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8/21/11

Grateful Weekend In The Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab Home: Covering The SIP : Avoiding Drywall

Happy again at Higher Ground.

Just out at Jetson Green, check out some great graphics for how much solar (and land) you might need if you would like your prefab home to be securely off grid.

Here at the bottom of this rambling-as-usual post you will find alternatives to drywall for finishing the interior of an energy efficient SIP home.

Happily off grid after a week of  being run down by
*ergh*, everyone in Richmond.


Usually I start these passive solar prefab house kit construction posts with what we worked on, then get personal. But this week, Handsome Hubby was in New York alllllllllllllllll week long for business, while I managed prefab home companies, co-ran a fantastic Green Drinks at Tricycle Gardens, worked on already-existing deadlines and interviewed new employees... all while working with children.

On Friday, mid-afternoon, Handsome Husband returned, and we headed to the land. We were all exhausted, and I, not just exhausted, but something even further- spent.



Before I start, a Richmond story:

In the city, one child stalks the neighbors who took his hens this spring.  I thought about discouraging him, but in the end, didn't. It's his thing. He has, even at this young age, that right, and I honestly admire his chutzpah. Not one adult in our neighborhood has the pleasant determination he does to stand up and have a discussion on an issue. He stays on our property, he is respectful, but he does confront them over their taking away his hens at any opportunity that presents itself.

Any time they come out (which is extremely rare), he waits, and waits, and smiles, and follows, to engage them. They quickly mow their lawn, avoiding his facing eyes.

"WHY DON'T YOU LIKE CHICKENS?!?" he implores, every time he sees them. Smugly, as their lips disappear into a tight line, they assert, "It's not that we don't like chickens, little boy, it's because it's against the law."

They don't even have actual complaints against hens. Richmond, rectify this for your citizens; stand with liveable cities. Show us you are sustainable.  And neighbors : In a community that has lost it's will to judge, I say: Bring it. Judge who is right, who is wrong, *settle* it. Refusal to take accountability is one more reason our civilization declines. The tiptoeing of our west end neighborhood... geez. In the East Village of New York, in Richmond's Northside, in The Fan... people would have told us, and the Vanderspiegels, their opinion. Not: "Oh, we don't want to get involved." This involves all of us, because these people took our food away. This IS a community issue, that is, if this place were ever a true community. Which it's not. At all.

So: We run to the land. Where people laugh openly at our Chicken Saga.
Recovering from the week, I hung back from doing the usual rounds once we arrived at the prefab home.
I was down.

So, when my children jumped out of the car with an armful full of flowers, I was so, so, SO touched:
Mrs. E sent back a huge bouquet of coxcombs home with the children.


They happily chirped her instructions: "Hang them upside down!"
I will, after first admiring them a few days as a bouquet, and am so thrilled to reuse those seeds next spring. [I wonder if I had told her I wanted to plant amaranth on the field? I will have to ask her next weekend.] Regardless, it truly made my day, and reminded me of all the great, dear friends and strong community we have here.
These flowers gave me more joy than you will ever know.

Little did I know how the day would improve, even further.

"Ha, it's Kermit!"
My children, in unison: "WHO's KERMIT?"


We stalked frogs along Frog Pond, watched the Pipsqueaks ride at The W's, then I rode with The W's across hills and dales and barely-there-trails-in-steep-woods, whacking through spider webs, across creeks, twisting up and down steep wooded hills, reins in one hand while cracking off twigs with the other hand for the person behind...

When I returned home from a great ride, the Pipsqueaks were making "A Campground Entertainment Area" which they implored me to try. "THIS is the campfire area! THIS is the You Can  Roll In The Tube area! THIS is the star watching area! THIS is the Watch The Frogs Area! THIS is the shooting area!!! COME AND SEE THE SHOW! YOU CAN WORK OUTSIDE!" Gracious. I am on my way! As dusk waned we leaned back to stare at the stars.

Here, everyone is busy and blossoms.
I present: Their Campground Entertainment Area:



Camp Manakin descendants, they certainly are.



I was very sorry to miss Pamplin's Old Time Dance. 
The children have not yet been and I know they will love the music and people.
We can *SKYPE* at the off grid passive solar prefab!


But one of my best, best, best friends-who-is-like-a-sister called, thus initiating the first skype video call to us while in the middle of nowhere, at the off grid, prefab house! Oh, we talked, and had to type when the connection faded, jarring our video image... Doctor L. is a naturopath finishing her residency in a cancer hospital outside of Chicago... I miss her so, and hearing her voice and seeing her smiling on my computer screen while I was here, off grid, in the prefab house while children danced about, dogs bayed, and Handsome Husbands did Husband Stuff on projects in the chaos... that the skype still worked... it was pure love. With laughter, and seriousness...I just felt so... filled. Restored.

My point? I felt like it was my birthday. After a hard year of doing too much, in one day ALL my... everything was restored, I feel so much love and am energized to push through, again, to get things done whether it's in business or my own prefab home or advocating for zoning in cities to do the better thing...
Happy to leave Richmond's unsustainability behind.
For a moment. Now ready to go back to the sustainability fight.

Once night fell, Pipsqueak #1 finally picked up something from the history books I had at the ready in the bookshelves - a 1960s series, The Golden Book : History Of The United States. As I type, he is still up, in bed, reading.

I just don't want these moments to end.

Off grid passive solar home,
soon to be readied for fall.


Already, the nights are getting cooler, and I think about what needs to get done in this prefab home before winter hits: Finish installing solar heat, connect the ERV to the outside, varnish interior doors, create access for the wireless connection that is not just through a cracked window... and unrealistically? Finishing off the interior of the SIP.

The only thing getting me through this nearing end of summer is this:
Thoughts of a pot o' beans and soup simmering on the wood cook stove in this cozy off grid passive solar prefab home. Snow? Bring it. By then we'll have the solar heat tubes installed, the floors will be warm with radiant heat, and I'll have bubblin' hot food at the ready to warm you all up.

It must have been contagious, because suddenly last week, the children begged me to make brown beans, despite the heat. So I did, with summer's hush puppies.  I'm picturing all kinds of breads this winter to sop up that bean juice, filling cold childrenz bellies with warm cookstove goodness.

I considered making cornbread but after listening to this I'm glad I didn't - too much excitement for one night!



I wondered: How the heck did molasses ever fade from the average pantry shelf?!?
Ahhhhhh, molasses. Y'know molasses: The bottle that reads "MO-LASSES" and that's the only ingredient?!?

Reading about wooden food (the many brands that do not hesitate to add wood pulp to your "food"), I was bemused even Log Cabin Syrup has cellulose in it.
But 'lasses? Never.

My step quickens a pace towards fall as I think of all the hot dishes with comforting molasses to warm cold bones. From gingerbread snaps to Boston Beans, crisp cold air is comforting with the promise of 'lasses.

So, contractors and prefab enthusiasts, let's (yes, finally) go on to the drywall issue. I probably do not need to tell you why I did not want to use drywall in my own prefab house kit, but here's a start:
More drywall alternatives to consider:
There are environmentally friendly drywall products, but they act the same as drywall with the detractions noted, above. For ourselves, we opted for reusing and recycling the VMI basketball court on most walls, and, where appropriate, to use plywood on the uncovered structural insulated panels (SIPs) of the house kit.

I originally intended to smooth the OSB, while embracing its texture, and here's what I found:
  • Apply "SIPs Stew" - but our experiments didn't end up so well.
  • Use SuperTherm®, a ceramic paint, to smooth and seal the interior
  • Just get over the roughness of the OSB and seal it (also appealing to me, I now know it doesn't bother me aesthetically but... oh, that green... ; ) ... I guess you could paint it first) but... would that be ok with local code?
How would you / will you finish your own prefab house kit interior?
Just more, fyi, on Super Therm®: It is an interesting product with interior *and* exterior useful applications. On the interior, it might further seal and reduce thermal bridging; on the exterior, it acts as a heat shield, helping the R values of the house kit. From their site:

"Super Therm® is a ceramic based, water-borne, insulating coating, designed to block heat load, moisture penetration, and air infiltration over a surface and to reduce energy costs. Super Therm® is the most effective and longest lasting ceramic insulation coating on the market today. Super Therm® reflects over 95% of the three radiation sources from the sun, which are ultraviolet, visual light and infra red rays.

Benefits of Super Therm®:


  • Energy Savings - Super Therm® can provide energy savings of 20-70%. According to use and application.
  • Insulation Equivalent Rating - Super Therm® reflects over 95% of radiation from the sun replacing the 6 to 8 inches of traditional insulation to block initial heat load.
  • Blocks Moisture and Air Infliltration – Super Therm® is certified and tested as a moisture and air barrier under ASTM certified testing.
  • Environmentally Friendly - Super Therm® is certified environmentally safe and eco-effective by MBDC LLC (Gold Certificate) and is approved by the USDA for use in and around food preparation areas. (The original USDA testing and approval letter is on file.)
  • Class A Fire Rating - In case of fire, Super Therm® will not contribute and will resist the spread of fire. "0" Flame and smoke.
  • Long Lasting - Super Therm® has a 20+ year lifespan on roofing under normal conditions when applied as a system
Super Therm® is UL, FM, DNV, ABS, IMO, USDA, Energy Star, ICC, California Home Furnishings, and U.S. Coast Guard and CRRC approved to meet criteria.
Super Therm® is Energy Star qualified as a 20 year roof coating. For more information download the PDF link below (page 87, Energy Star Roof Product List)
Energy Star Roofs Product Information
Certifications and Documentation Listing
Certifications and Documentation Listing PDF"


One could potentially use Super Therm in several areas:
  • In the bathroom 
  • On the north roof of the casa ti prefab house kit
  • Possibly on the rest of the exposed structural insulated panels
Super Therm retails for about $100 per gallon. It's expensive but I like its merit.  A gallon covers about 100 sf, and you can get it in 1 or 5 gallon pails.

So, the approach of fall is not looking so bad:
We had our first APPLE HARVEST here at Higher Ground!
Here is the. one. lone. apple we harvested:
This apple was promptly turned into Apple Pancakes.

But that's not to say I'll not have a few last Hurrahs To Summer before we succumb to fall.

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