Saturday, January 30, 2010

Green Ratings

Several organizations provide third-party inspections and verification of a home's energy efficiency and green features. LEED certification is the comprehensive in scope, but is quite costly. For our home, it would have probably been over $3,000. We just couldn't justify the cost.

Don, our builder, commissioned an Energy Star verification. Based on the plans and specifications, the inspector rated our home at 60. It requires a maximum “HERS” of 85 or less to qualify a home under EPA-Energy Star. The lower the number, the better. Don asked the inspector to compare our home to the last 200 energy star homes he has rated. He stated that we belong in the top 5 out of 200 other homes that he has rated at this level. Energy Star does not account for use of gray water or rain water collection.

Austin Energy also rates homes from one to five stars, but the home has to be within Austin Energy service area. The inspector entered our data in the Austin Energy rating calculator and told Don that we would have a five star home if we were building in Austin.

We are thrilled with this information and can't wait to see how it translates to our utility bills!

360 View

Last Sunday, we got a chance to walk out on the lower slab.

During the week, we had several days of rain. But, they managed to put a French drain in on the outside of the slab wall drop, filled it in, and got the forms ready for the short slab that will be on the upper level.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wall Slab

Yesterday the wall that drops down from the short top slab to the bottom was poured.

We also went to the French Homes Model and Don's wife Cher helped us choose colors and finishes. We're excited to see the framing go up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

After the Pour, it Poured!

The pour occurred on an auspicious day. The next few days were warmer and rainy. So over the weekend, we went back to check out the results.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vinyl Versus Metal Windows

The insulation and reflective values of windows make a huge impact on the overall performance of a home. Don had gotten a really good quote on metal frame windows (around 3300), and he has had good success with them because they have a 1" flange around the perimeter that makes it easy to seal them up properly. The more expensive vinyl windows don't.

We had gone to Direct Buy, hoping to get a quote on vinyl windows that would at least come close to the metal. However, the guy giving us the price didn't check on different Direct Buy vendors, only on one with a very prominent name. We can't reveal the quote because that's part of the deal when you join DB, you agree not to reveal the prices. Let's just say it was orders of magnitude higher.

So, we had given up on vinyl windows. However, Don contacted me yesterday because one of his other clients put him in touch with American Window Systems, a supplier for Energy Star windows.  They quoted 4600 for the windows. So, for 1300 more, we get vinyl windows with Argon instead of air as a filling. And, the performance ratings (lower is better) are UV Value of .53 and SHGC of .32 for the metal windows compare with a UV Value of .30 and SHGC of .25 for the vinyl. This link explains UV and SHGC. We decided to go with the vinyl, even though it adds to the budget. The energy savings should make up for the difference over the life of the home. The energy star site estimates somewhere between 90 and 300 dollars per year. The higher savings is for energy star compared to a single pain window the lower is compared to a clear double pane.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Pour

They poured the lower support posts, lower slab, and garage slab today. The cement trucks emptied into a pumper on the street. The pumper had a long boom that reached down the hill.

Pedro and crew are busy smoothing out 70 yards of concrete. Pedro said it was a good day for the pour, at about 50 degrees--not too cold, not too hot. And, the weather calls for rain, which will help it cure slowly.

The concrete contains fly ash, which makes it more environmentally friendly. Don says that after it cures a while, they will tighten up the tension posts and it will make a really strong slab.

Here are Don and Pedro, checking the plans.

After this concrete sets up, Pedro will remove the forms and reuse them for the upper slab.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Driveway Turnaround and Pre-pour Progress

We had record-breaking cold here over the weekend, with the airport registering 12 degrees. On Sunday, the sun was shining and a bit warmer, so we ventured out to check the progress. The drive has been graded some more and we have a turn-around:

The garage and part of the house will sit on post tension engineered slabs. Here is a picture of the cables that are used instead of traditional rebar:

They are covered to avoid corrosion and sit on little black cups that hold them at the correct height. The HGTV website has a nice article on this type of slab:,2617,HPRO_20146_3745450,00.html.

Before pouring, this prep work was inspected by both the town and an engineer. Don has called us a couple of times to change the ETA of the first pour because small things came up. We expect it to be tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mystery Solved!

We've not been able to get to the site while they were working, so were imagining what type of equipment would navigate the steep terrain. Even with the driveway cut in some, there are few places you can stand without leaning to balance your weight.

Today, we finally saw the mysterious Bobcat. We hope to get out someday to see it in motion. You have to respect the brave operator!

They've cut further into the hillside and staked out the perimeter of the garage.

Here are the forms for the retaining wall that will keep the rainwater tanks from sliding down the hill:

Hopefully, the winter rain will hold off a bit.