June 7, 2010

We placed the upper floor concrete a few weeks ago which will serve as the finished floor for the Kitchen, Dining Room, and Living Room.  The floor was lined with tubing for radiant heating AND cooling through-out the floor.   The concrete contained integral color.  It was supposed to be ‘charcoal’, but turned out to be more of an ‘eggplant’.  At first this was a concern, but the color has grown on us, and as luck would have it is going to be an even better color for the space.  Whew!

Looking East- Pre placement- notice radiant tubing


Looking west, with UltraCure protective curing sheets and 1/8 plywood protective covering

R50 insulation

May 10, 2010

The roof section was insulated last week with Icynene open cell spray foam by Eco-tech.  The open web truss measures 16″ and the was sprayed to a minimum of 14″.  Icynene open-cell product provides an R-value of 3.6 per inch.  In addition to the R-value (heat resistance) the product provides an air seal and is an excellent sound barrier.

Basically there are 3 ways heat moves through space- Conduction, Convection and Radiance.  Conduction is the transfer of heat through a material- think of heating one end of  pipe with a blow-torch.  Eventually the other end warms up too.  Convection is like how a convection oven works- heat is blown around through the air so food cooks more evenly, and not just from where the burner is.  Radiant heat is the sun or a campfire or those heaters on train platforms.  Even in windy conditions, the heat continues to radiate from the source to the body. 

When insulating the house, we are trying to manage all 3, but especially the first 2.  In buildings, convection frequently poses the biggest problem.  Even in buildings that have thick walls and have high R-value insulation, if walls have gaps and cracks (from windows, doors, plywood joints, and so-on),  and air is allowed to move around that good insulation, the house won’t perform well.  One advantage to spray foam is it has a high resistence (Conduction) and fills those gaps where air can move around (Convection).

Before (notice the 16" rafters)



Bridge to the 22nd Century

May 3, 2010

Jerry Lewis (Bogden) and Elvis (Woytek) take a break from their act at the Flamingo to build the bridge from the house to the roof top deck of the garage (which sits under the 40 solar module canopy that has been used during construction, and will eventually power the house).  Like the front entrance, the bridge once it is complete, it will be completely disassembled, sent off for galvanization and then brought back for final installation.

'What are we doing for our next set?'


view from the kitchen deck


view from the garden (south wall)

And a kitchen is found

April 14, 2010

A few weeks ago we bought a display model kitchen from Arclinea– the italian cabinet-maker that the Italian government chose (and they could have chosen any Italian cabinet-maker right?) to do the kitchen for the Italian Embassy in Washington DC.

Arclinea prides itself on being green by Reducing Consumption of Raw Materials, utilizing Low Emission adhesives and seals, using Recycled Materials, and practicing Green Manufacturing to make a Superior, Durable Product.

The only downside of the product is the energy cost of shipping from Italy.  And though the unit has been in Chicago for approximately 4 years, it’s not really re-used.  That said it fit the space so well that it was too nice to pass up.

Aaron, Susan, and Charles from Arclinea have been completely generous with their time and help with figuring out how to make all the pre-existing pieces fit in our new space, as well as providing general design advice.

The future 1610 Kitchen

Stairs- Inside and out

April 7, 2010

Work progresses on the inside and outside stairs.  The inside stairs are cut and welded on site.  The outside stairs are also cut, welded and bolted on-site, but will then be completely dismantled, sent off to be galvanized, then brought back and put back together.

Interior stairs facing south

Exterior Stairs facing west

Elemental Building- International

March 26, 2010
Earlier in the month the COO of Elemental Building went for a site visit to check in on a project in the international program, ElementalBuilding-BC (British Columbia, Canada).  Though there were some initial concerns, the project is actually coming along nicely.  The project leader, Greg Dunn has designed space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, with lots of light, open space and interesting angles.  A lot of thought has gone into functional pathways, use and flow- with lots of attention to details.  From a green perspective, the project will have sprayed closed-cell foam insulation, and, well, that’s about it.  Though I’m sure the lumber was also drawn from local sources and the structure is incredibly solid which will make it extremely durable- an often over-looked green element.  Overall, we are really interested in seeing how this project pans out and revisiting it and providing future updates.  

Gregg Dunn- Project Manager


The source of concern on the initial site inspection

Dunn and Simpkin (specialized field consultant) on site - note multiple microlam beam and joist hangers

Next month we’ll go south of the border to ElementalBuildings- Melaque for a look at what’s developing south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Placing Concrete

March 21, 2010
As Mike Molnar once told me (from back in my Comer Children’s Hospital Days), you place concrete, you don’t pour it.  Last month we placed the basement concrete and have since framed the walls and run most of the plumbing and electrical in the basement and 1st floors.

Under the concrete we first placed 2 ” of  Polyiso Foil Faced Foam Board from AtlasRoofing.  The product will provide an R-value of 6.5 per inch under the slab.  It was also a bit hard to find, but we were steered in that direction after the August 1st article from Environmental Building News described the numerous downsides of Polystyrene Insulation which is still the dominant market product in below-grade applications.

Polyiso avoids many of the Polystyrene problems and the foil facing will help reflect the radiant heat from the radiant coils which were embedded in the concrete.

Since the concrete is going to be the finished floor we added ‘limestone’ color to lighten the look.

Polyiso Insulation as viewed from above


'Limestone' concrete comes down the chute


Vladamir (foreground), and Woytek, roll it out


A happy man


the calm after the storm

Raise the curtain(wall), the show is about to start

March 7, 2010
Last month we put the support structure in for the south-facing window wall.  Eventually, there will be twelve 7′ x 4′ windows from Serious Materials.  These windows will have an R-value of 9 and are the most energy-efficient windows built in the US.  R-value is the measure of insulation and basic windows have an R-value of 1, with most high-end windows only achieving an R-value of 3 or 4.

The Day Begins

Vladamir takes the top position

Woytek and Slovek take the middle of the column

Bogden, John, and Artur raise the base

'You're doing it wrong', says Ted

Checking for plumb


Artur is satisfied

The Final Product

Raise your hand if you’ve set off the new alarm system. . . .

March 3, 2010

Woytek fesses up!

The new alarm system is working as evidenced by two calls in the last 36 hours.  The first was Tuesday morning at 3 am, which resulted in Chicago’s finest responding within 5 minutes, where a real attempted break-in was discovered.  Together, we did a walk through of the house (after I had slinked up to the house afraid I was going to surprise the potential burglars in the act), and discovered the break-in point.  They held a light on the door while secured it with two more 2 x 4s.

This morning, Woytek decided to enter the garage without turning off the alarm- presumably to test the system, which it seems was mildly amusing to John.

John the Plumber (not to be confused with Joe)

What is fortunate is that Dexter did not have to get involved, and its good to know the new system is working as it is supposed to.

Tragedy Strikes!

February 24, 2010

Ok- maybe not tragedy, but disappointment.  Apparently local burglars aren’t buying into the green movement yet, as some person (persons) broke in and tore out the copper plumbing that was already in the walls.  Not only do we have to replace the copper, and also redo the labor of sweating the pipe and re-installing it, but they also damaged some of the walls in the process.   They might have gotten a couple hundred bucks for the brand new copper as scrap.  Such a waste.  If they had only asked, I might have just given them some money.  Still – not a big setback and their situation is probably way worse than mine to need survive in this type of fashion.

Also- for like the 1st time since the building has gone up, I left my tool bag with drills, measuring tape, utility knife, bits and CAMERA- and they got that too.  So no new pictures for a while- I’ll post some old ones soon and then new ones once I replace the camera.