Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Team Tortuga

Our trip back from Turtle Falls yesterday after having met with our building "team" was as if we were living in some weird Eagles songbook version of life...life in the fast lane of the westbound 401 was leaving us with a peaceful easy feeling. I swear no mushrooms were harmed for the writing of this post. Let me explain...

First let me introduce our team of extraordinary gentlemen. These are the enthusiastic and brilliant minds bringing passive house Casa Tortuga to reality. Hmm...all handsome AND handy. Red Green would be proud of our ability to assemble such an excellent team!

L-R: Stephen Magneron (Homesol Building Solutions Inc.), Mark Raison (Crane's Building Service),
Ross Elliot (Homesol Building Solutions Inc.), Chris Straka (Vert Design Inc.)

Yesterday's meeting brought everyone together to discuss construction details and determine what trees still need to be removed to allow for maximum solar gain. As you can see from the photo there are a lot of trees at Turtle Falls. Although a good number of trees met lumberjack Alistair's chainsaw a couple of weeks ago, there are still a few more to be introduced to said chainsaw. Stephen got right to work setting up the Solar Pathfinder.

Stephen levels the Solar Pathfinder in the excavation site and makes sure it's oriented to solar south
Then he takes a picture of the instrument's reflection of the sky
The reflection of the skyline in the Solar Pathfinder shows which trees need to be removed to allow maximum solar gain

The simplicity and brilliance of this instrument is mind boggling...nothing electronic, no batteries required, just a compass, a tiny bubble level, a graph/grid of the correct latitude for the area and a glass dome. The grid under the glass dome represents the sun's path (horizontal arcs) for every month of the year for our particular latitude (44 degrees N). The vertical lines represent time of day. The important times for sunlight hours for solar gain are between about 9 or 10 am to 3 or 4 pm. So if you look at the reflection of the trees on the grid lines between about 9:30am to 3:30pm, those are the trees needing to be removed. We were nicely surprised, and relieved, that we only have to remove about 10 pine trees. There's a fine balance of sun and shade required to passively heat and cool a house. The deciduous trees will not need to be removed since they will provide shade in the summer. In winter, they lose their leaves therefore they allow sunshine through. Brilliant!

There is a whole other side to the Solar Pathfinder that is way more high tech. The above photo gets loaded into a computer program that then allows for all kinds of analysis necessary for the energy modelling of a passive home. I'll leave you to investigate that on your own if you're interested...it's pretty high-end geekish best left to the high-end geeks to explain. Me, I'm just a low-end geek and it's beyond my capabilities! That's why we have Stephen and Ross from Homesol on board.

Priscilla's conference room holds 6...no problem!
Next, we all squeezed into Priscilla's conference room to discuss the details of foundation and wall construction, moisture barriers, air sealing, insulation choices, how to hang the deck to minimize thermal bridging, and window placement within the wall. Did you know that it makes a difference to the amount of heat gained through the windows whether the windows are installed closer to the interior or exterior of the wall? Ya...me neither! And since the walls of this house are going to be somewhere close to 23 inches (58cm) thick, before exterior cladding is installed, there's a lot of room to move the window in or out. Crazy stuff. My vote would be for more solar heat gain (cuz I really, really dislike being cold!) but I'll leave that up to the guys and their PHPP computer program to figure out what the best average would be for heating and cooling. Ras and I heard so many new names yesterday...blue skin, black jo, polyisocyanurate, xps, siga, yadayada...I'm glad we weren't being tested at the end of the day. That's why we have contractor Mark on board!

I'll say that it was a great meeting. The guys brainstormed about the best ways to construct this air tight house, debating option after option to reach our goals in the most cost effective and energy efficient manner. Ras & I were there to answer ya or nay to material choices...do we go with spray foam insulation with a high carbon footprint or do we choose the dense-pack cellulose option with less R-value per inch but more environmentally friendly (yes to the latter), if we have to add posts under the deck as opposed to cantilevering what is our preference. Cantilevering causes problems with thermal bridging...so lets explore the post option. When the brainstorm session concluded, Ras & I had a much deeper understanding of the why's and how's of passive house logic. This will be the first passive house that Mark has built so he is now feeling more confident about what needs to be done to get us to passive house certification. The seemingly odd techniques of over-insulating are making sense to him now. Mark has made the leap, with relative ease, from conventional building code compliant techniques (although he has always built to a better standard anyway) to the energy efficient building techniques of the future. Notice in the photo above how we have him surrounded and barricaded in the conference room...just in case he still had the notion to run screaming for the hills ;)

Finally, to make sense of the Eagle songbook reference...as we were in the fast lane zooming back to the city after this meeting, we both had this overwhelming sense of calm. You would think our heads would be spinning and there would be at least some anxiety about the scale and detail of this project...but no. That is a sure sign that we have assembled a great team that gives us 100% confidence in what we have decided to build at Turtle Falls.

'Cause I got a peaceful easy feeling,
And I know you won't let me down
'cause I'm already standing on the ground.

More later,

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The morphing of Passive House Casa Tortuga

Just a small 11,000 lb hoe ram (not me...the machine!).
This is my uncle David, owner/operator of the tiny,
ultra-quiet (not!) machine.
The activity at Turtle Falls has been brisk this week. The distinctive sound of the hoe ram on solid granite has been echoing throughout the land. It has been a good week of meeting the nearby neighbours. There's the curious neighbours wondering what the racket is all about. There's the helpful neighbours taking away the felled trees. They are happy to get the free firewood and/or pine logs. We're totally happy they're taking it away for free. We are certainly not going to need it as we will not be having a wood burning appliance in this passive house. I suppose this is one way to ease into the neighbourhood...by bribing the neighbours with free firewood. And, since the amount of rock we need removed will only be the equivalent of 3½ days of hammering we shouldn't lose all those newly-made neighbour friends. Some excavations in this area can require several weeks or months of hammering. We got to live through the months-long hammering for a house down the way last summer. It's the type of sound you just really can't get into the Zen of. Your brain starts to rattle along at the same tempo after a while. Your ears ring when the machines have all finally been quieted at the end of the day. It's all good though...at least from our perspective. We can't speak for the neighbours. We'll just beg forgiveness daily, now to completion.

The co-operative effort of taking down the big oak tree. These are our neighbours, lumberjacks Peter and Alistair. It sure was nice having the machine's assistance to assure the tree landed where wanted, rather than on Priscilla.

Making sure the rock is gone from all areas where footings need to be when the house is oriented to true south.

One machine is good. Two is better! One hammering, one clearing.

While all the hammering is happening at Turtle Falls, architect Chris and Homesol have been working with the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) to finalize the details for the house. There has been a major change in the look of the exterior of the house from the first version I posted earlier, but the floor plan remains the same. As I was writing this paragraph architect Chris called to discuss further design changes to the exterior. It's interesting to watch the changes morph the house from one form to another. We have certainly gone from one end of the spectrum, with a flat roof ultra modern look, to the other end with this version that looks more bungalow-like. Some changes were expected to happen in order to accommodate for roof overhang necessary to tame the summer sun streaming through the south windows. Ras was happy to lose the higher roof projection to gain the wrap-around deck. After talking with Chris it seems there will be much more morphing to come. Changes to the garage and it's roofline are forthcoming. So, for now...this is where we're at.

The latest version of the south east elevation with the lowered roofline, extended overhangs and decking.

Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka

More to come, no doubt. Too exciting!



Saturday, 3 November 2012

The money pit

There are few things more exciting than the first day of excavating for a new home. There's the initial feeling of nervousness anticipating what will become of the landscape that you have fallen in love with so intensely that it made you uproot your whole life as you once knew it. There's the "make sure you never leave the house again without your cheque book" realization. There's the "I need to get a better pair of boots to wade through the mud" realization. There are the many moments of being thankful for the league of extraordinary gentlemen that have jumped on board our crazy train to help bring this passive house to reality. But best of all, there is the all out feeling of wanting to jump for joy because of all of the above. Can't explain it any better than that so I'll get on with showing you this week's activities that have us so giddy.

Although we are not ready to start building just yet, the digging is commencing so we can deal with the rock that inevitably will show up in the wrong places. The following photos show some of the highlights of the last two days at Turtle Falls.

This is the view of the building site from a couple of weeks ago.

The same view after 2 days of digging and rock wrestling.

A co-operative tree-felling effort. Lumberjack Alistair cuts while excavator Richard directs the fall. Contractor Mark looks like he's just warming his hands in his pockets. Can't blame him...it rained most of the day.

Alistair rescues the lumber.

Yep, we knew this would likely happen. The white stripes in the dirt are telling us it's time to call in the hoe ram to carve out some inconveniently placed rock! Note to self - remember the ear plugs for that little exercise.

Ras and Mom supervise from the edge of the money pit. More tell-tale white stripes in the dirt means more work for the hoe ram.

For perspective and a closer view of the rock needing to be hammered out. Almost looks like a little  jump for joy.

This is Jim, the water witch (warlock, whisperer?). He is using his trusted crowbar as a dowsing or divining rod. The good news is he found a spot where 4 streams cross, making for a good well. There is no way to witch how deep we'll need to go to find that water. Word on the street is a well in this area can be as shallow as 80 feet or as deep as 450 feet. Here's hoping for closer to 80. 

More later,

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Stakes in the ground

Getting the bearings 
Oh...the excitement is hard to contain! Today architect Chris and contractor Mark visited the lot to site the general location of the house. It's exciting because it gives us hope that we will not spend the rest of our time here at Turtle Falls in a trailer...a sort of Priscilla purgatory if you will...but in a real house, with real running water and a real shower. Don't get me wrong...we love Priscilla and the wacky weed-sprayer showers but it's October now and the outdoor showers...not so fun. In fact, we have taken to visiting the provincial park down the road to use their "comfort station" showers since the temperatures are not so Mimi-friendly these days. Comfort station is a fitting name as the happy hot water showering is much more comforting there than shivering through the barely above-freezing temperatures of the TF forest. But I digress...

It was fun watching Chris and Mark talk about things that Ras and I only pretend to fully understand. It's mind boggling to think about the logistics of this project. Digging, well drilling, septic, building a house that will have more insulation under the concrete slab than conventional houses have in the walls, building a house without a conventional heating system, and then there's the whole solar panel learning curve too! I'm just thankful contractor Mark didn't run screaming for the hills when he got wind of what we've signed him up for.

The plan for the not too distant future is to do some investigative digging into the hill where the house is going to sit. Hopefully there will be no surprises in the form of badly placed bedrock. Contractor Mark has earned a reputation around the area for being able to excavate in the craziest and rockiest locations. Turtle Falls' terrain doesn't seem to scare him. This is good. He obviously has more than a pry bar and a pickle jar with which to do his digging!

As the title of this post suggests, we did put some stakes in the ground. Ras took her job a little too seriously maybe. You be the judge.

Trespassers Beware!
Not so passive woman stakes out location for her new Passive House.
 I try not to let it interfere with my peaceful painting
More later,

Saturday, 15 September 2012

First full look at Passive House Casa Tortuga

Well, here it is! The final (pre-PHPP) floor plans and elevation renderings for the future Passive House Casa Tortuga at Turtle Falls. There could be some minor changes once the PHPP modelling has been completed.

We are now at the stage where Architect Chris and Homesol are running all the initial characteristics of this design through a Passive House Planning Package (PHPP). This is a computer program that assists architects in designing to Passive House standard. This program is a reliable method for the calculation of energy consumption. The energy demand of highly efficient buildings is very accurately reproduced using this modelling program. Some of the areas that are run through the program include:
  • energy calculations (incl. R or U-values)
  • designing of window specifications
  • designing of the indoor air quality ventilation system
  • dimensioning of the heating load
  • dimensioning of the cooling load
  • predicting summer comfort
  • dimensioning of the heating and domestic hot water (DHW) systems
  • calculations of auxiliary electricity, primary energy requirements of circulation pumps etc., as well as the estimation of CO² emissions.
For a more comprehensive look at what the PHPP program is and how it predicts the energy demands of a Passive House, click here.

Main Level
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
Some of my favourite areas on the main floor include a much larger kitchen than we are used to and a proximitous (yes, newly coined word!) pantry as well as the bug bunker (aka screened porch). The mosquitoes...well, they will have to work a whole bunch harder at finding their free lunch now.

Lower Level
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
Lots of sleeping areas for visitors on the lower level. The office/overflow sleeping quarters in the SE corner will have spectacular views of the forest and lake.

South and East Elevation
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
The longer South elevation, with all its windows, will be where the majority of our winter heating will come from. The windows will be triple-glazed, insulated frames, e-coated and gas-filled. Coatings provide the required absorptive or reflective qualities, while the gas filling provides the glazed areas with insulative qualities. These windows are actually smarter and much harder working than me. Now, if we could just find windows that do all of the above and wash themselves too...heaven on earth!

The large roof overhang will shade the windows in the summer and prevent overheating. There will most likely be some other shading components/canopies added to further reduce summertime heat gain. Some of those smart e-coatings and gas-fillings help keep summer heat out as well.

West and South Elevation
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
This would be the view of the house from where Priscilla is located at the moment, I think.

North and West Elevation
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
The view as you drive in. I can see we'll be spending a pretty penny for pretty garage doors. The garage as the first thing you see as you approach a house has always been a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately, the required southern orientation of the house versus the location of the driveway approach leaves us with little choice on this. A completely separate garage makes Ras sad. We cannot have a sad Ras!

East and North Elevation
Copyright © 2012 Vert Design, Chris Straka
At the moment, the plan includes a 2-car garage. It may be reduced to a 1-car garage if we find we need to push the house back into the hill a little further. Nixing the extra car space would allow us to do that. The second space would then be regained as an add-on to my workshop when it finally gets built.

What you are seeing in the plan right now is a garage door exiting the back of the garage that will allow us to get a vehicle down to the waterfront when necessary. If we choose to go with just a 1-car garage then vehicle access to the waterfront would happen in front of the house. We won't know about this until we have actually driven some stakes in the ground to see where the house will sit on the land. Architect Chris is scheduled in early October to visit Turtle Falls for some house siting fun.

Until then,

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Upgraded internet & Free TV

New 4G Wimax receiver installed
Turtle Falls finally enters the high tech era...or maybe not. This is a story about one step forward and two steps back.

A few weeks ago our internet service was upgraded from a 3G Fixed Wireless service to 4G Wimax service...one step forward. That's Xplornet's Jess, in the picture, replacing the radio receiver with the new equipment on our tower. We were very excited about this changeover because we were getting less than stellar service with the old system. When we were actually receiving a signal we had no complaints about the 3G system, the speed was always a respectable 3Mbps. That's pretty good considering where we are. The problem was for about 8 hours out of every 24 we were not receiving a signal at all. Very frustrating considering our only reliable phone is an internet-based MagicJack phone, not to mention we work via internet and it also provides our TV viewing thanks to Slingbox. The TV viewing is probably not necessary but once the mosquitoes have driven us inside it makes for a long night of listening to the high-pitched buzzing outside the window screens as the mossies try to get at us. It can drive you insane. The TV watching is simply to drown out the mosquito noise ;)

Needless to say we were really looking forward to more reliability, and the 4G was going to allow us download speeds of 5Mbps. Sweet...Netflix here we come! Long story short...we are forced to experience the same growing pains Xplornet does as they roll out 4G service across rural Ontario. The upside, we now have internet service 24 hours a day so we have a working phone all day as well. The downside, our download speed has been reduced to about 1½ Mbps and the company has no good explanation for us...one step back. This is just enough speed for the phone to work, it's still ok (albeit a little slow) for what we need to work and, amazingly, the Slingbox still works. Netflix...the wait continues. Here's hoping our speeds reach 5 before they start rolling out a 5G system. Enough about the disappointing internet upgrade.

Edit Sept.15: A phone call to the Xplornet head office in New Brunswick last week was all it took to get our download speed to 5Mbps. Yippee! Another step forward!

Let me tell you about free TV now. Ras has a subscription to Cottage Life Magazine. A few issues ago she read an article about OTA (over the air) Television. Can you imagine her excitement? Free TV...like it used to be in the days when our parents had an antenna attached to their roofs, except now many of the broadcast signals flying around the airwaves are HD. After the initial cost of acquiring the antenna equipment, there is never another fee to pay. Hence...free TV! As you know, there is no Ras in procrastination, so off we go to the antenna selling store to see if this will work for us at Turtle Falls. It's an Olympic year ya know...there must be TV at TF and SB (Slingbox) just doesn't cut it! We left the store with 2 antennas, a pre-amplifier, a splitter and 100ft of cable. Guess who gets the job of installing all of this enthusiastically purchased TV-for-free equipment at the top of the 68ft tower? Ras looks directly at me.

So here it is...Mimi's big TV tower adventure. Thanks sister for taking pictures with your big-lensed camera.

Got my safety gear on. How am I going to get all this stuff up there?

Safely at the top and doubly tied in! The view from up there...trees for as far as the eye can see and nothing else!

Looking down I see the ground crew, Ras and Holly, looking up. Their necks got sore from looking up all the time, so they made themselves comfortable lying on the outhouse deck while waiting for their next job.

Installing a pulley system to get the various tools and antennas up the 68 feet.

First to arrive from the ground crew is the bucket of tools and accessories. My cell phone was in the bucket so I could take a couple of pictures and I got a text while there too. It was getting 3 bars (of 4 bars) way up there. I can see I will be back up the tower again sometime soon to install a cell phone signal booster antenna.

Holly's hauling up an antenna.

Making the connection to free TV. Why 2 antennas? One pointed at Ottawa for Canadian channels, one pointed at New York for the American channels.

The second step back is more of a step back in time with this method of receiving a TV signal. In this sense, maybe, Turtle Falls has not entered the high tech era but rather reverted to the past. But unlike the earlier days of antenna TV we can get 21 different channels from our location most of the time. It seems to be time and weather dependant to receive certain channels. The picture quality of the HD channels is amazing though, every bit as good as an HD picture via cable or satellite. And in locations like Toronto several more channels are available. It's no wonder we see so many of these antennas in our travels lately, mostly in the city.

Sometimes the simplest technology is the best technology...or at least the free-est.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Summertime review

Summer is a lovely slow time. People take vacations, books get enjoyed on docks around the country, kayak and canoe paddles are quietly dipped into warm waters, ice cold lemonade is slowly sipped, and things that seemed important in the Spring somehow find their way to the back burner during Summertime. The only thing not slow about Summer is how quickly it disappears on us. I know we still have a little over 4 weeks of Summer left but I prefer the beginning of Summer for that very reason...it's the beginning of Summer. And before my favourite season gets any further past us I will review where we are with all things house related.

One-of-a-kind beauty patiently awaits its next set of loving humans
First, still no offers on our house in the city. I think that's partly due to the "people take vacations" scenario from the first paragraph. This city is a little like a ghost town in the Summer. Everyone's enjoying something somewhere other than here. But they will all return soon and hopefully they will flock to this unique little beauty in the 2nd Best Canadian City in which to live. Just in case you are interested in living in the core of Burlington yourself, here is the link to the listing. Please pass it along to those you think might also be interested.

Second, I think we have finalized the floor plan for our Passive House. The design stage takes longer than we both thought. It's amazing how many locations you can place a bathroom within a 1,200 ft² space. Here's what the layout looks like to date. There may still be a tweak or two necessary but this is awfully close.

Casa Tortuga, Main Floor. Vert Design Inc., Chris Straka

Casa Tortuga, Lower Level. Vert Design Inc., Chris Straka

Note how thick the exterior walls of this house will be compared to the exterior walls of the garage. Insulation and air sealing of a Passive House are freakishly important. And what better time than now to share some PH fun facts? Ok...I think they're fun and you know I've already admitted to being a geek. Bear with me...you may just find this stuff interesting too! You be the judge.

Passive House Insulation Fun Facts:

And just so all this fantastic insulation isn't rendered useless by a leaky building envelope, here is another interesting Passive House feature. To measure how tightly the envelope is sealed, a blower door test is performed to confirm air-sealing techniques have been executed properly. The fewer number of times per hour there is a complete exchange of all the air in the house (from air leakage through the building envelope) the more efficient it will be. So here is your other fun fact for today...

Passive House Air Sealing Fun Fact:

Just looking at these two features it is easy to see why a Passive House requires so little energy for space heating and cooling. A Passive House is at least 4 times better at keeping the warm air in (or out in the summer) than a new standard built Energy Star house. Some Passive Houses are showing blower door test results as low as one third of the required 0.6ACH@50PA rating, making those houses 10 times more leak-proof than the standard built. No more drafty winter nights. Sweet!

That's enough for now. I'll entertain you next posting with my adventures of wrangling a TV signal at Turtle Falls.

Ciao for now,

Friday, 27 July 2012

Pursuing Passive House certification

Canada's first certified residential Passive House, located in Ottawa, Ontario.
Designed and built by Chris Straka, Vert Design. This duplex silenced the
naysayers that thought a Passive House could not be built in Canada because
of the severe climate. Chris proved them all wrong with this house and he will
do it again. Chris is the architect designing Casa Tortuga at Turtle Falls.
We've been at the house design stage in this process of building a Passive House here at Turtle Falls for just about a month and a half now. From our initial thought of  building a completely off-the-grid, solar-powered home we have had a chance to research what is possible and available to us. Once we discovered passive solar design we incorporated that into what we wanted for this house. But the most exciting discovery we have made, and will strive to achieve, is Passive House certification.

Passive House is an approach to design and construction that relies on a super efficient airtight envelope, essentially minimizing heat losses to optimize gains from the sun as well as the smallest heat sources like body heat, cooking heat, and hair dryers. With a super efficient envelope, you get to keep all heat in, or out depending on the season. Construction of a Passive House employs meticulous attention to air sealing, reduction in thermal bridging (heat loss through framing lumber), optimizing site orientation (true south exposure), insulation levels (3-7 times more than standard), and installing high performance windows (triple glazed, insulated frame) and HVAC systems. There is also a component of Passive House that focuses on minimizing energy demands with highly efficient appliances and a mindset for conservation...eliminate those phantom loads! When all of this is done, the house will be 80-90% more efficient than a standard-built house and be substantially more comfortable, affordable and healthy.

Passive House can be thought of as the wiser, more experienced cousin of passive solar design, which has been in existence for about 5000 years. Passive solar design employs the use of solar gain through south-facing windows and large thermal mass, such as concrete floors or walls, to store and release heat. What was missing in the passive solar homes from the 1970's and 80's was, most importantly, the improved air sealing, thermal bridge elimination and high performance windows.

Germany's first Passivhaus
The first Passivehaus was built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990 and the Passivhaus Institut was founded in 1996 in the same city. To date, Germany leads the way in Passive House construction with well over 20,000 buildings and growing every day. If you would like to know more about Passive House, visit the Canadian Passive House Institute website at http://www.passivehouse.ca/ or the Passive House Institute website of your own home country. There are almost as many websites about Passive House as there are Passive Houses in Germany so any search engine will find you plenty of info for those looking for more.

This is our destination to visit in Australia when we're
no longer wasting our money on heating fuel.
Thanks Lan & Treen for the beautiful photo.
It amazes me that we did not know about this brilliant Passive House way of building before beginning this journey. But then why would we? The building code standard in Canada is what most of us know because all we strive for is a satisfactory amount of energy efficiency for the lowest possible price per square foot. It is quite sad that the standard we aim for in this country is actually very sub-standard. Considering that Canada's home heating costs are one of the highest in the world you would think we would want to do a little better at keeping that heated air inside our homes. Part of the blame for not wanting to do better at this is the decades of low-cost fuels we have experienced. It probably won't take long for Passive House to become more mainstream now with the ever-increasing cost of the fossil fuels we use to heat our homes. It costs only 10% more to build a home to Passive House standards, and for the rest of the home's life it will use 80-90% less energy to heat. The extra cost to build will be recouped in 6-10 years from decreased need for heating and electricity. And a Passive House will last much longer than a standard-built home. Once we fully understood the Passive House concept, we went all in! Why wouldn't we? I'd rather spend the money we'd normally spend on heating our home elsewhere...somewhere like Australia, say...visiting friends also building their own little piece of paradise within a smaller environmental footprint.

An early version of the Casa Tortuga floor plan.
©2012 Chris Straka, Vert Design
Just over a month ago, Ras and I went with architect Chris to meet with Homesol Building Solutions, a premier Canadian company providing accurate and cost-effective residential energy design services. They provide all the modelling and testing services necessary to achieve Passive House certification. Homesol's list of services also includes LEED, Energy Star, Home Energy Audits, R2000 Certification and much more. In building a Passive House it is important to test for a super tight air seal during construction so any leaks can be fixed before the drywall is installed, not after, when fixes would be more difficult and costly. They handle intricacies of the building details necessary to achieve our goal while saving us time and money. Homesol also takes care of all the paperwork necessary for certification. And if all goes well, Casa Tortuga will become Canada's latest certified Passive House, an honour bestowed upon few presently. Fingers crossed...although we will probably not need it. We have a very experienced team with Vert Design and Homesol Building Solutions working on bringing Passive House Casa Tortuga to reality!

The following image is a screen shot of a Twitter conversation I had with Ross from Homesol Building Solutions. July 17th was that wicked hot day and it was sweltering inside Priscilla as well as on the dock. I wanted to know what it was like in Ross's Passive House.

Maybe the building of our little turtle palace, as one friend nicknamed Casa Tortuga, will help get the word out about Passive House construction just a little bit more. Feel free to pass this blog onto others you think may be interested in discovering the benefits of  living in a home that is low maintenance, durable, super energy efficient and sustainable.

Much more to come,

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

50 at Turtle Falls...and Architectural Outhouse Digest - final draft

I'm thinking this little scene should become our logo. Thanks to
Uncle Cliffy and Aunt Bert for the fantastic engraved rock.
And thanks to Nancy and Rita for the sleepy Gnome.
The 2 pieces compliment each other perfectly.

It has taken us one full year to get Turtle Falls to a place where we can comfortably have visitors. Last year, the first event that we held was our possession date party rolled into the nephew's 12th birthday party. There were no amenities at all. The dock would barely hold 4 people and I worried that it, and any people on it, may end up in the lake. There was no way to get into the water without shredding your feet on the zebra mussels other than by the precariously dangerous 2x10 plank we had quickly fashioned for the day. We barbecued on a 12 inch boat bbq. And you did your business in the woods.

A lot has changed in the year. This past weekend, several firsts were celebrated at Turtle Falls. We finally had more than one overnight visitor at one time with no disastrous leaks in Priscilla (oh wait...there was another Priscilla freshwater holding tank leak but it was easily fixed with Mighty Putty...every good trailer park girl or boy should have a stash of this stuff!), we put the outhouse to the ultimate test with 16 revellers, we had my sister's new boat parked at our dock and got to experience the fun of being flung off a tube being dragged around the lake by said boat, and I turned 50. What a great 50th birthday party to be surrounded by family and friends and the beauty of Turtle Falls...and cake too!

The lake is littered with bodies. The boat looks good there though, dontcha think?

Hang on bro. Although...it's much more fun when you wipe out!

The nephews approved of this 50 year old's birthday party.
July birthdays are the best. Thanks sister for bringing your boat and water toys!

Like I said...it's much more fun when you wipe out. Excellent belly skid, Raefy!
Camp Turtle Falls. This is where 4 of the overnight guests slept
while 2 more humans and 2 dogs stayed in Priscilla.

Although the wildlife was very noisy, everyone did finally get some sleep
and survived their first night at Turtle Falls just fine.
Mom will not be happy I included this picture.
Apparently, humidity is not the friend of the average cake box.
 Be warned...large cake box lids sag in the humidity...right into the icing!

I was only able to extinguish 49 candles with my first attempt.
Does that mean my wish won't come true?
Doesn't matter anyway...my biggest wish ever has already come true!
And now for the final draft of the Architectural Outhouse Digest.

The outhouse with its very subdued stain colours and finishing touches.
Ras says it's so joyful that it just makes you want to use it.

Interior complete with magazines and Sudoku books for those who like
 to linger and a few homey decorative items.

Recently heard from one pleasantly surprised outhouse user:
"That's the cleanest outhouse I have ever been in!"

Another clue this outhouse is more enjoyable to use than many others:
One friend who always needs someone to accompany them to an
 ordinary outhouse with the purpose of standing guard against the
dreaded creepy crawlers that usually reside within...success!!
Said friend needed no one to stand guard all weekend.

Life is good now at Turtle Falls! It's almost so good the thought of building the house seems unnecessary at the moment.

Who has more fun than 50 year olds?
Cheers, Mimi

Next post: I wake up from my Sleepy-Gnome dream-state and wonder What was I thinking when I wrote "building the house seems unnecessary at the moment"?

p.s. Thanks sister and sister-in-law for your photos of the big day. They're fantastic!