Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thoughts on John's house

Everyone who has ever built a house before knows that you think and dream and scheme for a long time before any actual construction occurs. 

I have a word document where I scribble down ideas for the house. It started out as a discussion  for the initial meeting with the contractor and the subs to get them all on the same page for construction - mainly the same airsealing and insulation page. Now I just add ideas. It's not extensive at this point, just 2-3 paragraphs and a list. 

I've also been following a great discussion on Green Building Advisor called the "Pretty Good House". It's a concept different from Passive Houses, LEED certified houses, Energy Star etc. The idea is what constitutes a pretty good house in this day and age in terms of financial investment and energy efficiency. We all don't necessarily need or have the ability to afford insulation to the levels of a certified Passive House. We also may find it extremely difficult to do the documentation for LEED certification (and pay for the certification process), but we do want a well-built, energy efficient home. So the discussion asks the question "What makes a pretty good house?" It is definitely worth reading. 

Anyway, here is the beginning of my notes on John's house:

You are going to build the best house you have ever built. Not a pretty granite countertop magazine house, but a house that does what it is supposed to do – keep you warm and dry and comfortable, and stay that way for the life of the house. This house will use less than 20% of the energy a normal house uses and will be far more comfortable.

And the way we are going to do this is by paying attention to every detail  - how water, air, and heat flow through the construction materials. We’re going to look at every detail to seal things up so water, air, or heat only go where we want them to go.

Not only are we going to build this house well, we are going to build it cheaply by simplifying the design. No complicated breaks in the outer envelope, no fancy bumpouts or dormers. Just a simple design that makes it easy to build well.

Insulation with insulweb and cellulose interior walls
Foam or mineral wool exterior insulation
Blower door testing – repeated testing
Airfoil inc for sealing electrical outlets
Coordination between subs
Simplified heating and cooling - downsize
Service chase?
Homeowner’s manual:
            include advice to maintain exterior airsealing
            see Energytechs sample manual in Home folder
“Pretty Good House” concept - GBA

John's shop has passed its final inspection. He is moving stuff in there. I will get photos soon so you can see the completed shop. 


  1. Sounds great! I'm anxious to follow along in this building process.

    Can't wait to see the shop pictures. I hope the vacation was a great one. I want to hear about that as well.

  2. We really needed you at Big Sky. Randy, Ben's friend and our contractor came along for a few days and he can truly ski. He needed a real guide to the mountain - not a groomed green/blue guide to the mountain. You have to be there next year same week - last weekend of January and until the first weekend of Feb.