I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on a trade mission. Our group of Minnesotans – four architects, one home builder, and three representatives of a window distributor – spent two days in Steinbach and Winnipeg, meeting with Canadian manufacturers and architects working with sustainable materials. After I spent Sunday biking around Winnipeg, I met up with the mission Monday.
We departed for Steinbach, Manitoba from the historic (and allegedly haunted) Fort Garry Hotel. For those of you living beneath the 49th parallel, you’ll be relieved to know that summer road construction is not limited to our interstates. We were kept to one lane, pretty much the 65 km from Winnipeg to Steinbach. Fortunately for us, the woman driving our van was a native Austrian, and like most Europeans, knows how to get the most out of a rented Dodge minivan.
We poured out of the vans into the Loewen parking lot around 9. For the next five hours, we watched douglas fir and mahogany get shaped, cut, culled, inspected, clamped, hammered, fitted with aluminum extrusions, and outfitted with hardware and glass in Loewen’s 580,000 square foot facility (that’s 13+ acres). We talked about custom sizes and shapes, quality and optimization, specifying FSC wood (which can be had for about a 20% premium), sustainability, and how Loewen assembles their own glass on the premises. At Locus, we’ve bought Loewen for a half dozen years (through Doug Truax, now of Synergy Products) and have been pleased with the product line. Part of the tour outlined how waste material was handled in the process. Wood offcuts heat the plant in winter, sawdust is collected and sold as animal bedding, and aluminum and glass offcuts are sorted and recycled. We were told even the water used for storm and pressure testing in the research lab is collected and reused. It all makes financial sense of course, but comforting to see it in action.
Loewen Windows in a recent Locus project
On Tuesday morning, we met with other product manufacturers and inventors in Winnipeg. In a rapid-fire-10-minute-dating type format, we met with other Canadian manufacturing interests. We’ve not used any of these, so the following isn’t an endorsement, but I think we will be following up with these companies.
J Neufeld, Wood Anchor
J offers wood flooring and mouldings from wood that has been reclaimed, landfill diverted, or from trees cut down in urban areas. We’ve been looking for someone that is already doing this for years. Most of the manufacturing is done in Minnesota, at a mill in Cook, north of Virginia.
Neil Krovats & Kristina Yurkiw, Clearline Technologies
Neil & Kristina will unveil a line of products this year at Greenbuild in Phoenix (the link above will show the products after November 2009). Will we see particle board and acoustic tile made from hemp fiber or “hempsulation” in the aisles of Home Depot in the near future? How about hemp cement? These two would like to see it happen with products they are currently bringing to market. As you might expect, Neil had to say, as he handed me the hempsulation sample, “You can’t smoke it.”
Ryan Schade, Terry Johnstone, & Paul Loewen, Accurate Dorwin
Al Dueck, Duxton Windows & Doors
Accurate Dorwin and Duxton (two separate companies) both manufacture windows and doors using pultruded fiberglass. Fiberglass manufacturers argue that the material inherently makes for a window that is more energy efficient, structurally stable, less expensive, and longer lasting than their clad aluminum and wood-based competition. In theory, all these claims may well be true. In a residential application where the window is to be painted, fiberglass is definitely an option to consider, with U-values (inverse of R value) lower than wood and aluminum versions. In our office, we’re more excited by the commercial potential of fiberglass windows and doors in storefronts and curtain walls. Fiberglass conducts much less heat than the more prevalent aluminum.
Special thanks to Pam Olson, Christa Andraos, & Charles Hatzipanayis (Canadian consulate & trade) for transportation, setting up our meetings, making sure we were properly fed and caffeinated, and keeping the conversation stimulating.
Lastly, if you find yourself without your skateboard in Winnipeg (it could happen), stop by the Green Apple skate shop. When I stopped, Mike McDermott, a pro boarder and shop owner, came out from the back to show off his new space. We talked about business while he rung up a couple of autographed Green Apple T-shirts for my boys. As we walked out on Sunday evening, Mike joked while pointing at his sign, “If it doesn’t make it, I’ll just change the word ‘skateshop’ to ‘pub’ and I’ll have plenty of business.” Seems Winnipeg has something in common with Wisconsin.
A couple of ideas for September. Come and see us, say hello, we’ll give you a hug.
9/10 – Housing Crisis Presentations (with cold beverages!)
West Bank Social Center
The housing crisis has transformed once vibrant neighborhoods into vacant landscapes of foreclosure and collapse. Much attention has been given to the financial causes of the crisis but few projects have gone beyond that. In the exhibit “Unbundling the Housing Crisis,”, just closing at the Form + Content Gallery in downtown Minneapolis, 8 interdisciplinary groups of artists, designers, writers, scientists, and thinkers were asked to collaborate, research, create and present projects examining all aspects of the housing crisis.
These 8 groups come together in person to present their projects, discuss their process, and share their creative approaches to understanding and unbundling the housing crisis.
Short presentations on:
+ Money on the Block: Mapping neighborhood financial flows in the Hawthorn neighborhood
+ The flora of of a condemned property at 3001 James Ave. N
+ A machine to decipher the housing crisis through interactive discovery and play
+ Locus Architecture’s PPoD: A flexible housing system – pay as you build, build as you grow, and grow (or shrink) as you need.
+ Houses that work with their climate; thoughts on sustainable housing and community
+ gen(h)ome: From a pool of slime to a McMansion in only 3,700,000,000 years!
+ Complexities of the urban fabric
+ Ghosts and Shadows; A physical examination of 26 square blocks in North Minneapolis
A panel discussion led by curator/artist/architect Jay H. Isenberg, AIA will follow.
Vinje in 1961 at a prior dedication
9/12 & 9/13 – Vinje Lutheran Church Dedication
Open House Saturday 3-6pm
Worship Sunday at 8:30 & 10:45am
Locus designed an addition for this modern icon in Willmar, MN, including a gathering space and youth expansion on the west side of the original complex. This follows a painstaking renovation of the original Sanctuary designed by Sewell J. Mathre of SMSQ. It’s quite a dramatic structure, with an exoskeleton steel frame, unusual in this climate, supporting the worship space.
Vinje's Original Floor Plan - in person
9/18 – PARK(ing) Day 2009
1. Pick a parking spot
2. Feed the meter
3. You’ve paid for the space, set up some chairs, hang around, socialize.
We plan to set up shop and work. We’ll let you know where we’ll be. Come and visit. Maybe we’ll even give you some advice – free of charge.
9/20-22 – Canadian Trade Mission
OK, not at the personal invitation of Stephen Harper, but as guests of Loewen Windows of Steinbach. Going to tour the plant, and spend a few days bicycling around Winnipeg. Send us your favorite things to do at the confluence of the Red & Assiniboine.
This morning I was listening to an interview with an insurance expert on NPR. The interview centered around homeowners not having enough insurance to rebuild their homes in the event of a catastrophe – in this case the wildfires burning in the southern part of California.
The insurance expert made some reasonable claims, noting that some homeowners try to keep rates down by not “advising” their insurance companies when renovating or adding to their homes, something that can come back to bite if the house burns to the ground later. The thing that caught my ear – like a fishhook – was the next thing he said.
I’m paraphrasing here, “Most homeowners should insure their homes for at least $250 per square foot, $300 per square foot to be safe, to rebuild.” Granted, the figure represents Los Angeles prices, and may include furnishings and contents, but it confirmed what I’ve been telling clients for at least five or six years. The elusive $100 number is pretty much dead (dead, dead, DEAD!) for single-family one-off homes in the U.S. There are a handful of exceptions, sure. Upon investigation, most are built by truly spartan individuals who are also handy enough to install a 100 amp panel unaided, know the difference between a ground fault circuit interruptor and a heat pump, and can quickly explain what board-feet means. How many of those people do you know?
Many couples come to Locus expecting to build a house for $100 per square foot. After telling me what they want, I hate to have to tell them the house they describe is likely to exceed $200.
Having said that, when I find the contractor that does excellent work at half the hourly rate others are charging, puts in 50 hours of hard work for the cost of 30, cuts no corners, drives a pickup that’s been converted to run on solar power, and brings organic fruit to the jobsite for the owner’s kids every day, I’ll post the contact information right here as soon as my new home is built.
Where the hell has Locus been, you might be wondering. Or is anyone still listening? After the two month effort to produce PPoD for the Unbundling the Housing Crisis show at the Form + Content Gallery, we left town for August. If it’s OK on the Italian peninsula, it’s OK by us.
From Santa Barbara to San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to the Black Hills to the Boundary Waters, we’ve covered some serious ground. A short list of recommendations:
Detail - Mission La Purisima
MIssion San Juan Bautista (rent Vertigo the night before)
Pedal around 17-Mile Drive (if speed is your drug, return to Monterey via Aguajito Road)
Purisima Mission State Park (skip Hwy. 246 from Buellton, slow down and take a more bucolic route just south, using Santa Rosa Road)
Lake Tahoe’s Nevada shoreline between Incline Village & Hwy. 50
Palo Alto to Pescadero via Alpine Rd./Portola Rd./Old La Honda Rd./Skyline Blvd./Alpine Rd./Pescadero Creek Rd.
San Miguel to Hollister via Indian Valley Rd./Peach Tree Rd./Hwy. 25
Portola Valley Town Center
Portola Valley Town Center
Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland
Eat at Range, a restaurant in the Mission in San Francisco
Cathedral of Christ the Light
Bighorn Mountains/Black Hills
Hike to Mistymoon Lake in the Cloud Peak Wilderness
Needles Highway through Custer State Park
You’re ahead of us if you think ahead far enough to:
1. Avoid wildfires inconveniently closing scenic rural roads along the Big Sur coastline of CA.
2. Avoid S.D. the same week as the Sturgis Rally (unless you enjoy the roar of a Harley – all day).
3. Skip Deadwood, S.D.
4. Bring enough fresh water.
Big Sur Surf
We’ll try to post once a week or more this fall.
Check us out on Sprout, a new green website. While you’re there, add us as a favorite or write a review.