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Our family's passive solar zero energy off grid house kit construction blog.
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Wha? Oh, Back To The Prefab Zero Energy Off Grid House Kit Built With SIPs!

Well, it has been a crazy few weeks. We got my sister married off (and her husband's family is from Seattle so they came in early to spend time with their Virginia family here so it was not just a weekend but a nice time over awhile of the families coming together)... then I went to New York on business for about a week... (really, it was no fun *at all* ; ) ) Memorial Day Weekend appeared out o' nowhere, but finally, we were able to meet with Ron, our wonderful contractor, this weekend to plan the next phase of the prefab house kit: The Inside.
  • To finish the house, we need financing. The financing we did earlier was to refinance our current home loan because interest rates dropped so much. Now we need to consolidate the *land* loan and finish construction. We're increasing the *land* loan by the amount we need to finish construction since a traditional construction loan in Virginia does not understand or value green building or off grid construction / systems. Once construction is complete and we have a certificate of occupancy, we have been told by mortgage lender of our first house that they will consider refinancing the land *and* house. Because co-op interest rates are higher, Handsome Husband projects that once we have a traditional first mortgage, the monthly expenses will remain the same after the construction is financed. So we will be paying about the same, to do more, after having finished the project!
  • To get financing, we need to have a quote from our Fabulous Contractor, Ron Bernaldo of Giant Oaks Construction.
  • To get a quote from Ron, our Fabulous Contractor, my Handsome Husband needs to give Ron details, a list of systems (down to the model number) so that the electrician / plumber can give us an accurate estimate.
  • To get an estimate, we need to have the interior framing done.
  • To have the interior framing done, we have to give Ron the customized floor plan. (Yes, people, these house kits are made so you can work with your contractor to make 'em as you want! We didn't change much, just added more room for systems and a nook & cranny for a bookcase...)
If ONLY the rest of the personal decisions we make as a family were as easy as it was erecting the actual house kit! So yesterday Ron was given the floor plan, a list of systems is on its way, and he starts the interior framing next Tuesday.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy pictures from this weekend's off grid prefab-ulous adventure at the end of this long and boring post.

We had some dear friends out, and it was amazing how *comfortable* the house kit was in the heat. Before, we rarely camped this time of year because the sun beating down on our little 1960's Scotty camper in the field was unbearable. In the house kit, it was breezy, comfortable, filled with natural light yet soothing and cool inside. In the winter, the dogs snuck into our beds; now they flopped, lazily collapsed on the concrete.

When I awoke last night to an unexpected thunderstorm, snuggled in my bed as it rolled, rumbling, in, I reflected how our visit in previous years would have ended first thing in the morning, packing up miserable muddy wet dogs and children in the rain. Instead, we contentedly listened to the rainfall as the children played together indoors while the adults slowly woke with steaming strong coffee.

In the house kit, the light was diffused and off the cement, not the sharp slants of light directly on the concrete as it is in winter. That was the first thing I noticed- that yes, the sun was not warming the floor but had moved higher in the sky, and thus prevented by the overhangs to heat. We opened the windows and let in a wonderful crossbreeze. The difference between lounging comfortably in the house kit to walking into the open field under the unsympathetic sun was palpatable- we all remarked on it.

Another thing I noticed was... how grateful I am I chose polished concrete. SO easy to sweep and keep clean. We also have recycled pallets at the doors which have been extremely useful to curtail the dirt- it looks coolio industrial, is recycled, and provides a great function.

We installed the screens, so we don't have to worry about uninvited animals/insects during the night entering from the open windows, and Handsome Husband and Mr. H stopped by the recycling center and plucked a nice tire to create a tire swing for the kids! We hung it off the old oak that shelters the picnic bench. Which, by the way, I picked up a *second* picnic bench for $5 at a yard sale so we can connect them end-to-end and have a fabulous banquet table for lots of guests.

And speaking of guests... we will have an open house in September!

More on this later, but if you would like to tour our prefab off grid zero energy house kit, there is a wonderful bike tour going on in the area on the weekend of September 26th. Bike Heartland is a fun bike tour that goes all weekend long through a gorgeous, historic area of Virginia. I am working with some local farms to have other activities like tours of natural, community supported farms, a winery that will be open for you to enjoy, and more, so pack yer tent and come on down! For more on accommodations, see here (camping at the Heartland Bike Tour), here (Charlotte Courthouse), here (Appomattox), and here (Farmville); and also be sure to visit Miss Emily's, where Necia and her husband will show you great English hospitality. (And boy does she know how to cook.)

So, next, we begin the interior framing. We install systems. We survive children out of school for the summer. ; ) AND some big family reunions scheduled... so June coverage might be a little spotty.

Even after the house is done, we continue crop tree release and increasing function-yet-preservation of the land, so that in a few short years we can be there sustainably full time.

P.s. This north middle window that will eventually be my daughter's room? The children discovered how to open it and then jumped from the sand pile into the house kit, in and out, in and out, in and out... hence my thankfulness on choosing the polished concrete, *again.* There must have been twenty times a day I was grateful for the concrete. Ah the spills. Oh the mud. Gee the sand. And the polished concrete took it, and looked gorgeous.

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ICFF 2009

Running out the door so I am throwing in my twitter stream (read from the bottom up) and slideshow of yesterday's ICFF- comments are on the slideshow pictures.

Rt @leadwithpurpose @greenmodernkits how bout plastic water bottles have u seen this ppt? from web

Off to the farmer's market with Claiborne, then more coffee, then more #icff... from web

Ouf. Were we *really* out until THREE? #icff from web

You have never eaten until you eat @ macelleria. from TwitterBerry

@mediajorge @ dwr 142 wooster from TwitterBerry

Am @ bludot w/Cass & claiborne waiting on V- check out cassie - ; ) from TwitterBerry

Today's takes, now off to parties. #icff from web

@claibornem headed your way it's taking forever b/c everything is running as local this wkend. Ergh! from TwitterBerry

Forgot beretta in purse. Nypd randomly searching bags @ penn station. Hm knife laws in nyc, anyone? from TwitterBerry

Hissing @ the vinyl people, heading back to brooklyn. Where is Akemi? Hmmmmm from TwitterBerry

Rt @Lizzykewl @greenmodernkits somehow companies need to be convinced it's in their best interest to package things differently, esp. food from TwitterBerry

Poor @rvamedia. Last week a chickun was named in her honor, & now I am bringing her a pic of a dead rabbit perched on furniture at #icff. from TwitterBerry

Love greenplay's grouploop - not whimisical but SO... Happy sturdy imaginative. #icff from TwitterBerry

Jigsaw puzzles pinned up as wallpaper. Dusting horror. from TwitterBerry

I hate felt. But anne kyyro quinn's work is BEAUTIFUL!!! #icff love it! from TwitterBerry

Vinyl weave company naming products w\"grass" / "bamboo" in names... I asked if it was sustainable: "YES some have used it for 4 yrs!" from TwitterBerry

@mediajorge I obviously don't know how to answer this phone. I'm walking towards bludot. from TwitterBerry

I have entered the aisle of gimmick. And whoo-eee boy is there... Flash. Mirror stuff. Running away! from TwitterBerry

Pratt & md institute college of art: A + on reuse, sustainable ideas. #icff from TwitterBerry

Struck by how many people are still using plastic. #icff from TwitterBerry




Modern Design ICFF 2009 Part 1: Finnish Design, Chris Ruck, Gaia & Gino and fun.

I am in New York Ciiiiitay for the annual New York Design Week and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair). These past weeks have been hectic, but ICFF is even more so: a building full of great modern furniture design, and each year it becomes more and more environmentally friendly. You can see what I ran across last year, here.

And after trudging through miles and miles of fab furniture, no matter how tired, there are also... THE PARTIES. ; )

But first I headed over to Brooklyn to see my fabulous culinary cousin, Claiborne, and her family. They live in A BARN in Cobble Hill, and I am looking forward to spending some time getting to better know Brooklyn. Their house has an open floor on the first story, bedrooms together upstairs, and an apartment (where I'm staying) downstairs.

Check out their windows! This is where they used to haul up the hay, and you can clearly see on that wall beneath that it opened for the carriages, and apparently where I'm sleeping they used to store... bananas. Talk about an elegant reuse of existing space!

Then I was off to the Meatpacking district to see V. at her restaurant, threaded through the Finnish design installations (in shipping containers!) to The Standard, where her sister Bona joined us...

We meandered over to a party for Chris Ruck of Ruckercorp at their happy loft in the lower east side, on Baxter Street. Chris takes scraps and creates modern, clean (but *sturdy*) furniture out of the would-be-waste-wood! (Say that fast three times, I dare ya.)

His girlfriend was wonderful- it was a cozy party of kind people, I wish I had met Chris but he was on the rooftop. We headed that way but stopped at the ladder... I guess this is where I mention my fear of heights?

Off we went to Gaia & Gino in the East Village.
I loved the fireflies...

I loved the basset hounds...

I loved the bowls made of nuts and fruits...

And we walked...

...and stopped by Momofuku for delicious pork buns (check out how they not only list the menu but the farms from which the food was purchased), then breezed through Freeman's before settling down on Ludlow for Mexican.

And I am about to walk it all off (hopefully) aaaaaaaaat.... ICFF! Onward!

(See tons more pictures here- I will add lots of comments later but am running off to ICFF now, already 2 hours late...)




Prefab House Kit News: A Mad Dash Through May...

It's been quiet on the green building / house kit front here, as we have been dashing about getting ready for Sister's wedding this weekend. It has been raining for days, in torrents, and the wedding is supposed to take place outdoors, in my parents' Gillette garden (officially the smallest Charles Gillette garden, I believe!). Theoretically, it is supposed to be one of those spring garden weddings that people remember fondly- the bride's parents 1801 home, the lush spring garden, the "at home" easy grace Virginians love.

I predict hailstones and tornadoes, with the Bridge Ladies standing off to the side under the flapping tent, my family's own Greek Chorus.

So keep your fingers crossed...
And if we get through it, I am scheduled to then fly off to Manhattan, where I commence covering modern design and furniture at ICFF.

When I return, it's back to the zero energy house kit... and the interior walls begin!

In the meantime, here is some nice new press on Green Modern Kits from R-Home! They were kind enough to include us in their "Hot List!" (Why do I still feel like sech a dork then?)

Click to enlarge / read the text:

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