for that is “thermal mass”. In this instance, it is nothing more than a very thick concrete slab, exposed to the winter Sun, which runs the length of the home’s south facing wall providing radiant heat to warm the space adjacent to the windows when the Sun is not shinning.

Furthermore, with this thermal mass in place a few additional conservation techniques are now possible. Imbedded within the thermal mass are the furnace’s primary cold air return and the cold water supply for the hot water “tank”. By doing this, both the return air supply and entering water supply are heated to above average ranges before being delivered to their respective equipment. Higher return air and hot water supply temperature translates into less consumption of nonrenewable energy sources. This is particularly important in Cleveland where the water source is Lake Erie. The lake water’s winter temperature is usually much lower than that of ground water, thus requiring more energy to heat.

Read more: Heating Mode

Earth Mode

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designBefore we discuss what to build our house from or what expertise it takes to build it, let's first take a look how we can use nature to do some of the things we rely on manmade materials and equipment to do. Let us look how the Earth may help us do just that.

One of the greatest sources of heat loss is through infiltration. That is where the wind blows through or heat leaks from those cracks around windows and doors. Another source of heat loss is by conduction. That is where heat from the inside passes through walls, roofs, and floors to the cold of the outside. What would happen to energy consumption if these two sources of heat loss were greatly reduced? My house does just that by design and here is how.

As previously discussed, each building site has its own unique set of attributes; positive and/or negative. This site has an attribute that most would view as a detriment to cost effective construction. That attribute is the existence of three foundations/basements of previously standing houses. As it turned out, this attribute not only became cost effective in its construction, but also cost effective in the homes operation.

Read more: Earth Mode

Site Sustainability

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designThe site is located on Cleveland’s near westside within the historic neighborhood called Ohio City, across the Cuyahoga River from Cleveland’s Public Square. It is 37 blocks west and 22 blocks south of Cleveland’s geographic center. The site is within two city blocks of bus transportation that connects to Cleveland’s light rail transportation, providing transportation throughout the city and directly to the city’s international airport. It is also located within a seven-block radius of four interstate highways and within two miles of the great inland sea named Lake Erie.

The Ohio City neighborhood is a city within a city. In addition to its wide range of housing options, it has its own “downtown” complete with retail, restaurants, and businesses. The site is within easy walking distance of over three dozen “neighborhood” amenities including parks, banks, retail stores, dry cleaners, schools, churches, a library, restaurants, business establishments, one of the country’s largest urban farms, and grocery stores including the world renowned Westside Market. This neighborhood is also very bicycle friendly. With almost everything I need and desire within walking distance or an easy bicycle ride, my reliance on the automobile greatly diminished. We all know how that translates into leaving it better.

The site itself is conducive to an east-west orientation allowing for maximum sun and prevailing wind exposure. Its soil is sandy loam providing excellent drainage and the ability to be easily sculpted.

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Spiritual Sustainability

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designA sustainable home should do more than just save energy and resources. It should be a place to have fun, a place to freely think, hope, and dream. It should provide a personal sense of well being.

Our sense of well being is grounded in our many daily thoughts that are usually generated by some sensory stimuli. How we interpret the stimuli serves as the foundation of what we think. The way our food tastes, the sounds we hear, the surfaces we touch, the conversations we have, the passing glimpse out of the corner of our eye, or the things we smell just might be the stimulus that is needed to generate a new thought. Therefore, it could be said it is this thought process that forms the foundation of our sense of well being. It might follow that the more our senses are stimulated, the more thoughts we will have, the better our sense of well being.

Just for a moment, think what we do in our home to stimulate of senses and to increase our sense of well being. Every now and then we will rearrange the furniture or paint the walls. Maybe we will buy something new to hang on the walls or some new window treatment. Maybe we will watch a video or play Kinect. We do this to keep things interesting and to change the pace of our daily living in an attempt to strengthen our sense of well being. What if your home could that for you all day and everyday? This home does just that.

Read more: Spiritual Sustainability

Design II

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designContinuing with the basic design concepts of sustainability the plan for this home is flexible to accommodation the client’s wishes. Presently, the second floor plan of the “South House” does not include a second full bath or bedroom. This space is to be used as a “Studio”. However, plumbing and electric “runs” shall be installed to accommodate the user’s future wishes.

Flexibility is further extended to the future development of this model. It has been design to establish a foundation from which to build a carbon neutral home. In the Cleveland area that means utilizing both active solar and wind systems. At the time when these systems become “off the shelf” items for residential use, only minor modifications will be necessary. These changes include modifying the roof pitch to 12/12 and substituting the gas fired heating plant with an electric geothermal heat pump.

Read more: Design II

Design I

architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential design

When beginning the task of designing a sustainable home, the concept of sustainability, both physically and spiritually must be an integral program requirement. Attention to the elementary physical components, site amenities, and the dreams of the client all determine the success or failure of the design and its level of sustainable. It cannot be a process of designing a Cadillac, retrofitting it with add-ons, and then expecting it to be a Tesla. Size, shape, volume, site, orientation, views, topography, the clients dreams, only to name a few are the attributes that must be considered from the beginning.

The plan for this home is a simple rectangle with an East/West orientation. It is dimensioned utilizing a modular format based on regional construction materials and methods. The length to width proportions allow for the utilization of passive solar gain and prevailing summer breezes for heating, cooling, and vitalization. It is equipped with the most current energy efficient mechanical systems.

Read more: Design I


architects, cleveland, washington, sustainability, residential designHello, my name is Ron Sarstedt and I am an architect in Cleveland, Ohio. Over the course of several writings I will be sharing with you the philosophies, techniques, and implementation practices I use for the creation of a truly sustainable home. This home is unique and exciting, reflective of the past while imagining the future, grounded in experience while exploring new possibilities, and respectful of the natural planet. It is a joyous home meant for living and playing. It is a home that transcends fashion and time while igniting the human spirit.

For over 30 years I have been designing sustainable homes for others. It is now time for me to take the observations, techniques, and experience that have been accrued over this time and create a sustainable home for myself. Due to the detail required to illustrate very simple ideas, several writings will be necessary. I hope you find all of them informative and enjoyable.

Read more: Introduction

Inside the 13 Coolest Offices of the Year

blog-picBonkers offices tend to spring up like so many expensive mushrooms during boom time, especially in the tech world. But it turns out that average companies are investing in great design too—at least according to the shortlist of great offices chosen by the World Festival of Interiors this year.

The Festival is an annual awards program that honors great interior design, and it's a super fun glimpse into a...

Click HERE to read the article