Thursday, July 16, 2015

BuildSense Back at it Teaching Summer Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture

North Carolina State University's College of Design Summer Design-Build Studio is in full swing. This year, the veteran leadership team from BuildSense (Randy Lanou, Erik Mehlman, and Scott Metheny) are once again joined by Ellen Cassilly to lead the School of Architecture program comprised of 18 Architecture Students. However, the collaboration at NCSU has reached new levels. This year's project is for the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Zoological Teaching Animal Unit (that's the NCSUCVMZTAU for those of you paying close attention). Additionally, we have enlisted the help of professors and students of the School of Landscape Architecture in this incredibly diverse and multi-disciplinary design-build venture. The project is an animal husbandry shed on the ZTAU grounds. For more details, see the following blog from Dr. Michael Stoskopf.

The roof is underway at the new ZTAU Animal Husbandry Shed

Friday, May 8, 2015

Your Choice of Fireplace

At BuildSense we focus on our individual clients to design and build a home that suits their personal needs. One common request is a fireplace. As with the diversity of our clients, comes the diversity of the type of fireplace that is right for their design and how they live.
We take pride in building healthy homes with high indoor air quality and safe and energy efficient systems. In regard to fireplaces, we believe the best means to achieve this is through directly vented, sealed combustion gas or wood-burning fireplaces with a dedicated exterior air source. The sealed combustion unit and dedicated exterior air source assure interior conditioned air stays in the house, rather than traveling out of the house through the chimney. Directly venting the fireplace exhausts air to the exterior of the home rather than into the home. Seems like common sense, but there are many ventless fireplaces on the market and in existing homes. We have recently installed bio-ethanol fireplaces as a far safer option when venting to the exterior of the home is not possible. The waste product of these units is water, steam, and carbon dioxide. The quantity of CO2 emitted by burning 3 hours of an ethanol fireplace is about equivalent to the amount of CO2 produced by burning 2 average candles (
Wood burning fireplaces with gasket doors that are directly vented come in a wide range of designs allowing for various design solutions. With every individual client we are able to customize their want for a wood-burning fireplace within their design. Below are examples of different types of fire units that achieve varying design goals.
This ICC Chimney allows for a see thru design that links the dining and livings room while breaking up the large open space.
The Rais unit allows for a wood burning fireplace to be incorporated into the design of the stair and bookshelf, maximizing the space while created cohesive design elements.
The Morso wood burning stove has a modern, compact design that allows it to be placed anywhere within the design, taking up minimal space while producing a generous amount of heat.
The dining room, living room, and above loft are connected by the Montigo see through gas fireplace unit allowing for a visual connection through the fireplace. The venting to exterior is hidden in the reclaimed wood shaft chimney.
This EcoSmart bio-ethanol burning unit was chosen for clients upfitting a condominium in a multi-unit building with an HOA that would not allow fireplaces to directly vent to the exterior.
This is another (2) bio-ethanol unit in the same condominium building (in the cabinet below the TV). Please note this a very complex installation with numerous fire retardant materials carefully crafted into the design according to product manufacturer's specifications and building code.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Drawing interpretation and Communication

Not long ago, we engaged one of our trusted trade partners to fabricate a steel rail for a staircase. Due to the speed of the project, we met on site, drew sketches in the field, turned over a final CAD drawings, and they proceeded with the fabrication. The installed rail was not detailed as had been drawn or discussed. Their project manager agreed to reconfigure the design as intended. We are pleased to work with trade partners who exhibit our same dedication to “getting it right”. However, issues as this one in the design and construction process strike me as peculiar. Does a fabricator not see the same thing as drawn on the page? Or what designers find even more discomforting; does a fabricator take it upon him/herself to change the design? Lesson learned: even when fast-tracking, work closely with trusted trade partners and always have the fabricator produce shop drawings. By the way, the finished rail looks great.
Original rail drawing
First iteration in field
Revised rail under construction
Final rail complete
Final rail complete