Sunday, February 24, 2008

Letters from Sweden - a window's tale

In our last installment of the Letters from Sweden we looked at the panelization technique used by the Swedes and some of the administrative barriers to its adoption here. Today we'll pick up where we left off and consider some of the products that go into the Swedish panels and how they support the panel building technique. We'll look at windows, how Swedish window units are different than US window units, and how this plays out in the construction.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Virgina Plat House - wrapping up

A quick update of the Virginia Plat House . Since the last entry the wall and roof sheathing has been installed and the house wrap is on. The owner reports that windows are on the way. There are a few more photos of this stage of the work also posted at the flickr set for this project. Drop in on the LamiDesign Flickr photo pool to see all the photos that we and others have posted of our house designs under construction.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Mexico EcoSteel - EcoSteel work essentially complete

The EcoSteel pacakge for the New Mexico EcoSteel House is more or less complete. Photos from the owner show most of the components in place, and the house and other structures fully trimmed out. Interior work at the house will be ongoing for a little while and we hope to have updates of the finished interior when its done. But until then we have new photos of the structures by the owner. click through the link below for more photos. Here the covered walk between the house and garage is in place and we can see all the trim on the house now. This photo would be late in the day as the entry side of the house faces westerly. Sitework remains to be done and I am not sure what the owner's plans are in that regard. It would be nice for the indigenous ground cover to reclaim the disturbed construction area and grow right up to the house. You get more of a sense of that vision in the second photo below. Remember you can see photos of the entire build on the Flickr New Mexico EcoSteel House photo set, and all the EcoSteel projects in the EcoSteel photo pool.

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Letters from Sweden - panel building in Sweden vs the USA

Ok, we've been beating around the bush, setting the stage, trying to understand the context in which this Swedish building method exists. If you've been following the series you get it, its dark, its cold, there is no building season for the better part of the year. They need a factory based system to have an industry there, and so they do. Lets look at it. You've picked up by now that the Swedes are panelizing their houses. The walls are being assembled to the greatest extent possible in the factory. Windows and doors are installed, exterior siding, interior drywall. This means everything else within the wall is in there too - insulation, wiring, and plumbing where it exists. The studs are precut to the common height, and walls are laid out on great tables with the carpenters working at convenient work height. Sheathing, air barrier, and siding is applied and the panels flipped to gain access to the work that proceeds from the inside. Wiring conduit, plumbing, insulation and vapor barrier are all installed before wall board is applied. Some of the drywall is left off in strategic places to facilitate the installation of the panels on site, and this must be installed in the field. There is not genius in this, but never the less its near impossible in the US. Lets look at why. First off we have issues with construction inspection conventions in the US. Construction must be inspected before it is insulated, closed in, and the underlying work is obscured. Framing, plumbing, and electrical work are all inspected at this point. The modular industry has established a practice of third party certification to work around this, but this method would require a different routine as the proportion of site and factory work is not the same. Modular is more or less done with the set of the modules. Panelization requires the field inspector to pickup more of the inspection work again in the field, and I predict the blurring of lines of responsibility to elicit resistance. This is essentially an administrative obstacle, but real enough. This obstacle does not exist in Sweden. Second are issues of products and standard construction practices. In Sweden products are designed to facilitate this panelization. In the US they are designed to be installed in the field. This purposeful design of construction products allows the Swedes to optimize their process. They are not fighting with the construction to break it into panels, like we would here. Next we'll look at some of these products in more detail. Previously: Letters from Sweden - Europe is different, Sweden is not, sort of.. Letters from Sweden - land of modern, land of prefab Letters from Sweden - conversations with an expatriate builder

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Austin Porch House - Plat House comes into its own

Siding panels are going up on the Austin Porch House project and the big news is the progress of the Plat House. Last we saw a bunch of sticks going up - in the new set of photos from the owner it is now most certainly a house. Across their courtyard you can see the Plat House facing the Porch House. This has been one of the most innovative uses of our house plans to date. With the usual household program spread between the two structures the owners have created their own "village". The variety of spaces they will have available for family life will be very rich indeed. More photos after the jump link below. Here you can see the interesting pattern of siding they have chosen. It appears to be a smooth faced cement board siding panel, but laid up in varying exposures. This is a treatment you might often see on a traditional cedar shingle siding and its really great to see this reinterpreted in a contemporary material like cement siding and used here. Check out the Flickr set for this house where you can see all of the photos to date. And these photos are also part of theLamiDesign House Plan photo pool.

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