Project Portfolio: Peak Lookout Residence

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Check out Paul Finkel’s lovely architectural photos from our Peak Lookout Residence completed with builder, Todd Fletcher of Peak Design Build LLC!

The Peak Lookout Residence is contemporary, luxury home located in Lakeway, TX. The residence is positioned on a gently sloping site and oriented towards distant views. The linear parti frames outdoor spaces both to the north and south of the residence and works with passive solar principles and breezes to allow for an efficient green design. This is a 5 bedroom, 4-1/2 bath residence with a 3 car garage and ample pool deck for entertaining and outdoor living. The material palette is quiet but elegant, consisting primarily of stucco, stained cedar accents and anodized RAM windows through out.

Peak Lookout Residence Portfolio Link (Desktop or Ipad)

Peak Lookout Residence Portfolio Link (Iphone)

 

 

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Solar Case Study: Single Family House

In honor of Earth Day today we hope to provide you with an informative post regarding Solar in Residential use.  Happy Earth Day Y’all!

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Solar Case Study: Single Family House

by John Vesel

Austin TX, 6.75kW Photovoltaic Array installed January 2015

Electric Utility: Austin Energy

 In January 2016 we completed our 12th billing cycle as a solar power generating household. The figures are in, but first a rundown of the situation:

1518sf Single Family Home

3 bed / 2 bath; 2 car garage

Constructed 2004

Located in Southeast Austin

Oriented with East-West axis*

Subsidized & Financed

*Crucially, our house is constructed with a long hipped roof with the main ridgeline running almost exactly East-West. This means our largest roof surface is facing South. There are no trees that interfere and the two-story house to our South does not shade any portion of the roof. This existing situation allowed for the easiest possible setup. This was confirmed by the installer when they measured the roof surface and calculated the sun angles. The most helpful terms to know are that kW = Kilowatt which is a measure of energy (1000 watts); kWh = Kilowatt hour which is a measure of power, or, energy over time.

Our solar installer recommended a few different options for solar panel modules. We chose a 270W base panel. During our research, we found that solar panels typically lose about .5% of their production capability a year, but there are still productive panels that were made during the early years of photovoltaic power. We also chose to install a micro-inverter with each module. This is a more expensive option than connecting a single inverter to the entire system, but we felt it was more advantageous. A single inverter system is like an old strand of Christmas lights – if one light goes out, they all go out. With micro-inverters, we could insure that if one panel was shaded or malfunctioning for some reason, then only that panel would be affected instead of the entire system. Inverters are required to convert the DC power generated by the photovoltaic process into the AC power used by the power grid. We had to connect to the grid to receive the Austin Energy solar subsidy.

solar panel 1

 

We chose a 25 panel 6.75kW system capable of producing about 9,000kWh annually. They cover about 443sf of roof area and are built to withstand the elements. Since there are no moving parts, there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong, outside of a cloudy day, and both the panels and inverters are warrantied for 25 years.

Our system is barely noticeable from the street, only just peaking above the roof. We did inform our HOA, and they were all for our addition. According to our installer, once one house installs, the rest of the neighborhood tends to popcorn as the benefits become known.

The installation process only took a few days. Stanchions were lapped beneath the existing asphalt tile shingles and locked to the existing trusses. These connect to tracks which hold the panels. A single encased electrical line runs down the other side of the roof to the electric meter. We now have two meters from Austin Energy: one tabulates our production; one tabulates consumption. Readings occur as usual with the consumption figure less the production figure.

Enphase-1

The system is linked to an app that I love to check each night. The above graph displays each day’s production for the past year, the brighter the blue, the greater the production. Our highest production value for a single day was 43.7kWh and our worst was under 1kWh. July was a great solar production month this year, hardly any clouds! Below is an 18 day period broken down by hour. Production is updated every 15 minutes. You can definitely see how sun angle increases production at midday before tapering off, or when a bank of clouds moves through.

Enphase-2

 

The app does a variety of things, but my favorite is a comparison of your production to more relatable terms. For instance, on our best day, our system produced enough energy to power and light the Eiffel Tower for 13 minutes. In our first year, we offset the same amount of CO2 as 172 newly planted trees!

We had only been in our house for a couple of months when we began the install process, so the system was sized based on average consumption for similar houses in our neighborhood. Austin Energy deducts our generation from our consumption at each reading with any excess generation becoming a credit. This means that the system can build up a buffer account credit during high-generation summer months which then evens out during less productive winter months. We have yet to pay beyond our account credit.

Our system cost, including installation, was a little over $1,000 per panel. Both the City of Austin and the Federal Government currently provide subsidies to help private owners become solar generators. Both subsidies were for 30% of our retail cost and then the remainder was financed. It is important to note that the Federal subsidy takes into account local aid before calculating the rebate. Our installer coordinated everything although our actual loan is via third party that specializes in such financing with typical rates at about 3% for solar loans. The Austin Energy subsidy was paid directly to the installer and the Federal subsidy was included in our tax return as a Renewable Energy credit. There is a per-year cap to that amount so we will have some carryover to this year’s return.

Since the Federal subsidy came well after our system became operation, we ended up with two parallel loans. One loan was more of an IOU intended to be paid by the Federal return amount. We had 1 year, interest free, to pay that loan in full which we did. The second loan was for the remainder of the system retail price. Typical solar loans are for 12 years, but 7 year and 30 year options were also available. We chose the 7 year loan option at just under 3% interest. Our house does not have gas, and the impact of this payment is like having a large electric bill every month. Aside from being able to look forward to the end date, now only 6 years out, we also have a set payment that we can always plan on rather than a variable use-based payment.

7 Year Financing Cash Flow-1

As you can see, we project to break even on the system at about 10 years. Going solar also fixes the rate at which Austin Energy compares our production to our use, so if rates go up, so does our rate of savings. Lastly, while the hard value added to the home has already boosted our investment value, the solar addition is exempt from property tax calculations.

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Project Portfolio: Lakeway Residence

Slide2aWe’re excited to share these architectural photos and video from our Lakeway Residence  completed with builder, Todd Fletcher of Peak Design Build LLC.  The Lakeway Residence is a contemporary, luxury home located in Lakeway. The residence is positioned on a gently sloping site and oriented towards distant views. The courtyard parti frames outdoor spaces both to the north and south of the residence and works with passive solar principles and breezes to allow for an efficient green design. This is a 4 bedroom, 4 bath residence with a 3 car garage and ample pool deck for entertaining and outdoor living. The material palette is quiet but elegant, consisting primarily of stucco, stained cedar accents and bronze finished windows through out.

UPDATE:  PROJECT FEATURED IN AUSTIN URBAN HOME MAGAZINE IN THE 2016 APRIL/MAY ISSUE!  http://www.urbanhomemagazine.com/feature/1541

Thanks to Paul Finkel for the lovely photos, Susannah Blanton for help with staging.

Lakeway Residence Project Portfolio Link (Desktop or Ipad)

Lakeway Residence Project Portfolio Link (IPhone)

Lakeway Residence Architectural Video

 

 

 

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Come see our ‘Natural Unnatural’ at the Waller Creek Conservancy’s Creekshow 2015!

Natural Unnatural Creekshow 2015-1 Natural Unnatural Creekshow 2015-3 Natural Unnatural Creekshow 2015-2

We’re very excited to be one of five teams invited by the Waller Creek Conservancy  to participate in this year’s Creekshow, a nighttime event featuring illuminated installations on Austin’s Waller Creek.  Make sure to come see our installation between November 12th-21st on Waller Creek and see the Creekshow website for more event information.

‘Natural Unnatural’ Artist’s Statement:

A hidden network of inlets, storm drains, and ultimately the Waller Creek tunnel project are unnatural controls creating a city-wide water displacement grid. This concealed system seeks to control the natural processes of torrential rainstorms allowing for our habitation of this flood-prone area. Flowing water can be graceful and seductive but it can also be grotesque and terrifying. Perspective defines how we see this relationship and as we alter the built landscape this perspective changes. The Natural Unnatural aims to make visible this tenuous relationship between the natural chaos of water in an impervious urban environment during a large rain event, and the structured unnatural order of the manmade devices attempting to contain and direct it.

The scale of the Waller Creek tunnel project is staggering and largely invisible. Once complete, this underground tunnel system will carry 3.7 million gallons of water a minute, displacing rain in a flood event from the surrounding 28 acres of land in Central Austin. This displacement project will allow for Austin to engage this central creek in ways not previously possible. The Natural Unnatural highlights the flabbergasting scale of this endeavor. The sphere, simple and pure, a manmade geometry represents the controls of the tunnel system. At the size of a person the sphere presents a scale index of the tunnel volume. Making the invisible understandable and bringing the chaos to light.

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Project Portfolio: Central Austin Residence

Central Austin ResidenceWe’re excited to share some video from our recently completed Eilers Residence, a master suite addition and renovation to an existing Central Austin Home built in the 1940’s with AR Lucas Construction.  Here, the simple axial layout of the master bedroom is tied directly on axis to the master bath suite with the bed on axis with a free standing soaker tub.  Walnut cabinets are deployed throughout including dual built-in master closets in the bedroom and the master vanity cabinets.  A lueder’s limestone floor and feature wall frame the master bath with views to the existing heritage tree to the east of the house.  Professional photos to follow next month!

Architectural Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MKQxRAUceg

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Project Portfolio: Zilker Residences

MG9C0381We’re excited to share these beautiful photos and video from our Zilker Residences completed with Tim McCabe of McCabe Development.   This contemporary architectural design, located just blocks from the Barton Springs Pool and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, features two residences in the heart of Austin’s Zilker Neighborhood. Both units open out to private landscaped interior courtyards as well as second floor balconies with views to downtown. The exterior material palette consists of a vertical standing seam siding contrasted against a white washed, vertical cypress tongue and groove siding.

Thanks to Paul Bardagjy for the lovely photos, Susannah Blanton for the great staging work at Unit A.

 Zilker Residences Project Portfolio (Desktop or Ipad Link)

Zilker Residences Project Portfolio (IPhone Link)

Zilker Residences Unit B Project Video

Zilker Residences Unit A Project Video

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Calculating Areas for COA’s 2014 Fire Flow Requirements for Residential Buildings

With the explosion of prices for land in the Austin area we have seen folks looking to build out as much as they can with either a larger single family home maxing out the FAR or by building a two family home or duplex on a larger property.  With this increase in density came an increase in concern regarding safety especially where fires are concerned.  To respond to this concern the city implemented a requirement for fire-flow pressures (gallons per minute that water comes out of a nearby fire hydrant).  This ensures that in the event of a fire, the fire department will have the resources to put the fire out efficiently. This new requirement can be a bit tricky to meet however, especially when building a two family home.  A licensed Architect will navigate these sections of the code when designing your home but we find that some folks are interested in what goes into this special new requirement and what it might mean to their new home design so we have listed some of the basics here.

FireFlowTest_SawyerSprinkler

‘Beginning in January 2014, the City of Austin began to formally review for the fire-flow requirement for houses larger than 3600 SF. Fire-flow for residential construction varies based upon size and construction type (see Table B105.1, 2012 International Fire Code) If a property does not have the required fire-flow, the code allows for alternate methods of compliance including the installation of sprinklers or an increase in the fire rating of the construction.’

– Excerpt from AIA Austin Advocacy

To see if your new home(s) will trigger this requirement the area must be determined – the “Fire Flow Area”. The fire flow area calculation comes from the 2012 International Fire Code Section B104 , copy pasted below and is a different area metric from both FAR, building coverage or GSF that’s used in other City of Austin calculations:

B104.1 General.The fire-flow calculation area shall be the total floor area of all floor levels within the exterior walls, and under the horizontal projections of the roof of a building, except as modified in Section B104.3.

B104.2 Area separation. Portions of buildings which are separated by fire walls without openings, constructed in accordance with the International Building Code, are allowed to be considered as separate fire-flow calculation areas.

Here’s the section that drives the 3600 s.f. trigger (For years, Austin Water Utility sized SF residential area water mains to deliver minimum 1000 gpm):

http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/ifc/2012/icod_ifc_2012_appb_par009.htm

B105.1 One- and two-family dwellings. The minimum fire-flow and flow duration requirements for one- and two-family dwellings having a fire-flow calculation area that does not exceed 3,600 square feet (344.5 m2) shall be 1,000 gallons per minute (3785.4 L/min) for 1 hour. Fire-flow and flow duration for dwellings having a fire-flow calculation area in excess of 3,600 square feet (344.5m2) shall not be less than that specified in Table B105.1.

Exception: A reduction in required fire-flow of 50 percent, as approved, is allowed when the building is equipped with an approved automatic sprinkler system.

 

If it is found that you meet the size requirements and the Fire Flow rates are not sufficient in your neighborhood the City of Austin allows the following alternative compliance measures.

If you don’t meet the fire flow rates for a larger single family you are required to install a sprinkler system.  If you don’t meet them for two family residences the City requires that you increase the rating of the area separation wall to two hours as an alternative method of compliance.

 

 

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