Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week 2: More Concrete with a Sealant Garnish

My wonderful SR took some pictures on site today of the progress and I can say it's moving right along!  The one real amazing thing about the original dig was how precise the excavator operator was in digging the hole.  Real sharp edges cutting into the ground and all, just impressive.

Now we have more concrete and some of the textured pour that they do in the neighborhood.  I'm not sure if they plan on doing more or if what they left as smooth foundation will be covered with siding / brick later on.

You can now see concrete from the street and the trough where the water / sewer connections will be coming in:
Another view from the street, you can see some of the textured concrete in the front, and some of the sealant:
 A closer view from the front.  Note the sealant on the wall that would be between the garage and the basement.  I'm not sure what the deal is with the notched marks on that wall, as well as the hole on the left garage wall.  You can also see the separation between the two car opening and the third single car opening on the right:
This may be it for Week 2, I've been a bit under the weather and have been either fighting through the work day in the office or working from home (thank heaven for an accommodating  workplace!).  I haven't had a check in with my PM at all since our HVAC chat either, so I may give him a ring in the next few days just to catch up.

On a side note, I'm amazed at how many of you have visited so far, and thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet.  I just hope this blog helps others the same way those before me helped us in our build journey.  Thanks!

Week 1: A Hole With a Dash of Concrete

And so it begins!  I'll try to capture these by week, so this is part Week 0 in the first pic and then Week 1 in the other two.  We had a bit of rain on Tuesday however it didn't slow things down.

Here's the "pre-dig" staked out lot:

And now our hole in the ground.  It looks like there's a lot of clay in this dirt, which is great for a foundation, but a bear to put in a fence later!

And at the end of the week, concrete footers all poured.  The aspect ratio of these is a little deceiving.  It looks like we have all garage with a side of house...

All and all it's a good start, hopefully Week 2 ends up being just as smooth!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Energy Star 3.0, Climate Zones, HVAC Systems, and You

In my last post I mentioned a discrepancy between what we were informed earlier in the process vs. our Pre-Construction meeting with regards to our HVAC system.  Originally we were told we would have a 2 zone HVAC and then at the meeting this changed to a 1 zone system.  After bringing this up to my SR, and a few discussions with my SR and my PM this is the scoop that I received.  Some of this makes sense and items I found / inferred on my own I'll note accordingly.

Our Ryan homes development is building to Energy Star specifications.  These specs changed to Energy Star 3.0 this year.  As part of this change there were a few items that were required for Energy Star 3.0 certification for the house, and some of these items change depending on what EPA Climate Zone your house is being built in. Our sales district is based in Climate Zone 4, and our development is in Climate Zone 5.  The big difference between the two is in regards to increased R value insulation in pretty much each area of the house (attic, exterior walls on the outside, interior insulation, etc.)  Now that's all fine and dandy, but insulation won't balance the house alone.  After changing the insulation and ductwork to comply with 3.0 they recalculated the system (probably a Manual J - standard calc and just a guess on my part) and my PM said they could do a 1 zone system with a larger tonnage unit.  They also as part of the calculations realized that they couldn't pass 3.0 with the two zone setup that they used previously and had to reengineer the entire HVAC system to work as a 1 zone system.  The  other part of 3.0 which I figured out by poking around is that the HVAC filters need to be accessible from a common space.  The common space requirement I think effectively eliminates having that 2nd zone system housed in the attic.

The other thing I found out is that 3.0 requires gas range venting to vent to the exterior of the house, and explains the no "over the range" microwave thing as well since all of those blow back into the room, and not into an exhaust duct.

All in all it doesn't take away the disappointment, but since part of Energy Star 3.0 is that there can not be a maximum deviation of more than 5.0 degrees from any two points in the house I think we'll be alright.  On a side note they may be at the point where Energy Star would be doing the testing themselves when they're ready to perform the balance / deviation test on our build.  I think my comfort level with the 1 zone will be OK if I get a copy of that balance test results ( the township even gets a copy of this, what's one more?) and if Energy Star does the test vs. the designated HVAC contractor.

If anyone else out there hears different, please comment.  I'd like to hear your experience as well.

There also is the side benefit of only having to maintain one system, one set of air filters, and possibly buying one Nest thermostat vs. two... :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PreCon Meeting Complete...

I would have to say for anyone after me, the Pre Construction meeting seems like a microcosm of what the process will be like moving forward.  The typical information you read about (meet the PM, go over and review the options, walk the lot, etc.) all happen, but the beginnings of working together to get a positive outcome for everyone involved start there as well.  Some of the things that were nice to see were:

a) Our plan with our options on our lot, with all of the elevation gradients marked on the sheet as well as the driveway / walkway.  It helps to set the stage in your mind as to how the house will set on the lot.

b) The mystery of the alternate kitchen layout solved.  If you can recall earlier I wasn't sure based on our SRs comments how this would actually work.  After seeing the design drawings, it makes a lot more sense.  The range area has a range hood and the smaller overhead cabinets, and then on the fridge wall side, instead of two sets of tall overhead cabinets (think 4 doors) the microwave slots in the middle, so on that wall you have 1 tall cabinet, two shorter cabinets with the microwave underneath, then another tall cabinet.  It actually looks pretty sharp, and since most often you're putting food from the fridge to the microwave anyway it's fairly convenient to have it there instead,

c) Where the gas, water, sewer, and electric were going to come into the house.  This was a little good a little disappointing in its own way.  The gas comes in on the living room corner of the house (should just be a master valve) only issue with that is having an access panel door to get to that shutoff.  The water and sewer are running under the porch to the HVAC / Water / Sump unfinished area (our basement as a whole isn't finished however I plan on doing that down the road)  This is fantastic.  The last is the electrical, which I had the choice of putting it on either two walls on the garage side of the basement where the media room is listed in the plans or the garage storage nook.  My dream scenario would be all 4 utilities coming in where the water / sewer are but the way they are run to the house that dream just doesn't compute.  There is no way I'm putting a breaker panel in what will be a dedicated home theater space and trying to work sound isolation in with getting access to that thing, so the garage it is.  The only downside is when I do finish that basement, that drywall is going to get ripped out in the garage to run more conduit, which I was hoping to avoid.

d) The options and plans for our delivery date with regards to sod and or no sod.  Obviously getting delivery in December in the northeast is a crap shoot with regards to weather conditions.  Knowing what the plan is for a go / no go up front gives me plenty of time to figure out options for our dogs to take care of business if we have a straw / dirt / mush of a yard until spring.  I'm thinking rubber mulch next to the back of the driveway over a weed barrier to make it easier to move / remove later.  Less of a mess for the dogs, and easier clean up for me.

I did have a nice explicit "please don't go into the house without one of us on site" talking to up front, however the PM seems very accessible and we seem to be on the same page.

One item up for discussion is the 2 zone HVAC.  We were going over the summary sheet and I questioned why it mentioned 1 zone HVAC to our SR.  The SR then responded that they thought we were confused as the Courtland Gate does have 2 zone, however the Victoria Falls has 1.  It seemed valid at the time and I let it go.  Fast forward to tonight after a nice meal and some other items taken care of, I go and review my documentation, paperwork, and correspondence.  Lo and behold my master selection sheet only has 2 zone listed, and I even have a Q&A email from my SR confirming we get a 2 zone HVAC system.  This was a big   plus for us now since our current house has issues with proper heating and cooling with half the square footage.  Waiting on that response this week, and since the two zone lists as $0 on my sheet (and the only one listed... did I mention that again?  I guess I did!) I'm hopeful that this gets resolved.

So now we wait for ground breaking in two weeks and then the real fun begins!