Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stair's poured

The photo is taken from the same position as the formwork picture on the previous post. Note that the stair slopes slightly down towards the right to direct rainwater away from the exterior walls of the basement. The stair has a rise of 6.75 inches and a tread length of 12 inches and walks pretty well. During the next week, the decks above the garage and at the Master bedroom will receive their deck coating finish. Then, Abe will put up the scaffolding to be ready for the fascia and the metal roof before the doors and windows arrive (which we expect on Friday).
From then on, the building can be wrapped in the weather resistive barrier so that we can start to install the moisture sensitive finishes, such as gypsum board and wood.

Monday, June 21, 2010

back to the outside

In the past couple of days, Abe has begun to prepare the garage floor and the side stair to receive rebar and concrete. The side stair leads from the main level alongside the house to the basement and the garden. Great care must be taken to achieve a uniform tread-riser layout, an adequate slope to direct water away from the building and a smooth uniform surface that has enough friction to avoid slipping. Once concrete is poured, you're pretty much out of luck to change things- unlike with wood, where you'd only pull out a few nails and then start all over again, concrete is not forgiving at all and it is very hard and costly to adjust the material once it is hardened.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The place has guts now

At least in the literal sense- Most of the ducting, wiring and piping is in place now and makes the ceiling spaces look cramped in some locations (the photo shows the kitchen). We already had to sacrifice one coved ceiling light to the framer (he was so creative to put in a beam where there was none in the plans and thus effectively eliminated the cove light location), now we had to sacrifice another one to the A/C guy who had problems to fit in his ducting in the tight space above the powder room soffit.
That leaves us with one remaining cove light in the dining room- and we'll keep that one for sure. Space for ducting is always tight and most of the time, the designers don't even bother thinking about it- and that's why there are those boxed-out corners and ceilings in some places. And although we spent a lot of time to figure out, where the ducts and pipes would go ahead of time, we still got a few surprises- but only in the garage (where it doesn't really bother us) and the powder room soffit. For the most part, however, the advance planning and drawing of all ducts and pipes on the plans paid off and we could avoid the boxed-out corners and ceilings in the living space.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The heat is up

When most people think of sun and going green, they immediately relate to solar power. While a PV array is part of the NobHillHaus' concept, it is not the only way the resource sun (of which we have plenty out here) can be harnessed. By far the simplest is to use the energy of the sun directly to heat the water to be used in the house.
A solar water heater can be a very simple device- and if you browse the web, you'll even find sites that show you how to build your own using old refrigerator parts. It is really amazing, what is current happening in underground green technologies.
There are 2 basic systems of solar water heaters: A passive system (i.e. essentially a big storage tank on the roof that uses the sun to preheat water from the city's water supply. The pre-heated water then passes thru a backup heater and when the water isn't warm enough anymore- e.g. when you and your whole family have your morning shower- the backup heater kicks in.
This system does not contain any moving parts, is simple (does not contain a secondary circuit) and works only for non-freezing conditions (i.e. NOT in Big Bear). However, if the water is either too hard or too soft, the system may suffer damage over the years and it is to our surprise- since a lot of large format copper tubing is used- actually more expensive than an active system.
Which leads us to the other option:
An active system has a separate loop from the water tank to the rooftop heating panels (they're much smaller in size and cost way less than the passive panel).It also needs a pump(which needs power and is a moving part that can break down)to circulate the water in the loop. Heat is exchanged with incoming city water in a tank. At the exit of the tank is an instant backup heater for emergencies.
In our case, the active system was 30 less than the passive one, so the decision was a no-brainer. But everyone needs to evaluate the situation in regard to their own personal needs. There's a lot of different suppliers out there (ProgressiveTube for passive, Heliodyne and Sunearth for active systems).
Whichever you choose, you can be assured, that you save quite a bit of CO2 and fossil fuel.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pause Normande

For the past 3 weeks, we have been out of town and out of the country- we've been traveling to France and had a phantastic time visiting friends in Normandy and touring Paris. Now I could start talking about the great cheeses of the Pays d'Auge, the rich architectural heritage, green pastures, great people, delicious seafood and heart warming Calvados -But that'll be a bit outside of the subject here. I can only recommend- Go to France and eat for yourself- oh pardon- see for yourself.
So like us, this blog had to take a little break as well, but we'll be back soon with a lot of new interesting things- so stay tuned-or as they say in French:
A tout a l'heure...