|At the end of a series of long discussions, here I am - doing as I'm told.|
Friday, 28 October 2011
Putting up Gib board, choosing paint colours, deciding positions for taps, drains, power sockets, switches, even putting down sections of floor – we’ve been here many times before. As with all our previous homes, the scale of the endeavour has once more increased – but then so has our own level of experience.
While we continue to wrestle with a look for our new bathroom – the one room whose wall and floor coverings generally aren’t painted or carpeted afterwards; requiring a colour scheme decision straight away – the electrician needs our attention first.
Lights (pendant, wall mounted and the down-light variety), switches (single and double) and power sockets of every configuration need to be quantified, argued about, indicated, moved and possibly regretted afterwards. A fuse box needs to be housed, cables have to be run, extractor fans installed and monitoring units for our off-grid energy production positioned. I haven’t even mentioned phone jacks, coaxial cable sockets or the special requirements of our photovoltaic panels and batteries.
When we drew our own wildly inaccurate floor plan at the beginning of the year, we also supplied a ‘lighting plan’; peppering our home with various exotic symbols indicating placement of the myriad of electrical points mentioned above. This seemed to serve the purpose of making an initial quote possible, but as an unbelievably quick seven month mark in our container loomed, we suddenly found ourselves with a couple of days before the electrician arrived for his pre- wiring meeting.
We had to be ready, but fortunately, he had recommended that we literally marked positions inside our house with bits of note paper. Having already created our own hieroglyphs at the beginning of the year, we could go one better than that, so the day before the meeting saw Rose and I placing carefully printed and cut-out symbols on our house’s interior framework with double-sided tape. This took much longer than expected, because we both became acutely aware of how important each of these little sticky-backed decisions were. The process began to take on a surreal Marcel Marceau quality, as we took turns carefully miming the putting in of plugs and switching on of lights, along with the opening and closing of non-existing doors before leaving our mark. When this house is finished, we really will need to see about getting out more!
Absurd and pedantic as it all was, our care paid off the next day when the meeting took a mere hour and a half. Our electrician told us horror stories of five and a half hour endurance tests with indecisive or bickering couples, some partners even storming off and leaving him with no choice but to return for round two later. In our case, however, a few adjustments were suggested for logistical reasons and a date was set.
As of next week, we’ll be wired, socketed and switched – and the next challenge will be for us to actually generate enough power to be able to use them.
Friday, 21 October 2011
We now have the most wonderful doors and windows in place, and the house looks just as it's supposed to! Rose got the day off to help so talks us through it...
Five of us were on hand on Friday afternoon to install all the components, some of which, like the six panel sliding doors for the living room would be quite heavy!
|Mind those bumps in the driveway!|
The whole lot arrived on the trailer at 12.30 - earlier than expected as rain threatened, and Fairview (the manufaturers) didn't want the new Cedar front door to get wet.
Carl (from Fairview) drove around the house so we could deposit the right components in the right places. The process was very smooth, the lifters would get the item off the trailer and in position below the correct space, Dean and Carl lifted the frames into position, we'd all hold it upright and in the gap and Dean drilled and nailed the window frame into the framing of the house.
|The kitchen window is lifted into position|
|Dean nails our bedroom doors in place|
The living room doors were reduced to just the end panels and lifting it into position last was a fairly easy task before putting the panels back into place and ensuring it all behaved as it should.
The clerestories were slightly more complicated and required Dean and Jacob on the roof and the rest of the team inside precariously balanced on floor joists handing the frames up to them. Tricky, heavy but we managed.
|The installation of the clerestory windows required some Kiwi ingenuity.|
It only took us a couple of hours to complete the job and the sun shone the whole time.
When Al arrived home with the usual Friday night fish and chips - I had set up an outdoor table in our bedroom, with candles and a bottle of champagne to celebrate our joinery. Another important phase of our build seems to have gone without a hitch.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Our second newspaper article appeared in the Dominion Post Your Weekend magazine, Yesterday.
Rose caught in a domestic chore moment - probably collecting water to
help clean the liquid mud off me. (all images courtesy of The Dominion Post)
Due to the vagaries of page counts and advertising space, being a double page spread meant that the article has waited two months for space to become available – but better late than never.
The photographs illustrating the piece were taken at the beginning of August, and show the house in a far less advanced state of completion than it is now, but Loren the photographer’s main brief was to depict life inside our container.
One of the biggest problems was getting enough brightness into our living space, so we turned on the generator for the lights and opened both doors, giving just enough illumination for Loren to work with. Spotting Ed, (the only one of our cats unfazed by visitors), he was immediately contracted for a number of shots. It seems to be one of those unwritten laws that cats must appear in interior living shots – and Ed displayed a hitherto unsuspected penchant for modelling; working the lens like a professional.
The best of Loren’s photographs can be seen in the article, but I’ve included a few others, including this exclusive behind-the-scenes catwalk shot.
Loren snaps Ed as he works the runway
The Your Weekend Editor mentioned last week that apparently Rose and I could have made the cover (we still get a mention) if her Plan A hadn’t worked. Maybe next time – and I bet Ed will get into the shot.
|Can my human be in this one?|
Saturday, 1 October 2011
In our previous home we used a standard roof-mounted flat solar panel and water tank.
This was very effective during the warmer months, and provided the satisfaction of using free solar energy instead of mains electricity – but we were back to flicking a power switch for the booster throughout the darker months.
This time we are using the wonders of evacuated tube technology. Instead of a flat panel our roof will sport a bank of 24 glass tubes. Each of these is actually a double glass tube, one inside the other, with a vacuum in between them. Sunlight passes through these tubes to warm a copper pipe at their centre, and because the resulting heat cannot escape out through a vacuum, 97% of this energy is retained.
(This heat loss is one of the biggest drawbacks of the flat panelled system, and retaining it allows the evacuated tube system to continue operating even on cloudy days. Apparently the heat output is 25-40% greater than flat-panelled systems when averaged over a year).
A bulb at the end of the copper pipes transfers the heat to a water/glycol solution which is carried down to the exchanger coil inside our water tank, heating the surrounding house-hold water. A pump utilising less power than a light bulb then carries the solution back up to the roof for continuous heating. The pump is automatically controlled to keep the solution moving when it’s most needed, including at the onset of a frost to avoid freezing.
Our water tank will contain a second coil which is connected to our wetback system, generating heat when we light our fire in the winter months. This coil is connected to three radiators throughout the house, carrying heat where it will be most needed.
Having never lived in a modern, fully-insulated home before (our last house was a villa, with sash windows which seemed to transfer heat outside more effectively than any air pump) our only concern now is whether or not our house will be too warm.
Bring on the snow, 2012!
An impression of how the evacuated tube array will look in position.
Another advantage of this system is it’s ability to blend in with the roof profile.