Update: Santa Cruz County ADU Regulations

If you are planning to build an ADU there are a few items you will be considering before embarking on your project. The State at large and the County of Santa Cruz in particular have a recognized housing shortage and, over the past several years, Sacramento has passed successive rounds of legislation geared towards alleviating that shortage by making the regulatory environment more ADU-friendly. With new legislation emerging on what seems like a monthly basis, ADU rules are truly a moving target – in this article we present an overview of the County’s regulatory framework for ADUs current as of this writing. Note that each local jurisdiction in the Monterey Bay area – Cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville, and Scotts Valley – each have their own, specific regulations: this article applies specifically to ADU regulations particular to the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County. Continue reading

Discretionary Permitting: What Homeowners Need to Know

The discretionary permitting process is often used by local governments to ensure that proposed land uses are compatible with existing land uses, and that they do not pose an undue risk to public health, safety, or welfare. This process typically involves a review of the proposed project by a local planning commission or other governing body, which then makes a recommendation to the local governing body (e.g. city council, county board of supervisors, etc.) as to whether or not the permit should be granted. Continue reading

12 Features of the Eco-friendly Home

An eco-friendly home is designed to minimize our negative impacts on the environment such as global warming, pollution, and depletion of natural resources. It is built with materials and technologies that promote energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction. In this article, we will explore twelve features of an eco-friendly home that can help reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable living. Continue reading

What is a Rainscreen?

A rainscreen is a type of wall system that has been designed to manage moisture and prevent water from penetrating into the building envelope. The term “rainscreen” describes the way that the system works: rainwater is kept away from the wall’s structural components, while an air gap provides ventilation and allows moisture to evaporate. Continue reading

Concrete Roof Tiles: Pros and Cons

Among the available materials to choose from, concrete tiles may present some attractive qualities for those considering roofing options for their new home or remodel. They have excellent longevity, lasting for decades with proper maintenance. Highly versatile, they are available in a wide range of shapes, styles, and colors to suit a wide variety of tastes. Plus they are extremely durable, with inherently high degrees of wind, impact, and fire resistance. For all these reasons concrete tiles are an increasingly popular choice among roofing materials. However, not every home or budget is compatible with concrete tile. In this article we’ll outline both their advantages and limitations for those considering concrete tiles as their roof material of choice. Continue reading

Transparent Wood Aerogel Boosts Window Insulation

Windows are among the largest contributors to heat losses in homes. It is estimated that on average a house loses 25 to 30 percent of its thermal energy through windows. And although there are certain solutions including double- or even triple-glazing, windows remain the weakest link in the building’s thermal envelope. Researchers indicate that this could change for the better however, with a see-through aerogel made from wood cellulose replacing the air in windows, thus making them as insulative as their surrounding walls. Continue reading

What Was the City Beautiful Movement?

The City Beautiful Movement was a reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning that flourished during the 1890s and 1900s with the intent of introducing beautification and monumental grandeur in cities. It was a part of the progressive social reform movement in North America under the leadership of the upper-middle class concerned with poor living conditions in all major cities. The movement, which was originally associated mainly with Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Washington, D.C., promoted beauty not only for its own sake, but also to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the philosophy believed that such beautification could promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life, while critics would complain that the movement was overly concerned with aesthetics at the expense of social reform. Continue reading

A Guide to Solar Shingles

Many companies have now begun approaching residential solar PV systems in ways that meet both a homeowner’s energy needs while also answering to the aesthetic qualities of the house. Solar roofing (a.k.a. solar shingles) is an option worth exploring for those who are turned off by the ungainly aesthetics of conventional solar panels. With solar roofing, rather than placing panels on top of the roofing, the solar array is integral to the roof itself. This not only makes the solar array less obtrusive but also saves by substituting for other roofing materials. Here we explore some current developments in solar roofing technology, the advantages, plus the drawbacks of solar shingle roofing systems. Continue reading

What is Low-Carbon Concrete?

The active ingredient in concrete is cement, and concrete’s ubiquitous usage makes cement the most widely used industrial commodity today. The world consumes about half a ton of cement per person per year. But alongside its positive benefits as a construction material, cement also puts a major strain on the environment. Cement production currently accounts for 3% of world energy consumption and roughly 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions from the cement sector is critical to meeting the United Nation’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, but the sector has proven inherently challenging to decarbonize. This challenge is prompting a major drive to develop technological solutions that can address these processing emissions, including significant upticks in both investments and startup activity in low-carbon cement. Continue reading

The Ten Elements of Perfect ADU Design

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) present unique design challenges that require unique solutions. There is simply less square footage to go around, which means that space is at a premium. The most functional ADUs take advantage of design tips and tricks that make interior spaces feel lighter, more spacious, and more efficient. Whether your ADU is intended to become a home office, in-law unit, or rental, these design tips can help you create a unique space that works for any function you need it to serve. Continue reading