Archive for October, 2009

Please Join Us for the First Collaborative Informational Session

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

We issued the invitations today to our first of six Collaborative Informational Sessions.  The first event is on Saturday, October 24 from 12:30 pm to 4:20 pm.

To register for the event, you must go to the event registration site.

Overview

We are hosting these informational events as part of our ‘showcase’ of innovative building materials and innovative construction practices.  We are collaborating with the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the AIA, the USGBC Northern California Silicon Valley Branch, and Build It Green‘s South Bay Guild.

Our invitation reads as follows: 

You are invited to the first of six collaborative information sessions to see the construction of a zero net energy, zero carbon house being built that is applying for LEED-H Platinum certification.
The benefit of seeing this house as it is being built is that you will see how green materials are used during the construction process. Many of these materials will be ‘covered’ when the house is completed so this is an opportunity to understand what is behind the walls. Attending the informational sessions allows you to see how we are using innovative building materials and innovative construction practices throughout the construction process.
During the informational session, you will be able to ask questions regarding the green building materials to better understand how these innovative building materials affect the cost of construction, the skills required to use these materials, and how using these materials affects the construction timeline.
The project involves constructing a full lower level (basement) under an Eichler home, built in 1969, while renovating the main floor. The green features of the house include:

  • Roof made with SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) by Insulspan (12¼ inch – R47)
  • Geothermal heat exchange with 3,000 ft. ground loop in 25 vertical concrete piers
  • Floor constructed with 50 hollow core concrete panels, manufactured in Los Angeles (Irwindale) that were placed in 4 hours
  • Concrete mix that includes high slag content (70% in the mat slab and 50% in the shotcrete foundation retaining walls)
  • Water-to-water heat exchange with radiant heating throughout the house
  • 48 roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels, with two inverters, to be a net generator of electricity
  • 3,700 gallon cistern, to harvest 100% of the rainwater, that will be used to irrigate drought-tolerant native California plant species
  • The original design of the house included generous roof overhangs that limit direct sunlight, reducing solar gain in the summer. This passive design has been enhanced with the use of 1.5 million lbs of insulated thermal mass (concrete) in the house that will slow heating from solar gain and slow night time cooling.
    Overall, the house performance exceeds (is better than) the Title 24 standard design by 72.9%, which is one of the highest performing single family dwellings in the State of California.
    Given this is an active construction site, you will have to register in advance to attend the session and, when entering the site, sign a waiver acknowledging the inherent risks of an active construction site.
    For further information on this project, please visit the construction blog at EichlerVision.com.
    If you have questions on this event, please contact Bryan Mekechuk at 408.655.0400 or bmekechuk@teamwrkx.com.
    We look forward to seeing you at our first collaborative informational session.

    Pouring Rain and New Solar Generation Laws in California

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    It was quite a day today:

    • The forecasted rains arrived, with full force.
    • Our Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed and vetoed numerous bills on Sunday evening, which were announced this morning.
    • The City of Monte Sereno is working on our proposed sign ordinance.
    • Insulspan advised us that we need to complete the shop drawings immediately otherwise our delivery commitment will not be met.

    Oh, and Jo-Anne was in Washington, D.C. for the day.

    (Yes, Wendy, Bryan did mail the package to you for Elizabeth this afternoon! They said it would take ~10 days or so.)

    We Can Be a Net Generator of Electricity!

    This was a big, big day for the solar photovoltaic industry in California.  Gov. Schwarzenegger signed bills AB 920 and and Senate Bill 32 that will allow us to generate more electricity than we consume and get paid for that .  On January 1, 2011, Californias will be able to sell electricity to the grid, at rates to be determined.

    The impact on us is that we will be able to install an additional 16 photovoltaic panels on our roof, bringing the total to 48.  At 175 watts/panel, this will be an 8.4 kW system.

    We need to think through how the changes will affect our strategy.

    At first blush, we are thinking that we will set everything up for 32 panels and then, on December 15, 2010, buy and install another 16 panels so we have all of our roof-top real estate in photovoltaic panels that are fully functional on January 1, 2011.  Our thinking is that the performance of panels will continue to increase and the cost of panels will drop, so we will have better panels at a lower cost by waiting.  Plus, there is no incentive to install more than 32 panels until the new laws are in effect on January 1, 2011.

     Monte Sereno’s Sign Ordinance

    Brian Loventhal, City Manager for Monte Sereno, called Bryan today with an update on our proposed changes to the existing ordinance.  Brian explained that the ordinance cannot direct the ‘content’ of signs so we need to change it.  He is researching what other municipalities have done with their sign ordinances and hoping that we can leverage their efforts.

    It was nice of Brian to follow up with us.

     Completing the Shop Drawings for Insulspan

    This has been Bryan’s focus for quite some time now.  We need to complete our shop drawings and have Insulspan manufacture our SIPs.  Well, Insulspand called Bryan today and explained that we need to send in the marked up shop drawings otherwise the committed delivery schedule will not be met.

    Bryan worked with Joel Lemons at Jrider + Design today and will complete the shop drawings tomorrow.

    Our First Winter Storms Arrive and Pound Us

    The first winter storms of the season arrived, according to our Davis weather station, at 3:30 am this morning and dumped 5.75 inches of rain on us by 6:00 pm.

    Out site has weathered the storm, so far, in reasonably good shape.  The maximum wind speed was ~30 mph and the forecast is for that to taper off, so we’re probably going to be fine.

    The rainfall flooded our basement to the level of our ‘curb’ to the exterior stairwell, where the drain goes to our sump pump.

    All in all, we’re in reasonable shape until Wednesday.

    The site was a bit damp today.

    Our site was a bit damp today.

    This should dry out in a week.  Or so.

    This should dry out in a week. Or so.

    Preparing for the Rains

    Monday, October 12th, 2009

    The forecast is for 100% probability of rain tomorrow.  It was time to ensure the site office is watertight and the site is ready for rain.

    Bryan had a good design session with Scott this morning at Hotel Los Gatos.  Scott and Sue are were there last night and are staying in San Francisco tonight before returning to Toronto tomorrow morning.

    Design Discussion with Scott

    Scott reviewed the plans and, after seeing the space yesterday, outlined the lighting plan for each of the rooms.  Scott and Bryan reviewed a number of alternatives for the atrium, gable roofs, and exterior.  During the discussion, Scott recommended that we consider including some art niches in the wall by the Bridge Hall.  We will definitely be following up on this one.

    For the atrium and feature concrete wall, Scott is going to put some light fixture samples together so we can ‘test’ how the lights will wash the concrete wall.  These samples are not for the fixtures but, rather, so we can see what type of lighting we would prefer.  This will help Scott in recommending which fixtures to use.

    Scott, Sue and Bryan then went to the project site so they could consider the design alternatives relative to the space.  After 45 minutes, Scott and Sue left for San Francisco.

    Scott, on Canadian Thanksgiving, reflecting on the bridge.

    Scott, on Canadian Thanksgiving, reflecting on the bridge.

     

    Bryan and Scott discussing lighting alternatives and how to show our feature concrete wall.

    Bryan and Scott discussing lighting alternatives and how to show our feature concrete wall.

    Scott and Bryan discussing design alternatives.

    Scott and Bryan discussing design alternatives.

     

    Scott explaining how to the test lights will work.

    Scott explaining how to the test lights will work.

    Buttoning Up the Temporary Site Office

    Given the weather forecast, Bryan spent several hours buttoning up the project site.  Importantly, he put a new tarp over the temporary site office roof to help reduce the probability of leaks tomorrow.

    Our Davis weather station looked good today.  We’ll see exactly how much rain and wind our site receives tomorrow.

    The site is looking secure with our first winter rain storm arriving shortly.

    The site is looking secure with our first winter rain storm arriving shortly.

    Bryan put primer on the exposed steel, where the bridges and posts were welding on Saturday.

    Bryan put primer on the exposed steel, where the bridges and posts were welded on Saturday.

    Ends of Bridge Hall, primed and ready.

    Ends of Bridge Hall, primed and ready.

    New blue tarp on the roof of our temporary site office.

    New blue tarp on the roof of our temporary site office.

    Our Davis weather station, ready to log the rainfall and winds tomorrow.

    Our Davis weather station, ready to log the rainfall and winds tomorrow.

    Scott and Sue Review Progress

    Sunday, October 11th, 2009

    Scott Andersen and Sue Therrien are in California for a couple days and carved out some time to review our progress.  Scott has been involved in this project since the start and led the conceptual design.

    Reviewing Progress

    Scott liked the progress and thoroughly enjoyed testing the bridge.  We walked the around the site for over an hour, so Scott could get a good feel for the space.

    Sue needed to do some shopping in Old Town, so Scott and Bryan slipped over to Whole Foods in Cupertino to take a look at the finished concrete floors there. 

    Back to Los Gatos and to the Rose Collection.  We engaged Cherie Rose to put our color palette together so we thought Cherie should meet Scott.  Fortunately, Cherie was in her store on North Santa Cruz and Bryan was able to introduce Cherie to Scott and Sue.

    We went back to 1621 Rebel Way where Jo-Anne made dinner.  Bryan and Scott agreed to meet tomorrow morning at Hotel Los Gatos for a design session.

    Sue and Scott arrive, right on schedule.

    Sue and Scott arrive, right on schedule, to review our progress.

    Scott testing the bridge.  He approved.

    Scott testing the bridge. He approved.

    Scott reviewing the stained and polished floor in Whole Foods, in Cupertino.

    Scott reviewing the stained and polished floor in Whole Foods, in Cupertino.

     

    More polished concrete in Whole Foods.  This section is just 'in the cream' of the concrete and not in the aggregate.  This is a nice finish.

    More polished concrete in Whole Foods. This section is just 'in the cream' of the concrete and not in the aggregate. This is a nice looking finish.

    Our Posts are In!

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    With sprinkles in the weather forecast for Monday and rain on Tuesday, we needed to complete welding the final nine posts in place.  We had welded five of the fourteen posts on Thursday.

    Welding the Posts

    Tony Gutierrez and ‘Little Pete’ arrived just after 8:00 am this morning at our project site.  It was foggy and a bit cool. 

    Bryan had the site prepared and the remaining posts laid out.  We were able to start quickly and soon completed the welding on post 33, at the top of the stairs.  This was a complex post as it needed base plates put in and grinding so we could align the bottom of the post correctly.

    After post 33, we put post 28 in place, which is on the corner.  This one was a bit tougher and went ok.  Then, we struggled with post 27, an intermediate post.  Finally, it lined up on the third attempt.  We all wanted it perfect.

    Back to the top of the staris and we put in post 32, which lined up nicely with post 28.  However, the next intermediate post, post 29, required cutting into the hollow core so we could weld it on all sides.  Posts 29 and 30 were a snap.

    Posts in protective wrapping from Paramount Iron Railing Systems

    Posts in protective wrapping from Paramount Modular Cable Railing Systems

    Little Pete welding a shim in place for post 28.

    Little Pete welding a shim in place for post 28.

    Tony holding post 28 in place while Little Pete welds it.

    Tony Gutierrez holding post 28 in place while Little Pete welds it.

    Tony holds post 27 as Little Pete tacks it in place.  We got this one right on the third try.

    Tony holds post 27 as Little Pete tacks it in place. We got this one right on the third try.

     Reed and Cole Drop Off a Router

    We need to put some temporary railings on the posts so Reed Kingston came by with one of his boys, Cole, and dropped off a router.  They did a quick tour of the site and even tested the stairs.

    Reed pointing out some key elements in the plans for his son, Cole.

    Reed pointing out some key elements in the plans for his son, Cole.

     

    Cole and Reed posing behind the plan table.

    Cole and Reed posing behind the plan table.

    We’re Done

    Then, we moved to the front of the house, to weld posts 16 and 19 into place.  These are the first posts our visitors will see when they enter the house.   Post 16 was perfect.  Post 19 was a bit tough as the cap plate was rotated by 90 degrees.  Tony assessed the situation and explained how we could fix it easily.  Fifteen minutes later, it was in place.

    We finished by tacking covers over five openings in the steel where concrete could possible flow when we continue pouring.

    Then, we packed up and were done.  Bryan closed and locked the gate just before 2:30 pm.

    Our posts are in!

    Looking up from the bottom of the atrium.  It was a beautiful, blue-sky California day.

    Looking up from the bottom of the atrium. It was a beautiful, blue-sky California day.

    Our posts are in and looking great!

    Our posts are in and looking great!

    Posts 33 (left) and 32 (right), showing the bracings, etc. that will buried in concrete shortly.

    Posts 33 (left) and 32 (right), showing the bracings, etc. that will buried in concrete shortly.

    Completed posts.  Very nice.

    Completed posts. Very nice.

    Posts 16 (left) and 19 (right), which are the first two seen when coming in the front door.  Note the clean face of the posts (no holes).

    Posts 16 (left) and 19 (right), which are the first two seen when coming in the front door. Note the clean face of the posts (no holes).

    Welding Five Posts in Place

    Thursday, October 8th, 2009

    We welded 5 of the 15 posts in place today.  For a number of reasons, it took much longer than we expected.  We will need another day to weld the remaining 10 posts in place. 

    Paramount Modular Cable Railing Systems did a fantastic job fabricating the posts for us.  The posts stainess steel welded to cylinders at the bottom, which will be embedded in the concrete.  The top of each post has a stainless steel bracket that will be recessed in the wooden top rail (Maple wood, from Canada).

    Once these posts are welded into place, we will be able to pour more concrete so the posts will be embedded in concrete.

    Establishing the Finished Floor Elevation

    We had Jorge Ramirez from Bill Brown Construction come to our site this morning so we could ensure the finished floor elevation that he established earlier was consistent with our finished floor elevation for the posts.  The posts were designed and fabricated so the stainless steel shows above the concrete and the round carbon steel is embedded in the concrete (which is welded to the I-beams). 

    We wanted to start at 8:00 am but both Jorge and the Larson Steel team were late in arriving.  This threw Bryan off his planned schedule, which included other items.

    Jorge brought a laser level with him and, after getting new batteries at the local 7-11 store, we shot the elevation of the garage/kitchen door, which Jorge explained was the finished floor elevation.  This was within 1/16 inch of the elevation of the glass in the north side of Bridge Hall. It appears that the south end of the Bridge Hall is a quarter inch lower than the other three points.

    We shot the elevations around the perimeter of the atrium and noted the distance to the finished floor.  We need to establish the elevations for the bottom of the posts so we can weld the posts to the steel I-beams. 

     Establishing the Welding Plan

    Hector Guerra, who designed our bridges, arrived with Tony Gutierrez and ‘Little Hector’.  Tony will align the posts and Little Hector, who has been to our site several times, will do the welding.  We were fortunate to have Tony assigned to our project today.  He had extensive experience in making fences and other items from steel where having straight lines and vertically plumb posts are critical. 

    Tony, left, and Hector G, right.

    Tony Gutierrez, left, and Hector Guerra, right.

    Hector and Tony reviewed the site and explained the strategy will be to establish a string line for height and straightness.  Then, the posts can be welded into place so they will be straight, not skewed, vertically plumb, and at the correct elevation. 

    The first posts to be welded into place will be the end posts.  Then, the intermediate posts will be welded.  We started with the posts on the north side of the atrium.

    Welding Five Posts

    Tony and Little Hector completed welding the first five posts in place by just after 3:00 pm.  It was satisfying to see both Tony and Hector lean on the posts and see little, if any, sway.  When the wooden 2×2 top rail is in place the railing system will be solid.  Rock solid.

    After completing the first five posts, we moved to the corner post at the top of the stairs.  This is a complex post as it is offset and has very fine tolerances so the cable will be in the correct location for going down the stairs. We had some grinding to do and then we ran out of time.

    Laying out the posts, still in their protective foam wrapping.

    Laying out the posts, still in their protective foam wrapping.

    Welding the supports for the temporary string line in place.

    Welding the supports for the temporary string line in place.

    Temporary stringline and first post in place.

    Temporary stringline and first post in place.

    Post 25 in place.  Note the bracket that will be embedded in the wooded top rail.

    Post 25 in place. Note the bracket that will be embedded in the wooded top rail.

    Post 10 solidly in place.  Note the 3/4 inch space between the bridge and the post, which is where the madrone hardwood will go.

    Post 10 solidly in place. Note the 3/4 inch space between the bridge and the post, which is where the madrone hardwood will go.

    Post 9.  This is an 'intermediate post' and used to ensure the cables are not stretched to allow a 4 inch sphere to pass between them.

    Post 9. This is an 'intermediate post' and used to ensure the cables are not stretched to allow a 4 inch sphere to pass between them.

    Post 8, another intermediate post.

    Post 8, another intermediate post.

     

    Post 7, which is the corner post by the Bridge Hall.  This is the bridge with the glass decking that leads to the Master Suite.

    Post 7, which is the corner post by the Bridge Hall. This is the bridge with the glass decking that leads to the Master Suite.