Holliston LEED House

This is the story of a family who built the first LEED "green" house in Holliston, Massachusetts. We were trying to spend no more than it would take to build an ordinary house,and maybe even succeeded. The dust is still settling.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

Fearless leader called us in NYC, where we just arrived for Thanksgiving. He has obtained a building permit. Hurrah for Lloyd! We dig on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excess and energy

Our Fearless Leader, Lloyd, told us we'd be interested in a This Old House series on a timber frame going up near here in Weston by a company called Bensonwood. Flip and I have watched a few, and yes, the beauty of the timber frame is duly explored, as are the benefits of prefabricating. However, it is abundantly clear that these people are EXTREMELY RICH. The amount of extras, fancy "green" touches, and the size of the building, not to mention separate baths for their children, walk-up cupolas, bridges from place to place, are just over the top. Flip asked me if I liked theirs better and I had to say, no. My upbringing screams "excess!" B-wood is doing a great job. It's just not for people who prefer to work with friends, have their children share, and live a life of making choices.

It's too early to know if we'll get our permit today, but I won't predict any more.

What we do know (finally, after weeks of waiting for people to get back to us) is that we can actually afford to do a single loop geothermal air exchange heating system. The numbers are coming in, and it's looking like around $5k per ton for the inside system including ducting and a Water Furnace, plus around $7-9 for the outside stuff like drilling our well deeper and piping. Although it's around $10k more than a standard heating system in our size house, if it works like it should we will pay ourselves back in under 5 years--and have air conditioning. So cheers all around! See www.waterfurnace.com for information on ours, there are other good brands like Climate Master. So maybe we have to be a little richer than we wanted, but I'd sacrifice some hardwood floors never to buy oil or gas again (and I may have to). Another choice.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The base is laid

Well, the foundation was poured for the barn today, and now all we can do is wait, burn feathers, wave crystals, and hope that the building permit comes soon. We have signed the papers to build Without a building permit, but one hopes. The weather is not going to get warmer up here, and it's going to be critical soon.

Barn is going up 12/12 -- or more accurately, starting to go up. Hoping to complete by year end. My guys say they "don't call it building unless it's zero degrees" so they're on no matter what the temp, bless them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dirty Blondes

It's Saturday, so no one's working. But the girls are checking out the piles of dirt and giant machines. No permit yesterday, but the Last Calculation came in at the end of the day... so maybe Monday? When you figured we predicted digging in September, you can see how wrong we were... bank closing on Monday and then, well, maybe another hole before the big holiday break. HERS rater is asking for plans, details, I'm getting to it, waiting for permit to see what other changes we need (none, I hope).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Forms of things to come

Footings in, concrete forms made, thought we'd wait for a warmer day to pour the barn foundation though, so it will wait until Monday. Still no permit, but maybe today? Monday? Who knows. Got our street number, though, 80. Good number, I think, hopefully not indicative of how old I'll be when the permit comes? Flip found out about light switches that don't need wires, I'm finding out about getting to sleep when you can't stop thinking...
But even forms can be things of beauty in the morning sun.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There's a hole at the bottom of the

Barn hole was approved today; the Larter crew is laying the gravel and on to the forms. Flip's at the national Green conference in Boston today; enjoyed seeing Desmond Tutu and finding out about radio-controlled lighting. Will we get the house permit tomorrow? Watch this space.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Can you dig it?

Larter can, most definitely. In spite of the cold drizzle, he's out and putting in the driveway and barn hole, soon to be followed by the house hole. Our permit is under way, and nearly there. He's making a nice base for SCPB's big crane and the trucks that will have to come up midwinter. And while reserving the topsoil for use, we're going to need all the fill we can get to make it all work right. And yes, LEED rater, we can't forget drainage.

Fearless Leader stopped by yesterday and we went over all the necessaries remaining for our permit, SCPB is standing behind us as we battle to get through the new building code's regulations for engineering calculations. We'll get there, never fear. Now we're trying to finish up the electrical plans, and plan for efficient plumbing. Team meeting will take place after Thanksgiving, when we know more about the schedule and final players.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Erosion Control

So it begins. The silt fencing, the hay bales, the water management. The market is tanking, the election is over, the housing market is in a slump. Why are we building? Because the future is in green houses? Because we like being in debt? Because we want to live in this house? Because we're this far along and all is aligned to continue? Many reasons, some better than others.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Firebox design for tightness

These pictures were sent by our friend in France, where we saw this type of tight cover for fireplaces. Here in the US, our contacts have never heard of these types of metal doors, but these would allow us to burn a fire, then as it is dying out close the doors and go to bed, knowing the heat from the house won’t go up the chimney with the remaining smoke. It will have some impact on the depth of the fire box, so the mason will need to be in the loop.

The building inspector has had our plans now for two weeks, and we’re hoping he will approve them so we can start digging. The dudes who put in the hay bales and silt fencing for stormwater runoff are working today (in the rain) to get all prepared. Flip and I will be sinking tall stakes marked by neon paint so when the winter comes, we will be able to see where the driveway goes and plow it.

Given our timing, we anticipate the shell going up in January, which is not ideal but is Just the Way it Is. We have not yet heard back from the HERS rater, who is to let us know if we are going to get approval for an Energy Star design, and we are hoping beyond hope that we can move forward with our LEED plans with the house plan intact.