Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Much-Anticipated Garage

Yep, it's been a really long time since we've posted anything. What can I say? Time flies.

But it is finely time to do a quick update, since we've added a new garage to the 'ol homestead. Our old garage was ready to hit the dust....literally. When our electric garage door was still working, we had to hit the button and run out to the door, as the garage would shake violently, like it was having a seizure. At some point in the garage's history, 2 trusses had been cut to install the electric garage door opener. Now, I'm no structural engineer, but I can tell you that most structures don't have "extra" trusses that you can just eliminate. Eventually, the structure was so out-of-whack that the electric garage door wouldn't even work. If that wasn't bad enough, the slab was cracked and heaving so badly that we couldn't roll our BBQ grill in and out without breaking the wheels off. Here's a "before picture":
And this is "after". The "Darth Vader" of garages.

We debated quite a bit on what materials to use for the siding- metal or cement board lap siding. We ended up with the lap siding, as it was more cost effective and we don't have to worry about some crazy 4 year old scratching the metal siding.

We also debated whether we needed a one or two car garage. We do have 2 vehicles, but we put very few miles on them, since Kevin's commute consists of a stroll down the stairs and my commute is by bus/train. The problem is that with a family of 5, at night we are often running opposite directions for kid's activities. I'll admit that 2 vehicles is a luxury- but it also makes our lives a bit easier and less stressful. Considering resale value, we're pretty much forced into a double garage. Some people would say it's "butt-ugly" to match our house. We really don't care what she thinks.

We insulated the walls and finished the inside with stained plywood. The plywood allows us nail anything into it anywhere.

We designed a narrow little storage room with shelving on both sides at the front end of the garage. Coming next...... Gardening (or Urban Farming if you are a hipster, which we are not)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

TV starzzzz ???

Well at long last our home appeared on Planet Green's "World's Greenest Homes".
It's interesting - the editing choices one must need to make while pulling together a program.
The crew was here filming for 2 solid days and a bit - the result - 4 minutes of air time, a small number of out of context comments, my best lines left on the cutting room floor and very little discussion about many of the very green features of the home. And no mention of EcoDEEP! Oh well. It was a laugh doing it anyway. The film crew were Canadians and they were fun! They are welcome back anytime!

Here's the link to the video play and the Planet Green programming.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Awards Fever

I was all set to do an update on the HAUS' energy use and green roof performance this week but have learned that the HAUS has won one of the coveted Evergreen Awards from Eco-Structure magazine. The awards will be presented at GreenBuild in Phoenix on November 11th.

The HAUS has previously won an AIA HOME Award and and AIA residential RAVE Award and is all set to strut its stuff on Discovery/Planet Green's "World Greenest Homes" cable tv show sometime this Fall (still waiting for an exact date from the network).

To repeat a portion of a previous rant relating to awards and the like. We do not spend our time designing in the hopes or intent of winning an award. Rather, we spend our time looking for creative, practical, sensible and simple solutions to problems. We like to solve problems through design and deep thinking so that they may be more effective, environmentally responsible, economically viable and beautiful. Receiving awards are splendid forms of recognition for these efforts - but they do not change our approach- which is simply- to do good work and to do no harm. We like the awards. They make us feel good. We like our work. It makes us feel good too.
For a link to the Evergreen Awards articles - please follow this link

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Roof and the Sun

Time for an update!
Our green roofs are doing great! The lower roof experienced some freezer burn after the snow came off in March but with the help of a few new cuttings and plugs from Bachmans, it's pulling through and looking better each day. The upper roof looks fantastic! Lots of pretty flowers and colors showing through the green. It's fun to go up on the roof and walk around with the birds and butterflies.

So far this year, our green roofs, rainbarrels and raingardens have captured and used over 60% of the rainfall on the rooftop. The green roofs are responsible for capturing about 45% of the total rainfall. That's looking good!
On the energy side, our solar panels are performing a little better than expected. From January through May - our PV panels have produced 768 kwh of electricity - which is 40% of the house load and/or 30% of the independent office load and just at 25% of the combined whole house and office load. I expect that number to climb higher as we move into full summer sun.
Our hot water panels are in full production and right now through Sept/October, we should get 100% of our hot water needs produced by our solar hot water panels.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Energy Use and Usefulness

Hi Gang - thank you for hanging in there with us. We're getting ready for the Mpls/St Paul House Tour this weekend and HGTV to come film next week for the second series of World's Greenest Homes (2) and we're all a flutter. A little cleaning, a little touch up painting and watering the green roof and lawn because we've had no appreciable rain yet this spring and things are drying out. We'll get rain all weekend I'm sure.

SO - We've been busy measuring our energy use and production for the past 6 months - and while it's still a little early to be conclusive, I can say that our home is performing well.
The solar hot water panels seemed to produce nearly 100% of our hot water needs from July - October and the solar PV panels have produced an average of 25% of our whole house electrical energy needs and nearly 50% of the house load if we discount the energy used by all of my office equipment - which is 380 kwh a month - not a typical load in most people's homes!
Given that the balance of the electricity used by the house that we haven't produced ourselves is purchased through Xcel Energy's Windsource program - we're feeling pretty good about our carbon footprint.

A fun little fact - our house uses less energy than the former house does even though it is nearly twice as big. I'll wait to give an exact percentage until we have a full year's worth of data. What I can tell you right now is that our new and improved home uses 47% less electrical energy per square foot and 63% less gas per square foot than the original house did. I expect these numbers to improve as we move through Spring and early Summer - when we'll need very few lights and very little cooling.

I'm also in the process of tying our kilowatt hours of electricity and ccf of gas into an average kBTU/carbon emissions total and square foot for the house. It will be great to be able to see if we use more or less than the amounts predicted by our energy model (HERS score 52, Energy Star Rating 5 stars plus). I hope we'll be below the predicted use. I think we will be. Look for that post in a few months.

The solar panels get the headlines and ooohs and ahhhs, but most of the energy savings are coming from simple, smart design decisions that everyone can do. We've been talking about all of these things in this blog so I'm sure you're familiar with them. Use better insulation with higher R Values and good air sealing, use high performance windows and passive solar strategies; limit the amount of glazing to the west and north, protect the south glazing from solar gain in the summer, maximize it in the winter, use high efficiency energy star rated equipment, use CFL and LED lights, turn your lights off when you leave the room, have heat recovery system on your furnace exhaust, caulk around windows and doors, set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter....and all the other basic stuff that leads to better energy savings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Awards and the Minneapolis Saint Paul Home Tour

EcoDEEP HAUS has recently won two design awards - the Home of the Month Design award sponsored by The Minneapolis StarTribune and a RAVE Award, sponsored by AIA Minnesota and Minneapolis St Paul magazine. EcoDEEP HAUS will be featured in each of the publications during the upcoming year. We'll post more when we know more.

Also - the HAUS is part of this years Minneapolis Saint Paul Home Tour this coming weekend- Aril 25th and 26th. Come have a look at the place if you are able! Learn more about the tour here: http://www.msphometour.com/

Rumor has it that HGtv will be filming our digs the following week for the World's Greenest Homes series. We'll let you know more about that too!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rain Rain Rain

For the past week or so we have experienced the first signs of Spring (temps in the 50's, grass showing through the snowmelt and college kids wearing t-shirts and shorts outdoors) we are getting our rain barrels cleaned up and ready for action.

We collect rainwater. We use it to water our gardens (tomatoes and basil grow much better with rainwater than treated tap water) and trees, and any excess gets diverted to our raingardens so that stormwater infiltrates back to the aquifer rather than being sent down through the storm sewer system and into the mighty Mississippi River.

You may recall that we also installed a green roof system (see our post in October, 2008 for more info) to help manage stormwater, among other benefits.

So how much difference do our actions really make? Well, we've been measuring, and while we only have a few months of collected data - we can tell you what we know to be true at this point (stay tuned for updates).

Our total rooftop area is 1,724 square feet and will generate approx. 1,077 gallons of stormwater during a 1" rainfall. Left to its own devices, much of that would find its way elsewhere, and eventually to the river. But the data we collected between July and November of last year suggest that our rain barrels collected some 48% (16% used of for irrigation, 32% diverted to raingardens) or a little over 5,400 gals of water. Our green roof absorbed some 12% (1,200 gals) of the total rainfall at the rooftop for that same period even though it was only in place since October. So, during the 5 months we were able to measure, we diverted 60% of the rainfall at our rooftop from moving across our lawn and into the storm sewer system and river. I expect this number to increase significantly when we have a full year's worth of data and a full year's worth of green roof performance.

That means that if everyone utilized a rainbarrel at one or more of their downspouts we would save enormous amounts of stormwater, sediment, chemicals and fertilizers from entering our lakes and rivers; our recreational waters and our drinking water. That's healthier for everyone. It also means less water being treated by our local governmental water treatment facilities, which saves us money and keeps our waterways beautiful and usable.
We'll report more when we know more! Next up, a post on our energy use. There have been a few unexpected twists and turns as we've measured and monitored our consumption.