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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Natural Lines Painting & Restoration

David, Oscar, Chino and Edwin have another kind of access. Here the Natural Lines crew are caulking and sealing all the trim before the shingle goes on. We figured weather tight and gutter (at least on the north side) fast. Note the tarps doing the gutter's work—and not very effectively.

Sense a theme?

Yes, you got it: stairs. Now that the concrete is hard on the ground, we have three new access points—two to the house cellar, and one to the barn.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lloyd to the rescue

So Lloyd came with his pump and pumped out the cellar and cleaned it up. Now, he's fashioning a plug for the water line hole which was bringing in muck. Tomorrow, I'll put the sashes back in and then, maybe, we'll be okay until we get the gutters up. The Paddock crew has put in bulkhead stair, are working on stair from inside. Cellar access, hurray!

Oh bother

So we have a perf pipe perimeter drain and various other drainage planned, but since we haven't finished the exterior trim we have no gutters and the grading isn't done yet. Also, since we poured the concrete floors on Friday the window sashes to the cellar were out. Combine these factors, and you get Flip and me out in the storm yesterday, shoveling drainage ditches away from the house and tarping new paths for the stormwater while the water poured in the cellar windows onto our new cellar floor. More later when I check the status this AM.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Building a LEED team

I was talking to Dave Kessler of Native Structures this morning about his projects, and mine, and something came up that might be useful to some of you trying to build for LEED. You can't just Google up a LEED carpentry team or a LEED plumber, etc. All of us are riding the learning curve together. That means when you start with your team, you talk about it as the job is underway, every day. How you don't go to the new lumber pile until after you go to the scrap pile to see if something there will suit. How you keep the recyclables out of the dumpster, and how you isolate Azek dust from other dust. Sooner or later, the team thinks about these things on their own, and you'll find them grousing because one of the scraps is 1/8th inch too short. Then, if there was any righteousness in the world, they'd come up under "LEED carpentry team."

I guess my point here is that a LEED team is made, not found; so get busy and make another one. There's room for more.


A dirty job

Pouring the cellar and making it smooth is a filthy, backbreaking job that looks easy when you have Steve and his crew doing it (click here for his site). They are moving right along with a sequence of concrete trucks which come and go in a complicated dance through the driveway.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SIPs and electrical wiring

One of the things you will hear a lot with SIPanel building is that "it's impossible for electrical." John Erickson, our LEED team electrician (see link right) doesn't think so. He plans to use a plywood guide for his router (see image), nailed onto the wall, to guide his chases for wires and switches, and a hot knife to cut out the insulation for his access.

Keep in mind that these electrical challenges are only on exterior walls. The interior walls are wired in a traditional fashion.

Labels: ,

Back outside

We're framed and ready on the inside; the shower unit was delivered in time, the "vanities" are being fitted out to be actual vanities thanks to carpenter Sam Savage, and my friend David Stoffregen has done us the wonderful favor of giving us a first-class painter for second-class rates. Once the guys have finished up the trim, hopefully this week, David's team from Independent Paintworks (the "green" painter) is going to fill and caulk, making the exterior trim tight and sealed, then put on two coats of great paint so Flip and I won't watch the trim fall off the house after a year or two. All this before the shingle goes on, making it easier for everyone.

We're fitted out and ready for the concrete trucks tomorrow. Expansion tape is installed on the floor of the barn and seams planned in the floor of the house cellar to eliminate cracking due to expansion and contraction.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Complex partitions

Combining 18' walls (at the peak) with sidewalls joining up to cathedraled beamwork makes for interesting framing, as you can see here. The guys shrug it off, but I can hardly wait to see the wall board guys' faces.

I am looking into sound reduction methods for the big walls along the hall, and will post if I find anything better than I've seen so far--which is insulation. P.S. The concrete guys were not thrilled to have to smooth concrete over plastic sheeting, but they're being good sports...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Venting and SIPs

Okay, so now you have a really tight envelope, then you go punching holes in it for vents and exhaust fans. With LEED, you need to a) select your exhaust fans carefully--for low energy use and high efficiency and, if you're sensitive to noise, low sones; and b) be thoughtful about planning your vents. You will want to gang them where you can. Where you can't, be sure to keep it tight and clean and foam seal around the access.

In rooms with showers, you may wish to consider a humidistat. If you have children (like I do), they may not remember to turn on an exhaust fan while taking a shower. So if it's automatic, it will run until the humidity is back to where it should be, reducing the possibility of mold. I like quiet ones; most major brands have one.

The crew is framing the upstairs today, and what a bear it is with all the posts and beams. Very nice to look at, very tricky to frame—but we're in good hands with Bob, Scott, Jason and Red, who seem to understand my convoluted direction.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Walls within walls

So the crew moved in today to frame the walls; here is Erin's office (left) and the family room (right). The blank wall in the family room is the future fireplace.

The mason starts next week. The ducting guy and plumbers are coming later in the week. The concrete floors in the cellar and barn are being poured on Friday. Lots of bodies...

Radon 101

For those building a LEED house in New England, radon abatement is a must. Back when we first poured the foundation, before we put gravel in we put a perforated pipe (perforations pointing down, please) along the perimeter of the foundation. On the west side, this pipe pops up so we can join it to an exit pipe which can then go up and out.

This week, the floor is being poured with concrete. So we just completed step two: covering the entire floor with heavy plastic (which is reused from our house panels) a couple of layers thick to be an air barrier between the gravel (with radon pipe underneath) and the cellar floor above it. In this way, if there is radon it will be forced into the pipe and up and out of the house without seeping into the cellar.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Reuse or recycle

Things to remember:
Windows, builders felt, ice & water paper, other stuff comes in cardboard.
Roofing comes in paper.
Windows are packed with little styrofoam corners. Lumber is strapped with metal. House panels come wrapped in 5 mil plastic sheets.

So, Flip went dumpster diving today. We reserved some cardboard for future use and he took the rest to recycle, we're using the plastic sheeting in the cellar as part of our radon abatement (more later on that), he separated the plastics and the metal. Lots of construction waste is recyclable, or useful later in a project. So don't just dump it.


Friday, March 20, 2009

End week 2 Paddock

So after two weeks, Paddock's crew has pretty much completed the exterior trim. We still have corner boards to go, but as you can see, it's looking more like a real house now.

Monday, they will move inside to frame walls. I am looking into various ways of reducing sound inside, and our cellar slabs are being poured on Friday of next week, so Flip and I will be working down there tomorrow to get the radon abatement system perfected.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hail to the crew

Doug, Red, Jason, Scott, and Bob have been tearing through the exterior trim. I have rarely seen such a seamless team; they barely have to speak to each other and yet, somehow, things go up and are perfect. To see Bob on top of the ladder (and I mean On The Top, at the peak, on the last rung), with his nail gun, tape measure, one hand on the roof, calling down a measurement for a cut is like watching a mountain climber trying to rope a goat while tacked to the side of a cliff.

I was too afraid. I had to leave. Sorry, more pictures tomorrow.

The vanity of it all

Here's a closeup of the antique oak commode, complete with towel rack, that Sam will be converting to a sink base. The sideboard to the left of it, shaker style, will be in the master bath. I bought the last one this morning, an oak dresser with a mirror, for the girls' bath. Done.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another tip for cheapskates

Bath vanities, even from HD (my home away from home), go for 300-600 bucks for something pressboard and tacky. On the other hand, with a little hunting, you can come up with nice, solid wood, antique sideboards, commodes or dressers of adequate depth (anything over 19-20" is workable) and height (anything between 30" and 34" is workable). Here's the catch: Solid+no double drawers in the center, since you'll have to convert the top drawer into the place where the sink and drainpipe goes. Also, don't get veneer—it will peel up with the moisture. Then cut a sink hole, put a nice marine varnish on the top, and voilá! A vanity!
I spent $275 each (believe me, you can find cheaper) and got a 5.5' maple sideboard for the master, and a beautifully restored 34" commode for the downstairs.


Moving on to trim

Getting Bob to stand still long enough to take his picture is tough. Here, Lloyd is trying to get him to stand still long enough to speak with him. With the help of this special talent, however, Red, Bob and Jason have finished the windows by 10 a.m. and are moving on to trimming the exterior.

Lloyd and I are trying to figure out if we have room to put the firebox for the fireplace without eliminating a window. Time to consult Bill, the mason.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What a difference a day makes

Windows are going in so quickly, looks like they'll be done with them tomorrow and they only started a few hours ago. With panelized building, you just put them in the holes. Well, there are a few other things involved, I guess...


Roof is on

Although the US Green Building Council specs would have preferred a different (more expensive) roofing, we couldn't find the money for standing seam metal roofing, so we went with traditional asphalt shingle.

Today, the Paddock team is putting up our new windows (yes, those ones) and we have already noticed the delivered specs differed by a couple inches on one side, so out comes the Sawsall. The others are looking good, though, so far...


Monday, March 16, 2009

Team meeting

Many thanks to our friends at Burke Mtn. in Vermont; our weekend was memorable. Special thanks to Kirsten, Beverly and Paul for giving me the chance to go to a meeting of the Mid-Burke Philosophical Society. Fascinating.

Above see Lloyd and Doug Paddock during their morning discussion—or, as I should say, one of their morning discussions. A big thing with LEED certification is communication, and that means frequent, short chats involving all the various subs to make sure we are giving people what they need to succeed.

The Paddock crew is working so fast we may be able to get all the windows installed this week, and Rick Copeland's team is roofing. Right now, Doug's team is framing the west porch (see Red on the wall) which is being married to the SIPs, extending over the bulkhead entrance to the cellar. This will be the entrance to our mudroom, which we need with kids and dogs.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Making a face

Thanks for all the great emails and feedback from the Globe article yesterday; I love spreading the word and if I can help, don't hesitate to email me. The link is in my profile.

Paddock Carpentry is putting the face on the house, and it looks like we'll be roofing on Monday, praise be.

I'm off to take the girls to VT for a few days, so forgive me if I don't get back to you until Monday. I need to get away from the project!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Holliston LEED House Team

For today's Boston Globe article, click here. Since they didn't cover the team (who deserve all the credit in our view), here they are:

Contractor: BAY RIDGE, LLC (Holliston)
Contact: E. Lloyd Bernegger
Email: elloydbern@hotmail.com
Timber frame and structural insulated panels: SOUTH COUNTY POST AND BEAM (West Kingston, RI)
Contact: Ken Bouvier, Panels mfrd by Foard. Web Site: see list at right
Geothermal heating system: RICHARDSON WELLS & PUMPS (Uxbridge)
Contact: Eli Richardson Web Site: see list at right
Carpentry: PADDOCK CARPENTRY (Mendon)
Contact: Doug Paddock. All exterior. Also built barn. Interior finish by Sam Savage (Holliston) and Chris Dowling (brother from Santa Fe)
Electrical: ERICKSON ELECTRIC (Milford)
Contact: John Erickson Web Site: see list at right
Plumbing: TBD Email: elloydbern@hotmail.com
Energy Star and LEED Rater: CONSERVATION SERVICES GROUP (Westborough)
Contact: Will D’Arrigo Web Site: see list at right

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rainy day soffits

In this picture, you can see Bob on the scaffold and part of Scott inside. Red is around the corner to the right. They are putting up the soffits and roof trim in hopes we can roof the house--maybe as soon as Friday. (See previous post "SIPs and Roof Lines")

I also went up to meet with the duct man. As any LEED professional knows (and I'm quickly becoming one), ductwork is key to EQ LEED points. At first, I scared the dickens out of the duct man with our post and beam design. After he had explored a little deeper, however, he understood that we were talking about "best practices" and not new and strange duct design. Also, he saw that we would give him access.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lumber and FSC

We took delivery on our materials yesterday, and Paddock's crew has started by bringing it inside. What Flip and I have discovered during this process is that lumber that is sustainably forested is readily available but not easily verified. What we have found is that the "FSC" (Forest Stewardship Council) label, which says that the lumber is responsibly harvested, has become the lumber industry's new "pet rock."

In several incidences, the same lumber (same stamp, same source, same wood, same packaging, same vendor) comes. One has the FSC label, one does not. The FSC labeled product is more expensive than the other. Why the upcharge? Both bundles look like they had the same genesis. Those of us buying the lumber can't tell, and it all goes by the word and certification of some unseen committee. So buyer beware. Unless you can trace it back to the woods where it all started, chances are you'll never know.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

We've been rained out. If it were just rain, okay. But it's snow, sleet, AND rain. So we pushed our team out until tomorrow when it should be clear enough not to soak them to the skin.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Energy Rebates

To amend my previous rants on this blog, you may wish to check out the newer tax credits for renewable energy, which are higher. Check out DSIRE for most current rebate options. They're getting better...


Making room(s)

When drawing out the wall divisions, we did it in two phases. First, we laid scrap lumber where the walls were drawn on the plans. Then, we walked around and adjusted them. Then, we taped them to the floor. Now, the guys will snap a line.

If I could just find the list of door sizes and which way they swing, I'd be in great shape. It looks at this point as if I'll be remeasuring them in Janice's cellar.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Taking it down a peg

Eli's guys arrived on the heels of SCPB's guys checking out. Although we had put in a well down to 140 feet for water, we need to take it down to 540 feet, according to Eli, in order to tap the geothermal energy for our heating system.

What's geothermal energy? Like my friend Roger says, it's cave man thinking. Inside a cave, the constant temperature is approximately 55 degrees. Sounds warm on an icy New England winter day, and cool on a blistering humid August one. All we're doing is bringing up water at a constant 55 degrees, adjusting the heat with a heat exchanger to one comfortable to us, and in that way reducing the energy it takes to heat or cool. It's much easier to heat 55 degrees to, say, 70 degrees than it is to heat 1 degree. Similarly, it's easier to cool the same way. When you have geothermal energy, you have both heating and air conditioning at a very modest carrying cost.

We are installing a standing well open loop geothermal system with a 5 ton air system. There are many types of geothermal systems; this was the one we could afford since we already needed a well (to see previous posts on this subject, click on "HVAC"). For this system, we don't get radiant heat (that involves plumbing the floors), but we do get air conditioning.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inside up

It's a strange thing with timber frame; it goes up with blue board already on it. So these are the actual walls upstairs, and until plastering they will be this color. The wires hanging in the middle were brought in with the panels to ease the electrician's access, always an issue with SIPs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thermal envelope

LEED rater Will came up today to take a look at the thermal envelope. We're on track and his next inspection will be ductwork.


SIPs and roof lines

In this picture, you will see on the gable (shadowed) end, there is a 12" roof overhang. On the sunny side, there is a 12" overhang on the dormer, but not on the main portion of the house.

With SIPs, the panel stops at the wall top unless you are at a gable. This means that you will have to build your own eaves. It means your carpenter must make a pattern (what kind of look do you want around your roof?), then cut and assemble your pattern, and then install it on the nailers (the 2x8s at the ends of the panels) to extend your roofline, all the way around the house (and before you roof it, I might add). Although tricky, it's relatively simple for a good carpenter. You can make them deep or shallow, decorative or simple. In our house, we will make them pretty simple but as we are building a "new antique," we will have wider corner boards and returns.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow use...

The house is looking pretty grim. Flip, Madison, Eva, Luna and I went up to the house to shovel and brush the snow out of the inside and into the outside. Our window coverings held moderately well, but after all, it WAS a nor'easter which means, well, we covered the wrong side. Oops.

Anyway, we did some shoveling, Sam did some plowing, and it is doing some more snowing, so we may have to do it all again. Hope not, my arms are sore and the heater's not working there yet...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In like a lion

Yesterday, Flip and I were trying to cover the window openings enough to keep most of the predicted weather out of the house. We did the best we could, but I doubt it will be good enough. It was hard, though; the roof was too high for our ladders and we could not reach the areas we wanted to, our tools were sub par and we did a marginal job.

At the end of the day, we were tired, filthy, and sore. And we still had to drive to Lynn to buy a refrigerator we had found on Craigs list. Whew.

Flip just got back from a quick check, and says everything's holding up so far. Today, we're kicking back, reading the paper, playing cards, making cookies, and letting it snow.