We are so excited to have a project construction sign up at the entrance to the property. My generous friend and creative colleague, Lili Mundroff, designed this fabulous image for us to use as a way to showcase all the exciting things we hope to achieve for our house: passive House, net zerO, air qUality, reSilient, restorativE.
Bentonite was first used to help seal earth dams and line ponds in the late 1920’s. After that, bentonite was used as a lubricant for driving pilings and caissons. In the mid-1960’s bentonite became accepted as a below-grade waterproofing membrane for the building construction industry.
Bentonite is commonly used for blindside applications, because it has the ability to repair itself if ripped, punctured, or cracked.
Bentonite waterproofing panels consisting of approximately 1 PSF of bentonite clay granules confined in the corrugations of kraft-paper boards, used for waterproofing
split-slab construction, backfilled concrete and masonry walls, and earth-covered structures.
We finally feel like our floor plan is ready for public release! After what seems like years and years of revision, we feel we have reached a stopping point on our floor plans! On a tight budget, a simple shape is rule number one. Fortunately, this is also rule number one(ish) for achieving our exceedingly high energy reduction expectations. It is a challenge to make something interesting and beautiful out of a rectangle as well as with an eye (or two) on costs. We feel we have been successful in creating a plan that is open, yet defined, and provides us with the space we need in a minimal and efficient layout. We have attempted to minimize interior partitions by dividing spaces with built-ins. We have also been successful in clustering utility spaces to minimize plumbing and duct runs. Second floor plan to follow. Elevations and 3Ds are very near final decisions!
Last weekend we spent a lovely winter afternoon marking our trees for those that are to remain on site and those that are to be removed, milled and delivered back to the site as various building materials. It was another step bringing us closer to the reality of building our new Passive House, net zero, resilient, healthy home! Though it saddens us to have to remove so many trees, we are very excited about the opportunity to use these trees in various fabulous ways on and in the house. All the trees coming down are giant, super straight, yellow poplars. Currently we are checking with a company in PA to see if they can mill our wood into siding and thermally modify it. Other options are to use it for casing, wall paneling, shelving, cabinets and furniture. Defining the logistics of cutting, trucking, milling and cooking will be our next challenge.
We were also greeted by this lovely, engineered stormwater rock ‘garden’ placed on our property by the road crew. The kids had great fun balancing on the rocks! And with some grasses, ferns and other appropriate plantings we will have a beautiful rain garden at the entrance to our property! Check back for details on that project…
We had the wonderful and exciting experience of visiting the property on a beautiful fall day to scope out the stakes locating the corners of the property and the corners of the house. It’s amazing how those few flags in the ground make things seem that much more real! It was very beneficial to see where the house will go in order to assess how many and which trees will need to be removed for the house and for solar access. Michael used the solar pathfinder at the four corners of the house to see how we fair with solar exposure in this heavily wooded site. We were pleasantly surprised that we can get relatively good exposure without too much effort. Most trees blocking the sun need to be thinned or removed anyway for the health of the forest. While we were there, we found this little turtle guy that Cedar could barely stand to put down.
This weekend Michael and I were filled with the energy of food. In the tiny, south-facing backyard of our 1921 bungalow, we have created an overgrown, weedy and luscious garden of peach, pear, lime and avocado trees; tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, and strawberry plants; and a lovely selection of herbs.
After weeks and weeks of not finding the time, Michael finally carved out a few hours to make pickles from our pickling cucumbers, which have produced an amazing amount of fruit. As we shared stories of our grandmothers and mothers taking the time to do the same, we realized what an integral part of sustainability and resiliency canning and pickling food is. I know there is a resurgence in canning from our generation and we hope to join in. Our neighbors have given us some of the best homemade applesauce I’ve ever had! Though it does take effort and time, the reward and satisfaction of creating foods from your on backyard is well worth it. We’ve agreed to pickle beets next. They’re not in the backyard, but we both have such fond memories of Granny’s beets!
Admittedly, I’m not as dedicated to the pickle making as Michael, but I did bake a delicious blueberry-peach cobbler using the peaches from our tree and some local blueberries. I remember so clearly being a young girl sitting at the counter watching my Granny prepare fruit, cut the shortening into the flour using two knives (I use a pastry blender), and slowly adding ice cold water to make the crust. I use her vintage one-handled wooden rolling pin to roll out the dough and slice it into strips to lay over the fruit. She would always let me eat the leftover ends and ugly shapes. Cedar took over this job. I made my crust a little thicker than she would and didn’t add quite as much sugar. But I didn’t skimp on the butter! ‘Cobblers’ must be a southern thing (ps. I’m from Texas) because my friends don’t seem to understand the concept of a non-solid crust top and bottom. We all ate it while it was still warm. Michael paid the best compliment by leaving off the ice cream!
These two experiences reminded us of how essential food is to our sustainable efforts. We take groceries stores for granted and have lost touch with generations of ‘sustainable’ practices – before ‘sustainability’ was a noun. As we plan our new house, we are including areas for a herb garden at the kitchen window sill; we have a place of honor for our beloved avocado tree; and we are working on plans for a 4-seasons room with planting beds along the inside perimeter (which will also serve as a greywater filter). We are determining locations for our fruit trees and are already excited about the abundance of raspberry bushes on site!
We made a visit to the site of the future Passive House Annapolis project to look more closely at the lot and perform some initial solar analysis. It is an absolutely beautiful setting and we enjoyed time just being in this small piece of rural Maryland preserved in this wonderful forest conservation easement. Due to the requirements to respect the forest conservation easement, solar gain will be a challenge. We believe that while taking only a few trees at a strategic distance from the house but still within the building disturbance area, we should be able to achieve sufficient gain in the winter while preserving shading in the summer to reduce cooling loads.
The building is being designed as a truly integrated design effort between INDRAlogic and Chesapeake Passive House. The process has been seamless and very enjoyable. It is remarkable how well (and easily) Passive House design can be when all the participants share the common goal of holistic sustainability and an awareness of the design principles in question.
Plans are well underway and renderings should be up soon!
Despite the torrential downpour today and the certain mushiness, this weekend we plan to go to the site and stake the footprint of the house. It will be interesting to try to actualize what we have been looking at for so long on paper – squiggly, curvy contour lines washing around the rectangular form of the house. It will also be interesting to see if the house actually sits where we’ve been envisioning it all these months. To combine the 2D conceptual with the 3D actuality will, if anything, be a challenge!
Points to keep in mind:
- Orientation – Fortunately our view and site is orientated toward the south. We will be pushing the house to the northern most point of the building envelope to allow for the greatest expanse of uninterrupted southern exposure. Optimizing southern exposure and appropriately designing openings will go a long way toward ‘passively’ heating the space. Correct shading devices and the abundance of deciduous trees will help with our cooling loads in the summer.
- Clearing + Grading – The building envelope is located on a relatively level area, therefore very little cut and fill will need to be done to accommodate our footprint. As for the trees and clearing it will be necessary. Being “treehuggers” it is difficult to mark trees for cutting. We are graced by the magnificence of hundred foot tall Poplars residing on the land. As we site the house to the south, we will additional site for minimal tree clearing. Our saving grace is that the trees that are felled will receive new life as the structure of our home. Additional 75% of the land is in a Forest Conservation Easement and will remain so in perpetuity.
- Approach – As you drive down the windy farm road, the house will be one of the few signs of human intervention on the land. We want to simultaneously blend and inspire. There are 6 “tree druid” that stand straight and tall guarding the entry to the homesite. The conceptual plan is to allow these ancient beasts to continue doing their job and additionally welcome us home.