Friday, December 31, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A closer look at the Swedish wall

Today we're going to take a closer look at common wall construction in these Swedish factory houses we've been studying. The Swedes build their energy efficient homes using fairly ordinary materials that are not very different than what we use in the US. Ultimately we would like to propose a analogous wall system composed of materials widely available in the US - an American version of the Swedish wall. But first we have to look closer at what they are building.

Several of our earlier posts in the Letters from Sweden series touched on this. Most recently we looked at an automated assembly line, and through observing the assembly process we could see the various layers of the wall. Now we'll look closely at each layer using examples from a few factory web sites. Some Swedish factories market themselves as being green and some offer passive house options straight from the factory. What we will look at here is what I've found in my research to be very typical of Swedish house construction. A baseline if you wish of what the average wall in a Swedish house looks like.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

MoTrad House - finishing up under foot

Everything that needs to happen below the ground floor is finishing up this week while we all enjoy the holidays. Posts and beams to support the existing ground floor, and what will come above are now in place, and they are preparing to waterproof the foundation so the earth can be backfilled.

There are a bunch of new photos of the nuts and bolts of this work in the extended post below. If such things interest you then by all means click on through.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Plat House - Owners still working that house!

A nice surprise today in my email was a group of photos from the Owners of the Texas Plat House near Austin. They've been busy putting the finishing touches on their house and wanted to share!

Outside the deck has been sealed, and has taken on a deeper wood color. Inside they have tiled their backsplash with some great looking horizontal bar like tiles.

More photos of the finished kitchen and the rest of the work can be seen in the Texas Plat House flickr set. Remember - they are in the woodworking business, and built this kitchen themselves. Hook up with them for your project!

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MoTrad House - making quick with the foundations

Just thought you would want to know - foundations and basement walls racing along. Next the new beams and posts in the basement, new first floor deck at the addition. Then the fun really begins!

Get the flash player here:

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Letters from Sweden - Automated panel building in the USA

We've looked at Swedish examples of an automated panel building line, and a largely manual panel building line, but how about in the USA? There are some manufacturers here that have imported these machines and run automated panel building lines. The difference? The Americans do not do closed panels, meaning panels finished inside and out. In fact they don't finish them at all.

Well why not you might ask. If they are buying the machines from the same company that makes them to build finished closed wall panels, then why don't the American companies do the same thing? The obvious answer is that the rest of the construction materials that need to be incorporated don't lend themselves to being installed off site - this was the focus of many of our earlier Letters from Sweden posts (read back to see the detail). Hence the effort to build closed panels here becomes more difficult, expensive, and finally does not offer an advantage over completing the walls on site.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MoTrad House - going, going, gone

Things are moving right along with the MoTrad House project, that is if moving right along means leveling the existing house down to the ground floor, then yes, its moving right along in spades.

I know the idea here is to rebuild the house anew. And I know that this is what the owner wants, and I've actually helped him do that. Yup, but all the same there is something a undeniably disconcerting about seeing an existing house come down. Its like the 5 second rule when you drop a cookie on the floor. If you pick it right up - hey, that's still a good cookie. Right. Too late here. That cookie is gone.

Lots more pictures on the Flickr set. Demolition of the basement garage walls has happened, and prep for new foundations at the new bearing points is underway. You can see photos of that work as well as more of the demolition.

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0751 RS House - settled in for the holidays

I received some current photos of the completed house from the Owner today. Its very gratifying to see an xmas wreath on the dining room wall, and the house participating in the life of the owner's this way.

This is what modern is about for us. Its not some minimal and stark photo in a magazine, its not unhappy hipsters ruminating about the pedigree of their design accessories. Its living a life like anybody lives in a modern home that is true to your values and represents who you are. And this time of year that means holiday decorations, sharing your home with your friends, and finding comfort and rejuvenation at home, something beyond the need for shelter and refuge. That by all means happens in a modern home as much as any other, don't let anybody suggest it is not so.

So for all you lucky enough to have your modern home, and all those still wishing for one, keep that hope alive for each other and have a good holiday. More new photos of the RS House are posted to the Flickr set.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

XHouse3 - Construction Prints Done!

Its always a good day when we get to announce the availability of a new set of Construction Prints. This means there is a new design that somebody could build, more possibilities, more opportunities, more options for folks who want a modern house.

The XHouse3 is part of our XHouse Collection, our group of designs intended to be responsive to current design trends. Furthermore the XHouse3 is our first houseplan in what I'm calling a MoTrad design theme - a fusion of traditional massing and form and a modern handling of space, detail, trim. The result is a house that lives comfortably with traditional houses side by side, but surrenders nothing in its commitment to living in today. It remains fully a modern house. There was a great mini review of this design on Ready Made Magazine's blog, written by one of their editors.

We had begun the Construction Prints in earnest back in March 2010. But it was delayed due to other activities, the complete redesign of the houseplan catalog, and following that the redesign of the web site for our local practice. We also worked on our new collaboration with Bensonwood during this time, so although the XHouse3 has been delayed, much has been accomplished in the meantime. We hope for the XHouse3 to also find its way into the Bensonwood offerings so that there can be a highly energy efficient option for this house as well.

But for those waiting for this home, the wait is over, plans are available now.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A look at a simple assembly line

Last time we looked at a near fully automated closed wall panel assembly line. I said that you really don't need all that automation to build houses the Swedish way, so today we'll look at a much simplified process. This is the way most houses in Sweden are built.

What we are about to see is the Swedish Flip Table - a hydraulic tilting table that allows you to easily turn a wall panel over so you can work on both sides. That is the key really - keep the panel on a table so you can reach everything without ladders, and be able to flip it over so you can work on both sides. Each side of the Flip table is a workstation where you can complete both the inside and outside of the wall. We saw this table in the full automated line, but here we can see how just this table allows a factory to set up a simpler and effective work flow. In this example it is supplemented by an additional work table on either end of the flip which expands the total workstations to four. Smaller factories often use just the flip table, or two.

Here is a diagram of the line, not labeled as with the automated line, but its so simple we'll explain below:

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Letters from Sweden - A closer look at a closed wall panel assembly line

We've described the Swedish method of building off site in several past blog posts, but today we will take a closer look at the assembly line to get a better idea of how you build walls this way.

The first thing I have to explain is that a fully automated line like this is not needed to build houses the way they do in Sweden. In fact most of the small factories do not have these complex machines, and are using a simpler process, more manual, less automated. But what they both have in common is a reduction in wasted effort, a lean process of building. In the next few days we'll also look more closely at how they build without all this machinery.

But first this machinery. The Swedes build wood houses in a particular way, and so a Swedish company named Randek Bautech builds machines that automate the way the Swedes build houses. They can't expect a German company or a Japanese company to do this, so they invent their own. Makes perfect sense. What exactly do I mean by that though? Well for instance the Swedes use solid wood siding when they use siding on their houses - not vinyl as common in the US. So they create a machine that can nail their solid wood siding. Obviously this would not have much use for a large US builder who primarily uses vinyl siding. Ok, got it?

Randek Bautech provides a great video of this line in action which I will post here. But first lets look at the line:

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