Six Automated Window Systems and Five New Air Conditioners

Natural Ventilation for Modern Office Buildings

While traditional mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are still widely used, contemporary concerns for improving the environmental performance and “livability” of buildings has led to an increased interest in alternatives like natural ventilation and mixed-mode systems.

A major benefit of HVAC, particularly in deep plan and larger office buildings, is that they alleviate many of the problems associated with a naturally ventilated building such as noise, dust, insects, heavy winds, odors and uncomfortable temperatures.

However, there are some studies suggesting that a mixed-mode ventilation system of HVAC and natural ventilation, in combination with good passive design, can provide sufficient indoor air quality to keep occupants happy while reducing their reliance on mechanical air treatment.

Typically, a mixed-mode system operates in either of two modes and is best used for buildings’ perimeter spaces or for narrow planned buildings with good cross ventilation. The first is the natural ventilation mode that uses fresh external air from operable windows or dampers to cool the internal spaces and relies predominantly on the stack effect for hot air to be expelled through high-level exhausts. The second is the mechanical mode and sees the windows closed and the HVAC switched on and is used only when the external temperatures are too hot or too cold for natural ventilation, or when there is a heavy wind or rain.

Control of the operable windows can be manual or automatic and, in keeping with current trends towards automated buildings, we’re seeing more automated window systems come to the market that are compatible with Building Management Systems (BMS).

Some window manufacturers offer built-in automated systems that can be controlled by a BMS and that come with inputs for automated weather stations and sensors that detect smoke, rain, hail, temperature, wind, time, and smog. Others advertise that their products can be easily automated with add-on products like actuators and reed switches, and can also incorporate into a BMS.

These products render manual operation from building occupants—one of the most difficult-to-control influences on a building’s environmental impact—unnecessary, as the BMS detects when it is optimal to open and close windows and to operate the HVAC.

Some of the problems associated with the manual operation of a building’s HVAC and natural ventilation, like occupants leaving windows open with the HVAC on for example can, therefore, be avoided with automated mixed-mode air-conditioning.

Readying Your Greenhouse For Winter

This week is Daylight Savings Time, which means winter is right around the corner. Here are some tips from Mandy Watson of The Shields Gazette on getting your greenhouse ready for winter.

If you have a greenhouse, or any structure that you’re overwintering plants in, your number one priority is making sure it’s clean. Not only must it be frost-free, but pest-free.

Cleaning the greenhouse and conservatory is my least favourite job, but a necessary evil.

Here’s what you need to down to reduce the risk of pests:

1) On a mild day, take everything possible outside.
2) Scrub off any old shade paint from the summer.
3) Brush or vacuum surfaces to remove all debris.
4) Hose down the exterior and interior on a soaker setting, to loosen any pests/eggs and lichen.
5) Wash down glass with warm soapy water and a sponge. A breezy day will mean it dries out more quickly.
6) Spray all surfaces with Citrox, a powerful organic citrus extract disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools, seed trays, bird feeders and bird baths. It doesn’t harm plants and it’s effective against bacterial and fungal diseases.
7) Glass is best done with an anti-bacterial washing-up liquid – it doesn’t streak.
8) Check that all ventilation panels/windows are working.
9) Finally, check over plants that you’re overwintering carefully BEFORE bringing them in – you don’t want them to be harbouring pests. Cut things like geraniums back outside first – and check pot rims and bases for hidden slugs, snails and vine weevils.

A Home Addition Worth the Investment

I began to build conservatories back in 1988. Back then, I was representing Amdega Conservatories, out of Darlington UK. I would present their incredible catalog to prospective homeowners, and without any pause, the first words out of their mouths “when I win the lottery!”
It was a polite way of saying “I could never afford this”, and that was just from looking at the pictures. No one even asked the price of a conservatory! But had they looked closer, they would have realized that it’s very similar to any other home addition.

Naturally, projects of that investment level often required the assistance of an architect in the overall planning. They would begin to work with the Amdega template and soon discovered that Amdega was actually a kit which only came in specific sizes and dimensions. The architect quickly then realized that they could not ‘design’ a conservatory, only manipulate one.
Back in those days, I made a vow that:
1. Conservatories would be affordable
2. Conservatories would be custom designed to fit any situation presented by the architect
My search began in England, as that would be the logical place to explore options in the conservatory industry. I brought back many ideas, many of which would never fly in our harsh Minnesota climate. Most of the UK, had been invaded by vinyl (UPVC as they call it). There was a huge development in that industry in Europe and windows and doors were flying off their hinges as consumers got in line to replace their old wooden, single pane sashes, with UPVC framed, double pane glass. Out with the charm and in with the warm!

While the conservatory industry was thriving in the UK, I was exploring for better ideas. I brought the vinyl idea back to the US and met with many architects and building officials – I still am grateful to a building inspector in the City of St Paul who took much of his time to help me research the products – but in the end, it was a thumbs down, and here were the reasons why.

Vinyl, though being a non-maintenance item, does not mean it has great longevity. UPVC companies have spent fortunes trying to make vinyl UV resistant, and have come great distances with the research. At the end of the day, however, it still deteriorates. Eventually, it will turn hard, brittle and break. How do I know this? We have done many repairs and maintenance on vinyl structures around the country to find when we remove roof sections, the extrusions crumble. OK, so just contact the manufacturing company right? Well, guess what, they are either out of business, they no longer make that part anymore, or have upgraded and improved.

Oh, did I mention the Henry Ford philosophy that applies to vinyl rooms? You can have any color you want, as long as its white!

It is definitely something to consider when shopping for any product in your life. What happens when this product ages and you cannot obtain parts anymore? Well, if it’s a stereo or TV, you get a new one. But, I am discussing an addition you just put on your home! An ‘improvement’ that has a shelf life, like a car and needs to be replaced!

That is why our conservatories are wood or aluminum. Let’s say, for discussion sake, that a tree falls on your conservatory. Bad luck, I know, but it could happen. There is nothing on our rooms that we cannot replace 20 years after we build them, meaning you do not have a depreciating investment on your home.

Now let’s talk about price. One would think brand name conservatories, you know, the manufactured products sold by the big names (not to be mentioned, but you know who they are), would be cheaper. Well, you are correct, the are cheaper – for the company, but not the consumer.
Remember, we are a small, family, sell direct company with no middle men. We design, we counsel, we educate; we do not sell. We assist you with making a wise and lasting choice when buying something as serious as an addition that will long affect the value of your home.

Unlike the new car you just bought, your conservatory should add value to your home for all the years you live there. It should be the feature that sells the home. Joan M. had me build a conservatory for her a few years back but because of a work transfer she had to sell the house. She called me to say that the first people who walked into the house, walked right into the conservatory and said ‘we’ll take it!’ Sold! One conservatory with attached home.

If you bought a new Chevrolet, we have a conservatory for you. If you bought a new Audi or Lexus, we have a conservatory for you. If you bought a new Porsche, we have a conservatory for you.

Take a look at our new e-brochure and find the custom conservatory that fits for you.

Logee’s – The Botanical Wonderland for Conservatory Owners

Hidden in an unassuming old building in rural CT is a treasure of botanical wonder. If you are directed to Logee’s you may stop, but if just passing by, you may not even notice, but behind the century-old façade of a rural farm home lies some of the most unusual and highly prized ornamental plants in the country.

Byron Martin, Logee’s Owner

Owned by Byron and Laurelynn Martin, the greenhouse was first started in 1882 by Bryon’s grandfather.

Byron worked in the greenhouse with his father and grandfather and eventually went off to school, not planning to return, but eventually heeded the call when his time came.

Horticulturalist, Jeff Ellsworth from New York City claims that most of the rare plants purchased by the NY Botanical come from Logee’s. They work the world market to find both rare plants and improved varieties of old friends.

The last time I visited, Byron welcomed me as an old friend. As we walked through the greenhouses, Byron said, ‘wait here’ and he disappeared into an old house to come out minutes later with a small dark red bean. Miracle Bean he called it and invited me to try it. I have to admit it did not taste like much, but I was polite and ate the bean.

A few minutes later, Byron showed up with a huge Meyer Lemon from one of his trees and he cut deep into it with his pocket knife as the juice squeezed out onto the ground. He handed me a section to bite into. I was already salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I bit into the lemon and to my surprise, it tasted like I just chewed into a sugar bowl! Miracle Bean had deadened my ‘bitter’ sensors and all I could taste was sweet. According to Byron, it acts the same with dill pickles and any other sour food.

These are just some of the many plants growing at Logee’s and there are thousands more. Go online to and look through the site or request a catalog. They ship thousands of plants to conservatory customers all over the country. The exploration of the greenhouses is like no other. Not a ‘big box’ greenhouse but small, intimate growing spaces with dirt floors and crooked walls and paths that lead to yet more greenhouses!

Laurelynn showed me a Kumquat that was 140 years old and growing in a greenhouse, right in the middle of an aisle. And an orange growing every variety of orange they cultivate at Logee’s.

Today was “summer fest” and over 1000 locals were about to descend on the greenhouses to find that plant like no other. I left with an Arabica coffee plant for my brother’s birthday and a citrus tree for a new conservatory customer. Citrus plants are their biggest sellers.

We are happy that Byron and Laurelynn Martin of Logee’s have accepted our invitation to spread the news of great plants and well-crafted conservatories to America.
Watch for us in coming months whilst we feature new plant varieties available at Logee’s and as you see conservatories showing up in their catalogs and web pages.

Four Tips to a Cooler Conservatory this summer

I have been building Conservatories for over 25 years I often hear (right after “how do I heat it?”) is how do I keep a glass room cool in the summer? Fear not, Conservatory Craftsmen doesn’t just build your structure and leave. We work with you during every step tackling all aspects of the design phase to create a suitable glass enclosure for your unique lifestyle.

Here are some design elements we consider when designing your conservatory and how to keep it cool and comfortable for people and plants!

1. Nature
Planting large trees on your property that will shade your room and keep the sun’s hot rays from pouring through the windows. You can also decorate the inside of your room with interior large tropical plants; these love the summer sun and again will work well on shading the interior.

2. Independent Cooling/Heating
A small air conditioner unit placed in the knee wall works great and maintains the temperature in most conservatories. Some companies make units that heat and cool, which is a great option if you also need something to help with the temperature during the winter.

3. The Right Glass
All glass allows sunlight to enter and heat to be trapped. However, there is much that we can do to address that. We add filters, films and tints to the glass to reduce the effects of the sun. The market has many glass options and we offer any glass of any kind made.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between light and heat. Knowing your particular situation, the exposure of the conservatory and the expectations of you, the owner, allows us to create the best glass for all issues.
We are not a ‘one glass fits all’ company

4. Blinds and Shades
Conservatory Craftsmen offers many varieties of window shades that will assist in blocking out the sun when you need them to. Not only will properly positioned window treatments help control heat gain or loss; they will also help with privacy. We even offer window shades that will reflect the sun!

Invisible Screen Doors

Summer is here and out of the garage come the window screens. After looking through clear glass windows all winter, I bet you wish you didn’t have to look through those dirty old screens all summer long.

There is an option, for you. A roll away screen that disappears when you are not using it!
Invisible screen doors are the perfect solution for showing off your beautiful doors and enjoying your spectacular views. The Clear View Retractable Screen Doors are the only retractable screen door that doesn’t slam and are custom measured and built specifically for your doors. There are 11 colors to choose from plus custom colors to match any décor.meskell-down

How many times has the dog or the kids run through the patio door screen?

Does the track on your rolling screen fill with dirt and debris and the screen does not roll without a strenuous tug?

Keep the luxurious look of you French Doors with screens that retract themselves with a simple touch.
If the dog runs into the screen is it ruined? No way! It simply requires closing, and opening and it’s as good as new.
Want a screened porch or garage? Our automated screens will roll down into place, with the touch of a button!
One touch, screens down. One touch, screens roll up again! All automatic.

Now you see it, now you don’t

Retractable screens are easy maintenance, disappear when not being used and never need to be replaced. They are the perfect solution for beautiful doors and spectacular views.

Grow it in a Greenhouse!

Over 21 million acres in the United States are now covered in greenhouses, growing fruits and vegetables. I’m old, and constantly reminded of that fact by the team at Conservatory Craftsmen, but I remember a time when going to the store, you bought fruits and vegetables that were ‘in season’ and if you wanted a particular fruit or vegetable out of season, you canned or froze it. In today’s America, the consumer goes to the store and wants what they want, when they want it and in order to provide for this market, advances were made in plant research and facilities, massive, commercial greenhouses have sprung up all over the country growing, well, you name it!

Today, at Conservatory Craftsmen, most of my inquiries are from people who have visions of building a glass room and benefiting from fresh herbs and vegetables. Some plants are easy to grow and some take a bit more experience, but it is fun and rewarding.

Where do you start?
Well, call us, of course. We are not just designers and builders of specialty glass spaces, we are also horticulturalists who love to design ‘environments’ not just spaces. Once you have your conservatory/greenhouse, plan your indoor garden. Since we live in our conservatory as well, we want the plants to co-habitat with us in our environment. We both give a little to make this happen. The plants get some room and we get the chair! However, in the winter time when my Fogger/humidifier is going, this is the healthiest room in the house!

Be creative.
Incorporate plants into planters, and pots. Hang vines, grow trees, have fun with this!

Plants need sleep too!
Remember, your plants need 8 hours of darkness each day, so give them a break. Leaving the light on all night does not help.
Here are some things to think about: If the plant is leafy (lettuce) you can usually grow it with little additional assistance. However, if the plant fruits (tomato), it needs additional light. I use a Sun System light on a timer. You can shop lights and get great light source with little heat and power.

This is an easy one. The irrigation section at your favorite home improvement store with sell you timers, valves, drip tubing. However, go on line and get a bit more sophisticated. You can buy small emitters that regulate the amount of water going into the plant. .5gph up to 2gph are typical.

We can design any kind of glass today with any goal in mind. Glass is not glass anymore. You have to know your glass for maximum effectiveness. Talk to us about what you are trying to achieve, and we will design the glass to best hit your goal.

Believe it or not, your plants are more likely to have too much light than not enough. To regulate the amount and the quality of the light, we offer ceiling blinds that go up and down based on the time of day, or the intensity of the sunlight.

Think small.
Only two of you in the house? I take an 18” x 4” planter and each week, I plant a new one with my tossed salad. No one can eat all the lettuce the come ripe at once, so I stagger it out in salad planters and remember, plant one each week, up to 6 weeks going, depending on what you plant.


We partner with on many plant orders. They offer the best variety of edible plants you will find today. You can grow lemons, limes, oranges, avocados, you name it. Some of these trees are going to take a while to fruit, but start today! If you are in a rush, there are many companies that will provide more mature trees for your conservatory, they just cost more.

So what is the future of this business?
Well, we all want to eat, right? And it is likely that our food is not going to get more healthy that that which you grow on your own. NASA is experimenting and developing many new soilless methods for growing edible plants for the Space Station and space travel in the future. We offer glass that will generate its own electricity and will power your greenhouse accessories. Tesla is now developing a battery that they will rent to you on a monthly fee and it will store the electricity you produce from your solar glass, to be used at night when you really need it.
Plants you will have fun with:intallations-greenhouse

  • Meyer lemon (always a favorite)
  • passion fruit
  • limes
  • avocados (not the ones your start from your store bought! They do not produce)
  • olives
  • coffee
  • figs
  • bananas (if we build a really big room for you!)
  • mandarin orange

We also grow: tea, vanilla, curry, allspice, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, shallots (if you eat it, we can grow it!)

My Conservatory Soil Mix

There are times when my family thinks I am entirely nuts and they just go off to do their own thing until I am done. This is one of those times. A conservatory in the spring can be an intense place to start your garden for the year. I have about 45 flats of flowers and vegetables going in the conservatory, for outdoor planting when the weather is right.

Keep in mind, I raise bees in the backyard, and also am a huge supporter of Monarch butterfly revival, so I plant a garden that is compatible to all three of us: bees, butterflies and me!

Zinnia is a huge fan with all three of us and so easy to grow. I have Tudor for the tall and also planted shorter varieties like double white double cherry. All the good guys like Heliotrope, Impatiens, Four O’clock, salvia, more perennials like Monarda Last fall, I collected milk week and put it in a jar in the garage over the winter. I put raw sand in the jar this spring and shook it up. This removed the seed from the cotton and scarifying the seed. Great germination.

Do you know that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed? I am planting a lot. And the rest are all our favorite vegetables, which I am anxious to enjoy.

But first the soil: I have been following a site that endorses the hydrophilic properties of diapers to improve basic things, like potting soil! I admit I was embarrassed to buy Depends at the store, so I ordered a case on Amazon. When it arrived, I was so happy and that is when the family decided they had errands to run. I raced to the garage with a utility knife and cut open all the ‘nappies’ and put the stuffing into my Homer (Home Depot bucket if you are new to the planet).
From there, my trusty cordless drill hooked up to my paint mixer and the stuffing turned to fuzz. My soil selection is a good potting soil in a bag but avoid the soils with coconut and other additives. I tried them, fruit flies love it. Add a slow release fertilizer.

I went to Gerten’s, a local garden center, but you can use Osmocote. Three bags of potting soil, 3 pounds of slow-release fertilizer, 1 case of diaper stuffing and hit it with the paint mixer. Voila! Best soil mix ever. The diaper mix holds 400 times its weight in water; the fertilizer will be there for the roots when it’s needed.

Spring Gardening: Tips from the Botanist

Gardening is good for the mind and the heart. It is a very therapeutic activity, and those with a conservatory or greenhouse are fortunate enough to be able to do it year round. Nothing adds more color and texture to your surroundings than plants and flowers, and in those cold, dreary months it almost feels like you’re living outdoors.
Now that spring is here once again, have you thought of what would you do with that vacant patch of soil outside of the conservatory? Spring is a great time for growing plants because the mild weather aids in their growth and development.

Here are some springs gardening tips to help you get started.

Prep your yard
Before you set up your garden, make sure that nothing would impede the growth of your plants. Remove any tree limbs that overhang structures and cut down last year’s perennial foliage. Take note offences, steps, and pathways that need to be repaired or replaced and be sure to refresh mulch in planting areas after soil warms.

Choose what to plant
After preparing your yard, the next step is to determine which plants you’d like to grow. Do you want to grow your own vegetables so you can have access to organic produce? Perhaps fresh flowers are your thing. Do some research on the spring flowers or vegetables you’d like to plant; this way, you’ll know exactly how to care for them and ensure their optimum growth and development.

Test the soil
Before you start planting, don’t forget to take a soil test to determine its pH or acidity levels. You can do this with the help of a home soil test kit. Be sure to take several tests to get an accurate reading. Depending on the result you’ll get, you can raise the soil’s pH level by adding dolomitic lime or lower it with elemental sulfur. If you’re unsure, a local nursery will be able to show you the products you’ll need.

Prepare new beds
Once the soil has the right pH level for the flowers or vegetables you want to plant, make sure to sod the soil and remove weeds and debris left by winter. Spread a four-inch layer of compost over the soil and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork.

When planting, experts recommend doing this task on a cool, cloudy day if possible. If you need to transplant container-grown plants, this should be done anytime except during midsummer when the heat is stifling.

Water your plants
Watering frequencies usually depend on where you live. For instance, if you are living in rocky and mountain areas where the soil is most likely to be fast-draining, you should water your plants more often.

Generally, you should start watering your spring plants sometime in mid-April, about once every seven to ten days. When the weather starts heating up, you should increase your watering frequencies to about once every five to seven days.

Outdoor Living without Insects

Retractable Screens to the Rescue

Motorized power screens offer sun and shade protection at your fingertips. Our screens are unique in the industry, made in the USA, and offer a perfect solution for the garage, patio and oversize doors and entryways. Invisible retractable screens tuck out of sight when not in use and with 11 colors to choose from plus custom colors they will seamlessly blend into your home’s décor. Retractable screens are the perfect rainsolution for keeping out bugs with the added bonus of not covering up your beautiful doors and still being able to enjoy your spectacular views.

Adding power to your patio shades and bug screens are the ultimate in convenience and elegance, with custom sizes big enough for your garage, patio and oversized entryways and doors, they are truly unique in the industry.

Learn more on Retractable and motorized screens here.