Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Odds and ends

The Statesman Journal published an article today about the Salem Green + Solar Home Tour. Our project was mentioned:

Also, I just learned about another Passive House project happening in West Linn, Oregon, which is outside of Portland. It's wonderful to hear that the Passive House concept is spreading in Oregon. You can read about that house on their blog:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Second Floor

The excitement at the build site during the past week is that we now have stairs and a second floor. It's been fun climbing up and seeing what our second floor views will be.

Here's Stuart hanging out on the upper floor.

Looking out the side window of one of the smaller bedrooms.

Stuart looking out the master bedroom window.


This large beam on the ceiling will be exposed in the living room. I think it will be a cool feature. It's a lot darker inside the ground floor now that the second floor decking is in place.

Heading upstairs...

The view of the backyard from the master bedroom.

A-ha! We caught our builder, Blake, on camera.

We took this photo last week before the second floor was in place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salem Green + Solar Home Tour

Stuart and I are excited that our new house is going to be on the Salem Green + Solar Home Tour, which happens next weekend, Oct. 3. Yes, you read that right -- we'll be on the tour in just a week, even though our house is not complete. The organizers were intrigued by our Passive House design and thought that having the house on the tour while it's still under construction would give people a chance to better see how the design works.

I'm hoping to also get the chance to check out some of the other homes on the tour, because I want to see what other interesting green projects are happening in Salem. If you want more details about the tour, go to the Events section of the Pringle Creek Community website.

There may also be a preview article in the Statesman Journal sometime next week, and we might be mentioned. Look for that as well.

If you live in Salem, come check out our project and the other great green homes in town!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What is Passive House?

A lot of people ask me what makes our house "green," so I thought I'd share a little more information about the type of house we're building. We are seeking Passive House certification, and if we earn it, we could be the first house in Oregon to do so. In fact, there are currently no Passive House certified homes on the West Coast, although our builders tells us that will be changing soon.

Passive House is a very stringent performance/construction standard that has become more popular in Europe and is more recently starting to catch on in the U.S. While many green technologies revolve around renewable energy sources (solar panels, etc.), Passive House focuses on cutting back dramatically on energy consumption. Here's a brief paragraph from the Passive House Institute US website:

"A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality."

You have heard Stuart talk about our 12-inch-thick walls and our quadruple-paned windows -- we have super thick, super well-insulated walls and windows for this purpose of helping our home be more air tight, and preventing energy loss. As a result, we should have extremely low energy bills because we will not have to use much energy to heat the house.

Also, note that our house will partly be heated by people. So when we have parties, our guests' body heat will help heat the house. We plan to have lots of parties during winter. :-)

I found a really cool graphic on the New York Times website that describes a Passive House. Our windows will be a little better than what is described in the graphic, but it gives you a good idea of what we're doing:

The reason I am so excited about using this technology is that it focuses more on conservation, on not using as much energy in the first place, instead of just adding solar panels and keeping my energy use the same. I'm still learning about Passive House, so hopefully I'm describing all of this accurately -- I'm sure our builders will let me know if I'm not. :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Four walls in the shape of a house

Yesterday and today Chris built and stood up the four exterior walls of the first floor. Actually, it's only half of each wall, since we have a double studded design. Basically a second wall will go inside the first one for extra insulation and sealing. It's really neat to get a sense of size and scale, especially regarding the windows.

That door-shaped hole in the middle is our front door!

It's hard to see, but all of the interior walls are marked on the floor.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The action continues

A lot has been happening in the past week at the house site.

Chris the framer started building the frame under the floor ...

... and the plumber came by to install pipes in the crawl space.

We look forward to seeing what else is built this week. Many of our friends are walking or driving by the lot to check things out, and we also see lots of neighbors taking a peek. It's fun to see so much action happening there.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bottom's up!

Today the concrete guys came by and poured some concrete (actually, pumped it) into the forms that Chris (framer extraordinaire) built. Within a few days he'll be building on top of that, so pretty soon it will start to look like a house.

The concrete truck pours concrete into a giant gas-powered pump on the second truck.

And it's pumped through a long hose into the forms that Chris built. Here it will be a foundation for one of the porch posts.

The rest of the foundation getting the trowel treatment.

I actually got a tiny bit of concrete splashed on me.

The floor (except the hardwood) will be built pretty soon, and we'll actually be able to walk around on it. Awesome!