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Friday, October 9, 2009

Cottage 23

For all of you blog followers, you will recognize this house as one that had barely begun 8 weeks ago. Presently we are painting the exterior, laying the floor in the interior and beginning to make final arrangements for the the soft landing into closing out another deal.

Basically, we've reinvented what construction can be - instead of an over-budget, delayed, aggravating headache, we've invented a system where each house is done on time, each house is on budget and each house design and collaboration is high-speed but so well organized and so well-planned to play to our homeowners' strengths (busy but Internet savvy - picky but flexible - interested in collaboration but not to the extent of locating each and every outlet, light fixture, trim detail, etc...).

And it works - for the last 2 years, we have slam dunked our new homeowners into their homes with nary a hiccup (unless self-created hiccup, which we are powerless to stop). We have set the bar so high in terms of service, process, creativity, speed and value that at this point our competitors can do nothing but helplessly toss verbal assaults at us - in terms of creating meaningful competition, they seem to have given up on that.

It's all quintessentially perfect and perfectly new. There won't be a surprise for these guys when they move in, no extra expense, no septic to replace, well pump to fix, foundation wall to analyze.

We like to 'stick' our 1x12 wide plank flooring for a few days prior to installation to allow it to acclimate.

1x6 edge and center (commonly referred to as beadboard) defining the angles of the porch.

PrePaint and pre-porch post installation. This porch will get a standing seam galvanized metal roof.

We do a lot of green things to our homes - without all the malarkey of LEED certification, NHBA bureaucracy or the like. James and I spent the better part of 2 months examining how to green a structure and what we could do to achieve LEED status in our homes, etc...

What we finally concluded was pretty simple - that homes are pretty green to begin with, and the path to LEED certification was more an effort in paperwork, inspections and frankly, bullshit than anything else. Probably in big commercial projects, the positive impact can be more readily established, but for residential construction, - mostly malarkey.

An everyday example would be like this - I bought a toothbrush and efficiently bought the toothpaste at the same time thus saving gas (2 points - if I would have recycled a toothbrush, 3 points). I organized my team (my family) submitted the paperwork, and called the inspector when I was brushing my teeth to validate and verify that I was not leaving the water on while brushing (2 points - if the whole family brushes their teeth at the same time, 3 points). Verified that I did not put too much toothpaste the brush (2 points, using baking soda, 3 points), and on and on. In the end, it seems like if a small builder has the staff to babysit a very intensive paperwork and coordination effort, LEED certification is yours for the taking.

James and I wanted to offer a real green house, not a rubber stamped green house, not a green house that has a check list of performance criteria but no real improved performance - we wanted to offer a better-performing house and so we dug in real deep and figured out we could do that at the lowest possible cost. Because in the end, it's all about the money.

Our homes are out of the park green - they are small (half the size or less than the average american home), we use lots of salvaged and recycled materials, we use spray foam insulation, our boilers are efficient, our house placement is smart, our covered porches protect from sun and wind, we recommend on-demand tankless water heaters, and mostly and foremost, our homes are built to standards that are high and ever increasing.
We love spray foam insulation - for a couple of thousand dollars, the integrity of the building envelope can be improved substantially and measurably. We are using a product with 47% renewable ingredients including 27% soy. The benefit of spray foam insulation over old fashioned pink fiberglass is the ability of the spray foam to eliminate air penetration and heat loss. Here is the back of the truck - a laboratory of sorts. I was such a believer that this is the wave of the future - that the old pink panther will be rapidly set aside - that we set up a business specializing in insulating homes. Catskill Farms now believes the number 1 thing a homeowner can do to increase their homes efficiency and lower their heating costs is to upgrade to spray foam insulation.

There's the stone facing going up the chimney.

And a pictorial history of this home's construction, which began - believe it or not - in mid-July.

The story of Cottage 23 - as we like to say, the proof is always in the pudding.


  1. Beautiful house... another one knocked out of the park. Can't wait to see photos of the completed interior. Big congrats-in-advance to P & D!

  2. I agree that spray foam insulation is probably your biggest bang for your buck in terms of home efficiency. One thing you don't do though, which I realize is more expensive, is radiant heating. As someone who can't stand radiators (from California originally and even the 1920s home I grew up in didn't have them), I guess it can be a style thing too, but they also take up more space as an added negative. I would consider adding radiant as an option, if it isn't one already. Keep up the great work.

  3. Hi Amous - thanks for checking in - it's most appreciated. You couldn't be more right about radiant and in terms of cost, when you factor in the cost of the radiators and the cost of transporting them, radiant probably isn't anymore money.

    However, there are a few reasons why I don't use it that often. For one, for a guy with a warranty, putting radiant under wood floors is a problem waiting to happen - that direct heat right under the 12" boards can really play havoc and since the cost of a floor failure is huge, it's something I don't gamble with unless there is full disclosure and transfer of problems to the homeowner.

    2ndly, I love radiators - new style, old style, victorian. I love them all - the design, the weight, the look, the smell of the heat, putting a piece of bluestone on top for a warmed coffee table like surface.

    They definitely take up space but even in the smallest of our homes, we will find a place for them.

    Realistically, our painted white plank ceilings and the old skool rads have been tools in our box, tricks up our sleeve since the very first home.

    Thanks again for your 2 cents.

  4. but in terms of green-ness and efficiency - where no other factors are calculated - a good radiant concrete slab and spray foam insulation is an amazing combination. we learned that last winter when we were building albert's barn and the electric went out in Eldred and it was like
    -10 degrees and that damn barn only lost 3 degrees of heat after 7 hours of no heat. It was a true eye-opener as a builder -

    it's funny but true, - most builders would rather build a bad house that doesn't take any chances (that could bite him in the ass) rather than a great house with all sorts of unknowns.

  5. What kind of siding to you have on this structure? Do you use cement fiber?