Millhaus

Last week we had the opportunity and pleasure to tour the, in construction, passive home of the architect who designed our Fort Collins Project (See previous posts)!

The lecture was held at Wolverine Farm here in Fort Collins. Emu Systems, run by Enrico Bonilauri and Mariana Pickering are training and consulting with builders, aspiring builders, architects and different trades to help people learn and implement passive haus building systems. Would you like to know more about Emu Systems? Check out their website: https://emu.systems/

The tour was conducted at well known architect Greg Fisher’s soon to be home. As mentioned, Greg designed the Fort Collins project we just completed. He wanted to learn more about passive haus construction processing and certificaion and decided to go all in with Emu Systems to certify his new home. It was a great afternoon watching Greg show off not only his beautiful home but his beautiful craftsmanship! Building a passive haus is a complicated and timely process, it takes a thoughtful approach and it is clear that Greg has the desire to pursue the process with his future designs while using this time building his new home as a learning opportunity! We look forward to watching the process of his house continue and working with him in the future!

Big thanks to Fort Collins Utilities Energy Code Compliance Specialist Brad Smith, who puts on these informative and fun Green Building Lectures that bring folks in from all over Colorado! Want to know more about the Green Building Lecture Series? Check out this Link: https://www.fcgov.com/greenbuilding/

The above excerpt was from 2019 when we had the opportunity to visit the early stages of the Millhaus home designed and built by Greg Fisher. Greg took part in Emu Systems passive house trades person certification and his home build was a pilot project with Emu. Fast forward two years later and Greg and his wife are now living in this beautiful home and we had the opportunity to once again tour it during the Passive House Open House days. Greg’s design and craftsmanship shine so elegantly, and his use of interesting (bark siding) or recycled materials (brick) add to unique story of Millhaus.

There were several groups of couples all very curious about passive house at the tour and we love seeing more and more people interested in utilizing this approach in a new home build! Reflecting back on the tour the one thing that I think about, and this is something that comes up whenever we talk about what passive building or efficient building is, is how complicated the process can seem to folks. Building a house in general, even tradition home building can seem daunting with all it’s stages and parts, but it shouldn’t be! Our approach is to build simpler to build better! The more approachable the concept is, the easier it is to implement. As always, if you’re interested in discussing building an efficient home or passive house don’t be shy, reach out!

Below are few photos from the tour of Millhaus and of some details I really loved as well as a group photo. If you’re interested in more from Millhaus check out Emu Systems Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/emubldgscience/?hl=en

Big kitchen windows and providing lots of light and wonderful views!
The details on the steel accents are just fantastic
Lots of natural light!
Love this Coffee/Wet Bar with a window that looks into the living room!
I’ve been very excited to see this pantry completed since the framing tour, love the metal mesh and steel beams. This pantry is right in the middle of the home; the entryway, kitchen, hall toward bedrooms, access to garage all move around this central part and it has been designed to be such an interesting feature!
Recycled Brick mixed with the steel beams-love this rustic industrial look that was throughout and a nod to the Millhaus story!
Greg and Enrico opening up the tour with a discussion of design elements and passive house construction (I’m in the back corner with the black shirt, just enjoying the conversation!)

Efficiency

As fall settles in, so does the cold and with that comes the firing up of heating systems. Here in Fort Collins, and likely other cities, we have a TOD or Time Of Day usage rate that increases the utilities rate for electricity during peak hours. In the winter, the TOD begins at 5:00p.m. and ends at 9:00p.m., which makes sense given this is when folks are coming home after a day at work or school and the demands on the grid increase. This TOD rate is meant to encourage folks to be more conservative with and in charge of, their electrical usage during these hours. The city recommends setting thermostats at 68F, opening up window coverings during the day to allow the sun to warm up spaces and preheating the home before the 5:00p.m. rate change and then “coasting” through those peak hours.

One great advice tip that many of us grew up loving to hear from our parents, and the city forgot to mention, is to “put on more clothes” 😉

I’ve read in some local online forums how frustrated people are that these increased usage rates exist, that folks find themselves in the cold dark months layering up, cooking less and avoiding lighting up their homes in the evening-just to avoid that larger utility bill.

As the climate changes (as it always does), demands on our power grid also change. Some years electrical demands in the summer are greater than the winter or vice versa. Regardless of what the climate is doing, one thing that doesn’t change is the demand for stability in the system and this is where building smarter and efficiently is of huge benefit.

We frequently get feedback from the homeowners in our previous builds about how well their home is operating. That even on the coldest days and without a grid tied heating system, everyone is staying warm and the energy bills aren’t dramatically increasing.

Building efficiently with air tightness in mind, with good insulation, daylighting and an overall design that considers how a home is really lived in and used by it’s occupants, helps not just in the winter but also the summer and leads to a more comfortable and healthy living environment overall.

If you’re thinking about building your new home and curious about our process for an efficient home build you can find our contact information on the “Welcome!” page, send us an email and let’s talk about your project!

Let’s Get Visual!

From floor plan to built, there are many steps along the way and creating visuals is one way to help homeowners throughout the building process really grasp the concept of a homes design.

As mentioned in our previous post, we have been finding more and more ways to bring what is seen on a floor plan to life-before the building begins! Being able to see a space in more than one visual representation can be a very useful tool in determining how a space might feel once built. By creating different visuals early on, we as a team (homeowner(s) & builder) have the opportunity to discuss the likes and dislikes and make adjustments that can save on time and costs during construction.

This master closet set up was 3D printed and hand painted for a recent design meeting. It was paired with several other design components, such as a look book with a 3D photo rendering of the space and the floor plan and samples of cabinet and counter top materials.

Envisioning

As builders and designers, we are always looking for ways to bring plan sets to life. With technology has come the opportunity to expand on that further than ever before. We can model spaces and homes with better graphics on paper or even create a virtual tour of a home design. As of recent, one medium we are enjoying exploring is 3D printing. It’s certainly a learning process but in the end; when the concept of a cabinet set-up, a entire kitchen or the framing assembly of a whole house can be printed out and homeowners can better envision spaces they see on a floor plan and how that works for their lifestyle, it becomes an invaluable tool to the process of home building!

Below are a few pictures of a small cabinet print I (Dusty) did recently. There are still improvements to be made; for instance I attempted as few supports as possible to get the detailing of the knobs and lowered the fill quite a bit which shows in the cabinet doors, but how interesting is it to see just how much can be translated from a floor plan to a 3D model printed in place! For reference, I am printing on a Prusa i3 Mk3s+ using PLA filament. Currently, I am working on printing out an entire master closet layout, and (if all goes well) I look forward to sharing those photos-along with the process of 3D printing as a useful tool in the home design process!

If nothing else, this print makes for a clever pen holder 🙂

Reclaimed Corral Wood

We look at old barns, corral fencing and snow fencing and find beauty in the patina of the weathered wood, the chipped paint, the old knots and the rust stained nail spots. We see structures that stood the tests of time, kept livestock , stored equipment and fodder and delineated boundaries and we think to ourselves, “that wood is really something”, and we seek it out, giving these old timer barns and fences that have become dilapidated, abandoned or unuseful a new purpose. Restoring vitality.

Reclaimed wood can have some very interesting qualities to it making it an ideal wood for cladding. For the most part, much of the early barns and fences were built from wood out of slow growth forests. The most common early building wood came from pine, oak and chestnut. The trees from these areas grew taller and straighter and typically had much denser grain. After they were harvested, milled, affixed and matured their resistance to rot and insects increased as did their strength. Reclaimed wood is having it’s day, as more architects and builders look toward “greener” practices and incorporate it into their designs.

Reclaimed Corral Wood out of Montana, sourced by Western Hardwoods in Wellington, CO

On our Steamboat Springs project we have had the opportunity to work with Western Hardwoods out of Wellington, CO for our exterior siding and interior ceiling finishes. For this project we are installing reclaimed corral wood, coming out of Montana. Looking back to last spring, the addition project we did incorporated reclaimed snowfence from Laramie, WY as the exterior window cladding finish. On our Steamboat project, the wood fits so perfectly with the outdoor environment that the mountains continue to be the focal point of the space and the structure itself looks like it has been there for generations. On our addition project last year, the stucco color and overall design/shape of the house incorporated with the snowfence fit perfectly into its prairie surrounding. There’s so much to appreciate about good design and making a new structure fit right in with its natural surroundings!

Reclaimed Corral Wood out of Montana, sourced by Western Hardwoods, being used on the Siding, Sofit and Fascia of our Steamboat Springs Project
Reclaimed Snowfence out of Laramie, WY as the finish detail around the windows of our Fort Collins Addition Project

Have you checked out Western Hardwoods? Every time we stop by it’s to talk about a project, but before we leave we get plenty of lovin’ from the shop horses…I mean the Great Danes 😉 and we get to check out all the new creative things taking shape from their talented crew! From custom doors and furniture to mantles, beams and siding there’s a lot of cool things going on all the time over there! I’ve attached a link to Western Hardwoods website, if you’re interested in reclaimed lumber for your next project check them out! https://westernhardwoods.com/

Steamboat Studio Timber

For the Steamboat Studio Project we have had the opportunity to team up with Traditional Roots Joinery and watch as they build using the techniques many of our ancestors used to build homes: with large beams and precision mortise and tenon joints. The framing of this project went smoothly, thanks to months and months of planning and the many hands that came together with years of knowledge and expertise.

Matt and his team do such beautiful work and this frame fits just perfectly on this scenic homestead property. You can tell that Matt takes great pride in his craft, he is humble and generous, always happy to answer questions, explain the process, eager to talk about building in general and share his reasons to build in a traditional way. If you’re interested in learning more about or working with Traditional Roots Joinery, check out their website: http://www.traditionalrootsinc.com/

Ok, now on to some photos of the timber framing, and SIP’s (structural insulated panels) that make up the envelope of the Studio!

The first six photos are dedicated to the scarf joint that we just can’t get enough of. Seeing craftsmanship this good makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Addition Stories

It’s been a rough year and we are just 8 months in. Who could have predicted all the wild and unbelievable that has already occurred?! One thing that hit us very personally was the sudden need for one of us to stay home and participate in the homeschooling of our daughter as spring break was extended and then online schooling began. A project we anticipated being a bit faster turned out to take a bit longer when the reality of homeschooling hit. Fortunately, we had amazing homeowners to work with for this addition project!

This home was built about 5 years ago and when we met our homeowners they were looking to extend their living room and extend their office in to a sitting area. Below are a few photos we snapped yesterday of the areas, check them out!

The first couple of photos of are the extended living room. The Structural Beams that were once outside were pulled inside and kept exposed instead of hidden.

In these next couple of photos, the windows were directly behind the barn door seen and the exterior wall for the office ended at the partition seen to the right in the photo. The exterior alcove was pushed out to make space for a sitting space with an electric fireplace to enjoy during the colder months.

Concrete Looks

For our current project we had to match the homes existing concrete stain to the newly poured floors. To do this, we asked the company that originally did the staining to come back.

Take a look at a couple of the photos of the fresh stain work next to the older work in the two spaces we added on to, it turned out FANTASTIC! As we wrap up the project, we will add more photos of everything together! Thanks to Concrete Visions out of Fort Collins for doing a great job.

When considering reasons for planning a concrete slab as a homes flooring, one huge perk is the Energy Efficiency of the slab. In the cold months the slab retains solar heat. The heat is then released as the interior of the house cools, helping maintain a comfortable temperature. In the summer time, and as long as solar heat gains are avoided (done by selective window placement, exterior facades or interior finishes such as window coverings), the slab helps keep the house cooler. Radiant tubes through the slab, using water, can also play a role in home energy efficiency by running warm water in the colder months and cool water in the warm months.

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!

MIZIA BATH VIEW 1MIZIA BATH VIEW 2

Above: Concept Drawings to Confirm Tile Look and Layout

IMG_20200130_103631795IMG_20200130_103748451

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