Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recycling Dumpster, Window Update, Pranksters, and Thieves

About a month ago, I asked for suggestions from readers of this blog on where we might find a recycling dumpster for our construction materials. Sat Jiwan responded with some recommendations, Andreas made some phone calls, and we ended up choosing Environmental Alternatives, Inc. in Clarksburg, MD, which was one of the companies Sat Jiwan had recommended to us. Believe it or not, their pricing was less expensive than traditional dumpsters that just drop off at the landfill, and they'll also provide us with a detailed report of what we placed in the dumpster for recycling. That report is important for the EarthCraft House Virginia premium certification we're pursuing.

I'm dismayed that over three weeks after the great window fiasco was identified, we still do not have a resolution. Another meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday between Quality Window & Door and Sustainable Design Group. I'm hoping everything will be resolved to our satisfaction by the conclusion of that meeting. The windows are so important to the house and these companies advertise as professionals. I truly hope they live up to their word. A few folks have emailed me noting they are considering doing business with these companies but are awaiting the resolution of this window mistake before proceeding. I'll be sure to post on this blog when this issue is resolved (or not).

The final grading was supposed to have been done Wednesday and Thursday of this week, so the weekend was spent moving supplies, sorting through some leftover wood from framing to keep good pieces for other projects, and to recycle the remainder of it. Lots of manual labor, dirt, sweat, and general hard work. Just in time for the rain, which will delay the grading. That's OK though, now the lot is ready and the grading can happen when Mother Nature's ready for it to be done. In other news, the electrical rough-in work has been completed. The plumber will be on-site soon to start the plumbing rough-ins. Our contractor, Aaron, is on vacation this week and I'm heading out of town for business, so not much will take place on the house.

We know the quantity of signs in our front yard is a bit much, but once we had a couple signs from key vendors/partners, like the bank, the EarthCraft Virginia program, and our contractor, many other vendors jumped on the bandwagon adding their signs to the bunch. For a while, we thought perhaps the signs were mating and having babies when no one was watching! Well, someone had a bit of fun on Saturday evening at our lot. Someone, perhaps a group of kids, rearranged all of the signs, grouping them together and turning some around so they couldn't be read from the street. That actually was kind of funny. 

What was not so funny was the theft of about 150-200 leftover Terrabricks (Compressed Earth Bricks) that disappeared from our lot on Thursday night or Friday during the day. We didn't need them for the house, and the theft saved us the time and energy moving them out of the way so the final grading can be done, but we were planning to use those for a wall at some point in the future. It's never a happy time when someone steals something from you, but it's a good thing for us that we don't leave anything of significant value on the property sitting around. With technology as it is today, I wouldn't suggest anyone try to steal anything else, unless they'd like to risk the chance of being caught on video in the act. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Community Outreach

I've written previously how much we're looking forward to moving to the City of Falls Church. Arlington, where we live now is great, and I've loved living here the past twelve years, yet there's something different about Falls Church that makes it feel more small town, more "homey," more connected from a community perspective. That was proven to us again today when we attended the City's Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) meeting.

VPIS works to preserve the City's natural and built environment, historic structures and landmarks, and promotes cultural activities. The topic of today's agenda was green construction. Patty Shields, sole proprietor of Metro Green, a local green construction & renovation firm, spoke about her new construction house located in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington, VA. This house, just last week, was awarded LEED Platinum. It is the first residence to gain that certification in the Mid-Atlantic area. (The home currently is on the market for $1.195 Million. We toured it during an open house a few weeks ago - it's quite nice and, if I lived there, I'd spend most of my time on the top level enjoying the green roof!) Doug Fraser, the building official for the City of Falls Church, spoke on the City's new green home program, from which our house is pursuing recognition (in addition to the EarthCraft House Virginia program). Doug asked Andreas and I to attend the meeting and give an overview of our house, which we were happy to do. I was impressed with how many people were attending this meeting on a Spring Sunday afternoon, but even more so with the passion exhibited by these VPIS members for their city (...our city) and their genuine interest in learning about green construction.  They asked some great questions and we were happy to share what we've learned along the way. It also was fun to meet some of the folks who have been following this blog (thanks!) and also some new neighbors over off of Lincoln Avenue. It was an enjoyable afternoon.

Also, today, we spent some time cleaning at the lot, giving the shop vac a good workout upstairs while Andreas pulled some nails out of perfectly good (reusable) board the framers had thrown on a scrap pile. Even though we'll be recycling any leftover scraps, we don't want to waste what we can reuse ourselves.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Weekend Summary

I truly was hoping to have positive news on the "Window Worries" post by now, but despite multiple conversations, our house designer, John Spears, and the folks at Quality Window & Door still have not come to any resolution. As happens so often, each side made mistakes and no one's willing to take responsibility. Hopefully continued discussions next week will lead to a quick resolution. We'll be in the third week of discussions. Enough talking, time for action!

Piedmont Roofing finished the installation of the standing seam metal roof. It looks awesome! Well, except one piece of metal on the North side fascia at the very back of the house, which looks severely dented. I was told by the roofers that it will be fixed when the drip edge is completed after the EIFS is installed. Piedmont Roofing's been a great company to work with - honest, helpful, responsive, quick. But I think we need to hold some money back from the final payment until it's resolved to our satisfaction.

Speaking of EIFS, we're chomping at the bit to get the extruded foam board and stucco installed. But that can't happen until our contractor, Aaron, caulks around all of the doors and windows as required by the EarthCraft House program. There are a host of other items that need attention over the next week in order for us to stay on track with Tier 3 certification, which is the EarthCraft Premium level.

We had an extremely informative meeting with Chris Conway (the Green Gobbler) with Conway Construction. Chris is our technical advisor for the EarthCraft program and he is worth his weight in gold! We don't need a psychologist while building a house, since we have Chris! Andreas and I went to DC on Friday morning and toured my friend Mike's townhouse which is in the final stages of a complete renovation. His house is absolutely beautiful and I can't wait to see the finished project. From there, we went to our construction project and met up with Chris. On the way out to our project, Mike asked what the value was in pursuing a green certification for the house. Most folks think we're getting tax credits or something similar. My answer to Mike was that EarthCraft is giving us peace of mind, since it's another set of eyes looking at this project and comparing the on-going work to an established, vetted standard. EarthCraft is our construction conscience ensuring the right thing's being done at all times. That's not to say that mistakes won't be made, but someone else is looking out for us to ensure they're not covered up in a way that would be harmful to us or to the environment. 

I'll interview our EarthCraft technical advisor, Chris Conway, and write that up for the blog in the coming weeks.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Roof, Roof! (And an update, or lack thereof, on the Window Worries)

Roof, Roof!

I'm pleased to report some positive news! After work this evening, I stopped by the house to see what progress was made on the installation of the standing seam metal roof that's being installed by Piedmont Roofing. The crew made a lot of progress today. Most of the metal roof has been installed. The metal is produced by Englert, which is located in New Jersey. They have an entire line of colors that have achieved EnergyStar ratings. The color we selected, matte black, is an exact match for the obsidian windows & doors from WeatherShield. I think the roof is looking great and it will be very attractive for many years to come. 

Last Friday afternoon, Tim Reed, the owner of Piedmont Roofing gave me a tour around the Middleburg, VA horse country where his company has done numerous standing seam metal roof installations. On the drive we were chatting about various roofing options. Englert's product has a 35 year color warranty and the roof will last even longer than that. If we had chosen an environmentally-unfriendly option, like asphalt shingles, the roof would last 10-15 years and cost 50-60% of the price. So we will have a much more attractive roof that will last many years longer, and is only a few thousand dollars more money. Take a look:

Window Worries Update:

I sincerely believed that we would have had a resolution to the window problem by now. It's been more than a week since the window issues had been identified. As you'll recall from the last post, Window Worries, I noted that there were problems with the clerestory windows (wrong size) and problems with the sliders on the Southern side (wrong glass).  I've spoken with our architect, John Spears, each day and he continues to follow up with Quality Window & Door. We still don't have a definite resolution, although John's been told that Quality Window & Door is working on a resolution. 

We greatly appreciate the comments that were submitted by you all, as well as the personal emails and phone calls on this subject. I remain optimistic that this will be resolved to our satisfaction. No one said construction won't come without its headaches, but this is a big one and we need it to be resolved very quickly.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Window Worries




I was so happy last week when the windows & doors were delivered, but when I saw them, something didn't seem right. I thought the clerestory windows seemed smaller than I expected them to be. Then our architect, John Spears, stopped by the house early last week and also noticed that. He looked into this and the found that the salesperson at Quality Window & Door did not quote or order the proper clerestory windows. Instead of 3' x 3' windows, as specified in the window & door schedule detail, he ordered 2' x 2'. John had reviewed the quote in detail and did not notice that mistake. The right sized clerestory windows is extremely important as they are an integral part of the passive heating and cooling of the house. These smaller windows won't work from that perspective.

As if that wasn't enough of a problem, the hours and hours of discussions between John Spears and Quality Window & Door sales rep, with regard to ensuring the correct glass is used by WeatherShield in the manufacture of the Southern exposure sliders, seemed to have been forgotten as well. The standard glass was used, not the Cardinal Glass as specified by John. That means that all of the Southern sliders do not have the proper glass for the necessary solar heat gain co-efficient. 

There's not much point in building a passive solar house if the glass isn't right.

We all make mistakes. I probably make more than my fair share of them. But I try to catch them before someone else does and fix it. And if someone else catches my mistake, I apologize and work to get it fixed. 

So far, no apologies and after days and days and days, no answer as to what the fix will be (if any). I learned Friday evening that the owner of Quality Window & Door has been out of town and he'll be back on Monday, which is why they haven't been able to solve this problem. I hope we'll have a resolution identified on Monday. 

Here's the fix: 

1) replace the incorrect clerestory sized windows with the correct sized ones. 
2) replace the incorrect southern sliders with new factory-made sliders with the correct glass.
    -- NOTE: replacing the glass on-site with the correct glass is not an acceptable solution. We paid for factory-new windows with the quality control that comes from that environment and that's what we need to have installed in our house -- with the correct glass.
3) expedite the order with the factory so we do not have to hold up progress on the rest of the house for another five weeks while these windows are being made. It doesn't take five weeks to make/ship windows and doors. 

We remain optimistic that this can be accomplished. It's not that big of a deal in the overall context of a window & door business, but it's a huge deal for us and our house. Without the proper windows & doors, we might as well stop the project since the house won't be able to do what it was designed to do. 

Readers, do you think our expectations are too high? 

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Shielded from the Weather

It's amazing what can happen in one day! Several key projects were completed (or mostly completed) yesterday. 

The crew from Piedmont Roofing installed the felt underlayment for the standing seam metal roof. So if the rain comes, as forecast, the house should stay nice and dry!

Quality Window & Door delivered all of our....you guessed it....our WeatherShield windows and doors. And there are a lot of them!  All of the windows, with the exception of the basement windows, have been installed. The basement windows will be installed on Monday morning. We still need to buy a double door for the basement area way entrance. We looked last weekend at Community Forklift, but they didn't have any double doors in their inventory. I'll try to get to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Alexandria this weekend to see if I have better luck there.

The framing crew also built out most of the interior walls as well. I am a little concerned about some of the door/entrances that are supposed to be framed for pocket doors, since I don't see how a pocket door could possibly work the way they framed it. And the closet along the North wall of the master bedroom is so narrow, I don't think a suit could hang in there. So that's not good at all. I'll be heading out to the house this morning with a suit (on a hanger) to try to closet on for size, so to speak.  I couldn't possibly live with a closet like that as it would be a daily reminder of one of the worst hotel stays I've had recently - the Radisson Hotel in the Stapleton section of Denver -- which had a closet built the same way. All my clothes had to be pushed back on an angle in order to close the closet door, resulting in wrinkles. (I'm not that tightly wound -- the closet wasn't what made the hotel so terrible, there were a host of other negative things, but I've digressed from the point of this post, so I'll stop my hotel complaining now.) Our contractor, Aaron, will be on-site Monday morning with the framing crew to ensure any mistakes or problems are promptly corrected.

Finally, the folks who will be doing the EIFS on the exterior of the house supposedly dropped of a sample of a smoother, lighter grey finishing since the one they did for the Renovation Nation filming is a bit more course and dark than we'd like. I couldn't find the sample and didn't want to get in the way of the framers, so I didn't poke around too much looking for it. I'll see it today.