On April 20 we hosted a house tour and presentation to two groups: the Iowa Building Enclosure Council, and a sustainable construction class from Hawkeye Community College.
I was on-site last week (Jan. 9-10) for the installation of Zola windows. This was both exciting and nerve-wracking for a few reasons:
- Installing the windows correctly is critical to both the water management strategy and air tightness of the house. I wanted to make sure the details I had drawn actually worked out in practice.
- The windows are massive. Each panel of the large lift-slide doors weighed 1000 lbs., and the second floor study window was 800 lbs.
- The windows are one of the most expensive line items for the entire house. The possibility of damaging them was a bit scary.
Further complicating the process were extremely cold temperatures, and one day of rain (just enough to cover everything with mud).
In charge of the installation was Harry Schilling of Schilling Construction. I was incredibly pleased with Harry’s work and would highly recommend him for other projects. He and his team were fast and efficient while also paying close attention to detail. Harry also taught the owner and his assistant how to perform the installation, so they could help out with many of the steps, thereby reducing the labor costs.
Here’s how the windows were installed — both in theory and in practice.
I incorporated energy and daylight analysis as part of the conceptual design for the Iowa Nest Residence. This meant that early design discussions encompassed both traditional topics like floor plan layout, siting, and aesthetics, as well as performance criteria. The addition of analysis added a trivial amount of time, but proved incredibly valuable. Here’s how I did it — and what I will do differently next time.
One of the goals for this house is durability: a lifespan of 200 years or more. Is concrete an appropriate material to achieve that aim?
First, some background: It’s not the concrete itself that’s problematic; it’s the rebar embedded in concrete. This rebar tends to corrode over time, and as it does, the rust increases the diameter of the rebar slightly, spalling the concrete, and eventually causing the concrete to fail. This is the main reason why Roman concrete (which had no rebar) has lasted for 1000s of years, whereas contemporary concrete’s lifespan is typically measured in decades.
I’ve had several requests to post additional images of the house design — so here are the floor plans and exterior elevations. Enjoy!
Before I ever put pen to paper for this project, I wanted to answer a deceptively simple question: What passive design measures are most important? What basic strategies did the design need to employ to be successful? —to maintain human comfort with a minimum of added energy?
It’s important to answer this question before design begins in earnest for two reasons:
- With a limited budget, it’s important that we invest in the right things; and
- If we know the most important strategies before we start designing, we can incorporate them into the DNA of the design—often more effectively and at lower cost than if they were afterthoughts. For instance, if thermal mass or natural ventilation is important, these things will begin to dictate the construction or interior layout in ways that are difficult to “add on” later.
The Iowa Nest is a Net Zero Energy-targeted residence in rural Iowa. It is designed to supply 100% of its energy needs; to be comfortable without conventional air conditioning; to fit into the landscape; to last for hundreds of years; and to do all of this on a conventional construction budget.
This blog will be run jointly by me (Carl), the primary designer, and by the owners, Peter and Jen. Our hope is to share our experiences designing and building this house so others can learn from our mistakes and re-create our successes. Our experience has shown us that it is possible to achieve remarkable performance (and great design) with a reasonable budget — and we hope to show others how they can do this, too.
You can subscribe to our mailing list to get regular updates: just send an email to email@example.com.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at the project’s design goals.