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

5 Reasons Why We Can’t Stop Loving Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Seeing mid-century modern architecture is always a delight for the eye. There is always a mix feeling of luxury and elegance that totally amazes us!

Although Mid-Century Modern Architecture wasn’t always a thing, since Cara Greenberg reaffirmed it, it has been growing and catching more and more supporters throughout the years. There is no doubt that mid-century inspiration is our long-term sweetheart, and now that it’s really on trend, we encourage you to know this style and embrace it, because it’s here to stay and certainly to make a statement.


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1 | This style is timeless. Generation after generation, it will never be unfashionable. There is always a place for Mid-Century Modern and you can never go wrong with it.

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2 | When you see this kind of style, you instantly sense some kind of mystery. It seems like this architecture is almost trying to tell us a story. Extensive use of glass, changes in elevation and open design concepts are key points that make this style so unique.  It is also very mysterious because the partial walls or cabinets of varying heights that create different depths.

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3 | The way this architecture allows light to enter the rooms from multiple angles is what makes it so magical. It instantly connects us to nature and creates a beautiful relaxing place.

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4 | When people think about colors, they often think of the bright hues of the mid-century time period, because it was an epoch where everything was very visual and colorful. There’s always a bunch of beautiful designs and pieces that come to mind when you remember this era.

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5 | In this style, all items should have clean lines, because is required to ‘keep it simple, but stylish‘. Tons of excess and a bunch of ornate embellishments simply don’t combine with Mid-Century Modern.

There are a lot of other reasons why we love and feel inspired by the Mid-Century Modern Architecture, but we think these 5 reasons are enough for you to feel the same way! Maybe it’s time to redecorate your house, don’t you think?

Credit: EssentialHome.eu

Take Your Lower Property Tax Rate To Your New Home!

Under Proposition 60, California homeowners 55 and older get a one-time chance to sell their primary residence and transfer its property-tax assessment to a new one, but the market value of the new home generally must be equal to or less than the market value of the old home.

Prop. 60 was designed to help longtime California homeowners who want to downsize but don’t want to give up the low property-tax assessment they enjoy in their existing home.

Under Proposition 13, homes are reassessed for property-tax purposes when there is a change in ownership or new construction. In between ownership changes, the assessed value can go up by an inflation rate not to exceed 2 percent a year. (Homeowners can get temporary reductions when property values go down.)

With the dramatic increase in California home prices, many longtime homeowners would face a big property-tax increase even if they bought a smaller home.

Prop. 60 lets homeowners 55 or older transfer their base-year value from an existing primary residence to a new primary residence, but there are restrictions.

The new home must be in the same county as the old one or in one of eight counties that accept transfers of base-year value from other counties.

Also, the new home must be purchased or built within two years – before or after – the sale of the original property.

If the new house is purchased before the old house is sold, the market value of the new house on its purchase date cannot exceed 100 percent of the old home’s market value on the date it is sold.

If Brad could afford to hold on to his existing home and it appreciates to more than the value of the new house and he sold the first house within two years, he could qualify for a Prop. 60 transfer.

Suppose his existing home is worth $500,000. On Aug. 1, he buys a new larger home for $600,000.

He holds on to the first home, San Francisco property values go through the roof, and two years later it is worth $610,000. He could sell the first home before Aug. 1, 2014, and retroactively transfer his old property-tax assessment to his new home, even if the new home’s value has climbed above $610,000.

What if a homeowner sells the existing house before purchasing a new one?

To give the homeowner a cushion for inflation, the value of the replacement house must be 105 percent or less than the value of the original house if the new home is purchased within one year or 110 percent of the first home’s value if the replacement home is purchased in the second year after the sale of the original property.

Bradley Marsh, an attorney with Winston & Strawn, warns “there are a lot of pitfalls” with this tax break.

“Just because you sold one place for $700,000 and bought another for $695,000 doesn’t mean you will” qualify, Marsh says. Assessors may challenge whether the sales price equals the market value. They don’t always.

If you exceed the cutoff by even a dollar, you lose the entire Prop. 60 transfer, Marsh says.

Marsh notes that the market value of a home excludes personal property such as a washer, dryer or hot tub. If such items are included in a purchase or sale, the homeowner might (or might not) want to make a note of their value in the contract.

As of Jan. 1, the eight counties that will transfer property tax assessments from other counties are Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura.

“If you are moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you can’t transfer” your old value but if you are moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you can, assuming you meet all the other requirements, says Francis Nguyen, deputy director at the San Francisco assessor-recorder office.

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Rams-Chargers Stadium Construction in Inglewood is at 40% Completion

The future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers football teams has hit a major construction milestone.

Today, the Inglewood project “topped out,” a term that’s used to signify that the highest steel beam on the stadium has been put into place.

The project is now nearly 40 percent complete. Concrete columns and other elements that will eventually support the shiny, transparent roof canopy are being installed at the site now.

Not yet installed is the 120-yard video screen, Oculus, which will run along the top of the field, just under the roofline.

The stadium, projected to cost $2.6 billion, is on track to open in summer 2020, according to the LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, as the 298-acre property containing the future stadium and the vast neighborhood that will spring up around it is called. The community is scheduled to open in phases, starting in 2020.

Not long after it opens, the stadium will be thrust into the national spotlight, not only as the largest and most expensive football stadium to date, but also as the host of the 2022 Super Bowl (not the 2021 event, as once planned).

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the community around the stadium would open in 2023. It will open in stages, starting in 2020.

Credit:  LA Stadium and Entertainment District; Curb.com, Photo Credit: Hiro Ueno.

Beach Cities Fireworks Viewing from North to South

This spot in Malibu is a great place to see all the fireworks that rich people will be launching from their boats.

Credit: mikepmiller

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  • Palisades Charter High, Pacific Palisades

  • 15777 Bowdoin St
    Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
  • (310) 230-6623
  • Open in Google Maps

A concert and fireworks show follows the annual Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade. The parade is free; tickets to see the music and fireworks are $10.

Credit: Unknown

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  • Ballona Creek Bike Path, Marina del Rey

  • Ballona Creek
    Marina del Rey, CA 90232
  • Open in Google Maps

Bike to Fisherman’s Village or Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey, where there are official viewing spots, or continue along the path toward the bridge that crosses the creek for excellent views of the fireworks. Bring a radio and tune into KXLU (88.9 FM): The synchronized music will be playing over the air. The show is on a barge on the water, and it starts at 9 p.m.

Credit: Focqus

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  • Stevenson Field, El Segundo

  • 408 Eucalyptus Dr
    El Segundo, CA 90245
  • (310) 524-2300
  • Open in Google Maps

El Segundo’s Fourth of July celebration goes on for most of the day and culminates with music and fireworks in the evening. Tickets are $5.

Credit: Unknown

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  • Toyota Sports Complex, Torrance

  • 555 Maple Ave
    Torrance, CA 90503
  • (310) 618-5982
  • Open in Google Maps

In Torrance, fireworks can be seen from grandstand seating at the courthouse on Maple Avenue, or at the neighboring Toyota Sports Complex. Admission is free, but guests will need to pick up tickets in advance.

Credit: Unknown

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  • Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro

  • 3800 Stephen M White Dr
    San Pedro, CA 90731
  • (310) 732-3480
  • Open in Google Maps

San Pedro hosts an excellent—and free—fireworks show at the Port of LA at 9 p.m. If you want to view the show from the water, the Los Angeles Maritime Institute offers a Fourth of July sail on a tall ship ($60 for adults/$30 for kids).

Credit: Unknown

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  • The Queen Mary, Long Beach

  • 1126 Queens Hwy
    Long Beach, CA 90802
  • (562) 499-1701
  • Open in Google Maps

An English ocean liner might seem like an odd place to celebrate American independence, but those looking for an up-close view of a great fireworks show could do far worse than the Queen Mary’s Fourth of July festivities. Tickets start at $44. If that’s too much, the fireworks can be easily seen from nearby Alamitos Beach.

Credit: Garo Manjikian

Source: Visit Curbed.com for an interactive map for all of Los Angeles