Status Update, and Why It’s Taking So Long

We’re still here! Construction continues, despite our best efforts to wrap this thing up. Some of the issues involve getting materials and people all together at the same time, some have to do with chains-of-events that we have no control over, and some things are simply taking longer than expected. Anyone who has done construction in their home can relate to this. I thought I’d give you just one example of a system that is held up by one small bug: water.

When we designed our heating and cooling system, many of you know that we first reduced the load needing heating and cooling by following passive design techniques: super-insulating the building, adding lots of natural light and allowing for as much natural ventilation as possible. The passive elements took care of 90% of our heating and cooling needs. At that point we could have put a furnace/AC unit in the building and called it a day. But we were striving for net-zero energy, and we want to be a demonstration center of what’s possible, so our next step involved using solar-thermal panels connected to large water storage tanks, with water from the tanks flowing through pex tubing under our floors to provide radiant heating and cooling. Our glitch is the tanks.

We had a number of choices on the tanks: we could have gone with new, we could have had someone make them (someone offered), and we could find them from the U.S. waste stream. We chose the last option, found them on, and had them delivered. Here’s what they look like:

Large tank

Smal tank

The outsides look pretty iffy, but the insides are insulated and for the most part are in pretty good shape. We had Dormouse, a metal fabricating company from Detroit, come take a look at them and do initial repairs. We thought we were in pretty good shape, but as we filled the tanks with water, we came across leaks at various levels. Each time we found a leak, we had to empty the tanks (our gardens were the main beneficiary), which took about a day, have Dormouse come and locate the new leak, patch it, and fill them again. We’ve done a good number of fill/empty cycles, and we are almost there. So now you may have a better understanding of why all of this takes a while. It’s a process, and we’re practicing patience as we move through it.

As we move through this punch list, other work is getting done. Chad Dickinson has completed the reception area furniture and is moving on to constructiong the bookcases and desk that will be the library. Reception desk below.

Reception desk

Jason Peet is working on the kitchen.

Kitchen shelves

Other finishing touches are being added, and of course the alley is a reminder that some day soon we’ll reap the benefits of all this work.


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