Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day DC

On the eve of Earth Day, I'm catching up on my blog postings. It's been a week since my last posting; a lot has been happening, which you can read about in the new blog entries below.

On Sunday, we enjoyed the morning and early afternoon on the DC Mall attending Earth Day, visiting with exhibitors, including the
Sustainable Design Group - the firm that designed our house. There were a lot of people there by the time we left for the day, which was a good thing.

Forms, Concrete, Oops (I told you so!)

For the most part, this house project has been a positive and rewarding experience. And when we've had minor issues, I've kept a positive tone (well, most of the time). This post isn't one of those times.

The subcontractor whose crew made and stacked the TerraBricks has been challenging to work with (I'm being polite right now). When the owner of the company is there, the crew works quickly, efficiently, effectively. The second he turns his back or leaves the job site, they're the slowest, least motivated people in the entire world! When we all were on-site filming for Renovation Nation on Thursday, they got a ton of work done -- more than three times the amount of work they got done on Wednesday and on Friday put together. The difference? The owner was there and our contractor was there.

For the most part, their quality of work has not been an issue, it's just the speed of their work (or lack thereof) that's been the challenge. That, combined with rain over several days, now has us about two weeks behind schedule. There's a lot of work to do yet on the concrete and TerraBricks before the framers can come back and install the roof, frame the interior of the first floor, and then install the windows and doors.

I wrote above, "For the most part, their quality of work has not been an issue...". Well, on Saturday it became an issue. The crew was late to work in the morning. They were supposed to be on-site by 7:30 to complete their work on the concrete forms. They didn't come until after 8:30 and then several of the guys ate their breakfast before unloading the tools and ramping up to work. The concrete was scheduled to arrive at 9:00am. So they put everything behind schedule. To make up for it, one of the geniuses on the crew decided to take a short-cut with a column and did not use the required wire reinforcement to hold the column forms together. He trusted his 2'x4' external supports that were still resting in settling back-filled clay dirt that people were walking around.

You can just guess what happened! The weight of the concrete busted the form, the supports fell away, and the concrete went all over the outside of the back of the house. They got it cleaned up (in a half-assed sort of way) and now they have to do that work over again. Ugh. It wouldn't be such a big issue, except that puts us further behind schedule and we had a long conversation with the owner of the company about our expectations on the concrete forms and he assured us everything would be done to the highest standard. We knew something like this was going to happen, and it did. While I generally like being right, I would rather have been wrong on this. It's a good thing the work crew was still there when this happened, and it's a good thing the Renovation Nation video crew was not still there, or the end result would have been even messier! You'll see the fouled form in the last pic below.

The crew was able to get most of the concrete work done, but not all of it. They still had some window headers to form and three columns to form, then more concrete to pour.
The only reason they got as far as they did is that Andreas worked his tail off carrying extremely heavy buckets of concrete from the concrete mixer truck to the various parts of the house where the concrete had to be poured. He carried at least 100 buckets - that likely was more than any of the paid crew!

There are several other jobs this crew could do for us on our house, but they won't be given the opportunity. I'm counting the days until they complete their work so we can be gone with them!

Lights, Camera, Action!

They didn't say I couldn't tell people. And I think it's good promo for the show, so hopefully I can post this.

You, my dear readers, are some of the first to know that our home construction will be on TV! Planet Green Channel's show, Renovation Nation, filmed several projects on our site this past Thursday and Saturday.

It was a fantastic experience - the crew was a lot of fun and very talented, and the show's host, Steve Thomas, was super nice and great to interact with. The three projects they filmed included:
- Making & stacking of the TerraBricks - Forming and pouring concrete columns - installing the EIFS system on the outside of the house The first two were real projects. The third was a bit early in our construction sequence, but we had the sub-contractors who will be installing our EIFS system come early to demonstrate, on our house, how it's done. That told the whole story of how the TerraBrick wall system works in the Virginia climate.

In addition to interviewing Andreas and me, our architect John Spears, our contractor Aaron Holmes, the concrete sub-contractor Andy Bartley, and a whole host of other folks who have been instrumental in our house's design and construction success thus far may appear on the show too!

And as you'll see in the next post(s), some work actually got done while the show was being filmed, which is a good thing!

The show was a great experience and we look forward to our house being on TV this summer. I'll certainly post here when we know which date it will be on so you can tune in to Planet Green channel to see for yourself.

In the mean time, if anyone has any contacts at Dwell Magazine, please let me know. In all the years I've been reading Dwell, I can't recall their publishing a Compressed Earth Block house and I would be very interested in their publishing our house (after the construction is completed, of course).

Here are some photos from the Renovation Nation video shoot.