“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Who do you think said that? If you don’t already know, you’ll never guess.
It was Thomas Edison. In 1931.
Well, Mr. Edison, we didn’t have to wait for oil and coal to run out. Scientists and engineers have tackled solar power -- the natural energy of the sun to produce electricity -- and dramatically improved the technology it involves over the past two or three decades. Today, the prospect of running our homes on the power we generate from our own, stylistically unobtrusive solar energy system is not “futuristic” or “weird” but pretty much mainstream.
Here's a statement from the National Council for Solar Growth (NCSG) that will amaze and, we hope, delight you -- unless you're the CEO of a coal or oil producer:
"Recent renewable energy reports suggest that by 2050, solar energy will be the most widely used source of electricity across the globe."
The solar energy industry has also created two new professions: solar installers and solar engineers. If you’re considering a solar energy system for your renovation or new home, you will meet both pros as you work together to answer three key questions:
<>1.2.3.Net Metering. For example, both Duke Energy in North Carolina and Florida Power & Light have Net Metering programs. A solar aggregator will have to handle this for you for a small fee, but you’ll still come out on top. Imagine the utility companying owing you money instead of the other way around. To see the average cost of a system and its installation in Florida city by city, check out EnergySage.com.
Obviously, the type of system you choose will determine the up-front costs. But here’s where the up-front savings, via rebates and tax credits, kick in. Solar rebates, paid by the State, can be as much $2,000 right off the top. Also in Florida, residents don’t have to pay sales tax on their systems. That’s a seven percent savings right there. Here’s another perk from the Sunshine State: Adding value to your home via a solar energy system will not increase your property tax.
Now add the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to those perks and incentives. The ITC allows you to deduct 30 percent of the entire cost of purchasing and installing a rooftop solar energy system from your federal taxes. (Unfortunately, under the current policy that percentage will start to drop as of January 1, 2020, but not to the point of discouraging the process.)
These are a few ways to offset the up-front costs of a solar energy system. What about long term costs and ROI?
According to the NCSG, five years is the average time it takes for a solar system to pay for itself. After that, the more energy you generate from your system, the less money you pay to a utility company. The solar engineer who will come to assess your home and energy needs will help you make sure free or nearly free energy is in your future.
But don’t forget another reason for choosing solar: the environmental impact. Unlike fossil fuel power, solar is clean, renewable, and sustainable, relying upon one of the most natural resources in the world: the sun. It has no negative impact on the planet whatsoever. Even the energy used to produce photovoltaic cells is paid back soon after.
Changing The Way We See
Award-winning modernist architect Frank Harmon shares his delight in ordinary places and everyday objects in his new book.
Four months ago, ORO Editions, Publishers of Architecture, Art and Design, released Native Places: Drawing as a Way to See, a new book by celebrated North Carolina architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, that has been called “a masterful legacy on all levels,” and ”a delightful book, destined to charge the way we see the world,” among other statements of praise.
Now in its second printing, is a collection of 64 watercolor sketches with which Harmon has been filling small sketchbooks for decades, paired with brief essays about architecture, landscape, everyday objects, and nature. The sketches convey the delight he finds in ordinary places and objects. The 200-word essays, inspired by the sketches, offer his fresh interpretations of what his readers probably take for granted. His mission, he says, is to “change the way we see.”
Architect, author, professor, lecturer, mentor, and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Frank Harmon is well known for the he has designed across the Southeast for 30 years. His work engages pressing contemporary issues, including “placelessness,” sustainability, and the restoration of cities and nature.
Harmon’s buildings are specific to their region and sites and use materials such as hurricane-felled cypress and rock from local quarries to connect his buildings to their landscapes. Airy breezeways, outdoor living spaces, deep overhangs, and wide lawns embody the vernacular legacy of the South while maintaining Harmon’s
When his wife, landscape architect Judy Harmon, succumbed to cancer five years ago, Harmon began searching for something to focus on besides his grief. The idea for using an existing watercolor sketch from one of his sketchbooks to inspire a 200-250-word essay soon emerged. That idea became his now-popular online journal NativePlaces.org, a online assemblage of thoughts and hand-drawn sketches that illustrate the value of looking closely at buildings and places.
Along with publishing the sketch-essay pairings online, he emails them every two weeks or so to his thousands of subscribers across the U.S. and beyond “”
“ ‘’ ”
Native Places --
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March 15, 2019 at 02:43PM
Frank Lloyd Wright continues to impact our lives every day.
FLW and Fallingwater
“I would rather solve the small-house problem than build anything else I can think of.”
In 1991, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) officially declared Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) “the greatest American architect of all time.” International academia considers him one of the three or four greatest modern architects of all time in the world (but possibly also one of the biggest divas amongst architects, and certainly a difficult one).
Wright’s name conjures images of such iconic FLW buildings as the Guggenheim Museum, the swirling concrete sculpture in New York City; Taliesin West, his iconic school of architecture in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert; and Fallingwater, the masterpiece he built into the rocky side of a mountain and above a waterfall in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.
These are only three out of 500-plus projects he completed over his 70-year career.
Yet to this visionary genius from Wisconsin, solving the American suburban “small-house problem” for “the common people” was a persistent mission. And the solutions he found forever changed the paradigm of residential design.
If you’re sitting in a modern or “contemporary” house right now, you’re enjoying Wright’s genius right now without even knowing it.
“I believe in God, only I spell it N-a-t-u-r-e.”
Frank Lloyd Wright’s devotion to “organic architecture,” as he called his guiding ethos, influenced everything he designed. So he looked to forms found in nature for inspiration. The design for the Guggenheim, for example, was reportedly based on a shell. Fallingwater – voted the “best all-time work of American architecture” by the AIA – is, in essence, an outcropping on the mountainside.
Wright’s work was never ostentatious – not even his largest, most expensive houses. He believed in clean lines and simplicity and despised the restraints and unnecessary ornamentation of architectural styles that preceded him, especially tthe ornate fussiness of the Victorian era.
FLW's 1920 Frederick Robie House, the epitome of his Prairie style.
To Wright, American homes needed to be more open, airy, and livable for everyday citizens. He saw the need for fewer, larger rooms conducive to family life, with an abundance of natural light and easy access to the outdoors, both physically and through constant views.
His philosophy was manifest in all of his work, including the Prairie Style houses (his term) he designed for the mid-western U.S. (1893 to early 1900s) and later in the small, one-story “Usonian” houses, as he named them, that he conceived during the Great Depression.
The 1936 Jacobs "Usonian" House
Of the latter, Wright knew his clients would emerge from the Depression destined to lead simpler lives without household help. They were going to need affordable, sensible, aesthetically pleasing homes. Among other considerations, this would require consolidated functionality.
“The architect must be a prophet…a prophet in the true sense of the term…If he can’t see at least ten years ahead, don’t call him an architect.”
So – you’re sitting in your modern or contemporary house right now, and you’re wondering where the great man’s influence still lurks. If you’re an architect, you already know. If not, prepare to be amazed:
FLW created deep, cantilevered roof overhangs to protect all of his windows.
(1) The hallmark of Wright’s groundbreaking Prairie Style was its horizontal emphasis – “a companion to the horizon,” he said. One way in which he expressed that emphasis was with his use of flat or hipped roofs with deep, cantilevered overhangs.
(2) A pioneer in structural glass: The roof overhangs were necessary to shade all those wonderful horizontal bands of windows and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that allowed natural light and panoramic views of nature to fill the interior.
FLW stunned the world with his concept for open floor plans, like the one above.
(3) Wright introduced the concept of open floor plans, a fresh and rather startling concept then, but de rigueur in all modern homes after it became popular post-WWII. The concept was not only beautiful and comfortable, but it also consolidated functionality rather than dividing the home’s function into a series of separate, confining-areas. As a result, Wright achieved the “fewer, larger rooms” he advocated for modern American living, as well as the open airiness we still love about modern houses today.
(4) Wright was both an artist and a pragmatist. As the latter, he knew that without domestic help, the post-Depression wife/mother (as was the norm then) would need to keep an eye on her children while performing her work in the kitchen. The open floor plan aided that. It also banished the claustrophobic kitchen that kept her away from family and friends. He installed skylights in the kitchen ceiling to provide natural light since the “workroom of the house,” as Wright called it, was often in the windowless core of the house.
(5) Other kitchen innovations we take for granted that sprang from FLW’s genius:
(6) To avoid costly, time-consuming plasterwork, Wright specified more efficient, less expensive pre-finished plywood for his interior walls – arguably the precursor to drywall.
(7) Construction technique and materials: Wright was the first architect to use new building materials – concrete and steel – in domestic architecture, including cost-efficient and durable concrete block construction. He hid the humble blocks behind veneers of more attractive materials, such as wood, stone, and brick (depending on the place in which the house was built).
(8) By embracing those construction materials previously relegated to commercial buildings, he was able to create L-shaped footprints for his houses. The “L” enclosed and overlooked a back yard/courtyard/private garden for the suburban homeowner – another way to blur the boundary between indoors and outdoors.
(9) Functional innovation: The L-shape also let him separate the bedrooms from the more “public” areas (living/dining/kitchen) in a one-level house. He believed this separation was vital for harmonious family life.
Wright invented the carport. On this FLW house, it's carport-as-sculpture. (Photo James Michael Kruger)
(10) He took advantage of other technical advancements to reduce costs for his clients. For example, furnaces had become smaller and cleaner. So he eliminated basements, opting instead for less expensive concrete slab foundations. He ran pipes through the slab for radiant heating. Many well-kept mid-century modern houses still feature their original under-the-floor heating.
(11) When automobile design and materials made them less vulnerable to the elements, Wright also reduced construction costs by replacing garages with “carports” – a term he coined.
* * *
These are only a few elements of modern and contemporary houses that we take for granted today. So when you have a few minutes, look around your own house. Chances are you’ll find several reasons to thank Frank.
On January 2, 2018, in an article entitled “Florida Could Be Close to a Real Estate Reckoning,” the Insurance Journal suggested that “one of the great mysteries of climate change isn’t scientific but psychological: When will the growing risks associated with rising seas and more severe storms begin to affect home values in otherwise desirable coastal markets?”
The article continued: “Nowhere is that question more pressing than South Florida, which has some of the country’s priciest properties—and some of the most vulnerable. A state built on real estate speculation, whose chief attribute was proximity to the water, now faces a whole new problem: There’s not enough land, high enough above the water, for its residents to pull back from the rising seas. By the end of the [21st] century, database company Zillow Group estimates, almost a half-million Miami homes could be—literally—underwater. That’s more than anywhere else in the country.”
Fast forward to December 21, when The Real Deal newsletter reported that home buyers and builders in Miami Beach have seized upon one immediate, if not visionary, solution to rising sea levels and the growing threat of flooding:
Elevated living quarters already a building requirement in the Florida Keys and on Key Biscayne, in July last year Miami Beach eased its restrictions on the height limit beneath single-family homes, which was set at seven feet (2.31 m). With approval from the city’s Design Review Board, owners and builders can now use pilings, or stilts, to raise the first floors of their homes up to 15 feet (4.95 m) – as architect Rene Gonzalez is proposing for his own house in the Venetian Islands.
“For now, Miami Beach’s elevated home designs mostly cater to luxury construction because of prohibitively high costs,” The Real Deal article states. “But in the future, industry experts said, those projects will become more common as designs are modified, prices drop and flood insurance rates rise.”
Patrick Dwyer, a wealth advisor with Merrill-Lynch, hired the renowned Miami firm Arquitectonica to design his two-story, $5 million house, which will sit high above Lucerne Avenue. Asked about the elevation he required, Dwyer said, “This seemed like a no-brainer. If you’re in Miami Beach and you’re not thinking about sea level rise, then you don’t really understand what’s to come.”
Difficult subject? Certainly.
Can we in Florida – owners, buyers, Realtors, the public – close our eyes and make it go away? Most certainly not.
My question to local property owners and buyers: Does this subject influence your purchase or ownership decisions, and if so how?
Looking forward to hear from you, here in the comment section or via email to email@example.com.
Photo: Modern beachfront/waterfront home by architect Toshiki Mori on North Casey Key, Florida, with 7,100+ sf, six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, den and bonus room on the interior, swimming pool and guest house. Off-market.
It's that time of the year again: to welcome the New Year and to take a moment to introduce myself to new readers and visitors.
I'm a passionate fan of modern(ist) homes since I was quite young. According to my mum, as baby I was parked in my little crib in my parents' dining room, jazz playing in the background, while they discussed with their architect friend the modern house they were going to build, in which I would grow up in (modern vs. modernist is another post I regularly schedule, as it is a bit confusing. But there is a correct answer).
Unfortunately never having studied architecture, I snuggled up to it by opening my own office (now located in Boca Raton, Florida) as an independent real estate broker and consultant for modern architecture in 1990, approximately covering the area between Vero Beach and South Miami on the Atlantic coast.
It took me a bit of time to find my focus in real estate, and that in a market flooded with real estate agents. After being licensed I worked several years in all sorts of residential and commercial real estate: a generalist. But I found my calling over 15 years ago: modern homes, from mid-century to today's modernism. My real estate background is commercial, so I also know something about NNN-investment properties and still work in that field as well.
The Secret List
One of my most important tools, and part of my secret sauce, is The List.
For many years, I have personally documented modernist properties in Southeast Florida: whether observed, accidentally found, searched out, or through our Realtor property database MLS: they all end up in my Master List of contemporary and mid-century modernist properties – mostly single family homes, with a condo building, a supermarket or even a car dealership included for good measure.
Our MLS database is a bit tricky; since there is no “Modern” filter I devised my own. Consequently, I have as many as nine special searches running parallel, handpicking modernist properties for my list several times a week.
Over the course of the years, this list has grown to more than 4,600 unique modernist properties in Southeast Florida, covering roughly the area between South Miami and Vero Beach.
It is a labour of love and real work to keep the list updated, including sales prices.
However, it's not only an excellent educational tool but truly invaluable when it comes to finding modern houses for buyers who know what they want, or for sellers who need an expert to properly evaluate and market their modern home.
My Invitation to You
I warmly invite your comments, questions and inquiries, independent of you being a seller, a buyer, or simply a fan of modernist architecture.
Kaiser Associates Realtors, South Florida’s only real estate brokerage specializing exclusively in modern homes, has selected Blueplate PR in Raleigh, NC, as its public relations agency, citing owner Kim Weiss’s extensive knowledge of architecture – especially modern architecture – as a key factor.
“Our clients have a refined, special taste in homes, and our buyers are located all over the Americas,” said Tobias Kaiser, founder/owner, and a licensed broker. “Being trained in, and having worked in, public communication, I know print advertising won’t reach them. Looking for someone to help us grow our business and who understands modern architecture, Kim is just uniquely qualified.”
A native of Germany, Kaiser and his wife, Lisa, live in Boca Raton. They also maintain a home outside Munich and another in Raleigh where they met Weiss.
“When I launched Blueplate PR in 2004, after nearly 20 years as a journalist covering architecture and historic preservation, I promised myself that I would only accept clients whose work fueled my passions,” she said. “When I’m excited about a client’s work, good things happen. Well, I’m very excited about the work that Tobias and his team do at Kaiser Associates. They don’t just move real estate. They’re actually ‘match-makers’ who help very special homes find very special homeowners and renters who truly love and appreciate the houses’ architectural integrity. I’m thrilled that they’re letting me be a part of all that love!”
Throughout South-East Florida, Tobias Kaiser has documented over 4700 modernist homes and evaluated and brokered many of them, including:
For the latter, Kaiser found the lot and the architect and served as the owner’s representative throughout construction, which took three years to complete.
Among the homes Kaiser currently represents exclusively or in cooperation with colleagues is an exemplary mid-century modern beach house designed by renowned American architect Paul Rudolph. That house and all of Kaiser’s listings can be viewed at www.modernsouthflorida.com/modern-homes-for-sale.
For more information on Kaiser Associates Realtors, visit www.kaiserassoc.com.
For more information on Blueplate PR, go to www.blueplatepr.net.
About Kaiser Associates Realtors:
Through its experienced real estate agents, Kaiser Associates offers clients expertise, knowledge, and experience in four core specialties: (1) brokering, preserving, and promoting modern homes in South Florida, from mid-century to new construction; (2) owner representation and consulting for modernist ground-up construction, rehabs and renovations; (3) a full range of residential services including buying, selling, and renting; and (4) buyer representation for Net-leased/NNN investment properties in Florida and throughout the U.S.
After many years of writing my blog The Modernist Angle apart from this website (you find the old version here, if you are curious what you missed), I decided that it will make things easier to re-unite blog and website, especially in light of some interesting and exciting changes I have planned.
You'll see those changes here first, and where applicable also mentioned on my facebook page.
The latest market data for Southeast Florida single family homes for August 2012 can be found at http://www.TheModernistAngle.com
Current market data for Southeast Florida single family homes July 2012 can be found here
Market data for Southeast Florida single family homes for the month of June 2012 can be found at http://www.TheModernistAngle.com
Fresh data for the South Florida Home market are published on the Blog "The Modernist Angle" - read on here.
As the home-buying season begins in earnest in many parts of the country, Southeast Florida – which enjoyed an unusually mild winter, to the dismay of many including me – continues on its path of odd market behaviour, namely rapidly shrinking inventory accompanied by mildly rising asking and selling prices.
As dramatic as the numbers for single family home sales are, looking at the Tri-County area won't tell the whole picture, so I will briefly point out some of the differences between Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade... please read on at the blog The Modernist Angle
_"Use your mentality, wake up to reality..."
Lyrics from Cole Porter's famous "I've got you under my skin", written in 1936, came to my mind this month. I admit that I have Nicole Henry's lovely version of that song constantly in my ears and on iTunes. To me, uptempo–and perhaps the great American Songbook–just seems to be her forte.
So, is Nicole singing to or even for home buyers?
I doubt it. But the February numbers for single family homes (condos, coops and townhouses not included) should get prospective buyers thinking of Cole Porter.
In essence, more or less stable asking prices and (year-over-year) slightly soft selling prices created a very very active market in February–with dramatically falling inventory (may I say "dramatically" when it's 50 percent or more?) and a hefty spike in the number of sold houses.
As always, the table is accompanied by a lovely graphic:
Coming back to Nicole Henry and her Cole Porter interpretation: time for buyers to wake up. True, not every buyer is flexible in his or her plans, but those who are should get off the benches. Now.
Table: Single family home data per month’s end for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade (Florida) counties. Chart: Single family home data Mar 2011 to Feb 2012. Red: median list price, green: median selling price, blue: inventory in months. – Data compiled from SEF-MLS. Also published at http://www.TheModernistAngle.com._
Several regular readers have suggested to post the monthly market data for home sales also on my blog. I'd be happy to: Starting this month, they will appear here as well as on http://www.themodernistangle.com
To business: January mostly continued the December trend – a dwindling number of houses on the market, increased asking prices overall but softer asking and selling prices for those homes that actually closed.
Are sellers asleep at the wheel? Because why would anyone increase the asking price, when in actuality prices are giving in (4.5% month-over-month and 6.8% year-ver-year)? Doesn't make much sense.
What I suspect is typified by a modernist seller in North Broward: the property is on the market with different four agents since 2008, so they just raised the price again by $100k. Clever; they must know something no one else knows ("my property is so much better than the rest"). Too bad buyers are too dumb to see the light. I don't see it, either.
In general, the market is far from homogeneous: trophy properties as well as those sectors most in demand – say $200,000 to $500,000 – are rapidly disappearing, and there is no sign this will change. In modern architecture, the availabilities are even tighter (as regular readers know, I compile but do not publish monthly market data for modern home sales anymore. They are available for clients and appraisers on request).
There is also a distinct incline heading north from Dade to Broward to Palm Beach, both in regards to asking as well as to selling prices, absolut and per square foot.
The January numbers:
Single family home data per month’s end for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade (Florida) counties.
And the matching chart:
Single family home data Feb 2011 to Jan 2012. Red: median list price, green: median selling price, blue: inventory in months. – Data compiled from SEF-MLS
If you have any questions, or would like more detailed data pertaining to a purchase or sale you consider, please let me know – I look forward to hearing from you.
_Quiet December wasn't so quiet after all, it turns out.
Real Estate newsletters bombard you with news about skyrocketing condo sales in Miami (who's buying?) but the market for houses was also rather lively for this time of the year. Too bad that my tools don't allow a seller origin analysis.
All the activity didn't translate into price changes though: listing as well as selling prices didn't move m-o-m, while y-o-y there was a 10 percent dent to be observed.
In the same time though, inventory dropped a hefty 24% (I added y-o-y changes behind the m-o-m changes to mix things up a bit for you). Again, supply and demand rules seem not to be applicable right now:
_Table: single family home data per month’s end for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade (Florida) counties. Changes are month-over-month / year-over-year.
Chart: Single family home data Jan 2011 to Dec 2011. Red: median list price, green: median selling price, blue: inventory in months. – Data compiled from SEF-MLS
Tobias Kaiser is an independent real estate consultant and licensed Realtor in Florida since 1990. He specializes in modern architecture and net leased investments.