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Prefab Homes / Passive Solar Modern House Kits- My passive solar zero energy off grid house kit construction blog. See affordable house kits at www.GreenModernKits.com / www.GreenCottageKits.com and www.GreenCabinKits.com.


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1/30/09

Vintage Hat Friday! Mad Madam vs. Walkin' On Sunshine vs. A Hat of Dubious Nature!

(The picture to your left represents Me vs. The Cladding Industry...)
Oh yes, it's *that* day again- don't worry, Vintage Hat Friday will soon be winding down. : )
On the house kit front, I owe you a long blog post but the short update is that I will be calling my fantastic contractor to discuss the latest estimates from the cladding company...

More on that later...
Even if we do this, he is saying the rest of the metal wouldn't arrive until NEXT Friday (I distinctly remember telling him to order it) and then those north clerestory flat panels arriving the FOLLOWING Friday. So in the end, the cladding mishaps will have delayed our progress for... a month? Really?

For new followers, the cladding is not part of the house kit (which went up quickly and easily). It was just something extra I was trying to do that you could choose to purchase affordably if you chose to clad your house with the metal look. For more on the cladding saga, see here, here, and here.

Anyhoo, on to Vintage Hat Friday.

Copeland: The Mad Madam!
Ah, another gown purchased already worn years ago and reused for parties often. However the last party took it to another dimension- it was a punk rock Breakfast At Tiffany's party at my friends house that are in a hard core band, GWAR, and everyone cleaned up and looked sparkling suave. I had even taken the extra step to ensure dress code by buying a *bunch* of vintage ties for the guys... and had no need to: those grungy men cleaned up, and stole the show! Sophisticated smoking jackets, sharp suits... wow.

This dress looked quite different by the end of the evening- I had been tasked with passing out a lovely silver tray full of brightly colored JELLO SHOTS... by the end of the evening this white gown had transformed into a tie-die of hues as the jello melted...

This vintage gown is not only encrusted with rhinestones, but it even has *pockets!*

Earrings? My grandmother.
Gloves? I admit it, I was a debu-tramp. They still come in handy...
The Hat? You've seen this before... My 4 year old begged me to wear it today, so there ya go!
And the 1960's bar set? Found for $7 (and I cringed to pay that then) at a fabulous yard sale years ago... SO worth it, such a stylin', suave set!

Happy Friday, Please Vote For Me!

Amy: “Walkin’ on Sunshine”

The short days of winter are slowly getting longer, and soon warm spring air with infiltrate the frigid cold. Gray and sunny, this outfit is all about the unpredictable transition from winter to spring. I’ll admit it, I’m an earth tones kinda gal, but my friend Edith from the Dance Space bought me this lovely citrus number at an auction she attended recently and I knew it had to make an appearance on Vintage Hat Friday! So I grabbed everything even remotely sunny out of my closet and made do. It might not all match, but I like to think it “goes”.

The coat is a vintage London Fog trench, and I bought it at “Nonesuch” a vintage store in the fan that has unfortunately been closed for about a year. The dress (from Diversity Thrift) looks to me like it was from the 60’s or 70’s and has some neat details. The stripe down the center is not sewed on overtop, it’s actually a split in the front of the dress and yolk that reveals the color of the lining underneath. The gray and orange pattern has stumped me for years trying to find shoes to wear with it, so today I gave in and just wore my baddest, brightest, tallest pair of red patent heels from the Salvation Army thrift store.

The gray tights are meant to pull in the gray from the dress pattern. I have to say, that Marimekko behind me might just save me this week, I think the art is what’s actually pulling it all together.

Happy Vintage Hat Friday! Oh, and ignore what Megan said about me threatening bodily harm. She begged to play! *wink*

Copeland's Note:
We have a new contender for Vintage Hat Friday,
Miss Megan.
(Enter your own workplace! We'd love to see ya! Vintage Hat Friday ends in February!)

Megan takes Vintage Hat Friday to a whole nuther level. I want her hair. And the boots. And she frickin' made the outfit. Made it. Fine, there's no "Vintage Hat" but we're showcasing reuse,craftiness, and style and the girls wins points for all!

Megan: " I'm pretty sure Amy threatened physical violence if I didn't enter this week. I still don't think It's terribly vintage or hat-ty, but I like living...

The dress is something I made this week out of recovered vintage lace and velvet.
I nearly cried cutting into the lace.

Quite likely either an Ebay acquisition years ago or it was with the lot of dresses I got at an auction of a family friends farm. At least early 60's I think. The velvet was aquired from the Fashion Dept. at VCU, where upon occasion there will be piles of free stuff(ie fabrics and sundry sewing things). I got to class early that day and thusly I got the good pick. There was 6 yards of this fawn colored gold backed velvet, and maybe 3 of a darker brown. Both have just enough sparkle to suggest mid 70's.

Underneath is one of my mother's square dancing petticoats. It's red. Bright red. Fire engine red. Yeah. I'm one of THOSE girls, apparently. You know, who wear scandalous color underthings and the like...

The headband was made of the same materials, thusly matching in a fantastic manner. Also, helps blend into the woods...in a glittery cammo manner. It goes on my head, so I suppose that makes it a hat.

A hat of dubious nature. "

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1/26/09

Modern Passive Solar House Kit Update: Discussion with David Day, green architect of the casa ti

As our modern house kit cladding was installed, I reviewed cladding updates with David Day, the green building architect of the casa ti.

As a consumer there are many decisions we make to individualize the house kit: some functional, like systems choices, some cosmetic (er, like deciding to use VMI's basketball court floorboards for the interior walls? ; ) ).

He pointed out some ideas you might consider (and will continue to do so as our passive solar house progresses:

(And contractors please take note to consider with your client...)

1. Please note the windows on your left. Note the corrugated panels do not extend between the windows. He likes the silver, but said it would also be cool to have that piece between the windows black, therefore creating the illusion that the windows joined. (But note the trim framing everything should remain silver.)

2. Another thing David wanted to point out were the clerestory windows. Here you can't see it very well but make sure those windows are about 4 - 5" above the north roofline when putting the house kit SIPs panels together.

3. On the southwest side of the house, consider planting deciduous trees to help shade the west side from the summer sun.

One of You Kind Enthusiasts : ) had emailed me with a question regarding the clerestory windows, and whether they could change them to the south side. I want to share with you David Day's response, because it gives us all insight on the thoughts that went into coming up with the casa ti's passive solar but with great design; what went through a green architect's head as he created a beautiful, environmentally friendly home that works... that I think will help you envision the intent behind its gorgeous design. Enjoy!

"The clerestory windows are on the north because they let the hot air out in the summer, helping to circulate air. The casa ti does have some passive solar features, but it is a far more balanced approach. A purely passive solar design of this house would look different. In this case, the roof form accomplishes several things - it provides a taller volume in the large open living area, where most time is spent.

The north facing clerestories help balance the south light to the opposite side of this main room, and are operable to allow cross ventilation from down low on the south side, out the ceiling level north windows. The lower roof form on the north allows this by staying relatively flat.

Also, the sleeping areas are used less frequently.
Light is less an issue there, and a smaller volume is easier to warm. The south facing main roof is configured to capture solar, for either radiant heating tubes embedded in the concrete (which heats those smaller north side rooms too) or for future power generating pv's. The two end bedrooms do have some south facing windows for partial solar gain, but also to gather some views out southeast and southwest.

To do all those things and still allow south clerestories would suggest an even taller roof over the north side (to make space for those windows), which makes a very large unused volume. Or it would suggest flattening the south side roof and pitching the north side roof to the north to open up a south facing clerestory, losing all the benefits above. In the end, this configuration seemed best, balancing some passive gain on the south with an overall small, low structure.

It also works aesthetically, keeping the focus on the large open living space and south side terrace, where the Casati’s want it. The form is also influenced by an attitude of "keep it small, keep it simple". The pitched roof and volume are very functional, but also make for a compelling space, while staying within fairly strict adherence to material modules."

I also found a great link that explains how passive solar homes are sited- thought you might enjoy, as our passive solar homes are designed to *work.* In order for that to happen you need to orient them correctly to the south, and make sure they have good seasonal exposure. Here is an article put out by North Carolina Solar Center that explains what to consider when purchasing a lot for passive solar and siting a passive house well that might help you as you look for lots.

Sincerely yours,
Copeland Casati

P.s. A reminder- that last piece of cladding arrives next week, at which point work resumes.
We are also in the process of refinancing, which might (hopefully not) create a lull- I will detail that in a separate blog post, but when we looked at the rates we would be *crazy* not to jump now on more than 2 points of a lower rate.

So... there ya go. : )

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1/23/09

Vintage Hat Friday! Feathers & Cherries VS. Delirious Diva!

Don't worry modern house kit peeps- Vintage Hat Friday ends in February.
In regards to our own house kit construction, we are on hold as we await the cladding.
Oh, you may recall my little Cladding Rant... (Note to new followers- this is not part of the "house kit" - this was a vendor I was trying to offer a separate solution for anyone that wanted metal cladding at an affordable price. You can choose any siding for your passive house kit- reclaimed cedar, eco-board, etc.)

Well, that missing top of the north face (where the clerestory windows are) is not due to arrive for... two and a half weeks.
*Sigh*

Any-hoo, on to Vintage Hat Friday! Where we celebrate reuse and recycling in the workplace! You can look cool and corporate in old clothes, yes you can!

Amy: “Cherries and Feathers”
Hold the Cherries


{Obscure reference, can you name that musical?}

I love this hat! When I first saw it, it felt very “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think it’s the only thing I’ve ever bought at Halcyon that was NOT from the rummage sale. I would go into the shop and moon over it…try it on…then sigh heavily and put it back.

“No..” I would think…”I mustn’t!”

And then, one day… I did.

I couldn’t take it any longer, and I broke down and bought it (though I did get the lovely shop owner to throw a hatbox in the bargain to protect the hat’s fantastic-ness). This number is the queen of my closet, sitting imperiously on the top shelf above all my other accoutrements in its white and gold hatbox. It’s from the old Miller and Rhoads store in Richmond, and it’s in nearly impeccable condition. A miracle considering the whole brim is meticulously draped in pinfeathers.

The shirt I bought in high school before attending my first Opera with James. It was on sale at Jessica Mclintock, and I loved all the pleated lace details at the sleeve and back. The black chandelier earrings were a gift from my parents, the shoes a fabulous guilty pleasure from (gasp!) Payless. The skirt you’ve seen many times before if you’ve been watching VHF, as it’s my go-to black pencil skirt. The gloves were I think the first vintage item I ever bought, back in early, early high school. I bought them because they were leather gloves; I later figured out they were older than I was by a longshot.

Oh, and it was my birthday this week, so VOTE FOR ME!

Copeland: The Delirious Diva
I'm sick (nothing contagious, I would never do that to people at work).... but that won't stop me from our Vintage Hat Throwdown. I'm hoping my delirium will come across in the photos as Mysterious French Sophisticated Diva. Eh, maybe not. : )

Yesterday, Amy was happily chirping about the office yesterday that "I had better bring it on as she had a FABULOUS hat."
Young pup, you don't issue challenges to us grizzled wolves unless you're prepared for a battle. ; )
So... I pulled out a velvety "feathered" closely cropped vintage hat with a bow, and one of my oldest thrift finds: a *hand sewn* *hand beaded* 1940s dress I purchased, used, when I was fourteen.

In the first few years I wore it, I paired the dress with ripped fishnets and combat boots, and topped the look with a net hood I wore to keep my hair tucked back. I wore that dress to many nightclubs and mosh pits.

After college, returning to Vir-gin-ya, I found I could brush my hair, twirl it up into a twist, add pearls and pumps, and suddenly I had Ole Richmond Cocktail Party, without having to drop dollars on a dress!

Today, I paired it with nude fishnets I bought from Bygone's in Carytown AGES AGO... I think they're from the 1960s, I purchased a few colors still in their packages- nude, purple, hot pink...

The vintage quarter-sleeve coat I picked up years ago, I believe in Fan Thrift, for about fifty cents- and also pairs well with ballgowns on more ceremonious occasions.

Anyway, it may have been Amy's Birthday this week, but I'm *SICK* so VOTE FOR MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

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1/18/09

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...Passive Philosophy: Invest in Smaller, Better Systems


Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...
RAWHIDE!


Passive home solar design not only enables your home to "work", it allows you to use less to do more.


My green building architect friend Scott Kyle shared an article last week which embodies this philosophy, and is in line with our own thinking:

You don't need a bunch of systems stuff- if carefully chosen, less is more.

In Vivian Loftness's article Free-Rolling Buildings on GreenSource.com,
"More efficient technologies can help us to achieve a 30-percent reduction, but they will never get us to carbon neutrality. For that we need nature’s renewables—daylight, passive solar heating, natural ventilation, natural cooling. We need mechanical systems that are turned off as long as possible, buildings that “free-roll” through hours, days, months, and seasons."
Off grid prefab house kit from GreenModernKits.com
I push down manufacturer prices to give you volume pricing for the passive solar house kits (homes designed by amazing custom architecture firms!), but everything is a huge investment and when having to make a choice between better but more expensive vs. cheap and poorly-made, your best bet is quality, every time.
This is especially true in systems choices.

As our modern off grid house will depend upon energy efficiency, I have been researching the market for appliances that use little or no electricity.


Zero energy prefab house kit from GreenModernKits.com
Sometimes the choices I make will not be the most inexpensive, but I believe they will last years longer, even generations, certainly making them the longterm affordable choice.

As I consider decisions I think
1. Invest in efficiency and durability
but also
2. Do we really *need* all "this" (whatever "this" may be)?

One way we financially achieve systems purchases is by doing it in stages- each year we invest in one more thing, paid for in cash.


For Christmas last year I gave Handsome Hubby a...
(drumroll)
composting toilet.
Now that composting toilet is much more expensive than just purchasing "a toilet." (And what a wonderful gift, no? I got even with him for the year he gave me car parts.)

But when you consider our freedom from having to dig pipes to hook up to a sewer, much less the fact that we won't be contributing to sewage... it's a good, long term, affordable solution.


This year, I will be purchasing the refrigerator and freezer.
I have been looking at models that run on propane, and extremely energy efficient electric models that would tie in to solar power. Regardless which choice I make, I am purchasing the smallest model refrigerator for two reasons:
1. less expensive and
2. our philosophy that really, since we will be buying from our neighbors farms / growing much ourselves seasonally, you really don't need the huge storage- much will be canned, preserved, then the refrigerator supplements/keeps what is used that week.

Off grid prefab house kit from GreenModernKits.com
The freezer will certainly be larger, to hold meat seasonally acquired through friends' free range farms or hunting, but I may hold off on that purchase awhile as technology improves (although there IS a nice solar powered freezer I've had my eye on which could be stored in the shed).


In that same sense of evaluating what we "need" in systems, do we *really need* extreme heating and cooling?
Thanks to the passive solar design of our house kit, thanks to the energy efficiency of the structural insulated panels (SIPs), our home will not have extreme fluctuations in temperature, or fast temperature loss/gain.

For heat, we installed radiant heat in the concrete thermal mass.


What about summer?
I discussed this with Ron, our contractor... who, like I, wasn't concerned. I have never been a fan of air conditioning- heck, our air conditioning has been set to 80 for years, I just like to "take the edge off" of summer. I've always felt that when it's summer, you should be wearing summer clothes- light dresses, sandals... and often wondered about the health effects of working in companies where you must bring a wool sweater with you in August to work because the dial is set to "frigid."

By using a sun shade on the south side, overhangs in the architecture, and letting the cool air in at night while the hot air escapes through the clerestory windows... we expect to be plenty comfortable.


When evaluating systems, my constant question is "how low can we go?"

It will be interesting look back five years from now and whether our systems choices were indeed, too much or little. (I'm expecting them to be appropriate, as I've done much research, but I'm just saying...)


When I initially envisioned our own house kit, I had dreams of cooking over a wood-fueled kitchen stove which would also heat the house... I dreamed of masonry heaters and evenings spent huddled about its warmth with our children...


Instead, I realized I could be zero energy / more carbon neutral by giving up that nostalgic flickering flame, and achieving better, more evenly-distributed heat with solar powered radiant heat. Our solar cooker will help us supplement many tasks that would otherwise be done via baking / cooking.

(You can see some of my early solar cooking experiments here. : ) )

How low WILL we go?
Here are some of the choices I've made:
I have decided I really am not passionate about laundry. ; )
Why consume energy in a clothes dryer when you can air dry your clothes outside? (Heck, in winter I'll just hang them in the bathroom, actually, I could hang them anywhere as the floor is concrete! ; ) )

For washing clothes, I have decided to go waaaaaaaaaaaaay low tech, and low water (don't forget, we have no hook up to water, and the rainwater collection and filtration system has not yet been purchased):


Initially we use (and then maybe not replace?) the Pressure Handwasher, because the Home Queen Wringer Washer is something I can purchase down the road but don't want to pay cash for now. It will encourage us all to not let laundry pile up, thus needing less clothes.

Handsome Husband makes a great point: In the army, they had to "clean" their clothes with a brush, without water. Now, I'm not going to get that rustic, but it certainly inspires me to make sure the "muck" is off the dirty clothes before washing them, therefore needing less water, cleaning better!

Handsome Husband: "I think frugality is fun in this life exercise. I don't see it as a limitation but as an adventure. It's about being conscious, and realizing you really don't 'need' much."



It's also reflected in our interior design.

Unlike a lotta "prototype" homes you see, we are reusing (mostly) thangs we already have and not asking for design handouts in exchange for "publicity." Like you, we have accumulated carefully over time our favorite things, that make a house a "home," that really reflects our family.


Because, like everything, we have carefully considered the future, over years of thrifting and reuse... we dream, we plan, we scavenge.
 : )
And make it frugally, functionally, fabulous.

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1/16/09

Vintage Hat Friday! Baby, It's Coooooold Outside.

Honeychiles, it is COLD outside.
So when I carefully planned my Vintage Hat Friday ensemble (read: five seconds before jumping into shower), I was inspired by the freezing Arctic temperatures we are enduring this week.

Hence, I present, in honor of all of you contractors and crew working in bitter temperatures:

Copeland: Dr. Zhivago, Dr. Seuss.
Zhivago: The coat was a vintage gift from Handsome Hubby who proudly noted it was from Iceland. He found it in a local Goodwill and could not believe it had made it all the way to Virginia.

The boots? Timberland, who puts their commitment to being environmentally friendly right on the box. I chose these with the outfit because I certainly didn't imagine Dr. Z's Julie Christie would be tramping through snow drifts in HEELS, would she? Once these boots no longer look nice, I then reuse them as my "land" boots- to wade through mud, prevent copperheads from reaching my delicate limbs, and hold up to tough work on the land.

The Hat? Estate sale purchase, along with the gloves, reused from our Halloween Vintage Hat Friday... : )

Seuss: And then there's the dress. I have long called this dress my "Dr. Seuss dress."

Note the collar and cuffs- oh yeah, baby, that's real um... carpet? Amy says it's not shag rug but possibly hook-n-loop. She always knows 'bout stuff like that...

But I've always loved this dress, and despite it's Dr. Seuss imagery and carpets on the edges, it always makes me feel... elegant! Really!

So... VOTE FOR ME!!!!!

Amy: “Man About Town”

This week my outfit is negligible. Yes, most of it is from thrift/vintage stores… Pants are from the local diversity thrift store, vest, shoes and shirt are from Goodwill. The vest is actually vintage, a “Lord & Taylor’s ‘Country Clothes” piece that I have adored ever since I found it late last summer. The shoes are kind of nifty, since they resemble men’s dress shoes from the front, but give me an extra inch or two of height discreetly in the heel. But this week, it’s all about the hat.

This hat belonged to my paternal grandfather, Eulion. The black and white picture I’ve brought along this week is over 50 years old, and you can see my grandfather wearing this hat, standing in the middle of the other two gentlemen. At that time my grandfather owned a general store, my grandmother Edith made clothing alternations in the back of the store while she watched their children.

While I was growing up there were a few of his hats around our house that my brothers and I played with (and argued over). His fishing hat, his tweed hat, and his ‘fancy’ hat. Somehow or other I seem to have ended up with the coveted “fancy hat.”

I’ve accessorized with his bamboo walking cane…with which I might have tripped a childhood friend in a misguided emulation of the classic Looney Toons “pull someone offstage with a cane” trick. I also might have been put in time out for 45 minutes for that shenanigan…ahem.

Anyway, have a wonderful weekend, and VOTE FOR MEEEE!

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1/14/09

The Cladding Rant: Modern Passive Solar House Update: The Amish And The Internet: Cladding. It sounds like the beginning of a joke...

Road sign in Amish country
Modern House Kit Week In Review:
I start with a recap:


For all you house kit enthusiasts, here's the latest news:

The modern metal cladding was delivered to the Amish the Friday prior to this update. They were able to unload it to the brother's sawmill, and I wish I could have been in that huge truck with the driver as he pulled off the interstate into the world of horse-and-buggy.

The driver of the cladding said he had a great time watching the entire operation as he waited for them to unload, using special "Amish forklifts" that meet their religious criteria (you can see pictures and a video of the Amish forklift by clicking here).

Last Monday:
The cladding was delivered to the job site, the Amish had arrived, and a day of work on the passive solar house began.

Except... questions arose regarding the cladding.

So their driver, who is non-Amish and carries a cell phone, called the cladding company.

Who then told the Amish, standing in our desolate field, in the middle of *nowhere*...

...

to look it up on the internet.
...

...

Told THE AMISH.
In the middle of NOWHERE...
To look it up on THE INTERNET.

The contractor (who was visiting his beautiful grandbabies in Florida and was technically on vacation when this happened) called me, I immediately stepped in, and had some gracious, well modulated words with the cladding representative.

You can't tell the Amish (or anyone else on site!) to "look it up on the internet." In the field, you need answers to questions, now.

The rest of the week progressed with occasional rain, which slowed us down...

And just as my thoughts turned to the fun upcoming weekend we would have taking pictures of the shiny new cladding on the house kit, walking you all through it with new video, how super-mod it would look, how sleek, how stunning... !!!...

(Start playing violin here)

...AS my eyes glazed in dreamy reverie of me, in happy dappled sunshine, sporting a floaty sundress, running, arms outstretched, in slow motion across fields awash in golden blooms to hug my beautiful shiny passive solar house kit...

Our fabulous-and-duly-put-out-by-inefficiency-much-less-protective-that-the-Amish-were-being-compromised (I agree) contractor called.


The frickin' cladding people had neglected to include that north clerestory wall section as part of their kit. And other cladding stuff.

Why
why
WHY is this so difficult?

All I wanted was to set up a national manufacturer to offer volume pricing so our customers could get a really good deal on the modern metal cladding if they so chose! ALL I wanted was to save people (you!) money! All I wanted was to make it easy for... YOU. (I'm very put out with YOU, whomever you may be, at this point. ; ) Hee hee...)

Ergh...

So it looks like we will be awaiting that stretch of cladding...
I shake my head...
Good news is, that after this, I will have a turnkey solution for... YOU : ), for the casa ti.

Ya would have thought the nerve-wracking point would have been the actual house kit, no?
When that went up seamlessly, I thought,
"Oh wow, the scary part is over, and it went great! Huzzah! All we have to do is cladding, and interior walls, and systems... but that's all easy!"

And then... came cladding.

Business Analysis:
I tell ya, it *really* has made me appreciate the architects without whose vision this would be a reality, the house kit factory, the distributor, the engineer, our fabulous contractor... It has all gone SO smoothly, and then you suddenly run into a snafu like this... all of the cladding "this"... it is just hard to understand *why* it happened.

It wasn't just this one vendor.

When I researched, then approached, national cladding manufacturers (not just this one), they all mentioned they were in lean times.

I assumed their biggest hurdle would be to visualize a new business opportunity, to think less of commercial and more of modern residential applications and understand that affordable housing can be really, really beneficial to their business long-term.

But that wasn't the issue.
Over and over I encountered a lack of detail and enthusiasm, the sense that sitting down and really going through an architect's plan, to then write up a diagram for future contractors to easily see where each piece of cladding went where... was too... bothersome?

I'm sorry, but if we start to see these same companies fail in 2009, it wasn't because they didn't have a relevant product. It's because they didn't understand opportunity, service, changing markets and detail.

Let's compare them to the SIPs people.
Even before we purchased the house kit, our local SIP factory offered free workshops on SIP to our contractor (and us, if we wanted!). (Ron, our outstanding contractor, did attend their workshop, an expense we, as our own house kit consumers, gladly paid him for travel and time to attend.)

January 20th Correction: Ron just called me to please change my account of events. With trepidation, I asked, "What did I misunderstand?!?"

He replied, "The homeowner should pay for travel, meals, and lodging to attend these free SIP workshops offered by the factory. But they should NOT pay for the contractor's time."

"What? You didn't charge me?" Now I was feeling REALLY bad and guilty. Here we have this AWESOME contractor who has gone above and beyond any of our expectations. We've made a lifelong friend (actually two, his wonderful wife, Judy), a great neighbor, and here I shirked him for time spent on our project? (Believe me, at this point he's coming out barely breaking even on our escapade.)

Ron corrected me:

"For anyone in the construction industry: The time you spend in learning anything, any new technology, will work for your business long term and be an added value for his or her business: The more diversified you are, the better you will survive long term."

As our house kit went up, the factory was there, aware of the project, available at any time in case there was a question. In fact, they offered to have a service technician come ON SITE for the first day or two to ensure the project went smoothly!
(Which, as it was running so smoothly, we declined!)

If anyone is reading this in the construction industry, I hope you take note.
1. Be open to new opportunities outside of your experience. It might be the best business decision you make. Learn to put your ear to the ground and listen to new business applications for your product coming down the road.
2. Customer service is key. It's not about the sale, it's about the successful, seamless project.
3. Follow up. Return people's phone calls. The SIPs factory checks in on me regularly.
Actually, they check in on all of YOU- those that are in permitting stages, but not under order yet! Thorough, not sales-y, just care about the stories of the people I've mentioned to them!

The cladding? I have *never* had them return a phone call before I called them again.
And not this firm, ALL of them. I met initially with several of them, and not one followed up.
They all went to my contractor.
And he smiled and said, "Well, you'd best go back to your client."

I will still offer them to you, because I hammered down pricing.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh but I will watch them, and warn you upfront.

So sad, I went through five of them, and only after all the research for national fulfillment.

My husband just, reading this, made a great point:
It's not just the SIPs factory. (This I know too well, but failed to mention appropriately:)

Compare it to our Contractor:
On a *local* level, our project manager, our CONTRACTOR, the fabulous and cannot-retire-because-so-many-people-will-need-him Ron Bernaldo, his team (thank you Daniel Esh Construction even though you can't touch the internet because you're Amish! I know these kudos will reach you somehow...) and their subcontractors... Ayyyyyyyyyyy PLUS.

On a national level, Home Depot.
We had ordered the doors and windows through them (that's the thing with the window and door schedule we provide, it's supposed to make it easy on the consumer to order energy efficient doors and windows through national distributors but locally at a good price).

The Lynchburg Home Depot (Ron in millwork there especially, but ALL of them even if I was just checking on an order) were SO customer-service driven... GREAT people. Ron would call me regularly, just to "check in", not salesman, (just as I see myself- I will NEVER follow up on you to sell- heck, I'm happy! But I will check in to see how your soil testing is going, or your zoning decision... I'm a great project manager but would never "sell" something someone doesn't want. Selling? Icky. Project Management? Fun. ) just a good guy knowing a project was in process and outstanding and seeing how the project was coming along.

He even took the extra effort where this Lynchburg Home Depot doesn't have employee emails (yes I will refrain from saying anything about that as a media company : ) ), so he, on his own initiative, gave me his personal email address and *worked weekends* to receive my files on his personal computer, to discuss them, complete my order... Wow.

Any-hoo, those are my thoughts this evening... rapidly leaving a business analysis mindset for sweet dreams on my pillow, of days in our casa ti to come. Spring comes soon...

: )

Sincerely yours,
Best wishes,
Copeland Casati

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1/11/09

Modern Passive Solar House Kit with Cladding

Here are the latest pictures of our modern passive solar house kit!

Handsome Husband returned from the land with these pictures of the cladding as it is going up. I couldn't resist just letting this post be pictures / video of the modern house and not the post I had planned- a business analysis on why finding affordable, national distributors of cladding for residential use has been so difficult.

Hope you enjoy our Supa Mod House Kit Update!
As you go through the modern passive solar house pictures, remind yourself that all of this: putting together the structural insulated panels (SIPs), the shiny super mod cladding, the passive solar design... all of this is being done by... the Amish!

Pretty crazy, huh?


Here's a slideshow, click on it if you want to get all up close and personal.


And here he walks us through the affordable green house interior...


And the modern house exterior...

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1/9/09

Vintage Hat Friday!

For new followers, be forewarned that on Fridays during the winter we get rather silly.
Here, we celebrate Vintage Hat Friday, where we reuse and recycle clothes to look pretty darned stylin' in the workplace!

Now if you're here for the passive solar house kit, here's the latest:
I will post a looooooooooooong blog this weekend giving all the details (let's just say it involves the Amish and the internet) but the cladding arrived Friday, and they have been hard at work all week. Please do know that it rained a few days here, so I don't expect them to be done when we go out this weekend. There is a 60% chance of rain tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed it holds off and we can access the property without getting stuck in the mud.

Oh, wait: Did someone say...
VINTAGE! HAT! FRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Amy: The Pink Pretender

I have a secret… I don’t like pink. (Shhhh – Don’t tell Copeland!). However, when I come across fantastic pink vintage, I can’t resist. This pink dress suit was at the fabled estate sale (the one we always talk about on VHF because we have so many items from it), and I passed up on it the first two times I went. On the last day I was browsing though the last of the sewing supplies, and ran across a vintage pattern that looked strangely familiar. Then I looked up at this suit hanging from the doorway and a light bulb went off in my brain. “She MADE that!?!” Being a fellow sewer, I simply couldn’t leave it to be sent off to wherever the unwanted items go. So I brought it home.

The hat. Halcyon Rummage sale (I know, again). It’s a wired flower circlet with lavender mesh and velvet ribbon on top. Little wired tabs that look like leaves stick down on either side to stabilize it and keep it firmly affixed to the head.

The Brooch: I have no idea who gave it to me…It may have been my mother, my grandmother, our next door neighbor in NoVa, or any of my childhood friend’s mothers. I remember my little girlfriends and I used to squabble over it as children. It always reminded me of the little magical dog figurine from my favorite book as a little girl: “No Flying in the House” and I think my impassioned pleas determined me the final holder of the dog pin.

Shoes, the goodwill, you’ve seen them many times before in VHF. They are tried and true contenders. The tights? Bought at a wig store last weekend for 2.99. Can’t beat it!

I have to say, I LOVE Copeland’s outfit this week. I’d wear it out anywhere, and those hairpins are divine. I won’t even suggest we dock points because she isn’t wearing a hat. That being the case I will forgive my loyal followers who decide that her outfit is just too fabulous not to vote for this week. I’m going to angle for the young vote instead:

“Children under 12, LOOK! I’m wearing all pink, flowers and puppy dogs! Vote for ME!”

Copeland: I call my outfit Stylin' Shanghi!
I'd like to tell you about the jacket, but I have no idea, I know it's vintage but I can't remember where I got it.

Now this week, for my Vintage Hat, I pulled some vintage hairclips that I think are really neat. Oh, puh-leeze, potato, po-tah-to.

These clips certainly have more substance than some of the frothy netting hats we wear! I hope we can get a good closeup of these- they're really cool- Romanesque branches, maybe ferns?

The earrings I purchased at a yard sale years ago- they're dogwood blossoms with little rhinestones in the center.

The ring is part of my Lucite ring collection, I've been collecting these forever.


The necklace is NEW. I got it yesterday.
So why the heck am I featuring it in Vintage Hat Friday?
Because it has a purpose- if you're in Richmond, head over to Compass Jewelry in Carytown, near Ukrops. They are selling a group of beautiful jewelry (many around $50) to benefit the Children's Home Society of Virginia!

I am rarely attracted by anything in first use, but here's a memento I can stand behind! Every time I wear this for the rest of my life I will always think of the Children's Home Society, a wonderful organization on whose Community Resource Board I participate.

So, folks, please get busy in the comments area below and...
VOTE FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

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1/7/09

Why I Use Twitter

Hi y'all!
As someone whose workday involves lots of jobs, research, and responsibility, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I use twitter.

If you haven't been to twitter.com and you own a business or love receiving the latest news in a field that interests you, you should consider joining. (You can find me at twitter.com/greenmodernkits)

I find it valuable to to listen to other voices in the green building / sustainable industry, I love reading the articles people recommend, but more than anything, and I will *warn* you:
I use twitter to step away from alllllllllll the seriousness and have a giggle.
Often.
(Read that as: I talk a LOT!)

Because sometimes, if I didn't giggle, I might just blow a gasket!
And I don't want that. : )


If you'd like a list of green people on twitter to follow, head over to Jetson Green's list of green "Must Follow Twitter Feeds" here (I'm on there!).

**Also please note: if you @ me I *always* respond, and would love to talk!
Even if I don't follow you I love to go through your profiles and read what you're saying. : )

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1/4/09

Land, and Legal Land Issues.

My thoughts this week have been on land.
This weekend I discovered a bunch of old pictures of our family farm, Rotherwood, on my computer. It is always a weird sensation when I think of Rotherwood- a part of me, I will carry deeply with me always, yet dead. I was in my late 20s when the farm I had grown up with since birth, told I would one day pass on to my children, was sold to my uncles.

But enough about that, you get up, work hard, and get your own darned piece of earth. It will never be Rotherwood, but it's ours and they can't take it away.

To say it has made us keenly aware of inheritance issues for our own children (and their children) is an understatement.

We have had many discussions with farming friends about how they plan to handle their own land inheritance. Dividing up property will only expose it to future sale and then development. How to protect, preserve, and pass on to the next generation in a way that envisions they work together, not feud?

My friend Steve has one way of addressing this: "Whomever is working the farm when we die, gets the farm."

Virginia's land conservation easements are generous. Maybe some of you "green construction lawyers" reading this should include land conservation in your practice area... I expect you to. Green building is not just about urban infill. But it still does not satisfy the issue of passing on the land to future generations.

My musing took a new twist when I considered the implications for a cohousing smart growth intentional community.

Suppose a group of five families pools their resources to build a smart growth, co-housing community on fifty acres. Smart growth principles have the homes clustered together to foster community, shared spaces, community recreation and other buildings (why have a guest room in each home when you can have a guest lodge for all the families?), with the remaining property dedicated to wildlife, walking trails, and other preservation means.


This raised my curiousity: Each family is not purchasing a "lot", they are all sharing in on a parcel of land. Do lawyers have recommendations on how smart growth communities can protect and pass on their philosophy to future owners or generations?

Lawyers, I'd love to hear from you... : )

P.s. My friend Mason's family lived in a similar intentional community beginning in the '60s in Sewanee, Tennesee. I will see if he has thoughts on his family's experiences as well in a group of friends pooling resources to purchase rural property and how they passed it on.

You also might enjoy learning about Monteagle Assembly, founded in the 1880s, and still in existence. There are some great pictures here, and I stayed there for Mason & Anna's wedding and experienced myself the wonderful shared community buildings, gorgeous landscape, bridges, walking trails and charming cottages that are there today.

(Here's the above link as a slideshow as this cute couple walked all over the grounds- I recommend you browse through the larger version! Beautiful smart growth space!)



Monteagle Assembly, TN

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1/2/09

Vintage Hat Friday!!! Reuse With Style At Work!!!! Celebrate Recycled Style!!! : )

Welcome to our first Vintage Hat Friday in 2009!!!
For all you house kit enthusiasts, here's the latest news: The cladding was delivered to the Amish this morning. They were able to unload it at the brother's sawmill, and I wish I could have been in that huge truck with the driver as he pulled off of the highway into the world of horse-and-buggy. He said he had a great time watching the entire operation as he waited for them to unload, using special "Amish forklifts" that meet their religious criteria (you can see pictures and a video of the Amish forklift by clicking here).

So... back to Vintage Hat Friday, where we celebrate reuse and recycling in our workplace.
For those of you that don't know, Vintage Hat Friday came about when we were trying to think of something fun to do in the winter to make the dark, solemn winter Fridays more bearable. You may find Vintage Hat Friday pretty silly; but I assure you, we're out to beat each other each week and have our game face ON! : ) If you'd like to compete, just email me!

Copeland: Ah, how can I not call this outfit... Pretty In Pink?
  • The hat? It's fabulous. I feel like a rakish Mad Hatter plotting sophisticated "tea" parties in it. ; ) In fact, the last time I wore it I threw a Mad Hatter party, I will have to dig up those pictures of a crowd full of elegant people in vintage hats... on a gorgeous spring day... with handmade birthday cake... it was so pretty...
  • The earrings, necklaces and bracelets were all my grandmothers.
  • The gorgeous cape? Ahem, that was bought as my Christmas present from AMY at a local vintage store... I am using her own fantastic finds as a weapon against her! Oh yes, I would!
  • The dress? High school... I guess that counts as vintage? I love this dress, was a great Goth dress that I now wear more casually to work when I want to feel like I'm working in my pajamas!
  • The boots. Well, ok, those boots are new. But a 4 year old insisted I wear them with the outfit, and how could I say no? However, I would like to talk about these boots, which I will wear for years. They met my criteria: I need tall, thick, flat boots, because I wear them until they become shabby, at which point they begin their second life as "land boots" - where they become caked with mud, and are durable enough to resist copperheads and cow dung. I was impressed with Timberland's commitment to the environment, which they plainly stated on the box.
Amy: This week: An Old Fashioned New Year

After staying out at a New Years Eve Party ‘til 5 AM and sleeping until noon yesterday I was in little mood to pile on the glam today.

So I went with my favorite understated felt hat, a black shirtdress with matching brown piping, my go-to black leather boots, and a fantastic purse.

The hat I purchased years ago on my first trip to Halcyon (I have a weakness for brown hats it seems). It’s a teeny felt number with a tan, fawn, and coffee color combo.

The purse was a gift from my friend Michelle, she went with me to the rummage sale this year and I showed her the things I had been lusting after but never bought. She snuck back and bought me this purse, then hid it for 3 months until Christmas J it’s utterly fantastic, beautifully detailed structured leather.

The dress and boots are thrift store finds (real leather boots for 10 bucks? Can’t beat it!) and the belt, well, that’s a bit of a story. It was part of a costume James (my husband) wore to a costume convention in 2003. We were dressed as original characters designed by our superbly talented friend, Lesley. His costume called for about 30 black and silver belts, and we have never been at a loss for those since.

I’ve been taking a beating the last few weeks, as Copeland has turned out top notch outfits every week. But she’d better look out - I’ve got some sassy things coming down the pike!

I hope everyone has a fantastic start to 2009, and to quote a certain pink-haired boss, VOTE FOR ME! ;)

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1/1/09

Wanna See My Basement? A Preview Glimpse Of Modern Design Crafty Finds For Our Off Grid Modern House!

Shhhhhhh!
C'mere!

Want to see my BASEMENT?

Aw, ok, maybe it's not that exciting to YOU, but for ME, it is the depository of years of thrift store crafty finds that we will recycle and reuse in our off grid passive solar house kit.

We will start in my lovely, dusty pantry, where I am on my last jar (sob) of brined tomatoes from the garden (and check out the beautiful Amish pepper jelly! I love that stuff!), head on down the stairs where Handsome Hubby has been rearranging and cleaning all day, to view the disheveled and in-dire-need-of-repair-but-glorious reclaimed finds.

Well, guess we have quite the project while we ready for the house kit completion!
: )

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Land Sharing Is The New Trend: Thoughts on TreeHugger's Article

TreeHugger's Land Sharing Is The New Trend, though focusing on the UK, interests me because there are so many ways it could be applied to our own towns...

This is certainly not a new trend- people have been working collectively for local agricultural benefit for eons. My family farm had such a relationship - when we no longer had horses, we allowed a neighbor farmer to regularly cut the hay in the fields and roads. The hay was then his, and used to feed his livestock, and we didn't have to spend the hours bush hogging the trails or mowing the fields. It was a great relationship that worked for us all!

Where we live in the city is in an old urban neighborhood that has nicely sized back yards. We have always had a productive garden, but there are many here who are in their eighties and nineties who can't garden any more... And this is really where the TreeHugger article hits home to me.

How wonderful for an older person, often alone, no longer out and about, to have enthusiastic younger people working their back yard plot? Think about all the great things that could come from this, taking the community garden a step further from the median strips and publicly owned city land, into the private realm... mutually beneficial.

Wonderful! Just some... food for thought. : ) And smart growth!

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