The building code actually does let you encroach into the public right-of-way. But the sidewalk here on Ames Alley is narrower than the bay above, and at 11′-4″, this bay is two inches shorter than your typical mid-sized rent-a-van.
The very normal-sized side door to this apartment house on Church is given proper entry status by an enormously over-proportioned broken pediment. Most delightful is how the thing weighs so heavily on the doorway it actually crops off the top of the door within.
The architect might have squeezed a normal pediment at the conventional height between the windows above, but the result would have felt uninspiringly narrow, too exposed, and lacking in the wry, ceremonial gravitas one feels crossing this threshold from civic to private space.
Another entryway, this one off Guerrero at 22nd swells a classic egg-and-dart pattern to the bulbous proportions of the vousoirs of an arch.
Over on Capp and 19th, heroically-scaled bays and portico actually cause a two and a half-story house to appear smaller than it is. Note how each window is considerably larger than the sizeable front door. Continue Reading »
If we learn from our mistakes, students at Sanchez School will certainly benefit from the placement of this fence-top wind turbine. As anyone walking by could tell you, the generator would do better on top of this 40-foot edifice than at the sidewalk.
But would that be enough? Industry rule of thumb suggests placing turbines 30-feet over anything within a 500-foot radius. That gets you into the laminar winds above typical rooftop turbulence. It takes some expense though, and introduces structural and vibration-related building stresses, with related noise potentially amplified through the roof diaphragm.
And even at that elevation, a wind generator may not yield much. Say the turbine has a rated capacity of 1kW in 10-mph wind (though winds below 5-mph may not affect the rotors), the average wind is 10-mph, and we generously assume this site, downhill and leeward of Twin Peaks, yields a 10% capacity factor. Theoretically that would still be 100W, but real-world testing of micro wind generators is yielding results of only a fraction of manufacturer claims. Domestic-scale photovoltaic panels are producing more output, at less cost, and with a fraction of the maintenance wind generators require.
Wind power will certainly be in our future, but it’s going to be from large arrays, in open countryside, between migratory routes, and far from your rooftop.
What color are my white walls? It depends on the time of day. With white, the early morning light glows orange, cool evening light is a quiet blue, only grey winter skies suffuse the room with pure white. A warm color lit by cool northern light would look muddy and insubstantial; the same with a cool color in early morning or late afternoon sunlight. The advantage of white is its versatility — use it to appreciate the sunlight’s transforming potential or the change of season.
For a basic understanding of building science, here’s a powerpoint presentation from EnergyStar. Click on “Crash Course in Building Science” to download it.
Nothing quite drives the last nail into the coffin of an architectural movement like a tombstone-sized retrospective. Did Corbu even design a coffee table capable of supporting this 21-pound volume?
Perched on Dolores at Cesar Chavez is a house with the kind of cardboard cornice you see everywhere. But the fun thing about this one is the shamelessness of its pretense. On the south end, an ornamental bracket props up the unapologetically decorative end of the sham.
The longer you look at this façade, though, the more ironies appear. There’s a wonderful play between the asymmetrical mass of the house and the symmetrifying feel of the Italianate cornice. It was built up board by board, but it has the appearance of a box that has eroded. But most perfectly balanced is how the whole composition can feel alternately deadpan or whimsical. That’s a subtlety in execution rare in any style.
The watering system on the Dolores Street median looks grossly inefficient, but is actually par for the course. The EPA cites studies that show up to 50% of the 7-billion gallons of water a day used for residential landscape irrigation is wasted — due to overwatering, evaporation, or system over-design.
Well, at least they put in compact fluorescents. Now their bill for this pair of lights is a quarter of what it was. Obviously a photosensor would cut that down to an eighth or so. Say the original pair of 75w incandescents cost 150w x 24 hours x 365 days = 1314 kwh, x .15 $/kwh = $197 per year to run (based on PG&E’s Tier 2 pricing). Now they pay about $50 for the compact fluorescents, though it would be only $25 if they were on photosensors.
Isn’t this a no-brainer? Well, consider it would cost $260 for a pair of inexpensive replacement fixtures with built-in photosensors. That means the cost of the fixtures would take $260 / $25 = 10.4 years for the new fixtures to pay for themselves, and that’s not even including the electrician’s labor. Ten years is not a payback rate the average absentee landlord would consider. Or maybe he’s negligent, apathetic, or has got higher priorities elsewhere on the property.
We cannot realistically expect a nation-wide drop in energy consumption if even going after low-hanging fruit like having the lights shut off during daytime doesn’t make economic sense. Change will only come from higher energy bills, cheaper equipment costs, new legislation, or incentives like PACE bonds.
Boulee’s monument to Newton, seems also to have been influenced by ancient mausolea, as I surmised while exploring the roots of Mario Botta’s SFMoMA. This time a spherical top over a windowless cylindrical base, and again, rings of Cypress trees. There’s something in these arrangements that draws together the earth and the heavens, the worldly and the eternal.