Renovation Timeline: January - March 2010

Armstrong House Project: Renovation

Armstrong House




January – March, 2010

The Armstrong House renovation is approaching the home stretch and, while it might not look like it now, is close to being ready for interior finishes. Work has included focusing on the mechanics of the home and facilitating the application of wall, ceiling and floor materials. All electric wiring circuits have been rechecked and tested for continuity and, despite enduring the past year and a half of construction, everything is in good working order. Minor wall, ceiling and floor framing and final stair sub-floor repairs have also been completed in part to accommodate the height of the under-floor radiant panels and new floor covering. Modification has been made to an existing 2nd floor window to comply with egress regulations and enhance natural ventilation. Accommodations for the 500 gallon propane tank in a visually obscured location at the residence includes a concrete pad and trenching to the house for gas line. Propane will be one of several energy sources to provide heat and hot water for the residence.

A propane fired generator will be used in conjunction with the solar electric and solar hot water panels on site, supplemented by wood burning stoves and heat recovery from the generator. All rough plumbing for the drain, waste and ventilation (DWV) system has been completed. The additional DWV stack necessitated by the newly expanded 2nd floor bathroom allows for the future provisioning of wastewater heat recovery as well as greywater recycling. When implemented, heat from the grey wastewater of the shower, bathroom sink and clothes washer can be used to preheat the water feeding into the water heater. This greywater can then be diverted to secondary uses like garden and foundation planting irrigation.

Efforts continue to seal up any existing cracks and exterior crevices around windows and door frames with caulking and weather stripping as we prepare for our late spring blower door test.

As wire is inexpensive and our labor situation is advantageous, we decided not to miss the opportunity to wire this off-the-grid home as a “smart” house with an abundance of low voltage wiring. Every room is wired for the following: 2 video ports 2 data ports, a thermostat port and a motion sensor port. There are also data ports at all major appliance locations. All external doors are hardwired for sensors and keypad locations exist by all entry locations as well as the two larger bedrooms. For fun and security, we have also wired four exterior locations on the house for video cameras to monitor wildlife movements. In the future, it is planned that visitors online will be able to log onto our website and ‘see’ what is happening at the site.

The net result of this work will permit the Armstrong House- although having a rustic and historical exterior and fitting into its wooded, protected viewshed- to sense its environs both interior and exterior and adjust accordingly for optimum energy conservation. As wired, it is projected that this “smart” home will control lighting, heating, ventilation and any Ethernet enabled appliance based on variable factors or set of commands from any location with web access! (We hope to avoid a 2001: A Space Odyssey-type situation but realize that artificial intelligence is here to stay.) We anticipate teaming up with interested individuals, businesses and academic courses or extracurricular activities such as high school robotics clubs to offer a practical, hands-on opportunity to use this applied technology. Clearly, in all built environments, every system burning fossil fuels or drawing electrical current will benefit from a control strategy to lessen its environmental footprint. As currently wired, the Armstrong House will be such a controlled environment.