5 Smart Ways to Prepare Your House for Fall in California


California homes don’t need quite as much winter prep as homes in the colder parts of the country. However, there is a lot you can do to make your home run more smoothly in the months to come. There are even some safety matters you should address in the fall. Use this checklist to make sure you’re ready.

  1. Landscaping Clean-Up

Every element of your landscaping needs a little bit of work in the fall. If you plan on adding fertilizer to the garden, now is the best time to do it. Toss your leaves (if you have trees that drop them) and any dead plants in the compost to make more for next year.

Plus, cleaning up those leaves, dead branches, and other stray plants bits can reduce your risk during late season wildfires. You’ll also appreciate that a quick plant clean up will keep your property looking tidy through the winter.

  1. Conquer Clogs

Don’t forget to clean up any leaves or other debris in the gutters, so that you won’t suffer any clogs for the rainy days ahead. One other thing can get clogged too—the pool. After a long summer, it probably needs a filter clean or filter change. Also, it may need pH re-balancing and likely some pool shock to keep it clean of algae and bacteria.

  1. Roof and Window Inspection

While you’re up there with the gutters take a peek at your roof. Are any shingles curled or missing? Is the flashing secure? It’s always better to catch a potential issue before water has the chance to find its way inside your home.

On your way down from the roof, take a look at the windows. While the weather is still nice, it’s smart to clean the exterior glass.

Before cooler weather arrives, you’ll also want to ensure the caulking around the windows hasn’t dried out and left some gaps. The better your windows are sealed, the better they can keep the conditioned air in the house. The same goes for your doorways.

  1. Safety Check-Up

Fall is a good time of year to tackle the safety tasks we too often put off. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector. Check the pressure of your fire extinguisher. If you’ve used any bandages or other supplies in your first aid kit over the last year, now is the time to replace them. If you keep some canned goods or bottled water in case of winter emergencies, be sure you’re stocked up.

  1. Furnace & Airway Inspection

A Californian’s furnace has an easier life than a Californian’s air conditioner—that’s for sure! However, we still rely on our furnaces to be in good working order come winter. At Irish Heating and Air, we get plenty of emergency calls for broken furnaces on the coldest day of the year, but we don’t want you to have to make that call!

Check that your furnace is working well before the colder weather begins. If you find it’s weak, you could have a problem, or you may need a furnace clean. You can also get more efficient performance from your furnace if you get your ducts cleaned.

Credit: Irish Heating & Cooling

High-Tech Homes Go Off-Grid With Solar and Hydrogen Power

One of the buildings in the Phi Suea House complex in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is powered by solar panels and a hydrogen fuel cell system. All images provided by Phi Suea House.

All-day energy from the sun may sound like a green fantasy, but a team of builders and engineers in Thailand believe they may have built a home energy system that does just that. The Phi Suea House, the brainchild of CNX Construction, led by telecommunications entrepreneur Sebastian-Justus Schmidt, wants to showcase a new power system, and prove that hydrogen and solar technology is feasible for residential construction projects. The housing project seeks to be a proving ground for a new off-grid power system that utilizes solar panels and hydrogen power.

Located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the Phi Suea House project consists of four solar-powered residences, as well as a series of support buildings set on a 28,000 square meter (301,390 square foot) site. The main home and guest homes, topped with solar panels and green roofs for cooling and additional energy savings, generate power during the day, while also powering a hydrogen electrolyzer in a separate energy building on site, which splits hydrogen from water and stores the gas in a fuel cell. During the evening, or periods when the solar panels aren’t generating electricity, the fuel cell then powers the compound. According to Jan-Justus Schmidt, an engineer working on the project, the electrolyzer achieves 80 percent efficiency, and oxygen and water are the only byproducts.

Jan-Justus Schmidt on the roof of one of the buildings.

While hydrogen power has plenty of skeptics due to cost, efficiency and safety issues, Schmidt says that the fuel cell system CNX has built is safe, and actually runs more efficiently than a similar setup utilizing only batteries. The concept was inspired by remote sites used in the communications industry that utilized a similar power system. The CNX team felt this system could be adapted to the residential context, and become a model, especially for homes located in remote areas.

Schmidt says that others have built homes with similar systems, but the Phi Suea home is using a system that’s more affordable and efficient.

“All the technologies used here are existing technologies,” says Schmidt. “There’s a 15-year return on these technologies, but the savings aren’t the point. We’re trying to show that these technologies, which exist right now, work.”

The electrolyzer and hydrogen fuel cell system of the Phi Suea House.

While the buildings were completed last year, the grand opening for the site, scheduled for January 29, will be the official beginning of the testing period for the new energy system. Over the next few months, sensors installed by researchers at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore will record data on energy performance, to verify if the Phi Suea Homes are living up to their promise.

A video that explains the energy storage system of Phi Suea House.

Credit: Patrick Sisson , Curbed.com

California Proposes Mandatory Solar Panels on New Homes

Fortunately, that’s not the only change in their building regulations.

The California Energy Commission has just changed the building standards to require solar photovoltaic systems on all houses built after January 1, 2020. Here I would cue up my usual response and say “reducing demand is more important than increasing supply” but they do that too; Insulation in walls and attics is increased, window performance is improved, LED lighting is mandated and ventilation is improved. Commissioner Andrew McAllister says:

The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy. They will cost less to operate, have healthy indoor air and provide a platform for ‘smart’ technologies that will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.

There are the usual objections that it will increase the cost of housing (estimated to be $9,500 per house) but California houses go up by that much every month due to land prices, President Trump’s tariff on Canadian lumber caused a 7 percent increase, and you probably heard the same thing when indoor plumbing became mandatory. At least energy savings from building efficiency and solar panels pay for themselves eventually. In the FAQ they write: “Based on a 30-year mortgage, the Energy Commission estimates that the standards will add about $40 per month for the average home, but save consumers $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

Lloyd Alter, Treehugger.com

Modern Low-Water Garden: 5 Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas

OK, so California isn’t the only state going through a water shortage. At least 30 states in the U.S. currently have some level of drought, ranging from “abnormally dry” conditions in Florida and Massachusetts to the “exceptional drought” currently happening in California and Nevada. (How’s your state faring? You can check using the NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor.)

If you live in more one of more than half of the states on the list, water conservation is probably a high priority for you, but honestly, conserving water doesn’t mean you have to live with a dry and neglected garden. And it’s not the only reason to swap your water-loving lawn for a more drought-tolerant landscape. Today’s low-water gardens aren’t just smart and in vogue; they’re downright gorgeous.

These 5 drought-tolerant landscaping ideas look so fresh and modern that they’re an inspiration — even if water conservation isn’t your first goal.

1. Replace your grass with artificial grass.

Grass is the largest water waster in the yard and it’s the most high maintenance item. On top of the watering there’s the mowing, mulching, aerating, fertilizing and re-seeding or re-sodding. Artificial grass doesn’t have to look like a neon green professional football field, either. There are a lot of realistic artificial grass options with varying amounts of multi-colored hatch.

2. Replace your grass with gravel and stone.

Artificial grass looks more like the real deal than ever before, but a gravel, stone and paver garden gives the garden a contemporary, minimalist look. It’s still low maintenance (and requires zero water) and is a great counterpoint to succulents and a fire pit.

3. Use succulents in your garden design ideas.

We can’t get enough of them and the way combining many different types in the same garden adds amazing texture and color.We’re particularly obsessed with aloe, burro’s tails, and hens and chicks.

4. Plant ornamental grasses.

Many types of grasses that aren’t your average green blanket lawn grasses are drought-tolerant and perfect for a low-water garden. Some of the most beautiful and low water ornamental grasses worth adding are:

  • Little Bluestem (grey-green blades that go to shades of purples and red)
  • Fountain Grass
  • Blue Oatgrass
  • Purple Fountaingrass
  • Blue Fescue
  • Pampas Grass

When planting grasses, mix it up: Use both tall and short grasses along with a few of the more colorful grasses thrown in for pop.

5. Add Color with flowers, go with perennials.

It’s possible to create a colorful drought-tolerant landscape simply by selecting the right assortment of succulents and colorful grasses. But if you love seeing flowers in your landscape, go for perennials that are sturdier and require less water:

  • Blanket flower (red, yellow and orange daisy-like flowers)
  • Russian Sage (fragrant, delicate silver leaves with fine lavender-color flowers)
  • Yarrow (normally yellow flowers, but there are other color varieties available)
  • Salvia (bold crimson-red blooms)
  • Lavender (fragrant and colorful)
  • Kangaroo Paw (exotic plant with beautiful, bright red, orange or yellow velvety flowers)

How lucky for us that drought-tolerant landscaping can be modern and inspiring? Which will you be trying in your backyard or landscape design? 

Credit: By Cynthia Bowman, FreshHome.com

Solar-Hydrogen House: No More Power Bills–Ever!

A New Jersey resident generates and stores all the power he needs with solar panels and hydrogen

EAST AMWELL, N.J.—Mike Strizki has not paid an electric, oil or gas bill—nor has he spent a nickel to fill up his Mercury Sable—in nearly two years. Instead, the 51-year-old civil engineer makes all the fuel he needs using a system he built in the capacious garage of his home, which employs photovoltaic (PV) panels to turn sunlight into electricity that is harnessed in turn to extract hydrogen from tap water.

“The ability to make your own fuel is priceless,” says the man known as “Mr. Gadget” to his friends. He boasts a collection of hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles, including a hydrogen-run lawn mower and car (the Sable, which he redesigned and named the “Genesis”) as well as an electric racing boat, and even an electric motorcycle. “All the technology is off-the-shelf. All I’m doing is putting them together.”

“I’m a self-sufficiency guy,” he adds. Strizki, a civil engineer, has been interested in alternative energy sources since 1997 when he began working on vehicles fueled by alternative means during his tenure with the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Strizki’s two-story colonial on an 11-acre (4.5 hectare) plot 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Trenton is the nation’s first private hydrogen-powered house, which he now shares with his wife, two dogs and a cat. (His two daughters and son, all in their 20s, have left the nest.) It has been running entirely on electricity generated from the sun and stored hydrogen since October 2006, when Strizki—in a project that his wife Ann fully supports—built an off-grid energy system with $100,000 of his own cash and $400,000 in grants from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, along with technology from companies such as Sharp, Swagelok and Proton Energy Systems.

The Strizki’s personalized home-energy system consists of 56 solar panels on his garage roof, and housed inside is a small electrolyzer (a device, about the size of a washing machine, that uses electricity to break down water into its component hydrogen and oxygen). There are 100 batteries for nighttime power needs along the garage’s inside wall; just outside are ten propane tanks (leftovers from the 1970s that are capable of storing 19,000 cubic feet, or 538 cubic meters, of hydrogen) as well as a Plug Power fuel cell stack (an electrochemical device that mixes hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and water) and a hydrogen refueling kit for the car.

On a typical summer day, the solar panels drink in and convert sunlight to about 90 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to Strizki. He consumes about 10 kilowatt-hours daily to run the family’s appliances, including a 50-inch plasma television, along with his three computers and stereo equipment, among other modern conveniences.

The remaining 80 kilowatt-hours recharge the batteries—which provide electricity for the house at night—and power the electrolyzer, which splits the molecules of purified tap water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented and the hydrogen goes into the tanks where it is stored for use in the cold, dark winter months. From November to March or so Strizki runs the stored hydrogen through the fuel cell stacks outside his garage or in his car to power his entire house—and the only waste product is water, which can be pumped right back into the system.

“I can make fuel out of sunlight and water—and I don’t even use the water,” he notes. “If it’s raining, it’s fuel. If it’s sunny, it’s fuel. It’s all fuel.”

The modular home—built in 1991—looks like a typical suburban house; its top-of-the-line insulation and energy-efficient windows look no different, and the facade hides the hydrogen-powered clothes dryer and geothermal system for heating and cooling, which pumps Freon gas underground to harvest heat in winter and cool in summer.

“Geothermal is another piece of free energy,” Strizki says, noting that he dug eight feet (2.4 meters) down into the granite under his home to take advantage of the constant 56-degree Fahrenheit (13-degree Celsius) temperature underground. In summer he can use the lower temperatures underground to cool his entire house, and in winter he can capture those warmer temperatures, supplementing them with a heat pump powered by electricity from hydrogen. “Nothing goes to waste.”

This year, Strizki is hardly running his $78,000 Hogen electrolyzer (manufactured by Proton Energy Systems in Connecticut, a company that makes hydrogen-generation equipment) because last year’s mild winter left him with full tanks. When he does turn it on, the excess hydrogen vents from a small pipe on the roof with the sound of an impolite burp.

That vented hydrogen speeds at 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour through the atmosphere on its way off the planet—one of only two gases, the other being helium, that escapes into space entirely because it is lighter than air. In fact, Strizki’s quarter-inch thick propane tanks weigh less when filled with hydrogen than when depleted.

Of course, hydrogen is a highly flammable gas, but its quick escape eases Strizki’s fears that it might ignite or explode. It “disperses faster than any other gas,” he notes. “Hydrogen won’t sit around waiting for a flame.”

The final piece of Strizki’s energy solution is dubbed “Genesis,” his $3-million aluminum Mercury Sable, one of 10 that carmaker Ford produced in the 1990s to test how well the lighter metal would fare in crash tests. Ford gave Strizki the special model to drive in the Tour de Sol solar car race in New Jersey in 2000. Strizki installed a 104-horsepower electric engine (compared with a Toyota Prius’s 44-horsepower motor) that can reach speeds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour. Pop the hood and next to the electric engine sit two fuel cell stacks that convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity, propelling the electric engine forward smoothly and quickly.

The car never competed because it was not ready in time, but the unique vehicle does hold the world record for farthest travel on a single charge: 401.5 miles (646.2 kilometers), a distance which Strizki drove in December 2001. Today, Genesis shares the road with a variety of less costly fuel cell cars: Honda’s new hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, which hit the market this week leasing for $600 a month, as well as the hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox test-vehicle fleet from General Motors—part of a pilot program that aims to determine how hydrogen cars might function in everyday life. Both the Japanese and U.S. automakers are betting that these nonpolluting cars will one day replace the internal combustion engine.

GM is committed to building a “mass volume” of its hydrogen fuel cell powered Equinoxes in coming years, according to Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development, but only if a way to refuel them exists. As it stands, the entire nation has just 122 hydrogen stations—compared with 170,000 gasoline and diesel stations.

This is part of the reason that not everyone is a fan of hydrogen. Former U.S. Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, a physicist, notes that it’s a waste of time and electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen instead of just using the electricity directly in an all-electric, plug-in hybrid car. The debate boils down to whether batteries or hydrogen are a better way to store and deliver electrical energy.

But Strizki argues that hydrogen offers benefits that batteries do not. For example, GE Global Research found that hydrogen might prove a better way to store electricity generated by renewable resources in remote areas—such as wind farms in North Dakota or solar arrays in New Mexico—than building expensive and costly electric transmission lines. Instead, the hydrogen generated in such locations could be pumped nationwide through existing natural gas pipelines, providing fuel for a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Regardless of whether those future vehicles are powered by hydrogen or rechargeable batteries, both would move using an electric motor that does not require polluting (and newly expensive) fossil fuels. And they would come with another important extra benefit: the batteries or hydrogen fuel cells that run the car could also serve as a backup energy source for the home. “I can plug this car into my home and run it,” Strizki notes.

Strizki is now working to bring the price down enough to make homes powered by the sun and hydrogen affordable for average consumers. He says that he can build a solar-hydrogen system for as little as $90,000, thanks to dipping costs for solar panels and lessons learned in building his home. Even at that price, however, the off-grid system would be expensive compared with annual electric bills in New Jersey that average $1,500, although that number has been increasing every year, including a jump of as much as 17 percent this year.

But add gasoline costs to that—which average more than $3,000 annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—and the price becomes more reasonable, particularly because the EIA figures were calculated back when gasoline was $2 per gallon rather than the present $4. “It didn’t make sense when gas was $1 but now at $4? A lot of things that didn’t make sense, now make a lot of sense,” Strizki says.

He is already overseeing construction of the second such home-energy system—estimated to cost $150,000—for a wealthy client in the Caribbean.

The backyard tinkerer is also working with several potential clients to construct off-grid homes in New Jersey, New York State and even Colorado, and has quit his most recent job as an installer of solar energy systems to concentrate full-time on the company he co-founded to promote the homes: Renewable Energy International. The key to bringing the price down will be newer, better generations of the component technology, particularly the electrolyzer. Fuel cell manufacturers such as ReliOn in Spokane, Wash., are already taking a page from the computer industry—employing removable individual fuel cells, known as “blades,” similar to the computer blades in data centers, that can be changed individually if problems occur.

Ultimately, this suburban home may become the first of a coming hydrogen-electric economy—one that eliminates or sharply reduces the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change—or merely another technological dead end, like Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome or dymaxion car.

“The only way to get a zero-carbon footprint is to grab the big power plant in the sky,” Strizki says. “Maybe [the solar-hydrogen house] is too expensive, maybe not as efficient as they like, but no one is saying it doesn’t work.”

Credit: David Biello , Scientific America

Prefabricated Homes Go Back to the Future

This Richmond extension takes on the best elements of modular building. Picture: Tom Ross / Archiblox

There’s been a bit of buzz about prefab housing lately, but what’s all the fuss about really?

In last week’s episode of Future Homes we met Richard, who built a gorgeous prefabricated Avalon home overlooking the beach with his wife Jackie three years ago.

We’ve heard that modern pre-fab building is making waves in the building industry, but what are the real differences between a prefab build and a ‘normal’ build? And why should you consider going prefab for your next big project?

Fast build times

A modern living space could be yours in a fraction of the time. Picture: Tom Ross / Archiblox

Although prefabricated homes seem futuristic, they have been built in Australia for hundreds of years.

Indeed some of our oldest standing buildings are prefab! One of Melbourne’s oldest still-standing homes, that of Governor Charles La Trobe, was prefabricated in England and brought to where it still stands in King’s Domain in 1839.

But, as you’d expect, the building materials have improved significantly – enabling average build-times to shrink to a fraction of what they are for other builds.

As the name suggests, prefabricated houses are largely constructed off-site. The pieces are then put together in a matter of weeks instead of many months, as is the case with traditional builds.

Bill McCorkell, founder of Archiblox, who built the home for Richard, says “through smart design and clever construction the prefabrication process minimises wastage and maximises efficiency to deliver a beautifully designed, cost-effective home.”

Archiblox quote a 12 week build-time for a standard three-bedroom home (depending on complexity), saving unnecessary delays that can accompany a traditional architect-designed build.

They’re moveable & re-arrangeable

Richard’s Avalon home was built quickly and smartly. Picture: Archiblox

Prefab homes throughout history have enabled people to move to an area, set up their home, and then move on – if necessary.

It’s one of Richard’s favourite elements of his home: “I’m incredibly transient, so the thought of being able to take my home with me if we find another spot we’d like to be, is a comforting thought and an economical choice.”

So if you spot your dream plot of land, it could be as easy as picking up and moving your prefab home instead of worrying about finding a brand new place.

The benefit to this is not just that you can move locations, but you can re-arrange the home later on, if necessary.

Bill says: “Our prefabricated modular homes are like jigsaw puzzles, you can start small and overtime add more modules to create more space.”

They cost less

Due to the nature of the factory build, costs can be brought down significantly.

There’s no need to worry about budget blow-outs that bad weather can bring or unexpected issues and errors that come with working on a building site.

Christine McCorkell from Archiblox says prices for standard modular homes start from $2,500 – $3,500 per square metre.

Well-considered spaces with tonnes of hidden benefits. Picture: Tom Ross / Archiblox

The cost benefit is also seen at the end of the project with far fewer nasty surprises at the end of a modular build than that of a traditional build.

Less time building also means less time paying for short-term accommodation too.

Christine says: “The big reduction, lies in the soft or holding costs, such as rent and financing. For instance, homeowners only need to find alternative accommodation for a significantly shorter, pre-defined period – several weeks instead of months.

“This means far less outlay – upwards of $30,000 to $50,000 – to say nothing of the decreased disruption. If you need to borrow money, it is also for a much shorter period.”

They’re more sustainable

Thanks again to the factory-build environment there’s less wastage with pre-fab building.

The modern design helps too, according to Bill, who regularly create homes with eight-star energy ratings. “Our smart sustainable designs create prefabricated modular homes for longevity and healthy living,” he explains.

“We have much better resources to pick out building supplies for our design,” Bill says. “From the start, we designed this particular structure to maximise materials and minimise waste.”

“Archiblox designs homes and buildings to sit in harmony with your site.”

Consideration is also applied to optimising thermal mass, solar passive designs, double-glazing all windows and installing light-coloured roofing materials.

Credit: Erinna Giblin

New Indoor Stadium & Sports Complex For Thousand Palms

Thousand Palms Plan for 12,000-Seat Indoor Stadium and Sports Complex Now in Place

Who: The plan is proposed by the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority, a group founded by J. David Miller the founder and coach of the SoCal Coyotes football team.

What: A $300 million, 12,000-seat indoor stadium and sports complex which includes a hotel, medical facilities, retail and senior-living opportunities

Where: The vacant land in Thousand Palms between the Classic Club golf course and Interstate 10.

Why: The goal is to be part of the booming youth sports industry, hosting camps, tournaments, and the like, while also being a venue for the SoCal Coyotes and perhaps a pro soccer team. Local high schools would be able to use the facilities as well.

Plan for 12,000-seat indoor stadium and sports complex in Thousand Palms in place

A 12,000 seat indoor stadium is in the works and would be located in Thousand Palms. Palak Barmaiya/The Desert Sun

(Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun and Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun)

Thursday morning a group called the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority will announce plans to build a $300 million, 12,000-seat mixed-use stadium in Thousand Palms.

David Miller, the founder and coach of the SoCal Coyotes developmental football team in the desert, launched the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority (CSESA) with the goal of creating this sprawling facility.

The proposed sports complex would include a hotel, medical facilities, a senior living village and retail and be located on 125 acres of land owned by the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation in the area between The Classic Club golf course and Interstate 10.

It will be called The Shield at 1Coyote Way, and its primary focus will be to offer a place to allow the desert to be a player in the $15.3 billion youth sports industry, hosting camps, conferences, tournaments and championship games, etc.

“If this goes through as planned – and it’s no longer just a plan – the entire community will benefit for years to come,” said Miller, whose group will make the official announcement of the project during the first Coachella Valley Sports Tourism Summit on Thursday morning at Fantasy Springs Resort. “It had to be a perfect storm, a perfect vortex.  There had to be the perfect demand for sports tourism, the perfect growth of the valley, the perfect economic conditions for the valley and even the right politicians in office both Democrat and Republican. It all came together.”

And Miller has brought in a team that he believes will help make this vision a reality.

More: A new indoor sports arena in the desert? Here are 10 ways it could be put to use

This rendering if of The Star, a sports complex in Frisco, Texas after which The Shield in Thousand Palms will be patterned. (Photo: Contributed)

 The land where The Shield will be built is owned by the Berger Foundation, and they’ve agreed to sell it to Richmond Honan Development and Acquisitions LLC, a firm based out of Alpharetta, Georgia, whose primary efforts to this point during their 42-year history have been building sprawling hospital complexes.

The Berger Foundation, which, according to its website supports organizations who promote health care, social services and education in an effort to help people help themselves, has been wanting to do something big with this plot of land for years but never found the right project until Miller and his group came around.

According to Doug Vance, vice president of Real Estate at the Berger Foundation, when they purchased the land in 2003 the original idea was to build a university on it, but that did not pan out.

“There’s been many other potential investors that have come along over the years and nothing ever seemed to exactly fit,” Vance said. “But when Coach Miller brought The Shield concept to the Berger Foundation with all the charitable things he does for the children here in the Coachella Valley, we were very interested and then when we looked into Richmond Honan as a developer they also had the same goals and interests that we do to help the community.”

Vance said that he could not disclose the details of the purchase price at this time, but did indicate that the Berger Foundation is trying to “help out on a financial basis by discounting the land to make it truly come to fruition.”

The proposed site for a large sports complex on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 in Palm Desert.

(Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

 According to Miller’s proposal, The Shield will be completed in 2021 and will feature a 12,000-seat air-conditioned indoor stadium, a 120-room hotel, medical and senior living facilities and also be the home to the SoCal Coyotes football team. In addition, discussions are in place to bring a pro soccer team to the facility.

The East Valley Coalition including Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez commissioned CSESA to study sports tourism in the Coachella Valley.  Miller and his team learned about and visited similar facilities that already exist and are doing well across the country.

A campus called The Star in Frisco, Texas, which partly houses the Dallas Cowboys headquarters was used as a model, but a better comparison to the desert might be the Grand Park Sports Campus that was completed in 2015 in Westfield, Indiana. And it’s a success story.

The population of the town (around 850,000) and the site (a little town surrounded by agriculture fields) are similar to the desert’s. The town of Westfield issued $70 million in bonds to build the campus, a 400-acre complex that opened in 2014 and includes 31 grass and synthetic fields for soccer, lacrosse and other field sports, 26 softball and baseball diamonds and a 370,000 square foot indoor facility. New hotels and retail outlets followed. According to the study, in 2016, Grand Park attracted 1.2 million visitors resulting in $145 million in tourism spending.

Similar success stories in the report came from Colorado, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi and Walnut Creek, California.

Curt Pesmen, part of the CSESA team as the national director, strategic media, became friends with Miller 20 years ago when they worked on the same magazine. Pesmen said that while every project of this magnitude finds stumbling blocks along the way, he is confident that The Shield can have a positive impact on the community similar to what they’ve seen in Westfield, Indiana, for example.

View of the proposed site for a large sports complex on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 in Palm Desert. The land is located between the Classic Club and the I-10.
(Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun and O)

“A project of this size, and remember it’s not just a stadium, it’s a campus, is bound to have some bumps along the way, but early indications are that there is broad support for each piece of the puzzle in this case,” said Pesmen, who is with BoCo Media based out of Colorado. “I’m optimistic but realistic, and if and when some of those stumbling blocks occur, all the players in this case like Richmond Honan have all kinds of expertise and experience to get over some of those obstacles.”

The origin of his vision came when Miller’s developmental football team couldn’t find a place to play in the desert. They bounced around to different high school football fields like Palm Springs and Xavier Prep. They played in Anza, and they even played on a golf course one time at Desert Princess.

Miller decided that rather than complain about the situation he would try to do something about it. He started on a mission to create a place in the desert that could house everything from a pro sporting event, to youth clinics and also create a place for families to come and have fun with rock walls and eateries without spending much money.

The other driving force for this project, according to Miller, is God. Faith plays a large role in everything Miller does. The name Shield comes from a biblical passage Proverbs Chapter 30, verse 5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

This rendering if of The Star, a sports complex in Frisco, Texas
after which The Shield in Thousand Palms will be patterned. 
(Photo: Contributed)

 Miller said every step of the way he would pray about whether or not to continue.

“Whenever I thought to myself this is the end of it, it’s not going to happen, I would pray for a sign. I would say ‘God, if we’re not supposed to build this stadium, shut this down, shut the whole thing down, shut the Coyotes down. Shut it all down.’ And then Boom! A new door would open and the next piece to the puzzle would be there right in front of us,” Miller said. “And that happened again and again and again. You can not take God out of this equation and just write about a building. I mean, I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be the truth.”

In the past decade, developers have proposed – and sometimes built – large sports and entertainment complexes in the desert.

About seven years ago, a group of investors proposed building a racetrack on unincorporated land south of Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport. When the project appeared to stall, couple Tim and Twanna Rogers bought the property instead. As of March, the pair had invested $150 million of their own money so far to build Thermal Club, a 344-acre private racetrack and housing development.

But other pitches for gleaming venues have not taken off.

In 2015, for example, real estate company Saxony Group proposed turning a former Sam’s Club site in La Quinta into a convention center capable of hosting a crowd of up to 10,300 people at a time, touting the property as the future home of music festivals and parties. The plan never advanced, and the old Sam’s Club recently sold after sitting vacant for eight years.

How confident is this group in this case?

“I want to say 100 percent, but you can never really say that,” Vance said. “But this Shield proposal is the best I’ve seen in my years with the foundation (since 1990) and I’m confident with the team and partners that Coach Miller has.

“We’ve done a lot of analysis on these people. We know they’re for real. We know they have the lord on their side. This is a marriage with a non-profit and someone that wants to do good in the community and for the children and I believe it will work and we’ll make sure it works. They have our full support throughout the development of the project.”

Credit: Shad Powers and Amy DiPierro, Palm Springs Desert Sun

Local History: Before Santa Monica Airport, There Was Clover Field

Before “Cloverfield” was a monster, it was an airfield. As early as 1917, aviators were landing atop a mesa just southeast of Santa Monica, touching their wheels down on a narrow, grassy strip surrounded by stalks of barley.

Circa 1924 view of Clover Field in Santa Monica. | Courtesy of the USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection.

Soon the primitive runway became a military airfield, and in 1922 the U.S. Army named it Clover Field in honor of Greayer Clover, a local fighter pilot killed in France during the First World War. Since then the site has served many purposes. First it was the western headquarters of the Army’s reserve air corps, and later Douglas Aircraft produced its famous line of DC planes there. The City of Santa Monica purchased the parcel in 1926 – a transaction championed by businessman Frank Bundy, whose namesake avenue appropriately leads there – and turned it into a municipal airport.

Today, it’s the source of intense local concerns about noise and safety. (Actor Harrison Ford notably crashed his vintage plane into a golf course shortly after takeoff in 2015.) It’s almost certainly doomed to close in 2028, under the terms of a consent decree between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration.

When it does, the airport will be remembered as the location of many milestones in aviation history:

On March 17, 1924, a fleet of four Douglas World Cruisers, manned by U.S. Army aviators, took off from Clover Field. On Sept. 23, two of the pioneering planes returned, completing the first aerial circumnavigation of the world.

Five years later, the airfield hosted the start of the Women’s Air Derby. Nineteen of the world’s best female aviators – including its most famous, Toluca Lake resident Amelia Earhart – took off from Santa Monica on Aug. 18, 1929, racing their way to Cleveland, Ohio. The winner, Louise Thaden, completed the journey in 20 hours, 19 minutes.

And on July 1, 1933, the maiden flight of Douglas’s prototype DC-1 airliner, with its streamline design and comfortable, noise-insulated cabin, inaugurated the age of modern passenger air travel.

It hasn’t been known officially as Clover Field since 1927, when the City of Santa Monica, furious that radio announcers were referring to it as “Clover Field, Los Angeles,” insisted the airport’s name reflect its new ownership. That was long before producer J.J. Abrams reportedly borrowed the title for his 2008 sci-fi monster film from a freeway sign for Cloverfield Blvd – a street that once led to the barley field where biplanes landed.

When the City of Santa Monica purchased Clove Field, it turned some of the property into the Clover Field Golf Course, seen here in July 1928. Later, airport expansion claimed the course. | Photo courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection, USC Libraries.
Ruth Elder (center) was among the 19 participants in the 1929 Women’s Air Derby from Santa Monica to Cleveland. | Photo from the Sept. 1929 issue of the U.S. Air Services newspaper.
An admission ticket to the March 16, 1924, event marking the start of the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe.
For many years, Donald Douglas’ aviation company was a major presence at Clover Field. Page from the July 1926 issue of the U.S. Air Services newspaper.
  • Credit: Nathan Masters, KCET
  • Photo Credits: California Historical Society Collection, USC Libraries

Why It’s Smart To Consider Buying A Fixer-Upper

With a little editing, this could have GREAT curb appeal. remove old hedges, awnings shutters, and update with a modern color scheme.

If you’re in the market for a new home and searching the listings diligently, you’ve probably noticed the description “move-in ready.” This is the listing agent’s way of saying the house doesn’t need any work. Just bring your stuff in, and you’re all set.

But how many home-buyers purchase a new place and keep everything the same? Even if every wall has a fresh coat of paint, there’s new carpeting on every floor and all the bathrooms have been updated, what are the chances that the new owner won’t change some detail? Just because things are updated doesn’t mean every single aspect of the home is going to be to the buyer’s tastes.

That’s part of the reason it might be a smart real estate move to consider buying a “fixer-upper” — a house that’s decidedly not move-in ready, one that needs some work. It can be similar to building a brand-new house to your own specifications: You get to be the one to choose wall colors, carpeting and tile styles, window coverings, etc. — not the previous owner.

And this is not something to be underestimated. A person might buy a new house with color schemes that they can live with, but maybe don’t love. But because the decor is newer, they are reluctant to replace it. Because it’s not necessary, they settle for living with something they don’t love.

This could be great, but you anything, there are amazing hardwoods under those original carpets. Remove that dated wallpaper and paint.

On top of that, the buyer might be paying a premium for something they don’t love. If a seller has redecorated or improved the whole place, that seller is reaping the benefit. If the home’s value has been raised, the buyer is paying for it. Also, consider this reality: A seller who re-does a whole house in order to sell is not likely putting in the highest-quality materials. They’re cutting costs to maximize profit.

But if you buy a fixer-upper, you might be able to secure an undervalued property, improve it and get the benefit of the extra equity. It’s a core real estate concept. If you can find the right property, this could mean thousands of dollars almost immediately. And because you’re the one choosing what materials are used, you could be getting this instant equity and your dream home all in one package.

Strange color scheme and layout, but even this could be updated to todays standards..

This concept is especially true if you are willing and able to do some or all of the work yourself. The term “sweat equity” is exactly what it sounds like: You can improve the value of a home, increasing your equity by working on it yourself. And the more you can do yourself, the greater the value of your sweat equity.

Painting is probably the minimum you should be able to tackle on your own. If you can’t or aren’t willing to roll some paint on some walls, then maybe a fixer-upper isn’t for you. But if you can also lay tile, change light fixtures, fix toilets, tear down wallpaper — maybe even install drywall or carpeting — by yourself or with friends to avoid hiring help, you can save substantial amounts of labor costs. When you buy a fixer-upper, every hour of your own labor can be like putting money in your own pocket.

So remember: When you’re browsing those home listings, “move-in ready” may sound good, but you might not want to ignore those fixer-upper listings. The combination of control and cost savings — especially if you can address your preferred updates yourself — could be extremely valuable.

Credit: Abhi Golhar, Forbes Real Estate Council

How Technology is Changing Home Design

Technology is transforming current Architecture and Interior Design concepts.  A new home design by New York’s Steven Holl Architects illustrates some of these new trends. The home is designed to be self-sufficient, drawing power from geothermal and solar energy, with thin-film photovoltaic cells connected to a battery energy storage system. The home’s wood and glass are locally-sourced, lowering the carbon footprint of the construction process. All interior fixtures are made from 3D-printed materials.

This combination of sustainability, 3D-printed construction and alternative materials illustrates three trends that are driving changes in home design. Along with connectivity to the Internet of Things, these trends are playing a role in reshaping the look of tomorrow’s home.

Sustainable Home Design

Demand for sustainability and resiliency is one of the biggest trends driving home design. In addition to concern for the environment and cutting energy costs, recent hurricane disasters have contributed to demand for homes that are resilient to the worst weather conditions; homes like this in Mississippi which was designed and rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.

To achieve this, home builders are incorporating a number of guidelines for designing home exteriors and interiors. For example, wider exterior wall studs and Energy Star-rated windows promote better insulation. Extra windows, skylights and light tubes support passive heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. Concern for energy conservation is favoring energy-efficient choices for water heaters, heating and cooling systems, light fixtures, and appliances. Concern for water conservation is reshaping kitchen and bathroom design to favor water-saver faucets and shower heads and low-flow toilets.

Until we find a way to print 3-d flooring, rest assured sustainability is a Carlisle cornerstone, from our harvesting methods for the raw materials to our recycling practices post production and the overall life cycle of a Carlisle floors in a space.  We like to think we were doing it “before it was cool” and you can learn more about Carlisle’s sustainability practices here.

3-D Printed Construction

Three-dimensional printing is another trend reshaping home design. The prospect of using 3-D printing for homes gained attention when Chinese firm Huashang Tengda built the world’s first 3D-printed home in 45 days using special reinforced concrete.  As this technology progresses, you want to make sure the interior design products, like your floor covering, is compatible with this type of structure and sub-floor.  You can learn more about Carlisle wide plank floors and installing to concrete here.

Chicago’s WATG Urban Architecture Studios has pioneered the application of design principles to 3-D printing with an award-winning innovative home called “Curve Appeal.” Inspired by the natural look of a cave, the home uses a curving, arcing structure that is composed of 3D-printed plastic and carbon-fiber panels that form an exterior skin and interior core.

Transparent glass forms many of the walls to minimize artificial lighting needs, and semi-translucent glazed pillars form interior support columns, making the home look like a giant curved bubble or glass cave. The materials enable the building to follow a free-form, curving layout, which illustrates how 3-D printing opens up design possibilities that would be more difficult with traditional materials.

Alternative Materials

The demand for sustainable materials and the use of 3D-printed materials are contributing to a trend toward alternative materials for construction and design of interior and exterior products.

Sustainability concerns are promoting the use of materials such as reclaimed wood, particleboard and plywood that are made of formaldehyde-free low volatile organic compounds, and recycled plastic. Sprayed foam, concrete, plastic and carbon fiber can be 3-D printed.

Furniture designers also are using alternative materials. For instance, Dutch designer Lillian van Daal has used 3-D printing to create a chairthat imitates the natural structure of organic tissue, making it easier to recycle than traditional compound materials.

Reclaimed wood floors  are increasingly popular, as are locally sourced wood floors, which are manufacturing within a 500 mile radius of a project) since they can be applied to LEED motivated projects and help contribute toward point potential.  These products can also be used for wall and ceiling paneling both inside and outside the home as well to make the home even more environmentally friendly, like this project from Design+Build by South Swell, in Southern California.  They used barnwood on the interior ceiling and exterior to give this Lifeguard house a very authentic, aged appearance.


Internet of Things

Photo by Design+, Build by South Swell

Look for contemporary exterior design inspiration Concurrent with these other trends is the emergence of smart homes that are connected to the Internet of Things. Smart home technology use is projected to double in 2016 to include 30 million Americans by 2017, according to August Home and Xfinity Home project. In smart homes, systems such as entertainment, security and HVAC can all be controlled by a smartphone, with connected TVs serving as a central display screen.

Home designers are building around this anticipated smart home expansion. The Openarch project has designed smart walls and floors that let any surface serve as a screen for TV, movies, apps, video chat or video games. Devices such as thermostats and appliances are being built into walls and other surfaces, promoting a sleeker, more streamlined look. IKEA has begun selling furniture with charging stations for wireless devices built in.

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Looking for more ideas to incorporate the internet of things to your home for added safety, security and convenience, check out these tips.

credit: WidePlankFlooring.com all images belong to originators