Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Week 1 - Prep for the foundation

The undisturbed building site

Luckily, a bunch of snow and a thick layer of grass have served to insulate the ground from the cold and have kept it from freezing, even through the recent cold spell. The picture above shows an image of the future location of the residence. See those red bushes? Multiflora rose: worst plant ever; invasive plus thorny plus big and strong equals bad news. I’ve been fighting with it for the past half-year. I had to clear it from around the site and from under the apples trees.

Which way is south?

The whole house design hinges on a south facing structure, as outlined in our last post. Unfortunately, you can’t just use the compass in your iPhone to figure out which way is south. A compass points to the magnetic south (which is strangely enough the north end of the earth’s magnetic dipole), but we want to point the house toward the sun — midway between sunrise and sunset — often referred to as “solar south.” This will ensure that the south face of the house is exposed to sunlight symmetrically — the same amount of sunlight in the morning as in the afternoon.

Mary and I went out to the lot at midday (which happened to be at 11:45 AM, halfway between sunrise and sunset), and we put the thin green stakes in the ground in line with the shadow cast by sun, as shown above, to indicate the direction of solar south. Then Kyle (the builder) and I placed the wooden stakes with orange streamers at the four corners of the home. It looks so small! That’s what went through my mind when I saw the 26’ by 26’ square, the location of the outside corners of the walls. I wonder if it will feel too small when it’s finished. Oh boy.

We angled the house slightly westward to help avoid looking directly at the neighbor’s home. Matt (the architect) believed that the exact angle south wouldn’t significantly affect the solar heat gain.

It begins!

Here’s the progress, taken the week of January 7th, complete with fun tractors and big piles of dirt. We’ve broken ground!

A shot of the cleared ground under the foundation. The topsoil was removed and the remaining soil was compacted. You can see how the water, sewer, electrical, PV and communications conduits and stub-ups are already set into place. Hay with black plastic on top are keeping the ground from freezing.

The EPS foam has been delivered. Once the structural fill is put down over the compacted dirt, the EPS foam will be laid down and will serve as a container in which to pour the concrete. The resulting concrete slab will be the downstairs floor inside the home.