The House on the Cliff by GilBartolome Architects, in Granada, Spain is buried into the side of a cliff. It has a concrete roof that is 16 inches thick that “allows for a magnificent mix of insulation and thermal inertia.” It maintains an interior temperature of 19.5°C [67°F] year round without additional heating or cooling.
The construction of the House on the Cliff relies heavily on craftsmanship and local labor. The house was to be built during the worst possible financial crisis on Spain, with 26% of unemployment in our country, and close to 36% unemployment rates in the region where the house was built. In this social context we decided to avoid machine made industrial construction systems and develop an architecture that is based on many hours of labor.
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Great graphic from U.S. Department of Energy on everything you need to know about home heating.
Did you know that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes? The US Department of Energy provides “Energy Saver” tips and advice on ways consumers can reduce your heating and cooling costs and it all starts with the right contractor!
STEP 1: START WITH THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR
Not all contractors are the same. Some concentrate on kitchens, some on bathrooms. Some concentrate on home energy upgrades — focusing on ways to make your home comfortable, energy efficient and healthy. Look for companies that employ workers who carry the national Home Energy Professional Certifications. A home performance contractor will have a certified auditor either on staff or under contract to evaluate your home.
STEP 2: GET A THOROUGH HOME ENERGY AUDIT
A home performance evaluation, or energy audit, requires specialized equipment and trained individuals — called energy auditors — to operate that equipment. Energy auditors who carry a Home Energy Professional Certification have met the required professional and educational prerequisites and are certified to the highest standard in the industry, proving they are qualified to conduct a home performance evaluation.
The most important piece of equipment an energy auditor operates is called a blower door, which is used to determine where air is leaking out of your home. If you followed the auditor around while the blower door is running, you might be surprised at what you’d find. Air leaking through face plates on switches and outlets, and escaping around doors, windows, pipes, and under sinks … and all of these places add up. Put them all together and you could have a space the size of a bathroom window — maybe even bigger — that’s constantly open. The blower door test is a good way to learn why your house isn’t comfortable.
In addition to the blower door, certified energy auditors use tools — such as gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, kill-a-watt meters and lead-safe testing kits — to give your home a thorough evaluation.
Be sure to ask if your auditor is certified and what equipment will be used for the evaluation. If your auditor is just going to walk through your house and estimate what work needs to be done, you don’t have an experienced home performance contractor. Ask if you can shadow the auditor during the evaluation — most will welcome the chance to teach you about your home.
STEP 3: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
While all homes are different and need to be evaluated based on their own unique characteristics, most dwellings can benefit from similar types of improvements. Before your energy audit begins, be sure to ask your home energy upgrade contractor about the following things. Some of the upgrades you could do yourself, like replacing a refrigerator or installing a programmable thermostat, provided you know those are significant sources of energy loss.
The famous, and some would say infamous, heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne was a plumber’s apprentice and on his way to becoming a plumber himself before turning his attention to Rock & Roll.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Before becoming a comedic legend, Fatty Arbuckle worked odd jobs and was discovered by film producer Mack Sennett when he came to clean his drains in 1913.
The Oscar nominated actor who starred in such films as Hook and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was a plumber’s assistant before his movie career took off. He also played a plumber in the movie “Super Mario Bros.”
That’s right. Batman’s butler and Academy Award winning actor Michael Caine was a plumber’s assistant and was actively looking for an apprenticeship before his movie career blossomed.
John L. Sullivan
John L. Sullivan is often referred to as America’s first sports celebrity. He worked as an assistant plumber. A bio on www.boxing.com states that he worked as a plumber to “pursue some of the things he loved best, like drinking, carousing and fighting.”
The guitarist from the band Small Faces (and later Faces when Rod Steward and Ronnie Wood joined), was a plumber who used his income to purchase his first guitar. Shortly after that he started his first band and went on to become one of the UK’s most influential rock and psychedelic guitarists of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Famed singer Joe Cocker, who played at Woodstock and turned the Beatles tune “With a Little Help from My Friends” into a generational anthem, was a working class guy from Sheffield, England. He initially worked in the plumbing trade and was an apprentice gasfitter for British Gas while also pursuing a career in music.
The creator and star of Lord of the Dance, Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley owned his own plumbing outfit, Dynasty Plumbing.
Okay, the truth is that this famous theoretical physicist and former patent clerk was not a plumber, but not because he didn’t dream of being one. In a quote attributed to him by Forbes magazine, Einstein once said: “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”
1758 All liquid evaporation has a cooling effect. Benjamin “I invented everything” Franklin and Cambridge University professor John Hadley discover that evaporation of alcohol and other volatile liquids, which evaporate faster than water, can cool down an object enough to freeze water.
1820 Inventor Michael Faraday makes the same discovery in England when he compresses and liquifies ammonia.
1830s At the Florida hospital where he works, Dr. John Gorrie builds an ice-making machine that uses compression to make buckets of ice and then blows air over them. He patents the idea in 1851, imagining his invention cooling buildings all over the world. But without any financial backing, his dream melts away.
1881 After an assassin shoots President James Garfield on July 2, naval engineers build a boxy makeshift cooling unit to keep him cool and comfortable. The device is filled with water-soaked cloth and a fan blows hot air overhead and keeps cool air closer to the ground. The good news: This device can lower room temperature by up to 20 F. The bad news: It uses a half-million pounds of ice in two months… and President Garfield still dies.
1902 Willis Carrier invents the Apparatus for Treating Air for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. The machine blows air over cold coils to control room temperature and humidity, keeping paper from wrinkling and ink aligned. Finding that other factories want to get in on the cooling action, Carrier establishes the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.
San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. For New York City, it’s the Statue of Liberty. Chicago? It’s got Buckingham Fountain, an icon that mingles water, multi-colored lights, and granite, as well as bronze and pink georgia marble. Not to mention a jet that sprays water to seemingly impossible heights.
The fountain’s wow factor has entranced questioner Alan Ireland, an HVAC contractor and a self-described “pump guy.” While growing up in Chicago, he wondered how the fountain works and heard lore of a hidden engineer who kept the displays going.
Eric Kelmar, an assistant chief engineer for the Chicago Park District, manages the team of about five engineers who tend to Buckingham Fountain. Kelmar explains that due to the high priority of site, “We try to keep it to a small family of people who operate it daily.”
Every morning, from April 1 through mid-October, one of Kelmar’s team throws on a pair of waders and pulls out any debris that birds may have lodged in the fountain’s screens and baskets overnight.
Then, at 8:00 a.m., the engineer manually starts up the fountain. An hour later, the first water-show begins. Kelmar says the fountain’s center jet can shoot water as high as 150 feet in the air, depending on wind conditions. That’s 15 stories.
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Early space heating seems to have developed along several lines that included hearths and fireplaces, stoves, and underfloor systems. Fixed central hearths date as far back as 2500 B.C. They were excavated in Greece.
Crude fireplace heating was used as early as the 800s A.D., and was widespread in Europe by the 13th century. Castles built at that time had fireplaces that had a short flue to the outside, a crude form of chimney. All of the early fireplaces were constructed entirely of stone, but casting technology improvements led to the introduction of cast iron firebacks designed to protect the stone from direct fire heat.
Louis Savot of France invented the raised grate and designed a circulating fireplace in the early 1600s. Savot used a hollow iron bottom and back in the hearth, through which cold room air entered at the bottom, was warmed, and entered the room through openings above the mantle.
In England, another improvement was to provide combustion air through a duct from the outside. A French priest (actually a Cardinal) wrote the first comprehensive manual on fireplace design, Mechanique du Feu, in 1713. The science of fireplace construction reached its zenith with Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, who published Chimney Fireplaces in 1796.
Like fireplaces, stoves also first appeared in the 800s as crude devices made from clay bricks. Masonry stoves became common in northern Europe by the 1500s. The stoves, called Russian or Swedish stoves, were very large. Later versions were very ornate, with tile coverings.
The earliest metal stoves, appearing after 1400, were made of cast iron hearth firebacks connected together. Later, cast iron sections were designed specifically for stove construction, and Holland and Germany became leading centers for iron stove manufacturing.
Clogged drains, damaged pipes, and gas leaks are the most common residential emergency plumbing situations that people summon their plumber for. The irony is that such plumbing emergencies can be prevented by us from the start. Indeed emergency plumbers report that plumbing negligence is the number one cause for stubborn obstructions in drains and defective pipes. Surprisingly this indicates that we value our cars more than our home. Why? Simply because we service our cars once a year while we dismiss doing the same to our plumbing systems until we face a plumbing emergency by which time it is too late to undo the damage done to our home.
In general preventive maintenance to your home’s plumbing, every once in a while, will not only keep plumbing fixtures, drains and pipes in good condition for a long time, but will further allow you to spot early problems and have them fixed before they escalate to costly plumbing emergencies. When you encounter an emergency plumbing situation you can take steps to reduce damage to the minimum thereby cutting down your plumbing cost too.
Follow the top 5 common emergency plumbing troubles and their repair:
1 – Burst Pipes: Your top objective until the emergency plumber arrives on the scene is stop water flowing out of the hole. Locate the main shutoff valve to your house and close it. Turning off the shutoff valve will close the water supply to the fixtures and therefore stop the flood. Next turn on cold water taps to drain quickly pipes from trapped water and steam. After damage controlling the emergency call in your plumber to repair or replace the burst section of the pipe.
2 – Frozen Pipes: When water in pipes freeze they expand and may even burst the pipe. Close the main shutoff valve. If the pipe has not split yet, thaw it with hot water bottles from the end of the pipe nearest to the tap. Thawing must be gentle, never with a naked flame, to avoid thermal water expansion that too can split the pipe. As a preventive maintenance make sure your pipes are appropriately insulated against the cold months.
3 – Leaky Plumbing Fixtures: Close the shutoff valve singular to the leaky fixture. Check the fixture’s trap for debris, hair, soap scum, and food particles that might obstruct its opening and cause overflowing of the fixture. Contact your emergency plumber for effective plumbing repair.
4 – Blocked Drains & Toilets: Try to lift the obstruction by means of a plunger or a plumber’s snake. If such plumbing tools fail to dislodge the clog, call in your plumber.
5- Gas leaks: When smelling gas simply evacuate the building. Gas leaks do not lend themselves to D.I.Y repair due to their deadly nature in the wrong hands. Once outside the home call in your emergency plumber or Gas Company. You can and under professional guidance attempt to turn off the gas meter at the control valve.
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