Two crucial and exciting deadlines - June 29th (NYSERDA Energy Star test) and July 14th (Das Haus Exhibit from Germany) - are energizing the renovation process. Nothing like a deadline to motivate people! The house is swarming with people from different trades working furiously to complete their respective jobs.
The masons are finishing the stone work on the chimney and front exterior of the house. Nearby Suzanne Levine, the project designer, Richard Heller, the landscaper, Val Sobreiro, the lead mason, and Adam Zdrilic, the project manager, along with Artie Bruno, the Murphy Brothers Director of Projects are discussing the front walkway and driveway options.
These are big considerations as they involve drainage issues! My driveway has a rather steep decline and therefore it is necessary to prevent water runoff from ending up in my basement! Wanting to avoid an asphalt black top driveway we decided upon a more Green impervious driveway composed of two tire lanes made of the same stone being used on the front exterior with “no mow grass” or sedum in between.
It will involve a bigger drain at the bottom of the driveway than presently exists but the Belgium blocks used in the 50s to border the driveway are being dug up and re-used for the same purpose. The soil that is being dug up in preparation for the new driveway is being re-purposed to help level the backyard. The stone tire lanes will allow the driveway to be easily plowed in the winter - a real consideration! The driveway concept was Richard’s brilliant idea. Then the shape of the two walkways were planned as well as the design of its blue slate pattern. Blue slate has been selected because it is a local native product. Val, an expert mason with a great eye, suggested a narrow 16” border garden along the one walkway parallel to the driveway - an idea I really like as it softens the hardscape.
At the same time, Kai and his crew from Sunrise Solar Solutions, are installing the solar photovoltaic (CVP) panels on the roofs. The cool thing is that each panel has its own inverter of DC to AC power therefore if one panel is having an issue only that one panel is affected and not the whole system. There are four sections comprised of a total of 32 panels on four different roofs. The expectation is that I will derive all my pollution-free power from these solar panels. Now, isn’t’ that a sweet notion? It is a huge upfront cost and If it were not for the rebates, I unfortunately would not have been able to consider this Green option. Believing in the use of solar energy, I don’t mind putting the panels on my front roof - I think they are a functionally and esthetically beautiful thing! Just imagine never having to pay a ConEd bill!!! That’s a beautiful thing and something to shout out loud about!
Inside the house in the master bathroom, Simon, of Ecua Stone Corp, is installing the 2” square glass floor tiles in the shower. He has almost single-handedly tiled this master shower which has painstakingly required patience and incredible skill especially in cutting the glass tile. The shower is now ready to be grouted and is waiting for the shower doors to be measured by Glass Crafters. Soon the plumbers will be able to install the low-flow shower head and body sprays. The sink faucets with aerators serving to reduce water consumption have been installed.
Ryan Schildwachter, the head cabinet maker at the Murphy Brothers, standing behind the built-in breakfast bench is on site to ensure the custom cabinets that he engineered and had built in his work room are installed correctly. The kitchen cabinets made of rift oak wood with maple interiors (chosen because they are native woods) are stained brown with a lustrous pearlized-like finish while the dining room cabinet has five layers of poly paint to create a high gloss finish along with the family room shelving/media cabinet made of the same white poly finish. It was a very difficult process of installing the cabinet boxes and then putting together the hundreds of component pieces. The fact that they all fit so perfectly is astonishing! Ryan was amazingly and thankfully precise and organized. Consequently the installations are coming together without a hitch! The cabinets he built are stunningly beautiful.
Although, incomplete and missing some appliances and the hardware, the kitchen is slowly coming together and should be almost completed for the the Friday deadline.
A Murphy Brother’s framer is preparing the wall for the cement fireplace surround being made off site for the energy efficient Wittus wood burning fireplace insert. The cement form which is asymmetric in shape is being delivered and installed next week by Get Real Surfaces in NYC. The cement form is composed of recycled aggregate and mirror pieces.
The action is palpitating and for me it is exciting to see it all coming together - the puzzles are being put together and my house is suddenly becoming the house I always envisioned.
Philip Christon, owner of PNC electric Corp and electrician extraordinaire, is actually on the white milk glass counter installing the electric component of the cook top exhaust hood!
Later he was balancing on a ladder installing the track lighting - a very complicated system with many, many little parts and energy efficient LED light bulbs. The process was made easier by the careful planning and ordering executed by Nancy Holstin at Klaffs. Every light fixture being installed will have LED lighting which is a requirement of LEED certification but one that makes total sense in that it is energy efficient and lasts a long time.
Simon, of Ecua Stone is now installing the back splash in the kitchen where the cook top will go. It is a porcelain concave 2” square pearlized tile - chosen because they are both beautiful and easy to clean. Luis, owner of Ecua Stone and his men are absolute craftsmen and perfectionists. Luis carefully plans everything a head of time to prevent needless mistakes. The tiling materials chosen required special expertise and to date Luis and his team have my utmost confidence and respect.
The custom Walnut front exterior door created by artisan, Ron DiBlasi of Modular molding Co., Inc in his Tarrytown studio was made from six 2” thick planks of walnut. He sliced them into 1/3” thick pieces, arranged them and put them seamlessly together into what was delivered and installed Tuesday. The Rocky Mountain hardware added on site. Although it still needs to be stained the door in my opinion is gorgeous and the grain is beautiful. Had initially wanted an exotic tropical wood but opted for a locally grown and milled native wood at the suggestion of Christina Griffin. This walnut door works well with all the other exterior materials.
The most important Green trade, Total Green, for the blower test on Friday will finally be on site today, Wednesday, to complete the geothermal system (the pipes sticking up out of the ground is where the geothermal is located in above photo) and make sure it is 100% operational along with the HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation system) which is being installed and will be 100% operational as well. There is no room for error!
The later is very important in maintaining a whole home healthy environment. Outside fresh air exchange through vents filters the incoming air of pollutants. There are several such vents on the exterior wall as seen in the photo above. The objective of the HRV is to prevent hidden dampness, condensation, dust, toxins or harmful pollens from contaminating the interior air quality. This air exchange system is crucial in a house that is insulated in an air tight manner as this house is. It is almost a passive house.
It is for this reason and the use of other green technologies that Milagros Lecuona, Chair Person of the Sustainable Committee in WP with the approval of the Das Haus committee have asked to include my house in the amazing touring Das Haus Exhibit on the 14th of July. The Das Haus exhibit - a fabulouly designed passive house - will be in WP for 10 days during the month of July. It is an amazingly designed modern passive home not to be missed. On the 14th of July, I am honored to have my house open to the public in conjunction with that exhibit. Visitors to the Das Haus Exhibit will be encouraged to use the new bicycle lanes or be bused to my house where the various Green trades including my architect, Christina Griffin, and my contractors, the Murphy Brothers will be on hand to discuss the Green technologies employed in my house.
Go to the Das Haus website for more information regarding the passive house at http://dashaustour.com/#locations.
In the meantime, this Friday, the 29th, the NY Energy Star test and LEED Certification test are taking place. The major test is called the blower test to determine just how insulated the house is. Crucial to a successful test is the effectiveness of the Geothermal system. It is being performed by the LEED Certification inspector, Pasquale Stroccia. It is a very big deal! The objective is to get as many LEED points as possible as the total number of points determines if the house will be rated Silver, Gold or Platinum. Based on all that I have decided to do to reduce my carbon footprint and make my contribution to creating a sustainable environment while creating a healthier Green home that is at the same time energy efficient and cost effective I feel my house and property is worthy of Platinum but that may not be in the cards! Although LEED sets the standards, it is to some degree contingent upon the interpretation of one person - the LEED inspector. If I don’t achieve a Platinum certification, it totally begs the question: What does the average homeowner have to do to achieve a Platinum certification? How much money is one expected to spend upfront? What kind of message will it send if my house only rates a Silver or Gold??? More importantly, in spite of the LEED certification, I sincerely hope my house will serve as an inspiration to other homeowners. As an Eco-Broker & Green real estate agent, that has always been my incentive. And ultimately I will have my beautiful Green home to live in, benefit from and enjoy which was always the primary goal. In the meantime, these two very important dates are making my dream home a Green realty regardless of the LEED certification level. We look forward to meeting you at the open house on the 14th.