Sheryl Milardo is in charge of Centerbrook’s Library and Product Resources, researching, receiving, and disseminating information on a broad range of materials and topics. She collaborates with project teams in the selection of products for specification, and also arranges in-house educational and product presentations for the staff.
View all posts by Sheryl Milardo →
Porcelain has a long pedigree, going back millennia to China, later Italy, and lately anywhere someone can generate 1,280 degrees Centigrade to fire clay. Dense, durable, fire-resistant, and non-porous, porcelain is a common material in our homes. For example, fine china is made of it, as are commodes and bathroom floor and wall tiling. Made right, it is made to last.
Recently porcelain manufacturers have introduced a unique component to the finish glaze process, so that the end product actually reduces air pollution and kills harmful bacteria. We are more familiar with materials inside buildings, such as carpets and finishes, which can degrade the quality of the air by off-gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). More on porcelain’s remarkable air-cleaning development further along.
In a world where nothing is static, porcelain is changing and assuming new roles. For one Centerbrook designed project, a new academic wing for a high school, we are looking into the possibility of using porcelain for flooring. This product has a particular glaze look: a natural wood grain pattern that can mimic oak, cherry, or any other wood surface. The tile sizes are designed as “planks” to further complete the illusion. The only way you could tell the difference is if you walked on it barefoot: porcelain is a wee bit colder to the touch. Continue reading Out of the Water Closet→
The era of the incandescent light bulb, initially patented in 1879 by Thomas A. Edison, is under assault through a combination of market forces and legislative fiat – primarily because it has been an energy hog. In 2007 the federal government mandated that the bulbs become more efficient beginning next year – although there are some loopholes in the law for specialty incandescent models.
As proof that our hi-tech world is spinning ever faster, consider this: compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), the energy-efficient upstart that began challenging Edison’s 19th century technology a few years ago, already have competition from LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. Also in the field of challengers, if something of a dark horse at this point, is ESL technology (electron stimulated luminescence).
What used to be fairly straightforward proposition – what’s the wattage? – has become complex and even controversial. Some people believe incandescent bulbs are getting a raw deal, that their light is superior and that they can be made more efficient and longer lasting, for example, through the simple act of employing a dimmer switch. And even though manufactures are producing more efficient incandescent bulbs to meet the new standards, there has been and will be hoarding. Many people, however, are voting with their wallets and a desire to reduce kilowatt consumption (lighting accounts for just over10 percent of an average household’s energy usage).
But with or without them incandescents, the lighting world will never be the same. Soon bulb packages will be carrying labels to inform consumers of such variables as lumens (a measure of brightness), estimated life span and yearly cost, as well as the more familiar wattage (which is a measure of energy use, not brightness). Consumers like me now have more options. Continue reading The Lights of Our Lives→
Those of us not raised by wolves know the fairy tale about the Three Little Pigs: one built a house out of straw (cheap and superficially sustainable with local, organic, and recyclable material); the second out of sticks (ditto); and the third out of bricks – a more energy intensive, durable and expensive material, but well worth it, at least in this porcine application.
In the story, the Big Bad Wolf is the arbiter of sustainability. Two of the houses, of course, were designed and built dead wrong. The moral is clear: Being sustainable, as Two Little Pigs found out, isn’t as easy as one might think.
Most of us want to do what’s right for ourselves, our clients, and the planet, but good intensions are not good enough. Pitfalls abound. As head of Product Resources at Centerbrook and charged with researching and proposing green building products for diverse projects, I appreciate how complex and variable this worthy effort can be. Continue reading The Three Little Pigs and Sustainability→