Is it Possible to Design a Fireproof Home?

Fire-01More importantly, can you renovate a house that’s disaster resistant at a cost normal humans can afford? A good friend of mine sent me a link on designing a fireproof home, or making an existing home much more resistant to disasters like the wildfires in California.  I’ve included a link at the end of this post.

The article was written by Murray Milne, a professor of architecture at UCLA. After carefully reading the piece, it occurred to me that many of his design points have value in protecting against other natural disasters. When you analyze how nature is going to attack your home sweet home, most of the scenarios break down into three categories, fire, water and wind.  With a little extra thought, it’s possible to take some of Mr. Milne’s fireproofing ideas, and extend them to deal with other disasters. (more…)

Buy It For Life

Stainless Steel Saute Pan

When is it cheaper to buy a more expensive product? That’s what the BIFL, or “Buy it For Life,” philosophy is all about. Sometimes buying a premium product is cheaper over a longer term than buying the “cheap” version of the same item.

ASH: Starting the Design Process


Where to start the design process for creating an Awesome Small House? I’ve already discussed the philosophy of what we’re trying to achieve in a previous post. That post defines the difference between an ordinary and perfectly livable house, and a home that is truly awesome. A place that appeals to the soul.

If my years of designing automobiles taught me anything, it’s that the big ticket items are all about emotion. If you want to build an energy efficient, green and sustainable house, it’s about more than just about hitting the numbers. Specifications are important, but it’s the intangibles that will make it worth the effort. (more…)

Straw Bale Construction for Sustainable Building

SustainableA friend sent me a link on some Straw Bale construction being done in the UK. It’s a quite interesting idea. Building with straw has been around since Paleolithic times, so it’s not exactly a new idea. But now there is increasing research being done, and it’s beginning to look like straw bale construction has a place in both Green and Sustainable building.

But like any construction technique, there are good things, and a few issues to carefully consider.

On the plus side, it’s about as sustainable as you can get. Straw is an agricultural by-product, the dry stalks of cereal grains such as corn, wheat, barley, oats or rice. Besides being used as a building material, it’s used as animal feed and fuel. (more…)

Unexpected Ways Climate Change Will Effect Your Life

DystopiaMuch of the discussion about the long term effects of Climate Change center around various natural disasters. Drought, floods, hurricanes and wildfires are the hot topics. While these direct effects are definitely things to be concerned about, there are several less obvious issues that may well turn out to have more severe and insidious consequences.

Let’s deal with the simple and obvious problems first. Heat waves, which is by far the most lethal weather phenomenon. Europe was introduced to its Climate Change future during the 2003 Heat Wave. There were 70,000 deaths related to this heat wave. In an area with a similar population to the US. 14,000 deaths in France alone. France does not typically have hot summers, so it has a lower installed base of air conditioning. Also, the heat wave happened in August, the peak vacation period in western Europe. All across Europe, the elderly were affected disproportionately. (more…)

My Relocation Guide – Top 10 Things to Consider

Walking the dogs in Latta Park

Downsizing is becoming a “thing.” I’ve received quite a lot of feedback on this issue, seems like a lot of people are at least thinking about making similar changes. I’ll probably post more about the philosophy of it somewhere down the road, but for now, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts, and create a personal relocation guide.

Here’s my list of factors that should be considered when relocating. While I’ve thought long and hard about this, I seriously doubt I got everything completely correct on the first draft. Since it’s almost a certainty that I’ve left something out, please post your thoughts in the comments (more…)

High School Memories – House of the Rising Sun

Joan Baez - The early recordingsI first heard House of the Rising Sun at my high school talent show. I think it was 1963. I didn’t know the teenage girl who sang that night, but I remember the purity of her voice. Such a sad and mournful lyric, coming from that young girl, it was electrifying. To this day I still think about that moment whenever I hear the song.

It’s strange how a moment like that can stay with you for decades. Memories are not locked in stone. Your subconscious makes decisions about what you remember and how you remember it. Contrary to what we would like to believe, a memory is not like a video recording, the physical fact of a moment that remains unchanged forever. I can’t even guess what made that particular girl, her voice, and that song, have such an effect. But it stuck with me and I still wonder what happened to her. Did she have a career in music? (more…)

Don’t Let the Air Conditioning Bill Break the Bank


With this whole reinventing my lifestyle thing going on, I’m experimenting with all kinds of small changes. The theory is that it’s better to try ideas before making a lifetime commitment. Keeping cool and comfortable in a hot and humid climate, while keeping the air conditioning bill reasonable, can be a challenge.

The easy solution is to turn the thermostat down to 70 degrees. In my leaky and inefficient house, that would likely cost $200 a month. In this case, easy equals expensive. The more correct course of action would be a major insulation makeover. But I’m trying to downsize, so not much logic in a major investment in a house I won’t be living in. The immediate need is for an interim solution. Lessons learned will be applied to the next project. (more…)

Sixteen Tons – Hump Day Video

Let’s have some kick ass music for the Hump Day Video. Sixteen Tons is dedicated to working men everywhere, especially those from the coal mines of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Sixteen Tons is the Tennessee Ernie Ford classic from 1955. (more…)

ASH: The Awesome Small House Concept


Image Credit: Aerogel

ASH, or Awesome Small House, is my concept of what a dwelling in the twenty first century should be. The premise is to abandon the bad practices of building temporary and cheap dwellings and move to a more sustainable paradigm. In order to accomplish that, our attitudes need to change. We need to understand that conspicuous consumption is a vice and not a virtue. We are not bigger and more important because we generate a monstrous carbon footprint. We need to reduce the level of toxic chemicals in our environment, and especially in our homes. We need our homes to be efficient, to use resources wisely. Our homes should be both comfortable and secure. A home should make us feel like we’re living in harmony with nature, not building a fortress against it. (more…)