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 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 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 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. 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.