Sunday, October 19, 2008

More drawing trials

Still playing around with trying to make the drawings for the Hus1 appear like they came out of a magazine from 1957. which is a halftone filter run over a black and white image of the model. More variations below the fold. maybe sunset yellow? or working with an image that approximates an old blueprint

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3030 House - light framing has begun

The light gage framing for the exterior walls has begun, and a fresh coat of primer is going on the steel, good progress on the 3030 EcoSteel House. Just a quick update with new photos in a browser after the link below. Visit the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos forwarded by the owner.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Yet another Plat House surfaces - Serenbe, GA

We received an envelope over the weekend with photos from one of our customers, somebody who had purchased plans but never corresponded about their progress. Much to our surprise their Plat House was complete and on the market as it was built as speculative project. The house has been significantly modified for its site. The window arrangement has been altered and the floor plans also appears to have been changed, with the bay areas joined and some additional space added to the master bedroom. The clerestory windows have been changed from a uniform window band into smaller windows at private spaces and larger windows at common areas of the house. The views from the living/dining/kitchen area show how nice this has turned out. They have a very cool italian kitchen, and some very nice light fixtures in the room which really looks like it has turned out well. Click through for more photos in a photo browser. Serenbe Redbone Construction

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

3030 House - steel framing goes up

The steel framing for the 3030 EcoSteel House has been set up and we have a few photos back from the owner/builder showing the progress. Here we see the frame set up to the second floor, and first and second floor joists in place. The roof framing has just begun. Here it appears the entire main framing system is in place, including the roof purlins. Next will be the light gage wall framing to infill the exterior walls and frame out the window and door openings. Here we see the recycled barn siding that we saw in an earlier post being installed as the first floor ceiling. The bar joists will be exposed, painted, but more or less as we see them here. The barn planks are going directly over the joists, and plywood floor deck will go down over the planks, and then finish flooring. I love the way this looks. The contrast between the industrial truss joists and the rustic planks is just great. Tune into the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos forwarded by the owner.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Letters from Sweden - the foundation

One issue we have not examined as we looked at the fabrication of houses in the factory is the foundation work that goes on in advance of the arrival of the house. The Swedes are using some innovative products for foundations as well, products that make their status quo houses much more energy efficient than ours here in the States.

New houses in Sweden are primarily built on slabs, partly because its expedient, but also because its naturally the best way to have in floor radiant heating. In a cold climate this is the only way to use a slab otherwise your slab will feel cold and uncomfortable. But a slab in a cold climate must be insulated from the elements or it will throw heat out its edges. There are typically two strategies to isolate your slab from the cold.

The first strategy is to make an insulation break between the slab and the foundation wall. This is typically done with a narrow insulation layer. In order to place this between the slab and wall the two structures have to be built in separate operations. First the wall, insulation break, and then the slab is poured inside the walls. Two steps.
The second strategy is to insulate the outside edge of the slab. This allows you to pour the slab and foundation wall in a single step, but you have to return and install insulation around the perimeter. Thats not the end of it though. This insulation is of course very vulnerable to damage. Its a soft material and it is right at grade, so it must be protected by something tough, usually the best choice is a cement board product. The insulation and protection board creates at best a second step.
Ok, what are the Swedes doing. First of all they are not building deep foundations. They are building on Frost Protected Shallow Foundations. All buildings in cold climates traditionally are founded on soils below the frost line. How do the Swedes avoid this then. They highly insulate the slab to isolate the underlying earth from freezing air, and in colder climates supplement that with a skirt of insulation around the house perimeter. Furthermore their slabs are insulated at the perimeter which allows the radiant slab heating system to remain in the house. Collectively these elements function to prevent soils below the foundation from freezing and heaving. So suddenly they have eliminated the foundation wall and only need to build the slab on grade. A great savings in time, effort, and expense. Ok, but they still end up with the slab insulation issues described above. No, they do not. They use a foam formwork that forms the perimeter of the slab, and insulates it at the same time. And this foam formwork is coated with a tough cement finish that protects the foam and prevents it from being damaged. And most important of all, it takes just one step.

Laying out the slab - corner pieces are place first.

Ready for the pour, edge forms, wire mesh, plumbing, and heating loops all in place.

The slab poured. Once cured its ready to receive the prefab house.
Here is an example of a Swedish manufacturer of these foam forms:
Jakon Isolering

And now available state side: WarmFörm
Letters from Sweden - deliver and set
Letters from Sweden - plumbing the prefab
Letters from Sweden - wiring zen
Letters from Sweden - a windows tale
Letters from Sweden - panel building in Sweden vs the USA
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, October 05, 2008

A coherent account of the Financial Crisis

Another excellent program on This American Life today all about the financial crisis. If you remember back in May I recommended their program called The Giant Pool of Money which explained in easy to understand terms how the sub-prime lending debacle happened. Similarly today's program titled Another Frightening Show About the Economy explains in easy to understand terms how this all happened. The financial players on Wall Street had essentially placed "bets" in the form of complex financial constructs called Credit Default Swaps. These were placed by the banks against one another making them all interdependent and likely to topple if one fell. These were first conceived as a form of insurance, later used as more or less a bet. There is no regulation of these financial devices, and hence no overall picture of how over leveraged the industry was. Incredibly irresponsible. I highly recommend getting the podcast from their site if you have any interest at all in understanding what just happened to you and me - it is a free download for the first week following the show. Here is a link to their site: Or if you are an iTunes user you can subscribe and get the show from there. Continue reading "A coherent account of the Financial Crisis"