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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/17/2009

Great meeting with Architectural Engineer Scott today!  It took us about two hours and even then I felt like we probably could have gone another hour or so, but we had to let Scott go.  I think the guy has a social life or something, go figure...

Anyway, we covered a lot of ground in what was mostly a Q&A that educated Steve quite a bit.  Some decisions were reached and some clarifications were made:

  • First off we discussed the design of the leach field and how the septic tank would be installed.  There were no real surprises here, though it helped us in the scheduling of the excavation work since the septic and leach systems are technically not on the critical path for getting the shell of the house up and enclosed.  Scott did excellent work here.

  • After this we turned to the geothermal system.  Some more calculations on Scott's part gave us a better feel for what the initial performance of the geothermal system for the house will likely be and how often it might or might not activate the propane-based boiler.  This led in turn to a discussion of available options for expanding the system (during construction if the costs work out, or down the road a couple of years) and my being very glad that we'd allowed for expansion a while back.  I'm comfortable with the initial estimates--barring expansion of the system up front we'll use the propane system a bit more than I'd expected if it's a particularly cold snap, but that masonry heater will help mitigate that quite a bit.  It shouldn't be a problem.

  • A quick discussion of the downstairs bathroom (off the kitchen) then ensued.  Scott was having some trouble with how appliances were being fit into the utility room (directly adjacent and behind the kitchen), and it occurred to him that the bathroom there was larger than it needed to be.  We'd put in space for a tub/shower that we really had no intention to put into the space, so if we were to roll that "extra" 3 or 4 feet into the utility room that would solve our space problems.  That one was easy.

  • Next up was a discussion of the flooring and ceiling for the computer room (third floor).  It was unclear to me the exact nature of this construction, as part of what I'd read seemed to indicate it used a concrete form like InsulDeck and part seemed to indicate it was timber trusses.  Turned out it was neither--we're using engineered timber I-beams for this bit, one of the few uses of wood in the entire house.  The radiant heat for the computer room will run through the floor construction (probably using reflectors to help direct their heat upwards) while the roof will be as heavily insulated as possible.  Steve learned much about how I-beams like this are tied to the ICF and SIP walls (I'd always wondered that--the BuildBlock class that Colleen went to last month really paid off here!). All in all not a bad solution, and simpler to do than fitting InsulDeck on top of the computer room wall SIPs. 

  • That naturally led to a discussion of the computer room walls and how we'll specify them to the SIP supplier.  I'd asked Colleen to start gathering SIP bids but we ran into a problem here with the large number of windows, plus the need for taller-than-normal SIPs so they can extend upwards to form the roof crenelations on the tower.  We worked our way through the particulars and Colleen took many notes.  No real problems here.

  • We then revisited the build sequence and kicked around a difference of opinion.  Scott's done a great job in trying to optimize the critical path of getting the house shell up and sealed, understanding that our build window is a bit shorter than normal at those altitudes.  To that end some things that might traditionally be done sooner in the build process were deferred until later.  That's a great plan but concerned Colleen in one respect--we would be delaying installation of the interior radiant heat and slab until later in the process, and thus our scaffolding and whatnot would basically be sitting on the packed dirt that the excavator left inside the footers.  That didn't seem conducive to efficient construction since it will be difficult to move the scaffolds around, and would have us dealing with dirt and dust for longer than we needed to.  There's also a concern that we'll tear up the nicely packed dirt and undo part of the work the excavator did. On the third hand, we don't induce any delays in building the shell by getting the slab work done until later--we can start stacking the ICF the day after the footers are poured.

    We kicked around several options but I haven't decided for sure what I want to do yet--both approaches have their pluses and minuses.  I might be able to fiddle with the pour schedule such that we can do the first half of the wall and the slab at the same time, inducing only a minor delta to the overall time line.  I might even be able to shorter the later parts of the schedule if w don't have to wrestle with moving scaffolding around.  Gotta ponder this; I promised a decision in a couple of days.
There were miscellaneous other things kicked around but those were the biggies.  I learned a lot as always, and boy was it fun!


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