We’re building a (green?) house, ed. 1

February 16, 2009

NOTE: Updates of this post can be found at EcoMajority, my web-based forum focused on sustainable home building.

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Almost exactly two years ago, my wife and I got a wild hair.

For years, we thought about moving to Bainbridge Island. But then we stopped thinking about it and actually closed on a piece of property on Wing Point. That single decision was catalyst for many decisions that would change our lives and those of our children. And save the economic crisis our country in stumbling through, we haven’t spent a lot of time looking back.

To move forward, we needed to sell our house in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood — our community throughout our entire marriage — as well as sell our vacation house which we had literally built from the ground up.  We had a few goals:

  1. We wanted to build a house that was all that we loved about our vacation home, but one we could live in every day. That meant an environment where our kids could run (more or less) free. It meant  having a studio space for both Ann and her metalwork, and for me and my painting and other shenanigans. And it meant having room for our friends and family to come and hang out with us — whether for dinner or a week.
  2. We like to build things, and this time we wanted to build a modern-ish house.
  3. We wanted to build a house that was as environmentally responsible and sustainable as we felt we could reasonably do. (I could, and probably will, write many more posts about this aspect of the project.  Suffice it to say, this is not as clear-cut or as easy as one would think.)
  4. We wanted to simplify our lives, even if that meant just going from two residences to one. Naturally, there would be less to think about, and certainly fewer costs in maintaining two homes.

To make a two-year-old story considerably shorter, within just a few months of purchasing the property, we began the design process, choosing Lane William’s Coop15. There were very specific design constraints given that it was a remodel (albeit one that went down to the foundation). We eventually came up with the design you see at the top of this post.

In Fall 2007/Winter 2008 (can’t remember which), we chose our contractor, Smallwood Construction. And in June of 2008 we began deconstruction (not demolition) a process I wrote about in my work blog — which predated “stuffandjunk” and you can read here.

For reasons — actually reason, singular — that isn’t worth going into, we didn’t get going in earnest until August/September. And we hope to move in at the end of July 2009.

Over the course of the coming weeks and months, I’ll write some other posts and share some pictures.  I’ll try to explain the joy with which we look forward to our new home and the discoveries we’ve made along the way.  I’ll also try to honestly share some of the compromises we’ve had to make, the shortcomings in the process and our goals, and even the anguish of building while the economy is cratering. But who are we to complain?

Here are a couple of pictures taken recently.

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Statistics, visualized

February 11, 2009

I wrote a recent post about a visualization of the rate at which Wal-Mart and Target stores have opened over the last several years.

Well, this is on a similar theme — bringing statistical information to life, visually.  Seattle photographer/artist Chris Jordan has an amazing series of works called “Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait.”  In it, he brings to life America’s consumption habits (among other things) in a way that really stops you cold.

This shot from the exhibition shows two million plastic beverage bottles — the amount used in the united states every five minutes.

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Can’t see the bottles?  Seriously, check out the images — including close-ups — at Chris Jordan’s site.


Pondering Wal-Mart (and Target, for that matter)

February 10, 2009

I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last month pondering phenomenon of Wal-Mart, its growth and its enormous reach.  I’m not going to say why. Sometimes things in advertising must remain confidential because it is SO DARNED IMPORTANT.

Nevertheless, as I toiled with my colleague from Los Angeles, Jefferson Burruss, he showed me something really interesting about Wal-Mart.  Check this out, it’s by the folks at FlowingData and maps the growth of Wal-Mart over the years.

walmart-mapNow, just for shits and giggles, let’s take a look at Target and how it grew.  Take a look here.  I just think it’s interesting how these companies have taken off. The rate of growth is different, for sure, but so is the geography.  Probably explains a lot about why these  brands are perceived differently in different parts of the country — and by different demographics.

Oh, there are a lot of things we could talk about with these tow companies, but I’m going to skip that and just marvel at the growth stories illustrated here.


Shooting with your iPhone

February 9, 2009

img_0221Perusing my Twitter feed one day, I noticed a blog post by Seattle photographer Chase Jarvis.  While Chase is a gifted photographer and we had just shot a campaign with him for one of DDB Seattle’s client Chateau Ste. Michelle, this particular post was not about anything too high-end in terms of photography.

No, it’s about getting great shots from your iPhone and you can read it here.  There are a few tips (hold the camera with both hands, press the shutter release and then compose your shot– and release when you are ready), and a few suggestions for handy ap downloads.  It’s definitely worth the read if you’re taking photos with an iPhone.


My Chariot

February 9, 2009

img_0184About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post about this cool bike thing I’d heard about.  It’s called the Xtracycle and I got mine up and rolling in no time.  I basically took an old bike — a Trek Singletrack circa 1990-ish — and bolted this extender on the back.

img_0181Well, I ride it to work just about every day. Here on Bainbridge Island, I end up riding it to the ferry where I walk on and then just walk the few blocks to work.  Where I’m living right now, my commute takes me on a trail through the woods, then on some back rodes, past my kids’ elementary school, down the hill and through downtown Winslow, and then on down to the ferry dock. Probably something like five miles or so.  It’s great.

But while I thought the Xtracycle would allow me to pick up a few bags of groceries on the way home from work, I have found that that situation as been exceedingly rare. What I have found is that I don’t have to really worry about what I take to and from work.  It all fits.  And none of it needs to fit on my back.  It all rides low and steady right next to the back wheels.

Thus, the only downside.  I find myself carry too much up and down the hills of Bainbridge Island — only because I can.  But you couldn’t get me to trade in my Xtracycle for anything.


Good morning

February 2, 2009

It’s not many mornings that I get a chance to see my kids off at the bus. When I do, it’s always a good day. Won’t be long now before there’s no need for a flashlight.


The Super Bowl and what it says about me

February 2, 2009

I’m pretty much obligated to watch the Super Bowl. As an ad guy and all, I know that for the next couple of weeks, people will ask me what I thought about the ads. So I watch.  For the record, I didn’t think there was a lot to write home about.  There were some decent spots.  I laughed out loud a few times. I was surprised at what some companies spent.  And the game? Pretty darn good. I wanted the Steeelers but found myself happy when Larry Fitzgerald sprinted into the endzone to take the lead.  And when Santonio Holmes reeled in that catch and managed to keep two feet in, well, I was happy again.

springsteen-slideBut maybe what I noticed to most about the Super Bowl was the halftime show. Springsteen. The guy is still a showman.  I’ve seen him live a couple of times — but not for something like a two decades or something. So when he made for the piano and jumped up on it with a low degree of sprightliness, alarm bells went off for me.  When he jumped from the piano, I winced. And when he was down with the microphone, I was sure his knees weren’t going to allow him to get back with any grace whatsoever.

I guess I was relatively wrong. And, judging from posts like this and the tweets in response, perhaps I’m in a distinct minority.  springsteen-tweet1