Friday, 15 February 2013

The Power of Solar - Yes it works even in Vancouver!

I am sitting here in my home office getting some drawings completed.  The sun is out and recently peaked out from hiding behind a cedar tree (which I will limb to a height of 35ft to get all of the winter sun in the future..  I keep the house pretty cold during the day and have an auxiliary electric cube heater in the office when needed.  The house air temp is around 64ºF.  Surfaces are between 50-65ºF (windows are 56ºF).

In my office that faces south and has the same single pane aluminum frame windows and un-insulated walls.  I have not had the heat on since 9:30 this morning (4 hours ago).  The air temp is 68ºF air temp (started out at the same 64ºF but within 30 minutes of direct sunlight spiked up), but the real difference are the surfaces.  The window is 72ºF!  All the other surfaces are between 66ºF and 75ºF depending on how much direct solar energy they are absorbing.

Pretty phenomenal really, if I can build a house that captures as much of this solar gain through the south side as possible why still significantly reducing the thermal loss through the envelope, I will be laughing all the way to the bank.

At the last BCBEC AGM, the first presenter was from RDH where they had studied the effects of solar gain on energy use in dwellings.  The end result was that solar heat capture, even in Vancouver!, made sense and resulted in lower energy demands. The sweet spot utilized overhangs to prevent overheating in summer and windows with a 50% SHGC and a thermal resistance of U 0.16.  This resulted in 22500 kWh of annual heating cooling energy.  This was a significant reduction (10%) over the baseline 24500 kWh that utilized only 20% SHGC and U 0.35 windows.

This all of course is only practical if you have south exposure sun available.  I am blessed with unobstructed full sun from around 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM with a couple of sporadic additional hours in the afternoon during the winter months.

Winter Sun will unfortunately be blocked from 2:00 PM til around 3:30 PM


Hi All,

I just wanted to provide a short update, as I have been a bit delinquent in my postings.  It is crunch time as I come down to and pass deadlines.  I had hoped to apply for permits by the end of January but that has come and gone.  My current plans are for submission by mid March.

Tasks still outstanding:

  • Get site survey (in progress)
  • Get structural engineering to design beams for point loads (hope to send initial drawings by Monday)
  • Design roof trusses and find vendor
  • Get structural engineer to sign off on ICF vendor drawings (if I can get rail freight quote in check, otherwise will probably go with formed foundation)
  • Get structural engineer to design elevated concrete floor slab
  • Design plumbing system (supply and waste)
  • Design electrical system
  • Design fire sprinkler system (will compare cost of installation against operable windows in all bedrooms)
  • Design Upper Master Bedroom Deck
  • Design Low Voltage and Home Automation system (I wanted a fully 'automated' home with relays controlling all lighting circuits, but time is ticking)
  • Design rain water recovery system
  • Design Grey Water Heat Recover System
  • Design Heating and AC system (no small feat as I want to look at solar capture, air source heat pump, and solid fuel boiler)
  • Design Mechanical Ventilation System
  • Finish 3D design (90% complete)
  • Create general materials BOM and get quotes (15% complete).
  • Create schedule (90% complete).
  • Create layouts required by permit app (40% complete)
  • Secure a construction mortgage
  • Bring in 40ft Shipping Container for construction storage
  • Buy a 5th wheel trailer to live in (as long as I can secure permission from District as needs to be in front yard as I have no lane access to back yard)
  • Pack and Move
  • Volunteer at a build site for a day with Alfie in return for building and landscape material I will salvage out of a house before it is torn down.
  • Create a website for the build that will have three live web-cam feeds and hourly time lapse photos along with a wealth of information on sponsored products.
  • Setup project team for the building ‘science lab’ and secure final funding.
  • Oh Ya – Build a house!
My schedule shows that as long as I start the excavation by late May, that I will be able to get the roof on and the building generally waterproof by the October rains. The problem is how much work has to be done prior to this milestone. 

To divert as much material as possible away from the land fill, I will not just bring a tractor in to demolish the house and put in a few large trucks off to the dump.  This is the easy way (takes a day) and the standard way construction is handled in pretty much all of North America.  My plan is to deconstruct the existing dwelling and re-use, sell, free-cycle, and re-cycle as much of the material as possible.  Why is this not done more often?  Labour Costs!  I predict that this task will take 24 man days to complete.  While this only represents $5000 or so of labourer time, there most likely is not $5000 of savings from the reduced dump fees and sale of usable products and scrap metal. 

But I believe that this extra 'effort' will go further in reducing my carbon output from the project than all of the typical 'green-building' program's selections of flooring, cabinets, counters, and paints combined. I will of course still make 'greener' decisions on some internal components, but in general I will be concentrating on the large fruit starting with ensuring a rock solid and efficient building enclosure.

So, this month of deconstruction, packing and moving, and all permit documentation has to be completed before the end of May which is putting me under the vice big time.  I set April 8, 2013 as a theoretical start date back when I first started this blog.  This date was plucked out of the air because it was exactly 500 days from the first blog entry (which had a nice ring to it and seemed like a lot of time).  As I have been completing my schedule, I have been working backwards from Sept 30 (the point I want to have the dwelling generally water tight). 

Last night I finished most of the schedule including most of the prebuild tasks.  I was astonished to see that the beginning of the schedule (start of deconstruction) lands on April 8! 

Is this an omen that everything is falling into place?  I sure hope so!

With schedule close to complete - start date is April 8!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Product Testing Continues at SENWiEco

SENWiEco continues testing products that we hope to incorporate into our upcoming build.

The R-Guard products from Prosoco are standing up well to our accelerated temperature torture testing.

After 7 days of extreme testing, the Durisol ICF block shows no sign of capillary action horizontally through the product.

We have now started testing the waterproof capacity of Fab-Form's FastFoot fabric footing forms.

Peak Oil 'Solved' - But Climate WIll Fry

It is scary when even the oil producers admits we are in trouble and that burning all of that oil may not be in our best interests.

When will we as a society wake up and start forcing our politicians to make a difference?  When will we  start making a difference in our own lives?