Between holidays, deathblizzards and work, winter 2010 has been a busy but beautiful one here at R Michael Cross Design Group. Much has happened at Augusta Ave. since our last post in... November?!? Oh man.... Well, I think I'd like to break it down into a few not-so-chronological parts.
The main developments in the construction process have been:
- the installation of plumbing work
- the installation of electrical work
- roofing & siding
Okay, let's get down to brass tacks:
While very important, addressing sustainability within the electrical scope of the house is fairly straightforward. You want to specify efficient fixtures and appliances, and you want to develop methods of switching, storage, and organization that prevent unnecessary electricity usage- "vampire power" or "phantom load" if you will. Tribble Electric and Ferguson were integral in helping design, develop and specify an electrical system. At the end of the day, your efficient fixtures won't help much if your actual lighting layout is inefficient. This is the sort of value that professional designers provide moreso than in-depth technical expertise.
Efficient plumbing has a little more method to it. Again, you want to select efficient fixtures and water related appliances. Kohler and Ferguson were very helpful to that end. In an earlier post we discussed the collection of rainwater for good old fashioned all natural American toilet flushin', but we haven't discussed the "structured plumbing" method for conserving potable tap water.
As you probably know, almost everyone who isn't a wartime sailor turns on the faucet or shower and waits for the water to warm up before washing. This is inefficient. In a structured plumbing system the goal is to reduce the distance between the faucet and hot water supply to less than 10'-0" by using a hot water loop with a remote activated recirculating pump. It's simpler than it sounds. The end result is that- instead of opening up the faucet and pouring half a gallon of water into the sewer- you press a button to activate the pump, then open the faucet to near-instant hot water. Waste is reduced to under 2 cups max.
Roofing & Siding
It's great to finally see the house with most of its clothes on. The roof is constructed primarily of recycled rubber shingles, with one flat section of high albedo TPO adhered to half an inch or so of insulation, and a sloped high albedo metal roof at the sunroom. We chose unfinished Nichiha fibercement siding as an affordable high quality alternative to Hardie siding. John Gray at Peak 3 Construction gave us our mitered corners. All is well.
Honestly, the change from uninsulated to insulated house was possibly the biggest experiential change so far, besides the change from pile of sticks to framed house. I mean I walked into the house (empty that day) and immediately thought "I sure could take a nice mid-afternoon nap here right about now." Kind of weird, I know, and probably correlative to other things beyond my immediate environment, but if you know me really well, you know it isn't really something I'm good at, this napping. It's not that I dislike it- quite the contrary actually- I'm just no good at it. A useless napper.
We used Weatherseal to develop an insulation solution that fit both our insulation needs and our budget. We ended up with this pretty intricate solution involving three different types of insulation:
- 2x6 wall cavities filled with spray cellulose
- Existing exterior brick walls sprayed with 1 1/2" of soy based closed cell spray foam (Demilec HEATLOK Soy)
- Roof rafters filled with soy based open cell spray foam (Demilec SEALECTION Agribalance)
Using cellulose in the new exterior walls took advantage of our use of Dow SIS panels and allowed us to focus our resources on providing some sort insulation and sealing on the brick walls, and just insulating the living daylights out of the roof (couldn't be helped). The cellulose has the added benefit of being made of old papers and absorbing sound like crazy. Additionally we've also sealed all of the doors, windows, sill plates, king plates, etc. with low expansion spray foam or silicon caulk as appropriate.
On the design end we've been feverishly selecting, deselecting, and reselecting sustainable finishes and working out relevant details. This should all come to fruition rather quickly in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned for updates (I promise!)
For now, here's a gallery of the latest.
Thanks for reading. We'd love to hear comments, questions or suggestions either in the comments section or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org