Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks to Hansons Building Supply

Every year the team at Hansons Building Supply does something generous around the holiday season. Regardless of what you build, how much you spend, or who you vote for, Hansons gives each and every loyal customer a shirt or jacket.
Here Brad and Josh pull salvaged wood from a tent in our new Hansons attire!
Having a building store isn't just about moving products, it's about service too. At Hansons the great guys in the yard will collect and load your materials. Scotty and the others behind the counter are knowledgeable, fast and helpful. And, of coarse, Michelle and Shawna in the office are always happy to get a quote, call a manufacturer for information, or check you out -- with a smile.

2x8's after being sorted, faced and crowned, wire brushed and installed.

My projects have lots of recycled materials in them. Often, the quality of these products is superior to new products, explaining my attraction to them. But building a house is worth building it right and you can't detail and build a building to last 150 years with all the parts recycled. It is a combined effort and were it not for Hansons, my buildings couldn't happen.

Published FrEdLey Residence built from lots of recycled materials and at least as many trips to Hansons, my building store of choice!

Why I love design build. It's not just that the process leads to better design and often more efficient use of materials, but that it's hands on, it's outside and it's ever changing, and most important, I get to go to Hansons almost every day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New dbBrad mascott

Born October 25th, picked up just last week and cuter than any button I've ever seen.

New Puppy proud to be part of good architecture and landscaping!

Aussie Puppy in motion
Perfect portrait of Australian Shepherd puppy
Aussie puppy off chain!
Australian Shepherd Puppy at 6 weeks looks like a cartoon figure!

And the name, after much deliberation, comes from the town where he was born, Benton

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Splendide Washer Dryer All in One.

This machine wasn't designed,
it was just assembled.

Ive been fixing, welding, wiring and modifying all kinds of machinery and architectural systems for almost three decades. Though not the Maytag Man, I’ve taken a stab at fixing more than one washer and dryer. When I think back to the machines I've tried to fix, I recollect thin metal cabinets, parts not quite strong enough, sharp edges, rivets or cheap screw connections not meant to be removed, and parts not serviceable or replaceable.

An example of a beautifully
designed and crafted machine.
Recently I had the opportunity to fix a Splendide washer/dryer combo. The machine was a pleasure to work on. The sales staff was knowledgeable and helpful. They were a pleasure to work with. The parts were in stock and shipped immediately. I was given personal assistance in troubleshooting the problem, and the manual was excellent as well.

When it turned out I'd misread the 'error code', they even sent me a different part to try to make sure I was able to isolate the problem.

I ended up changing both a mother board and motor, equally well engineered -- properly sized bolts, accessible, well designed connections, high tolerance milling and, I have to say, the motor may be one of the most beautiful modern motors I've seen.

This is a combo unit with the motor running both the wash cycle and the dry cycle. In the wash cycle it just turns slowly and gently back and forth.

A turbine engine.
In the spin cycle, at it's climax, the drum is spinning at 1500 rpm. It sounds like an airplane taking off but the machine, with it's well engineered dampening system, solid cabinet/case and computer logic controls, runs smoothly and doesn't walk/vibrate. Even with the oddest load of fleece and cotton, it's never crept even a millimeter.
Splendide All in One
Conveniently, it plugs into any 110 volt standard outlet and comes ready to use in one simple box that fits under a counter (36") and in a space less than 24" wide. It does everything the larger machines do but with more efficiency. Now if they could just get the machine to fold and put away the clothes.

A Bosch, not a Splendide, but a quality European
machine designed to work well and to be serviceable.
I appreciate a company that sells a well designed product that is serviceable, has a good manual, and is distributed by people who understand and believe in the product. In my opinion, this is one of the best washer and dryers I've used over the years, seen in the stores or tried to fix. This machine is a demonstration of good design, craftsmanship and performance.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The water runs

The very first water from the solar pump ran the other day and Tommie was there to see it. It's a very satisfying system because you can hear the energy of the sun as the pump has more or less power and you can "see" the sun by the volume of water in the stream, though much delayed.

Tommie watching the very first water flow
through the new solar pump system

It was very cute. She immediately called up her brother (who took an interest in the project early on) and held the phone inside the pump house so he could hear the pump wind up with the sun (more power) and down with the clouds (less power)! The solar panels were cranking out 39.6 volts on a mostly clear November day, moving about 800-1000 gallons per hour.

The solar pavilion on the far side of the main retention pond.
It will pump almost twice this volume during the summer months. But there's no battery, so when there's no sun, there's no stream. Unless it's raining, in which case there's still quite a flow!

Here's a little video of the first water running down the creek.

Within a few days of getting the system finished, it rained. And hard. It's easy to forget that this project isn't about making a "water feature". It was about controlling the water because this property was flooding. Last year there was standing water all around the buildings and water running across the driveway. With the work we've done there are no longer an water issues. All excess water after being collected, running the stream, and filling the large 'variable edge' lined retention pond where it can over flow into a restored wetland with a modified outflow (we created a small dam with the glacial till we excavated from the main pond) allowing the wetland to fill up with almost 3' feet of water.  Several hundred thousand gallons.

After the first big rain of 2010, the wetland had about 6" of 
water and the rest of the property had none. Perfect!

Eckert Lyon restoration, pond, stream, wet land, solar pavilion, solar pump, restoration.

Pump House


A little add on to the solar pavilion was an enclosure for the pump. In all the design work dbBrad and Whidbey Sun and Wind did to get a maintenance/trouble free solar pump and structure, it never occurred to us that with a pump of this type needing to be primed, we would have a freezing issue.

Insulating inside the permanent forms. This insulation's buried about 12" below the top of slab.

It wasn't until we hooked the system for a trial run that I realized water stayed in the pump housing as well as the feeder line. Obviously it was going to need to be protected from freezing. Because I wanted a user friendly (no user required) system, turning valves, draining, priming, flipping switches, etc., wasn't an option.

I used corrugated metal as the inner perma-form (non removable form). It's dark rust color will be better for insulation, absorption of the suns energy which will be stored in the 5" thick concrete walls and slab.

So I did what I do. I gathered a bunch of recycled materials and built a pump house. We designed it to be earth bermed with passive solar heating using lots of insulated thermal mass with long overhangs to prevent over heating in the summer. The old metal window provides access.

Matt finishing up the forms and getting ready to pour concrete.
  1. 2x8 scraps left over from FrEdLey -- too nice to throw away but not nice enough for milling;
  2. A bunch of nice T & G 2x6 pine left over from the Mason remodel;
  3. Corrugated steel scraps;
  4. Salvaged flashing;
  5. Rusty re-bar;
  6. An old window;
  7. Damaged insulation contributed by Hansons Building Supply; and
  8. The only purchased item, 24 bags of concrete.
The result is one stout little structure.

The pump house and the solar pavilion

Thermal mass was the objective. We needed to provide enough heat storage to keep the pump from freezing during cold spells. Here on Whidbey Island in Washington state, the weather is pretty mild. We do get snow occasionally but typically when it gets really cold, it's clear. Clear and Sun go together well in a passive solar scenario.

The lower retention pond can be seen beyond with the hybrid steel-wood support for the solar arbor in the foreground and the pump house in the middle.

The pump and the motor are separate pieces mounted together on a plate, all supplied by Sun Pumps. The wiring, plugs, and mechanics of the system were all provided by Whidbey Sun and Wind and went together great. The pond/stream design was by Fran Abel Landscape design and installed by DEW and the Pavilion and Passive solar pump house were designed and built by dbBrad.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Solar Pavilion

The how and the why of a solar pavilion!

Matt and Brad carry the second solar panel towards the creek and pavilion. The first panel can be seen already mounted on the transparent membrane creating a covered outdoor space over by the creek.

My project referrals keep unfolding leading to new projects, with Greenbelt Consulting connected me with these clients -- two wonderful people who have entrusted me to help them make their land right.

The main pond was completed just this summer. When more funds are available we hope to finish planting with the help of Fran Abel Landscape Design. The plants shown were salvaged from areas where we excavated.
On a piece of property at the bottom of a long slope from the Greenbank plateau down towards the west side of Whidbey Island, my clients had built a house and it had a serious water problem. Water flooded their land all last winter.
The stream, looking good, not far after completion.
Phase I was to regrade the topography so water could flow. Phase II was to collect the water and put it in a lined pond with an overflow area and get it operational as soon as possible. We are now in phase III, though the solar pavilion is a bit of an add on!

The upper pond early on. Surface water and water from the residence are collected here.
Collecting the water from the roofs and French drains, we created a lined collection pond, a lined stream, a lined retention pond and an over flow wetland. And though we are just beginning rainy season here in the Northwest, we've had enough over the last 8 months to see that it's working very well. There has been no flooding since we completed Phase I and II

15,000 gallons of water we pumped into the wetland this summer. Absorption was better than 1" per hour.
except when we pumped the main pond this summer to patch a small hole in the liner! We dumped 15,000 gallons of water into the wetland and I was encouraged to see it able to absorb all of this water in less than 24 hours.

Salvaged 5x5 treated fir posts with angle iron corners and pinned connection at top. Large retention pond and solar arbor site visible beyond hoops and perlins.

Of coarse, during the winter it won't be able to absorb so much, so the wetland will get wetter -- way wetter -- and deeper! It's capacity is several hundred thousand gallons which I anticipate it will occasionally need. Most of this water will come via the stream that should actively flow most of the winter.

One of the reasons I love salvaged lumber. To those that recognize it, it's old growth, clear, vertical grained fir. For those that don't, it's what I'd like to call a 'honey' or a 'BAPOW' (Bad Ass Piece of Wood)

During the summer the stream is nice for other reasons as well. It's refreshing and tranquil with the trickle of water, the shimmer of light, the flutter of birds, the croaking of frogs and the buzz of a healthy mix of insects. But, when there's no rain, to have a stream you have to pump the water and that takes energy.

The solar pavilion taking shape. A true wood and steel hybrid structure.

In an effort to make this project 100% green, the clients committed to a solar pump. I immediately suggested we create a solar pavilion to highlight the solar panels and pump rather than use traditional and less attractive pole mounting hardware. Of coarse the structure wanted to be sustainable too.

Looking under the solar panels. The aluminum brackets are mounted to the wood mullions which are sealed with glazing tape to the crystalite and then screwed from below. No fasteners visible on top, save for four holes for the solar feet.

Local steel work, local solar consulting, local wood from my salvage pile, low impact construction with sturdy steel and wood design I'll guarantee remains standing for longer than the life of the solar panels, makes this as sustainable as it can get!

Another sustainable project designed and constructed by dbBrad

Solar pavilion nearing completion. Still waiting on the clamping system for locking the angle into position.

Solar components and system design by Whidbey Sun and Wind.

Solar pavilion from below, creating an attractive usable space under the solar panels.
Steel work by Irish Welding.

Eckert/Lyon, Solar pavilion, Solar pump by Sun Pumps, pond, stream, wetland, low impact, DEW dbBrad

Monday, October 25, 2010

Renovating an old building

In Langley there is an old orange house on a piece of property with wonderful potential for affordable/alternative living which Langley badly needs. It's right on the bus stop, walking distance to downtown Langley, already in an area of fairly high density and with very conscious and community oriented owners. Until such a time as Langley solidifies it's strategy for development, nothing can happen; but in the mean time it couldn't have a better, more fun use, than to be the home of RE-ART. More than any house in Langley, I enjoy driving by this one. Not because it's fancier than the others and impresses the 'Jones', but because it's real, and because it changes. The property is dynamic. Probably the best example of a vacant house that adds to it's community I've ever seen!!

Southwest corner of addition to original building made of salvaged barn wood and telephone tie pieces. It was just about to fall over, had a rotten floor, and was wetter inside than outside.

On the back of this property is a building that was falling apart because the roof was leaking. Leaking roofs, the demise of most old buildings, can cause lots of damage over time. In this building, most of the roof decking on both 'shed' extensions had so much rot you couldn't walk around on them. Even without maintenance, a steeper pitch here would have decreased damage (increased longevity)

The North addition, also added onto the original structure. The roof was too shallow and inadequately framed. As a result, water puddled and created permanent deformation (a sag) in the 2x4 rafters which encouraged more puddling, then leaking, then severe dry rot. (Note to self, why do they call it dry rot if it's always from water damage?)

On the north side open air addition, the original 2x4's (inadequate for a 10' span) had been nailed to the original building's rafter/truss tails. We installed a temporary wall down the middle where the sag was greatest, and the rafters straightened right up. We then slid new 2x4's (crown up) along side these and nailed them to the other side of the rafter tails creating a pair of 2x4's every 24" securely fastened to the original buildings roof and walls. Better looking and twice as strong!

Since the 4x4 posts were off the ground and rotten on the bottom anyhow, we replaced them with pieces 8" shorter. When we knocked the center wall out, the building settled nicely, rotating slightly at the connection between original buildings roof and new rafter pairs. Finally, we went back and put hurricane clips at all the connections.

The South addition gets separated from the original building, cutting out the rotten parts, creating light and allowing us to increase the pitch of the now free standing shed.

The building was one, and now it's two. The shed on the south side, built of salvaged telephone pole cross pieces and barn siding, was very rough and had a roof with not enough slope. Our solution gave it more slope.

The South addition, now separate. You can see the telephone ties which made a great floor and would still be there (no pun intended) if the roof hadn't been leaking for 20 years. The window was twice as wide--I just slid the window to the side, cut the frame with a sawz-all and now there's an insulated window half as big!

We did this at John's suggestion by 'detaching' the buildings. The area we cut out was the area of greatest damage, so it worked out great. When we replaced the multi-piece header with a single salvaged beam, we raised the pitch of the existing rafters by about 5 degrees. This makes all the difference in the world in how it drains. After patching some of the roof decking with salvage pieces from around the property, we clad the top in salvaged metal, also from the property.

The building had an interesting prow. It was a cantilevered beam with a cable running to the back of the structure where a cement block, a cast iron stove part, a few window weights and a crank shaft were all wired together serving as a counter weight for the garage door. Seeing potential for outdoor covered space and additional building protection, we framed the roof out to this point and what a difference that made to the aesthetics. Quite a handsome little building now!

Finally, we sheathed the original building with new 1/2" ply-wood (dbBrad doesn't use OSB), nailed off to 6Perim/8Field and covered with 30# felt. Only a few dollars more per square than 15# and such a better product.

Alsip property, Langley WA, home of Re-Art.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The Whidbey Island Arts Council 'studio tour 2010' features 84 artists at 44 locations. dbBrad had furniture at one of the stops, Lois's studio which we remodeled last year.

Turn out was good but sales were not. But with all the happy people, good art, beautiful weather it is really a nice family event.

'The Machine' in Lois's kitchen incorporated contemporary steel counters, an old tractor implement and a ceramic heater housed at the center (not seen in the picture)
I didn't sell much but the response was very encouraging. Everyone loved my furniture and told me they'd never seen anything like it. I get that allot!!

The counter part to 'The Machine', the studio table has the same top and open feel but utilizes flat file cabinets from her mom's old art studio. The pipe were all remnants and the stainless steel legs are from Ikea.
In fact Lois mentioned she thought more people were commenting on her house than on her art. I must say that the thing I heard the most from people was that they loved both.

'2 legged' table is a piece of maple from Rob Hetler's 'not good enough' pile and two steel remnants with my little recycled block and rubber band card holders.

That her house and her art seemed to go together. The timeless architecture of dbBrad with trademark wood and steel and the soft impressionistic natural pastels of Lois's abstract photographs

The Captain's Table, so named because the pipe flange base was surplus from Nichols Brothers boat yard via Island Recycling. In the background you can see Lois house with her outdoor art on the recycled steel screens.

And with that the tour was wonderful. Thank you to Lois for letting me show furniture in her driveway and for the extended use of the garage as a shop.

My new and most favorite piece yet, the 'Squalicum Beach Table', this piece of wood was obtained in a creosote clean up, the pieces of pipe were remnants from a previous dbBrad project and the channel was salvaged.
Squalicum beach table. Though the wood has a strong patina, it's very sleek and clean. Because the piece of wood was so heavy, the table tressell is designed to flex enough for the wood to be removed from the steel. No fasteners at all.
Unfinished and awaiting an owner to guide the design of the base, this table is 48" x 96" and features glass insets on woven wire mesh. Leftovers from Island Sash and Door, Chery's Living Gate, FrEdLey railing and candlestick from my dad;s wood pile. In the background the 'Flintstones Table' is visible, with it's 30" wheels and block accessory stools.

Elementary Union Table. Base from Elementary school in Seattle and top from Salvaged Pier Beam on Lake Union.

Squiggly Library Table defies gravity with the wood and the steel seeming to not touch.
DESIGN QUOTE: I am very honest with my (found) materials and pay close attention to what they are and what they want to be. My desire is to change my salvage pieces as little as possible but maintain high resolve in the design/connection.
Brad Hankins is dbBrad.

Tension Table was a fairly successful experiment to use steel in tension and bolts only in sheer. Minimal fasteners on this very strong, but some what top heavy table.

These last two pieces I made several years ago but I'm still very fond of them.