Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

Birthdays, rainbarrels, PEX, ERVs. Where do i start?? September 18, 2008

Filed under: Design,Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 2:48 am
Tags: , , , , ,

My birthday is on Friday.  My 2nd birthday while on this project actually, so hoping to not have a 3rd.  I did get a fun gift from my parents which doesn’t make up for a delayed project but does make you forget for a couple minutes.   The gift was a rain barrel. Yes, this big ugly pickle barrel looking thing that I need to somehow incorporate into the facade, but it will save fresh water for my kids.

And over at the house, some things have been happening.  The PEX was completely installed and terminated into the manifold. But there’s a hitch.  The plumbers weren’t all that familiar with PEX and in order to make the install work more easily they 90’d every line into the manifold. (see pic)

Is this the end of the world? probably not.  Will it have some effect on how quickly the water gets to the faucet?? Probably won’t even notice.    It’s unfortunate though, cause there is now a 3rd possible leak point where before I had only 2.

Next we have that ERV that I’ve lugged around for so long, installed. This device should provide us with clean/fresh from outside at all times while not losing energy through introducing opposite temperatures from the indoors.

Lastly, we have our siding and more excitingly our rain-screen installed. You can see the rain-screen on the left hand side.  The underlayer is Vapro-shield and the siding is hardi plank.  To the left we have hardi panels applied directly to the substrate and separated by Tamlyn guide tracks.  These help provide this look and also allow for a place to do some back caulking.  Around the back doors we chose a red version of the hardi panel.

They’ll finish up the siding this week and start the insulation on the inside next week.  Maybe I’ll grab the hose and run a test on the rain-screen before the insulation/dry-wall goes up.


Confusing info on hardie plank August 15, 2008

Filed under: Exterior,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 2:59 am
Tags: ,

I’ve heard over and over that james hardie doesn’t warranty against rain-screen installations, but then why do they recommend a rain-screen in their European installation guide, except here they call it a ventilation gap. See below:

2.2.2. Ventilation Gap
A ventilation gap should be provided between the cladding
layer and substrate. Suitable care should be taken to prevent
insects and pests entering through the ventilation gap – install
a suitable ventilation grill, corrosion resistant wire mesh or

Why is this? Is it become in Europe rain-screen applications are so common and developers know how to properly install this product?? Or does it have something to do w/ the lesser litigation in Europe that Hardie feels less exposed when recommending this installation method? I did notice that hardie only warranties the product for 10yrs vs. 50yrs in the U.S. , which maybe has something to do with it.

I’d be happy with even a 10yr warranty instead of no warranty, but am I asking for too much?


Finalizing the Exterior Material July 28, 2008

Filed under: Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 3:09 am
Tags: , ,

For the past 10 months we’ve pretty much been decided on James Hardie’s hardi-plank; at least as decided as you need to be when you’re still well out from it actually being installed. The exterior is something we brain-stormed over for quite some time and had such high expectations for. I guess back then (in 2007) when we were young and idealistic, we really thought it was possible to get one of those fancy new products, which was 100% green (not possible btw) and reasonably priced.

So out of nowhere the other day the siding guy was on-site making his final preparations to place the product order and luckily I was there. He was double checking which hardie product we wanted, the size, finish, color, etc. Then I made mention of the space between the slats (the reveal) and he wasn’t diggin it. So we probed further down this path and realized that he wasn’t aware he was installing this in a rain-screen application, nor had he ever heard of a rain-screen.

Now this isn’t all that odd, since rain-screens have only become popular in the northwest in the last few years after being used throughout europe for the last few decades. And like many other professions there is always some resistance to doing something differently, such as “even if them Seattle boys have proven it works don’t mean it gonna work here in Missoura.” Okay, that wasn’t his voice or actual response, but needless to say he was refusing to do the rain-screen install until the architect talked him off the ledge.

I was actually quite concerned at the moment cause it looked as though we’d have to find another siding guy or go w/ having it lapped.  In any case it appears right now we’re going to get what we want and like we expected this installation will void the warranty for the product.  This was always the case, but I was holding out some hope that Hardie might change their tune on warrantying rain-screen installations and I even had someone email me saying that they knew a Hardie engineer who might give us some inside info on future warranties. But this was all to no avail.

On the up-side, my architect is so confident in the performance of this installation (and why wouldn’t he be if tons of installs are happening?) that he’s offered to come back in 8 years if it all falls off the wall.   Just not sure how to hold him to this promise. Youtube video maybe?

Will let you know how it all shakes out.

And if i didn’t mention it, we’re going w/ the smooth 6.25″ plank w/ the factory painting on the rain-screen side and smooth panels (w/ factory painting) on the other side.


Windows are half way in July 20, 2008

Filed under: Design,Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 8:19 pm
Tags: ,

So I’m a believer in small victories and getting half of the windows set last week was definitely one of those. Especially since the day they arrived, they weren’t yet ready to be installed 😦 There’s always that fear of things disappearing, like what happened with some of our steel and some other random items.

The do look really cool though, especially with the black aluminum clad finish we went with. I love how the design has the windows oriented up and down, so the place feels alot bigger (or taller at least).

We went with the Kolbe Ultra-series line because that’s what Sage highly recommended. They were a bit pricey, but the windows are supposedly top quality (cheap windows are bad news) and very energy efficient. They use all of the high-tech glass coatings, gases and spacers, so assuming my place is insulated correctly, the addition of these will make a nice difference. Looking in those insulative window blinds as well.

Kolbe as a company is also supposed to be very green in its practices and they’ll certainly give you a bunch of information on how their products will help make your home LEED certified.

Looking fwd to the remaining windows going in this week, plus we just received our shower base for the master bath. What are the sustainable options for a showerbase??


And up goes the steel March 13, 2008

Filed under: Design,Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 3:46 pm
Tags: ,

Finally now that the moons have aligned and the steel workers have returned from Spring Break (only joking), the steel is finally being erected. This steel (of which I understand is ~95% post-consumer) will act as the skeleton to hold our addition in place. Additionally, it is allowing us to span some wide distances on the inside of the house, without having to use a 2ft wide wood beam, which one would’ve had to nearly duck under.

Steel getting put up

So that’s the good news. Now the bad news is that they can’t complete the steel work because some *ssholes stole some of the steel. Luckily, these were smaller pieces that I’m told won’t prevent us from pouring the concrete, but in any case, it’s likely a bit of a delay to get the pieces re-fabbed and have the erectors come back out.

Hope they can cover my house in the meantime, so that rain and pigeons don’t make their way in.


Green roofs aren’t impossible. Who knew? December 9, 2007

Filed under: Exterior,General Green 2.0,Landscaping,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 10:43 pm
Tags: ,

I didn’t know.

Not until a couple weeks ago when I started doing some research and uncovered so much information that I felt like I just learned about TIVO. And I don’t believe that I’m the only one; who really knows someone with a green roof or has even seen a green roof installation? If you live in St. Louis or nearly anywhere in the U.S. then the chances are nil.

Couple facts and benefits:

  • 12% of the roofs in Germany are Green Roofs. (That’s Amazing)
  • Green Roofs can be designed with no/low maintenance plants or with nice, higher maintenance vegetation.
  • Green Roofs can be installed on slopes. (Pure Genius)
  • Green Roofs cost btwn $10-15 per sq foot. (Cheaper than I thought)
  • The City Government of Chicago has a Green Roofing and rooftop garden program
  • Green Roofs protect the sun from beating down on the roof in the summer and provide insulation in the winter.
  • Green Roofs help to control storm run-off and protect city storm sewers from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Green Roofs help roofs last 2-3 times longer.
  • Green Roofs provide a space for wild life (mainly birds)
  • Green Roofs look better than black tar roofs. (Unless you’re a black tar roofer I suppose)
  • Green Roofs help reduce carbon dioxide.

Now if you’re as amazed as I am, then continue reading.

There are lots of manufacturers in the green roof industry. Some provide the materials needed for integrating the green roof right into your roof just like what you’d think. Other provide a more plug and play system which basically allows you to set deep trays of vegetation just an inch above your existing roof. Each application has benefits/drawbacks and should be considered per situation. The #1 factor to think about is the strength of the existing roof.

Don’t think this is the end of my green roof ambitions. I’ll do a project at some point. In the meantime, check out these additional resources:

1. The city of Chicago is an AWESOME resource. Tons of down loadable guides and useful resources at the bottom of the page.

2. The Live Roof system is a plug n play system similar to Green Blocks.

3. 3 page decent overview of Green Roofs.

4. Michigan State is doing some research on green roofs

Now that I’ve uncovered this new world, I’ll share more info if I find it.


Exterior Material Overload, Part Deux November 12, 2007

Filed under: Exterior,Green Rehab — budint @ 2:39 am
Tags: , , ,

When I last reported on exterior materials, some 5 months ago, we were looking at the products Cembonit, Trespa and Paperstone.  Today, we’ve narrowed down our needs, but still haven’t narrowed down the product selection.

Per the design drawings you can see that we’ll be using planks on one side and panels on another.  The planks will be installed in a rain-screen application, while the panels are applied directed to the substrate (due to firewall requirements from the city of st louis).

We’d also be needing certain sizes, a smooth finish, a manufacturer who supports a rain-screen application and someone who can pre-paint all the materials so that we don’t have to paint on-site.

The latest list of products is:

1. James Hardie – most mainstream cement board available, also known and hardi-plank. You can find this at your local Home Depot in some styles. Presumably the least expensive, if its at the HD. This manufacturer does not recommend or warranty against a rain-screen application. Hardie has a section on why they are green and sustainable.

2. Certainteed –  another large materials conglomerate.  Limited color offerings and unclear whether they warranty against a rain-screen application.

3. Nichiha – Japanese manufacturer who sells out of Georgia. Product can be pre-painted in any color. Product is supposedly autoclaved, meaning that it can withstand much more wear than any non-autoclaved product because of the intense pressure and temperature which it was manufactured at.

4. Cemplank – an smaller supplier who my architect thinks has been purchased by James Hardie. This company produces a smooth plank in the right size which can also be painted any color.

In terms of sustainability, it’s so difficult to tell anymore since every manufacturer claims to be sustainable. Cement board is definitely a product which is difficult to distinguish the green washing vs. the true green advocates.

Stay tuned to see how this difficult decision plays out.