Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kitchenette and kBtu's.

Today was a rainy day, with no chicken coop to keep me entertained. Instead, I tackled the kitchenette, where students who opt to skip the meal plan store and prepare their food.

(Jessa, my boss from last summer, is on the "Intern wall of fame" above the cabinets.)

(This room was originally designed to be a men's restroom. Hence, tile-art.)

There are several design issues: not enough room for everyone's junk in the fridge, lack of storage space for dry goods, and poor dish-washing system and storage for clean dishes/cookware.

Before I could deal with any of this, the kitchen needed to be cleaned and organized, so I could see what we had to work with.

The fridge was the biggest issue. When the kitchen has a lot of leftovers, they will often put them in containers and send them to the kitchenette as freebies. But since they don't belong to any one person, nobody knows to look for them and they are forgotten. I filled a five-gallon bucket with rancid, rotting, smelly, moldy food. I sorted the rest of the food and gave each person their section of the fridge, with cute labels and everything. (People should label every food item they stick in the fridge. I left a section for unlabeled food, which will be marked as "free" if they aren't claimed by Thursday.)
Now, while the fridge still looks crowded, it is a much looser pack, with obvious room to stick new items in. People have been thanking me all day for taking on this task.

After sorting dishes, tupperware, pots and pans, I came up with a list of things that needed improvement and a few suggestions. I browsed the library for some helpful kitchen/storage design books and got some great ideas for cabinetry and dish storage.

One thing I decided would help the flow of the kitchen would be drying racks that were the final storage destination for dishes.
Pretend this rack is metal and has a gutter-system for drainage. This would be an appropriate way to dry and store plates, as opposed to the artfully (and dangerously) stacked drying racks we use now. Cups can be hung on pegs (as the majority are mugs with handles) and pans, strainers and skillets can be hung. This takes out the middle step of the drying rack that needs to be unloaded. It also provides better storage for dishes than what is currently available - underneath the counter. There's no real solution for bowls at the moment...

I'm also hoping to retrofit a couple of the cabinets under the counter to be pull-out drawers, for better storage of tupperware and any cookware that isn't hung. I would like to build a few more cabinets to go above the counter for extra food-storage space.

I worked with Dave a bit in the afternoon to brainstorm and evaluate some of the ideas I had come up with during the day. He gave me some helpful hints and liked what I had to offer. Soon, I will have to post an entry describing our morning meetings, which will include a better overview of Dave.

Cool thing: There's a youth design/build class coming up, so I'm going to pitch the idea that they design and build some sort of storage system for the kitchen, whether it be the drying racks with proper drainage or cabinetry for more dry storage for students.

I sat in on the core class's evening lecture after dinner - it was on energy usage within a building, with a particular focus on natural lighting (although still a broad overview.) Some key points, but certainly not all-encompassing:
  • I have a better understanding and appreciation for the energy measurement kBtu. A kBtu (a thousand Btu's) is a standard energy measurement. 1 KWh of electricity is 3.14 kBtu's and 1 therm of gas is 100 kBtu's.
  • A group called Architecture 2030 is setting targets for building construction. Everybody on the planet should build to at least these standards to offset/reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. Right now, the average house uses 44.7 kBtu's per year. The average multi-family housing with more than 5 families (think apartments) use 48.5 kBtu's. The average mobile home uses 72 kBtu's. Architecture 2030 says that all new buildings should be designed to use half the energy, which is entirely possible. Each year, the standard number should drop 10% (so the average house would be limited at 22kBtu's starting this year, fall to 19.8- 10% of 22 - the next year, 17.8 the year after that.) By the year 2030, buildings would be using a tenth of what they use now.
  • I'm in the north. Foundations for houses require basements. Insullation is far more crucial.
  • The speaker suggested that people choose between passive solar heating and radient floor heating for the wintertime. The reason is this: radient flooring can take anywhere between 12 hours and 2 days. In Vermont, it's pretty warm/mild during the day and chilly at night. If someone were counting on passive solar to heat during the day, they would want to turn off their floor heating (or be overheated,) but then the floor would not be ready to heat during the night-time. In order to have the best control, it is best to rely on one way or the other. (Again, in Vermont more than Kentucky or North Carolina, because there is a more extreme difference in temperature.)
  • A girl from Hungary thought that electronics were creating "vampire loads," which made their electricity usage go up.
  • I have a better understanding and an interest to learn more about heating converters and ventalation systems.
  • I should look up the book "The Ecological Engineer."
  • Even with light shelves, light can only travel about 30 feet from a side window into a building. Good thing to keep in mind, for large buildings.

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