Geek Time

evan Filed Under: Tags: , ,
First, R. Michael Cross Design Group now has a website! Check it out using the link in the PROJECT TEAM section. Not on your iPhone though. Because it's Flash, and your iPhone hates Flash.

As you may have noticed, surmised or divined, onsite progress has slowed. This was of course inevitable. Fortunately that doesn't mean the project is at a standstill, but most of the progress right now is office progress while we wait for windows. This has given us an opportunity to get our plumbing situation in order, and we are very excited to be working with Kohler and Foster Plumbing and Heating as partners.

What has been pretty refreshing is how (a.) knowledgeable and (b.) psyched the partners have been so far. Jeff Foster @ Foster Plumbing & Heating has not only opened our eyes to even more plumbing efficiencies, but also took the effort to offset the carbon from his site visits:

It's encouraging to see local family businesses ready and eager for more sustainable practices, and I have to repeat that the local support in general for this project has been tremendous.

I think it should also be noted that the entire state of Virginia has only completed 9 LEED-H certified projects since the first pilot program in 2005, but has 29 in-progress registered projects as of today. While 29 isn't a particularly impressive number compared to the actual number of houses built in a normal year- although surely this is not a normal year- it does show exponential growth in Virginians' interest in sustainable housing.

You know what, I'm just going to geek out on more statistics here, largely because someone else has done the hard work for me. I stumbled across this blog recently and took a lot of interest in this map charting home prices against income (by Razib @ Gene Expression):
Now I'm certainly no economist, but it would seem to indicate a couple of things to me. During the period from 2005-2007:
One: The Richmond area appears highly affordable relative to, well, everywhere else in the country.
Two: The Richmond area seems primed for growth.
Who knows how all of this will look when the next set of census data comes out, but Richmond changes slowly, so I can't imagine a big change in the relative affordability of the area. I think many of us have some tales, probably some horror stories, to tell about recent rapid growth in the counties. If you're a Richmonder, you probably also have some frustrations to voice about the slow pace of desirable growth in the city. All of it really emphasizes the need for smarter growth, smarter design, and smarter everyday practices, and fortunately it looks like from residents to businesses to students, Richmond is ready for some leadership.

Alright. That's it for my proselytizing. I promise I'll be funnier next week.
Take care!


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In The Trenches

evan Filed Under: Tags: , , , , ,

So when we drew up the site plans for this house we sketched out a 150 foot line around the property for the geothermal trench. On the computer screen it's this nice tidy straight dashed line that pretty much just goes around the perimeter. Well - as it turns out - trenching 150 feet of dirt 5' wide by 5' deep is a substantially more, uh, brutal process than previously acknowledged on this side of the keyboard.
There is dirt everywhere- or at least, there was dirt everywhere. It's all back in the trenches now. Here's the process:
1. Dig this hole.
2. Lay tubing.
3. Fill hole.
Marty and his crew from Deltatemp did a great job explaining the process (in much more detail than I) and science behind geothermal heating/cooling. Everyone on the crew was ready to help explain, and after a little while I could see why: people driving, walking, biking by all seemed to have a specific curiosity about the geothermal system. Sure, they see the house, it looks neat, and they come in for a closer view, but what they really want to know about is this sign in the front yard that says "this house is cooled by the earth". Even our framer has been fielding geothermal questions for a week or so now. Again, it really speaks to this issue of the common building lexicon: most people don't question a condenser in the back yard, because that's just the way it is. Well, geothermal turns the back yard into a big condenser I guess.

Essentially, during the summer a heatpump absorbs the heat from your house and expels it to the outside air outside through a heatsink (generally a fan blowing through some metal fins). Just like this friendly DINOSAUR:

This is pretty inefficient, mainly because the outside air is already hot, otherwise you wouldn't have the air conditioning on. Also, note that dinosaurs died of bad design.

A geothermal heatpump absorbs the heat from your house and transfers it into the ground via a water loop running about 5' below the surface. The ground temperature at this level is fairly steady between 50-60 degrees. Waterfurnace has some diagrams here. NONE of these diagrams have dinosaurs.

I tried to get some shots of the process of laying and splicing all of the geothermal tubing, check them out in the gallery. We also had some more filming going down- I'll give more details on this when there's more to tell. And someone found a shirt sleeve. And a road.

Actually, I'll go ahead and talk about that a little, because I always hear about these ancient cities found beneath other cities, and my response is typically "did they not notice the other city there or something? How is this possible? Gigantic dirtblizzards?" But right here in the not sooo ancient Near West End of Richmond, Virginia, the big yellow machine is just cold digging up yard, and a couple of feet down hits... a road? The old roads are already a couple feet down.... I guess the term for this would be palimpsest. Now that's a real $0.20 word.

Update: The Augusta Project: The Blog! is in the Richmond Green Drinks newsletter this week! Per the google group site:

"Green Drinks is a simple and unstructured event where people interested in sustainability can get together to network, talk shop, learn something new, share something innovative or maybe even find a job! It's a great time to chat with folks you know or to meet new ones."
The next meeting is August 20th at The Camel, and is a great resource for Richmond. Mark your calendars.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thanks for reading. We'd love to hear comments, questions or suggestions either in the comments section or you can email us at

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Inside Augusta

evan Filed Under: Tags: , ,

Well after another week Jeremy has almost all of the interior partitions up, minus drywall (natch). The house is entering the slower, more awkward middle-school years of construction, where we'll probably worry about whether it needs braces or is hanging out with the right kids.... 

This morning the DOW rep brought a whole crew of builders out to see the SIS panels in action, as it is a fairly new product and builders tend to approach new products with a fair degree of caution. While some described this sort of open house open-house as nervewracking, there was a lot of positive feedback. Although relatively basic, a lot of the framing efficiencies used so far just aren't part of common practice. And in the end that's really the goal of programs like LEED and EarthCraft: to try to make effecient, sustainable design part of common practice, or at least the common lexicon. The more that people ask about this sort of construction, the more builders and architects alike will start to look into it. 

We're getting a lot of great feedback from/on the blog here too, which we really appreciate.  Be sure to check out the Near West End News blog's quick write up here. I was having some difficulty deciding whether the project was in the Near West End or Across Boulevard, but fortunately Jonah over at NWEN found us!

Also for anyone with any interest in the process of becoming an architect, be sure to check out NCARB's piece on our own R. Michael Cross. His is the first in a series of interviews aimed at helping students and young architects- er, interns-  navigate the once lonely labyrinthine hellscape known as licensure.

We're hoping to have a website online AND a big fat sign on site soon, so keep your eyes peeled. 


Thanks for reading. We'd love to hear comments, questions or suggestions either in the comments section or you can email us at

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