You Build What?

Often, when we are talking to people about what we do, there’s a pause and then, “You build what?” It’s easy to reply, “an energy efficient home” but it doesn’t really get at the heart of what building passive or super efficient means and we want everyone to know because we believe that building in this way is just one way to make an impact on our environment for the better!

Here are some details of home building we consider/ implement for a passive or super efficient home:

Conditioned Spaces: the size and density and where a home is geographically located is investigated to determine how much energy the heating/cooling/ventilation system would have to use per year. To determine this, we look at Peak Heating and Cooling loads. Peak heating is how much heat your system needs to put out on the coldest day of the year in the location of the home. Peak cooling then is the opposite. We build with dense packed cellulose insulation and do a rigorous amount of air sealing to keep the peak loads at a minimum. We want our homes to basically maintain a comfortable temperature of approx. 74F throughout the year which for the customer, results in lower energy bills.

Energy Sources: We want our homes to be significantly less consumptive than a standard home. To do this, we consider, how many people will live in the home and how the home will be used; what appliances will be in the home, what type of bulbs for lighting, the hot water heater and the Energy Recovery Ventilator Unit. We design the windows to provide solar gain in the winter when it’s needed and avoid window placement in areas where summer heat gain would be greatest. We evaluate the quality of everything making up the home because it’s these materials and fixtures that play a significant role in the energy performance of the home.

Air Tightness: By using the right materials and well developed building practices that prevent air and vapor from penetrating or leaking through the envelope (your homes shell) you can have a comfortable and healthy home. To do this, homes are blower door tested, which is an interesting and informative part of the build. The house, once the windows, doors, siding, roofing, and insulation are installed, is closed up and pressurized using a fan placed in a doorway. As the fan runs, the amount of air that escapes the home is measured, through software, and the output is generated in cubic feet per minute at 50 pascals of pressure per square foot. FUN FACT: Pascal: a pressure of one newton per square meter or in S.I.: one kilogram per meter per second squared.

COMPLICATED!

Lets just break that down a little: the number generated from the blower door is the number of times the air volume changes in a house over an hour at 50 pascals of pressure. PHIUS (The U.S. Chapter) requires homes to meet 0.06cfm50 per ft2 to be considered passive. The lower the number, the tighter the home! Some City and County Building departments will also have their own standard for air tightness as well. For example, in the City of Fort Collins a homes air tightness “shall not exceed 3.0 ACH50 (air changes/hour at 50Pascals of pressure) for either gas or electric heated homes” https://www.fcgov.com/building/files/cfc-sfd-air-tightness-testing-protocol-v4.2.pdf?1588951497 This is an important and incredibly useful tool in determining the energy efficiency of a home!

Whew! you’ve made it through that lengthy interpretation of what makes a passive home, passive. By building thoughtfully, we create homes that make an impact in human health, building health and environmental health.

40,000lbs of Cellulose

What is one of the most exciting, most fulfilling, most…most…acchhoooo.

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Oh, excuse me.

Cellulose is one of those materials that, once you start blowing you just can’t wait to be done, honestly. From recycled paper materials in your hair, nose, ears, and tucked into every nook and cranny of your clothing to heavy bales, a heavy hose you end up holding over head for minutes at a time, and a remote with the behavior of an erratic woman (hey, it’s a woman writing this post so that can be said with confidence), blowing cellulose can be tedious and messy. That being said, dense packed cellulose really adds to the comfort of each home we build as well as the sound quality.

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It has been quite interesting in our Fort Collins project to go from frigid rooms throughout the house to comfort even with no doors and those winter winds and chill passing through. We started blowing on the third floor, and while netting, stapling, gluing, and blowing we ran a few small heaters. After we got the bulk fill done in the ceiling and walls it was incredible how much warmer the third floor stayed, just from those two small heaters. Comfortable enough, that even on the very cold days where the temperature outside didn’t go over 20F, those working upstairs were in their long sleeves and no jackets. That of course wasn’t the case for the machine loader on the “basement” level who was wearing snow boots, snow pants and a winter jacket while working. The proof of it’s efficiency in reducing drastic thermal changes was very apparent even from third level to main level. As one descended the first string of stairs, the temperature difference at the landing between the two, if one had to guess, was within 40F to 50F degrees-meaning the fellas in only their shirts were quickly going back up for their jackets before they ever made it to the second string of stairs (about 10 steps to a landing) and the woman dressed for a blizzard was finding it necessary to remove layers! It’s incredible what 40,000lbs of cellulose will do for a home.

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We are just starting to blow cellulose into the basement level and up next is getting the drywall in, then flooring and cabinets as well as exterior finishes.  An interesting feature we look forward to sharing on the main level will be the trimless drywall and beautiful natural oak doors along with all the steel. Things are shaping up and the house continues to be a sightseer for passersby.

Stay warm!

Energy With A View

When we think of solar installations, we generally think of those big black panels that dot the roofs of homes, buildings and sometimes the roadside. But what about windows?

When Robert Clarke from Alpen HPP LLC (our window supplier), called us up and asked if we would be interested in meeting the VP Sales Rep from Solaria about a new BIPV  (Building-Integrative Photovoltaic) technology they were working on for residential homes, we said yes! Solaria has been talking with Alpen to produce highly efficient windows with a solar grid in them. Not only would you/potential customers be getting a high performance window, but also one that is going to generate energy for your home. The windows have already been installed in larger commercial buildings, one specifically in Japan, you can find the link to the article below. Currently their BIPV glass panels, used in conjunction with standard glass windows are taking the idea of being “green” and “sustainable” to a new level. The panels not only collect solar energy, they provide glare control, thermal performance and effective daylighting (Solaria).

The idea of combining solar windows on a home, while also getting the benefit of daylighting, thermal control and glare reduction desired in a window is exciting. The fact that these cells are unobtrusive to the view is a huge positive. We are looking forward to seeing  how Solaria and Alpen continue to work out the details of making these panels for residential installations.

Here’s Jason, holding up the sample pane Scott Hoover brought over (the image has been edited to show the outline of the cells better. Had this image not been manipulated, you the reader would have thought Jason was just standing there with his arm up for fun-not something he is particularly known for)

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Link to Solaria’s BIPV System in Japan: ASAHI GLASS COMPANY AND SOLARIA ANNOUNCE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP TO DELIVER ADVANCED BIPV SOLUTIONS TO THE ASIAN MARKET

Link to Alpen Windows: http://thinkalpen.com/

 

Summer Hustle

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IMG_4693eThese three have been staying busy; unlike the tiny boss chilling in the wheelbarrow above.

Once framing and sheathing wrapped up, we quickly got to work on air/water/vapor sealing, and installing windows, doors, trim and siding.

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The design of the homes exterior incorporates wood, stone and brick. The homeowner had two colors of wood that she stained, one very dark and one very light-you could say it’s black and and white in appearance, but up close there is a lot more color variations including tones of brown and green that help give the homes exterior a very rustic country look.

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Here is a corner photo of the two stains side by side.

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As you can see, there is a lot of character and variation in the color of the siding depending on light and where a person is standing.

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The white siding has also been used as an accent color under some windows. The Cupolas along the roofs ridge provide a bit more character along the gable.

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The rough plumbing and electrical have been completed and we are getting ready to start blowing insulation.

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Just look at that light switch box! We really appreciate the work both the plumbing and electrical contractors have done!IMG_4695e

Here is a photo of the tenting around the fire sprinklers. This is a mandatory step before insulation can be installed. What we are doing, is creating a barrier between the sprinkler line and the cellulose; which will help to prevent/minimize the chance of the line freezing. The netting seen above the line will also be tacked to the studs along the walls, and cellulose will be blown in and dense packed.

Sprouting Up

Aaahh, spring has arrived in Colorado…or at least it seems that way on a bi-weekly basis. One week sunny and hot, the next cold and wet.

As promised, in the previous post a look into how the framing has been going. We have brought on, J & D Builders from Greeley to help us out, and we are really enjoying working with them.

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Profile view. The Kitchen area has trusses on. The garage is being sheathed for the second floor.

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Tilting up walls. These guys have had no problem working with our double wall framing system.

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Looking out the Dinning room window, that tiny person was placed there for scale. The homeowners wanted big windows to really capture the view they have of the buttes and Horsetooth Rock from the North side of their home.

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Jason and Bryan standing in the Kitchen.

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Looking out from the Kitchen into the rest of the first level. The “tiny person for scale” is standing in the Master Bedroom. The beam is situated over the Living Room.

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Here our scale model is standing under the beam and in front of her is the wash room and access to the garage. There are high ceilings throughout. The beams and columns for this project are Beetle Kill Pine, milled from The Forks Lumber Mill, whom we used for the Nederland Home.

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Here’s a look into the wall cavity. Soon we will be dense packing a whole semi load of cellulose into these cavities. One the ground is our vapor barrier. Just as on a roof, we must maintain a dry environment for the durability of our materials and the house as a whole.

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Scale Model standing in the Garage. Above the garage will be bedrooms.

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Here’s a look at some amazing custom made brackets we had done for the home from Charles Lefkowitz at, Sculpture and Functional Metal Work. We will have an upcoming post with more photos of the brackets we are using.

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There last two photos are of the column brackets, one from the side, and one from the front. These brackets are giving structural stability and a very modern and industrial look to the home.

 

Need Convincing??

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It’s been cold lately, on Thursday the temperature hung around the 20’s, Friday it didn’t get over 20, and today is looking much the same. Cold. Cold. Cold. That also means that the heaters all across the Front Range are running, but not everywhere!!! Oh no friends, up in Nederland, CO (where the temperature is usually 20 degree (F) colder), in the house we finished this spring, the heat is NOT on!!! Say What?!?! You read that right, the homeowners just in the last 30 min sent a text telling us that they have yet to turn their heater on, despite it being so dang cold out. Jealous? I know I would be!!

 

Up Goes The Drywall

This week the drywall was installed. Once the tapping is finished we can install doors and windows, and blow cellulose into the attic spaces. The homeowners will soon be picking the exterior and interior paint color as as well as fixtures.

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A peek into the Master suit bath

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Looking from the living room toward the front door.

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Kitchen pantry

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We added a little person for perspective and fun with the window depth.

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Looking into the kitchen.

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A view from the Master Suit hall into the room and off to the side, the office.

Moving Forward in Berthoud

We keep making the most of every day. The insulation is in, the concrete floor has been stained, the septic system is installed, the drywall installers arrived yesterday. We are putting up siding and aside from a set back from our window company, we keep moving forward.

Check out our photos to see what we are up to. Have a question? www.harrington.build is just a click away! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Let’s get Cozy, with Insulation.

Insulation (noun): the action of insulating someone or something.IMG_8878

This is probably the face you make when your home is either too hot or too cold, because you don’t have proper insulation….

There’s a lot of options available to home builders and owners in the area of insulation. Why? Because it’s so important to the comfort and the efficiency of your home. Think about the last time you were in a home, in the middle of winter and the insulation was say, sub-par. You probably considered making a face similar to the one above. Why? Because who wants to be cold in their home, in the middle of winter? What cost is there to having a poorly insulated house? Well, there’s the personal comfort cost. You may spend those cold months layered in thermals, jackets and blankets or more than likely, you spend a lot of money every month firing up the heater every time it gets to chilly. Likewise, in the summer months, you’re plugging in that cooler and running it just to deal with a sweat box…unless you’ve taken it to LEVEL EPIC and just moved the kids’ swimming pool into the living room, just kidding. But let’s face the facts, insulation is important to the efficiency and integrity of any home.

In our last post, we shared pictures of the insulation install on our current project. We blow loose cellulose made locally by Applegate Insulation, and practice the “Dense-Pack” method. Dense packing is an effective way to decrease air flow through wall cavities and coupled with our separate air barrier strategy this creates a robust redundant air sealing approach. It increases a homes R-Value significantly (when properly installed) helping to minimize the thermal bridging experienced in most simple stud cavities. It also helps to decrease the movement of fire through wall cavities that would otherwise act as chimneys, and it is a renewable resource (made from recycled paper products).  Some even feel that the borate (think old borax soap) added to the insulation for fire protection helps to protect the wood structure underneath.  Recently, an article in the Journal of Light Construction reported on a multi-year test comparing thick wall construction types on the east coast. The study found a higher than optimal moisture content in the different insulation types.  The wall humidity tracked higher than thirty percent during portions of the the test period. This year, the test walls were opened up and mold and fungal growth was absent, in the cellulose walls.

We are really excited about insulation and energy conservation as you can see and don’t want our customers making a face similar to the one pictured above!