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Mobile Bay Inspiration Home

Living Room

Sustainable Design Strategies

Planning and Design

The Living Room is located to get light from the South, East and West, and to share views with the Kitchen,Dining and Foyer so that one can literally look out into nature from every direction. Windows onto the Entry Porch allow someone in the Living Room or Working in the kitchen to have a clear view of anyone approaching the front door. This kind of “commanding view,” when combined with a sense of refuge and protection, offering by the Living Room’s cozy seating, lets our subconscious relax and enjoy the moment. An energy efficient fireplace, the modern version of a  traditional hearth, further adds to the sense of comfort in the room.

“Color Tunable” Lighting

Our bodies evolved in sunlight. Daylight changes in color throughout the day, from warm morning light, to cooler and brighter mid day light, back to warm evening light. Exposure to those shifting color temperatures defines our circadian rhythms, which in turn regulate our sleep cycles, our weight, and our health. We see technology adapting to recognize this, with phones that change to a warmer screen color in the evening to help prepare people for sleep.

Nora Lighting’s 2” Iolite recessed LED luminaires are equipped with “comfort dim” technology, so that it is “color tunable” from a bright sunny 3100K, to a dimmed glow at 2,000K, which is more like candlelight. This allows the interior lighting to go through the same color shifts as the light outdoors, supporting healthy circadian function and healthy sleep.

The lights also have a color rendering index of 90+ which means they will not distort your perception of color. 90% of all lighting is required to be efficient for Zero Energy Ready Certification. 100% of the lighting in this home uses super efficient LED light sources. Efficient LED Lighting reduces energy use and heat generation associated with lighting. LED’s also have an extremely long life, approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent, 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen, and 8-10 times longer than a typical CFL. Depending on how many hours a day the lights are used, a homeowner may only have to change an LED every 11-18 years.


The wild untamed design of the Finley Chandelier consists of varying layers of bleached rattan that create wonderful billowy shadow play and a soft glow in the Living Room. The natural materials and form, and the play of light and shadow are biophilic elements that subconsciously remind us of walking through a wood with dappled light, or gathering by a campfire in the evening. Efficient LED lighting conserves energy.


A crackling fire is deeply associated with comfort and warmth in the human psyche. People are hard wired to love fireplaces, even on the gulf coast, where warmth is rarely in short supply. However, wood-burning fireplaces are an extremely inefficient way to heat your home. Fireplace drafts can pull the warm air up the chimney, causing other rooms to be cooler, and your heater to work harder to maintain constant temperatures throughout the house. Also, fireplaces do not burn as cleanly as EPA-certified wood heaters, creating 20 times the amount of air pollution. For these reasons, Indoor air Plus does not allow open fireplaces inside the home, and has strict requirements for efficient combustion and ventilation.

The Inspiration Home delivers the comfort and biophilic amenity of a fireplace within a healthy and energy efficient indoor environment by using a highly efficient, sealed, and vented gas fireplace as a focal point of the Living Room, and an open fire pit on the Porch. The fireplace surround is made locally of cast concrete, to reduce the environmental impacts associated with transporting a heavy stone surround.

Wood Flooring

The wood flooring used throughout the Inspiration home is a pale white oak with distinctive graining and a matte finish that gives it the appearance of unfinished wood. Using visibly identifiable natural materials is a biophilic design strategy that has been proven to provide  emotional and cognitive benefits, including decreased blood pressure, increased creativity, and increased comfort. Learn more by reading The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design by Terrapin Bright Green.

The adhesives and sealants used in its installation, are GreenGuard certified for low emissions.  Products with GREENGUARD Certification are compliant with stringent emission levels for over 360 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), plus a limit on the total of all chemical emissions combined (TVOC).

UltraLight Gypsum Drywall

US Gypsum USG Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels are Greenguard Gold certified, low emitting materials. Sheetrock is ubiquitous in construction, it is a heavy material used in large quantities.  Using light weight drywall is a simple step that greatly reduces the pollution associated with transporting the materials from manufacture to the site.

USG Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels are 1/2 in. (12.7 mm) gypsum panels that feature proprietary core and paper technologies, resulting in a high strength-to-weight ratio composite design. These lightweight panels are also engineered to have superior sag resistance, eliminating the need for traditional 1/2 in. (12.7 mm) sag-resistant ceiling panels. The noncombustible gypsum core is encased in 100% recycled face and back papers, The light weight design is easier for installers to work with, and can improve construction speed and safety.

People tend to think of the environmental impact of a home or building in terms of energy use and utility bills. However, building materials also create significant environmental impacts, through the pollution associated with their extraction, manufacture, and transportation to the job site. This is called “embodied carbon,” with carbon being an indicator of all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide. The environmental impacts of building materials are also front loaded in time, while a building’s energy use creates incremental impacts over a lifetime of use. Since the emissions that we produce between now and 2050 will determine whether or not we avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the embodied carbon of building materials matters a great deal.

For the greatest impact, prioritize the selection of locally produced and sustainably manufactured materials for heavy items that are needed in large quantities, like brick, concrete, framing, or drywall.

Wood Doors and Trim

Solid wood doors and finger jointed molding use wood sourced from Koetter’s own managed forests that were planted from vacant land. Keotter has won multiple awards for forest management Including the “Good Steward” award from the Arbor Day foundation and the Forestry Award from the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Solid wood doors are naturally low emitting materials. Finger jointed molding conserves materials by utilizing smaller pieces of wood joined together.

The curved shapes of moldings and door panels balance the strong lines of the cabinets. and reinforce the biophilic interior design, by echoing organic forms, like the curve of a wave or a seashell.

Interior Paint

The interior paint is Greenguard Gold certified as a low emitting material, or has an equivalent certification with small chamber testing. This means that the paint has been tested in a sealed chamber where any off gassing can be analyzed and measured for compliance with health standards. This is not the same as being labeled “low emitting”. Many products are labeled “low emitting” that simply meet legal requirements for the volatile organic compounds in their ingredients. They may only be “low” compared to materials that are no longer legal to use, hardly something to brag about.

Indoor Air Plus certification requires that 90% of all paints, stains, and coatings applied inside the home meet GreenGuard Gold or an equivalent certification. Not only the paint, but also all of the stains, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and caulks in this home were carefully screened to prevent emissions that could contaminate the interior of this home.

All of the paint colors used in the Inspiration Home contain no black or grey pigment, which make them extremely dynamic and responsive to differing conditions of daylight. This mimics the dynamic appearance of colors found in nature and is one of our biophilic design strategies.

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