Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Good Bye 2012

As the year closes, we're looking back to an eventful time here at the Nob Hill Haus: While the early months have been marked with clean-up work from the pine tree that fell, we soon had positive news: The home has won 2 architectural awards and has been published twice in the printed press- apart from numerous online publications. Artwork has been created and the garden slowly recovered from the tree disaster. We had our first homegrown apples (the squirrels took the most of them, though), oranges, limes and lemons. And now we are looking forward to what 2013 might bring us: We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2013!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

winter strikes again

The rainy season has started again and were were greeted with a snow capped Mount Baldy in the morning. Earlier in June, we actually had turned off the instant backup water heater to see how long we oculd use the solar panels for hot water. And while there was still warm water (in the upper 90s) coming out of the shower (after 2 days of solid cloud cover) we decided to turn it back on. We also had the Eucalyptus trees pruned to avoid a similar disaster as last year and are not ready for the dark and cozy season...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Pain with the Stain

Most of the materials of the Nob Hill Haus have been selected for low maintenance and longevity we tried to stay away from using wood in exposed situations as much as possible- Most of the facade is integral color stucco, the rainscreen looks like wood, but is made of phenolic panels. This leaves us only with one element- The deck. The decking is Mangaris hardwood while the supporting beams consist of douglas fir. Since the deck has the most sun exposure, it's been taking the most beating- even though the exposure is not as bad as it would be on the South side. But nevertheless, the stain (we used Penofin, a penetrating oil) faded eventually after 18 months and we had to get on it and spend a few weekends sanding the deck, fixing some of the broken-off screws and staining it twice. The photo shows the (then) faded stair with the freshly stained deck at the bottom. Looks like new again- until next year...

Monday, September 3, 2012


Yesterday, around 4PM we noticed a huge smoke cloud looming over the San Gabriel Mountains and blocking the view towards Mt Baldy. That was no ordinary rain cloud, it looked more like a smoke cloud from a fire- so we checked out the news and learned about the 4000 acre (by Monday morning) big Williams Fire which had spread fast on Sunday, but the fire fighters seemed to have made soem headroom in the meantime. The smell of burnt trees was in the air this morning as the clund started moving along the Mountains towards the West. Later that day, the wind direction changed again and blew the plume towards the Inland Empire.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

on the cover

The Nob Hill Haus made it on the cover of the August issue of Builder's Magazine-as the feature story about a collection of 5 sustainable homes! For us, that is quite an achievement. We got an almost 5 page long article on the inside and are really proud of it. As part of a special symposium, the L.A. County Health Department and the Environmental Protection Agency will tour the rainwater harvesting system next week. They’ve been using it as a case study project for rainwater use in residential applications. We have September in the meantime, but there's still water in the cistern for them to see! In the garden, the figs are ripe, but the squirrels get them faster than we can pick them- a real bummer.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nob Hill Haus receives two Awards!

We could not believe it ourselves, but the Nob Hill Haus has recently received not one but two of the most prestigious awards a home can hope for: Two Gold Nugget Merit Awards: One was earned in the custom home under 3,000sf category, where the clean modern yet functional design was honored. The second one was in the sustainable category for projects certified under Build it Green's "Green Point Rated" program. The Golden Nugget Awards are held every year and entries from all around the world are competing against each other. We are very proud to be among the winners!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The power of the Sun- taken a step further

With the summer heating up a lot in recent days (we are hitting the 100s now regularly), the solar water heater is reaching the tank's hot water capacity long before the day is over. The collector fluid (glycol) reaches temperatures around 270 degrees while we have a water temperature of about 130 degrees inside the tank. As a matter of fact, the pump is shutting off at 1.30 and the glycol drains back into the expansion tank to prevent the system from overheating. See the graphic above with the solar WH performance chart. The energy of the sun that is hitting the collector after that is not being used at all. In order to make use of that energy, a steam generator would have to be connected to the tank and the hot water could then contribute to generate electricity. This is definitely something to think about for future solar systems.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wildlife Watching

Living in a tree house with a view gives us plenty of opportunity to watch the wildlife around the house. There are the omnipresent squirrels (see photo) munching on tree fruits and nuts and other delicacies (and burying them later in the ground where they're routinely forgotten. We also have the usual skunks, raccoons and a couple of red tailed hawks with young chicks learning to fly (and making a lot of noise in the process) and the occasional coyote prowling through the yard in search of a meal. And sometimes, they're successful: Not too long ago, we could observe a pack of three coyotes running around our and the neighbors' gardens and munching on something not recognizable. We later found out that one of the semi-wild cats had gone missing and also found a bunch of fur in the garden. To eat and be eaten....Bon appetite!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Baby Shower for Coomy

Recently, Grit hosted the baby shower for Coomy and her son Auram. Of course, there was a lot of competitive gaming: Many tasks had to be accomplished by the attendees, such as speed-drinking from baby bottles, sophisticated word games and the all time favorite- feeding baby formula to each other (yum). In the past week, Auram has entered the stage of the world, but has yet to make his first appearance at the Nob Hill Haus, which is being highly anticipated.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nob Hill Haus in Specs + Spaces

Two weeks ago, Kastle Wasserman, a journalist from the magazine Specs+Spaces visited the Nob Hill Haus for it's 1st anniversary. The visit resulted in the following article, featured on the May edition of the publication: http://www.specsspaces.com/Article/NobHillHausBuildingaGreenDreamHome.aspx In the meantime, we finally finished all storm repairs and started to heal the damages to the landscape- Grit re-planted a few of the trampled ground covers and we will end up ordering some more to fill in the gaps caused by the fallen tree and the workers clearing it. While we still have not started to irrigate with potable water yet, the rainy season can be called over and we will soon have to start to turn on the controller again.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Art at the Haus

For the past couple of weeks, Nerin and Frank have been hiding out in the basement on Sundays, working on their new collaborative masterpiece. A tryptich painting for the living room. It's been hanging in place between sessions to acclimate and to inspire the two artists for their next session. It's finally been completed and is now the center of a lot of conversations in the Haus. The photo above shows the painting and the artists at substantial completion.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Performance charts

Now, everyone knows that a picture says more than a thousand words- Thus we've generated three bar charts of the data published last week to illustrate how the house has been doing in it's first year.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Anniversary Nob Hill Haus

On this day exactly one year ago, we moved into the Nob Hill Haus and started our long term experiment. Now, exactly one year after the big move, it is time to check whether the house has living up to the expectations in regards to the energy performance. We've been very hopeful that the Nob Hill Haus can serve as a prototype for the home of the future in terms of water, gas and power use.

Frank has been tracking our water, power and gas use and is already crunching the numbers to see how much we used/ saved over the past year. Here is the long awaited result:

Our electric meter has 837 kWh surplus energy banked and we've been generating 96kWh more than we used last week alone and with the days getting longer, the tendency is rising again. So we are net- zero on the energy side. More than all of our power has been generated by the small PV array on the rooftop!

Gas use has been 262 therms or 21.8 Therms per month. The household average (per Southern California Gas) is at 38 Therms per month. So we are 43% better than the average here.

On the water side, we used 61 HCF over one year- or 5 HCF per month on average.
Per LADWP, the daily average (as of 2008) is at 359 gal/ household & day, with the goal of lowering that by 2035 to 331 gallons/ day.

Taking our 61 HCF, multiplied by 748 (to convert HCF into gallons) and divided by 365 days gives us a daily use of just 125 gallons- about a third of the average household use in Los Angeles!

That's a big surprise to us, since we thought we'll be saving only about 50%! And the rainwater cistern is full to the rim after last week's rain.

The Nob Hill Haus has been actually performing better than we thought. The design has been working very well for the energy, gas and water use.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jenga at the Nob Hill Haus

During those long winter nights, there's nothing better than a warm fire, good company, a drink and a fun game. For architects and Non- architects alike and for all ages, Jenga, the wood block stacking game is always a fun challenge. And we all thrive to new heights, as you can see here in the picture above. It almost seems like I have seen the stack of blocks in reality as a high rise apartment building in China before...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy New Year

we hope all of you had a good start in 2012- As our clean up work in the yard continues we can offer now free wood splitting workout sessions to all our friends- there's enough wood in the backyard for months to come :)
The Nob Hill Haus is also participating in a pilot project by the LA County Health Department to establish the safety of stored rainwater- One out of a total of six projects in a county of 16 million people! Once a month over the course of a year, water samples are taken from the cistern and analyzed in a lab. We are really curious what the findings will be and keep you posted about the results.