Tuesday, April 15, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - its all in the windows

The windows have been installed, and this clears the way for the cladding and the remaining exterior work to move ahead.

The windows in this case are Marvin's Integrity line. These windows are of fiberglass construction, with wood interiors giving the appearance of traditional wood framed windows. A nice feature of these units is the wood interior can be omitted in rooms where it does not make sense - wet bathrooms - or not worth the expense - say a laundry room. They are sturdy, have good thermal properties, and since fiberglass framed windows are typically painted it means there are usually more color options than vinyl or vinyl clad windows.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - catching up on progress

Its been a busy month and I've not had a chance to update progress on the XHouse1, so today I want to just post a string of photos that show how far the house has come in recent weeks

We've been following the story of how the homeowner got all the many tasks and variables in line to get the project off the ground. We will continue with that story, but in the meantime catch up in pictures.

Rough framing of the house shell nearly complete.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - finding the site take 2

When we last left our customer MJ they had tried and failed to acquire a site for their new XHouse1. The site was in the right neighborhood, the right school district, the right price range. It had some characteristics that were not perfect, but not the deal killer. The deal killer was the the property owner's prejudice against a modern house, the scourge of anyone seeking a modern home.

lot number two, a good prospect

MJ and family returned to the property search and came up with another lot in a similar situation. At the end of a no-outlet street, mature trees on borders of the site, an established neighborhood with a diverse range of housing. So what was an empty lot like you doing in a neighborhood like this?

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Monday, February 24, 2014

The SkärBord (say Score-Board!)- the advanced insulation cutting tool

Some time ago we published an article about mineral wool insulation. We wanted to explain why this was the type of insulation used in Sweden, and why it was the best option for making an affordable high performance house. In that article we showed a tool that is used in Sweden to cut insulation, and to make it easier to do a high quality installation: The SkärBoard manufactured by Ego-industri AB is the tool widely used in Swedish factories and construction sites. Many readers were curious about this, many wanted to buy one. Now finally its coming to the United States and Canada and you will be able to get one.

The SkärBoard is simply the best tool for cutting insulation, and the only tool you need if you are indeed serious about good insulation installs. There is no faster, more accurate, or easier way to install mineral wool insulation and interior sound batts. And the SkärBord is effective for cutting a range of other insulation types as well, fiberglass, foam, and wood fiber insulation panels.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Arkansas Plat House - living the dream

With construction done, and the site cleaned up, the owner of the New Arkansas Plat House is happily living the dream in their new house, and awaiting landscaping in the spring.

They've been treating us to some new photos of life in the house, which is always exciting and gratifying to see. We've been sharing them with you on the Flickr album of the house. Our thanks to the owner for sharing, and our wishes for a happy time in your new house go out to you, and to all our customers.

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Friday, February 07, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - finding the site

When we left our intrepid XHouse1 family, they had their existing house under agreement, triggering a sequence of must-do tasks, a critical path to being settled in their new XHouse before school started in the Fall of 2014.

view of potential project site

With a settlement date for the sale of their current home on the calendar MJ and family secured a rental home in the area where they would hunt for building sites. They knew the school systems they wanted, and it was a matter of locating a building lot in a neighborhood served by these schools. These were existing built-out neighborhoods. Not areas on the frontier of development in their region. So they would be scouting for empty sites in existing mature neighborhoods - always a sketchy proposition for a modern home.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ten years later, Plat House continues to surprise

As regular readers know, the Plat House has been our most popular design, popular in sales, and popular in completed projects. We often wonder why that is so?

I've always suspected that this was the inevitable result of people seeing real examples of the house built leading to more people building the house. And no doubt this contributes to the design's popularity. But when I see the diverse applications of this house in Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, I realize that the design has an inherent adaptability that broadens its appeal.

Plat House in Oregon, construction, winter 2014

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - timing is everything

At the conclusion of our last part of the story, our customer had contacted us and had their current home on the market. This was 4 years after our initial contact and their purchase of Design Prints of the XHouse1.

foundation prepared for pouring of concrete slabs at the Indiana XHouse1 site

The news that their home was on the market meant that the process had begun. Our customer MJ was concerned with the timing, and how long it would take for us to complete the Construction Prints so he could anticipate when he needed to order them from us.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

New Arkansas Plat House - occupied and buttoned down for polar vortex

The New Arkansas Plat House Owner has been in the house for a little while now, just in time for the polar air mass that descended on the nation in January 2014.


The interior work is completed but for a small punch list. And the exterior is done, except for the last of the screened in porch, and the landscaping remains in post-construction form. But it has definitely moved from construction site, to owner occupancy, and we are very happy for the owner.

NE corner

As temperatures in the middle of the country dipped into the negatives while a polar air mass swooped into the mid-west, the New Arkansas Plat House Owner remarked on Facebook: At least I have a solar passive house.. except when the sun goes down...

But perhaps the most gratifying comment by the owner was this one: There is just something special about waking up at 3am to see the stars twinkling though the clelestory windows. Just Orion saying hello!

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

XHouse1 First Build - timing is not everything

In our first installment of the XHouse1 First Build series we recounted the background of MJ, our customer and future XHouse1 Owner. Cold weather has delayed progress in the construction so today I'll just recount the timeline. In 2009 they had purchased Design Prints a few months after the design was posted to the catalog.

foundation walls finished at the Indiana XHouse1 site

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

XHouse1 First Build - masonry complete

The concrete block masonry of the foundation wall is complete. Next will come the preparation for the floor slabs of the entry level, the garage, and the utility room and crawlspace.

0862 const 24Dec13 01

Look closely and you can see the anchor-bolts that are set into the top course of the block-work. These threaded rods are used to hold down the sill plate to which the walls of the house will be attached. A good amount of fill, then a layer of stone will proceed the slabs. The plan is to also build up grade around the house, sloping away from the walls. The site already had a gentle slope up from the street, which matches the bias of this plan design to fit into an up-sloped site. Keep following, and we will post more info as we receive it.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

XHouse1 First Build - project foundations

Its a long path to building a house, for almost anybody. If it is going to be a house that you love, one that you invest your spirit into, a house that represents who you feel you are, it rarely happens in the blink of an eye.

For our XHouse1 customer (we'll call them MJ for short) the story goes back 15 years, back before we even began selling houseplans. MJ and family had built their own house in 1998. That home was built at a time when MJ and spouse had not thought that much about what they liked or wanted in a house. But the project to build their own house started them on an interest in house design which persisted even after their first home was done.

footings are poured at the Indiana XHouse1 site

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

XHouse1 First Build

As we begin a new customer construction series we thought we would do something different this time. Something we hope is helpful to many of you who may be thinking about setting out to build a house for the first time.

We are going to share a summary of the upfront work by our customer - the decision to build, the search for a house design, the search for a site, the work with the builder, the work with the bank. Steps that all of our customers have to undertake. And steps that many of them have never taken before. We'll do all this while watching the construction of the house begin.

excavation begins at the Indiana XHouse1 site

So welcome readers to the Indiana XHouse1, the first build of this design. Watch this space for links to an upcoming Flickr gallery, construction updates, and the continuing story of the road to build your modern home.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lets look at Nomenclature for Compact Homes

One thing I've observed as I've studied the catalogs of dozens of Swedish house manufacturers is that they all have a consistent way of describing and categorizing their houses. This makes it easy for the customer to focus in on what they are looking for and make comparisons from one catalog to another.

While here in the states we may focus on square feet, bedroom count, or style, the Swedes have much more practical approach. Homes are categorized as 1 story, 2 story, and in between they have 1.5 story. Large catalogs will also identify 1.75 story homes - whats that!? Read on and we'll explain. And last they all offer sloped site homes, which as you might expect are 1 story on one side, and 2 story on the other. So lets look at the differences.

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Friday, November 08, 2013

The Swedish Standard House receives recognition!

Faithful readers of my blog will remember the Swedish Standard House in Rockford Illinois. This is a home built by Swedish and American high school students, built with walls and framing that approximated Swedish building standards, hence the name. The house is done, the students have finished it, and the project is receiving an award from their local Renewable Energy Association.

On Friday the 8th of November the Swedish Standard House team will receive an award at the Winnebago County Renewable Energy Expo. The Expo's theme is to learn about renewable energy options and funding, network with industry experts and local businesses already utilizing renewable energy practices, and gain a better under­standing how renewable energy practices can be applied in the real world!

We have written about the Swedish Standard House before. We gave the background for the project, described its construction in detail, and made a short video showing the wall build.

The house was recently completed after two rounds of visits by Swedish students this fall. Since the work proceeds at the pace of the academic year of the American and Swedish students, the project stretches out even though the work proceeds at the same pace as conventional construction. I'll repeat my message from earlier posts. The Swedish Standard House represents a way forward for home building in the US, because it achieves a high level of performance with very ordinary construction materials. There is very little learning curve to build a house this way, and builders all ready have the skill set to do this. It does not require new methods or materials, and it enables builders to use the same sub-contractors and suppliers they already use. And most important they already have the experience to reliably price the work, which means there is very little in the way of additional risk required for a builder to adopt these methods. This is why this kind of building points the way forward, and why the Swedish Standard House is the Most Important Green House in America.

So check out those links and join me in a tip of the hat to the Swedish Standard House. Here is hoping it is the first of many more all across the country.

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