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The first net-zero home in Maryland has been built and is for sale.  KB Home is opening its first ZeroHouse 2.0 to the public on 23 June.  The model home is one of several available in the Middletown Woods area build to suit development near Waldorf, MD.  The home is predicted to save $50,000 gallons of water per  year and produce sufficient electricity to bring the power bill down close to $0 per year.  Located on greenfield farmland in Southern Maryland, located 1 hour away from employment centers in Washington, DC, there is some debate to whether this type of building is better for the environment. Maryland provides one commuter bus route to the area, which is not heavily used and features limited schedules.  So while the house represents a step forward in new housing choices for homebuyers, it also represents a step back with the site located in a remote area that formerly supported agriculture and wildlilfe. But the desire for affordable green living is on the rise. For more information, click here.



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Energy Harvest

An Unusual Way to Save Energy

An engineering and manufacturing firm, Mide Engineering,  in Massachusetts, develops devices and systems for harvesting the energy from vibrations and converting it to electricity.  The quantity of electricity available from a vibration source depends on the strength and frequency of the vibration.  Most frequently the source is located in an industrial setting, a side effect of a manufacturing process. Less often, the source is in a vehicle, such as a train engine or aircraft.  The electricity is usually used to power a wireless remote sensing or control device.  By eliminating the need for either power wiring or replacing batteries, the environmental impact in larger than just saving electricity:  there can be significant reduction in the use of metals and other natural resources when installing these devices.

Quartz is a naturally occuring piezoelectric material

They typically work using two or more wafers of piezoelectric material at the end of a flat wafer or wand.  The wand is coupled to the vibration source, and the wand frequency is tuned to the source by means of an adjustable weight.  For more information, see here.

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Local community organizers in Seattle, Washington are developing a community garden on the top floor of a parking garage. The project is costing 50% more to develop than a similar project located on a vacant ground-level lot would.  Increased costs include irrigation requirements, lighter-weight soils required by the structural limitations of the garage, having to use a blower machine to deliver the soil to the roof-top, and increased design time.  But roof-top community gardens of this type are possible. For more information see here.

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You are invited to join TerraLogos at the AIA Convention in Washington, DC May 17- 19, 2012.

Come and hear the story of Baltimore’s remarkable journey of city wide sustainability, the creation of the City’s Sustainability Master Plan and the development of the Baltimore City Green Building Standards, a green rating system customized from LEED v3.0 for development in Baltimore, MD. Kim Schaefer, AIA, LEED BD+C, will be part of a panel presenting the story of Integrating Baltimore’s Sustainability Master Plan with the City’s Green Building Policy.

Kim Schaefer, Principal of TerraLogos: eco architecture, led the project team selected by the City to develop regulations required to meet the 2007 Green Building Ordinance.

Our panel of Kim Schaefer, Peter Doo, Katy Byrne and Beth Strommen will be presenting at:

Session EX125 Saturday May 19, 2012 10:30 am to 11:30 am

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Peter Yost, Residential Program Manager of Building Green and Editor of GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, recently wrote a case study on the efficient and thoughtful designs TerraLogos created for over 50 home renovations in East Baltimore. Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake selected TerraLogos as their architect for the complex project because of our ability to meet the unique client and construction needs.

In order to meet sustainability standards and maintain affordable pricing, TerraLogos adapted the TerraLogos Green Rowhouse Renovation Template. The template provides versatility despite the difficult structural challenges of historic homes. With roughly 75% of the homes already finished or under construction, TerraLogos has demonstrated expertise in another positive step forward for Baltimore City development. See before and after pictures of one of the kitchens- completely outfitted with Whirlpool Energy Star appliances!

To learn more about our distinctive designs and commitment to sustainable and affordable architecture, check out Peter Yost’s case study.


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Solar Decathlon 2011!

This year 20 colleges nationwide and abroad have entered the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a design-build competition for the most energy-efficient, cost-effective, and aesthetically pleasing solar-powered home.  These interdisciplinary teams were judged in 10 categories, including architecture, engineering, marketability, hot water, and energy balance.  Every school had something unique and exciting to offer, from Team Sci Arc/Cal-Tech’s experimental use of “outsulation” (versus insulation), to Team China’s use of shipping containers.  However, all have educated us in new and old ways of building green and living sustainably.  These green homes gave us a hopeful look into how the built environment can work well with and help conserve our natural environment.

This year’s first place winner was University of Maryland’s Watershed home.  Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay, Team Maryland designed this home to be its own “micro-ecosystem”—a watershed that efficiently collects, stores, and recycles both rainwater and grey water to irrigate the edible wall, surrounding landscape, and the environment beyond.  Two modules, linked by a bathroom and mechanical core make up the massing of the home.  The green roof and the solar-paneled roof that top the two volumes slope down into the constructed wetlands that run through the middle of the home.  These wetlands help to store water and filter any grey water (collected from laundry, kitchen, or bathroom usage) for later use.  Other exciting components included space-efficient furniture like the kitchen table and chairs that can be easily pulled out and stored away, or the desk that can be folded out into a bed.

Credit: Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon


This home definitely emphasized the fact that sustainability is not just about the tacking on solar panels.  It’s about integrating new and old building strategies as well as advances in technology to create an environmentally friendly home.

For more information about the competition and links to information about team designs:


For more information about University of Maryland’s Watershed design and story:



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The TerraLogos office took the meaning of design/build literally last week! Located at 2412 Fairmount Street near both Patterson Park and the TerraLogos offices is the Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake Women Build home designed by TerraLogos. Unlike many of the other homes slated for renovation and rehabilitation by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake under the NSP2 federal grant, this home will be primarily built by volunteers, including our office team (except for Trixi, whose paws aren’t conducive to hammers or chop saws).

Women Build projects are also unique because they encourage women in the community to band together to build homes for families in need. Men are also volunteers, but the mission of a woman strong construction project really drew our team in. We love that women are responsible for the design and (most of the) construction! All the lovely ladies in our office, Kim Schaefer, Irene Jorden Romero and Jessica Choi, picked up hammers and assisted in the project. Outnumbered by the ladies, Michael Stinefelt also swung a hammer and even led some of the construction team in reading the plans. This home will be built to enhanced green standards and be a certified Energy Star Home estimated to save over 30% in energy costs.

Sierra, our Project Manager from Habitat, supervised our crew as we hammered away at the 1st floor ceiling joists, securing the “rat run” perpendicular to the joists. A “rat run” is a single board nailed to the tops of the ceiling joists to hold the position sure and stable against any twist or movement. They got their nickname from their notorious secondary use as a highway for rats in the ceiling, which of course this home will not have! We measured and cut 2×4 pieces with the chop saw, mounting the “dog legs,” blocking that supported the ceiling joists. After lunch we finished up the last of the ceiling work and helped with installing some of the 1st floor wall insulation. Our office bonded over sore shoulders and fashionable hard hats. More than that, we enjoyed watching our design turn into a beautiful home for a family moving into our own neighborhood.


Interested in volunteering? Contact Habitat today!

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Field Work! Women Build

TerraLogos is going to work in the field tomorrow! 

Instead of drawing wall sections we will be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake on the Women Build house in the Patterson Park Neighborhood to actually build a wall section.

We will make a full day of it working on the Women Build house at 2412 E. Fairmount Ave.

As the architecture firm responsible for the design and permit plans for multiple HFHC houses in the Patterson Park and McElderry Park neighborhoods, we are excited about our chance to actually work on one of the houses.  The whole firm is going and as a woman-owned business we are proud to participate in the actual construction of a new residence for a single mom and her son.

TerraLogos believes in the Habitat for Humanity mission that “brings people together to build decent, affordable homes that change lives, empower families and strengthen communities”. So we are ready to put on our work clothes (and work boots),and get our hands dirty for a great cause.

If you are interested in volunteering yourself or know someone who is, they can always use the help. See their website:  http://habitatchesapeake.org/

Please check back for pictures of tomorrow’s adventure. We are expecting to be well worked and plenty dirty!


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Last month (8/10/11) we lost a true pioneer in sustainability, Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Carpet the world’s largest producer of modular commercial floor coverings known to most of us as carpet tiles. In 1994 he read Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce and had an epiphany. Mr Anderson realized that his business used too much energy, used too much water while damaging the regional water supply and relied almost exclusively on fossil fuel based petrochemicals to make his product.  Much like my own journey of sustainability, he saw the destruction and long term consequences of our rampant pursuit of profit and economic gain at the expense of natural resources, our lack of stewardship of our local communities and economies, and the utter wastefulness of American life and our manufacturing processes. Instant gratification, greed, and the pursuit of “I get mine first” profit does not make for a healthy and vibrant United States of America.
As a Georgia Tech industrial engineer and starting his 22nd year with the company, Mr. Anderson sought to reinvent his business using principles of sustainability(1):

  • Cradle to cradle manufacturing – once the useful life of a product is complete, recycle the product into source material for something else – this is closed loop system thinking
  • Do more with less (in this case using fewer natural or non-renewable resources like fossil fuels to make nylon fiber, invest in renewable energy)
  • Reduce and recycle all waste streams. All systems use resources that create waste as a bi-product. Identify the waste streams and then figure out innovative ways to reuse the “waste” product, such as taking waste heat from equipment and preheating hotwater supplies.

Ray Anderson made this commitment while also promising to keep the company profitable (hence financial sustainability), work collaboratively with his employees (growing human capital) and maintain high design and product standards in the process (true long term sustainability). What was the result of this mid-career epiphany and “dumping of the apple cart”?

  • Return on shareholder value – since 1994 doubled earnings, saved $450 million in costs and increased sales by 63% (2)
  • Shared the knowledge through two books, several movies and serving on many boards and commissions including the co-chair of the first President’s Council on Sustainable Development.
  • Established the “Mission Zero” program at Interface to demonstrate the company’s collaborative dedication to “. . . . eliminate any negative impact Interface has on theEnvironment by 2020”(3). Ray Anderson thought the company was about halfway to the goal inthe Fall of 2010.

Ray Anderson left quite a legacy behind, a changed landscape and way of doing business in the country and even the world. If a medium size carpet company in Atlanta Georgia can do it, so can all of us. It just takes courage, vision and determination.

Having been inspired by Ray Anderson for many years, all of us at TerraLogos: eco architecture continue to work toward creating a more sustainable and just community here in Baltimore and beyond.
We have adopted the 2030 Challenge to reduce energy use by 50% by 2015 in all of our work, and are working to revitalize communities in Baltimore City through sustainable design and active community engagement. If you would like to learn more about Ray Anderson’s legacy or our work in sustainable design and development please contact us or take a look at our website.

Here’s to you Ray Anderson, you will be greatly missed and thank you for your vision, courage and dedication to making the world a better place!
(1) As outlined in The Ecology of Commerce, Paul Hawken (1990)

(2) http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2011/2011-08-10-091.html

(3) http://www.interfaceglobal.com

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For the past year and a half, I have commuted by bus through Baltimore, and I couldn’t agree more with the man, waiting at the bus stop with me, who concluded that the MTA (Maryland Transit Administration) may as well stand for “Might Take Awhile.”  On one hand, I’m saving gas money and reducing my carbon footprint.  On the other, I could drive to work within 15-20 minutes, but commuting by bus takes a good 45 minutes to an hour.

Baltimore offers many public transit options—the MARC train, the light rail, the metro, the buses, and now the free Charm City Circulators.  But cars still seem to rule the streets, especially because there aren’t enough buses or they run off-schedule.

The city is showing signs of hope of a less congested and more strongly-connected community.  The Red Line—a new east-west light rail—is coming to link neighborhoods all the way from Woodlawn in Baltimore County, through downtown, to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.  The Red Line is potentially a big step towards integrating not only Baltimore neighborhoods but our existing public transit systems as well.  Hopefully, this addition will decrease traffic congestion, increasing ridership and getting more cars off the road.  It’s also encouraging to see more and more bike commuters streaming through new and existing bike lanes, of which I have started to join.

With many being unable to afford a car and all its additional expenses, I’m grateful that Baltimore even has a public transit system.  And while current buses consistently “might take awhile,” I do have hopes for Baltimore becoming a more livable city, through an efficient, effective public transportation system.

For more information about the red line:



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