Progress in the last week: siding installation is underway; the well was drilled with success; the garage doors were installed; copper lines for the ductless mini-split system were run; the plumbing and electrical rough-ins were finished. Today we had the rough inspection. A few minor things need to be done and we’ll have the inspector come back on Thursday to take another look. Looks like insulation will be installed starting Friday, and if we stay on pace, we could be starting drywall next week! We are currently on track to finish in early November.
Three years ago, in the fall of 2010, as we were just starting to consider the idea of building our own house, we learned about the Green Buildings Open House Tour. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) sponsors the event each year, and describes it as follows:
“The Green Buildings Open House Tour is the largest sustainable energy event in the Northeastern US. From Maine all the way down to Pennsylvania, hundreds of sustainability-minded property owners will open their doors to visitors interested in seeing sustainability features first hand. The one-day terrestrial tour allows visitors to engage in face-to-face discussions with property owners and learn from the knowledge and expertise they have gained from installing and living with these technologies.”
We learned a lot by visiting just one house that year. It was a beautiful house whose owners had thought of everything. Super-insulated, daylighted, solar hot water in custom tanks, gray water system, rain water collection, wood pellet furnace, backup HVAC, solar pool heater, PV electricity with huge backup generators, and on and on…. The highlight of the tour was their large utility room in the basement, crammed with large tanks and copper pipes snaking across the walls and ceiling. It was bewildering. It was a marvel of systems!
It gave us a lot to think about. And this article was published at around the same time. And we realized that if we were going to do it, it should be as simple as possible in all respects — design, maintenance, layout, functions, and access to outside. Passive House — or Passivhaus if you want to be European about it — was the solution.
On October 5, 2013, we will open our doors to visitors for the Green Buildings Open House. We hope to not only let neighbors see into the house down the street, but also maybe to inspire a few people to think about increasing the energy efficiency of their own houses or maybe even build one someday. We’re excited and proud to show off our house!
The carpenters have been working on odds and ends while the plumber and electrician finish their rough-ins. We should be ready for inspections by week’s end. In the meantime, the last of the windows and doors were installed and the air sealing for the house was completed. This morning was our first blower door test. For those who don’t know, the test measures how much air leaks into the house through any gaps in the building enclosure (slab, walls, windows, roof), however small they may be. For Passive House certification, we need to be below 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals of pressure. Our test this morning measured 0.4, which is fantastic. We later discovered that 1) there was an empty 2″ conduit for electrical wiring that had not been sealed, and 2) two of our four doors were leaking air on the hinge side and can be adjusted. Our final test when the house is complete should be even better!