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Category Archives: Sustainable

How To Cool Your Home For FREE!


People who don’t live in San Luis Obispo think that our Summers are always 75 degrees and sunny. While this is mostly true (muahaha), there are occasional days where temperatures soar past 90 degrees and sometimes 100 degrees. If you are a SLO resident you know exactly what I mean, because last week was treacherous, with highs peaking near 104 degrees. For most people this isn’t a problem if you’re at work or school. Most commercial buildings use large air conditioning systems to keep us fresh and cool. The challenge is always staying cool when we are at home without someone cooling our spaces for us. Some of the smallest mistakes can cause you to overheat your home to an undesirable temperature, resulting you to run to the nearest Fro-Yo and indulge on their newest tart (not a bad way to go). In this article I will teach you some basics to passively maximize the coolth in your home without using any mechanical systems. Think of all the Fro-Yo you can buy with all the money you will save!

1. Prep Work: Reduce Your Loads

Reducing your loads is the first and most important step before adjusting other factors. Surprisingly, all your small gadgets and doo-dads are always using electricity and generating heat whether you are using them or not. These are your phantom-loads. Secondly, try and reduce the amount of electric lighting you use in the daytime since they are another source of heat. Incandescent light bulbs emit 90% heat and only 10% light. Your eyes will automatically adjust to a lower light level and this way you are cutting another source of heat. Lastly, tasks like ironing, cooking, and laundry should be done during cooler parts of the day to reduce the amount of heat generated when the temperature is at its peak.

2. Maximizing The Efficiency Of Your Home

Now that you have reduced as many loads in your home as possible, we can begin work on your home itself. The general idea is to reflect the heat during the hot afternoons, and cool your home in the evenings. When you wake up in the morning shut all your blinds, close your windows and cover up any other areas that receive direct solar gain. By closing up your openings you will kick out the hot sunlight and maintain cooler temperatures inside. In contrast, having your windows wide open will soak up tons of heat and capture it inside making your home feel hotter than it is outside.

Once the sun starts to set and the temperature get cooler it is safe to open up your home again. In the evening your goal should be to flush out all the heat from your home and cool the inside. Opening multiple windows on different sides of your house will create cross ventilation, and opening high and low windows will create stack ventilation; both methods are acceptable to flush heat from your home.

By following these methods you are using your home’s thermal mass to it’s advantage. This is the most environmental and economic way to cool your home in the summer. To go even further with passive strategies consider upgrading some essential parts of your home as a long term investment. Some general tips are to re-insulate the walls and roof of your home, upgrade to energy efficient appliances, sealing all your leaky window and door joints, and replacing your old windows with energy efficient double or triple pane glazing with low-e coatings.

Thanks for reading and stay cool!

+ M. Farid Shahid
Photo Credit:

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The Architectural 3D Printing Revolution!

During his visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The 3D Print Canal House was presented to United States’ President Barack Obama by the Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan.
Image: During his visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The 3D Print Canal House was presented to President Barack Obama by the Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan.
About 3D Printing

Believe it or not, 3D printing has been around since 1984 when inventor Chuck Hull built the world’s first working model. However, it took until the start of the 21st century for this technology to truly take off. Latest estimates from Wohlers Associates states that the market for 3D printing in 2012 was worth $2.2 Billion worldwide, which was a 29% increase from the year prior.

When compared to traditional machining techniques that rely on subtraction methods of removing material by cutting and drilling, 3D printing has an advantage of using an additive methods by printing virtually any shape. Although the most common materials used to print are thermoplastics, some printers can also print edible materials, rubber, clay, porcelain, titanium, aluminium, stainless steel, paper, and photopolymer. Currently, 3D printing is being implemented in industries  ranging from architecture & construction, aerospace & military, fashion, and more.

3D Print Canal House: Amsterdam (The Netherlands) | DUS Architects

For the past few weeks thousands of people in Amsterdam have been visiting the site of what is being called the “World’s First 3D Printed House”. Known as the 3D Printed Canal House, this site is an exhibition for 3D Printing Architecture. The innovative company behind this project is the Dutch firm DUS Architects. DUS Architects specializes in Public Architecture that consciously influences our daily life.

There is nothing conventional about the construction of this house! The entire design of this house is thoroughly modeled using state of the art computer software. Afterwards, each room assembly is printed on site separately, and put together like giant Lego pieces. The material being used for this house is a biological plastic containing 75% plant oil and reinforced with microfibers. The building assemblies are being printed in a honeycomb lattice shape that acts as a structural element, and is later filled with lightweight concrete for insulation and additional strength.

The most fascinating aspect of this type of construction is that the ornamentation, exterior facade, structure, and inner facade are all printed as one solid piece. This is definitely one of the most optimal forms of systems integration. In this wall assembly you will find construction connections, cables, pipes, wiring, and more. The result is a seamless and streamlined look.

Enjoy this video for more information on the 3D Print Canal House, and if you’re in the area anytime soon tickets are only €2,50!

The Future of 3D Printing

As costs of 3D printing are dropping every year the possibilities with this technology are endless. The goal for many of the 3D printer manufacturers is for each household to someday own a domestic 3D printer. This will enable the general public to 3D print common household items from an open source database. For example, if you run out of forks for a dinner party there is no need to drive to the store, because you can print your own in minutes. I am not sure when this will become a reality, but it sure is exciting to see projects like the house in Amsterdam being built.

What are your thoughts on the future of 3D printing? Send us your ideas in the comments below!

+ M. Farid Shahid

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California’s Prize-fighter in Solar Electric Generation Opens!

You come home from a long day and with the flick of a switch your lights turn on. You open your refrigerator doors and there is a nice variety of cold foods and beverages waiting for you, glamorized by the incandescent light bulb that beautifully highlights them. After you have gotten your drink and ate dinner you can relax on that couch and watch your favorite show on your big screen high-definition LCD TV. We are certainly blessed with the ample amount of energy we have available to us here in the United States. For those of us living in California, here are the different types of electricity we produce (highest to lowest): Natural gas, renewables, nuclear, hydroelectric, and the almost non-existent coal.

Today I would like to talk about our state’s latest renewable energy power plant, The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Located in Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed on the edge of the California-Nevada border, you might see this site on your next road trip to Las Vegas. This facility just opened yesterday and will provide up to 377 gross megawatts of clean energy. Unlike other solar electric farms that use photovoltaics (solar panels), Ivanpah is a solar thermal power plant. They use thousands of movable mirrors, called heliostats, that direct concentrated beams of sunlight to a power tower, which in turn produces the electricity using the large amounts of heat that is captured.

Although this project cost $2.2 Billion, more than half of the funding was provided by the US Department of Energy as a loan guarantee. The owners of this project are NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy, and Google Inc. BrightSource currently has contracts to sell 2/3 of the energy to PG&E and the rest to Southern California Edison. 

Here are some more facts from Ivanpah’s website about this project:

-The electricity generated by all three plants at the Ivanpah solar complex is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California.

-The Ivanpah project has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee by the US Department of Energy to help fund this project. The solar complex nearly doubles the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today.

-More than 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided over the 30-year life cycle of the plant, equivalent to taking 2.1 million cars off the road. This solar complex also cuts major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants.

-BrightSource’s LPT solar thermal systems being deployed at Ivanpah use a air-cooling system. This dry-cooling system allows us to reduce water usage by more than 90% over competing solar thermal technologies using conventional wet cooling systems.

-The Ivanpah project will employ 170,000 low-impact heliostats. The entire Ivanpah project features an industry-leading low-impact design, resulting in maximum land-use efficiency. The heliostat technology places individual mirrors onto metal poles that are driven into the ground, which allows vegetation to coexist underneath and around our mirrors; reduces the need for extensive land grading; and uses far fewer concrete pads than other technologies. The project is also thoughtfully sited near existing roads and transmission lines and in an area where human activity has already left its mark.

If you don’t get a chance to see this project in person, here is a great virtual tour that shows multiple parts of this development:


+M. Farid Shahid



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Evolution of Small Spaces

After spending two weeks in Europe, and living the small apartment lifestyle, I have concluded that the recent movement in American cities of small, efficiently-sized apartments is a great progression for the our society. From New York City to San Francisco, American cities are passing laws allowing smaller sized apartments to pass code in urban settings. This movement is allowing the re-urbanization of our many cities to take place at a more sustainable level. Studio apartments and single occupant efficiency units have been creatively designed by today’s architects to reinvent the use of space for things such as storage, sleeping, and entertaining. Convertible built-in furniture sets are also being designed and purchased from coast-to-coast. These are low-cost, affordable, and sustainable options in order to accommodate the growing migration of Americans to cities – which globally is estimated to lead to 7-out-of-10 people living in cities by 2050.

What this ultimately means is that architects need to continue to be thoughtful in their attempt to redesign apartment buildings in cities across the US. ConsciousBuild has been dedicated to this movement for many years now, and more of our clients are asking for these spaces. What is more impressive is that clients that are not in large metropolitan cities are asking for innovative solutions to their spatial problems, too. Homes in San Luis Obispo do not need to sprawl just because there is more land available – and more and more clients understand this! Sustainability means also looking at leaving the undisturbed land alone!

Contact ConsciousBuild today to get a low-cost design done for your existing, new or remodeled home. We can give you the design and set you up with the construction team today.


+ Andrew C. Goodwin

Small Apartments


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No Water, No Wine.

Around here on the Central Coast we absolutely love our wine. Throughout the entire county there are literally hundreds of different wineries to choose from. Some are much larger than others and ship their wines across the world, while others only make a handful of cases per year. Economic reports by MKF Research LLC, claim that the wine industry on the Central Coast is worth around $1.8 Billion consisting of more than 1.2 million visitors per year. All of this equates to $86 Million in state and local taxes, and 8,000 full time jobs.

As important as this industry is to our local area, there is a dirty little secret most people are not aware of. The fact is that there is simply not enough water to sustain the North County if this fast growth continues. Homes, businesses, and farms are all in need of water, however 67% of it goes straight to agriculture-primarily vineyards. The Paso Robles groundwater basin has been suffering from huge declines in water levels, and county officials are considering bringing in water from outside sources; but that is costly and unreliable.

There is currently a misconception that vineyards use large amounts of water to grow wine-grapes, however that is not true. If you single out one vineyard, they are not using much to water their grapevines. The problem lies in the colossal amount of vineyards in the North County area. There are so many vineyards that all use water in that area, that it is sucking the basin dry. There are currently no regulations to what farmers can grow on their land, therefore every year more owners are switching to wine-grapes from other crops.

One solution to realistically maintain this crucial industry is for every winery to be as efficient as possible. Winery design is where architects can play a vital role in saving our precious resources. Harvesting rainwater, implementing grey-water techniques, and using highly efficient fixtures are some ways to make a big difference.

At ConsciousBuild, sustainability is always at the forefront of our design. Last week we completed construction on Giornata Wines’ brand new tasting room and processing facility. By implementing a bio-filtration system for their dirty water into the design, this winery will be able to save money every month on their water bills, while greatly reducing the impact on the local water basin.

“A drop of water is worth more than a sack of gold to a thirsty man”

~Unknown Author

+ M. Farid Shahid

Photo: Tasting room & lobby of Giornata Wines, located in Templeton, CA.
Architect: ConsciousBuild Inc.

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No AC, No Lighting, No Problem!

Every year our energy consumption increases, which puts a larger load on the companies that provide us this energy. Most of this energy is actually lost in unused lighting that stays on in empty rooms, and phantom loads such as toasters, microwaves, televisions, etc. These days in the design industry we are returning to an “old” tradition called passive solar architecture. This method of design dates back thousands of years and was abandoned at some point when energy was cheap and HVAC technology was evolving. We started to design for our wants and not our needs, but for a long time no one seemed to have any problem with it. Passive solar design includes techniques such as natural daylighting, taking advantage of the wind for ventilation, and using thermal mass to store and release heat in a room.

The reason I am writing about this today is because it is one of the few days in San Luis Obispo where it is 90 degrees, however for us at ConciousBuild we are getting by just fine without any air conditioning and lighting. For as long as I can remember we have never used any artificial lighting throughout the day, and for ventilation we simply open up all of our windows. We also try to implement these techniques in our projects. For example, we are currently designing a private residence in San Luis Obispo and are installing polished concrete floors throughout the home. As heat from the south facing windows penetrates into the space, the energy is stored in the thermal mass of the floor during the day, and is slowly dispersed at night.

After reading this I hope you will try using natural daylighting rather than artificial, and if it gets hot try opening your windows and throwing on that tank top you never wear. I promise you will feel better and might even save a few bucks…or your money back! Enjoy this quote from Gandhi below.

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”

~Mohandas K. Gandhi

+ M. Farid Shahid


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Can I Say Grandpa Unit?

Yesterday we had a meeting in our office with a new client who needs some work done on his house as well as a smaller new building. What he needs is an “accessory dwelling unit”, but normally people call it “granny unit”. When he said granny unit, I thought to myself, “Why aren’t they ever called grandpa units?”. This afternoon I looked it up on Yahoo Answers, and the reason for that term is because women tend to live longer than men, therefore in most situations your grandmother or mother would need a dwelling unit. Pretty funny how that one came about!

If you are in need of more space whether it is for an extra person or for your favorite activities, an accessory dwelling unit may be right for you! Many people own large enough lots where an additional building would make sense. Usually they are around 450 square feet in size, but that could change depending on your lot. To cut down the cost, many companies these days have designs for pre-fabricated buildings that they can quickly build and deliver to your site. This would be a much more cost effective solution than purchasing a larger home, and it would also add value to your property.

As you consider adding something like this to your property, always consult with an architect or planning professional to check your local zoning regulations. This would determine what is allowed and what is not for your lot. Anyone in the San Luis Obispo area is always more than welcome to drop by our office (1239 Garden Street) to discuss this further. We are usually stocked with lots of delicious fruits and candies.

+ M. Farid Shahid

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 3.35.42 PM

Photo: Nancy Creek Guest House 

Architect:Philip Babb Architect, Atlanta, GA
Image Courtesy Of: Houzz
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Biking To Work

How do you feel when you walk into work every morning? If you answered sluggish and grouchy, consider commuting to work via bicycle. I personally have been doing this about 3 to 5 days per week and it has made a significant impact on my day. My typical round trip commute to work is about four miles with many steep hills. By the time I arrive to work my blood is pumping and my sweat glands are crying.

The journey is so much more meaningful than being boxed inside a metal caged automobile. The slower pace and openness allows me to appreciate the city and its architecture while enjoying the cool morning breeze. I get to wave hello to gardeners, runners (& their dogs), and other fellow bicyclists. You can never end a bike ride with a frown on your face, unless you had fallen or gotten a flat tire.

Lastly, I want to share with you the huge financial benefits of biking to work. Since I made the switch I have only been using my car on the weekends. I found a great online tool that calculates how much money you can save by biking. Here are my numbers – they may be similar to yours!

Monthly Savings: $106.20

Annual Savings: $1274.40

Annual Greenhouse Gases NOT emitted: 295 lbs

+ M. Farid Shahid
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Bike Savings Calculator:


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