Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Advanced Placement

Energy Trust of Oregon in their never ending quest for energy efficiency in that great state recently introduced their new incentive path for homes. Called Advanced Performance, this path breaks the bar in many ways. Most of us are used to designing and building 2x6 walls. This is going to be a bit of a challenge now. And we're not going to get to do post and beam floors anymore. Here are the specs:

  • Framed floors: R-38 joisted (P&B results in leaky floors and/or saggy insulation)
  • Slab floors: R-15 full slab with perimeter break
  • Walls: U-0.025. This means R-40 assembly, not just R-40 insulation. Either thicker walls or better insulation is required
  • Windows: 15% of floor area, U-0.22 weighted average
  • Doors: R-5
  • Ceiling: U-0.016. Like the walls, this means R-60 assembly, not insulation
  • Heating: 8.5 HSPF/13 SEER or better ductless inverter driven heat pump
  • Ventilation: HRV/ERV with 70% sensible recovery efficiency
  • Tightness: 2.5 ACH50 or better
  • Lighting: 90% CFL
  • Incentive: $4,000 plus state and federal tax credits

This isn't your Father's energy efficiency path. This is some serious action going on. We at Istockhouseplans are rather excited about this path and would love to help your home achieve it. If you'd like to build any of our plans to this standard, we would be happy to modify it for free. That's right. As a program ally of Energy Trust of Oregon, we'd be so excited to see a home like this get built that we'll do what we can to make it happen. Contact us if you'd like to learn more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Windows 2.0

Ever noticed a new house that tries to look old? Some look terribly fake. Some do a great job. But none of them quite grab the look. Driving around town, it's not hard to spot the infill lots that have brand new period houses on them. We can even tell the difference between a well preserved old house, a well remodeled old home, and a brand new "old" home. Why? What's the difference? The eyes always give it away. In this case, the windows. Windows are a big part of a home and they can have a big effect on the way the home looks.

What is the big difference between old and new home windows? Crappy white vinyl frames? Not necessarily as old windows are often painted white. Grids? Not all old windows had grids and newer windows have some passable grids. We tend to think it's depth. Ever look at an old window? It's part of the framing. Now look at a new window. It's tacked to the outside of the framing like a 'Post No Bills' sign. Am I right? Tell me I'm wrong.

The big difference is in the way window production has changed over the years. When the aluminum flange window arrived on the scene, it made window installation quicker and more forgiving. A non-square opening no longer had to be shimmed to accept an inset window. Now the window could be squared on top of the sheathing and interior trim would cover the other side of the error.

Even though the look has been lost to mass production processes, it's not too hard to bring the look back. The first option is with new inset windows. Sometimes touted as replacement windows, these wood or wood clad panes set inside the framing the way their ancestors used to. There is a price to be paid for these windows though as they are not economically on par with their face flange cousins.

The second option is to use the cheaper face flange windows but spend another 5 minutes on each opening. First, frame your opening to 3" larger than required. Then use a smaller 2x framing member to sub frame your main opening. If you are framing 2x6 walls, line it with 2x4. If you are framing double 2x4 walls, use a piece that is wide enough to cover your interior stud, your gap, and then a little. A 10" double 2x4 wall would require a 2x8 sub frame. Your flange window then mounts to this sub frame and voila! Your windows have the appearance of being integral to the framing instead of slapped on top. A little 5/4 trim around the edges and it's a work of art.

Another benefit to this approach is that your water management just got a lot easier. As long as you have a sloped sill on the outside and a planned drainage path, you're good for the long haul. The water above the window opening gets kicked out by a piece of Z flashing at the head trim.

C'mon, my grandma could do this!

Istockhouseplans is committed to quality design and we hope you'll extend this to your building. Contact us with any questions during your build process and we'll be happy to give you free consultation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Green at Last, Free Green at Last!

Apologies for being absent for the last month. We were busy working on our entry for the FreeGreen Who's Next? design contest. The contest has 2 profiles, one for yuppies and one for retirees. We chose the yuppies and designed a house that could grow with them. Our design utilizes a 2 bed 1 bath home in 1000sf. There is an approximately 400sf finished attic that is ready for partitions (more bedrooms?). The most exciting feature of the home is the rear deck. It's built on a foundation that can support a future 336sf addition. Simply pull up the deck and build the house!

Competition is hot and heavy with 247 entries. Early voting shows us nowhere near winning but it is early. We're amazed by the number of houses that don't look like houses. If you think Istockhouseplans has got what it takes, show us your support by voting.

Thanks and we'll see you soon!