GreenSpace Collaborative’s mission is to nurture mindful living through innovative natural building practices. We achieve this through the thoughtful combination of exteriors perfectly suited to site environment and careful attention in the use of non-toxic building materials. We believe that this provides homeowners with a sound ambient interior that minimizes energy consumption, maximizes personal well-being, and contributes to the health of our planet.
BUILDING FOR TODAY'S CLIMATE
As the United States faces the worst housing and financial crisis of its history, natural built homes offer sensible solutions as the modern day response to the inherent drawbacks of conventional home construction. An overwhelming response to these challenges is homeowners choosing smaller, more energy-efficient homes that respond to financial and environmental pressures of today. Forward thinking builders and designers have successfully built beautiful natural homes that are not only compatible with the environment, but also have essential personal appeal to the client. Additionally, we at GreenSpace carefully consider the impact of construction on the earth and its resources. Where the conventional building paradigm adds complex roof lines and ornate trim to draw attention to the architecture, natural homes excel at a more personal and nuanced aesthetic.
The economic climate of yesterday produced quickly built homes designed for a fast investment return but certainly not for longevity or long lasting quality. Today, naturally built homes respond with a long term solution: to produce a comfortable, healthy, functional, efficient, and environmentally benign home for years to come.
Accessibility to modern building technologies and freedom from conventional design in the first development stages of natural building was a visceral response to changing energy and economic resources. This more intuitive and non-linear approach to home building explores new lines and shapes in architecture. Contemporary systems of non-traditional heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, and active/passive system design have proven to be of great appeal to the modern owner/builder. The popularity of natural building continues to grow and expand our archives of new information for a stronger foundation of knowledge. GreenSpace Collaborative is proud to work at the front line of this vibrant movement building for a new world.
GreenSpace Collaborative joins forces with clients to build project appropriate teams of specialists during the design and build process. In order to produce the best possible economically and ecologically sensible solutions for our clients, we shape a response team to implement our designs. We work with everyone from professionals in the field of energy systems engineering, structural engineers, renewable energy and building science technology to spatial design experts, interior designers, and indoor air quality practitioners. Each new project is fresh opportunity for us to evaluate new or alternative design practices combining expertise in the fields of natural building and finishes, alternative wall systems, resource conservation, landscape architecture, and renewable energy technology. By surveying every design option with the experts in each appropriate field for each individual project, we can provide affordable solutions while continually expanding our knowledge. We will continue to reduce the ecological footprint of the houses we design without compromising their beauty, healthfulness, or functionality as a response to building in this 21st century climate.
WHO WE ARE
Greenspace Principal Andy Mueller joined the Collaborative in 2004 bringing his strong foundation in landscape architecture, project management and design to his position as Operations Manager and Architectural Designer. Andy Has a particular focus on attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. He has over 30 years’ experience in building and project management and has worked on a wide variety of projects from new construction and remodeling to custom furniture fabrication and installations. Mueller has studied Architecture and Green Planning at the Universitat Hannover in Germany and Environmental Design and Art at the University of Massachusetts. He completed his Masters of Landscape Architecture in 1992 and worked for design and build companies on the East and West coast. Andy is a board member for both Front Porch and the Sheltering Pine Institute and a founder of Natural Builders Northeast, a network work of cutting edge professionals practicing the art of natural building and design.
Since 2010, Andy has been working with emergent nations developing education and training projects focusing on long term building solutions. Adding to his hands on experience building natural and hybrid homes with an emphasis on small footprint structures he began designing and building traditional style structures with local input and craftsman. As lead builder for the Builders without Borders team, he completed construction of the first model straw bale structure in both Port-au-Prince, Haiti in March of 2011 and Kathmandu, Nepal in 2018.
GreenSpace recognizes that the ecological footprint of a structure is not simply the sum of its site impact and material inputs. Buildings consume more energy in their operational lives than they do in their creation and deconstruction. While the green construction industry concentrates on energy consumption, we design structures that simply need less. We fine tune the building site and floor plans to facilitate the use of renewable energy sources like passive solar and efficient wood heat. Our super-insulation tight envelopes and use of thermal mass reduce heating and cooling needs. We propose addition of site-suited alternative energy sources and design for day-lighting to reduce artificial lighting use. We implement higher quality and more durable materials to reduce the need for replacement.
Modest homes in harmony with their context
The well-designed home should reflect careful consideration of human needs as well as the site’s tolerance for disturbance. We strive to craft small footprint homes without sacrificing comfort, detail, or function. Greenspace Collaboratives primary goal is to design an unostentatious, functional and efficient natural home that is well-integrated into the landscape. Through deliberate planning, our intention is to create settings that will transform exterior space into outdoor living rooms. Internal and external spaces are complementary to their surroundings and intuitively designed to radiate harmony and warmth rather than ostentation and hubris. Clients enjoy a home that both fits their need and respects the land around them.
Open exchange of ideas and expertise
Successful design requires good communication between the client and the acting facilitator, in this case, Greenspace. Through open dialogue and the exchange of ideas, we come to understand each individual’s priorities and concerns. We bring our expertise to the client/designer drawing board to clarify and refine the vision for a new home. Greenspace sets the program goals of the ensuing collaboration and with the client summarizes a written set of design objectives which guide the entire project from inception to blueprint. The result this ongoing dialogue is a design uniquely suited to each family, their building site, and their intended patterns of use.
Integrated services from the beginning
Building a home requires an overlap of multiple disciplines. To achieve a harmonious result in the most efficient manner, every discipline must be involved from the beginning. GreenSpace Collaborative assembles a team experienced in architectural design, structural engineering, site planning, energy and material conservation and heating and cooling. Early coordination between these disciplines creates time to proactively discuss options and trade-offs, common or multipurpose solutions and the most efficient sequencing for construction. The goal being a streamlined design and construction for a home that exudes a simple elegance.
GreenSpace Collaborative is uniquely positioned to offer a full range of services within the natural design/build practice. We are a small group of design professionals committed to creating the most comfortable, functional and meaningful space to call home. We provide creative solutions from conceptual design to detailed construction documents and green specifications. We do not impose a “one size fits all” approach; each project is unique. In this way, we ensure each new project results in a truly distinctive home that reflects its inhabitants, the community, and the surrounding environment. We can step in at any point in the design/build process.
Site Selection:Starting off right
Clients are often eager to build. However, time taken with the site selection process is time well spent. There are as many potential site issues as construction issues, yet ironically, buyers do not carefully inspect the site prior to purchase. Most clients own their property before finding an architect or designer, but for those who do not, seeking professional advice prior to purchase is strongly recommended. GreenSpace Collaborative can visit available properties, check for which best suit the client's needs and goals, study the property and look for any potential problems that might make construction more difficult or expensive.
Program Development:Establishing Design Objectives
Good design is not universal. The well-designed home is tailored to individual preferences. Our design begins with a full understanding of the client’s needs for function, aesthetics, value, materials, and budget. Our most innovative ideas grow from an understanding of how people will use indoor and outdoor space. Each aspect of the final design should fit harmoniously with the clients’ daily life and their surroundings. Through focused dialogue, we gather pertinent information which reveals the guiding purpose and intent of each project. This “program development” process results in a written set of design objectives that guide the entire design/build effort.
Site Planning:Finding the Best Fit
Siting a house is the biggest challenge in design. Choosing the location poses the biggest risk and, ultimately, provides the greatest satisfaction for the people who will live there. Major decisions made in the site planning phase must resolve contradictory challenges and sometimes require maddening compromises. An early investment in site design reduces unforeseen problems that often arise during construction, and thus minimizes costly changes and revisions later on. The site designer will address multiple variables such as topography, solar orientation, legal restrictions, access and circulation, drainage, microclimates, as well as protecting the site’s unique natural resources. Good site planning ensures the qualities of the “perfect lot” aren’t lost, just as it turns apparent constraints of a challenging site into something special. The goal is to integrate the home with its site in an intimate and thoughtful way, while creating a functional living environment that fits the client’s lifestyle.
Design Development:Moving from Concept to Reality
GreenSpace Collaborative will help the client visualize the final home design. We adjust the method of communication according to each stage of development. We find that hand sketching is still the best tool for rapid consideration of multiple design options in the early stages. Three-dimensional modeling gives an accurate picture of how the structure(s) will appear upon completion. Once designs are finalized, they need to be reviewed by local permitting authorities and contractors. For this phase, we provide construction documents that show how the details meet code requirements. Once the building permit is issued, the construction documents will illustrate the details to the builder and subcontractors. Accurate details ensure the structure is built according to expectations.
Green Specifications:Establishing Construction Guidelines
With your guidance and input, GreenSpace Collaborative will tailor a construction document that establishes the framework within which the design/build team must work. This may outline ways to protect existing vegetation, minimize erosion, set standards for waste disposal and recycling during the construction phase. It might define specific building elements that must be incorporated into the design, such as super-insulation or active ventilation. It will specify or bar certain materials based on their impact to the environment or the health of the resident. Even if the client has already selected an architect or builder with whom they will be working, this document assures that the process and result will be sustainable.
Solar and wood heating design:Exploring the alternatives
Petroleum is not the only fuel option in North East. Today, there are fuels at our disposal that do not contribute to global warming. With proper house siting and design, sun and wood provide comfortable, efficient, practical, inexpensive, even romantic sources of heat. GreenSpace Collaborative can work out the details for passive solar design elements, masonry heaters, ductless heat pumps, radiant floor heat from solar hot water panels, and other innovative and low-impact sources.
Renewable electricity system design:Deriving power on-site
Generating clean on-site electricity has three big up-front costs: design, equipment, and installation. Design tailored to specific site and client needs is complicated and time-consuming. Manufactured equipment can be expensive and embody higher energy costs. Installation can be expensive however; all three are offset by a long-term payoff of clean electricity with minimal financial and environmental cost. GreenSpace Collaborative will help guide the design of a solar, wind or hydro system, depending on the site’s resources and the client’s managed electricity needs. These systems can be grid-tied or off-grid.
Project Management:Coordinating all the details
The prospect of building a home can be daunting. Even if one has the construction skills, there are innumerable other tasks that need to be addressed: sifting through technical information to find the best materials and methods, timely coordination with subcontractors, obtaining local permits, securing construction loans and insurance, and oversight of the construction itself. GreenSpace Collaborative can provide construction administration services to protect the client’s interests throughout the project. We can help coordinate the many specialty trades. We often act as an informative liaison between client and town officials to obtain zoning, conservation, and building permits. Selecting a building contractor early in the process can help eliminate unfortunate surprises during construction. We can help to prepare construction specifications to get several bids, as well as answer questions that may arise from prospective bidders. We will help evaluate and interpret the bids, and assist in the final selection of a bidder. During construction, GreenSpace Collaborative can visit the job site to ensure the design is properly executed, and clarify issues that may arise for the builder.
An Inside Look at the Natural Building Process
NATURAL BUILDING IN EMERGENT NATIONS
Haiti and Nepal
Since 2010, GreenSpace Collaborative has been working with emergent nations to develop education and training projects that focused on long term crisis solutions.
Drawing upon our experience designing and building natural and hybrid homes that emphasize small footprint structures, we began developing traditional style homes building with teams of locals in Haiti. In 2013, we completed the construction of the first model straw bale and tilt-up panel wall structures in Por-au-Prince and are now focusing our efforts in Nepal.
TI KAY PAY-HAITI
SMALL HOUSE OF STRAW
Using Local Materials and Developing Local Industries
The Ti Kay Pay model home was designed to use as many in-country and local materials as possible, to build on existing labor and skill resources, and to encourage the creation of local industry. From the foundation to the roof, material and building system choices were made with these goals in mind. One material resource that was largely untapped in Haiti is the rubble resulting from the collapsed buildings during and after the 2010 earthquake. The Ti Kay Pay design uses crushed rubble for the foundation footing and gravel bag stem walls. The same material is also screened for fine aggregate in the plasters. Cut and sewn to the needed size by a local seamstress, these gravel bags are made from the ubiquitous tarps that are found throughout the earthquake affected region.
Straw bales are central to the Ti Kay Pay construction system. Rice straw is plentiful in Haiti, as rice is commonly grown in the broad Artibonite Valley northwest of Port-au-Prince. At least 80% of rice straw in Haiti goes to waste, usually burned after harvest, polluting the air in the process. Two to three rice crops are grown annually, making straw a rapidly renewable resource in Haiti. The Ti Kay Pay uses manually baled straw, for its wall system, reinforced with bamboo and covered with interior clay and exterior lime plasters. Clay is readily found throughout Haiti and a tradition of clay plaster exists. Pallet or bamboo trusses provide the roof structure, covered with commonly available and durable sheets of corrugated steel. Wood from pallets, left from the vast number of post-earthquake aid shipments, has become a new in-country resource for Haiti. Bamboo has long been native to Haiti, and a number of bamboo plantations existed before the earthquake. However, it is now widely seen that strong and fast-growing bamboo has been underutilized as a construction material in Haiti over recent decades.
Although the thermal insulation commonly associated with strawbale buildings is generally not needed for interior warmth, the system’s excellent balance of mass and insulation moderate temperature to keep interior space cool. A light mix of straw and clay is used as insulation above the ceiling to protect from the heat of the sun as it warms the roof during the day. The attic space is generously ventilated, and louvered transoms above doors and windows provide cross ventilation throughout the day.
The Ti Kay Pay is a culturally appropriate design derived from the Haitian Ti Kay, a two-room shotgun layout with veranda style house, which is the typical rural and sub-urban living unit in Haiti. The veranda is especially important to the design, since much of Haitian daily living occurs outside. It provides an outdoor space protected from sun and rain and serves as a transition from the more public yard or street to the private interior rooms. The design is a blend of traditional and modern in its form and appearance, including the plaster finishes associated with the modern concrete and block buildings Haitians have come to prefer, but with a light roof that so many Haitians are returning to after countless concrete roofs collapsed in the earthquake. The system of strawbale construction developed for the Ti Kay Pay can also be applied to other house designs, or other building types as well. It is particularly suitable for use in small schools or clinics. Larger scale buildings, including two story buildings, could employ many of the systems developed for the Ti Kay Pay with proper engineering.
Upcycling local waste materials
The Senp Kay was the first structure in Haiti constructed utilizing prefabricated, tilt-up, plastic bottle filled panels and light straw-clay walls. It was designed and constructed as an innovative solution for low-tech, sustainable housing for low income communities in emergent nations. Affordable housing is an issue of huge social relevance in Haiti, and globally. Years have passed since the earthquake in 2010 and still thousands of Haitians continue to be without permanent shelter. It is essential that reconstruction addresses these issues and ensures that new buildings are earthquake resistant and provide protection in the face of future seismic events as well as hurricanes. Inadequate standards of construction and poor quality materials were the root causes of many of the collapsed buildings and loss of life. The need for permanent, affordable and safe housing is a constant need.
PARAL KO GHAR-NEPAL
HOUSE OF STRAW
Post earthquake construction
In 2015, Nepal was devastated by two earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.3 in magnitude. This resulted in over 25,000 deaths and injuries, with further damage spreading to the destruction of an estimated 750,000 homes. To help rebuild the widespread ruin and restore housing for thousands of families, Greenspace Collaborative collaborated with Builders Without Borders on the design and construction of a model sustainable building called Paral Ko Ghar (House of Straw) located at the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation in Kathmandu.
The primary goal of constructing straw bale homes in Nepal is to contribute toward a sustainable, durable, and resilient housing model that is earthquake resistant. For this particular project, we felt it essential to solicit community members' design input in order to fully honor the social and cultural aesthetic and functionality of local resources--in essence, we collaborated to create a structure designed and built by its community.
This design incorporates locally available materials of stone, bamboo, straw, wood, sand, and clay-rich soil. The straw bale walls provide superior insulation and, together with the straw/clay ceiling, help keep the interior space warm in the winter and cool during summer.
Completed in the summer of 2018, we anticipate that this project will be an instrumental step in the establishment of other culturally appropriate and seismically sound natural building projects in the near future. We look forward to deepening our connections with the Nepali people as we continue to discover other opportunities to assist with reconstruction.