Sunday, September 28, 2008
I snuck out of work early on 9/19 and caught the tail end of the 3rd floor pour. (That's Cian on the 3rd floor.) I realized last week that I really like watching our house go up. As silly as this sounds, I like the fact that I can see it physically changing in front of me. Practicing law, on the other hand, is frustrating for exactly the opposite reason. I can't really point to anything concrete I've created. It's a lot more nuanced and ethereal to be sure. Anyway, a couple of people have mentioned to me that the progress to date seems a little slower than where it should be. I honestly don't care. I just want it to be finished by April 2009 (when my construction loan ends) and Cian says we are still on schedule to do that.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I've been going to our home's site nearly every day now partly because I'm hearing that there's been a number of burglaries and attempted arsons on the 2800 block of of our street. I'm not sure what's going on--perhaps the local gang lashing out against the other dreaded g word--but it would really break our hearts if someone decided to sabotage our fledgling home. So I was there again tonight after work. Looks a little odd in this evening light, but it still looks beautiful to me.
As the exterior of our home is taking shape, I’m reminded of a debate we once had. Big or small? We struggled over this even before we met with our architects. One obvious con for a bigger home is that smaller homes typically consume less resources and are more efficient. And isn’t a larger “green” home an oxymoron? On the flipside, we’re hoping to have a relatively large family with lots of family visitors and family functions at our home. Isn’t it wasteful to have to put them in hotels or, even worse, to outgrow this home for another one eventually. In the end, we decided that what’s big or green is relative. A single guy who drives a van is probably being wasteful, but that same guy driving his big family in that same car likely isn’t. This is why we’ve decided that being green, eco-friendly, or energy efficient isn’t necessarily the home you live in—it’s how you use that space and live your life.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This is the view from our third floor looking north. This floor is going to be a challenge, because it's built with a mix of traditional wood framing (recessed front and back walls), ICF walls (side walls), and steel joists and decking (ceiling to support our flat green roof). Anyway, we don't have any stairs yet, so I had to climb two ladders through a couple of open joists to get up here. I wasn't in any danger, but I couldn't help but wonder about all the things that contractors must worry about. Not only do they have to worry about following the plans exactly but also about their safety and their crew's safety. It's a tough job for sure.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I'm a patent attorney, so I can't help but to think about patents even as we're building our home. We ordered our windows recently and I, of course, wondered whether the nifty between-the-glass-shades we got for some of our windows were patented. Indeed, they are. Pella has several patents on them. The ICF forms we're using also are patented. The ledger connectors we're using for our joists are patent pending. Of course, the beautiful prodema system we'll be using for our front facade is patented as well. I firmly believe in the patent system as an incentive to innovate (because it gives you exclusivity for a certain number of years), so it's nice to see the construction industry getting in on the action.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I did a rare site visit today, because I needed to talk to our contractor Cian. So I took the opportunity to take a few pictures on my new iPhone, which by the way is just as cool as everyone says it is. I took this picture on our second floor. Dennis, who is working with Cian on a daily basis, told me that people stop by all the time just staring at the building. It felt really good to see the house going up but it felt even better being inside of the house. It just felt solid being surrounded by these ICF walls. The unusual amount of rain we've had this summer has put us somewhat behind schedule, but we should still be done with the shell of the building well before the winter starts.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
There’s a good article in Newsweek that captures how I’ve been feeling about “green architecture” lately. “I hate green architecture. I can't stand the hype ….” Well, it’s not that I dislike green homes--right, we're building one--but I'm just wary of the hype. The fact that “green” is so in, like the latest fashion. It’s like a badge of honor for the wealthy and the hype probably is making green homes unaffordable for the average person. I look forward to the day when a green home isn’t something that only the wealthy can afford. I hope green and sustainable practices become so common that we talk about them like a good plumbing system, something that's just expected in every home.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I think all homes could benefit from going green, particularly in big cities. A green home is better for you, your pocketbook, and the community in the long run. But I know that it's not that easy. The economics of going green is complicated, and the financial benefit of living in a green home is still not widely accepted. This is where I think programs like the Chicago Green Roof Grants program is making a difference. Back in 2006 when we were just beginning to explore the idea of building a green home, we were lucky enough to receive a $5,000 grant from the City to put in a green roof on our home. A green roof will keep our home cooler/warmer (depending on season) and will even help with our neighborhood's Urban Heat Island effect. Even though the City's $5k was just a small percentage of our overall construction budget, every little bit helped and strengthened our commitment to building a green home.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Our architects recently sent us some pictures of the concrete pour from a few weeks ago, and they're striking. I unfortunately have a very busy job (but a job that's paying for this house) so I haven't been around much for the actual construction (and have not seen the pour happen in real time). Looking at the pictures, however, it's easy to see why the day of the pour, above all, is such a stressful day. It still amazes me that the pressure of the concrete rushing out of the truck doesn't just crumble the ICFs! More pictures of the actual pour are in the construction photos.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Second floor is up and the house is now really beginning to take shape! A couple of observations. First, it's becoming really apparent that our home is t-a-l-l. Good thing the neighbors are supportive. We still have one more floor to go and it's already taller than their rooflines. Second, this ICF thing isn't as 1-2-3 as a lot of people say. It's definitely not like the lego blocks I used to play with; that's for sure. Anyway, we are ordering all the windows this week and the plan is to have the shell of the house completed and closed in by the end of September or early October.