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.

Lyons Bath

Over the winter, we had the opportunity to do a quick project for a friend needing a mother-in-law cottage/AUD (accessory unit dwelling) in Fort Collins. Having watched our process on the Fort Collins project and been a part of several job site talks, our friend wanted the dwelling to be as efficient as possible. The space was previously a garage, and had the interior walls already up. We came in and helped with ventilation, air sealing and the insulation.

As we wrapped up the insulation and got them through their rough inspections, they asked if we would be willing to do their bathroom tile as well, as they really wanted to get the space finished before the spring. They were doing most of the finish work themselves, but felt the pressure to get things wrapped up so that their mother could move in. Below are a couple of interior design renderings we put together to show them what the bathroom would look like. They really appreciated getting to see before hand what the space they were envisioning would look like. After a few adjustments to the original design, we got to work and the completed bathroom turned out fantastic!

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Above: Concept Drawings to Confirm Tile Look and Layout

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Above: Installed Tile 

A few of the things that changed were the glass door and the bench, which were a part of the original drawing.

Many homeowners often express that they are not able to imagine their home and the spaces within it based on construction documents alone. This coupled with picking tile, cabinets, fixtures, carpet, even wall colors can become a daunting task during a home build. Having well produced interior design renderings that can show what a space will look like based on the materials being considered and the dimensions called out, are such an important and helpful tool as they can help confirm choices and allow for changes to be made before moving forward with installations or big purchases.

Are you living on the Front Range and thinking about building a new home or an Accessory Dwelling Unit? If so, send us an email at dusty@harrington.build 

Home Design Thoughts

As a new “normal” takes new form and globally we start to shift toward developing new standards and regulations for how we interact, shop, learn and live, it’s worth also considering the place of home design, and for that matter maybe even renovations.

Some ideas that come to mind, stream back to early home design others are new thoughts about how we might shift spaces within our own homes to take on these “new normal” practices.

1. Vestibules: these rooms are more commonly known as “mudrooms” but don’t really function as they had originally. Today they are the catch-all. The mudroom is the place to collect our shoes, seasonal layers, grocery bags, the things needed for kids athletic practices, the place to do laundry, etc. However, in ancient Greece, vestibules were the barrier between one’s home and the outside world. Bringing a true vestibule into home design could give a more private and secure location for deliveries, as well as a holding spot for those who would like to make sure that any deliveries can be cleaned or properly prepared before entering the main living space.

2. Kitchens: Today the kitchen is the meeting place. It’s the spot where dinner and homework get done; where lunch and zoom meetings are happening. We have, over time transformed kitchens from contained work centers into the  most popular gathering place of our homes. In the early 1900’s, when tile and stone became more popular, kitchens were designed with hygiene in mind. Obviously, there is great joy in gathering around food but as we think more toward how to not spread or how slow the spread of illness during social gatherings, having a kitchen that focuses on just the art of cooking and leaving dinning and living spaces as the social spots could be an option that reemerges.

3. Washstand: Is the first thing that comes to mind when reading this, that age old concept of a pitcher in a large bowl? Hand washing is one of the easiest ways to slow the spread of many pathogens, and having a small dedicated sink that reminds your household and guests to do that before continuing into the main area of a home could become a thing, especially as we continue to hear from health officials about the importance of hand washing to slow the spread and see local retail shops putting out their own hand sanitizer stations, that encourage patrons to stop and clean before proceeding into the store, out for use. Having a powder room near the entrance of the home was quite common as private bathrooms and personal hygiene became a popular thing in the 19th century. More commonly, we see powder rooms in a more central part of a home, occasionally next to the kitchen or in between living spaces, but designing one next to the entrance of the home is easy to do and helps remind people to wash up before continuing into the house.

4. Better Home Ventilation: Talk about the next up-and-coming home feature. Instead of bragging about that low flow shower head, or super efficient windows, ventilation systems are going to be all the rage. Why? The cleaner the air in your home is, the healthier not just the occupants but the whole house is. In all of our homes, the ventilation system is just as well thought out as the plumbing or electrical system. Bringing air in, pulling air out, designing around wet locations and areas where there is greater solar gain, being considerate of where air might need to be more regularly refreshed and when makes our homes function efficiently and sustainably!

 

These are of course just some ideas, a way of looking forward to home and interior design!

Interested in discussing a new home build in Northern Colorado? Check out our Welcome! tab for contact information!!

Building Away

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Even though many folks in Colorado are staying home, construction and home building is still progressing. New homes across the front range are in some form or phase of planning or permitting, many homes are actively being built, remodeled or added on to and our company is, as the Brit’s say, doing our best to keep calm and carry on.

Currently, we are just outside of Fort Collins working on an addition to a passive home that was built about 6 years ago and designed by DNA Design + Architecture, who designed the Loveland Project (see previous posts) home we built. This home is really very beautiful. The design elements find balance among the prairie landscape of the foothills. From large steel beams, to reclaimed barn wood and a stucco color that compliments the hues of the local and native plants, everything is well thought out and planned with intention. We’ll include some photos once we have it completed.

If you’re looking to build a home here in Northern Colorado, check out our Welcome page for our contact information. We look forward to continuing to build interesting, creative, beautiful and most importantly- efficient and sustainable, homes here in Colorado.

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Building Seasons

Lets get caught up! Our last post was about some of the features on our Loveland Project. So much has happened since that post. The homeowners have their C.O. and have been moving in and getting settled. We will be back to get some photos to show off just how great it looks at a later time.

It’s funny how each project takes shape like the seasons. The beginning of the project is like Spring. There’s so much to look forward to. There are plans, visions and a lot of enthusiasm. As the project progresses you get to a point in building where there are subs everywhere and things are happening very quickly-much like being in the heat of the Summer. Once the subs have finished, there are finishes to look forward to, it takes shape like Fall-where golden leaves and kitchen sinks, bathtubs, flooring and wall colors bring about a renewed sense of excitement. The last season of building is the final finishes work and then stepping out of the project completly-Winter.

Just like the seasons in Colorado, sometimes we are in winter at one project and spring at another and isnt that just the beauty of it all? Of being a part of so much change and growth!

Currently, we are in Berthoud, CO and the season of building is Spring. Our foundation work is complete, we have framed the floors, walls, set trusses and are ready to start sheathing the roof and start siding. We are gearing up for summer, both figuratively  (see earlier mention) and literally. We have another project in Fort Collins that is just about ready to start breaking ground.

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It’s exciting to be doing what we are doing. To know that at the end of day, the homes we are building can withstand the seasons providing quality and comfort for its homeowners. We are excited and thankful that people continue to reach out to us and are interested in building a highly efficient passive home with us! Cheers to the seasons, may they keep on coming!