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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Working men

Outside, Sam Savage and Paul Cook (closeup) shingle while Erickson's team lays conduit for the wiring, cable and telephone. Chris designs window casings in the barn. In the house, Chris Lombardo continues with setting up the propane lines and placing the outlets. Today, we hope to complete something... maybe the trenching. But it's not for lack of working.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foam insulation

I'm sure all my readers know this... but why not say it again? Once your windows are in, but before putting on the extension jambs, be sure to insulate the area between the window and the wall (see bulging beige stuff above). Although it means going window to window and trimming it back to the casing with a utility knife after you foam it in, it will pay off with years of cozy warmth in winter. This goes for doors, too.


And this doesn't show them all.

This is what happens when you have three carpenters, two duct men, a well guy, a plumber, and two site workers (not to mention yours truly) on location. Trucks, trucks, everywhere. What's happening today:
Tying the well head to the house with an in and out line. Digging the trench for electric power up the driveway and to the house. Starting the septic field. Finishing the ductwork (thanks Dave and Ken). Shingling the house. Insulating around windows and doors with foam (done, thanks Chris). Extension jambs on windows and doors. Hot water lines and propane gas lines. Stripping or encapsulating lead paint on doors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trenching the well

None of the guys like the noise, but we needed to bring the water line trench down another foot or two through ledge. Here the machine is pounding away; they're making good progress so we should wrap it up before much longer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Full house

Chris (above) has set up and is tearing through the list, which keeps getting longer every day; first thing is the tub deck that the plumber needs for his drain pipe, then the myriad discussions on how to best use the kitchen cupboards, how to make the stairs look nice, how to trim the bathrooms, and so on. John Larter is back with Dave and his backhoe, beginning the process of building the septic and digging the trenches for the utilities. Eli Richardson is putting his water lines in from the well tomorrow. It's hoppin' around here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Santa Fe contingent

My brother Chris arrived from Santa Fe yesterday morning with his Stuff; has tools, has tile, has ideas, and after a full day in the barn getting settled in, has fatigue. But now, he's off to Lowe's for materials to start the tub deck.

This week, Dave duct man finishes and Chris L. plumber finishes his rough, Sam Savage and Paul Cook start shingling, footings are poured for porch, utility trenches are dug, water lines run and brother Chris Dowling starts. Lots of bodies on site tomorrow; I'll be posting a lot, promise.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Courtesy of Lloyd

Here are a couple of shots Lloyd sent along last night; one shows Chris Lombardo looking happier than he feels atop the roof, putting in the vent in the girls' bathroom, and one shows Bill's fireplace creation, nearly completed in our absence. We're headed back to base tonight, and will suitably admire the results of everyone's labor tomorrow... and get coffee.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A little rain

Okay, so we've had three days of tropical rainstorms on Block Island, yesterday being the most, and now we have a new lake in the back yard. The weather has, finally, turned so we have a beautiful day and will make the most of it, and tomorrow, as we will be returning home Friday. Photo by M.G. Porter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Flown the coop

Sorry, we fled to Block Island to escape all things LEED, and didn't tell you. Also, I couldn't make the internet connection work until just now. We have been collecting shells and withstanding the winds, baking cupcakes and playing Monopoly; I believe we have now indoctrinated the girls into building only LEED hotels on Boardwalk.
Thanks for your patience.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Plumbing & Ducting

Chris the plumber has been putting pipes everywhere, Dave the ducter has been putting ducts everywhere, and although in an ideal world ne'er the twain shall meet, meet they did. However, they worked it out. Chris doesn't love the access joist system as much as the duct man does, however, as his pipes are rigid and the 7.25" clear it gives him isn't quite enough without some tweaks, but he's coping.

I have been getting educated on choices. Valve choices, fixture choices, faucet choices, hot water heating, you name it. Please respond with names and information on on-demand hot water heaters (your likes and dislikes please) under comments; I will need to make a decision on this soon and welcome any opinions, pro and con.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

By the way

Sorry to have been spotty at posting, I've been running around like a lunatic what with one thing and another. I'll try to be better.

Water to heat

This is our new Envision, a geothermal water source heat pump by Water Furnace. Our dual capacity unit is DV064A111INTL. This is an air ducted system which will deliver both heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. This furnace, rated 26.1 EER and 4.7 COP at our level, is so far above any energy and LEED requirements that they'll probably raise the levels. In essence, at an entering water temperature from the ground of 50° (ours should run closer to 55°), the Envision extracts the heat from the water and returns it to the ground. The air, then heated at 50, is boosted by heat coils within the furnace to your desired temperature. The beauty of our open loop system is that it takes water out of the ground, changes it 10 degrees, and returns it to the ground exactly the same as it came in. The water touches nothing that can pollute it.

During the heating cycle, the system uses the loop to extract heat from the well water. As the system pulls heat from the loop it distributes it through a conventional duct system as warm air. In the cooling mode, the system air conditions your home by reversing the heating process. Instead of extracting heat from the ground, it is extracted from your home and either moved back into the earth loop, or used to preheat the water in your hot water tank. And once the heat is removed from the air, it is distributed through the duct system in your home.

The physics are fairly tricky, but the fact of the matter is that it is similar to an air-source heat pump only (especially in the Northeast) hugely more efficient using 50-55 degrees as a starting point rather than the much colder air.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Okay, here's where we are: Dave from Duct-works is coming back tomorrow to tie in his ducting to the new Water Furnace. Chris Lombardo of Lombardo Plumbing & Heating is starting the rough tomorrow. Eli Richardson of Richardson Wells will be tinkering with the well and geothermal furnace. Bill Anderson, the mason, is still moving up the house and then will proceed inside. Sam and Paul are trying to figure out if they can shingle the house for as much as I can afford to pay them, and Flip and I are moving the rest of the dreck from our storage unit (why did we save that stuff again?) into the barn. Still searching for flooring. I am varnishing the furniture serving as bath vanities, finalizing my plumbing fixtures and making a long shopping list for HD or Lowes. My brother Chris is arriving in a week and a half, and then once again we will have too many bodies.

Right now, though, it's peaceful, quiet and lovely there with the birds a-cheeping.

Progression upward

Most unfortunately, I missed the guys from Richardson Wells moving the furnace in this morning because I was at the plumbing supply house when they came. However, they did manage to get it downstairs with four guys and a really strong two wheeler, though I didn't get a picture of it. Here's Bill moving up the side of the house, and while he's making headway thanks to weather I'm varnishing the bath vanities in the barn to be a little more waterproof.

Flip and I are clearing out the storage unit (okay, mostly Flip) so the barn's upstairs is starting to look a little full. However, we're winding that up this week so we can have all our Stuff in one place.

Monday, April 13, 2009

...in a 5 pound bag

How do you get 540 pounds of geothermal furnace into your cellar? With more than three guys, apparently. When Richardson Wells showed up with the furnace and glanced at the commute, they decided they'd better have a couple of extra men. So tune in tomorrow, when I'll get a shot of the Water Furnace going in. Until the morning, it's going to rest at the top of the exterior stairs until we have more muscle.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How sweet it is

Our tiny outdoor fireplace for the east porch looks big here; once the scaffolding comes down I'll get a better picture to scale. But it's little; we'll be sawing our logs in half, and loving every minute of it. This one has a standard damper as it will live outside. The one inside will need to be specially fitted to accommodate LEED blower tests.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Ductman Cometh

As you know, we are using a standing well open loop geothermal system. Eli will come in with the Water Furnace and Dave from Duct-works is running the ductwork to his machinery. I will post more about this as it is occuring in the coming few weeks.

Dave started yesterday. As those of you who follow LEED stuff know, one of the important things in the Energy & Atmosphere section is sealing your ducts (see taped joints above). He's been tearing through the house at a tremendous pace, making great time. Sam has been in front of him, fattening walls so he can have enough room for his ductwork. Lloyd has been behind him, covering the registers and returns with plywood so dust and dirt (and Luna and I) won't fall down them. We will, of course, flush the ducts before moving in, but there shouldn't be much in there the way these guys have taken care.

With Lombardo Plumbing starting on Wednesday next week, I'm afraid Dave may have a target on his back when Chris Lombardo sees how many chases he's taken, but there you go. First in line gets the best pick.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ducting alert

Lloyd and I moved lumber out to barn, Bill is creating the firebox for the inside fireplace, and Sam was wrestling with door hardware when I left. We were creating space inside for the duct man, who, rumor has it, begins tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

If you can't beat it, tarp it

Here's Bill working through this raw day.

April showers

Well, it's raining again. Bill Anderson, the mason, was just setting up his scaffolding when it started. Sam Savage is on his way up to put in the last two doors, and Lloyd is waiting for a final inspection on the barn. Once we get the high sign from the inspector, we'll be moving the salvage doors up two by two for me to clean them up and tweak them in the barn.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Okay, it's Sunday. But because it's been raining non-stop, the guys from Natural Lines showed up today to paint—and paint they did. Three sides, to be exact. Flip and I spent the morning moving lumber piles around and getting ready for the utility trenches to be dug, losing Lloyd's barn key and generally battening down the hatches for, I'm afraid, more rain. So be it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bill in the rain

Bill Anderson, the mason, worked through until the rain started in earnest. He got as far as building a base for the fireplace before he had to quit, but by then it was raining cats and dogs.

As you know, both Energy Star and LEED frown on masonry fireplaces. Built properly with outside air vent, chimney seal and covered with doors, however, you should be able to pass your blower test. I don't think Flip can live without a fireplace, I know I can't. After all, it's our "back up heating system."


Thursday, April 2, 2009


Lloyd's water management means we had no water in the cellar this morning, which was a pleasure to see. It was also a pleasure to see Eli Richardson of Richardson Wells & Pumps, our geothermal contractor who will be proceeding with ductwork immediately. New LEED team member Chris Lombardo of Lombardo Plumbing and Heating is designing the hot water system to meet or exceed for our extra points there (EA 7.1 Hot water distribution).


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tidying up

Today, Lloyd is cleaning up; Bob and Red are doing their last tweaks for Paddock's crew, Natural Lines is putting on as much paint as they can before weather, and Erin will be helping Lloyd to re-do the temporary rain setup. Doesn't look as if we can get a gutter in before the next storm, so we're just going to have to do our best—this time, before it starts raining rather than after. Weather looks good for Sunday and Monday to finish painting.