Live/Work Update: Concrete Work Begins

The crew from All American Concrete showed up today. Somehow, they managed to fit their dump truck and form trailer in the back yard without destroying anything.  Incredible. I’ll post on that later.

The crew immediate started work by laying out the perimeter of the foundation.It’s low-tech, but pink string is the tool of choice here.

More updates to follow as the concrete guys get things lined up.

Dry Wells: Save Water, Make Money

Not many homeowners give much thought to where the water from their roof goes. Most people figure if the water isn’t going in their house, then it’s not a problem. Except…

In cities like Portland, stormwater is a BIG problem. Old and undersized city pipes mean that big rains create big headaches for city officials. Clogged drains are one visible symptom, but much worse is what happens at the Willamette river. You see, when the storm drains back up, so do the sewers. Which means – you guessed it – raw sewage gets into the river. Yuck!

So, as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce storm water runoff, the city incentivizes home owners to “manage” their own storm water. Simple examples include disconnecting your downspouts (so the water simply flows back into the ground) or saving the water in rain barrels for future irrigation. More ambitious methods include saving the water in underground cisterns or even cleaning it for consumption (keep in mind you’ll need a metal roof and some serious hardware).

The Live/Work Project is taking a middle-ground (ha!) solution. We’re placing a drywell roughly ten feet from the building. A dry well is simply a concrete canister filled with rocks…when the rains come, gutters direct the water to pipes that run underground and out to the dry well. The water then percolates back where it belongs – in the water table.

Dry well
Dry well

This solution has several benefits. First, you’re putting water back into your property where it can be appreciated by trees, plants, and other helpful organisms. Second, it saves you money. The city gives you a small discount on your water bill each month as credit for not taxing their already overworked system.

For new construction, it’s a no-brainer. You’ve got to send the water somewhere, and piping it into the storm drains represents an expensive plumbing proposition. Dry wells save money and solve the problem in one graceful step!

Fuez: Portland’s Green Countertop Option

I’ve followed the evolution of the Fuez line of countertops for some time. Last spring I visited the facility and showroom to see how this great product is made. Aside from the fact that it’s positively beautiful, Fuez offers some great advantages over other materials. Continue reading Fuez: Portland’s Green Countertop Option

Live/Work Groundbreaking!

As many long-time readers know, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time getting the Live/Work project off the ground. This small-scale infill development represents one of the many solutions for more affordable housing, smaller footprint, and economic sustainability (for more on the project, feel free to read the background over at my Live/Work blog). Continue reading Live/Work Groundbreaking!

Fireplace Makeover

Over the last few months I’ve been working hard to update my 50’s fireplace. Nothing says “mid century” quite like those flat, red bricks.  The final product is the result of a custom mold, dyed concrete, and a dead-fall fir mantle from Mt. St Helens. You can see the finished result above – next I’ll post on how I tackled the project. Continue reading Fireplace Makeover