Friday April 24th 2015
Our house consists of 2 levels. Upstairs is an open living space and kitchen, with a bathroom and mud room entry (a must for dealing with winter life in new England). Everything on the upper level is wheelchair accessible. The upper level is at street level. The lower level consists of a root cellar for preserving the harvest, utility room, bathroom and 2 bedrooms. The total conditioned living area is 1150 ft^2. The house is oriented directly south to provide passive solar gain and also optimum positioning for a rooftop solar array to provide active solar energy. The walls are double wall construction 12 inches thick with dense packed cellulose blown in to give R-42 insulation. The ceiling will have 18inches of cellulose insulation providing R-62. A small section of the 8ft*12ft section in attic above the kitchen will be a hide away office for me, accessible by a library ladder that will drop down in the kitchen/living area. The exterior style can best be described as craftsman style, the siding will be Hardiplank (a fiber cement product that looks like wood siding but is a life time product and fireproof) and the roof will be a metal roof. The two elements of the house that I agonized about most and researched and analyzed to death were the choice of heating system and the window choice, with much energy modeling to help us get as close as possible to net zero energy. I’ll write more on those in another post. But for now I’ll add that one part of the heating system is a soapstone masonry heater and bakeoven upstairs. The heater is from Finland and I am looking forward to baking my fermented sourdough bread on the stone hearth as well as baking pizza and roasting vegetables and meats. It looks like we will be able to be a completely fossil fuel free house.
Monday was a rain day, big heavy drops all day long. Still Rich was out at the job site painting the concrete foundation walls with a waterproof paint. Next up: backfilling the loam against the freshly dried concrete walls. On Tuesday the plumber arrived and laid the plumbing for the lower level bathroom and utility room. We have decided to also have a 4ft deep trench dug all the way from the house to the lower flat part of our lot, the garden area. We will run PVC pipe for water as well as conduit for electricity. We plan to build a utility shed/goat barn/milking parlor with lighting (wow, what a concept!) and a small instant hot water tank for milking chores. Running water to the lower garden area will allow us to water the veggies/fruits/berries, and we also plan to was and process the harvest in the shed with the running water. The trench was dug on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, the radon abatement system went in. In much of the east coast natural radon gas is common and a concern in housing. Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless noble gas which occurs naturally as the decaying product of radium. Prolonged exposure to radon gas can lead to lung cancer. Here in western Massachusetts the geology favors radon. Installing a radon system in to an already existing house is difficult and costly. Consistent with building practices for most reputable builders in this area, Rich is installing a radon abatement system. Perforated pipes are laid on the earth under what will be the basement floor. These pipes are covered with aggregate and sand. 4 inches of insulating polystyrene is placed on top (completed on Tuesday). We have also had PEX tubing for future radiant heat laid on top of the 4 inches of insulating polystyrene (on Wednesday). Finally the concrete floor was poured on top (Thursday). The concrete will dry until Monday. Also this week, the ski slope section of our lot was regraded. A bulldozer and front end loader shaped a switchback, and using rocks on our property built a retaining wall. There is still some more grading to be done. This will be completed in a week when the leach field for the sewer lines is built and the septic tank is buried.
I close on a humorous note with a cute photo of Monique and a tree friend. We came across this tree face while hiking around the lot adjoining our property one night this week. Stickman (from one of our favorite children’s books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)?