Net Zero

5 Mar

Net zero.

No, the term doesn’t refer to a Star Trek episode. It’s actually a classification term for a building based on the way it consumes and produces energy.

In other words, the amount of energy that a building uses is offset by the amount of energy that it produces.

Net zero isn’t typically a term you hear when it comes to commercial buildings because it’s much easier to achieve net zero with residential projects. Why? The codes are less stringent for homes than they are for business buildings.

Even though commercial building codes have made progress in terms of implementing energy saving practices, the codes can make it difficult for a building to be completely self-sustained. While we know codes are there for public safety, old and inflexible codes can give the process of going green a black eye.

(You can read this article here about the first net zero office building in Seattle. The architects talked about how state laws prohibited them from using treated, filtered rainwater for drinking. Until such laws change, the water will be used as graywater.)

Here’s where we stand on our soapbox: The building you’re in doesn’t have to use electricity from the grid or take water from the city. Instead, it could harness the free resources given to us on a regular basis such as solar energy, wind power, or rainfall. And as we become more aware of our imprint on this planet, building codes need to adapt because we need to free up more resources for future generations.

Now, what does this mean for you? Even if all you do after reading this is just understand what net zero means, that’s fine because we’re all about creating awareness of the options that we have as consumers. Speaking of awareness, go here for a little more about Net Zero.


The Bullitt Center by Miller Hull

House of January

28 Jan


Many architects are familiar with the website, Architizer, but for those of you who haven’t discovered the site yet, we want to bring you “House of January, House on the Demarcation,” a home designed by studio_GAON–a firm in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)–because we were riveted by certain aspects of the story behind the house. Some highlights:

  • We love that, in the Korean culture, there is a name for a space that divides and acts as a buffer at the same time; it’s called madang, which means “the in-between space.”
  • The space is also expected to encourage relationships, to reduce conflicts, and to represent the separation between life and death; an old job and a new job (for the owner); and higher ground and lower ground.
  • The month of January is significant in Korean culture too: it signals the moment between old and new.

While the physicality of the actual building does not necessarily boast the sleekest design, the bigger picture here is the sense of separation and bringing to life a spiritual concept in a way that is physical, tangible. We haven’t come across a residential home that tackles a spiritual concept in quite this way.

Our cultural frame of reference for architecture is an American one, so it’s a joy to learn about other cultures and countries through their sense of design. (The duo at studio_GAON also did this house here, which we highly recommend taking a look at.)

View more (and bigger!) photos here on Architizer’s website.


houseofjanuary_architzer_cityandyard(Please note that we know these image sizes aren’t the best–we’re working on becoming more familiar with WordPress so we can feature images more prominently.)

[Images via studio_GAON]


Tree Hotel

27 Jan

Tree Hotel

Greetings from a chilly East Coast home. We apologize for the lack of blog posts–we’re working on five entries right now! While you wait, check out the photo above of a Tree Hotel in North Sweden (photo courtesy of Welcome Beyond) and see more tree hotels here. Stay warm and cozy out there!


Can’t Make it to Sundance?

19 Jan

Can't Make it to Sundance?

We couldn’t make it to Park City this year for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Sorry, Robert… Next time! But we are loving this house that we found via Sous Style from Sotheby’s website. Colorado real estate is at a premium so while this house is outside our price range by about $20.5 million, it didn’t stop us from gawking at all the amazing woodwork and floor-to-ceiling windows.

[Image via Summit Sothby’s International Realty]


B*tchin Kitchens

18 Jan

B*tchin Kitchen

Did you know that City & Yard is on Pinterest? We started a board, :: b*tchin kitchens ::, to collect images of rad kitchens that we love. We were excited to discover this gem you see here from Micasa Vista’s website via Pinner Arlene Matthews. (BTW, we make it our policy to source as much as we can!)

Interview with an Architect

18 Jan


Okay. You have the money.  You have the house or apartment or land. And now you’re sitting down in front of an architect and… What’s next? What questions should you ask an architect? To make sure your relationship is a good one, here are five questions to consider asking during the interview process.

  • What’s your design process like? This question will give you insight into how the architect likes to work and how involved with the process you need to be. Restrictions on the design process or having complete freedom matter, so rap about it.
  • What’s your estimated timeframe to complete the work? This question obviously depends on square footage, extent of renovations, and so on. But if someone says six months for a bathroom renovation, then the gig might be up.
  • How much is this going to cost? Addressing the bottom line seems like a no-brainer, but it can get lost in the shuffle when discussing design. Neither one of you wants that rude awakening after the first drafts have been produced. Be up front.
  • Do you prefer renovating existing buildings or creating brand-new buildings? This is just a personal question that can help you get to know your architect a little better.
  • Last: experience. How many years of experience do you have?

There are questions regarding licensure, insurance, and liability that you should ask but those questions are specific to the type of project you have. We just wanted to provide questions that would assist you with the design conversation and create a mutually beneficial relationship.

[Photo via the Newsletter for the Texas A&M College of Architecture]


Green with Envy

16 Jan

Green with Envy

On one of our jaunts around town, we noticed this clever pair of doorways. These neighbors are certainly collaborative!

Floor Plans

15 Jan

Are you apartment or house hunting?

Have you come across a floor plan and can’t quite figure out whether or not it will work for you?

In our previous post, we talked about Tower Place’s new apartments on Broad Street and the floor plans got our attention. Generally speaking, these floor plans work well, but if you’re hunting for a home, here are three things to consider:

1. Look out for bathroom or powder room doors that open up into public spaces like kitchens or living rooms. You typically want a sense of privacy here, no? Hearing the toilet flush while at the dinner table isn’t exactly ideal. (If you can’t fix this, just turn up the volume on your Spotify.)

2. Watch out for those clusters of doors that all swing into a narrow hallway. See if it’s possible to swing the door into the room, opt for a pocket door or–even better–get a stylish sliding barn door.

3. U-shape kitchens shouldn’t open up into a living room. The area between the two rooms is ideal for a bar counter, which does double duty by providing a gathering place and a sense of separation. If you have the option (and the dollars) to fix this, take the U-shape kitchen, and rotate the entrance 90 degrees counterclockwise to put the counter between the living room and kitchen.

Naturally, there are always going to be certain constraints that you run up against when space planning, so it’s not easy to avoid these conditions. We hope these tips help when you step into a potential new home or look at a layout on Craigslist.

The Tale of One Tower

10 Jan

Developer Bart Blatstein finished his new apartment dwelling on Broad and Spring Garden streets, Tower Place. Here’s a peek inside a one-bedroom apartment that you can rent for $1,585. Image

Read the full story on Curbed Philly. Now about that casino…

[Photo via Tower Place’s Facebook and Craigslist page]

First Post: All about Philadelphia Architecture

19 Nov
View of Rittenhouse homes in Philadlephia

Rittenhouse neighborhood in Philadelphia

Starting a blog is never easy but here at City & Yard, we’re determined to make this blog your go-to blog for Philadelphia-based architecture. Some of the things that we want to talk about will involve, obviously, architecture, interior design, sustainability, living in urban areas and rural areas (and places in between), and making the home you have into the home you want.

We also want to pull back the curtain on the designing and building process so you can see what it’s all about. Architects and designers have a vision and spend many hours crafting their vision into something you can live in. But that process isn’t easy–there’s that issue of feedback and, well, money. Good design isn’t cheap but you shouldn’t bankrupt yourself in the process. Knowledge is power and we want to give that knowledge to you, dear reader.

So who writes this? This blog is powered by an architect and a writer. Though we’ve yet to determine all the details, we’re looking for feedback as we begin this journey into blogging. Have an idea? Please feel free to write it in the comments below.

You can also find us on Pinterest (yes, Pinterest) where we curate a collection of visual images that inspire and intrigue us.

Please do bear with us as we get started and thanks for stopping by!



a blog about design, architecture, sustainability, and living

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