Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finishing Details

Hello again,
The Blue2 is down to a slow dribble of finishing details- it is complete enough to occupy. The new tenants had their baby but have not moved in yet. The house-building story will end when they spend their first night in Blue2. The landscaping is yet to be finished. Nancy Stein said the landscaping is always the last thing in line to be funded and so it is often squeezed out of the equation as most of the funding has been used up for the house. As you can see in pic #5, the stage is set but the plants and irrigation are yet to be purchased or planted. I suspect if CLAM does not dig up the money for landscaping- pic #5 will be a run-a-way bed of weeds and grass in a year- is this a solicitation for help?.......yes it is.
I suspect next Friday report will be the last.
It has been more than fun and enlightening.............Terry
BTW- How about we call it the Banana House? or Mellow Yellow or Old Yeller or........?

Van Van der Maten and Colleen King volunteered to paint the Banana House.

Mixing paint.

Four chips off the new block-the executive branch of Mellow Yellow.

View from the living room. House is "baby ready" for new tenants.

Landscaping by Jim Campe and Nancy Stein. There is a wireless solar light mounted on each wood post for the path lights. They are motion activated and turn off after one minute.They are low and face down so as not to light up the "night sky" or shine in peoples faces. Rich Redimix donated all of the base rock for the parking area as well as the big chunks of rocks for landscaping and Judy Roberson of PG&E personally made and donated the beautiful mosaic tiles you can see faintly at the beginning of the path.

Bedroom. All of the wood we used for interior trim was reclaimed from construction wood donated to us by local artist Anne Francis. The two closet doors were also salvaged doors from a job I did ten years ago. The upper door on left is for access and storage to mini-attic space. the ERV service door is on right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finishing Blue2

Hi again,
Last Monday, July 12, one would never believe our goal was to finish on Friday. The place was torn up and busy all week but it all came together by Thursday at at 4:00. These reports are near an end. It has been a kind and wonderful past five months or so. Our team effort has been mind boggling and Blue2 is about to stand on its own. The next time I see Blue2 [after a week away] it will be occupied.
Thank You cannot express the depth of honor it has been for me birthing this new house into Point Reyes. I never knew I could have such joy going to work every day..........Terry

Dwayne Hope, on left, taking the first bite of the old driveway/parking area. Actually almost half the north side of the property was open to parking. With the new plan, half of that will be paths and garden area.

This is what retirement looks like to someone who is passionate about community service. Jim has been a sentinel of the finishing stages of Blue2.

Dwayne Hope tamping the newly defined parking area.

Barry Linder and Jorge clear-coated the cabinet door fronts.

The Finishing Committee.

Laying out the path to the back of the Blue House.

The final plumbing for hot water. Hot water production (washing/cleaning) consumes at least 15% of a typical household's energy use. We expect this system with the roof panels will supply around 90% of that demand. Space heating typically requires about 30-40% of energy use. This system should provide about 90% of the heat required for the house.

In typical (old school) building practices many claims are made as to the performance and results of a product or an assembly of products. But in the end there is no accurate accountability for the performance of the building. In Passive House methodology, there is an energy modeling done of all of the components of the house before it is built, they are then tracked for performance after they are built. Blue2 will be monitored as time goes by to see just how much and how it uses its energy. The goals for the Passive House in Europe are around a 80%-90% reduction in energy usage and so far they have been meeting and often exceeding that goal.

Marshall Livingston, myself, Nancy Stein, Sam Grant, Toni Littlejohn and Jim Campe were sucked into the vortex the grand finale of Blue2.

Bill Logan's last day.

Joel Langdon's last day.

Rudy and Dan's (of Sebastopol Heat and Cool) last day. They are fine tuning the air supply ducts of the HRV.

This is Tom Tiller, the Marin County Building Inspector signing off the final inspection of the Blue2. Yes it's over!!!! Tom has been a big fan of this project. You can tell by his smile he is happy to be the one to launch Blue2 into community service.

Bill Kelley on left, the head of the Marin County Building Department, came with Tom on Thursday. He is interested in our project and the goals of a super energy efficient house. He and James Bill had a deep and lengthy conversation on how to integrate the principles of a Passive House into the Marin County building codes. Toni Littlejohn, not seen on left, has been filming the entire building process, since dirt day one and will eventually edit a final film to be released in your local living rooms of West Marin and beyond.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Completion Celebrations

Hello again,
This was another action packed week of details. The end of most projects seem to go in slow motion and the days turn into weeks.

The interior trim and door details and built-ins are finished. We got our new water meter three days ago and completed the hook up to both houses. Most of the solar thermal (solar hot water) is complete. Next week we will fill the tanks and let the sun take over and Blue2 will enter a 90% fossil fuel free hot water mode for the next 50 years. On Tuesday the 5th we had an Open House to celebrate the completion of Blue2, at least that was the plan a month ago, instead it was the near completion of Blue2. The event was so moving and cool that no one seemed to care we were not yet done. I am intending to go on holiday for a week starting next Friday, assuming it will be finished enough for me to leave, so the race to finish is still on. See you next Thursday.
Enjoy .... Terry

Here Rae Levine is giving her final blessings and praise to the ~100 people who came to celebrate Blue 2's completion. Two days later Rae left West Marin to her new home in Seattle. How sweet and perfect that her last act after leaving her position of executive director of CLAM was to celebrate the vision and wisdom of CLAM, it's board members- now and past, and the dozens of other dreamers and volunteers who birthed Blue2 into West Marin. Thank you, Rae, for your years of holding onto the vision. You were the Pied Piper and we followed your enthusiasm. Blue2 will always be one of yours. CLAM's new executive director, Sam Leguizamon Grant (not pictured), officiated the July 5 Celebration event.

Daniel, on right, and Derick of Sebastopol Heat and Cool doing the final balancing of the ERV's fresh air and exhaust. Below them (sorry no face shot) is Aran Collier of Sun First who's crew did the solar thermal system. The first Passive House in California required a lot of fine tuning to synchronize all the systems. We had some of the best minds and skills in the Bay Area to bring it all together. They assembled out here at the Blue2 house not because it was lucrative (many donated time and materials), but because they wanted to be part of something that was cutting edge, smart and ultimately good for the planet. Blue2 could not have happen with out their belief, heartfelt contributions, and skills. Thank you all for your efforts and trust.

On Thursday after the workers went home we set up for the last tour. Here James Bill and I are fielding technical questions from the attendees. This crowd of 75 was from the green building, energy performance, professionals, sector. Our keynote guest speaker was Cathleen Fogel from the California Public Utility Commission, an energy efficiency planning analyst. She understands the potential of the Passive House for mitigating climate change.

It got pretty tight in the mechanical room trying to fit in all the hot water production stuff. The two large tanks linked together with copper piping are 80 gallon storage tanks. They have over 2" of foam insulation around each tank, so they will retain the hot water longer than a typical tank. We are expecting to get up to 90% of the hot water requirements from this system. It will also produce most of the space heating for the house. In the right corner is a conventional electric hot water heater that will go on when the houses tap water is lower than 120 degrees. For full explanation of solar thermal system, see description at end of post by James Bill.

Nancy Stein and Jim Campe are formulating a landscaping plan that will use native and drought resistance plants. This view it is about to be transformed with designated parking and plants and paths and lights.

Seldom Seem Lowell Moulton. (Up until this photograph, many people were not sure if he really existed.) This is the guy that did Blue 2's passive house energy modeling(PHPP). He is one of the the kingpins of this project.
He was in on hundreds of emails and spent hundreds of hours with a keyboard in some undisclosed location or at a conference in Dresden gathering PHPP technology. So far all he has required for payment was some Menghai Beencha Puer tea and possibly a backpacking trip in Point Reyes.
Thank you Lowell.........

By James Bill, Licensed Architect, LEED™ AP, CGBP
(see 4th photo of mechanical room for reference)

Most solar thermal systems are used to heat domestic hot water, and they use a closed plumbing loop filled with glycol. The glycol captures the heat in the solar panels and brings that heat down to heat the water in the solar storage tanks. But glycol breaks down when it gets hot. To keep the glycol from getting too hot, most closed loop systems use energy consuming methods to cool the glycol.

Instead of a typical system, we used a drain back water loop system. These are filled with water, not glycol. The water only flows through the panels when the sun is providing heat and the solar storage tanks can absorb more heat. So when the panels get sunshine, even if the sun is behind a thin layer of fog, and the solar storage tank water is colder than the solar panel temperature, a pump turns on, filling the pipes and panels with water that is circulated to the heat exchangers at the bottoms of the solar storage tanks, thus heating the water in those storage tanks. When the pump turns off, the water drains out of the panels into a small drain back tank.

We have two 80 gallon solar storage tanks. The number of gallons is determined by the amount of heat that needs to be stored for the periods of time there is little or no solar radiation. The solar storage tanks have heat exchange coils at the bottom and at the top. The bottom heat exchangers are hooked up to the solar panel loop, and provide the heat from those solar panels.

The heat exchanger at the top of tanks is for heating the air in the ducts, thus supplying space heating. The water at the top of the solar storage tanks is hotter than the water at the bottom, as hot water rises. There is a loop of water that goes through the top heat exchangers and up to a radiator located in the ventilation supply duct. When the thermostat calls for more space heat, and there is sufficient heat in the top of the solar storage tanks, then a pump will turn on and run water from the heat exchanger up though the radiator heat exchanger, delivering heat from the storage tank to the air in the duct. If there is a need for heat, and the top of the tank is less than 100 degrees, then an electric resistance heating element in the duct will turn on to add heat when there is no solar heat stored up. This duct element is the backup source of heat for the space heating.

Also at the top of the solar storage tanks, there are plumbing lines coming out that go to a small 20 gallon domestic hot water heater. It is small as it is just meant to top off the domestic hot water temperature to 120 degrees, not create vast amounts of hot water. As the occupants use hot water, it will pull water out of this hot water heater. The water that refills this water heater comes from the top of the solar storage tanks. If it is greater than 120 degrees, as it will be much of the year, the water heater element will not come on. If it is colder, the element will come on. But as the water coming in will always be somewhat hot, it will use less electricity than a regular water heater. The water that is removed from the solar storage tanks will be replaced at the bottom of those storage tanks from the cold water supply line.

As you can see in the photo, all of the plumbing seems to have been equally spaced between the two solar storage tanks. This is because the two storage tanks are plumbed parallel. This means that there are equal lengths of plumbing to each tank so that the pressures are equalized. Thus, each tank will get the same heat from the solar panels at the bottom, draw the same amount of water from each tank for the water heating tank, and will have the same draw for the duct heating loop.

The solar system modelers predict the sun will provide almost 90% of the space heating and the domestic water heat. When there is not enough stored solar heat, we have two backups. The domestic water backup heat is supplied by the 20 gallon electric water heater, and the electric resistance element inside the supply air duct supplies the backup space heat. Because we have separated the space heating backup from the domestic hot water backup heating tank, and because we can use cooler temperature water for space heating than we need for domestic hot water, we can use the stored solar heat more efficiently.

There you have it, the integrated solar thermal space and domestic water heating system.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ready for July 5 Open House to Celebrate 1st Passive House in CA

Hi all,
This was another action packed week. Trim, electrical, plumbing, cabinets, roof patching, HRV finishing details and clean up of site. Sebastian sanded and ripped miles of the resawn lumber that Steve Potts milled up for us last week. My plan was to complete the grounds clean up and the interior this week but I missed the mark by a few days.
Hope to see you all on Monday, July 5 at the Open House, 11am - 2pm, and you can see for yourself..........Terry

Jorge and Bill glueing and clamping the mitered corner of a formica counter top.

Since last week we dug about forty feet of new trenches for water, electrical and waste lines.

Joel making the final connection of Blue 2s waste lines to the septic. Dennis Rodoni donated a 1.2 gallon low flush toilet with a dual flush mode- low volume for yellow and higher volume (1.2) for other stuff. We now have a working toilet.

This guy Ken from Nayak, New York responded to my free Craig's listing and took apart and hauled away the tea room/office/tool shed.

Monday teaser.

Components for space ship to be revealed on Monday.

The blue shroud seals up around the exhaust duct in the kitchen while the ERV is running. Here Rudy of Sebastopol Heat and Cool is reading the digital balometer which measures the CFM (cu ft minute) being sucked into the exhaust. Each of the six registers, 3 intake and 3 exhausts, are measured and then tuned so the the entire delivery and exhaust of air is balanced for each room. This room is set for around 25 CFM of exhaust. Most "old school" heating and cooling delivery systems are calculated by intuition or habit or something like what you did in the last house. Note the LED light above Rudy's head.

Rudy is using a Duct Blaster, a mini version of the Blower Door we used to test the house for air leakage. With all the ducts sealed off in the house, the fan at the bottom of the silver duct pressurizes all the ducts inside the house. Here Derek is reading the monometer which shows just how much the ducts are leaking inside the house. His first test number revealed too much leakage. He had to go around each joint and connection with a smoke pencil to find and seal the leaks and bring the maximum leakage down to 5% volume of air flow.

Roger Lippman donated his time and test equipment to set up a monitoring system for each electrical circuit of the house. This will enable precise calculation for each of fifteen different uses of electricity in the house. The data will then be downloaded onto a computer each month and posted on the Passive House website so other people can learn how one passive house uses electricity/energy.

The last dump run. Bob here looking at the pile of metal for recycle.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Final Test: 0.36 ACH, almost half the allowable maximum of 0.6 ACH!

Hello again,
Another action packed week. We completed all the underground service. On Monday Van Van Van der Maten's crew masked off and spray painted the entire interior and on Tuesday and Wednesday Jim Campe, Barry Linder, Alden Adkins, Melanie Stone, Wendy Schwartz, Chris Greene, Susan Kelly and Sonya Anderson came in and finished what the sprayers did not complete. Cabinets were delivered late Thursday and begun to be installed on Friday.

Thursday Steve Potts brought in his portable mill and we re-sawed some of the recycled lumber donated to CLAM by Anna Francis. Potts milled up all the wood needed for the interior trim. Sun First came back and re-installed the solar hot water panels. Jorge finished the front siding and details and hung all the interior doors. Next week we should complete all the trim and counter top and the cabinet installation. There is not much to do after that. Perhaps another week of touch up, clean up and site work (final grading and delineation of parking and living outdoor space).
I am already getting work separation anxiety.
See you all next week............Terry

P.S. Reminder: Come see Blue2 and celebrate its completion on Monday, July 5, 11am-2pm. Details at

I think Sonya believes in CLAM ... she also volunteered when we painted the front house.

"The barefoot painting Pixies" Susan Kelly and Chris Greene.

Jim Campe cutting a line. He organized all the painting efforts and
with his wife, Pam, selected the color scheme.

Steve Potts sending an old 2x8 through the mill to make 1x8s for the trim.

Jorge putting up the last piece of trim. Potts and the mill in background.

My first full day back at the job. I had to rest every few hours. It amazes me that any one would actually take direction from a guy laying on his back.

Kitchen to be.

George Nesbitt of Environmental Design/ Build is the Master blaster of
blower door technology and testing. As a third party tester he volunteered three hours of rigorous air leakage testing of the Blue Two house. His test and report is one of the final documents we will need to hand in for the Passive House certification- that is assuming we hit the mark.

Thumbs up to our final test number of 0.36 ACH - almost half the allowable maximum of 0.6 ACH. Our air leakage at negative 50 pascals was around 40 cfm.

This may look like aikido but it's Rae and Terry completing a high five
to celebrate the 0.36 ACH. Rae (who recently completed her term as CLAM executive director) spent Sunday here at the Blue2 sharing history being made on a house she believed could happen. Thank you, Rae, for helping us all make our dreams and aspirations come true.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Floor Sealing and More ... Getting Close

Hi all,
The sheetrock got it's last smoothing out on Wednesday and we began finishing the floors on Thursday, hoping to have it traffic-ready by next Monday when Van will come in and begin painting. Cabinets, doors and trim are to be installed end of next week. We are getting really close to the end. Hard to believe that these walls will be echoing the sound of a baby in a month or so. The simultaneous birth of this house and the birth of the new tenants' baby will bring CLAM's community vision to a new high.
Yay CLAM..........Terry
Editor's Note: And YAY that Terry is back after a hiking injury that kept him out of the action for a couple of weeks.

Bill and Sebastian prepping the floor for stain.

Stain applied and drying.

The umbilical cord between the Blue House and Blue2 will be covered in two feet of earth. Water, electrical and future photovoltaic(PV) lines from Blue2 to the Blue House house meters below.

Jorge is adorning the front porch ceiling. We used scrap 2x4s, cut them into 1x4s and are filling in the underside of the roof. This could easily be a future termite hotel but the 1x4s were soaked two times with boron as well as the underside of the entry roof to assure no infestation will ever happen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Open House to Celebrate Completion of CLAM's Blue2 Passive House

O p e n H o u s e
Come CELEBRATE! Blue2 is built!
It is the first certified Passive House in California,
uses 540 watts to heat itself on the coldest day,
creates permanently affordable housing,
provides superior health and comfort,
and addresses climate change!

Monday July 5th 2010, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Words of Celebration begin at 11:30 a.m.

Please park next door at West Marin School
This is a home. No random visits outside the Open House date.

For event information call CLAM at 415.663.1005 or email

Passive House: and