Ventilation Tower

A ventilation tower is a natural ventilation system (versus a mechanical system such as a motorized fan) that relies upon pressure differences to move fresh air throughout the house. Natural ventilation systems such as a ventilation tower help to reduce the overall energy consumption of a residence and can improve indoor air quality.

Chico has hot summers, often having many days of 100 degrees or more in a row. When building this barn we wanted to use natural cooling as much as possible. The tower functions by pulling all of the hot air the building accumulates into the tower, then using the tower windows and prevailing winds, the hot air is sucked out of the building while cooler air from the ground and north side of the building is circulated into the house.

Chico has hot summers, often having many days of 100 degrees or more in a row. When building this barn we wanted to use natural cooling as much as possible. The tower functions by pulling all of the hot air the building accumulates into the tower, then using the tower windows and prevailing winds, the hot air is sucked out of the building while cooler air from the ground and north side of the building is circulated into the house.

A view of the tower from the interior.

A view of the tower from the interior.

A view of the tower windows from the exterior.

A view of the tower windows from the exterior.

Framing the tower.

Framing the tower.

Morgan framing the tower roof.

Morgan framing the tower roof.

View of the adjacent orchards from the tower roof.

View of the adjacent orchards from the tower roof.

Sheet Mulching

Sheet mulching is a gardening technique that mimics a natural forest's soil stratification. By using layers of cardboard, compost, mulch and vegetation, sheet mulching helps to create a healthy, low maintenance backyard ecosystem that requires less fertilizers and retains water. 

The first step is to grade the site, laying out and excavating for a path, and making sure to provide enough space around the edges for the additional compost and mulch.

The first step is to grade the site, laying out and excavating for a path, and making sure to provide enough space around the edges for the additional compost and mulch.

Rolls of cardboard are then laid out over the existing soil. This prevents weeds in the short term while the plants have time to establish.

Rolls of cardboard are then laid out over the existing soil. This prevents weeds in the short term while the plants have time to establish.

A layer of organic compost is then spread over the cardboard.

A layer of organic compost is then spread over the cardboard.

Drip Irrigation is installed and a thick layer of mulch is spread over the compost.

Drip Irrigation is installed and a thick layer of mulch is spread over the compost.

Finally the plants and stone path are installed.

Finally the plants and stone path are installed.

1 year after installation.

1 year after installation.

Green Roofs

Green Roofs

Green roofs, or roof gardens, are a layer of vegetation that sits atop a building's roof. They usually include a waterproofing layer, a root barrier, a growing medium and a drainage system that acts as an extension of the existing roof. They can also include an irrigation system, depending on the types of plants used. In addition to providing aesthetic appeal, green roofs can also add a lot of functionality to a roof.


They can;

  • provide thermal insulation to a home or office building
  • retain storm-water that would otherwise add to the city's waste-water management system
  • attract wildlife
  • decrease the amount of heat radiated back into a neighborhood (think cool field of grass versus hot asphalt)
Root Barrier is put in place above the waterproofing membrane.

Root Barrier is put in place above the waterproofing membrane.

Steel mesh is attached to the perimeter of the roof to hold roof garden build up.

Steel mesh is attached to the perimeter of the roof to hold roof garden build up.

Gravel is placed on top of the root barrier for drainage and filter fabric is placed on top of gravel to keep it free from soil.

Gravel is placed on top of the root barrier for drainage and filter fabric is placed on top of gravel to keep it free from soil.

A lightweight soil is placed over the filter fabric.

A lightweight soil is placed over the filter fabric.

Plants with suitable root requirements are then planted.

Plants with suitable root requirements are then planted.

Finished Product

Finished Product


Concrete Counter Top

Concrete Counter tops

Concrete counter tops are a beautiful alternative to stone or laminate counter tops. Once sealed, they are extremely durable and can resist scratching and heat similarly to granite. The best part about concrete counter tops is their customization. Since the concrete starts out as a liquid, it can be poured into a variety of shapes and built-ins, such as recessed cutting boards or trivets, can be included. A variety of colors and materials can also be added to the concrete to give the counter top a unique look.

Concrete counter tops can also be a sustainable alternative to other counter top materials. Unlike stones such as granite or marble, the cement in concrete can be obtained locally instead of having to be shipped from overseas mines. 

Concrete counter tops are poured upside down and formed using sheets of melamine. Shown here are two sections of the counter top with welded wire mesh reinforcement. In the top section you can see the cut-outs for the sink and burner insert.

Concrete counter tops are poured upside down and formed using sheets of melamine. Shown here are two sections of the counter top with welded wire mesh reinforcement. In the top section you can see the cut-outs for the sink and burner insert.

Shown here are both molds with the poured concrete curing.

Shown here are both molds with the poured concrete curing.

After curing, the concrete counter tops are taken out of the molds and flipped over so that the face poured against the melamine is exposed. 

After curing, the concrete counter tops are taken out of the molds and flipped over so that the face poured against the melamine is exposed. 

Morgan then polishes the tops to the desired finish.

Morgan then polishes the tops to the desired finish.

Finished Product

Finished Product

Here are some additional counter tops we have created, including this one with seamless concrete sink built in.

Here are some additional counter tops we have created, including this one with seamless concrete sink built in.