There’s no doubt about it.  LED’s have gone mainstream.

LED light bulbs and they now come in every shape and size and in a variety of color temperatures to meet your needs (from a warm white 2700 degrees Kelvin to a daylight 5000K).  Most can also now be dimmed, although not quite as smoothly and fully as incandescent bulbs can.The shelves of Home Depot and Lowes are stacked to the ceiling with

Why LEDs?

LEDs are very appealing due to their low energy usage (of 1/8th that of a comparable incandescent bulb) and long life compared to incandescent lights, but two problems have held our business, eco+historical, from using them for every single recessed light in the home:

Why NOT LEDs?

  1. Cost
    • Recessed LED light fixtures cost more: typically 5X to 8X incandescent fixture cost
  2. Color
    • While LEDs do come in warm white, when they’re dimmed, the color doesn’t change – the light just gets dimmer
    • This is in contrast to incandescent lights which turn warm shades of yellow, orange and red as they dim

The ALMOST Holy Grail

So what would be the ideal LED fixture?  I suppose that if we’re just wishing here, we’d say that it would be a fixture that gives off as much light and as atmospherically warm a light as an incandescent bulb or fixture, but with 8X the energy efficiency and 10X the product life, but at the same cost.

Well, that’s a lot to ask, but I think that many home owners and developers would be willing to pay more for an LED fixture that behaves like an incandescent light but offers significantly improved energy usage.


Two leading lighting manufacturers, Juno Lighting and USA Illumination, have recently announced new LED recessed fixtures where the light color and quality of the LED fixture almost exactly matches that of a comparable Incandescent fixture.  Juno announced their Indy Chromacontrol Black Body Dimming LED fixtures (seen below) and USAI introduced their BeveLED 2.0 fixtures with Warm Glow Dimming.

Both of these fixtures are currently targeted at commercial vs. residential applications.

To see how these new fixtures are improving the emotional experience offered by LED lighting, just take a look at the chart below from the USAI brochure for their BeveLED 2.0 fixtures with Warm Glow Dimming(TM). The chart compares the light output of their fixture with a 100W incandescent lamp.

This is a B.I.G. deal.  This means that a space lit with one of these dimmable LED recessed lights would enjoy BOTH the improved energy efficiency of LED lighting and the light quality that we’re used to for setting warm scenes in our homes via Incandescent lighting.

So why isn’t this the Holy Grail?

Well, as amazing as these new fixtures are, they have some constraints.  The biggest, of course, is cost.  If you’re a price-insensitive early adopter, these could be the answer to your efficient lighting prayers.  If price is important to you, the fact that they’re almost 20X the cost of a comparable incandescent fixture might put a little damper on your enthusiasm.

NET NET

It’s important to keep in mind that this is just the beginning of the era of LED lighting.  Five years ago, there was just a single vendor for LED recessed lights.  Now there are perhaps a dozen or more.

  • Light output is increasing
  • Costs are dropping
  • Dimmability is improving

Cost aside, what’s wonderful about the USAI BeveLED 2.0 and Juno Indy Chromacontrol light fixtures is that these companies are investing in the innovative engineering work needed to make these products possible.

Over the coming couple of years, we’ll see more and more of these fixtures come on the market, with different trims for flood and spot lights, showers and wall washers and whatnot, and most of all, we’ll see the price work its way down.  Not down to the price of the incandescent fixtures that we all know and love, but low enough that they’re worth adopting wholesale and giving our homes an energy efficiency boost that will come with few compromises.

They say that there’s no such thing as bad PR, so I won’t argue with anything we get.

That said, this isn’t a case of bad PR – our most recent home project in San Francisco’s Noe Valley was featured in today’s San Francisco Chronicle in an article questioning whether making a home “green” helps it sell for more money.  For us here at eco+historical, the question is rather moot – we’re going to build our projects green whether they sell for more money or not since that’s just the right thing to do.

Not that we mind making a profit once in a while, mind you.  Something has to pay the bills.  But we recognize that the extra costs of going green and making all of our projects LEED Platinum-certified are not necessarily costs that we’ll recoup.  We all have a shared responsibility for the planet and we would like to do our best to make our homes sustainable and wonderful places for families to live and thrive and connect to one another and those they care about most.

1436 Sanchez was just the latest of these efforts and, if we don’t say so ourselves, it comes off looking pretty nice in the photos that made their way into the Chronicle article

Check it out!

Oh yeahhh…the BIG TIME!

I’m sure that people are paying no nevermind to Oracle World and the latest iPhone release now that the Victorian Home Trade Show is coming to San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center on Sunday, September 29th.

Victorian Home Trade Show Image

 

We’re very excited that San Francisco’s Victorian Alliance has spearheaded the move to bring those who own these lovely homes and those who work on them together for a meeting of minds.

We’re even more excited to have been asked to participate as a speaker!

Since so few Victorian homes have made the move to “green” building, we’ll be presenting a case study of our LEED Platinum-certified project at 1566 Sanchez Street.  We’ll explain how we made the decisions and trade-offs that led to the final home design and specifications and also hope to convey that there are baby steps that you can take to make Victorians “green” as well…it’s not all or nothing.

If you’re in San Francisco next weekend and want to come by to see what all the buzz is about and maybe say “hi”, Josh’s talk is around midday and he’d love to see you!

(that, and the tickets are just $10, so just go for it…it should be fun)

Very exciting…our first full article on one of our projects!

ECOHOME Magazine, a publication focused on, naturally, building techniques and technologies for Green homes, has an article on our project at 1566 Sanchez in their Fall 2013 issue.

The article explains in depth how 1566 Sanchez achieved LEED Platinum status and gives credit to all of the professionals and products involved.  Great stuff!

Our good friends at Fireclay Tile are running a Backsplash Competition and whose kitchen are they using to show what a beautiful kitchen can be?  Naturally our last kitchen from 1566 Sanchez St!  This beautiful recycled material tile really makes the space special – we use their Debris Series tile in every kitchen we build.

Fireclay Tile Backsplash Competition Small

We’re just happy that Fireclay Tile loves us as much as we love them!

This year, the annual Greenbuild Expo was held, conveniently, in San Francisco, affording me the opportunity to visit a wide variety of product vendors to see what progress is being made in Green windows, tile, heating, solar, landscaping, water conservation, and lighting.  After traversing multiple show floors and hundreds of thousands of square feet of booths and products, just one product stood out in mind as the best in show.

Juno Lighting, one of the major manufacturers of recessed lighting fixtures, was showing a product that I’d been talking about and hoping for ever since I started doing Green building.  I’ve been installing LED recessed lighting since 2008, but while the lights dim much more smoothly than they used to and while you can get a color of LED light that approximates a warm white (about 2700 degrees K), the problem remained that when you dim LED lights, the color stays the same – they just get more dim.

Juno_WarmDim_2012_02

This is quite different from traditional incandescent lights that become more red and orange as they dim making for a “warmer” mood in a dimmed space.

Finally, though, a maker of LED lighting has created an LED recessed lighting fixture that creates light that becomes more warm as you dim it down (by incorporating LEDs with different color temperatures that are brought into play as the light intensity is dimmed down.  The Juno product has been christened WarmDim.  I tried it out at the Expo and it looked pretty darned good.  I won’t get a chance to try one out in a project home until later in 2013, but I’ll keep you posted!

Juno_WarmDim_2012_01

 

After months of paperwork and correspondence, the USGBC finally accepted all of our documentation and inspections and agreed that 1566 Sanchez had achieved all of the necessary LEED points to be certified as LEED Platinum.  eco+historical couldn’t be more pleased to have built the first home in Noe Valley to reach LEED Platinum and one of less than 10 single family homes in San Francisco to reach that plateau.

LEED Platinum Approval Certificate

But we didn’t do it alone.  We want to thank our builder, Chris Begg of CBC General Contractors for executing to our plans even when so many of the components we chose were new to the market and unfamiliar; Paul and Rich of Nowak Heating and Air Conditioning for fitting in a difficult mini-split air source heat pump, and many others.

Why do we do this?  Why do we go so far to make these homes as green as they can be?

Not for the money, surprisingly.  It certainly does appeal to buyers to have a Green home, but the top factors for buyers are still location, number of bedrooms and baths, layout, aesthetics…and then, somewhere down the line…sustainability and eco qualities.

Still, eco+historical is committed to building this way because it’s the right thing to do.

The homes are more healthy for the families that live there.

The homes use less energy and less water and absorb more runoff and waste water and thus have a smaller ecological impact.

As energy and water costs go up over time, the benefits of the efficiency of homes like 1566 Sanchez will only increase.

So at the end of the day, eco+historical will do fine, but the thing that makes us most happy is that the homes we build will serve their families and their communities long into the future.

LEED_plat_12

While they say that you can’t time markets (and they’re right), we accidentally stumbled into the right timing for this one.  Although we’d planned to have 1566 Sanchez ready for sale by December 2011, various niggling details held us up until March 2012…right as San Francisco real estate went into a frenzy.

The response to 1566 Sanchez was incredible – we received so many gracious and generous compliments and comments…thank you to everyone who had a chance to come by and check it out.

4 days after the first showing, it was sold.

On to 1436!

Now our focus is shifting to 1436 Sanchez, just up the street.

Once again we’ll shoot for LEED Platinum and once again we hope to transform a small Victorian into something that’s large enough to work for a contemporary family, but stick to the general footprint of the original and retain the original facade.

Well, as usual, I let an inordinate amount of time pass since my last post.

It’s been a busy few months.

We wrapped up construction of 1566 Sanchez in mid-March of this year and we’re pretty darned happy with how it turned out.  The wide-plank engineered oak floors were finished with Tung Oil to seal out stains and they look amazing and the white interior carries light to every corner of the home.

Todd Adams of Ken Fulk Design led the way in designing the staging of the home and it came out absolutely gorgeous – we can’t thank them enough.

Take a look…

In putting together any eco-project, you always have an enormous number of design choices to make.  Whether it’s the light fixtures, the style of trim, or the plumbing fixtures, you have to look through dozens, hundreds or even thousands of choices to see what fits your taste, your budget, and energy or water efficiency goals.

EPA WaterSense

For our projects, that means that we want, as much as possible, to select bath fixtures that adhere to the EPA’s WaterSense Certification program.  This program rates toilets, faucets and shower heads that meet the specified WaterSense water efficiency goals.  Currently, that means that toilets must use 1.28 gallons per flush or less, faucets must run at 1.5 gallons per minute or less and shower heads must run at 2.0 gallons per minute or less.

As with all innovative products, the marketplace starts off with few options for the leading-edge adopters (eg. eco+historical homes back in 2008/2009) but as more and more localities set water efficiency goals into their local building codes, the number of available products grows exponentially.  The earlier you are as an adopter (like those folks today trying to find 1.75 gal/min shower heads), the more meager your options and…unfortunately…the less likely you’ll be able to find a style of fixture that matches your design sensibilities or themes.

eco AND historical

Thanks to this broadening range of products, there are now plenty of fixtures that are both stylish and much more efficient than standard fixtures (where toilets typically use 1.6 gal/min, faucets use 2.5 gal/min, and shower heads can use a whopping 10-12 gal/min).

In particular, the gorgeous faucets from Delacora are both classic and high style while offering the efficiency that an eco home demands.

On our Master Bath Vanity, these looked simply amazing, combined with the Caesarstone Misty Carrera counter and backsplash and re-sawn oak vanity and mirror.

In the shower, we tapped Kohler for their Bancroft classic shower set – now running at a WaterSense-rated 2 gal/min.  The polished nickel finish accentuates the sense of tradition and warmth.

Rounding out the bath choices was the very traditionally-styled, yet up-to-date-engineered Kohler Devonshire toilet.  Quiet, efficient at just 1.28 gal/flush, and perfect for our decor, it fit our design and our LEED criteria.

eco+historical founder, Josh Mogal

We created eco+historical homes to remake historic houses using healthy, sustainable and innovative building techniques and materials. Our goal is to move our homes towards having a near-zero carbon footprint while honoring their heritage and enhancing them for contemporary family life.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.