The Waiting Game

As we are at the mercy of the government…we are currently waiting for HUD approval before we can move forward with construction.  This makes me wonder why it often can be so difficult to develop in the inner city?  It seems we have to jump through so many hoops to get things accomplished.  Shouldn’t we make the process easier…as to encourage more development in the city and discourage continued sprawl?  Anyway, this is a topic for a more detailed post in the future.

In the mean time, I will be doing a series of posts detailing various elements of the house, from the exterior cladding materials and interior finishes to hvac systems and future landscape strategies.  Stay tuned!

Pallet Ceiling…no easy task

After coming across a great interior renovation in Dwell magazine for Taylor Gourmet, we were inspired to take on a similar strategy.  Here you can see their use of old pallets to create some very unique, inexpensive interior wall surfaces.

We are planning to use the pallet wood for the ceiling of the first floor.  It will provide a nice contrast to the polished concrete floors and give a level of warmth to the space.

Seeing how we are keeping this house affordable…sometimes this requires the owner to put in some blood and sweat to achieve these custom-type results.

Pallets are not easy to work with, that’s for sure.  But, we have come up with a semi-efficient system of sawing and prying which doesn’t completely wipe us out.  After we pry apart approximately 70-80 pallets, then they will need to be sanded, and then will be installed and stained afterward.  This, obviously, is not a quick process.  But for us, it’s beneficial on many levels.  It’s green…as we are taking material that would otherwise be thrown away, it’s unique, definitely adds character, and honestly, it just looks good.  So keep your fingers crossed that this turns out well!


The strategy for the lighting system in the house incorporates a relatively simple product which is actually pretty cool.  The Verve Living System is a wireless control system for residential lighting.

Basically, the system consists of two components:


The system allows for the elimination of wiring to the switches themselves and also allows for flexibility in the placement of the switches.  This has a few benefits.  One, we don’t have to worry about placing switches on exterior walls which can act as weak points in the SIP insulation values.  Also, because the switches are wireless, they are free to be moved around the house at any point and can be reprogrammed to the controller.  So, if you decide to re-arrange a room and need to move the switch, it’s a simple process.

Further, the system contributes to an increase in energy efficiency.  The switches take no batteries to power.  They are completely powered by the physical motion of pushing the switch on and off.  Also, all switches have dimming capability, adding a greater degree of energy efficient possibilities.

The last point to make is cost of the system.  In reality, due to the decrease in the cost of labor and material for wiring all the switches, the system really does not come out to be much, if any, more expensive than a traditional system.  It is definitely a cool feature to add to the house that serves multiple functions.

And thanks to the folks at the Postgreen and the 100k house for making me aware of this system!

Green Features

I have not yet provided much detailed information on the house so I thought I would take a few moments to highlight some of the sustainable/green elements included in the design of the house:

SIP wall construction – SIPs are Structural Insulated Panels.  The house will be using Thermocore’s SIPs, which are produced locally in Mooresville.

The panels are manufactured in the factory and will come to the site and be tilted into place.  As a result, they allow for more precise construction practices, quicker on-site construction, and less waste.  Finally, the panels allow for a much greater insulation value then traditional 2×4 framing, achieving an R-24 in a 4″ thick panel as opposed to around an R-13 for a traditional wall.

Small Footprint – The total interior square footage of the house is 1204 sq. ft.  The fact of the matter is most homes today are oversized and sacrifice quality for quantity.  A smaller footprint allows for a smaller lot, less material, and a smaller, more efficient space to heat and cool.

R-5 Windows – Windows can be a challenge when attempting to achieve a high R-value for new construction.  Thanks to a government program promoting energy efficient windows, the house is able to get R-5 windows for an affordable rate, much higher than prior affordable window insulation values.

Interior Material Finishes – Finishes often account for a large number of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and products and materials not harvested in a sustainable fashion.  The house’s flooring strategy is simple, a slab-on-grade allows for the first floor to be a polished concrete floor eliminating the need for an extra material finish.  The second floor uses stained PureBond plywood in alternating grain patterns as the finished material.  PureBond is free of formaldehyde, uses a soy-based adhesive, is manufactured in the U.S., and is cost competitive.  PureBond will also be used in a few other instances in the house.

Countertops in the kitchen will be Paperstone.  Paperstone is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and is bonded with petro-free phenolic resins and uses natural pigments.  It is a great solid surface countertop with a small footprint.

Additionally, interior paints will be no VOCs and stains will be low VOCs.  These are small, easy decisions which can lead to a much more responsible home design.

HVAC – Systems often become energy hogs.  While the house is small and well insulated, the systems chosen are still important.  For the heating and cooling, the house uses a multi-split system, allowing for a more individualized system.  Basically, this type of system allows for control over a larger number of spaces individually, with 4 units in the house each to be controlled on their own.  Further, the systems don’t require any central duct system, so no energy is lost during transfer and no ducting required.  The house also uses a tankless water heater, allowing for greater efficiency.

Green Roof – It is also the hope that the house will have vegetated surfaces on both roofs.  The lower roof portion over the dining space is meant for more habitation but will still allow for pockets of vegetation while the upper roof portion will be almost completely plant material. Green roofs act to reduce rainwater runoff, increase insulation values, increase the life of the roof, and, honestly, are just aesthetically pleasing.

Landscaping – The landscaping strategy, while not completely designed yet (designs will be shown later) will feature a large garden and native plantings.  We all know urban gardening is the new trend, and for good reason.  It’s more sustainable to grow the food you can and rely less on outside sources.  The native aspect of the landscaping allows for plants which are already adapted to the environment in which they are situated, allowing for a landscape demanding less water and maintenance to thrive.

*I know these features listed are not the only sustainable strategies in the house but hopefully give you a sense of the goals of the house.  Sustainability should be inherent in all new construction and these features reflect that modern, sustainable design does not require lots of money but, in fact, can be quite affordable.