Category Archives: products

Miscellaneous Musings

I am working on this new small greek revival in Maine. Not the high style Greek Revival with huge columns like you see on banks and government buildings but the small, simple style that is so ubiquitous in New England and doesn’t get much attention but everybody knows. I’m designing it to “pretty good house” standards. It is for a family member who lost her house in a fire Continue reading

Green Hemlock Siding on a Modernist house in Vermont

Construction is underway on this super insulated modern house in Vermont where we are trying out some very cool things.

stratton house SW Continue reading

Tiny House Plan for Sale

Now Taking orders for the plans for the Brattleboro Tiny House. The size is 16′ x 22′ with a sleeping loft. Super insulated double stud construction using advanced framing techniques. An excellent do-it-yourself project. Replace your old garage with something that can make an income as a rental unit or build this as a guest house/studio/office/….. Contact me at bob@swinburnearchitect.com if you are interested and/or have questions.

Plan sheet for 16' x 22' Brattleboro Tiny House

Heating Options for a Small Home – Fine Homebuilding

Fine Homebuilding magazine has run a lovely and concise article by Martin Holladay this month (March 2011 actually) that covers the options for a small, low heat load home (my favorite type to design) What I like about this article is that it is simple and clean enough that I can ask clients to read it as a primer. Many of my houses are about 1/2 again energy star but only 2/3 passive house in terms of insulation. This is a low load house but not a no load house, a house that doesn’t need radiant heat but everybody wants to spend the extra money on it anyway. There is rarely the budget for heat load analysis and heating system design by an engineery sort so what gets installed is a regular old boiler. In recent years this is not so much a problem because there are so many good options out there for modulating boilers and the regular heat folks are familiar with them. A decade ago, this meant a non-modulating boiler would be installed capable of putting out 100,000 Btu/hour even when the house only really needed 30,000. This meant the boiler cycled on and off and wasted lots of energy. ($$$) The article covers “using a furnace anyway” as well as providing brief information on Direct vent gas heaters, electric heat (good for very low heat load houses especially if you put the money saved by not installing a conventional heating system into photovoltaics), Minisplit heat pumps – an excellent, low(er) cost option that can also provide air conditioning and are very simple to install although you usually need a certified person to do the installing in order to obtain the warranty. And also connecting a simple hot water coil to your ERV of HRV. You do have one of these in your new house….don’t you?
The article is not available online without paying something (I suspect) so pay or pick an issue at the newstand.
The Graphic below was an old scheme from when I was considering selling stock plans myself. My current collection (numbering exactly 1) can be accessed at Houseplans.com

Core-ten Steel Siding or A606

I have been a big fan of Steel for siding for a while now. It is often hard to convince clients to try it. Someday, I hope to use Core-ten Steel on my own house either in flat panel form or 7/8″ corrugated sheets. Here is a blog of interest: SIPs House It is a process blog about building a very cool small house in Portland, Oregon. The architects are SEED Architecture Studio. Of particular interest to me is the exterior siding. They Used Core-ten steel panels for part of the exterior. Core-ten is a steel that rusts to form a protective coating. It is very low maintenance and very beautiful. Pricing is unknown – they found a very cheap source. Locally, I have been unable to find it very cheap but I should pursue their link for a potential source. Look around and you may see examples of it in your area. There is a railroad bridge near the exit 3 rotary in Brattleboro made with Core-ten that is beautiful (other than the teenager spray paint thing) Here is a link to the SIPs house blog entry on siding. Also check out how they used old barn boards – beautiful!

core-ten siding

SIPs house Portland siding

build blog

Along the lines of; How I spend my time when surfing the net, I spend some time every week looking for what’s out there in the architectural world with focus on residential and small scale projects.
Here is a Firm whose website is great, the work they do is inspiring and they have a great blog that fosters thought and conversation. They are located in Seattle.

TED:Ideas Worth Spreading is a collection of talks and presentations that help me keep the world in perspective.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.


also GoLogic homes in Belfast Maine is worth checking out. They have some great prototype small passive house designs. When I look to the future of my own firm, This is a great model for one possibility. Although if I were to go this route I would worry that it closes me off from being the small town architect for lots of people and doing more non-residential projects.

Metal Stair plans for sale

I have the .pdf file of the plans for the Metal stair completed along with the sketchup model for a nine foot floor to floor configuration. At some point I will modify it for a 10 floor to floor as well. Upon purchase, I will send via email the sketchup model (download a sketchup viewer here) and the .pdf plans which you can have printed at your local print shop. The plans constitute a license to construct one (1) stair.

Be aware that I have no legalese stuff on the drawings about safety and local codes.








Serious Windows

“I was surprised while traveling in Sweden two years ago to learn that triple-glazed windows have been, essentially, required by code in that country since 1976.” Alex Wilson writes in a Green Building Advisor article. He also mentions Serious Windows which I have been hearing a lot about lately and am anxious to try. Pricing seems very good and I have heard tell that the quality is excellent. I believe that parts of the U.S. will move towards such code legislation in the near future as the severity of the global climate crisis becomes more obvious to Americans.

Marvin Integrity in black

Designer tip: I have liked the Integrity line of fiberglass windows from Marvin for few years now. And…
they come in black! For that old fashioned farmhousey yet hip and fresh modern look.
Also did you know that for about $150 per window, Marvin makes single glaze old fashioned style storm windows? This is how you get to triple glazed on moderately sized windows without a heavy chunky window unit. or how you forgo replacing all those beautiful old double hung windows in your 1920’s foursquare.

Marvin Integrity Windows

Gouin Green

I just added a link to Gouin (Go-In) Green a process blog where some folks are building a SIP modular house.  The house is rather vanilla but the blog is full of excellent information and $ #’s which I always appreciate.  It looks like they actually used Alpen Windows which are super good and they talk about how they justified the extra cost.   There is also a long discussion of radiant heat in a super-insulated house in the Features section

More on Fiberglass Windows

Thermotech fiberglass windows are a product I’ve mentioned before.  Read Stephen Thwaites’ Column for an excellent series of lectures on why to use fiberglass, why go with triple glazing, low e and other coatings, and the importance of tuning the windows so that you can get better passive solar gain here in the northern tier states and Canada.  (Something that is just about impossible with most, if not all, major U.S. made windows)  I don’t think they offer double hung yet however.  I like double hung windows even though they are inherently less efficient than other types because here in Vermont the windows are in some state of “open” six months out of twelve. Window design is not just about the coldest part of the year and double hungs offer some important advantages over casements or awnings in warmer weather.

Vermont Sunporch

More Pictures!

this is very traditional looking new house I did a decade ago.  The sunporch is made from storm screen doors from the Brosco catalog with cellar sash above.  The builder ripped the edges down for a slimmer look.

The most excellent builder was Kent Webster

Vermont Sunporch

Here is the whole house:

Vermont traditional house

more on solar hot water – no boiler

An article by Alex Wilson of Environmental Building News in the local newspaper Brattleboro Reformer on solar water heating with some good local links.  I have done a couple houses now with solar hot water backed up with a propane or electric heating element right on the storage tank to boost water temps when needed to serve as heat (radiant) and hot water.  No boiler!  Marathon Water Heaters are how you do it.

see also passive house institute for more information trickling to this country from Europe about how to build carbon neutral-zero energy-heatyourhousewithacat homes

Also Coldham and Hartman architects have done something similar with a number of houses in the Northeast involving upgrading the shell of the house enough to be able to heat with a single space heater such as a through the wall gas space heater in the main living area.

My own house (900 square feet, 1970, poorly insulated cape) has a modern woodstove and electric radiant heat in the ceiling which we use primarily when we are away in the winter.  We heat water with a plain old electric water heater.  The presence of large sugar maple trees prevents us from utilizing the sun.

Budget modern steel staircase

Hey all you sleek expensive modernist architects with square toed shiny shoes and funny little glasses! Check this out. I designed this very cool steel stair out of stock pieces of steel – two C-channels and a bunch of 1 1/2″ steel angle. Lots of nuts and bolts. Add some stainless steel cable with turnbuckles and there you go! Very Erector Set. No Welding. When it is completed there will be a wooden handrail bolted on and the 2 x 12’s that were bolted in place during constructin get replaced with solid planks of cherry from a tree felled on site. I love the rich patina of raw steel.

see also Stair Porn for a larger photo

Plans are available for this $150. See http://swinburnearchitect.com/wordpress/?p=286

Perry Road update – foundation

Here is a rendering of the Perry Road project for the press.

The ICF foundation is in and the slab goes down thursday.  The plumber is putting the drains in to the septic and roughing for a future basement bathroom. We used Nudura ICFs which have 2 1/2″ of foam inside and out.  and a footing form that stays in place as a footing drain inside and out.  We are putting 4″ of foam under the slab and radiant tubing in the slab (in case we need it someday)

Fiberglass Windows

The more I learn about windows, the more I am sold on Fiberglass windows. Thermal rate of expansion issues are completely bypassed and I think this is the cause of most failures. The thermal performance of fiberglass frames is incomparable. For the Perry Road project we are looking at: Continue reading