Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wrapping up 2009

Now that 2009 is almost over, the rebar for the footings are in place and are awaiting the first pour of concrete. CMU masonry will follow next week- the blocks are already ordered. We'll have a nice shot blast feature wall in the basement rec room- we're looking forward to seeing it in place. The photo shows the construction site from the street with a snow capped Mount Baldy in the background- Next year that time around, we'll be enjoying this view from our living room deck. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year- and we'll be back in January with more news from the Nob Hill Haus!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rain on the way

LA in it's semi-desert environment is thirsty for rain- and every drop from the sky is greatly appreciated- unless, of course, you are in the middle of construction, or -even worse- have your footings dug out and are getting ready for rebar and concrete. And that's where we are right now. We had two days of rain so far- and Abe, our contractor, had transformed the site into a Cristo monument by wrapping all exposed dirt in plastic sheeting and lining the perimeter with sandbags. But construction had to stop for a few days. Now, he's begun tying the cages for the caissons and the footings are expected to be poured some time during the second half of next week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The art of excavation

With all the holes for the caissons drilled, the grading sub is now finishing the foundation excavations. With a small footprint like the one of our building, this proves a challenge to the construction workers. They need to be very careful not to damage the remaining earth and bedrock walls between excavations- not an easy task with the heavy equipment involved. The photo shows, how the backhoe, hovering above a trench, loads earth on the bobcat which in turn has to cross another trench to unload the soil. The caissons have been covered with plywood lids to prevent dirt from falling in.
The grading inspection is scheduled for Monday- as is some rain in the forecast.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Proportions of the Building Volume

When designing the house, we spent a considerable amount of time to modulate the building exterior and to establish proportions and solid-void interactions. Working from the building program, we started pulling out elements & pushing others in. Overhangs to provide shade on hot summer days and generous openings to provide for ample daylight during the darker winter months needed to be in balance. This way, we also managed to give every bedroom access to outdoor space and reclaiming the garage roof as a sun deck.
Grit invested a large amount of time to compose the relationships of openings to each other- It is her philosophy that Windows and door openings have to "talk to one another" and create a harmonic balance on the volumes of the cubature.

About water- Part 2- Selecting a toilet

The easiest way to solve the water crisis is to use less of the precious liquid. In 1992, The energy policy act mandated low flow (1.6 Gal/flush)toilets. That's 17 years ago! And still, some 1.6 Gal/flush toilets are being offered as low consuming fixtures.
So what REALLY is low consumption in the 21st century?
I did a bit of research and did not only look at fancy manufacturer's web sites but also at plumbers blogs- Mainly to see how they and their customers feel about them. Because above all, a toilet needs to flush. There's no point in having a super- savings fixture, if you need 2 or 3 flushes to get the stuff down. And it should also look decent.
So we ended up with the Toto Aquia 2 (the Aquia 1 has an open back- bad acoustics (=loud), and the Aquia 3 is ADA compliant, a bit higher and MUCH more expensive.
The fixture runs between $250- $300 and uses .9Gal for small & 1.6 Gal for big flushes. This makes the most sense to us, since you probably don't use the big flush as often and therefore could save some water.

Snow on Mount Baldy

With only 2 days into excavation, we're already at basement level. The big excavator is gone and now the footings need to be dug. The grading goes way faster than I had anticipated. The photo shows the view from the pad towards the San Gabriel Mountains with a snow capped Mount Baldy in the distance.