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.

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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.

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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Windows pt. 2

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” has been the jingle on our minds at our Fort Collins project these last few weeks. Between adjusting to winter temperatures and crazy winds that blow down from the mountains, our work space has been just a little chilly and most days we look like we may have added 10lbs to our person just in winter layers!

Last week we installed the large glass window/doors that over look the patio deck. This large glass fixture is on the South Side of the house, so during those chilly winter days the homeowners will benefit from the heat gains at this location!

Check out our super fun process photos and a few other window shots!

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Trusses

This week we put down the bottom sill plate for our first floor and today we began marking out truss locations, and bringing  trusses into the house to set in place. It is exciting to be starting the framing, as lots of people stop by to ask us what we are doing.

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Fort Collins Project: Concrete Floor

Once the walls were poured, we got right to work getting the floor ready to be poured.

Steps that had to be taken before concrete could be laid were: trench for in-slab plumbing, trench for drainage and radon mitigation, backfill, compact, install steel posts and beams, move in and level gravel, lay out foam, lay out plastic, install rebar mesh, install heat loops, and add chairs for mesh.

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Have any thoughts or questions? Let us know in the comments!

Summers End

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Summer is quickly coming to an end. We are happy about the cooler weather, and how well our project in Loveland is progressing. We are looking forward to new projects moving along in their stages of planning and we look forward to hearing from you-when you’re ready to build your dream home.

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.

Loveland Project Framing Tour: Exterior

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Today we are trying out something new, a video tour of our current project. This video in particular is of the exterior framing. The goal is is give our readers an idea of how the home is shaping up and to also start getting videos out there. It’s all a work in progress! Next week we hope to have a second video of the interior spaces posted.

*This video takes a moment to start playing from the time you press play.