Thursday, April 22, 2010

Exterior Home Tour

First off, I’d like to wish y'all a happy Earth Day! It’s a gorgeous, sunny day in my neck of the woods today. If you know me, you know I’m celebrating by going for a bike ride. (If you don’t know me … I’m semi-obsessed with bikes.)

OK, on to our house. You may have forgotten by now, but I promised you pictures of our home’s exterior a really long time ago. Sorry about that! I had to dodge wind, rain and SNOW (!!!), but I finally got around to taking a few. Thank you for patiently waiting!

This is the north side of our home. I cropped out the pieces of machinery that haven't left our driveway yet! The weight limit should be lifted from our dirt road soon enough, though! That little bubble sticking out of our roof is a solar tube, which I'm happy to report, provides a surprising amount of light into the second floor bathroom. This time of year we are able to go until after 7:30pm without using an actual light in the room.

Below is a close up of our screened-in porch, which serves as the entrance to our home. We learned pretty quick that the porch will see much use--especially in "mud season" and during the winter. I've been told the screens will be a blessing in "black fly season" too.

Below is an interior shot of the porch ... unfinished as of now. If there's some left over, we are going to use the extra HardiePanel siding to cover the unfinished portion under the screens.
A photo from the east side of the house puts the screened-in porch into perspective a little better.
And here's a view of the home from the west...which also shows our utility meters. One meter is designed for homes like ours that are net metered, so it runs both forward and backwards depending upon energy consumption/solar production. The other measures only our solar production and is used for renewable energy credit purposes.
In the photo below, I'm standing at the edge of the clearing in our back yard, looking up at the south side of our home. I hope this gives you a better feel for our passive solar design. This side is where the majority of our windows exist and where our solar panels soak in the rays. The two solar panels on the top left of the metal roof are for solar hot water. The rest are to offset general electricity use. Our wood stove pipe is positioned to eliminate shading on the photovoltaic and solar hot water panels.

Here is a shot of our deck railing. We chose a wire insert instead of traditional vertical wood slats so as not to disrupt from the view.

Oh, right, and speaking of the view...
Whatever word I choose doesn't give it justice. And neither does that photo. It's our favorite part of the house.
I'm going to leave you with this photo ... just in case you thought I was joking when I said we had snow in April.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Virtual Home Tour!

We're finally living in our green home! It feels a little surreal. Actually, a lot surreal. But ultimately awesome.

I don’t think either of us can believe we own a house—even though that’s all we’ve been saving for these past five years!

I know you've been waiting very patiently for without further ado, here is your very own virtual tour of our green home. Room by room.

Living Area
- Natural Vermont slate
- Wood stove
- Two ceiling fans (no AC)
- Reclaimed farm table
- Efficient windows/doors
- LED recessed lighting
- Zero VOC paint

- Natural cork
- Efficient windows
- Energy star-rated appliances
- Environmental Stewardship Program-certified wood cabinets
- Zero VOC paint
- Salvaged kitchen sink
- LED lighting
- Beeswax-sealed concrete countertop

The photo below is a bit dark, but I wanted to capture the view from the stovetop, so you could relate to my stove hood dilemma!

We looked into green countertops (such as Paperstone and Icestone), but they were out of our price range. We settled on concrete and are happy with the results. (Just don't let a glass jar of milk slip out of your hands...)

Guest Bedroom
- Natural cork
- Transom window to living area
- Zero VOC paint
- Efficient windows

First Floor Bathroom
- Salvaged bathroom vanity
- Low flow sink faucet (uses 20% less water than standard faucets)
- Natural Vermont slate
- Dual flush toilet
- Zero VOC paint
- H2Okinetic® Delta Shower faucet (uses 36% less water than standard showerheads)
- Transom window to kitchen
- Energy Star-rated fan
- Compact fluorescent light
- Salvaged window pane/soon-to-be mirror

Second floor office
- Bamboo flooring
- Zero VOC paint
- Efficient windows
- Ceiling fan
- Hidden sleeping area

(We love our Murphy bed...and it already got used when our friends visited!)

Second floor bathroom
- Natural Vermont slate (bathroom floor & shower floor)
- Dual flush toilet
- Low flow sink faucet
- Salvaged bathroom vanity
- Zero VOC paint
- Energy star-rated fan
- Solar tube
- Compact fluorescent light
- Efficient window
- Salvaged window pane/soon-to-be mirror

You can see in the photo below that we chose galvanized metal to line the shower instead of tile. This option was much less expensive and goes with the industrial barn look we wanted.

Nope, that's not a fluorescent light; it's the solar tube--on an overcast day!

Master bedroom
- Bamboo flooring
- Zero VOC paint
- Ceiling fan
- Sliding barn doors
- Efficient windows

I think a lot of people didn't get the sliding barn door concept. So, let me try to show you in photos. This is looking up at the master bedroom from the first floor.

With the doors shut...

...and with them open.

We also have a sliding barn door as you enter the master bedroom. Here is the view from inside our bedroom, looking down the hall.

Whew, I think that's about it for the interior...there's also a pantry off the kitchen and a full basement, but neither are very photogenic at the moment. ;)

I'll give you a tour of the exterior soon. So, stay tuned!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Salvage Sneak Peek...

Oh my! I can’t believe we’re moving this Sunday … I wonder when it will start to feel real. Perhaps when we wake up in our home and don’t have to greet the Presby crew? I’ll keep you posted on when it feels like home. Until then, here’s some eye candy.

I received some photos from Presby that show some of our salvaged items in their finished state. Remember the corn stalk chopper we purchased from Admac Salvage? Let me refresh your memory.

After some retrofitting, here is our one-of-a-kind first floor bathroom vanity now.

Early on, we purchased a soapstone kitchen sink that had been ripped out of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine during a renovation of their anatomy labs. This is what our kitchen sink looked like when we first got it.

After a good scrubbing, we sealed the sink with natural mineral spirits. It's currently installed and looking gorgeous in our soon-to-be kitchen. Take a look for yourself!

We have more salvaged items that I'll show you once we see them for ourselves in a few short days!

Stay tuned for pictures of our master bath vanity, bathroom mirrors and more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eco-Friendly Interior Paint: Zero VOC

I can’t believe the time has come to talk about paint! It seems like just yesterday I was discussing dirt! But we’re in the home stretch now, and with any luck we’ll be moving into our very own green home this weekend! I can’t wait to stop planning and start living!

OK, back to paint. Our walls are coated in zero-VOC paint.

Zero what? VOCs. As in volatile organic compounds. As in our paint has none. Which is a good thing since the carbon-containing chemical compounds evaporate into the atmosphere.

These compounds, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.”

Side effects of VOCs can include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some have also been shown to cause cancer.

Typical paint (as well as gasoline, alcohol and nail polish, etc.) emits VOCs. We chose to forgo “typical” paint for Benjamin Moore’s Natura line of paint. Virtually odorless, 100 percent acrylic latex and available in more than 3,000 colors, Natura contains zero VOCs—even after the colorant is added.

Vibrant Colors + VOC-Free = Very Cool. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photovoltaic Installation

Three cheers for the solar panels we thought we couldn’t afford! Our rooftop solar photovoltaic system has been installed and is looking good. (Thank you, Solar Wind Electric!) Check out the photos below of the installation process.

We have a 2.76 kilowatt PV system, which consists of 12 230-watt Sharp ND-U230c1 panels. Our photovoltaics are made of Polycrystalline silicon, which will convert solar radiation into direct current electricity. We’re still connected to the grid, so we’ll have an inverter to convert DC to AC. The company, Sharp, claims that the ND-U230c1 panels use an advanced surface texturing process to increase light absorption which will, in turn, improve efficiency.

By taking advantage of daylighting techniques, conserving energy and using only Energy Star-rated appliances, we hope our PV system will offset our electricity needs in the warmer months and take a chunk out of our electricity bill in colder, darker months.

And finally, I leave you with a YouTube clip about solar energy. Sounds boring, but it’s not. How's this for an endorsement—one person comments:

Man this 2 minute commercial was far superior in many ways than Transformers 2 and 2012!

It’s important. It’s dramatic. It’s short. Watch it. Please. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wood/Cable Staircase Design

So…we know this woodworker who is absolutely amazing at his craft. Seriously. Take a look at his work on our wood/cable staircase.

We chose this industrial-style staircase design for a few reasons: One, we think it looks awesome. Two, the open style makes the house less crowded in a way no other railing could. Three, we think the natural wood compliments the metal perfectly. Finally, we hope it will also compliment the other industrial aspects in our "modern barn" themed home, such as the:
  • Corrugated metal (behind the fireplace, under the kitchen counter bar, in the master bathroom and on the master bedroom barn door)

  • Simple stainless steel-looking ceiling fans

  • Outdoor barn lights (which will be used indoors)
Back to the amazing woodworker: He told me the other day that he’s having fun working on our house because it’s not designed like a lot of other houses he builds.

Ain’t that the truth.

Even when you take out the passive solar design, small footprint and open floor plan, the house is still pretty atypical. He’s building us the wood/cable railing system, sliding barn doors in our bedroom that open up to the floor below, transom windows to bring daylight to back rooms and a desk area to disguise our Murphy bed, among countless other projects.

What, you don’t have a Murphy bed?

We knew our house was going to be different from day one. We didn’t know we’d have someone so talented and willing to take on the challenge. And we’re darn grateful we do.

(Thank you Paul!)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Daylighting: Transoms and Solar Tubes

Our architects educated us about the benefits of installing windows and other openings to provide indoor lighting via natural light--also known as "daylighting." After our brains were filled with knowledge, we were certain we had to include daylighting options in our home design. It just makes sense.

Today, transoms and a solar tube populate our home, brightening up the small space, and helping us save energy by reducing our artificial light dependence. Passive solar windows that help regulate temperature will also provide natural light as well as help to keep our heating/cooling costs down.

Transoms—fixed interior windows—are built into our guest bedroom and first floor bathroom. In the photo below, you can see the transom window above the first floor shower. On the other side of the wall is the kitchen.

A solar tube (one of the most technologically-advanced daylighting systems available) in the second floor bathroom will provide an abundance of natural light. You can see the rooftop dome in the photo below. The tube is lined with reflective material, which will capture daylight and bring it into our home. Even low angle sunlight can be captured and redirected into the tube through this system.

We're excited to see just how much light these features will provide us with when we're living in our home and using these rooms regularly.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Interior Progress: Framing and Drywall

As promised, here are some shots of the inside of our home. It's getting there!

Below is a photo of our front door. It's located on the east side of our home within the screened-in porch. We anticipate our screened-in porch to act as our "mudroom," housing all of the dirty/snowy/muddy shoes. When you walk in the house, the stairway is immediately to your left. Downstairs leads to the basement, upstairs to the loft.

The railing on the stairs is only temporary. We’re going to have a wood/cable system, which we think will make our cozy home feel a bit more open. Plus, we think it looks cool.

And here is a picture of our guest bedroom, located on the north side of the house.

Below, is our first floor bathroom. The antique corn chopper-turned-sink vanity will sit directly where that white tube is now. Our “outdoor” light fixture will be installed where the metal disc/wiring is now. The shower (with a tub!) and dual-flush toilet will be on your left.

Here’s a pretty dark shot of our kitchen. That beam you see running across the ceiling is there to stay, but will get a face-lift. Our salvaged kitchen sink will go right under the window on the west wall, our fridge will be on the north wall to the right of the smaller sized window and our pantry/laundry room to the right of the fridge. Our countertop will be U-shaped and the side closest to the living area will have extra counter space and room for bar stools across from the stovetop.

From the kitchen, you’ll look out into the main living area pictured below—only, you know, there won’t be all that stuff in the way of the awesome view.

Walk upstairs and you’ll come face to face with the office which will also have a Murphy bed installed to accommodate more visitors than can fit in the first floor guest bedroom. Continue down the hallway to the master bathroom, which features purple walls!

Just kidding, that’s just our drywall! The dual-flush toilet will be on the north wall, right under the window. Our salvaged sink vanity will be to the left of the shower. There’s also going to be some sort of wall shelving to accommodate our toiletries since our vanity has no drawers. We’re currently looking into antique medicine cabinets.

On the far side of the loft sits our master bedroom. If you were looking up at the space from the living area, typically the railing would end where the master bedroom starts and a solid wall would enclose the space. Instead, we are going to install barn doors that will open up and allow one to look down to the first floor. We think this will keep the open loft feeling. We'll probably leave these doors open most of the time and close them when visitors come to stay. Here is a photo looking out of our bedroom to help you visualize.

When all is said and done, there will be a railing in front of the barn doors to keep us upstairs, in case we get too close to the edge. Below is a rough idea of what we are intending to accomplish.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Stay tuned for our countertop, paint and daylighting choices.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Progress Report: Decking!

We spend a lot of time outdoors. That's why we were thrilled to see that so much progress had been made on the outdoor living areas of our home.

We based our decking choice on durability and long life cycle, and decided on AZEK decking, a material made out of cellular PVC (with no wood fiber mixed in). It is mold, mildew, scratch, split and fade resistant. Yes, it's plastic, and many might argue that plastic isn’t “green.” But it will never decompose—making its lifespan indefinite, and it's purported to be recyclable.

It was breathtaking to see the deck in person. And I'm certain it's going to be my favorite "room" of the house. It gets so much sun--when we last visited, the deck was covered in snow in the morning, and had melted by the time we left the house, only an hour or two later.



The screened-in porch on the east side of our home is shaping up nicely too! We're hoping to take as much advantage of the outdoors as possible--while escaping the dreaded "black fly season" in early summer.

Stay tuned for views inside our home!