Archive for September, 2010

Taking Delivery of Another 25 Windows

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Just after cleaning up the garage, the two-person delivery team from Murray Windows & Doors came by and delivered 25 windows, bringing our total to 26 windows.  There are 72 windows in our total order so we have received over one-third of the windows (the glass is half full).  Alternatively, one could say that we haven’t taken delivery of almost two-thirds of the windows (the glass is half empty).

After unloading the windows and staging them neatly in the garage, Bryan worked with the team from Earth Bound Homes completing the ‘cool roof’ over the gables.  He drove to Union City and picked up a Vent-A-Hood roof jack for our range hood in the kitchen.

Our range hood will have an 8-inch duct so we need to have a VP541-HP roof jack, which is designed for gable roofs with more than a 4:12 roof pitch.

After picking up the roof jack, Bryan returned to the job site and worked with Carlos on placing the roof jack into position.

Clean, tidy and fully swept garage, waiting for 25 boxes of windows from Murray Windows & Doors.

Clean, tidy and fully swept garage, waiting for 25 boxes of windows from Murray Windows & Doors.

Backing up the truck - here come the windows!

Backing up the truck - here come the windows!

Each window box was carried in and stacked against the wall by hand.

Each window box was carried in and stacked against the wall by hand.

The boxes of windows are stacked neatly in the clean garage.  These are all of the clerestory windows that go in the gable ends (large boxes) and the clerestory windows that go around the atrium.

The boxes of windows are stacked neatly in the clean garage. These are all of the clerestory windows that go in the gable ends (large boxes) and the clerestory windows that go around the atrium.

Valley on the North side of the East gable.  Also, there is an intermediate 1x1 furring strip that must be completed.

Valley on the North side of the East gable. Also, there is an intermediate 1x1 furring strip that must be completed.

View of the completed North side of the South gable.  The FSC plywood deck is completed and ready for roofing felt and shakes.

View of the completed North side of the South gable. The FSC plywood deck is completed and ready for roofing felt and shakes.

South side of the North gable.  Note where the radiant barrier needs to be covered with plywood.

South side of the North gable. Note where the radiant barrier needs to be covered with plywood.

VP541-HP roof jack from Vent-A-Hood on the East side of the East gable.

VP541-HP roof jack from Vent-A-Hood on the East side of the East gable.

Our friend and neighbor, John McLaren, came to the job site today to review our progress.  John lives on Daves Avenue and is very supportive of our project.  It is great to be able to park in our driveway again!

Our friend and neighbor, John McLaren, came to the job site today to review our progress. John lives on Daves Avenue and is very supportive of our project. It is great to be able to park in our driveway again!

Completing the First Gable Roof Deck

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The four-person team from Earth Bound Homes completed the plywood deck on the South side of  the South gable today.  Five more gables to go!

Bryan spent 90 minutes shovelling dirt at the front of the property.  We’re ready for Murray Windows & Doors to deliver 25 boxes of windows tomorrow!

The furring strips are over the Securock and the radiant barrier is going down on top of the furring strips.  Initially, we had furring strips 24 inches on center and then added 1x1 strips in between each 1x3 so there would be no risk of the radiant barrier sagging during its lifetime.

The furring strips are over the Securock and the radiant barrier is going down on top of the furring strips. Initially, we had furring strips 24 inches on center and then added 1x1 strips in between each 1x3 so there would be no risk of the radiant barrier sagging during its lifetime.

Completed plywood deck over the radiant barrier, forming our cool roof.

Completed plywood deck over the radiant barrier, completing our 'cool roof'.

It feels good to have the plywood decking completed.  After the zinc fascia is installed over the gable ends, we can install the 30 lb roofing felt and we will be ready for rain.

It feels good to have the plywood decking completed. After the zinc fascia is installed over the gable ends, we can install the 30 lb roofing felt and we will be ready for rain.

 

The 1x3 and 1x1 furring strips are on the South side of the North gable.  Ready for radiant barrier and then FSC plywood decking.

The 1x3 and 1x1 furring strips are on the South side of the North gable. Ready for radiant barrier and then FSC plywood decking.

The North side of the South gable needs the 1x1 furring strips over the Securock.

The North side of the South gable needs the 1x1 furring strips over the Securock.

The East side of the East gable needs 1x1 furring strips.  Note the black Cor-A-Vent strips at the bottom of the gable.

The East side of the East gable needs 1x1 furring strips. Note the black Cor-A-Vent strips at the bottom of the gable.

This photo shows the layers in our cool roof.  The aluminum sheet is over the membrane, with the Securock over that.  Then, the furring strips and Cor-A-Vent, with the radiant barrier.  Finally, the FSC plywood on top.

This photo shows the layers in our cool roof. The aluminum sheet is over the membrane, with the Securock over that. Then, the furring strips and Cor-A-Vent, with the radiant barrier. Finally, the FSC plywood on top.

View of the driveway, now clear of stockpiled soil.  Bryan moved the dirt today (amazing what a strong back and weak mind can do).  We are ready for Murray Windows & Doors to deliver our 25 clerestory windows tomorrow morning.

View of the driveway, now clear of stockpiled soil. Bryan moved the dirt today (amazing what a strong back and weak mind can do). We are ready for Murray Windows & Doors to deliver our 25 clerestory windows tomorrow morning.

Cleaning Up the Driveway

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Since June, we’ve been moving dirt around our site constantly.  Although PG&E did the natural gas lay-in on August 24 and we passed the mandrel inspection on September 8, Nathan Lee (our project manager with PG&E) advised us that they cannot install the new concrete vault at the front of our property until October 26.  We’ve lost confidence in PG&E’s ability to deliver services.

Since the dirt we have stockpiled for PG&E will not be required for more than four weeks, we decided to move the dirt to the side of our property so the driveway is clear.  This will provide much-needed real estate for delivering materials and parking vehicles.

Bryan worked for several hours moving dirt.  Tomorrow, he will clear the garage, which will then allow Murray Windows & Doors to deliver the 25 clerestory windows on Tuesday, September 28.

Since PG&E will not be on site until October 26, Bryan will move the stockpiled dirt (for backfilling) out of the driveway.

Since PG&E will not be on site until October 26, Bryan will move the stockpiled dirt (for backfilling) out of the driveway.

We will clear the garage so we can store the 25 clerestory windows on Tuesday.

We will clear the garage so we can store the 25 clerestory windows on Tuesday.

The front of the house is looking a bit better after Bryan moved some of the stockpiled dirt.

The front of the house is looking a bit better after Bryan moved some of the stockpiled dirt.

Being Ambushed by Wido Menhardt

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Bryan was at the job site this morning and opened the gate at 7:50 am.  Kel Marchbank was completing a mountain bike ride and dropped by for a minute.  Then, promptly at 8:00 am, Manny and Izzy arrived to work on the underground elements at the front of the property.

After working all morning, Izzy and Manny left at 12:00 noon.  Exhausted from helping with the shovelling, Bryan returned the compactor (‘jumping jack’) to A1 Rentals then went to Safeway and bought seven cases of sodas.  Back to the project site.

As Bryan was recovering and was reviewing the progress to date, he heard a vehicle drive up outside the gate.  The car door closed and Bryan was going up to the gate.

Bryan looked at Wido Menhardt, wondering, ‘who is this?’ (Wido and Trixi now live in Bangalore, India).  Wido smiled broadly and said, ‘It looks good’.

Ambushed.

The inlet box for the underground CUDO cistern has two 4-inch pipes, with a 6-inch pipe into the cistern (left side) and a six-inch overflow bypass (top).  The 1-inch conduit was just glued in place (over the concrete box).  The irrigation supply water going to the manifold at the front of our property is stubbed and needs to be completed.

The inlet box for the underground CUDO cistern has two 4-inch pipes, with a 6-inch pipe into the cistern (left side) and a six-inch overflow bypass (top). The 1-inch conduit was just glued in place (over the concrete box). The irrigation supply water going to the manifold at the front of our property is stubbed and needs to be completed.

Outlet from underground CUDO cistern, with concrete riser on top.  The irrigation water supply and 1-inch conduit are stubbed to the manifold location at the top of the photo.  Note the compactor in the bottom left.

Outlet from underground CUDO cistern, with concrete riser on top. The irrigation water supply and 1-inch conduit are stubbed to the manifold location at the top of the photo. Note the compactor in the bottom left.

Backfilled and compacted areas at the front of the house.  Manny, Izzy and Bryan shovelled, and compacted in 6-inch lifts, over six cubic yards of soil this morning.

Backfilled and compacted areas at the front of the house. Manny, Izzy and Bryan shovelled, and compacted in 6-inch lifts, over six cubic yards of soil this morning.

Wido Menhardt, just arrived from Bangalore, India, tours the project site reviewing progress to date.

Wido Menhardt, just arrived from Bangalore, India, tours the project site reviewing progress to date.

View of backfilled and compacted trenches from South East corner of roof.

View of backfilled and compacted trenches from South East corner of roof.

Enjoying a beautiful, blue-sky California day, Wido leaves for Santa Cruz to get some surfing in.

Enjoying a beautiful, blue-sky California day, Wido leaves for Santa Cruz to get some surfing in.

Covering Our Gable Roofs

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Having completed the flat roofs, we could now start on covering the gable roofs.  This requires six layers before the waterproofing starts.

Bryan pulled the trigger on the yellow cedar shakes and wired the payment in U.S. dollars to BCF Shake Mill Inc. located in Fanny Bay, British Columbia, Canada.  They will be sending 28 squares of yellow cedar tapersawn shakes to Mission, B.C. to be firetreated and then the firetreated shakes will be shipped to our project site in California.

At the end of the day, Bryan received a call from Akeena Solar, notifying us that the installation of our solar photovoltaic panels will be completed by REC Solar, Inc.

REC Solar, Inc. Picks Up Akeena’s Installation Customers

Akeena Solar (AKNS, now WEST) decided to exit the installation business and focus on products.  Accordingly, on Friday, September 10, 2010 Akeena closed their installation business and terminated most of their installation employees at their offices on Los Gatos Boulevard.  We were concerned with this development, but didn’t spend any time worrying about it.  Our experience is that these changes are planned and we would be notified in due course.

Searching through the SEC filings, we found the following information that Akeena filed on Form 8-K on Monday, September 13, 2010:

Item 2.05  Costs Associated with Exit or Disposal Activities.

On September 7, 2010, the board of directors of Akeena Solar, Inc. d/b/a Westinghouse Solar (the “Registrant”) approved plans for the Registrant to expand its distribution business to include sales of its Westinghouse Solar Power Systems directly to dealers in California, and to exit its solar panel installation business.  The exit from the installation business is expected to be completed by the end of the fourth quarter of 2010.  The Registrant has transitioned over the last year to a distribution business model in other parts of the country, and believes that it can reach profitability more quickly by focusing exclusively on its lower overhead manufacturing and distribution business.

As a result of the decision to exit the California installation business, the Registrant expects to record a restructuring charge totaling approximately $2.5 million in the third quarter of 2010.  This restructuring charge is expected to be comprised primarily of (1) one time severance costs of approximately $0.8 million related to headcount reductions, (2) inventory write downs of approximately $0.7 million, (3) lease accelerations and the write off of leasehold improvements of approximately $0.5 million, (4) goodwill impairment of approximately $0.3 million, and (5) vehicle, furniture and fixtures write downs of approximately $0.2 million. A portion of items (1) and (3) represent cash or future cash expenditures of approximately $0.6 million, primarily for lease payments in future periods.  The remaining $1.9 million of restructuring charges primarily represents non-cash impairments of inventory, goodwill, equipment, and leasehold improvements.  The excess inventory, equipment, vehicles, and furnishings are expected to generate net cash of approximately $1.4 million when liquidated in future periods.  The Registrant also expects to incur transition expenses from its discontinued operations in the third and fourth quarters of 2010, with corresponding revenue from project completion, after which its quarterly cash operating expense run rate is expected to be approximately $1.5 million.

Yesterday, Bryan was on his way back from Ford Wholesale with 22 1/4-inch 4×8 sheets of Securock and, having a few minutes, he stopped into Akeena’s offices to ask about the status of our installation.  Ralph Fallant, VP Sales, came out and met Bryan.  Ralph explained that Akeena was finalizing an agreement with a major solar installation company and that we would be notified by Monday, September 27 regarding the company that would be completing our solar installation.

Today, at 5:42 pm, Bryan received a call from Ralph saying that he would like to introduce Bryan to Josh Price.  Ralph said that Akeena had signed an agreement with REC Solar, Inc. and they would be completing all the installations that were in process with Akeena.  Josh is Vice President and General Manager of the Residential and Light Commercial division of REC Solar.

Josh followed up within minutes with an e-mail with his contact information.

We’re looking forward to working with REC Solar.

Paying for Our Yellow Cedar Shakes

Bryan has been corresponding with various people at BCF Shake Mill Ltd. in Fanny Bay, BC, Canada for over a year regarding yellow cedar shakes. It was time to order the shakes so they can be firetreated and delivered to California. 

Bryan lived in Prince George, BC from 1967 through to 1978, when his family moved to Edmonton, AB.  Many of Bryan’s friends are involved in the forestry industry and when we were searching for materials last year, Bryan contacted his good friend, Bill Kuzmuk, regarding cedar shakes from BC.

We would like all of the materials in our house to ‘tell a story’.  Our house is a showcase for innovative building materials and innovative construction practices and we want it to be as ‘Californian’ as possible.  Hence, our desire to reuse the 2×8 Redwood decking from original structure, obtain Madrone hardwood flooring from the Santa Cruz Mountains, and install Sierra White granite from Raymond, California.

Bill spoke with several friends and then called us back to suggest that we talk with Jim Lennox at BCF Shake Mill in Fanny Bay (on the East side of Vancouver Island).  Specifically, Bill recommended that we talk with Jim regarding yellow cedar shakes.  Bill, a forester, believes that yellow cedar would be much more durable that red cedar and, importantly, they are rare and would be way, way cool.

We decided to cover the gable roofs with yellow cedar shakes for three important reasons.  First, we’d like to have a ‘cool roof’ for the gables, to compliment the flat ‘cool roof‘ (the white 60 mil single ply membrane) and having a yellow cedar shake roof would have a higher albedo than red cedar shakes.  The higher albedo would reflect more heat.  Second, durability is important and yellow cedar shakes will last longer than red cedar shakes.  Finally, we’d like to have some good Canadian softwood lumber in our house.  What better than some yellow cedar shakes from BC?

Rodger Lennox, who we are now working with, will make all the arrangements to get the 28 squares of shakes to Mission, BC where they will be firetreated.  Given the high fire hazard in California, we must have firetreated shakes.  After being firetreated, the shakes will be trucked to our project site.

Covering Our Gable Roofs

We believe that, over the life of our house, the cooling load will continue to increase, which is why we believe having a ‘cool roof’ is important.  We want to use the design to address the increasing cooling load.  

The design of the gable roof includes a 3/4 inch air space for two reasons.  We want to include an air space so we can have an effective radiant barrier.  As well, we want to have cool air enter the air space at the bottom of the gable roof and then exit through the ridge vent.  Sort of like a rain screen on a wall.

When we submitted the detailed design to the City of Monte Sereno’s Building Official, Howard Bell, he required us to include a fireproof covering over the OSB deck of the SIP roof.  Howard recommended DensDeck, by Georgia Pacific.

While reviewing DensDeck at Ford Wholesale, Bryan looked into a product with similar specifications – Securock, by USG.  The Securock product was less ‘dusty’ and was easier to handle.  However, the ‘tipping point’ for us was that the DensDeck product was not very green’  Specifically, DensDeck for the California market is manufactured in Antioch, CA (less than 70 miles away) from virgin materials imported from San Marcos Island, Mexico.  Both the source of the materials and the manufacturing location must be within 500 miles to earn the maximum credit.  However, recycled materials are always preferable

Securock is manufactured from 95% recycled material in Santa Fe Springs, CA (Los Angeles), which is within 500 driving miles from our job site.

We selected Securock, by US Gypsum.

The first layer is aluminum sheeting, which will have 2 inches exposed.

The first layer is aluminum sheeting, of which the bottom 2 inches will be exposed but covered by the yellow cedar shakes.

The 3/4-inch Cor-A-Vent (SV-5).   This will go across the bottom of the gable roofs and allow air, but not insects, to go under the roof.

The 3/4-inch Cor-A-Vent (SV-5). This will go across the bottom of the gable roofs and allow air, but not insects, to go under the roof.

The sun at noon on the autumnal equinox (approximately) just hits the bottom 20 inches of our south-facing windows.

The sun at noon on the autumnal equinox (approximately) just hits the bottom 20 inches of our south-facing windows.

Putting up the first 4x8 sheet of Securock on the South side of the South Gable.

Putting up the first 4x8 sheet of Securock on the South side of the South Gable.

Loading another 22 sheets of Securock at Ford Wholesale in San Jose.

Loading another 22 sheets of Securock at Ford Wholesale in San Jose.

We need to get the 1/2 inch FSC plywood onto the roof and are planning on using Ford Wholesale's equipment to do so.

We need to get the 1/2 inch FSC plywood onto the roof and are planning on using Ford Wholesale

We used the loading conveyor to put the plywood onto the deck of the truck.

We used the loading conveyor to put the plywood onto the deck of the truck.

 

Next, the conveyor moved the plywood onto the roof.  Way cool ...

Next, the conveyor moved the plywood onto the roof. Way cool ...

The Securock covers the entire South side of the South gable.

The Securock covers the entire South side of the South gable.

The layers are visible in this photo.  Bottom layer is Tyvek, then the aluminum, and then the Securock.  Next, we will put the Cor-A-Vent along the bottom with the 1x3 furring strips, covered by the radiant barrier and then the 1/2 inch FSC plywood.

The layers are visible in this photo. Bottom layer is Tyvek, then the aluminum, and then the Securock. Next, we will put the Cor-A-Vent along the bottom with the 1x3 furring strips, covered by the radiant barrier and then the 1/2 inch FSC plywood.

The plywood, furring strips and Securock waiting patiently on the roof over the garage.

The plywood, furring strips and Securock waiting patiently on the roof over the garage.

With the plywood out of the garage, we can move everything else so we can take delivery of the 25 clerestory windows from Murray Window and Door on Tuesday, September 28.

With the plywood out of the garage, we can move everything else so we can take delivery of the 25 clerestory windows from Murray Window and Door on Tuesday, September 28.

Verifying the Effectiveness of Our Solar Design

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Darrel Kelly, John Rider and Joel Lemons arrived at our project site promptly at 11:45 am this morning to verify that the sun was now just starting to enter the house.  Bryan was there exactly at that time as he was returning from a site visit to an ultra-green residential project up the pennisula.

Bryan ordered the remaining roofing materials from Ford Wholesale, and picked up sufficient materials to get started until the bulk of the materials are delivered to the project site tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.

Visiting An ‘Ultra-Green Project’

Bryan was fortunate to visit another project up the pennisula that is being completed.  This project is very ‘green’ and has many similar construction components as our project, albeit on a larger scale.  We are particularly interested in the finishing materials being used in this project and the mechanical systems layout.

One of the challenges with sustainable construction is identifying and procuring materials and products that are produced locally in a sustainable manner that do not contain harmful compounds.  With our project, we need to specify the finishing materials and products that we require.  For example, we need to prime and finish wood surfaces throughout the house.  Also, we need fixtures and other products.

The surface area of the finished surfaces will be significant, so any off-gassing of volotile organic compounds (VOCs) is not acceptable.  Identifying and procuring zero VOC adhesives, primers and finishes is important for maintaining high indoor environmental air quality.  Essentially, we want to prevent pollutants from entering our home by not using products that contaminate the air inside our house.

Finding such products is difficult as the manufacturers of many products and materials bury the contents of their products in the MSDS (material safety data sheets) and it is time-consuming to research and identify acceptable products.  And, then one has to procure those products locally.

it is much easier and faster to visit a project where robust research has been conducted already to identify and procure acceptable materials, including adhesives, primers and finishes.  Bryan was fortunate to leverage such research on another project up the pennisula.

While at that project, Bryan reviewed the layout of the mechanical rooms.  The site he visited has a ground source heat pump using geothermal heat exchange and a mechanical system that uses multiple heat recovery ventilators.  The clothes dryers have booster fans and there is a whole-house water filtration system.  All components that we require for our home.

The mechanical rooms were well-lit with waterproof fluorescent light fixtures.  The layout of the room was simple and all pipes were labelled clearly.  Interestingly, the ground loop had a filter system to ensure the water flowing through the system was clean and had no particles in it.

The ceiling was constructed such that sound (vibrations) would be isolated to the mechanical room and not transmitted to the occupied areas above.  We need to consider sound deadening our West Mechanical room as our daughter’s bedroom is above the West Mechanical room.

Verifying the Effectiveness of Our Solar Design

The autumnal equinox occurred yesterday and our Green Rater, Darrel Kelly, came to our site at noon today to verify how much direct sunlight was entering our house through the windows.  John Rider and Joel Lemons, both from Jrider+Design, joined us to review the construction progress to date.  John did the original sun studies, using ArchiCAD.

Although Darrel, John and Joel subscribe to our construction blog and receive updates via e-mail, Bryan provided a brief overview of the status and project schedule.  To understand if the timeline was acceptable, Darrel simply asked, ‘Will you still be married at the move-in date?’ 

The group went into the lower level and noted that direct sunlight was entering the building through the sliding glass doors on the East side and the casement windows on the South side.  Bryan explained that we require solar gain in these locations because the earth is colder than the indoor desired temperature and, consequently, there is a heating load.  Importantly, the direct sunlight makes the lower level much more pleasant and immensely more habitable.  As the sun gets lower in the sky, the amount of direct sunlight entering the house in the lower level will continue to increase until the winter solstice.

Joel noted that the group should verify the amount of direct sunlight entering the house on the winter solstice.  Everyone agreed.

The next stop was the roof, to review the construction details for the top layers of the gable roof.  Bryan described the components and dimensions of the remaining layers of the gable roof (e.g., Cor-A-Vent, aluminum flashing, 1×3 furring strips, SecurRock, etc.).  Everyone agreed that the design and materials would result in a robust and enduring roof, that would be easy to maintain and have a long life.

Walking on the roof to the front of the house, everyone observed the crickets and how the flat roof had a slight pitch in all locations that will direct water to the drains and eliminate ponding.  Also, the brightness was observed and Joel commented on how this roof reduces the ‘heat island effect’ that is a problem in most urban areas.

Standing in the overhang of the gable roof in the Kitchen (over the garage), Darrel verified that a sliver of direct sunlight is now starting to enter the Kitchen.  As the sun gets lower in the sky, more direct sunlight will land on the concrete floor in the Kitchen and create some solar heat gain.  This is desired as the degree days increase after the automnal equinox.

Having verified everything at the site, the meeting moved to another location to discuss the subsequent construction activities and material selections.  Bryan showed the group the sample of ducting manufactured by Zehnder that we are evaluating and considering for our house.  The benefit of the ducting is that it is, like a plumbing system, very ‘tight’ and will allow us to use a heat recovery ventilator while utilizing displacement air ventilation.  Ken Martin, from Silicon Valley Mechanical, is working on the design of the system.

Picking Up Securock from Ford Wholesale

To ensure the team from Earth Bound Homes can start first thing tomorrow morning, Bryan picked up 22 sheets of 1/4-inch Securock and three rolls of 20-inch aluminum flashing.

We’re ready to start the gable roofs tomorrow.

The filter (green) and pump (red) for the geothermal heat exchange system.  Note the unstrut materials used.

The filter (green) and pump (red) for the geothermal heat exchange system. Note the unstrut materials used.

Mythic multi-purpose primer in a 5 gallon container.

Mythic multi-purpose primer in a 5 gallon container.

Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus finish, with 0% VOCs.

Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus finish, with 0% VOCs.

Joel Lemons (left), Darrel Kelly (taking photos) and John Rider (right) reviewing construction to date.

Joel Lemons (left), Darrel Kelly (taking photos) and John Rider (right) reviewing construction to date.

The supply and return lines on the West side of the house split into two ground loops, containing six piers in each loop.

The supply and return lines on the West side of the house split into two ground loops, containing six piers in each loop.

John Rider reviews the work to date on the roof.

John Rider reviews the work to date on the roof.

Roof access will be much different when the gable windows are installed.

Roof access will be much different when the gable windows are installed.

Everyone liked the sidewalk repair on Winchester Boulevard.  The pedestrians were happy, too.

Everyone liked the sidewalk repair on Winchester Boulevard. The pedestrians were happy, too.

Picking up SecuRock from Ford Wholesale in San Jose.

Picking up Securock from Ford Wholesale in San Jose.