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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FH20 Guy Strikes Again

FH20 Guy Update #2 –
Starting the Process

While Chuck was busy running the land closing process, I started thinking about and planning for the actual farmhouse. First, buying and closing land is different than your typical experience of buying a coop or condo in New York City. Thankfully there are no coop boards, interviews, gazillions of forms to fill out, references to obtain, and so forth. Even better, Chuck does all the
work for you... communicating with the various stakeholders, organizing the professional survey, conducting perc tests for septic, title/deed searches, and so forth. While I’m sure there’s more
than one way to skin the cat, I’ve been very happy so far with the professionalism, performance, and pricing of Chuck’s contacts (real estate lawyer for closing, survey firm, title/deed company, etc.) and expect nothing to change as we move towards closing. Why bother figuring this out when someone’s already figured it out for you after building hundreds of Catskill farms? Plus, I have to imagine all of these guys will want to continue to get Chuck’s referrals and business so they’ll do a good job. So far, everyone’s been an A+ professional.

Offloading this work allowed me to totally geek out and start working on the actual FH20. It’s
been an amazingly fun and educational process so far, and this is what we’ve done so far:

* Agreed on the basics of FH20, shapes, layout, and so forth. With so many existing designs and
examples, you can copy or modify entire cottages or pinpoint specific rooms or design features from the Catskill Farms galleries. I loved walking through actual farmhouses at different stages of production...framing going up, windows being installed, drywall and porch railing being secured, and of course finished products.

* Planned for a separate structure, probably a classic red barn we can use to garage a vehicle, serve as a man shed, and provide power/water for my wife’s attached, integrated greenhouse.

* Strongly considering green technologies for HVAC and other utilities. I should devote a separate post for this because it’s been fascinating learning experience, but in summary, we’re probably going to use (a) ground-source heat pump and forced air (ducting) for HVAC, (b) LP backup power with automatic switching; check out this New York Times article at http://tinyurl.com/c2m2xnd where the writer profiles Catskill Farms, (c) LP hot-water tank, not on-demand, tied into the heat pump as well, and (d) a possible grid-tied solar photovoltaic
(PV) system for electricity production.

* Spec-ed out a tricked out bathroom, affectionately named POJAB™, or the “Pimped Out Japanese Awesome Bathroom.” Chuck came up with this acronym after hearing me describe the concept, and I’ve ripped it off from him and trademarked it. I’ll definitely have to devote
another post to the POJAB!

* We recently walked the actual property and have yet to decide the actual placement and orientation of the structures. There are several considerations (seclusion, unique property features, proximity to utilities, driveway length, tree and brush clearing, etc.) so we’ll evaluate a few possible sites, write up pros/cons, and most importantly attach costs to each site. With the greenhouse and potential solar PV system, the barn or garage will definitely have one side facing south, the optimal orientation for maximum sunlight. The rest of it will probably be determined by cost... trying to get the biggest bang for our buck.

It’s fun to write about this stuff right now to “mark the moment” and record the thoughts and considerations currently going through our heads. I’m sure as the process evolves, we’ll have to modify or even delete certain things due to cost, but we’ll revisit that when it comes. After we
close on the land, we’ll hammer out the construction schedule and budget given all the information we have and we’ll go from there. Yep, we’re really motoring now!

Additional reading and information:

(Above) The GO Home in Belfast, Maine (LEED Platinum, Home
Project of the Year 2011):

Ground source heat pump:

Energy Star products, including heat pumps and LP hot water
tanks: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_find_es_products

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