Viridian Future 1

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

Running Hard to Catch up with Myself

After all those months of designing and waiting for a work permit, about a month after we started construction, we realized that the specification created by the first architect was much farther from the standard of insulation necessary for the energy efficiency we are aiming for, than we had been told. We noticed that steel joists were connected to external walls, forming a 'thermal bridge', in other words allowed heat out or in. We realized that nothing had been done about insulating the basement floor, and no attention had been paid to air sealing, which is so critical in ensuring our heat stays in during the winter and we stay cool in the summer.

Having assumed the duties of the architect, I am now desperately trying to gather information and make decisions, even as work progresses. It isnt too late, but we will have to undo three sections of metal joists that are set into the wall. We have now obtained approval for the system for supporting those joists, and are working on the air sealing. That is very complicated because we have so many different areas to seal. If you imagine, we are trying to create a continuous, I mean totally unbroken, layer around the whole building, so that we could pressurize it, to see if there are leaks. Bear in mind that we have the existing walls, in various conditions, with joists stuck in, with variations as the neighbors have extended at different times, and punctured by windows. We have the new SIPs (read previous post for explanation) that have to be sealed to the party walls, the existing and new roofs, and the basement floor. The most difficult area is around and between the joists as they insert into the party wall.

We have had days when I hand over the detailed drawings for an area I have just finished, and the workmen start working it immediately. I dont remember working under this pressure for a decade.

Now dont get worried about us suffocating inside our new fully sealed home. Maybe later I will write about the active ventilation system that will exchange more than 70% of the heat in the air, filter it, and provide fresh air in every room.

I have realized that the term 'learning curve' needs a sibling phrase - like learning climbing wall. I have heard stories of teachers who were asked to stand in and teach a class in a subject they werent trained for. They learn the subject for each lesson, then teach it, never more than two classes ahead of the students. I feel a bit like that, learning about a material, a system, or a regulation, and applying it immediately.

With special mention to Oleg Slivinsky and Janus Welton who added to my workload by drawing my attention to the design mismatch, but then held my hand during the transition, and inspired me to step up to the task. 

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