Friday, May 19, 2017

Blower Door Test at NHND to the Pond

This week the HERS rater conducted the blower door test on the New House Next Door to the Pond. This tests the air-tightness of the building envelope and measures the number of air changes per hour and is now required for all new construction in NYS. The NHND to the Pond scored a respectable 49 HERS Index rating and 1350cfm50 during the test.

Older homes, built before building wraps or board sheathing or wall board or spray foam insulation can be very porous in terms of outside, un-conditioned air getting in and inside conditioned (heated or cooled) air escaping out. You might think of this as a "drafty" or "leaky" building. And that was the "norm" for many years in construction.

Nowadays we try to decrease our usage of energy and minimize our impact on the environment (or minimize our financial costs - different impetus for different folks, for sure...) and the newest IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) has forced all but historic buildings to meet more stringent insulation and air-tightness standards so they will use less energy to be heated and cooled.

I've always designed my projects to be "green" and while I haven't sought certification by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) or Energy Star, I have always detailed my buildings to be as environmentally friendly as construction can be, sometimes teaching the contractor or inspector about construction details I've learned about in building science classes.  Being "green" usually means creating the best "building envelope" (line separating inside from outside) we can to keep the building's energy usage down to a minimum. (Rather than all the myriad of other "green" ideas, like Forest Stewardship Certified lumber, or reusing materials from deconstructed buildings, or considering the embodied energy of materials/products we build with, or specifying low water-usage fixtures or low-wattage lighting/appliances, or thinking about other sustainable materials, like wool or cotton insulation batting, etc.)

CI layer visible just outside of framing

Recently that's included continuous insulation.  And often the use of spray foam insulation at key trick spots, like the rim joist. Slab edge insulation and the best windows you can afford all help, along with a lot of insulation in the roof/attic. Click here to see an older post about insulation: 2014/02/insulation-phase-1

HRV (on the right) takes heat out of the air before expelling it out of building

When you start getting a super tight building envelope, you need to introduce mechanical ventilation to ensure healthy indoor air. It may seem counter-intuitive (why not just let the building breath???) but the science shows that tight buildings with (continuous running, even) mechanical ventilation systems use less energy. Click here to read an older post about Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs)

Insulated Cellar Access
Whoops! Not quite finished yet!

During the test and other check-point inspections potential problem areas were discovered and some were remediated.  The cellar door access was basically a hole in the building envelope, so an insulated interior stud wall was constructed for the insulated, weather-striped door to be installed into. Also it was found that the continuous insulation and finish specified under the cantilevered floor areas was never installed. When that is complete, our numbers might be even better!

Here is the bright & colorful HERS Index graphic:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

NHND to the Pond- Interior Finishing

Interior Doors and Trim Installed, Shelving for Closets, Wall Paint
At the New House Next Door to the Pond the interior finishes are just about done. The staircase is built and installed, all hardwood and tile floors are installed and finished, walls and ceilings are painted, window and door trim is installed and painted or stained, and cabinetry and built-ins are in. Last will be plumbing and light fixtures - then the new homeowners can move in!

Here are some photos:
Cabinets for Built in Desk- in Office Room looking at Pond
Tile & Bead Board Walls and Cabinetry in Bathroom
Built-in Window Seat and Bookcases in Bedroom
Staircase (and efficient HVAC unit)

Kitchen Cabinetry and Counter Tops
Tile Foor, High Wainscott Boards, Built-in Bench, and Cubbies in Mud Room Entry
Living Room - Stone at Wood Stove

Open Railing with Craftsman-Style Newel Posts

Site-Built Doors to Access Storage

Wood Ceiling in Screened/Sun Porch
Bead Board Ceiling and Final Trim at Posts & Beams in Back Yard- Frame View to Pond

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

3-D Models Show Clients their Design

As an architect I use Autocad LT for my drafting and a good old black Sharpie on trace paper for some of my early schematic design work, but I also like to use Google Sketch Up to create quick 3-D models of proposed designs for buildings. It's an easy program to learn, and without too much time or effort one can create a massing model and fly around it with a camera showing what a new building or addition to a building might look like.

3 dimensional models be extremely helpful for those clients who are not adept at reading the 2-D elevations that we architects draw and submit to building departments and contractors. Elevations show a (distorted from real life) flat-on view of one side of a building. It's a view, that depending on the site, a human might never really even see - a perspective view is much more realistic- and without labels, it may be unclear what each line represents.
First take a look at the drawing of the front elevation above. It's flat and it may be difficult to completely understand what all the lines around that boxed out window on the right really mean.

 Below is the small "video" I was able to easily create and save in Sketch Up which flies around my 3-D building model of this cottage, showing all sides and how the building sits on the sloped site.  The building model here is still very basic, like the line drawing above, yet because it's no longer representing only two dimensions, it is able to convey much more.


Below are final portfolio photos of the same project. (Hopefully this looks like you expected it to look, having seen the drawing and model of the design, even though the sketch was rough and not fully detailed) I think you'll agree that Sketch Up (or any 3-D model- even a physical one built from board and glue) is an advantageous tool for architects to use to communicate their ideas to clients.

Front of Building after Completion
Back of Building after Completion
Here is another animation (short video) of another model, just for fun. This model has some more detailing as far as color, materials and textures, so it looks  more realistic. This is actually the house that you see beyond and on the left in the photo above. (We ended up adding a balcony above the covered porch on the left/west of the house, which you see in the photo, but not the drawings.)


Here are the 2-D elevation drawings (front view and partial side view) showing the same project. In this example, we were exploring connecting a gable-end porch to wrap around the corner and offer weather protection over the front door. As I think you can see, the 3 dimension models are much better at showing what the changes look like than the 2 dimensional drawings.