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11/28/10

Thursday I Was Thankful. Today, I am Thinking.

Prefab House Kit's Shop Dawg Sunbathes On The Picnic Table...

There were several architecture / green building links I found interesting this week; thought I'd share for any green building professionals out there in the ether...
  • Handsome Husband was discussing Autonomous Building, its history, and how it stresses, like we do, that it's not just efficient architecture that makes a home, but to expand an owner's vision to not just creating an energy efficient (hopefully off grid / zero energy prefab) house, but to growing food, increasing each home's sustainability... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_building
  • On twitter I ran into a thought provoking post on Builder Self-Verification And Certification, which goes into much more than the initial "why or why not you would want to certify a residence" and expands into 3rd party verification, affordable housing, and the importance of catching defects.
  • Why LEED shouldn't be the minimum mandatory (same goes for BREEAM...) http://is.gd/hH59O
Any-hoo, I've been thinking.



I've been thinking on that bathroom... in the modern yet rustic off grid prefab house kit.

We have researched and researched composting toilets in tight envelope homes, looking on the passive house usual websites and more, and are not finding much. I suspect it's because most people involved with passive house institute homes lean more towards "what's the latest coolio toys" and not towards more simple-but-kinda-might-be-a-tad-hippie solutions. Or maybe they're just super urban people who shun anything that resembles an outhouse, indoors. OR, despite our planned installation of an ERV, maybe they know something we don't know!

Seriously, until we finish ERV installation, there is a *noticeable* difference between warmer months and cooler with the composting toilet. I assume that until our radiant heat is connected, when the temperature drops, the composting stops at a certain point. But that's not the end of it - with the penetrations, and no ERV yet installed... it  can pull in air from the toilet and smell! EW! Even the smell of sawdust is unacceptable to me. Sometimes it works great, even in this cold weather you might not smell a *thing* - yet often, it doesn't. That doesn't bode well for winter parties, honeys. And the manufacturer seems to have no plan for this, which is to *their* disadvantage as people build tighter and tighter efficient homes.

I wonder about all of their Canadian clients - really? You haven't addressed this yet?
The one thing they offer is a heater for winter months. Yet I can't imagine so many people would not be off grid and looking to avoid such a drain on their energy resources. There is a call for more efficiency here...

Thinking:
  • Foot pedals for the sinks so that you can turn on and off water while hands are occupied to conserve water
  • And if foot pedals, would it make sense to have foot pumps? 
  • Bath / shower area: I *love* that livestock trough, I do.
    It's *almost* perfect. But...
Thinking on penetrations in a tight envelope:
My happy, hot, mid-century cook stove.

We now have three penetrations added: the composting toilet, inverter (temporary penetration), and the cook stove.
Penetrations, as expected, are affecting our experience until we can address them better, as, again, I remind you we're under construction. I'm just noting how... noticeable it is.

I am eyeing the effect on energy efficiency. We will not be re-testing any time in the next months, (but will after the project is considered finished and we have re-sealed, etc.) but believe me as winter approaches I notice and note any deviations in building tightness in our own informal measurements.  I realize the comfort of the cook stove is weighed against the loss of heat through the penetration of the chimney... do they balance out as a "win" in comfort & heat when the cook stove is going in the winter?

For the heartfelt heat and efficient function the mid-century cook stove offers, I think so.

Passive Solar:
Regardless, it is heartening to see how, as the seasons turn, the overhang which in the summer shields the passive solar off grid zero energy home from the hot sun, retracts, as the sun lowers itself in the winter sky, to EMBRACE its rays.  You really notice it on the windows and on the floor...
See how at this time of year the shadow line does not overlap the windows?
That allows allllllllllll the sun to come in. As they said in Hair: LET THE SUN SHINE!
Dogs taking advantage of an afternoon nap in the sun...

So, after living with no heat in a tight house last year and seeing its efficiency, going through a winter with penetrations will be interesting. Despite knowing about the penetrations, I was disappointed when I awoke to 59. Until I realized how COLD it was last night. AND, for safety, we empty / end the cook stove before bed, so it no longer heats for a long period of time after we retire.
The highs were in the high 40s yesterday, lows in the low 20s.
Frost covered car and grounds, yet in the prefab house kit it's cozy.

Not too bad, eh?

You may have seen our Thanksgiving pictures...
In my parent's den, I was reminded again for my need to remember how to make Lamp Lighters.
In my parent's home, and many old structures, you might see Lamp Lighters in a corner.
Here they are at my parents -

For those of you with a burning (ha) desire how to know how to make Lamp Lighters, which are very useful for lighting high candle sconces, and wood stoves, here my mom explains how to do so:
(Apologies for the visiting, tired two year old protesting in the background at the beginning- she was determined to not be torn away from our chickens, with whom she had just fallen in love... maybe the Easter Bunny will bring her some pullets...)


How To Make Lamp Lighters

Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen! 
Now that you know how to make Lamp Lighters, for my next trick, I am going to attempt to make a chandelier!!! #Vintage #Reuse #Recycle

Remember those mid-century Venini Tronchi individual, handblown glass thing-a-mah-jigy's I found a few weeks back? Well, this is my crafty weekend. I've made Lamp Lighters, so how hard can it be to make a chandelier?!?

It was too hard. Handsome Husband fixed it for me.
I feel deeply sorry for Unsuspecting Hardware Store Clerks that encounter us when we're on a Crafty Mission...

Here it is in its current state, without inner lighting or staggered height as planned, yet:
This is just aglow from the sunset behind it!
Outdoor sunlight makes it sparkle without light bulbs!
Ok the sun set so now we added a candle...


Speaking of, um, lighting, we lit up the back of a hill today.
Nothing like a gun-shy alpha dog to infringe upon yer shooting as he streaks out after yer fire.
"Don't! Boss! Bullets!" I advise.

Dog. Don't Control The Bullet. Thanks.

[Then call, collar him gently, and lead him, staggering uphill, off to the prefab house kit refuge where he can shake indignantly at the fact he can't control 'em, as shots are echoing in the distance, while within the safe confines of the house I decide to relax with the crazy dog and younger chillunz, watching two adorable Princesses play dress up...]

Unexpectedly, we were given the gift of venison.
That is a greater honor and tale than I can share here.
Those that know it, know.
Thank you, Mr. Scott! : ) We are honored!

And now even more reason to fix these penetration / composting toilet winter issues so we can have a Proper Thank You Party with our friends who have been so generous to us and know we have the cook stove now... (and probably wondering why we haven't had our celebratory Soup Party yet...).
There are those composting toilet issues to fix before celebrating with a crowd, y'all.
We're working on it.
Again, it should be fine once we have the power hooked up.

As usual, we run renegade another season...

But we have the comfort of a cook stove.

A friend suggested we name her...
This proud, steadfast Mealmaster is definitely a she.
She was previously in the home of a very old African-American woman who made decades of delicious meals and memories with her. I wish we had met.

At the end of that woman's life, she was sold to a repairman who had admired her for years and told that woman over and over each time he visited, "I would love to buy her if you ever want to part with her."

As she moved to the nursing home, she called him.

Sadly, this cook stove sat in a tobacco barn, years passed, and one day the repairman admitted he would never install her, put her up for sale, which is how we found her, and she came home.

We are so grateful for her...

You know those guys you decry that are constantly touching, waxing, and buffing their glistening muscle cars? That's me with my cook stove.
I am having a good time with my friends over on Facebook trying to name her.

Thinking further:
We could add thermal mass to that cook stove / kitchen island to enhance radiant heat in winter.
A Star is BORN.
Well, she already existed, we just love her even more.


SHELVES!!!!!!!!! (Thank you, Handsome Husband!)
And finally, to end this weekend?
Handsome Husband made shelves.
Reused and recycled with plywood left over in another project, finally I can get cast iron pans off the floor, store flour and sugar in a safe, accessible place, line each bedroom with books... everyone has their own space, and place, for their Special Things.

We're happy.
But thinkin'.

Shelves!



Shelves!


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