Archive for the ‘Green Lifestyles’ Category

Palm Springs Life Magazine – ‘Bionic Houses’

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Photo by David Blank

An eco-friendly, modern ranch designed by ZDS Architects (Interiors – Henderson Kelly) is currently being featured in the May 2010 issue of Palm Springs Life Magazine

The most effective way to promote energy efficiency is to design a house that takes full advantage of natural light, passive solar energy, shading, cross-ventilation, and efficient space planning.  Doing so — by studying sun angles, prevailing winds, and general site orientation — reduces the overall energy load required to live comfortably. Once these fundamental architectural moves are established, design and specification of artificial lighting and interior climate control enhance the overall efficiency.

Photo by David Blank

Additional photos by Suzanne Zahr Fleming:

Posted in Development, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Landscape Design, Outdoor Living, Palm Springs, Real Estate, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Water : Ecoseptic & Rainwater Harvesting

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

To learn more about how water is a precious resource to us all, watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s short film, Water Planet, by clicking on the play button above.

ZDS Architects is committed to doing what we can to conserve, harvest and re-use water. In addition to exploring ways to do so for our clients, we’re researching the conditions and possible strategies for our Green Development in Palm Springs, CA.

Palm Springs receives 354 days of sunshine and less than 6 inches of rain annually.  The aquifers are depleting at a rapid rate, and the area is experiencing the worst drought in the last 80 years.  In the midst of this water crisis, 100 facilities are bottling water in California, quickly using their precious water supply.

At the same time as water is being pumped out of the aquifers, the groundwater levels significantly drop every year. According to the United States Geological Survey study, the amount that the ground has dropped ranges from about 3 to 13 inches between 1996 and 2005 in an area stretching from Rancho Mirage to Coachella. These aquifers will continue to be depleted as the populatioin and usage grows.

In an effort to address this mounting challenge, we approached Ecotilities, a division of the Environmental Distribution Network, for assistance.  They introduced us to a 3-step Ecoseptic Process.  The overall goal is to treat the waste water on-site and re-use it, instead of sourcing additional municipal water.

The first step is to grind any solids and organic matter that may be flushed down the toilet or drain. Then a proprietary process called Zorzymes breaks down the pathogens, total dissolved solids, bacteria and other harmful elements. The last and final step is to purify the water into ‘Grade A’ drinking water (though most plumbing codes still restrict the ability to re-use this as potable water).

This system can be located below grade, but we’re considering it to be located at the back of our 2-car Garage and will replace the need for a septic system and drainfield. Some jursidictions may allow this system to be metered so that the homeowner can be credited for the amount diverted from the municipal waste treatment facility. This in addition to the savings of minimizing the intake of municipal water can quickly offset the initial cost of installation.

All in all, the Ecoseptic system will allow home owners to recycle 60-80% of their wastewater. Imagine, municipal potable water will no longer be necessary to flush toilets, clean laundry and water the garden.

In addition, the Ecoseptic System can treat up to 20,000 gallons of captured stormwater and roof-captured rainwater which can be stored in a sistern on site. This unique treatment uses physics instead of chemicals by deconstructing bacteria on a molecular level. The Ecoseptic WMU Water System removes bacteria, protozoa, viruses, pesticides, MTBEs, asbestos, nitrates, nitrites, sodium chloride, THCs, phosphates, heavy metals, manganese, VOCs, female and animal hormones, TDS, vector attractions, pharmaceuticals, dioxins, turbidity, arsenic, excessive calcium, pH unbalances, fluoride, hydrocarbons, cycsts, algae, chlorine and chloroform.

* ZDS would like to thank the Environmental Distribution Network for their innovative work, research and photos used in this post.

Posted in critical discussion, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Healthcare, Palm Springs, Uncategorized, Water | No Comments »

Living Building Challenge

Friday, August 28th, 2009

A building, like a flower, is rooted in place. Yet, a flower has place-based solutions to meet all of its energy, water and resource needs and to maintain balance with its surroundings. So, imagine a building informed by its ecoregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.

Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Building Institute, which is affiliated with the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. There are currently more than 60 projects pursuing certification using Living Building Challenge, and several are already in their verification phase.

There are sixteen prerequisites in the Living Building Challenge and they are organized into six categories, or “Petals”. For a building to be certified, all must be met. certification is based on actual performance instead of modeled outcomes. Projects must be fully operational for at least twelve consecutive months prior to certification. For example, documentation requirements include utility bills – not energy models.

The Site Petal focuses on reestablishing balance between nature and the built environment. Implicitly, it advocates for us to reevaluate the current trend of decentralizing our communities, which increases transportation impacts and pollution.

It is critical that buildings are designed to be super efficient, and eliminating energy demand between 60-80% is possible, depending on the occupancy type. Load reductions always come before applying renewable energy technologies. Because of this, implementing Living Building Challenge requires leading-edge knowledge and an integrated design process.

Material selection has the most far-reaching and broad impacts on design, construction, and occupancy. It deeply influences – and is influenced by – each of the other Petals in Living Building Challenge. The Precautionary Principle is the underlying theme that defines this section, and defines the suggested method for decision making. It poses that “if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.”* In layman’s terms, it is the “better safe than sorry” approach.

A Living Building treats water as a precious resource. Conventional practices are incredibly wasteful – both by design and in use: It is unlikely for water to be repurposed, and sometimes water leaves the building before it is even used once. For example, just by turning off an efficient sink faucet while brushing one’s teeth, each person could save about 1300 gallons of water a year from going to the sewer. It may seem inconsequential at a glace, but represents about 400 billion gallons when applied to the US population.

Indoor Quality:
The Indoor Quality Petal is unique in that it is less extreme in its approach. The intent of these prerequisites is not to address all of the potential ways that an interior environment could be compromised, but to focus on best practices to create healthy spaces.

Beauty + Inspiration:
Unlike other green building rating systems, Living Building Challenge recognizes the need for beauty as a precursor to caring enough to preserve, conserve and serve the greater good. This prerequisite demands that a project team deeply knows and understands a place in order to design responsibly. It suggests that each project should contain features solely intended for human delight. The Inspiration and Education prerequisite is the keystone of Living Building Challenge. After all, once a project embodies all of the other prerequisites, it should inspire other project teams to want to emulate its achievements.

A Living Building should also act as a road map for other projects, teaching people about the design decisions made and systems used. Examples of educational tools that some teams are currently planning include: websites with real-time utilities tracking; 3D interfaces that highlight systems and their functionality; display areas onsite that publicize the project’s metering systems; and classes that will be taught onsite about the design and construction process.

ZDS is committed to being an ambassador for this program as we challenge ourselves, our clients, contractors and collaborators to design and build a Living Building.

View the 16 prerequisites

International Living Building Institute

Cascadia Region Green Building Council

Become a Living Building Leader

* From
** All content of this blog post has been provided by the Living Building Challenge.

Posted in critical discussion, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Living Building Challenge, Pacific Northwest, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Andreas Hills Development – Palm Springs, CA – UPDATE

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

ZDS has teamed up with a private investor to acquire property in Palm Springs, CA. We found a gorgeous 1/2 acre lot just off the Indian Canyon Golf Course, tucked between the Andreas Hills and the San Jacinto Mountains.

Our goal is to develop an eco-friendly (LEED-H), 2,000 SF home with an attached 2-car Garage, Pool and detached 400 SF Casita. Though we had originally explored a gable roofline option with a ridge skylight, we’re now considering a split-rigde solution. This design is not only more cost effective, but also allows for the potential of very effective cross-ventilation from the glass pivot doors at the South up to the high clerestories facing North. Here’s a sneak peak of our schematic design efforts…

Posted in Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Outdoor Living, Palm Springs | No Comments »

Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

During a recent visit to Palm Springs, CA, ZDS Architects gave a slideshow presentation to the Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors on how ‘going green’ impacts the ever-changing Real Estate market. This presentation was followed by an Open House of our client’s modern ranch home, targeting LEED-H, Silver, located within the Smoke Tree Ranch community.

Thank you for your warm reception and interest in our eco-aware presentation.  We learned a great deal about the local real estate market, its unique challenges, and the great opportunities it affords.  We look forward to continuing our discussions with the many enthusiastic members of the Association. 

A special thanks to Becky Bowles, President, and Sam Schenkl, Executive Officer, for arranging our visit.  And many thanks to our wonderful client who so graciously opened her beautiful home.

For more information, be sure to read a recent article in The Desert Sun.

To view a copy of the slideshow presentation given, click here.

Select photos of the featured Modern Ranch, targeting LEED-H, Silver:


Posted in critical discussion, Firm Profile, Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Palm Springs, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Andreas Hills Development – Palm Springs, CA

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Be sure to check out our 3D Fly-thru (click on the ‘HQ’ button for higher-res image).

ZDS has teamed up with a private investor to acquire property in Palm Springs, CA. We found a gorgeous 1/2 acre lot just off the Indian Canyon Golf Course, tucked between the Andreas Hills and the San Jacinto Mountains.

Our goal is to develop an eco-friendly (LEED-H), 2,000 SF home with an attached 2-car Garage, Pool and detached 400 SF Casita. Here’s a sneak peak of our schematic design efforts…

Posted in Green Development, Green Lifestyles, Palm Springs | No Comments »

All-female ZDS Architects stays environmentally aware…

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Look for our featured article in the Small Business Center of the Puget Sound Business Journal, titled All-female ZDS Architects stays environmentally aware to weather the storm in building industry, dated February 27 – March 5, 2009.

Keep an eye out for our featured article in the NW Home section of Seattle Magazine, titled Area: Custom Comfort, March 2009.

Posted in critical discussion, Firm Profile, Green Lifestyles, linkedin, Pacific Northwest, Uncategorized | No Comments »

LEED for Homes – Palm Springs Modern Ranch

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Look for our article coming out in the Building Green section of the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce on Thursday, February 19. It tells about how this Modern Ranch in Palm Springs, CA participates in the USGBC’s LEED for Homes program.

Posted in Green Lifestyles, Living Building Challenge, Uncategorized | No Comments »

A Green Collar Economy

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Images:  Jesse Nickerson and Godfrey Reggio from the Qatsi Trilogy. [1]


Text and collages by Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

Happy New Year from ZDS!  We have entered 2009, which symbolically has come to represent the turning of a page.  We are only a few days away from Martin Luther King’s birthday and from Barack Obama’s inauguration.  As we look to shift from the old polluting way to a new era, we ask ourselves what our professional responsibility to promote change is and how we can contribute to our society through our practice of architecture.  We are inspired by President Elect Barack Obama to renew our commitment to social and environmental sustainability.

ZDS is a carbon neutral company.  By  calculating our carbon emissions and transferring their direct cost to Net Green, a Seattle based company that funds nonprofit organizations that promote renewable energy, we offset carbon in form of greenhouse gas to our environment. 

In our projects we support environmental and social sustainability from the design phase to the built project.  We participated in Seattle’s affiliate of Habitat for Humanity with the Southwest Roxbury Development— an affordable residential project.  

We also partake in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC/LEED) effort.  ZDS Architects is pursuing LEED Silver ratings for both, Palm Springs Ranch–a high-end residential project–and Washington Wellness Institute–a commercial interior project.  


Left to right ZDS projects: Palm Springs; Washington Wellness Institute; HFH SW Roxbury. [2]


In wanting to reach a broader spectrum, we are motivated by the ideas of Van Jones in his new book “Green Collar Economy” endorsed by Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi.  Inspiring advocate and activist, Van Jones is founder of Green for All, a US organization that promotes green collar jobs to the disadvantaged, and Color of Change, America’s largest online advocacy organization that focuses on African American issues.

Jones proposes to jump-start our crumbling economy with a widespread transition to green infrastructure integrating the social justice and environmental movements.  By implementing a ‘socially uplifting environmentalism’ Jones addresses two huge issues simultaneously.  He describes how “transforming America into a more green society would not only tackle the problem of global warming, but would also reduce energy prices and produce an abundance of jobs that would contribute in turning the economy around”.

We agree with Jones’ statement that “for too long our government has been on the wrong side of the clean energy revolution.”  At the same time, President Elect Barack Obama promises to expand the traditional work programs of the middle class by including infrastructure, new-era technology and green jobs that will reduce energy emissions and global warming.  This will provide a wide spanning opportunity to fill the decreasing blue-collar job request with the demand for green-collar jobs.  In other words, millions of jobs would immediately become available to commence the huge task of sustainably refurbishing our built environment.

Van Jones explains how we cannot expect those who have less to make more conscious choices concerning sustainability, because often that implies a more difficult and costly decision upfront.  People who might not have enough to eat will not be concerned about global ecological issues.  What is at stake is huge and simply cannot be overlooked.  If, through public and private action, we were to address the needs of our buildings, cities, and infrastructure, we would generate jobs and as a by-product save our environment.

Van Jones calls for a New Deal type of economical and financial transformation.  He talks about a Fourth Quadrant model, in which on one side of the matrix is grey (industrial=pollution), versus green (ecological=renewable), and on the other rich versus poor.  In the past contrast produced problems, alienation and segregation.  Through Jones’ model of a green economy, there will be “equal protection for all, equal opportunity for all and reverence for all creation”.  What resonates particularly from his words is that the value of life is not reduced to a spreadsheet and just as resources and nature are not renewable, there also are no throw-away children.

Through his focus, and in collaboration with Nancy Pelosi,  a legislation is being introduced to sponsor a national corps that will train 30,000 people a year in green trades.  Following in this direction from PhD’s down to the lowest classes, people could be employed to transform our built environment and our culture to an environmentally sustainable one, which, coincidentally would save our economy.

“If you learn to install solar panels, you’re on your way to becoming an electrical engineer. If you learn to weatherize windows, you’re on your way to being a glazier, which is a union job…  And these jobs aren’t out-sourceable.”  With Green Collar Economy, people will realize that “you can make more money if you put down that handgun and pick up a caulk gun.”


Image Credits:

[1] Collage inspired by Van Jones 4th Qadrant:  Images by Jesse Nickerson and (2) from the Qatsi Trilogy by Godfrey Reggio.

[2] ZDS Sustainable Architecture Projects: Palm Springs Residence, image by Ashley Richardson.  Washington Wellness Institute, image by Abbey Greenwalt.  Habitat For Humanity’s Seattle affiliate, Southwest Roxbury Project, image by Suzanne Zahr Fleming.




Seattle Habitat for Humanity

Washington Wellness Institute




Posted in critical discussion, Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Pacific Northwest, Portrait, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bocci Balls

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008


By Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP

ZDS has fallen in love with the simple and powerful beauty of Omer Arbel’s Bocci Balls. These lights are made of cast glass, seamed, spheres with frosted cylindrical voids, into which a halogen light bulb is inserted.  The pendants look wonderfully pure and poetic singularly, but it is in clusters that their effect multiplies, creating the impression of many shiny stars in the black night, or of tiny candles encased in floating spheres of water

The elemental quality of these hand crafted pieces allows the imagination to soar.  The light filters each of the small spheres differently.  Due to its organic nature, each piece is unique unto itself.  Imperfections in the glass—bubbles or rifts, born of its artistic creation—allow the light to project a rich halo through the sphere.

The Bellevue House Family Room

Omer Arbel’s multidisciplinary design studio is an inspiration to ZDS.  Through the blurring of boundaries between architectural fields— architecture, furniture, and industrial design—Arbel deals with conceptual work, limited edition, and mass production, while pushing the research on materials.  Since 2005 Arbel has become Bocci’s creative director.  This allows his conceptual approach to be fueled by an infrastructure, which addresses prototyping, fine crafting and distribution.  This process has given birth to new collections of lighting, furniture, and electrical appliances.



Omer Arbel

Bocci Canada

Posted in critical discussion, Green Lifestyles, Organic Living, Pacific Northwest, Portrait, Uncategorized | No Comments »


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