Special Projects Division Cabinet Shop
February 2, 2009, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Design, Seattle, Trades

We’re ready! Today marks the official launch of our new cabinet shop.  Several months ago BUILD LLC created a partnership with a master woodworker, acquired an industrial shop space and set up “Special Projects Division LLC”.  Since then we’ve knocked out a couple of sharp, modern cabinet packages and the website is ready to go public – check it out here.  Those of you on our twitter feed got a sneak peak last week.


The cabinets are designed and constructed to be cost-effective – so that normal people can actually afford nice modern cabinets.  The packages range from single stand alone cabinets to entire house packages.


There are a couple of  supplements on the website you should know about:

We’ve got a section of smokin-hot details that show how the cabinets are outfitted with stainless steel custom pulls, organizer drawer units, countertops, sinks and appliances.



Our materials category includes photos of over 30 different wood species from Alder to Zebrawood.  Note to architects & designers: you can download these images for use in your 3-d modeling programs.


The sawn lumber diagram page has straight-forward diagrams of how wood is sawn and how it looks depending on the method of cutting.


We figured, as long as we’ve got a cabinet shop with all the cool tools, we might as well crank out some furniture too.  So we’re designing a line of furniture which includes modern benches, coffee tables, chairs, rolling bars, and shoe racks.  Stay tuned, as we’ll be revealing the designs very soon.


In the furniture designs you’ll notice our BUILD developed joinery which uses a system of aluminum kerf plates and pegs to join a variety of woods – found only in the SPD furniture line.  We’re also developing a line of cabinets from re-used wood products which is even better and more earth-friendly than recycled products.



So go take the tour and let us know how we’re doing.  If you or anybody you know needs cabinets or furniture – you know where to go.



December 15, 2008, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Trades

We’re currently in the middle of designing a modern, timeless kitchen for a single family residence and it’s an exciting time in the design phase to do a bit of window shopping.  Because kitchens are technology and appliance driven, kitchen design seems to evolve more in tune with necessity and function as opposed to fashion.  We like that.  As we see it, an important part of sustainable design is simply designing in such a way that it’s not going to be replaced in 5 years because it fell out of vogue.  So at any rate, we re-familiarized ourselves with some of our favorite kitchen websites and, two or three drinks in, we came up with a list of 10 emerging details in kitchen design.  Some of these details have been around for a while – it’s just that they’re becoming more prominent and refined.  Some of these details are more timeless, more sensible than others but each seems to be emerging in exciting ways with the designers we admire most.

Kitchen islands for sitting + storage that look good.  Typically a kitchen island does one or the other and looks good, rarely both.  Lately we’re seeing some hybrid designs that integrate the two functions in clever ways.  The Poggenpohl Plusmodo line below uses a symmetrical cantilevered island – the storage underneath makes a change of material to clearly differentiate its function.  Overall the addition of storage to this island creates a more dramatic appearance and adds to the function.


Plane change = material change. It just looks better when the two happen together.  The Snaidero Kube kitchen below uses a stainless wrap at the range extension and a glossy white laminate at the raised bar seating to differentiate from the planes of wood.


The Snaidero Sintesi kitchen below uses a wrapped granite work surface to enhance the plane change from the laminate cabinets.


Tool walls and movable storage racks. Henrybuilt has done a nice job with their movable storage racks which either mount to a “picture rail”, hang from steel brackets or can simply sit on the counter.



The Boffi Grand Chef kitchen below has a sleek, integrated stainless steel bar for hanging utensils.


The Bulthaup System b3 uses a series of recessed rails (similar to picture rails) to hang hooks and racks from.


Pockets of intentional display. It’s probably best that most of the dishes and coffee mugs stay hidden behind doors.  But those Iittala tumblers you just bought deserve some attention.  The Henrybuilt island below creates an intentional display area for just such items.

Wall splashes. Like a backsplash but taller.  In the Henrybuilt design below, the termination line of the stainless steel tucks under the cantilevered shelf.  The backsplash material has a greater prominence within the material palette and the break occurs where there is already a material change.


Integration of hardware. The Boffi K14 series incorporates mitered door and drawer faces for grasping.  The finished look is sleek and minimal.


The Bulthaup System b1 series uses a similar method.  As it turns out the ultimate minimal cabinet hardware is none at all.



The Henrybuilt unit below includes full length steel pulls that integrate so nicely into the cabinet composition that it wouldn’t look as good without them.


Register grills as textures. In the Bulthaup System b1, below, the heat registers are integrated into the  toe kicks – thereby concealing the grills and making for a nice modern texture at the toe-kick.


…and the same for the Boffi Case 5 system which goes the distances by keeping the material consistent between the cabinets and register toe-kicks.


Extended / framed cabinet boxes. Henrbuilt has developed a nice detail which brings the box of the cabinet out slightly proud of the hardware.  It creates a clean modern look and keeps the hardware from sticking out too far.


Bending the countertop. The Snaidero Venus system below uses a simple bend in the plane of a countertop/bar for some pleasing drama.  We’re not sure how we feel about the  practicality and build-ability of this detail – but we’re impressed with the overall visual.


The idea can get a bit out of hand like in the Snaidero Acropolis system below.  But face it, any of us modern design fans would love to saddle up for a drink at this bar.


Contrast between highly engineered glossy surfaces and earthy wood grains.  The Bulthaup System b1 uses the constrast between the end grain of maple “butcher-block” stock and the clean, glossy white cabinet faces.  It’s a clever idea as nature is doing so much of the design work.


The Poggenpohl Integration system creates a sharp look with the horizonatl wood veneer grain surrounding a bank of stainless steel.


The Snaidero Sistema Zeta below pairs warm wood grains with high gloss white veneer – the rough stone also plays well with the composition.


These 10 details are just a quick study of what we see emerging in cabinet design, we must have missed many, many more concepts, details and materials.  So don’t be shy with that comments button…

Floating Houses
July 4, 2008, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Trades, Urban Architecture

Living, working and blogging in Seattle, it was only a matter of time before we felt obligated to post on floating houses. In doing our homework we spoke with Dan Wittenberg, president of International Floatation Systems Inc. (IMF), who was gracious enough to give us a bit of his time and expertise. In addition to designing and building floating homes all over the world, Dan previously lived in a floating home for 11 years. Here’s a bit of our conversation:

Are there any common misunderstanding that architects have about floating homes?
Many architects think that we build hulls or vessels, but that’s not true, we build floating platforms. These platforms are solid construction made with a concrete shell and a Styrofoam core. The platform has positive flotation and will not sink under any conditions, whereas a hollow vessel can fill with water and sink. The technology is comparable to a cork in that it won’t sink regardless of how many holes you poke in it.
What are the material options with a floating platform?
The floating platforms are only built with concrete and Styrofoam; this is a common construction method that insures they won’t sink. It is possible to build a shell which offers interior space (like a basement) but since it’s possible for a shell to sink, insurance companies look at the situation differently. It is still an engineered product but has a different risk factor.
Is there maintenance necessary for the platform floats?
There is no maintenance necessary below the water line.
Are the hulls made in Canada and brought down by tug boat?
For a floating house in Seattle, yes – we build them in Vancouver B.C. and bring them down by tugboat.
Are the houses always installed on the platforms after shipment?
Actually 90% of our residential projects are built on the platform prior to shipping. Some of these homes are finished all the way down to the furniture being installed. We have literally handed owners a key to a move-in ready home at the dock upon arrival.
Does IMF typically build the house as well as the platform?
We certainly can, we are also a general contractor for the homes on top of the floating platforms.
What are the maximum sizes?
For a two story structure the minimum width and length is typically 20’. For a three story structure the minimum width and length is typically 25’.
There is no maximum size limit as the platforms can be constructed piece by piece or poured on site.
The largest floating platform we have constructed is in Holland and is 90,000 square feet. We have also completed a platform on Lake Powell in Arizona which is a one piece construction of 27,000 square feet.
So the platforms can be shipped in 2 or more pieces and connected on site?
Yes, it’s common. We are currently doing a project in Richland which involves 8 separate pieces to be connected together.
What is a common depth?
Five feet is the common depth of the platform, although they only require 3’ of water to float. The platforms are designed to float with 3’ of draft in the water and 2’ of freeboard above the waterline. The 2’ above the water line is the reserve buoyancy. These platforms are designed for a live load of 100lbs per square foot plus the effect of wind on the platform and house.
How far can you ship the platform?
We typically only ship them by water as far as Seattle. Further than that, other means are more cost-effective. We recently delivered a floating platform in several pieces to New York via truck. We also build many of the floating platforms in place. We have built floating platforms as far away as Holland.
Is the means of transportation ever taken into consideration for the design of the floating platform? For instance a triangle would have less drag in shipping and would save on fuel charges.
The amount of fuel it would save wouldn’t add up to much given the overall costs of a floating platform. We have built a triangle platform but for other reasons.
Is there a rule of thumb for pricing?
The base pricing ranges between $50 – $60 per square foot. This does not include plumbing, rails or what we call the ‘jewelry’. This pricing only relates to the floating platform itself.
What is the market telling you about floating house design?
That maximum square footage is more important than privacy. Years ago floating homes were designed with porches and covered outdoor spaces, now the footprint is always maximized for interior space.
The mortgage and insurance industries have changed for the better regarding floating homes. It used to be that neither group recognized floating homes as real-estate. Mortgage companies now see the surface of water as real-estate and insurance companies will now cover floating homes because of the advances in floating platforms.
What are common mistakes made by architects in designing floating homes?
When the floating platform is complete, it is just as functional as a slab on grade. The slab can be clear sealed and used as the finished floor or the finished floor can be installed directly on top of the slab. Architects commonly design the house to use joists at the ground level which is unnecessary.
Radiant heat can also be installed in the platforms we build. It actually makes a lot of sense because there is 5’ of insulation below, making it a very efficient heat system.
Often architects do not take into consideration that all 4 sides of a houseboat have the potential for great views and light. Most of the time we see typical house designs simply plunked down on the floating platform.
All too often architects don’t take into consideration the reflected light from the water. The light on the ceiling of a floating home is much more dramatic than typical residential design.
How can architects best prepare for designing a floating home?
In most cases it is wise to bring the floating platform designer on board early.
Are there design options you would like to see further explored with floating homes?
I would like to see round platforms explored. This would allow rotation of the platform for better views and maximum sunlight throughout the day. It also has applications for solar panels and rotating the panels to best align with the suns rays during the day.
Are there other challenges involved with floating houses?
Securing moorage is difficult as there are only about 500 spots in a place like Seattle. But typically the home owners have found moorage by the time they select their architect and begin working with us.

For more information about floating platforms visit IMF’s website. A huge thanks goes out to IMF, when we land that houseboat project we know who to call.

The following photos show a range of floating houses in a variety of locations by different architects and engineers.

Scandinavian Archipelago Villa in Villa Helmi by Marina Housing

Floating house in Seattle by Vandeventer + Carlander

[Photo by John Granen]

Floating Boathouse and Sleeping Cottage on an island in Lake Huron by MOS Office
Photos from, which has a phenomenal spread on the house

Floating house in Seattle, does anyone know the architect of this one?

Floating house in Denmark

Modern Marine Homes in Sweden by Strindberg Arkitekter

SeaSauna, Originally by Ari Leinonon now prefabricated by in Sweden

Floating house in Australia by Drew Heath

Office by Aero11 Design

B-Type floating home by Floatinghomes in Germany

[Photo by Klaus Frahm]

Modern House: materials and methods of the current time

BUILD llc recently completed a home on Bainbridge Island here in the northwest that uses some materials and methods that may be of interest. The home was designed and built for Dr. Marc Ferrin. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: good projects are the direct result of extraordinary homeowners willing to partake in the adventure of design and construction & trust our guidance.

[all images by BUILD llc]

1. Orchard of low-growing fruit trees on a pure geometrical grid.
2. Gravel hardscape.
3. Milgard aluminum windows with bronze finish – the dark, minimal corner mullion gives the appearance of a corner window.
4. Blomus stainless steel mailbox on custom steel plate stand with punched numbering. Mailbox sold by Pure Modern.
5. Milgard aluminum window system with bronze finish. The roof joist support beams are pulled back into the living space and exposed – this allows the window system to extend all the way to the roof joists.
6. MDO soffits painted white as a visual extension of the interior drywall lid. Exterior grade can lights installed at soffit.
7. Rainscreen siding system composed of Cembonit panels by CBF. For an explanation of rainscreen systems click here.
8. Cable rail system by Feeney Cable Rails with custom fabricated galvanized steel verticals and custom ipe top rail.
9. Clear sealed fir exterior door with tempered glass panel and weather-stripping. Reeded glass panels at entry door, clear at all others.
10. Clear T&G cedar mounted vertically and clear sealed. These particular boards span the entire height of the house.
11 Single membrane “flat” roof sloped ¼” per foot and concealed with parapet.
12. Outdoor shower (Kohler Stillness series) with winter shut off valve located inside house at conditioned area.
13. Clerestory windows add additional light to the upstairs hallway and maintain privacy.
14. Chimney capped with galvanized steel wide flange frame to conceal vent cap.
15. Standing seam metal roof with minimal vent penetrations.
16. Cedar fascia stained dark to match the window system.
17. A cantilevered bay allows for extra area inside but doesn’t change the line of the concrete foundation wall below. The change in form is reflected by using a different material at the cantilever.
18. Flush panel wood garage door by Clopay, painted dark to match soffits and blend with window package.
19. Strategically located vegetation to eventually hide the heat pump.
20. Rainscreen panel breaks strategically align with changes in plane.

[all images by BUILD llc]

21. Cold rolled custom steel handrail with blackened finish.
22. Vertically mounted aluminum return air grill – custom size by Shoemaker AFP series.
23. 1×4 flush base trim, pre-primed mdf, painted.
24. Prefabricated concrete stair treads by Diamond Concrete Products.
25. Miele DA series island hood.
26. Thin fin-wall made from 1-3/4” x 11-7/8” LVLs stacked end to end and wrapped with GWB, painted.
27. Slot window – as part of the sequence of entry a visitor gets a peak at the extraordinary view.
28. Absolute black granite countertops with slight eased edge.
29. Lutron Diva light switches with stainless steel cover plates – all devices mounted at a common datum line around the house.
30. Bamboo vertical grain flooring.
31. Custom galvanized vertical guardrails drilled to receive Feeney Cable Rail system.
32. 1×6 ipe decking
33. 5’ foot wide sliding door to pantry – the cabinets are notched to receive sliding door.
34. Maple cabinets by Canyon Creek Cabinet Company with Mockett satin chrome tab pulls.
35. The clerestory window at the shower allows natural daylight but maintains privacy.
36. Milgard aluminum floor to ceiling window system with bronze finish.
37. Kohler Stillness series shower fixtures.
38. Epco polished chrome shower curtain rod.

For more information on the Ferrin Residence check out the YouTube digital model and the YouTube time elapse construction process.

Heating Systems for Small Homes
June 18, 2008, 10:02 am
Filed under: Design, Trades

Most of the projects we work on incorporate forced air heating systems. But these systems aren’t always the most effective solution for heating a home because they require a furnace and ducting. Furnaces are big and expensive, ducting requires labor and space. If the floor area is less than ~1500 square feet, forced air isn’t cost effective or space effective. We’ve been doing quite a bit of research into alternative heating systems for smaller spaces and, as always, the Europeans are several steps ahead. We’ll look at two systems in today’s post:

Electric Baseboard Heating Systems: We know what you’re thinking – but the systems we’ve tracked down aren’t the flimsy, unsightly baseboard heaters you used to have above the shag carpet in that college rental house. Modern electric baseboard heaters are effective in smaller spaces because they do not require a boiler, furnace, or ducting – just an electrical line which is typically 120 or 240 volts. A thermostat located in each room allows for more temperature variation within a home and quicker heat response time. The U.S. Department of Energy website describes the mechanics of electric baseboard heat best:

“Baseboard heaters contain electric heating elements encased in metal pipes. The pipes, surrounded by aluminum fins to aid heat transfer, run the length of the baseboard heater’s housing, or cabinet. As air within the heater is warmed, it rises into the room, and cooler air is drawn into the bottom of the heater. Baseboard heaters are usually installed underneath windows. There, the heater’s rising warm air counteracts falling cool air from the cold window glass.”

OMB & OHB by Ouellet Electric Heating

ODIA & ODBA by Ouellet Electric Heating

Thermodul Electric system by Dryzone
The perimeter heaters become the base trim in the room

Radiant Hot Water Baseboard and Wall Systems: If you’re picturing grandmas two-hundred pound cast-iron radiator, encrusted with high-relief acanthus leaves, stay tuned. These are typically closed loop systems where a plumbing supply line carries hot water from the heat source to the radiator, the water radiates the heat and the plumbing line carries the cooled water back to the heat source to be re-circulated. The heat source is typically a gas or electric powered boiler or hot water heater, circulation occurs by means of a pump or convection. The panel and tube systems come in a wide variety of sizes and are moderately flexible in terms of location – limited only by the plumbing lines. The thermostat is typically located on or near the panel itself, temperatures are typically lower and the units do not present the fire hazard of electric systems. Variations of hot water systems include towel warmers and profiles which mimic architectural base trim.

Honeycomb & Zephyr Hydronic systems by Aeon

Millennium & Octet Hydronic systems by Aeon

Xeno & Talus Hydronic systems by Aeon

Planet Hydronic system by Tubes

Square Hydronic system by Tubes

UF Series Hydronic system by Runtal

Dualis Plus Hydronic system by Zehnder

Yucca Star Hydronic system by Zehnder

Charleston Hydronic system by Zehnder

Projectclima Hydronic system
An ecological product that uses recyclable tiles which the user can arrange in any configuration. They produce a variety of colors and sizes with the option of printing your own pictures onto the tiles.

Steamview by Steam Radiators

Slimline Radiant Base Heater Hydronic system by Radtech 2000
The perimeter heaters become the base trim of the room
hey Radtech – how ’bout getting some photos up on your website that are as clean and crisp as your product.

Trade Websites
January 17, 2008, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Trades

In designing, specifying, and building our projects we wade through a tremendous amount of crap out there on the internet. But for every 50 poorly composed, difficult to navigate, steaming pile of dog-doo sites out on the web there is always a gem or two. To track the countless trade related websites we’ve started keeping a Trade website matrix (25KB .PDF) which documents, among other things, a websites usability <read: we are design geeks>.

Trade Websites Matrix

Today’s blog entry focuses on a handful of sites that have our attention and our business. While many suppliers and manufacturers sell clean, modern products we keep going back to these specific sites because they are well designed. Here are 6 key factors:

Effective interface: easy to understand and navigate
Pleasing aesthetics: professional photographs and composed pages
Respectful use of the viewer’s time: take us straight to the data
Thorough information: all products and options presented & organized
Useful data: downloadable specs, AutoCAD files, dimension sheets
Search options: different methods to find what we’re looking for

Best Website: McMaster Carr
This site is phenomenal – it displays tens of thousands of products and does so with a direct and understandable interface.

McMaster Carr Website

A similar graphic style is used for all product illustrations, which makes the site pleasing to navigate; even items as insignificant as screws have multiple illustrations and diagrams to help you choose exactly what you’re looking for.

McMaster Carr Website

The McMaster Carr website gets the BUILD gold star of uber-greatness. They also ship most of their products same day so that you get it very quickly.

McMaster Carr Website

Best Kitchen + Bathroom website: Kohler

Kohler Website

All fixture models are shown with their respective options and they provide a thorough list of downloadable technical information. Inspiring photography along with good data makes the experience of selecting plumbing fixtures more enjoyable. There can be a bit too much going on in the page the further you get into the products but the site is straight-forwards and clean.

Best brand lighting website: Louis Poulsen

Louis Poulsen Website

The site includes pleasing photography that represents the products nicely and provides downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format. It is NOT necessary to create an account or login to search the product. We find the site to be a bit over-designed but once you figure out the navigation it makes sense

Best conglomerate lighting website: 100watt

100 Watt Website

A thorough collection of lights combined with effective search options gets you to where you’re going quickly. The search does NOT require a login or membership. Lights are accompanied by drawings with dimensions and there are downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format for some products.

Best cabinet website: Henrybuilt

Henrybuilt Website

The site is graphically clean and composed with high-end photographs. There are no gratuitous intro film clips, which is rare for cabinet websites. They provide downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format for clients (login required).

Best hardware website: Omnia

Omnia Website

Clean, organized photos of door knobs allow you to navigate quickly to specific products and downloadable data. The relevant options are shown where applicable.

Post your favs…