green eggs. no ham.

green_eggs-75x75

WHAT: U.S. Green Building Council – Maine Chapter. Green Eggs (a monthly breakfast forum featuring a speaker and topic relevant to green buildings).

WHEN: Wednesday, June 5 at 7:30 a.m.

WHERE: Maine Audubon, Gilsland Farm Education Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Rd, Falmouth, ME.

I will be presenting a case study entitled Universal Design and LEED.  The presentation will share insights re: design and construction of 363HOUSE.

A house tour will be conducted on Friday, June 7 from 4 -6 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Learn more at www.maineusgbc.org

 

SUNNY BOY

SLOWLY, the corrugated galvalume metal siding is making its way onto the exterior walls.  after months of looking at housewrap and a grid work of overlapping 1×3 strapping, the house is receiving its outer layer of skin.  it looks great; it’s durable; requires no maintenance; has high recycled content; is 100% recyclable; and, my client LOVES it!IMG_6487-2

Solar Hot Water is up and running.  We’re making hot water!

Hot water tank.  Glycol mixture is heated at the solar panels on the roof and pumped through the copper pipes which are connected to a coil in the bottom of the tank.  The coil heats the water in the tank.

Hot water tank. Glycol mixture is heated at the solar panels on the roof and pumped through the copper pipes which are connected to a coil in the bottom of the tank. The coil heats the water in the tank.

This monitor tells us that the glycol temp at the collectors on the roof is 156.3°F.  The temperature in the tank was 139°F.  Readings were taken yesterday morning at 9AM.

This monitor tells us that the glycol temp at the collectors on the roof is 156.3°F. The temperature in the tank was 139°F. Readings were taken yesterday morning at 9AM.

Solar PV is up and running, too.  Yup, we’re making electricity!!!!

This is the inverter.  Basically, it converts the DC electricity generated by the PV panels (AND the sun!) into AC electricity.  Yeah, I know, you might think it should be called a converter, huh?  But, a converter changes AC into DC.  As I type this, I'm simultaneously shrugging shoulders and rolling eyes!  Kindly note that geek-O feedback that will further understanding on this point is welcome. ;-)

This is the inverter. It converts the DC electricity generated by the PV panels into AC electricity. Yeah, I know, you might think it would be called a converter, huh? But, a converter changes AC into DC. As I type this, I’m simultaneously shrugging shoulders and rolling eyes! Kindly note that geek-O feedback that will further understanding on this point is DEFINITELY welcome. ;-)

As of yesterday, Mr. Sun (with a little help from some silicon, aluminum, etc.) has saved 339.81 lbs CO2 since being activated - sorry, I don't know when that occurred.  A more detailed rundown on all things energy-related is forthcoming.  BTW, gotta love the name of the inverter - SUNNY BOY!  (man, some marketing-types were thinkin' overtime on that one!).

As of yesterday, Mr. Sun (with a little help from some silicon, aluminum, etc.) has saved 339.8 lbs CO2 since being activated – sorry, I don’t know when activation occurred. A more detailed blog post on all things energy-related is forthcoming. BTW, gotta love the name of the inverter – SUNNY BOY! (man, the marketing-types were thinkin’ overtime on that one!).

Revision Energy of Portland is our renewable energy consultant/contractor (you can find their contact info on the “team” page).  363HOUSE will be featured in Revision’s June email newsletter.

 

wood floor

yes, we are moving forward again.  the “restart” has been a little slower than i had hoped.  causes for our standstill are many – my absence for two weeks; cabinetwork budget issues required a few weeks to remedy; delivery and acclimation of wood flooring; delivery of interior doors and trim, to name a few.  the good news is now we have most of the parts needed for interior fit out to move along in a ready manner.  so, here we go!

the flooring at the second floor has always been planned to be wood. but, the species and finish type was only recently decided.  jessica had been planning on using bamboo flooring.  it has some appealing sustainable qualities – namely, bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource.  however, i’ve had longstanding misgivings about bamboo flooring. these include: it’s not wood, it’s plant fiber – the bamboo fibers are “sliced and diced” and then glued together under heat and pressure to create a wood-llike product – what is the glue?, how much energy is required for that “heat and pressure”?; bamboo is mostly harvested in southeast Asia where it is then processed into flooring, then shipped halfway around the world to land here in Maine; i question its ability to be refinished in the future (can it be sanded?); and, i’ve been told its very difficult to install (hardness of the glue!).  bamboo flooring’s upsides include the aforementioned renewability, popularity and hardness.  so, given my misgivings, i urged my client to consider a more local flooring resource – pre-finished maple flooring grown, harvested, milled and finished right here in maine.  granted, maple takes a lot longer to renew (vs. bamboo), but the product we used is a local resource (A LOT less than 500 miles from the jobsite); provides local Maine jobs; has a very low VOC finish; installation is familiar with commonly available tools and know-how; can be sanded and re-finished (longevity/durability); and, it looks good!  what’s not to like about all that, except for the renewable part, i suppose?  oh yeah, this locally sourced product is surprisingly affordable – about $8/sf to buy.

premium (no dark heartwood) maple flooring helps to bounce the abundant daylight to provide bright interiors, even on this cloudy day.  not sure about that demon trash can????

premium (no dark heartwood) maple flooring helps to bounce the abundant daylight to provide bright interiors, even on this cloudy day. not sure about that demon trash can????

manufacturer and contact info for Maine Traditions right on the box!

manufacturer and contact info for Maine Traditions right on the box!

metal siding

early morning sun making the corrugated galvalume metal glimmer.  love it!  installation = SLOW (kinda like the metal roof).  but, once it's in/on, it will last a long time with virtually no maintenance.  it has high-recycled content value and it's 100% recyclable.  what's not to love????

early morning sun making the corrugated galvalume metal siding glimmer. love it! installation = SLOW (kinda like the metal roof). but, once it’s on, it will last a long time with no maintenance. it has high-recycled content value and it’s 100% recyclable. what’s not to love????

solar thermal

solar thermal collectors at top left corner of roof.

solar thermal collectors at top left corner of roof.  read below for system description.  let the sun shine!

Major System Components Based on an evaluation of anticipated domestic hot water demand, the proposed closed loop antifreeze solar hot water system consists of:

  • (2) Wagner EURO C20 AR flat plate solar thermal collectors with Sunarc solar glass.
  • (1) Caleffi 119G solar storage tank with electric element backup
  • (1) Flowstar solar pump station by Stiebel Eltron; includes temp. gauge, flow meter, and PRV
  • (1) Stiebel Eltron SOM 6 plus Delta T controller with variable speed pump control

The system is designed for primary solar domestic water heating with seamless automatic backup from the electric element in the tank.

System Operation Whenever the rooftop collectors are warmer than the water in the bottom of the storage tank, a differential temperature sensor automatically activates a solar circulating pump. Sun-heated antifreeze pumps up to the collectors, then down through a heat exchange coil located in the bottom of the storage tank. In the spring, summer and fall, the system will provide a significant fraction of the household’s domestic hot water for showering, laundering, dishwashing, etc.

This is a closed-loop system, meaning that the non-toxic propylene glycol antifreeze never comes in contact with the domestic water supply. In case of unusually high hot water demand, or an extended period of cloudy weather when there isn’t enough sun to heat the top of the tank to its set point, the back up electric element will take over. The integration of the solar hot water system and the backup element will ensure that you always have an ample supply of hot water.

System Overheat Protection Under certain conditions solar hot water collectors can reach temperatures of 350 degrees F or more. Glass, copper and aluminum live comfortably at these high temps, but the propylene glycol heat transfer fluid in the system needs to be kept below 250 degrees to prevent acidification.

ReVision Energy incorporates ‘steamback overheat protection’ into every solar hot water system to protect the heat transfer fluid from a ‘stagnation event’ which can occur during power outages or during long stretches when hot water is not being used (i.e. you are away on vacation) and the solar circulating pump shuts down to prevent overheating the storage tank. Steamback is a robust, well-proven strategy developed in western Europe and widely accepted as the best industry standard (rather than building a separate heat dump zone).

Steamback is simple and elegant: when the solar pump has stopped and the collectors reach approximately 250 degrees F, a small amount of the water in the water/glycol mix begins to boil. As the water boils and turns to steam it expands to several thousand times its liquid volume, thereby forcing all of the propylene glycol out of the collector and into a specially sized expansion tank where the fluid stays cool and happy until the collectors fall back below the boiling point. At this point the water condenses, contracts and the system will self-recover as soon as the solar pump starts running again.

You can learn more about this important system design feature at http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/08/steamback-shows-promise-for-solar-water-overheating

System Performance This solar hot water system is expected to:

  • Produce roughly 11,592,000 Btu’s of clean, renewable heat energy annually
  • Offset roughly 4,906 lbs of C02 emissions from fossil-based energy sources

Incentives This system qualifies for the following state and federal rebates:

  • The solar system is eligible for a 30% federal tax credit. This credit (not deduction) is subtracted directly from an existing tax liability. Please consult with your accountant or tax professional to ensure that you will be eligible for the tax credit.
  • This system is eligible for an Efficiency Maine Solar Thermal Rebate. Incentives are based on projected annual energy production and must be cost effective to be eligible.

solar PV

solar thermal (hot water) collectors at upper left.  remainder of panels are PV (photovoltaic for electricity).

solar thermal (hot water) collectors at upper left. remainder of panels are PV (photovoltaic for electricity).

our solar contractor is Revision Energy. here’s a detailed description (excerpted from Revision’s system design/proposal) of the PV (photovoltaic) system.

Economic & Environmental Return on Investment – This solar energy system uses a clean, renewable ‘fuel’ called sunshine. Because it displaces finite, polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuel, the solar energy system is guaranteed to pay for itself through avoided costs. After you get all of your initial solar investment back, the system will continue to deliver a valuable household revenue stream for years to come. Every time energy costs go up, your financial return on investment improves proportionally.  Plus, the system will be eliminating thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions each year, delivering a powerful environmental benefit for you, your community and future generations.

PV (photovoltaic) Major System Components  Based on an evaluation of available roofspace, site configuration, and energy demand, ReVision Energy proposes a roof-mounted photovoltaic array of 7.20 kilowatts (nominal).

The system features these major components: (30) 240 watt Monosilicon Canadian Solar photovoltaic panels; CS6P-240M or equivalent (www.canadian-solar.com) and (1) SMA Sunny Boy 7000 US grid-tied solar electric inverter (www.sma-america.com).

Whenever sun shines on the solar electric panels, they will generate direct current (DC) electricity. That DC electricity is transmitted to an inverter, which then converts it into AC electricity which can be used in your home. Any electric loads (TV, dryer, electronics, etc.) operating while the sun is shining will use available solar electricity. Any excess will flow out to the grid and you will receive a credit for the production.

Whenever the sun is not out, you will continue to purchase grid electricity as you do now. The local utility company will install record electricity you feed into the grid. If at the end of the month your generation is greater than your consumption, you will earn a credit on your next bill. You can bank your surplus from month to month for up to a year.

System Performance  The proposed 7.20 kilowatt system is expected to generate roughly 8,830 kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually and offset roughly 11,479 lbs. of CO2 emissions annually

These predictions are based on weather data specific to location and adjusted based on conditions at the site. Snow accumulation and shading of the array will effect system production.  Production will vary from year to year. Data estimates based on that of NREL PVWatts: http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/version1/.

Incentives  This system qualifies for the following state and federal rebates:

  • The solar system is eligible for a 30% federal tax credit. This credit (not deduction) is subtracted directly from an existing tax liability.
  • This system is eligible for a Solar Electric Program rebate from Efficiency Maine. This rebate offers an incentive of $500 per 1,000 kWh of annual projected production up to a maximum of $2,000 for residential installations.

a post describing the solar thermal (hot water) system will follow in a few days.

sunshine daydream

in advance of today’s “storm of the century”, yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day!  would have been a great day to be making some of that FREE electricity, but our roofer struck again.  so, PV installation completion delayed yet another week.  guess i was a bit premature in heralding our clearance of subcontractor hell, huh?  but, hey, it’s not all bad.  sheetrock is steaming right along.  ALL sheetrock has been hung and most has received first coat of finish.  so, with that abundant sunshine making deep interior penetration yesterday, the living space was lit up (and warmed-up!).  jessica, todd and louie made a quick tour – they LOVE it!  all-in-all, a pretty good day. :-)

bright, clear mid-winter sky.  11:00AM.  look at the shadow.  you can see that our NE to SW orientation will serve us well in the morning!

bright, clear mid-winter sky. 11:00AM. look at the shadow. you can see that our NE to SW orientation will serve us well in the morning!

11:00AM sunshine making it's way deep into the interior supplying abundant light and heat!

11:00AM sunshine making it’s way deep into the interior supplying abundant light and heat!

nice shot of our solar hot water panels (top left) and partial solar PV panels.  that metal roof looks pretty good, too!

nice shot of our solar hot water panels (top left) and partial solar PV panels.  of course, will be a better shot when ALL panels are up and running!  that metal roof looks pretty good, too!

 

 

 

 

building shell blower door test

as previously discussed, a BIG performance component of this house is tightness.  most (all?) design and constructability decisions have been founded upon the principals of building shell tightness.  these include walls/roof (SIPs), windows, doors, foundation details, etc.  the basic idea is to build the house as tight as possible to keep that precious (costly!) heated air INSIDE.  of course, in so doing,  we must also be cognizant of occupant health.  if it’s too tight, then we can induce indoor air quality problems (moisture, pollutants, etc.).  the catch phrase is “build it tight, ventilate it right”.  what follows is some info on the “build it tight” part.  more to come on the “ventilate it right” part….

in addition to design and attention to detail during construction, we must test ourselves.  that’s where the blower door comes into play.  basically, a blower door is a door that blows air out of the house thereby creating a negative pressure inside (it can also blow air into the house, thus creating a positive pressure, used mostly as a diagnostic method).  WARNING: what follows will go some distance down the “building science” road, but NOT all the way down that road – three reasons.  1) i’m an architect, not a scientist!  2) the purpose of this blog is to present a wholistic presentation of the design and construction of 363HOUSE.  3) due to #’s 1 & 2, i’m trying to keep the information mostly accessible to the non-greengeeks amongst us!

blower door.  basically, a fabric door with a big fan.  the little gray box near upper left corner is the manometer.

blower door – basically, a fabric door with a big fan. the little black box with keypad near upper left corner is the manometer.

the blower door is equipped with a computerized manometer to measure air pressure.  the industry standard is 50 Paschals (50Pa) – a Paschal is a unit of measure like inches of water column.  it’s been described to me as the equivalent of a 20mph wind blowing on all exterior surfaces (roof, walls, floor/foundation) of the building simultaneously.  the manometer reading is rendered in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM).   the lower the number, the better.  that CFM number is factored to obtain so many Air Changes per Hour (ACH).  again, lower is better.  so, basically, the resultant calculation tells us how many complete air changes will occur in 60 minutes at 50Pa.  so, that’s interesting, huh?  if you’re still reading this, then you might be wondering, “well, how many (or, few) is good?”.  here’s a VERY brief primer….a reasonably, well-constructed home of “conventional/non-airtight” construction might be 15ACH@50 or more;  under the 2009 International Residential Code, ≤7ACH@50 is required; an EnergyStar 3 house, ≤4@ACH is required; PassivHaus, the uber-standard for TIGHT construction, ≤0.6ACH@50 is required!

our energy model (see “energy” posted WAY back on 13 june 2012!) is based upon 1.5ACH@50Pa.  we chose this target based upon previous experience and knowing that this project has many goals and a budget.  so, the thinking was let’s not over-reach on every goal.  nonetheless, we have been OBSESSIVELY attentive to tightness with every intention of smashing our energy model goal!

so, how’d we do????

on friday, the manometer told us we did pretty good - 355CFM.  this translates into 0.95ACH@50.

on friday, the manometer told us we did pretty good – 355CFM. this translates into 0.95ACH@50.

frankly, we did NOT smash our goal.  yes, we did better than 1.5 by a little more than a third.  and, this is only the building shell blower door test (we can work toward improvement before the final blower door test at completion).  so, i’m satisfied with our work, but not ecstatic – no chest-pounding!  of course, the shell blower door should be considered a diagnostic tool – a learning opportunity.  yeah, so, what did we learn????

well, our uber-tight entry doors aren’t so uber!  the good thing about the uber doors is the hinges are nearly infinitely adjustable and we think we can tighten up the door seals through hinge adjustments.  we also found a few small breaches in the SIPs shell incurred by some electrical wiring (MORE spray foam!).  and, we have a few very minor leaks at window installation clips. the uber windows are indeed uber – no air leaks there!

BTW, leaks are discovered through the use of a smoke pencil. it’s just what it’s called, a “pencil” that emits smoke.  if the smoke leaks out of the building, then that means air is going out, too!  pretty cool, VERY effective, LOW-tech device!

diane milliken of horizon maine (project green rater) conducting the blower door test. NICE BOOTS! :-)

diane milliken of horizon maine (project green rater) conducting the blower door test. LOVE the boots!

one final thought.  i’ve always found the best way to think of this whole air leakage thing is in terms of “how big of a hole does this ACH@50 number equal?”.  think of it like this….if we added up the area of ALL the holes in the building shell (shell area = 5667 square feet), then the total would equal a 6″ diameter hole.

we plan to re-test in the next week, or so, after the above listed remedies have been employed.  i will report any improvements worth noting.

now, if i can just GET THE ROOFER TO SHOW UP!!!!

ps: here are the calcs, for those number freaks amongst us….

363HOUSE blower door shell

LEED for Homes

click above on the page entitled “LEED for Homes”.  there, you will learn about LEED for Homes!  LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

BTW, it’s LEED, NOT “LEEDS” – Leeds is a city in England (it’s also a town in Maine!). AND, part of a title to a great live album (greatest ever live album????) – The Who, LIVE AT LEEDS. it includes an awesome Magic Bus!

SIPs two

SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) erection started on wednesday morning with arrival of the boom truck.  first panel was set at 8:30am.

wall panel numero uno!

about fifteen minutes later, the second wall panel goes up.  don’t worry, i’m not posting a photo of each panel!  the first two panels are of significance due to their importance re: plumb, level, etc. and stability (the corner configuration inherently braces itself).  more to follow on that plumb, level stuff.

panel numero duo. the guy in the blue shirt setting the panel is gary nichols, the owner of nichols construction.  gotta like that!

by 9:30, we were building up a head of steam! things were moving along nicely. then….

things got a little sideways when we discovered that the fourth panel had a minor issue of levelness.  1/4″ over 18′ in height doesn’t sound like much, but if we didn’t fix the problem then we’d be fighting it for the rest of this wall.  so, we got things back on track only to discover the next panel we had installed backwards!  yes, we’re amateurs (hey, its our first time installing SIPs!).  after a thirty minute delay to extract the incorrect panel and turn it around, we really got moving.  by one o’clock (4.5 hours after starting) we had all tall panels on the west wall erected.

detail photo showing adhesive/sealer (the gray stuff) that goes between each panel and at the bottom. the holes are pre-cut chases for electrical wiring. not sure how that will work, but….

by three o’clock, all 18′ tall panels at the north and west walls were up.  the boom truck was dismissed and erection continued with 8′ tall panels that can be installed by two men. all-in-all, the process went very well.  we knew there’d be a learning curve, but it wasn’t too steep.  next week more “manual” panel installation and second floor framing will take place.  boom truck return is scheduled for the following week to install the long roof panels that sit atop the 18′ wall panels.  then, our building shell (including insulation!) will be mostly completed.

diagonal bracing to keep the wall upright!

end of SIPs day one! what is with that truck with eagle, flag and hippie stickers????