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© Jorg Ostrowski 2003. All rights reserved.
EcoBuilding Design/Details:
Ecological & Ergonomic Design for a Sustainable Future in the New Millennium: turning liabilities into assets

Key Words: architectural design/details, environmental, design, details, planning, working drawings, environment, green, buildings, ecobuildings, solar, house, sustainable, housing, strawbale, commercial, residential, EcoTecture.
Note: Please click consulting, if that is your requirement. Please click Mission/Vision Statement, if you are interested in our design criteria and guidelines.

Airdrie Environmental Education Centre

Strawbale Factory

Strawbale Project

Wickhorst Strawbale Workshop

Table Of Contents
1.0   Introduction to Work
2.0   Professional Background
3.0   Benefits for Clients
4.0   Scope of Work
5.0   EcoDesign Process
6.0   Agreement for Professional Services
7.0   Site Planning

8.0   Architectural/Environmental Design

9.0   Engineering Work
10.0 Construction Methods
11.0 Working Drawings
12.0 Site Inspections
13.0 Client Obligations

15.0 Other

16.0 Details (SB/EcoStud)

1.0) Introduction: Our experience is grounded in the "real world" of ecological opportunities, limitations, compromise and modesty, for sustainable building design and construction. We do our best to listen to: the dreams of people; the needs of the client; the success of nature; the call of the wild; the imperatives of health, safety and security; the constraints of the site; the benefits of weather; the opportunities for progress; the advantages of advanced materials; the knowledge of the present; the gains of modern technology; the contribution of the local economy; the conclusions of science; the signs of Global Disaster; the warnings of Climate Change; the requirements of the planet; the lessons of history; our own long standing personal commitments, and our professional obligations.

1.1) Each new project presents to the design team, a unique chance of leaving a worthy legacy, an example for others to inherit, the exciting possibility of stretching the envelope and setting a new benchmark, all dedicated to a brighter future, a greener vision, sustainable hope and a healthy society and world.

1.2) Our little planet can no longer afford the errant ways of consumers: Neanderthal attitudes, myopic hindsight, outdated anachronisms, irresponsible actions, devouring appetites, infinite thirst, unlimited gluttony, perpetual consumption, irresponsible rationalism, colossal waste, misplaced redundancies, untenable insurance risks, overextended carrying capacity, disenfranchised species, unjust EcoEquity, undivided interest, sick planet syndrome, terminal climatic disasters, disproportionate EcoFootprints, and uncontrolled avarice. Any more ecological meltdown and environmental bankruptcy for maximum profit will turn Global Warming out of control and terminate all living creatures. These global problems seek and spawn novel solutions, common ground, conserver lifestyles and exciting opportunities.

1.3) The ultimate purpose of our work is to help bring back the freedom of the past, by loosening the shackles, bondage, traps, control, wars and enormous costs to health, life, species and personal property, as the result of the industrial revolution gone out of control. Our economy is totally unsustainable, temporarily supported on the thin ice of depleting dinosaur fuels, international mega mistakes, make-belief democracies, grid-lock life support systems and a stolen future. The more energy and resource independence each person and building can attain, the more prosperous the economy, the more successful job creation, the more meaningful new career opportunities, the greater the the business incentives, the larger the return-on investments, the more vibrant the business prospects and the more healthy our people, planet and enterprises. We can leapfrog and eclipse today, the gross negligence, devastating ruin and ulterior motives of the industrial revolution of yesterday, and invest in the promise, peace, parochial nature, annual growth rates and dividends of the solar-hydrogen era and a free-energy future, rather than stealing the capital from the future generations, which belongs to them. We need to show proactive compassion and understanding to the only earth we know, without which, all life is extinguished.

1.4) The partners of this firm try to find practical solutions that are fresh, responsive, integrated, realistic, cost-effective, user-friendly, and comprehensive.

1.5) Our features, concepts and details, are continuously being refined, upgraded and improved for greater performance, simplicity, lower cost and less materials.

2.0) Professional Background: The 3 partners of this firm are trained in Architecture Schools in Canada, the US and the Philippines. Their degrees are found at the bottom of this page. Two have been in full time practice in the environmental design field since 1976, although one started professional work in 1972. The other partner has 12 years experience in this specialization. We are not architects but ecotects, basing our reputation and all professional work on the imperative ecological underpinnings rather than the arbitrary aesthetics of geometry (arches) as the central foundation for all holistic building design and sensible construction methods. This firm has built, owns and operated our own sustainable home and office, from which we experience the pros and cons of sustainable concepts, innovative features, healthy materials and green products on a daily basis. After 27 years in the environmental design field, it is becoming very clear that the emerging profession of EcoTecture will eclipse architecture as it once was, and will define all future building design.

2.1) We try to turn liabilities into assets, weaknesses into strengths. The "Greenhouse Effect" inside a building can be an asset to help reduce "Global Warming" on the outside. Solar thermal and electrical energy, trapped by glass (the greenhouse effect) helps to reduce the the threat of global Climate Change and the liabilities of aberrant weather damage .

2.2) It is our long track record of practical experience with clients, government, building industry, inspectors, and such feasible options and well grounded alternatives as healthy materials, green products, and sustainable development, that is the key to the success of any real world project.

2.3) Almost all of our design projects have been built. Most can be found in Alberta and British Columbia and can be seen at various locations on this web site.

2.4) Our projects are not academic exercises. They are "real world" projects that address and resolve the assets and liabilities of: the Kyoto Protocol, site constraints & opportunities, traditional design elements & better alternatives, building codes & inspectors, client needs & budget, alternative & renewable technologies, benevolent & climate responsive design, (owner-) builders & subtrades, manufacturers & suppliers, ecological imperatives and environmental progress..

2.5) These projects are rooted in tradition, built in the present, ready for the future, today. Our sustainable homes integrate the best of the past (i.e. porches, mud rooms, central multipurpose masonry heaters, liveable attics, dormers, cast iron tubs), with the best of modern technology and materials, to be ready and sustainable for the future. They all harness the greenhouse principle for local solutions (i.e. passive solar heating) to global problems (i.e. Global Warming). We utilize natural dynamics and the inherent values of natural materials. Our practice of critical appraisal of past work helps to focus on areas for improvement for each future project.

2.6) We have designed buildings in both cold climates (majority) and hot climates (south Okanogan of British Columbia). These projects will maintain personal charm, durability, utility and function, and their enhanced value for many years to come, compared to minimum standard construction.

3.0) Benefits for our Clients: Water is far more precious than oil. Life would stop without water, but life will go on in spite of, and without oil.

3.1) more healthy indoors 3.7) security against increasing costs of precious water
3.2) leaves a legacy worth inheriting 3.8) higher resale value
3.3) less pollution & GHG emissions 3.9) lower maintenance cost
3.4) investment in the future 3.10) energy independence
3.5) better return on investment 3.11) greater durability
3.6) security against spiralling fossil fuel costs 3.12) protection against vandalism

4.0) Scope of Work: Our firm has completed the Architectural/Environmental Design and Engineering of residential, commercial and educational buildings. Most projects are small new buildings. However, the partners have also worked on larger "recofits" (ecological retrofits) of larger urban sites or buildings including the Toronto Waterfront, a small college and a 50-story office tower, to convert all into more sustainable green real estate. The college has reduced its fossil fuel consumption and costs, and greenhouse gas emissions by about 73%, with a 2.7 year payback, according to the client. We have also designed or consulted on a strawbale garage, Blacksmith shop and larger 2-story commercial project. These projects will be described in further detail in the future date. Design drawings are based on meetings with the client, their "Statement of Intent", their concept sketches, environmental responsibility, resource conservation, passive/active solar design, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency. We work with the client to achieve the greatest degree of sustainability within the limits of the "givens" (i.e. site, weather, code, budget, etc.). A drawing set will be appropriate for development permit submission (if required) and building permit application.

5.0) EcoDesign Process: Close involvement of the client in the preliminary design process concludes with the following 9 deliverables:

5.1) short Contract 5.6) Mechanical Engineering
5.2) Preliminary Design 5.7) Electrical Engineering (if required)
5.3) Final Design 5.8) computer simulations
5.4) Working Drawings 5.9) site inspections
5.5) Structural Engineering  
Please note: this process takes from 4 months (short circuit) to 2 years (for those with greater lead time).

6.0) Agreement for Professional Services: Each contract is different and is catered to the needs of the individual clients, building project, opportunities and constraints. "Work and Payment Schedule" is included. Clients interested in this service should call the office at (403) 239-1882 to discuss your project by phone with one of the partners. Once you have: sent an E-mail of Introduction, prepared a "Statement of Intent", have proof of title to land, secured financing, and have made a long-term commitment, then we can send you a draft copy of a contract for your review and approval. A short simple and succinct 2-page agreement may include the following services: Site/Master Planning, Architectural/Environmental Design, Engineering, Working Drawings and Site Inspections, as outlined below.

7.0) Site Planning: A site concept is developed to allow for a planned, phased and integrated development including site access, energy systems (solar, wind, heat pump, etc.), general landscaping, views, outside activity spaces and siting of the house or building. We try to optimize the advantages of the site, and minimize the disadvantages.

8.0) Architectural/Environmental Design: This consists of 2 sequential stages: 1) Preliminary Design , and 2) Final Design. These stages allow the client maximum design input. The design drawings will be based on meetings with the client, their "Statement of Intent" and concept sketches, indoor air quality,
environmental responsibility, resource conservation, passive solar design and energy efficiency. Drawings are done manually. Once the team is satisfied with the plans, and the clients has given their approval, we progress into the "working drawing" stage.

9.0) Engineering: We co-ordinate the structural, mechanical and electrical design (if required), engineering and specifications, starting in the architectural design stage and completed during the working drawings stage. We try to optimize the thermal breaks and interior interference of structural posts and beams. Computer simulations for heat-loss /heat-gain calculations are done to approximate annual heating or cooling needs and costs.

10.0) Construction Methods: Since we are not neophytes, arm chair experts or strawbale zealots, we know that all construction methods have their own advantages and limitations. No system is perfect and none is a panacea for curing all the ills of the world, contrary to the claims of the inexperienced. We have on-site construction experience with the following building techniques, some of which can be seen in our [portfolio]: Strawbale: Nebraska style, P&B, hybrid; Rammed Earth: 2 methods; EcoStuds: (wall trusses); Double Wall: (stick built); Stack Wall (i.e. 2 foot sections of logs stacked like bricks); Prefab (i.e. SIPs); ADA (Airtight Drywall Approach); narrow "Frost Protected Shallow Foundations" (formerly called rubble trenches).

11.0) Construction Working Drawings: These computerized drawings will be appropriate for development and building permit applications. A set of drawings usually contain the following 12 sections:

11.1) Site Plan 11.7) Foundation Plan
11.2) General & Construction Notes 11.8) Details
11.3) Floor Plans 11.9) Structural features & notes
11.4) 1 or 2 Building Sections 11.10) mechanical features & notes
11.5) S, E, N & W Elevations 11.11) electrical plan & legend
11.6) Window/Door Schedule 11.12) general specifications

12.0) Site Inspections: We usually do at least 3 site inspections during construction. Travel time and mileage expenses will be charged as disbursements.

13.0) Client Obligations: To harness the resources and talent of the client and for an efficient start-up of the project, the client should immediately gather the following information which will be of use to the design team: Statement of Intent, by-law information (including zoning, set-backs, building restrictions), copy of title, past correspondence with the Authority having jurisdiction (if applicable), Real Property Report (with Legal Description, easements, restrictive covenants, etc.), site survey (including topographical site contours), soil tests and well reports, and applicable architectural guidelines. Any special furniture, salvaged or reusable materials and appliances which are to be incorporated into the working drawings must be selected before completion of final design.

14.0) Not Included in Contract: The design of a wind or solar electric system, permit fees (development, building, plumbing, electrical etc.), site survey, as-built drawings, soils tests, cost estimating, detailed kitchen design, landscape design, detailed specifications, tender documents, bid evaluations, blower-door tests, plumbing diagrams, roof truss and floor joist layouts, design of water systems (i.e. rainwater harvesting, greywater, transpiring aerobic wick), perspective drawings and scale models, etc., are not usually included in the Agreement for Professional Services. Some of these services can be provided for an additional fee if requested and time allows.

15.0) Other: Disbursements such as photography, blueprinting, photocopying, faxing, long distance calls, courier services, etc. will be charged out at cost plus 10%. Travel distance by car will be charged on a kilometre basis. Travel time will be charged at an hourly rate. GST will be charged for all services. Any work outside of the scope of the Agreement, or for any re-design or revisions to the final design or working drawings, which have been previously approved, or any other unexpected surprises, or increased work load, will be billed out at our standard consulting fees.

16.0) (A) Strawbale Details: This package of specifications and details
represents the most recent and advanced set of details currently used
by us and our clients. They evolved over the last 26 years of
non-academic work, through design construction and workshops.

A) NOTES including relevant specifications:
1.0) General Notes
2.0) Structural Notes
3.0) Construction Notes

B) CONSTRUCTION DETAILS including relevant specifications:
4.0) Wall Section: from top to bottom plates showing Sewing Sequence with details of double sewing needle (3)
5.0) Backer Board Details:
5.1) Backer Board isometric (1)
5.2) Backer Board corner detail (plan view) (1)
5.3) Backer Board detail + blowup (plan view) (1)
6.0) Door Buck Detail (plan view) (4)
6.1) Door Jamb detail (flared wall) (1)
6.2) Door Buck detail framing (1)
6.3) Door Sill detail slab-threshold (1)
6.4) Bottom Plate at Door: framing (plan view) (1)
7.0) Window Buck Details (3)(to allow Window Quilts/curtains:
7.1) Window Sill Detail with 2 blowups (section) (1)
7.2) Window Buck Detail (blowup) (1)
7.3) Window Jamb Detail (4) (plan view)
8.0) Roof/Wall Details (showing SB wall, top plates, high heel roof truss (1)
9.0) Foundation Detail (showing SB wall, floor slab, narrow rubble trench, insulation)
9.1) Foundation Detail + blowup ofslab-wall connection (section)
10.0) Access Port Details (to allow probe to test wall temperature/moisture later)
11.0) Bond Beam (continuous Top Plate) Framing Detail, including 2 options for reinforcing over windows (5)
11.1) Top Plate Detail (4 sections)
11.2) Top Plate Detail (1 plan view)
12.0) Bottom Plate Detail (2)
12.1) Bottom Plate Detail (1 section)
12.2) Bottom Plate Detail (1 plan view) with Notes
13.0) Bond Beam Detail (1)

© Jorg Ostrowski 2003. All rights reserved.

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Principals: Jorg Ostrowski, M. Arch. (M.I.T.), B. Arch. (Toronto), Helen Ostrowski, B. S. Arch. (U.S.T.)
28 years in "Real World" professional Green Building practice, new & retrofit, 4 residential/commercial Demonstration Projects completed