Eco Housing and Green Remodel: Ideas from Menlo Passive

by Linda Lenore on June 5, 2011

The last few days I've been discussing home improvement characteristics found in the eco building and green home plans from the first passive home in San Mateo County, Menlo Passive, sharing the passive features with the environmental architecture along with the eco buildings system and interior design details. Now I'm going to share some of the high-performance features including doors, windows, lighting, skylights and solar tube features as green remodel interior design elements. These are home improvements you can implement into your green home plans.

The high ceiling, sun-lite great room with high-performance windows and doors.

The high ceiling, sun-lite great room boasts clearstory windows for year-round light filtration into the room. Its openness along with the high-performance windows and doors, LED lighting and low-VOC paint make this room a welcoming sight to an eco buildings' first impression.

When you first walk into the home, the expansive openness including high ceilings and abundant sunlight welcomes you into the space. Strategic placement of glass French doors and windows, including the clearstory windows on two sides, allow sunlight to filter into the room year-round. The high-performance doors and casement windows made by Gaulhofer, an European manufacturer, provide increased comfort in the home while decreasing energy usage.

Although covered with paper, the reclaimed wood floor adds character while reducing the demand on our natural resources. Using low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) for the interior paint design improves indoor air quality (IAQ).

Skylight in bedroom

This bedroom contains two skylights. According to chi Feng Shui, these skylights have been well-placed. They allow plenty of daylight into the room during the day without creating a "black hole" over the bed at night.

VOCs are the smell you experience with paint and many other toxic products when they are off-gasing. They can be very harmful to humans and pets. These VOCs become trapped in a building when "sealing the envelope" for high-performance, high-efficiency construction is utilized. That is why, when a home is being constructed using this design criteria, it is even more essential to use the no- and low-VOC paints and other finishes for anything in the interior paint design. This is not just from a green house plans design perspective, it is a Feng Shui architecture criteria for high-viatlity, healthy homes.

Sunlight is abundant throughout this eco housing home as viewed in the photo to the left. You can see one of two skylights placed strategically within the bedroom to allow natural daylight into the room. Their placement adheres to "good Feng Shui" principles as neither would be located over a bed. According to Feng Shui bedroom layout principles it is not good to have a skylight directly over your bed as it creates a "back hole" at night, which drains a person's energy and life force. (For more Feng Shui info, please read other blog posts, like Feng Shui Tips for Home - Front DoorsFeng Shui Landscaping: Building Community & Meditation and Feng Shui Design and Mother's Day.)

Daylight is not only a viable eco housing feature, it is beneficial for the Feng Shui chi of a home. By placing skylights or solar tubes strategically throughout the home, the need to turn on lights is reduced, thus reducing energy costs.

Solar tubes for hallways and closets

These solar tubes located in the hallways and closets of Menlo Passive solve the need for electrical energy use by providing sufficient lighting for safety during the daylight hours.

This same natural exposure to the elements and daylight brings in beneficial Feng Shui chi - the life force energy recognized in Eastern cultures as fundamental for health and vitality. Integrating these into the interior design templates of the roof and ceiling, it also improves the house plans as per Vastu, a Feng Shui study from the Indian culture.

My Feng Shui training included Vastu Shastra for home design. Several of the Vastu remedies rely on the natural elements like sunlight, Vastu directions and other eco housing environmental architecture qualities designed by sustainable architects.

At night time  when the solar tubes are not viable sources for safety lighting, LED lighting becomes a solution. LED lighting provides the highest quality efficient lighting available at this time. Having a lifetime span of approximately 25 years, it will save large amounts of energy with a minimum of service required. Although many of these fixtures are significantly more expensive than their predecessors due to the cost  of R & D along with manufacturing, consider the fact you might never have to buy another lamp in your lifetime, much less physically replace it.

Oh, I see I slipped into "design talk" just now. Let me explain that the "light bulb" is called a "lamp" in the design industry. That is why I said you might never need to replace a "lamp". Think that you might never have to replace that "light bulb".

My next "Green Chi Designs" blog post will address the laundry, master bedroom and bathroom eco housing features from Menlo Passive that can be integrated into eco buildings and a green remodel.

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