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Save Some Green by Going Green at Home

By | Building Green, Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | 4 Comments

Blogger Karen LeBlanc hosting VIP Tours of the Vision House at Epcot, photo by HowieSpace Photography

Recently, I had the opportunity to host VIP tours of Green Builder Media’s VISION House® at Disney’s Epcot Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. The idea behind this exhibit, created in collaboration with Disney Imagineers, is to showcase the latest innovations in green design and sustainable living. I discovered a few money-saving and environmentally friendly features that anyone can add affordably to Save Some Green by Living Green.

Blogger Karen LeBlanc points out energy-saving brick, a sustainable material on the exterior of Vision House, HowieSpace Photography

Brick on the Exterior Saves Energy Bucks

Brick is a sustainable material that helps lower the utility bill because it holds in temperatures. Brick is made of clay and water so it’s environmentally safe, free of chemicals and pollutants. It’s durable, can carry heavy weight loads, fire resistant, and recyclable. As a bonus, old bricks make great architectural features when they are salvaged and reused in structures to add character.

Blogger Karen LeBlanc points out smog-eating tile and Hanwha Solar panels on the roof of Vision House, HowieSpace Photography

Smog Eating Tiles Keep Us Healthy

I was surprised to discover that roof tile can actually cut down on air pollution. Boral manufactures the BoralPure Smog Eating Tile that reduces the formation of smog. According to Boral, the roof tiles “eat” smog when exposed to sunlight by oxidizing pollutants and converting them into inert calcium nitrates that wash away with the next rainfall.

LED fixtures in the Dining Room of the Vision House, HowieSpace Photography

LED fixtures Use 75 Percent Less Energy

According to U.S. Energy Department, ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs (light-emitting diodes) use 75 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than other light bulbs. The movement of electrons through a semiconductor material illuminates LEDs. They can be integrated into all sorts of products to provide white and colored light, such as flashlights, light bulbs, and integrated light fixtures. Unlike incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, LEDs emit light in a specific direction, reducing the need for reflectors and diffusers that can trap light; they are ideal for recessed downlights and task lighting. Another cost-saving advantage, LEDs emit almost no heat whereas incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat and CFLs release about 80% of their energy as heat. The Vision House features LED lighting by Sylvania.

Low VOC cabinets by Armstrong Worldwide in the ktichen of the Vision House, photo by HowieSpace Photography

Low-VOC Household Features Improve Air Quality

VOC” stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, which are chemical fumes released into the air. A common carrier of VOCs is the kitchen cabinet, which can contain formaldehyde used to bind the particleboard in cabinet’s interior boxes. The toxic chemical also shows up  in cabinet stains and finishes. No or Low-VOC cabinets improve indoor air quality and reduce toxins because they don’t contain formaldehyde and other chemicals.The Vision House kitchen features Low-VOC cabinets from Armstrong World Industries.

Home insulation made of cotton natural fiber for Low VOCs, photo by HowieSpace Photography

Home insulation is another potential source of VOCs. The insulation in Vision House is made of natural cotton fiber including denim clothing. The natural cotton fiber insulation has no VOCs, it’s mold and mildew resistant as well as fire retardant and completely safe to touch. A picture window into the wall in the family area provides a close up view of the insulation.

Three-layer windows with argon gas between the layers for greater energy efficiency in the masterbedroom of the Vision House, photo by HowieSpace Photography

Energy efficient Windows Shave 15 Percent off Heating and Cooling Costs

Energy Star Qualified windows filter out damaging ultraviolet light and save on heating and cooling costs. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that upgrading to Energy Star Qualified windows can save approximately seven to 15 percent on a home’s energy bill. The windows in Vision House are by Pella and have three layers of glass with argon gas between the layers. Argon gas is denser than air and enhances insulation.

Grow a Wall Garden

Blogger Karen LeBlanc points out the Green Wall Garden in the backyard of the Vision House. A wall garden improves air quality and energy efficiency, photo by HowieSpace Photography

Another creative idea that adds ambiance and enhances air quality and energy efficiency in a home is a green wall made of living, breathing plants. The Vision House features a green wall in the backyard that helps to regulate temperature, clean the air, and filter the water. It’s also a lush focal point in this backyard retreat.

Vision House by Green Builder Media and Disney at Epcot’s Innoventions Exhibit, photo by HowieSpace Photography

The entire Vision House is powered by Hanwha Solar photovoltaic modules on the house’s rooftop and a whole-home automation system (The Home Intelligence system) that can adjust the lighting and temperature in each separate zone throughout the house. If you would like to check it out, Vision House is located in Epcot’s Innoventions Exhibit area. What are your money-saving and environmentally safe ideas for going green at home? Share your comments with our readers. I would love to hear from you.

Cast Stone for Affordable Timeless Touches

By | Custom Home Construction, Custom Home Design | No Comments

Another money-saving idea to add luxury to your living space

Cast stone range hood in a home designed and built by Florida Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri

Cast stone range hood in a home designed and built by Florida Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri

For centuries, cast stone has been used in some of the world’s most celebrated monuments and architectural works. Today, cast stone remains a popular architectural element for its cost and durability. In custom homes, cast stone is often the material of choice for a variety of ornamental details including the fireplace mantle, range hood, windowsills, columns, crown molding and even baseboard. Florida Custom Home Builder Jorge Ulibarri uses cast stone or architectural precast in most of his homes as an affordable architectural detail that gives the home character and its timeless appeal.

His latest example is a Tuscan-style home on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. The home will feature cast stone details throughout including cast stone interior window stills. It’s an original architectural touch that creates a dramatic visual impact and adds to the home’s timeworn style.  “The cast stone window stills are considered an upgrade from the wood window sills that I typically include with my homes. The cost for the cast stone upgrade is approximately $40 dollars more per sill but far more affordable than real stone,” says Jorge.

What is Cast Stone or Architectural Precast?

According to the Architectural Precast Association (APA), cast stone and architectural precast are comprised of

Cast Stone windowsill and door surround on winery in a home designed and built by Florida Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri

cement, sand, water, pigment and additives to achieve a finish that simulates natural stone. This cement aggregate is poured into a mold and cured to create a variety of shapes and structures. Cast stone products can look like a variety of natural building stones including but not limited to limestone, granite, slate, travertine or marble.

The APA calls the production of architectural cast stone an art form. “When done properly, this product provides the owner with a beautiful, lower cost structure that will maintain its aesthetic properties for many decades,” says Fred McGee, former executive director of the Architectural Precast Association.

The use of cast stone has a long and storied history. The APA says the earliest known use of cast stone dates about to the year 1138 and was seen at Carcassonne, France, the Cite, which contains the finest remains of medieval fortification in Europe. Cast stone was first used extensively in London in the year 1900 and gained widespread acceptance in America in 1920.

The Advantage of Cast Stone over Natural Stone

For ornamentation, Florida Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri prefers cast stone to natural cut building stone for its affordability, durability, and its ability to simulate the look of natural stone.  “Cast stone weathers better than natural stone. It is structurally stronger when properly reinforced and it offers a consistent look for trim or ornamentation that natural cut stone does not.”

Ideas to Enhance Your Living Space with Cast Stone

Cast stone fireplace mantle in a home designed and built by Florida Custom Builder Jorge Ulibarri

Precast stone is a luxurious and timeless architectural detail that can enhance the style of any home. It’s affordable when used in high profile, small spaces. Some potential uses of precast stone include: columns, windowsills and door surrounds and entries, and cladding, fireplace mantles. For more affordable design tips, check out the series Trade Secrets by Jorge on YouTube and Vimeo.