And Now, Your Feature Presentation

I’ve been gradually building up a summary of the main features that I plan to include in the Little Rental House.  Some of these will go in with the first build; others might be “nice-to-haves” that get added once the home is actually ready for occupancy.

  • Accessible
    • ADA-compliant parking space
    • ADA-compliant bathroom, kitchen, living areas
    • ADA-compliant entrance ramps, etc.
  • Efficient resource use for heating and cooling
    • Walls, ceiling, and floor all insulated to better than R-40.
    • Double (or maybe triple) glazed windows for heat retention.
    • Heated with air-source heat pump to minimize power required.
    • Heat-recovery ventilator to provide fresh air with minimum heat loss.
    • Hot water heating inside heated space (reduces heat loss)
    • Drain water heat recovery unit
  • Minimum water footprint
    • Rainwater collection with filtration and UV sterilization
    • Downcycling of greywater for toilet flushing
  • Minimum power requirements
    • Low-voltage LED lighting used throughout to save power (< 0.25kWh/day)
    • DC refrigerator (< 0.7kWh/day)
    • Direct outlets for DC appliances (24V, 5V USB)
    • Two stage water heating with ultra-insulated storage (30 gal, est. < 0.5kWh/day) plus on demand system for large volume use (AC only)
    • Water pumping using low power, low voltage DC pumps (< 0.1kWh/day including sterilization)
    • Heat recovery from waste water (bathtub, clothes washer, sinks)
  • Grid-flexible solar power generation
    • Battery storage (about 10 kWh) for approximately 6 days including hot water, up to 2 days with constant heating.
    • Online inverter provides whole-house “uninterruptible” power supply

The City of Ithaca and Town of Ithaca are working on a new joint “energy code supplement” to encourage green building.  New construction should get a minimum of 6 “points” in their system.  My rough calculation for the proposed home is 11 points:

  • EE1: air source heat pump = 3 points
  • AI1: smaller building size = 2 points (under 1120 sq ft)
  • AI2: heating system in heated space = 1 point
  • AI5: modest window-to-wall ratio (13%) = 1 point
  • RE1: on-site renewable electric = 3 points (2350 kWh/year / 648 sf > 3.6)
  • OP4: meet NYStred Code-2020 Version 1.0 = 2 points (maybe, complex to evaluate)

A New Start

This blog has languished for some time while a number of shifts have happened in my life.  While I’ve learned many things in this time, I haven’t been producing much intellectual output aside from my work.  I wanted to change that, and as this timing coincides with receiving a building permit for a new home that I’m about to build, it seemed a great chance to combine the two threads.

So, while this post is a new start for the blog, it also represents a new start in the sense that economists would call “building starts” – a permit has been issued for #3 White Hawk Ln. (affectionately known as the Little Rental House), and I’m hoping to begin construction soon.  I expect to be blogging about the design, the process, and various other aspects.

The new house will be essentially one story, with two bedrooms and one full bath.  There is some additional loft space above that can be used for storage, office, etc., but other than the house is intended to be ADA accessible by design.  Beyond that, it will also have the highest insulation levels of any home yet built at White Hawk, in an attempt to reach “passive house” levels of efficiency.  (I won’t write that out in German because I think it’s a trademark if I do.)  I have a wide range of other “neat features” planned but I won’t spoil all the fun by writing about them in this first post.  I plan to be doing a lot of the construction myself to keep costs in check.

Obviously, I don’t have any interesting pictures to share, but I’m including a rendering of the house as seen from the west (looking in the windows into the kitchen, at the left, and the living room, at the right).  I have also uploaded the full plan set (large, 2.3M PDF) for people who might be interested in those details.

The current status is thus: I have the building permit in hand.  I am waiting for the surveyors to come out and mark for both the lot position and the house position.  I’ve started seeking quotes from contractors for excavation and foundation work, which I don’t feel qualified to do myself.  I’ve been learning about the differences between pre-fabricated Bilco basement entry steps and building the staircase myself; and I’m looking into how this impacts the choice of equipment that I can potentially put into service in the basement.

And I’ve already (based on the first quote) gone something like $13,000 over budget.  So… I’ve got to work on getting that down.  My estimate was based on the fact that the total cost for site prep and excavation for my current home was $5,300 (in 2007).  I expected this to go up, and resources like this suggest that maybe 50% increase was reasonable, so my budget was $8,000.   You can imagine my surprise when I got a quote for $21,000.  Of course, the quote isn’t quite comparable, because it includes work that on my current home was recorded under “utilities,” and which I hadn’t properly estimated in my initial budget.

I’ll keep you posted on how things look as I move along.