Inspecting the Reinforcing Steel and Establishing Window Requirements

Our plan is to pour the foundation slab on Monday, March 2.  This requires having the City of Monte Sereno inspect and approve the progress to date.  Bryan called the City of Monte Sereno to request an inspection for Friday, February 27 and learned that no inspections will be done on that date.  OK, we just slipped by a day and the inspection will be between 10:00 am and noon on Monday, March 2.

Jessica from Duquette Engineering arrived to review the structural steel.  Since she had not been to the project site before, Thien had her look at this construction blog to prepare for her site visit (that rocks!). 

Jessica inspects the reinforcing steel (dimensions, spacing and overlaps).

Jessica inspects the reinforcing steel (dimensions, spacing and overlaps).

Jessica measured the spacing of the rebar, verified the diameter of the rebar, and reviewed the overlaps and spices.  She had a video camera and took photos so she could review her findings with Steve Duquette quickly and accurately.

Given the shape of the house (almost a perfect square), Jessica explained that it was easy to verify that the reinforcing steel met their specifications.  She could see the entire layout quickly and see the complete runs of the rebar.  Looks like Bill Brown’s team did a good job following the plans!

Jessica and her video camera (for YouTube?).

Jessica and her video camera (for YouTube?).

Based on Jessica’s findings, Steve will write a letter to stating that the structural steel meets the specifications set forth in his plans. Later, Steve will review the independent inspector’s report regarding the test panel results and then issue a report letter establishing that the foundation walls meet his specifications.

Windows and Sliding Glass Doors

The windows and sliding glass doors in our house are critical for several reasons.  First, these components need to look good aesthetically.  We need to have thin frames that disappear and not large bold frames that make a statement.  Second, the windows and sliding glass doors need high-performance characteristics to hold heat in when it is cold, prevent heat from coming in when it is hot outside, and be quiet.  Third, we want the working/moving components/hardware to be long-lasting and easy to keep clean.  Finally, we need to be able to afford the windows …

Let’s think about how to optimize these simultaneous equations.

Cost.  Without cost as a constraint, we would specify high-performance windows and sliding glass doors (low emissivity glass in thermally broken frames) in heavy duty, flush mount frames.  For us, cost is a constraint so that isn’t going to happen.  We need value.  To help with our selection, we need to understand the cost of each window and sliding glass door, so we can understand the costs for each room in the house and make the appropriate trade-offs.

Consistency.  Several people explained to us that having consistent windows and sliding glass doors throughout the house is important.  We shouldn’t mix frame styles or materials.  Given the location of the windows and large roof overhangs, we challenged this stated requirement.  We have 12 large triangular windows under the gables (two for each gable) and 16 large rectangular clerestory windows around the covered atrium.  Since the bottom of the gable windows are at least 8 feet up and the bottom of the clerestory windows are over 10 feet up, and both locations have significant roof overhangs, we believe that these window frames need to be similar, but can be different materials.

Triangular windows in the gables and clerestory windows around the Atrium.

Triangular windows in the gables and clerestory windows around the atrium.

Performance.  This is tricky.  Our Title 24 report indicates that our location and design will impose a much greater heating requirement than a cooling requirement (without considering global warming or climate change).  Thus, the U-factor is more important than the SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient).  In addition, the windows that will not receive direct sunlight do not require a high SHGC. 

The features that affect the U-factor include the frame material (fiberglass, aluminum, etc.), thermal breaks in the frame, the thickness of the glass, and the void size and gas used (e.g., argon) between the sheets of glass.

In general, coatings on the glass will decrease the SHGC and, at the same time, reduce the visible transmittance of the glass.  There is a balance between the look of the glass and how much solar gain it allows into the house.

Given Meline Engineering developed a model of our house using Energy Pro software for our Title 24 report, we can analyze the performance of the building using different types of windows and sliding glass doors.  The model will allow us to change the characteristics of each window and sliding glass door in the house and see the impact on the energy required to heat and cool our house.

Another item for ‘the list’.

Working/moving components/hardware.  In terms of the working or moving components and associated hardware, we need to invest in those locations that are under frequent and heavy use that will be most visible.  The horizontal sliding window frames in the master bathroom and Kate’s bathroom need to be thermally broken and have high-quality hardware.  We don’t want condensation on the metal frames.  The sliding glass door in the kitchen needs to be bullet proof.  The sliding glass doors to the Wine Dining and Wine Cellar need to slide separate but probably don’t need to be thermally broken.

We’re getting there.  The full analysis, with costs, will be in an Excel spreadsheet.

Placing the Sewage Ejector

The way things go in life is often funny. 

We know that a sewage ejector isn’t the most attractive element of our house but it is very important.  Given our sanitary sewage service is above the lower level in our house, we need to collect the black water and then pump it up and out of the house.  At least we have a sanitary sewage service and we don’t need a septic tank although maybe this is our version of a septic tank.

We designed our house so the sewage ejector is in a dark and remote area of the lower level, which is under the garage.  The entrance ramp and steps to the excavation go straight into the East Mechanical room, where the sewage ejector is located.  Thus, the first thing that any visitor sees when walking down the steps into the excavation is the sewage ejector pit.

Funny, isn’t it?

Sewage ejector reservoir tank, by Little Giant Pumps.

Sewage ejector reservoir tank, by Little Giant Pumps.

Ready for the sewage ejector reservoir.

Ready for the sewage ejector reservoir.

Our plumbing professional, 'G-Man', from Wenger Plumbing.

Our plumbing professional, 'G-Man', from Wenger Plumbing.


Sewage ejector reservoir in place.

Sewage ejector reservoir in place.

Shotcrete Test Panel

We require a ‘test panel’ to be made with the most extensive use of reinforcing steel in our foundation.  Bill Brown’s team worked on this.  We’re not sure what we’re going to do with the heavily reinforced piece of concrete after it is tested …

Heavily reinforced concrete 'test panel'.

Heavily reinforced shotcrete test panel.

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