Viridian Future 1

Aiming to be not just the most environmentally sustainable townhouse in Manhattan, but a net zero energy home.

Moving the Goal Posts Inside My Head

You may ask, 'what does he mean by that?'

We have all experienced situations in which someone has moved the goal posts even as we are aiming for the goal. Have you also experienced a situation in which, after setting out to aim for a target, you have discovered that the target you thought you wanted to aim for, wasnt what you thought it was, and, midstream, you have had to redirect yourself. Its like that for me.

As we woke this morning, Lorna asked about my night. I told her I had spent much of it thinking about thermal bridges and moving goal posts!

When we started out, we knew we wanted to aim for sustainability. We started learning about standards and approaches in the USA, and in that process, we met an architect and contractor who explained the standards in America as they understood them. So we set out to go for LEED Platinum, plus some other criteria like water recycling that we were already clear about. What we have subsequently realized, is that those of us who focus on LEED see only what LEED sees. As I have written before, we since learned that the Passive House standard from Germany is the only system capable of taking us to the maximum level of energy efficiency, a level LEED does not give much attention to.

Once we realized this, and employed some Passive House consultants, we found all the ways in which the first set of specifications were totally inadequate to the task. Having taken on responsibility for producing the construction drawings, but still with wholly insufficient experience of the building technology needed to achieve this standard, I find myself struggling with air sealing and thermal bridges. 

So now I get to the goal posts inside my head. You see, we developed a vision and a set of designs, and then a price. And we believed the set of designs met the vision. When we learned that they didnt, we had to make decisions about how far we could go to compensate. And that is the painful bit, in two ways. One, we have to accept that some of the decisions cannot be corrected. There are big pieces of steel holding things up that we cannot now move to make space for insulation. Two, we have an expectation of the available size of the rooms. If we want to fully meet the standard and achieve certification, we have to increase the insulation even further, and all our rooms get smaller.

So yet again we have to compromise. We are unlikely to reach the standard for Passive House, even tho we know that, to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, this standard is the benchmark. While we have managed to improve enormously on the first set of specifications, and we are hoping that, as is stated so many times by Passive House adherents, the money spent on the envelope is saved on the heating/cooling system, I am still struggling to come to terms with the learning, the adjustment necessary inside my head, and the decisions I myself am making that fall short of that standard.

For those of you who wanted photos, sorry. We are now watertight, and it is raining. And it is Xmas. Happy holidays to you all and may 2015 be more exciting, more satisfying, and more joyful than any year you have ever experienced.

Web Design by Abel B'Hahn, with grateful thanks to The Story of Us | VIRIDIAN FUTURE 1 | New York, New York, USA