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Homeowner's Journal

Journal Entry - 07/04/08

A lot can happen in a couple of weeks. 

Since breaking ground we have installed the geothermal piping, prepared the closed crawlspace, and almost completed the framing.  It’s not ideal to have framers and geothermal contractors on the site simultaneously, were good sports about working around each other—not to mention my constant “milling around.”

Tree Hugger
Making progress

I’ve enjoyed watching the process from the ground up.  My videographer, Andy Coon, was on site during some of the geothermal installation, getting footage of the process th HVAC contractor laid the geothermal pipe, formed the manifolds, and explained the whole process on camera. 

The remaining trees on the lot have sustained a little bit of root damage during the excavation process and are looking thirsty.  Heavy equipment used on a jobsite tends to strip the protective topsoil from the roots, leaving them broken and exposed to the hot sun.  A local green landscaper pointed out this damage to me on one of the tall maple trees in the backyard.  Otherwise I would have never noticed that the leaves on this sizeable tree had started to fade.  I would have been well advised to build a few hay bale forts around them to keep backhoes and other equipment from getting too close.  The good news is it is not too late.  The haybales are on our ever increasing “To Do” list. 

I know it is a cliché to say that building a house is a lot like giving birth, but there are some distinct similarities.  It’s financially scary, a huge commitment, and provokes a lot of anxiety.  It’s also an extraordinary opportunity for self-expression.  I feel proud as I watch the house growing up before my eyes.  I’m also grateful that the house can’t talk or else it would surely tell me to stop taking its picture. My builder, Don, has teased me about having the most photographed house since Buckingham Palace.  Still, I was bitterly disappointed that I wasn’t there to see the backhoe push the last bit of dirt into the geothermal trenches, covering up my pipes -- forever.  You think I’m kidding.

California Corners , Codes & COMMUNICATION

Sample of California Corners

Standard Corners
Sample of Standerd Corners

My builder and the Energy Star rater celebrated a small but significant victory this week when they introduced local code officials to “California Corners.”  This advanced framing technique uses less wood while allowing for more insulation at the perimeter corners of the home. Ironically, this proven building technique that is actually encouraged in California, gave pause to a local official in Guilford county.  Armed with the code book (which does in fact show California corners as an alternative framing technique) Don and the Energy Star rater met with local code officials to explain.  They were delighted (and I think a little surprised) that the exchange was so very……undramatic.  After all, it “was in the book.”

I anticipate a few more code hurdles before this is all over.  I have learned in talking with various construction professionals that code officials can sometimes have a knee jerk reaction to what they haven’t seen before.  But I was encouraged that this first little encounter proved so anti-climactic. 

Choosing a 3rd Party Green Certification Program
A little tact and a little communication go a long way.  I think a lot of homeowners would benefit from getting their builder and other key consultants and contractors in the same room for 45 minutes of discussion.  A sense of teamwork emerges which helps ensure a better outcome.  Of course, a homeowner has to speak up loud enough to make this happen.  That said, the number of people that I have to buy lunch for these days (so they will continue to put up with me) is growing.  Last week I treated two Energy Star raters, Don, and my HVAC contractor to Mexican food.   We were assembled to discuss green certifications.  Basically, I need have a third party say I built an efficient and environmentally friendly home.  I don’t have to do this – but I want to.  Otherwise it’s just my word against someone else’s.    

There are a lot of choices out there – from NC Healthy Built Homes to the new National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Greenbuilding Standard to the very challenging LEED for Homes.  There is a certain amount of expense – several hundred to several thousand dollars involved in all these certifications, with a lot of variables that impact the final cost of certification.  If a homeowner is willing to chase down most of the paperwork (ie. ask suppliers for documentation that their products are low in VOCs, etc.) then you can keep your cost to a minimum. 

So, it is with a giant leap of faith that I have chosen to pursue (drum roll please) …. LEED for Homes



Ode to the Great Seamstresses of World - Journal Entry - 02/28/09

Sleuthing the Noise in Our Ventilation - Journal Entry - 02/27/09

My Greenspiration Valentine - Journal Entry - 02/19/09

"SEAMED" Like a Good Idea at the Time: - Journal Entry - 01/20/09

Floors to "DYE" For. - Journal Entry - 01/15/09

A Funny Story about Our Kitchen Lighting…. - Journal Entry - 01/05/09

Happy New Year Greenspiration Voyeurs! - Journal Entry - 01/01/09

I.O.U. Journal Entries! - Journal Entry - 12/18/08

If Walls Could Talk, These Would Say, “I look MAVALOUS!”- Journal Entry - 11/27/08

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda- Journal Entry - 11/22/08

Name that Geothermal Unit!- Journal Entry - 10/24/08

This part of the construction process goes fast. - Journal Entry - 10/19/08

Okay, so we’re finally registered for LEED-H  - Journal Entry - 10/08/08

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." - Jounal Entry - 09/16/08

It’s been a tense couple of weeks for Greenspiration. - Journal Entry - 08/11/08

A lot can happen in a couple of weeks.  - Journal Entry - 07/04/08

Groundbreaking:  A Tree Leans On Greenspiration - Journal Entry - 05/31/08

"How's the house coming, Trish?" - Journal Entry - 03/31/08



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