February 2017 Round-up

The house and the frozen lake beyond

The house and the frozen lake beyond

We’ve not been posting recently because not much is happening. We’ve had and passed the electrical inspection, which means we can actually start to put in the light fittings we intend to live with (which are mainly European and Japanese and while perfectly safe, have not been submitted to Canadian inspection). Chris and Anne from New Leaf Custom Homes came round to discuss the few small things we need to do to get through the final inspection and get our official occupancy permit, which should get done over the next couple of weeks. Beyond that, we don’t have the money at this point to do anything else for a few months. So, the Japanese room, built-in shelving will have to wait, as will the solar array and home battery system.

We’ve had a few interesting and critical comments on aspects of the design from the edited reposts of earlier blog entries that are being published on the excellent Green Building Advisor site, and I’ve responded to those in the site, but the simple observable truth is that the house works. We’ve been in it since December now and even though this has been a grayer and cloudier winter than usual, which means the solar gain is less than normal, the house has still been maintaining an even interior temperature of between about 15ºC (nighttime low) and 21ºC (daytime high) without the wood or pellet stove that so many people insisted that we would need. Rainwater / snow-melt harvesting has also provided for all our water needs without any sign of getting low, although this winter we may have benefitted from the unusually uneven temperatures. Short version: whatever, we could have done differently, and indeed would do differently were we starting again, it’s all good. We already published some reflections on why we did things the way we did, last year, but I will do a more detailed post on exactly what we would change were we starting again, because that’s really what everyone else who might be considering this kind of house wants to know…

Now here are some more pictures…

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8 thoughts on “February 2017 Round-up

  1. Linda Joy

    I have followed your posts from the start and really enjoyed seeing it come to almost the conclusion. I commend you for your simple design, clean open spaces and efficiency. If I was 30 years younger I would love to do something like this. In fact 40 years ago my late husband and I built what at the time was an efficient log home with large south windows,woodheat that preheated the hot water tank and lots of green plants inside to keep the inside air clean. Sure sounds primitive now with all the new technology.
    Linda Joy
    Wolfe Island

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  2. M&D

    We are glad to read that the project is slowly coming to fruition. You must be quite pleased that it has more-or-less gone to plan. What will be the next aspect you are going to concentrate on?

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    1. David Post author

      Right now, we just want to get things needed to have the inspection done. After that it’s: bookshelves; Japanese room; and solar water heating installation – in that order. As well as site cleaning and landscaping work, which we’ll do oursleves.

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  3. Ethan

    Congratulation on being so close to completion! I have been following your project for a while now and find it to be quite an inspiration. So much so, in fact, that we are seriously considering building with CLT down here in New York. I have been going through the exercise of cost comparisons with various CLT suppliers and local contractors and it has been quite interesting comparing CLT with some sort of superinsulated stick framing like double stud. You have mentioned that you will not be able to provide a cost analysis until the house is done… but what is your gut impression of the CLT process? Did you feel that the labor/time savings of using CLT measured up to what a stick frame house may have cost? I understand that it is an enitrely different end product, which makes it a difficult comparison…

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    1. David Post author

      Hi Ethan – yours is the Yet To Be Named Passive House project, right? Looks interesting. Of course stick-framing is flexible, and CLT is not likely to work out cheaper in the end, I think. But CLT is definitely worth it if you find a relatively local supplier of quality CLT who can do precise factory-cutting. I also think you can mix and match to your needs: I don’t think you need to have as much CLT as us – for example, the internal walls really don’t need to be CLT and nor do the floors, or the roof, depending on what sort of roof shape you want. I think if we were doing this again, we might just do the external shell and the longest (East-West) internal wall that divides the house. Mind you, if we were doing this again, we would also start by looking at what we could get locally in terms of both CLT and insulation, and would design the house with the materials in mind from the beginning. I really think it pays to design for your materials – and you can do amazing things with CLT – not just the kind we used, but also curved beams and so on. I also don’t think I would recommend doing what we did and ordering from Europe – but as you know if you’ve been following our project, we weren’t just doing that for reasons of our build.

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      1. Ethan

        David – Thank you. Yes, that is our house, though I think we just named it Mullet Hall. And I’m not sure we will try to achieve Passive House standards, so I am in the unenviable position of trying to change the name of an unnamed house. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have had quite a lot of difficulty getting attention from anyone but the European suppliers of CLT, but perhaps I am not asking the right questions. It is my impression that the US suppliers are totally uninterested in a residential project of our size, and the Canadian suppliers are, shall I say, moderately interested. I have the opposite intuition as you, which is that if I am building with CLT, I might as well get the whole house put together at once and then save on labor and complexity of joining systems. But maybe I am underestimating the overall costs of CLT, and overestimating the savings derived from eliminating interior finish work and building envelope complexity. But through a lot of research and thinking, I have started to see that a modified PERSIST wall, which is essentially conventional framing with insulation outboard (like this: https://buildingscience.com/documents/enclosures-that-work/high-r-value-wall-assemblies/high-r-wall-advanced-frame-mineral-fiber-board) could work well too. And perhaps I could achieve that nice wood interior just by using finish grade plywood as a interior finish (instead of gypsum board). It seems like the PERSIST+cavity insulation is sort of a way of achieving what Robert Riversong is doing in his modified Larsen Truss design: http://greenhomebuilding.com/articles/larsentruss.htm

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  4. David Post author

    We looked at both those exact assemblies when designing the place. The only problem with the very deep framing of the Riversong system is that you have to be able to fill it really, really well. Our local cellulose installer looked at our plans and said that they had never filled a space that size and couldn’t guarrantee a full and even packed fill everywhere. So we were, in the end going to go with something like the PERSIST design. However then the CLT came along. I don’t think we would have gone with it had we not had someone else to deal with the importing etc. – which is why we can’t help you much with that, we didn’t deal with it – and you do need an engineer who knows their stuff. If I was where you are, I’d probably talk to G.O. Logic though – they seem to have pretty fool-proof passive house system.

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