Hammer & Hand http://hammerandhand.com INCITING EVOLUTION IN BUILDING THROUGH SERVICE, CRAFT AND SCIENCE. Fri, 06 Mar 2015 00:32:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 H2O and high performance building assemblies: how to handle rain and vapor http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/h2o-high-performance-building-assemblies-handle-rain-vapor/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/h2o-high-performance-building-assemblies-handle-rain-vapor/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:05:09 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6404 As we insulate structures and make them more airtight we reduce the drying capacity that comes as a byproduct of leaky building envelopes. To avoid increasing the risk of building failure we need to: Keep liquid water out of assemblies. Keep moisture-laden air out of assemblies. Ensure that water molecules can migrate out of assemblies.... Read more »

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As we insulate structures and make them more airtight we reduce the drying capacity that comes as a byproduct of leaky building envelopes. To avoid increasing the risk of building failure we need to:

  1. Keep liquid water out of assemblies.
  2. Keep moisture-laden air out of assemblies.
  3. Ensure that water molecules can migrate out of assemblies.

In the Pacific Northwest, a lot of our old wood-framed buildings are still standing because they leak a lot of air, inadvertently drying out building envelope assemblies. (These old buildings are also dried out by their big, energy-intensive HVAC systems, but that’s a topic for another day.) Here’s the classic case in our region: it’s a cold, rainy winter day, with some rain penetrating the siding layer of a house, making it wet from the outside. Inside the building it’s hot with people, plants, pets, pasta, and personal hygiene (showers). A plethora of vapor-producing point sources making the building envelope wet from the inside. In old buildings with unmanaged airflow this is usually fine. If we model these buildings with a dynamic hygrothermal tool such as WUFI, we see the moisture content of the wall assembly go up in the winter but fall back down in the summer when it dries out. It creates a nice sine wave where it never gets too wet and it always dries out.

WUFI Exterior Plywood

This simulation by Skylar Swinford shows a typical scenario in our climate with wall assembly components getting wet in winter and drying out in summer.

But as we modernize envelope assemblies to increase thermal resistance and reduce air leakage, “natural ventilation” through cracks in the walls drops tremendously. We’re reducing the flow of air to reduce energy movement. We’re reducing the airflow to reduce introduction of moisture into our assemblies. But by doing so we’re also reducing the capacity of the assembly to dry out. Now we as builders are forced to understand what we are doing, or risk water and vapor ruining our day.

The first step in creating a resilient high performance envelope assembly is to keep liquid water from penetrating the assembly. We do this with a continuous weather resistant barrier or WRB that repels liquid water but allows the diffusion of water vapor. Whether this is a membrane, a sheet good like Agepan, or a liquid applied product like Prosoco CAT5, the purpose is the same: keep rain out of the walls. The best strategy is put your WRB behind a ventilated cladding system (aka “rainscreen”) that manages bulk water and provides lots of drying airflow across that surface.

The next step is to keep moisture-laden air out of the envelope, and you do this by creating airtight assemblies with a continuous air barrier. In building science circles we say, “if you control for air you control for moisture and for heat.” That’s because air is a primary conduit for the movement of both moisture and heat. If air can’t move across the assembly then it can’t carry moisture into the assembly. On the other hand, a hole through an envelope the size of a dime under the right conditions can cause a gallon or two of water to condense inside the assembly every day. No joke. Bad thing. This is water being “captured” by the wall as it’s carried by the air leak across the assembly. It starts as vapor and turns to water inside the envelope structure where it’s not supposed to be. Bad things happen. The wrong people make money.

The third step is to ensure that water molecules can migrate out of your envelope. To understand why, we need to understand how vapor drive impacts our assemblies. At any given time, the absolute humidity, or the concentration of water molecules measured in a given amount of air, will be different inside and out. These water molecules are constantly seeking balance, with molecules in higher density wanting to travel to lower density. So, unless they encounter a vapor barrier, water molecules will travel from the high absolute humidity side of a wall, through the wall assembly, to the low absolute humidity side of a wall. No air needs to move to make this happen. It occurs at the molecular level, with individual water molecules diffusing through wall materials.

Now, in a consistently humid place like Houston the smart response to vapor drive is usually to make walls vapor open in one direction (inside to outside) and vapor closed in the other (outside to inside). Simple: keep the humidity in the air outside, outside. But here in the Northwest, indoor and outdoor absolute humidity fluctuate constantly. On rainy days you’ll have high absolute humidity outside setting up a gradient that drives water molecules into buildings. But on dry days that gradient will reverse and the drive shifts to moving water molecules outside. The smart response in our climate is to keep wall assemblies vapor open in both directions so that vapor can diffuse out of assemblies any which way – or, alternatively, ensure that there’s enough insulation outside any vapor impermeable layer to keep that surface warm enough to avoid dangerous levels of moisture.

Here’s the thing to avoid: condensation inside our assemblies. To do that we need to understand relative humidity, or the “humidity” you hear about on the weather report. As Wikipedia will tell you, it’s the ratio of absolute humidity relative to the “maximum” for that temperature. That last part is important: the warmer the air, the more water it can hold. See this chart (from Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory):

Dew Point graph from CTIO

So, to avoid the formation of condensation inside our wall assemblies we need to ensure that the relative humidity of air inside those assemblies doesn’t reach 100%, known as the dew point, for dangerous lengths of time. (For extra credit, look up “safe storage capacity of materials.”) Because relative humidity is a function of absolute humidity and temperature, we do this by keeping airborne vapor out of our assemblies (through airtight construction), allowing any vapor that does get in to escape (to avoid high absolute humidity), and by keeping the insides of our wall assemblies warm with a nice layer of exterior insulation (to increase the air’s capacity to keep H2O gaseous).

We’re controlling for heat, air, and moisture in our building assemblies. An excellent example and in-depth analysis of this kind of wall assembly is found in BSC’s article BSI-001, a classic by Dr. Joe. Somewhat misleadingly titled “The Perfect Wall.” But his discussion of the principles is spot on. To quote: “If you can’t keep the rain out don’t waste your time on the air. If you can’t keep the air out don’t waste your time on the vapor.”

We do that with thermal layers, airtight layers, and vapor permeable layers. Sometimes these layers are combined in one material. Click on the image below to see the excellent Materials Property Table by Building Science Corporation.

Preview of Materials Property Table by Building Science Corporation

Building an envelope assembly is like cooking a dinner. You’ve got a pile of ingredients on the counter (in this metaphor, all the building materials you can choose from) and you want to assemble it into a tasty meal. You’ve got to understand the properties of the ingredients and what they bring to the dish in terms of taste, texture, and nutritional value. The same is true with wall assemblies. We Americans eat a lot of hamburgers because you could probably just live on hamburgers. All the food groups, right? It’s not necessarily the best idea, but it gets the job done and no one dies. (At least not right away.) The same is true of 2×6 construction, siding, plywood, studs with fiberglass batt, and drywall.

But, if you want something that’s high performance and sustainable you have to look carefully at the ingredients and how they come together to produce the desired outcome.

Many lessons are learned the hard way. Ungapped, highly vapor retarded cladding systems such as EIFS were an excellent example of the application of a new technology with inadequate understanding of building science and hygrothermal performance. In many climates these systems failed catastrophically and had to be replaced. Partly due to failures like these, we saw the addition of a drainage plane behind cladding systems in building codes two code cycles ago. This is intended to serve as a way for bulk water to exit the cladding system on the wet side of the building. I assert that it’s also effective because it inadvertently allows some air behind the siding system. This moves it closer to the ventilated siding system (rainscreen) that I alluded to earlier: the holy grail of cladding as it maximizes the drying potential of the exterior surface of the envelope.

So! Know the vapor permeability of the materials you’re using. Put them in the right place. Control for air. Then understand how the envelope will dry out if it gets wet somewhere it shouldn’t.

But if you’ve got bulk water intrusion from the exterior, go straight to jail, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.

P.S. The transfer of vapors is a complex topic – even NASA screwed it up. For more check out BSI: Thermodynamics: It’s Not Rocket Science by Joseph Lstiburek

 

Top water droplets image by Shelly, found here.

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What is an HRV, how does it work, and why should I care? http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/hrv-work-care/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/hrv-work-care/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 19:18:39 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6390 WHAT IS AN HRV? An HRV, or heat recovery ventilator, is a balanced mechanical ventilation unit that captures up to 90% of thermal energy (heat or cool) from the stale air exhausted from a building and recycles it back into fresh intake air. In non-techno speak, an HRV is a a fresh air system that preserves... Read more »

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WHAT IS AN HRV?

An HRV, or heat recovery ventilator, is a balanced mechanical ventilation unit that captures up to 90% of thermal energy (heat or cool) from the stale air exhausted from a building and recycles it back into fresh intake air. In non-techno speak, an HRV is a a fresh air system that preserves indoor warmth (or cool) inside a building while providing a 24/7 supply of fresh, filtered air to building occupants. ERVs, or energy recovery ventilators, are closely related to HRVs, but also capture and recycle the humidity level of exhaust air.

Photo of a HRV | Hammer & Hand

Photo courtesy of Skylar Swinford

WHY SHOULD I CARE?

The old way of “ventilating” our buildings through random air leaks is not only inefficient and drafty, but also unhealthy. Poor indoor air quality is a chronic problem in conventionally-built structures. Because they rely on leaky walls for ventilation they depend on the weather to move air. If there’s no wind or inadequate difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures then there’s no force to drive air changes in the building. The result is stale, often unhealthy, air.

Even on those days that the weather does cooperate, the source quality of incoming air is poor when we rely on the old way of ventilating. A recent Washington State University study showed that forty percent of all indoor air in existing homes originates in crawlspaces and unconditioned basements. Trying to dilute indoor air pollutants with dirty crawlspace air doesn’t work.

Recent building code changes attempt to replace our buildings’ dependence on weather-based pressure and temperature differences with a dependence on mechanical pressure differences: a fan (in the bathroom, laundry room, or elsewhere) is required to run intermittently to either pressurize or, as is more common in the NW, depressurize the building. But this unbalanced ventilation approach still results in poor source quality, with indoor air being sucked through crawlspaces, basements, and leaks in walls. And even when “ports” are placed in windows or walls to create a hole for air movement, there’s no guarantee that the pattern of pressurization will actually draw air through them.

For these reasons, virtually every building built would benefit from a balanced, mechanical, fresh air HRV or ERV system – and the more airtight the building, the better that system will perform. We know where incoming air is coming from: a clean, filtered intake leading directly through the HRV or ERV, delivering healthy fresh air, comfortable interior temperatures, and a smaller carbon footprint.

HOW DO HRVs WORK?

Fresh intake air is (1) drawn in from outside, (2) passes through the HRV’s (or ERV’s) heat exchanger where up to 90% of thermal energy from exhaust air is transferred into the incoming air, (3) if necessary, passes through a heating or cooling unit to move the air temperature up or down the remaining few degrees to the desired level, and (4) is delivered to bedrooms and living areas. Exhaust air is (1) drawn from kitchen and bathrooms where odors and pollutants collect, (2) passes through the heat exchanger where it shares its thermal energy with intake air, and (3) is exhausted to the outside.

HRV Diagram

Diagram courtesy of Skylar Swinford

The two air streams – fresh intake air and stale exhaust air – never mix. In the highly efficient units we use, the two streams pass through a honeycomb-like structure of thin-walled passages inside the heat exchanger that provide a very large surface area for the transfer of energy between adjacent intake and exhaust air streams.

HRV | Hammer & Hand

Image courtesy of Paul Wärmerückgewinnung GmbH

BUT WHAT IF THE POWER GOES OUT?

To be clear, it’s not a big deal if the HRV cuts out during a power outage, as even the most “airtight” buildings are far from hermetically sealed. No one’s going to suffocate! Granted, it might get a little stuffy, though. The solution? Crack a window or two until power is restored. The good news is that the passive qualities of high performance buildings extend the “open window season” anyway, so you’ll still be more comfortable during that power outage than your neighbors in their old drafty buildings.

P.S.
Check out these videos about the HRV at Karuna House:

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http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/hrv-work-care/feed/ 0 How an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) Works | Hammer & Hand WHAT IS AN HRV? An HRV, or heat recovery ventilator, is a balanced mechanical ventilation unit that captures up to 90% of thermal energy (heat or cool) from the stale air exhausted from a building and recycles it back into fresh intake air. In non-techno speak, an HRV is a a fresh air system that p hrv-pic hrv-diagram hrv-heat-exchanger
Airtightness at Madrona Passive House? Easy peasy. http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/airtightness-madrona-passive-house-easy-peasy/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/airtightness-madrona-passive-house-easy-peasy/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 00:09:41 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6351 One of three performance metrics for Passive House certification is air tightness of the building envelope (the other two are heating/cooling load and primary energy demand). After months of construction it was time yesterday to test the air tightness of our Madrona Passive House project. We’re excited to say that the results from our blower... Read more »

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One of three performance metrics for Passive House certification is air tightness of the building envelope (the other two are heating/cooling load and primary energy demand). After months of construction it was time yesterday to test the air tightness of our Madrona Passive House project.

We’re excited to say that the results from our blower door test came in at .32ACH50! That’s almost 50% better than the air tightness standard (.60ACH50). The structure of the building has more complexities than a simple design, which makes meeting the air tightness standard a bit more challenging. That’s why we’re particularly excited to have such a successful blower door test.

Blower Door Test at Madrona Passive House in Seattle | Hammer & Hand

Left: Passive House colleague Brian Cowan is immersed in the cloud of theatrical smoke used to locate air movement. Right: The gauge showing building pressure at 50.5 pascals and air flow at 153 cubic feet per minute.

Below: Front entry door showing no air leaks during the test.

Door at Madrona Passive House | Hammer & Hand Seattle

Now that we’ve completed this test we can move ahead with covering up our building shell. This will involve installation of the Roxul ComfortBoard IS and ventilated rain screen battens. This will quickly be followed by the Forest Stewardship Council® certified cedar siding.

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Hammer & Hand Seattle Team Recruiting Event http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/hammer-hand-seattle-team-recruiting-event/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/hammer-hand-seattle-team-recruiting-event/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 16:41:48 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6266 Calling all experienced carpenters! Hammer & Hand, a leader in high performance building, is looking to add members to our Seattle team. Our Seattle team is hosting a recruiting event at our office in the Bullitt Center Tuesday, February 24th from 5-6:30pm. Anyone interested in learning more about Hammer & Hand and furthering their career... Read more »

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Calling all experienced carpenters! Hammer & Hand, a leader in high performance building, is looking to add members to our Seattle team.

Our Seattle team is hosting a recruiting event at our office in the Bullitt Center Tuesday, February 24th from 5-6:30pm. Anyone interested in learning more about Hammer & Hand and furthering their career as a lead carpenter or project supervisor is welcome to attend. Co-owner Sam Hagerman will be there to discuss the history and future of the company. Attendees will also have the opportunity to talk with H&H project supervisors and HR professionals.

H&H is growing in Seattle, with a number of exciting projects on the horizon. We are looking for skilled men and women to add to the team. View open positions here.

Event Details:

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
5:00 – 6:30pm
Bullitt Center
1501 E Madison St. Suite 250
Seattle, WA 98122

Instructions:

There is no off-street parking at the Bullitt Center, so arrive in time to find street parking. Use the call box (look for “Hammer & Hand”) at the Madison St. entrance to be buzzed into the building. The office is through the first door and to your right (across from the living wall).

Please RSVP to this free event here:

 

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Materials Matter: Impact of 3 Thermal Bridges Illustrated http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/materials-matter-impact-3-thermal-bridges-illustrated/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/materials-matter-impact-3-thermal-bridges-illustrated/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:39:51 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6275 A thermal bridge is any component in a building assembly that “bridges” inside and outside thermally, allowing heat and cool to short circuit thermal resistance built into the assembly. Thermal bridges allow heat and cool to bypass insulation (read more about thermal bridges here). A common mistake in the building industry is to assume that... Read more »

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A thermal bridge is any component in a building assembly that “bridges” inside and outside thermally, allowing heat and cool to short circuit thermal resistance built into the assembly. Thermal bridges allow heat and cool to bypass insulation (read more about thermal bridges here).

A common mistake in the building industry is to assume that a wall’s thermal resistance is equal to that of the insulation it contains. Consider a super-insulated example: a 15” thick wall full of cellulose insulation. 15” of cellulose insulation has an insulative value of R-50, so by definition the wall must be R-50, too. Right? Nope. We have to look at the thermal resistance of the wall in assembly. How is the wall constructed? Do any of its components create thermal bridges?

A standard wood frame wall, for instance, contains roughly 25% wood studs, leaving 75% for insulation cavity. And though wood isn’t particularly conductive, each of those studs represents a thermal bridge, particularly when compared to R-50 insulation. The back-of-the-envelope analysis below, prepared by Skylar Swinford, shows that the wood in a wood frame/cellulose insulation assembly drops the insulative value from R-50 to R-32, allowing 58% more heat loss than an R-50 cellulose monolith.

 

Wood Thermal Bridge | Hammer & Hand

If we move to a more conductive material, like concrete, then the impact of thermal bridging becomes more dramatic. A 6” concrete beam cutting across the face of a 10’x10’ wall of R-50 cellulose will drop that assembly to just R-13. The concrete makes up just 5% of the assembly but leads to 293% more heat loss.

Concrete Thermal Bridge | Hammer & Hand

 

And the effect of a steel thermal bridge is crazy. Our back of the envelope analysis shows that a 6”x6” piece of steel – just 0.25sf – that penetrates a 100sf R-50 cellulose wall will drop the assembly’s thermal resistance to just R-11. In this example the steel makes up just a quarter of one percent of the total wall assembly but causes 345% more heat loss.

heat-loss-steel

 

The moral of the story? Mind those bridges because they can wreak havoc with your building’s performance.

And it’s not just about comfort and energy efficiency. It’s also about avoiding building failure, because if warm, moist air hits a cold thermal bridge buried inside your wall, then water vapor will become liquid water, and rot and woe can ensue.

 

 

 

Featured image credit: Steel: Liesbeth den Toom, Concrete: Seier+Seier, Wood: Bartosz Mikolajczyk

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Kitchen Remodel, ADDU (Accessory Dog Dwelling Unit), & Home Performance Updates Give Portland Home New Life http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/kitchen-remodel-and-home-performance-updates-give-portland-home-new-life/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/kitchen-remodel-and-home-performance-updates-give-portland-home-new-life/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 18:00:12 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6198 The clients of this home remodeling project bought their Skyline house because it was large enough to accommodate their family – one that includes four children, two dogs, and two cats. “It’s a beautiful home with lots of places to hide for kids, it’s really a kid’s dream,” said Hammer & Hand Project Supervisor Melissa Peloquin.... Read more »

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The clients of this home remodeling project bought their Skyline house because it was large enough to accommodate their family – one that includes four children, two dogs, and two cats. “It’s a beautiful home with lots of places to hide for kids, it’s really a kid’s dream,” said Hammer & Hand Project Supervisor Melissa Peloquin. While the size was right, the style didn’t quite match the clients’ aesthetic. They wanted to maintain the original character of the home while making it their own, starting with the kitchen.

The original kitchen was designed in the style of a country villa, with mottled brown ceramic floor tiles with large grout lines. The clients wanted to make the surfaces smoother and easier to clean and calm the space down visually.

“They wanted to create a space that was much brighter and happier for their family,” said Melissa. “The original kitchen had a lot of earth tones in it and really sucked the light out of the room and dulled it down.”

The team brightened up the space with a new color palette, tile, and countertops but maintained most of the original layout of the kitchen, including the large kitchen island. (Visit our kitchen remodeling page for more kitchen project examples, videos, and articles.)

Kitchen Remodel by Portland General Contractor Hammer & Hand

Photography by Jeff Amram.

One area of the kitchen that needed to be more functional for the family was the area around the range. It was fit snugly inside an arched alcove and had no counter space for setting cooking utensils. The team opened up the area and added counter space on either side of the stove range for convenience. This work ended up being a little trickier than it sounds, though. “We opened up the wall and saw that there was a fireplace above where the range was. To support the existing fireplace took some structural work that was pretty intense,” said Melissa.

The team removed one CMU wall on one side of the range and supported it with steal beams and carried it over to another wall. “It was substantial work to remove the weight, support it, and carry the weight on another wall,” said Melissa.

Entry Remodel in Portland Home | Hammer & Hand

Among all the cool whites, grays, and black is an island of warm wood. “The main goal was to create a place the family could gather…In the end they achieved this with a built-in walnut bench and table,” said Melissa. (Read more about this custom table and bench made by Hammer & Hand.) The team also added a built-in bench against the wall for additional seating.

Custom Dining Table in Portland Kitchen Remodel | Hammer & Hand

Not all updates were of an aesthetic nature, though.

“The house had no mechanical plan,” said Sean Hendryx, H&H Building Energy Analyst. “There wasn’t a comprehensive design in the original construction plans to show how mechanical systems were to serve the house. Systems had been tacked on ad-hoc following or during initial construction.”

The ventilation system was exhaust-only and had excessive exhausting capacity. This caused the plumbing traps to dry out and let sewer smell into the home. Bath fans that were left on all the time to try to get rid of the sewer smell from the waste lines actually made the problem worse. Kitchen exhaust fans, dryers, holey fireplace flues, and a Fantech whole house exhaust fan (designed for apartment buildings and high rise suites, not residential units) exacerbated the issue.

“After reading the worst case depressurization at -27 pascals, it was clear that a whole-house solution was necessary,” said Sean.

In order to balance the pressure in the house, the team replaced the whole house exhaust fan with an HRV. HRVs not only exhaust stale interior air but also bring in fresh outside air. Decommissioning the Fantech unit, installing makeup air for the kitchen range hood, and recirculating interior air with the air handlers on the new heat pumps were all part of the solution. After designing and implementing the whole-house solution, the worst case depressurization was reduced to a moderate -3.6 pascals.

Hammer & Hand also built an ADDU (Accessory Dog Dwelling Unit) on the property for the family’s two dogs, Biscuit and Cooper. The clients wanted the dog house to fit in with the style of the home, but the house is made almost entirely of stone. Rather than build a stone dog house H&H used cedar (the material used on the home’s roof) for the majority of the structure to tie it in with the main home. The dog house has a porch for the pups to hang out on and a large overhang roof to protect them from rain.

Custom Dog House Built by Hammer & Hand

“The clients wanted it to look like a little cottage,” said Melissa. “Cute, like a playhouse, almost to entice the kids to come out and play in the house with the dogs.”

Custom Dog House in Portland OR | Hammer & Hand

The dogs, Biscuit and Cooper, like to spend long afternoons pondering life’s big questions on the front porch of their new dog house.

See more photos of this project on the Skyline Kitchen Remodel project page.

 

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National Institute of Building Sciences bestows prestigious Beyond Green Award on Karuna House http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/national-institute-building-sciences-bestows-prestigious-beyond-green-award-karuna-house/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/national-institute-building-sciences-bestows-prestigious-beyond-green-award-karuna-house/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 23:40:58 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6215 At an awards ceremony this afternoon at the National Institute of Building Sciences’ conference in Washington, DC, Hammer & Hand’s Sam Hagerman accepted a Beyond GreenTM Merit Award on behalf of the Karuna House and its project team. One of just four Beyond Green Awards granted by the Institute and its Sustainable Building Industry Council... Read more »

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At an awards ceremony this afternoon at the National Institute of Building Sciences’ conference in Washington, DC, Hammer & Hand’s Sam Hagerman accepted a Beyond GreenTM Merit Award on behalf of the Karuna House and its project team.

One of just four Beyond Green Awards granted by the Institute and its Sustainable Building Industry Council this year, Karuna House’s award recognizes the home’s role as a national exemplar of high performance green building. Designed by Holst Architecture and built by Hammer & Hand, Karuna House is the first in the world to achieve the green building triple crown of Passive House, LEED, and Minergie certifications.

“Their [the Karuna House Project Team] pursuit of three different certifications is commendable and can provide valuable lessons for the industry,” said Beyond Green jurist RK Stewart, FAIA. “Achievement of these certifications points to the importance of integrated processes and whole building design.”

To read the Institute’s full announcement of the 2014 Beyond Green Award winners, visit http://www.nibs.org/news/209829/SBIC-Recognizes-2014-Beyond-Green-Award-Winners.htm. (The top Honor Award was awarded to the Bullitt Center, the Living Building Challenge office building which serves, incidentally, as home to Hammer & Hand’s Seattle office.)

“The owner of Karuna House created the project as a case study for what can be accomplished in high performance green building,” said Hagerman after accepting the award. “So it’s gratifying to see the project receive this recognition. It’s an honor to be part of the team.”

NIBS-Sam
Above: Sam accepts award from Henry L. Green, President, National Institute of Building Sciences. Photo by Jocelyn Augustino, courtesy of the National Institute of Building Sciences

For more about Karuna House, including project photos, videos, and articles, visit http://hammerandhand.com/portfolio/karuna-house/

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High Performance Door Custom Made in Traditional Style by H&H http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/high-performance-door-custom-made-traditional-style-hh/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/high-performance-door-custom-made-traditional-style-hh/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 23:30:25 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6117 The Hammer & Hand woodshop in Portland has a new addition to its high performance door portfolio. The door, designed in a traditional style, breaks the conventional modern mold of high performance doors. “It’s definitely the least contemporary type of Passive House door that we’ve built so far,” said H&H Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer of the... Read more »

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The Hammer & Hand woodshop in Portland has a new addition to its high performance door portfolio. The door, designed in a traditional style, breaks the conventional modern mold of high performance doors.

“It’s definitely the least contemporary type of Passive House door that we’ve built so far,” said H&H Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer of the door, built for a client in Minnesota. (To see examples of other Passive House doors, visit our custom high performance doors page).

Built by H&H’s craftspeople, our high performance doors meet stringent thermal performance requirements (which is important in places like Minnesota, where it is currently 1º – brrr!). Check out the photos below to get a glimpse at the process of crafting this unique custom door.

Crafting Passive House Door in Portland Woodshop | Hammer & Hand

Photography by Jeff Tan.

Veteran H&H carpenter James Fox fine tunes the raised panels with a block plane.

Appling Epoxy on Passive House Door Mortises | Hammer & Hand

H&H Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer applies West System Epoxy into the mortises of a door stile (above) and the loose tenons of the lock rail (below). The loose tenons are what give the door much of its strength.

Passive House Door Construction in Portland Woodshop | Hammer & Hand

Neoprene gasketing (the black strips) insures a proper air seal and allows the floating raised panels to expand and contract naturally as the seasons change.

Custom High Performance Door by Portland Contractor Hammer & Hand

The door stile is joined to the top, lock, and kick rails.

Insulation Inside Custom Passive House Door | Hammer & Hand

Two inches of polyiso insulation is glued between the raised panels to provide the door with high thermal resistance. The panels are clamped together with cauls as the glue dries.

Custom Passive House Door Unstained by Hammer & Hand

The door, made of engineered stave core cherry, is finished with a custom stain and clear coated with three coats of Rudd Prothane (a clear exterior product designed for doors and windows). This double in-swing door stands six feet wide, eight feet tall, and four inches thick.

Finished High Performance Door Custom Made by Hammer & Hand

The traditional arched rail and panel double entry doors look like they could open up into a European villa, but perform as though they lead into a Passive House.

High Performance Door Detail | Hammer & Hand

The door locks and creates an airtight seal using a Hoppe HLS9000 multipoint lock system with top and bottom shootbolts in both door leaves. Door hardware is Emtek’s Concord Style 2″ x 10″ Keyed.

Passive House Door Locking System | Hammer & Hand

The Hammer & Hand woodshop combines 20 years of woodworking experience with high performance building expertise to build custom doors in a variety of design aesthetics. Check out this custom high performance door client review post for a look at a modern style door.

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10 H&H Highlights of 2014 http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/10-hh-highlights-2014/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/10-hh-highlights-2014/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 20:58:36 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6080 2014 has been a very busy year for us at Hammer & Hand. Both our Portland and Seattle teams have worked on some amazing projects, including new homes,  a variety of home remodeling projects, and commercial tenant improvements. But that’s not all! Here’s just a few of our highlights for 2014: 1. H&H received recognition... Read more »

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2014 has been a very busy year for us at Hammer & Hand. Both our Portland and Seattle teams have worked on some amazing projects, including new homes,  a variety of home remodeling projects, and commercial tenant improvements. But that’s not all! Here’s just a few of our highlights for 2014:

1. H&H received recognition for multiple projects this year.

We were honored with multiple awards in 2014 for a few of our high performance building projects:

  • “Custom Builder of the Year” – Earth Advantage’s 2014 Green Home Builder Awards (read more about it here).
  • “Best Building Science” for Karuna House – Green Builder Magazine’s 2014 Green Home of the Year Awards
  • “Best Mainstream Green” for Pumpkin Ridge Passive House – Green Builder Magazine’s 2014 Green Home of the Year Awards
  • Outstanding Remodeling Achievement, “Commercial Interior” for our high performance build-out of Xico – Oregon Remodeler’s Association
  • Outstanding Remodeling Achievement, “Commercial Specialty” for our Passive House retrofit of Glasswood’s second floor – Oregon Remodeler’s Association

2. Our woodshop crafted unique custom pieces for clients near and far. 

In 2014 our woodshop displayed their expert craftsmanship by building a variety of custom pieces in different styles for clients both in Portland and across the US. A few of these pieces include a live edge dining table and bench, a custom Passive House door for a client in Chicago, a plans table for our Seattle office, and tables crafted from reclaimed picklewood.

Custom Millwork by Hammer & Hand

3. We released our construction Best Practices Manual online.

This year we were excited to make public our Best Practices Manual, a guidebook of field-tested construction details, many shaped by our high performance building and Passive House building experience. It’s a resource referenced daily by our carpenters and we are happy to be able to make it available to anyone who wishes to utilize it as we have. We continue to refine and add to it and plan to release new editions in the future.

4. We completed our Bullitt Center tenant improvement and settled into our new Seattle digs.

After a temporary stay on the Bullitt Center’s fourth floor shared workspace we were excited to move into our own space. Our build-out of the office included dropped ceilings in the entry and conference room, gray Echo Eliminator panels for sound absorption, a photo gallery wall, and a custom conference room door. We spent 2014 making ourselves at home in the new space, adding artwork to the walls and our own custom FSC-certified desks. We’ve enjoyed working in this noted Living Building and look forward to another year here.

Hammer & Hand Bullitt Center Office

5. We added Forest Stewardship Council® Certified furniture and millwork to our offerings.

This year we were proud to add FSC®-certified millwork to our portfolio. While we’ve been building with salvaged and sustainably sourced wood for years, we are now able to create and sell FSC-certified products in our shop. This green seal of approval is just the latest addition to our sustainable construction certifications and helps to drive forward our green building practices.

6. We broke Ground on Madrona Passive House in Seattle.

One of the new projects we started this year that we’re really excited about is Madrona Passive House. Designed by SHED Architecture & Design, the house perches on a hillside with views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains. A structural slab supported by 26 piles drilled deep into the hillside “floats” the house above marginal soils on a “platform-on-stilts”. The project is well under way and will be completed in July. We’re also excited about some new Passive House projects in the works, including a new Passive House in Wallingford (Seattle) and one in Issaquah.

Rendering of Madrona Passive House | Hammer & Hand

7. Two of our projects, Karuna House and Pumpkin Ridge Passive House, earned Zero Energy Ready Home certifications.

The US Department of Energy granted Karuna House and Pumpkin Ridge its highest level of green home certification – “Zero Energy Ready Home.”

“A DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a high performance home which is so energy efficient that a renewable energy system can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption. Only a select group of the top builders in the country meet the extraordinary levels of excellence and quality specified by the US Department of Energy guidelines.”

– US Department of Energy

Read more about this certification here.

8. We transformed an old service station into a fun Peruvian chicken eatery.

The most transformative commercial project we worked on in 2014 was Big Chickie. The building was originally Rudy Hansen’s Service Station, a business with deep roots in Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood. The owners of the building wanted to maintain the original structure to honor their father Rudy’s legacy while revitalizing the parcel and bringing new business to the neighborhood. We worked with Architecture Building Culture to turn the service station into a family restaurant. Read more about this project here.

Big Chickie Restaurant TI | Hammer & Hand

9. We increased our Passive House and high performance building consulting work.

In addition to building Passive House projects in Seattle and Portland, we have also acted as consultants on a variety of Passive House and other high performance building projects across the United States. H&H Passive House consultants Dan Whitmore and Skylar Swinford have consulted on scores of projects across the entire 48 from Washington to California, Georgia to Maine, and many places in between. Many of these closer to our home turf – such as Sauvie Island, OR and Walla Walla, WA.

Passive House Rendering by Malboeuf Bowie Architecture | Hammer & Hand
Palatine Passive House designed by Malboeuf Bowie Architecture with consulting by H&H.

10. Launch of perFORM 2014 & 2015 Building Design Competitions

In 2014 we hosted our inaugural perFORM building competition. The competition challenged emerging architecture professionals to fuse high design with high performance building in the design of a single-family house in Seattle that achieves Passive House-like levels of energy performance (check out the winners here). perFORM 2015 calls for architectural students and interns to design a net zero energy, mixed-use, multifamily building in the heart of Portland, OR.

perFORM 2015 Building Design Competition | Hammer & Hand

It was a great year and we can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!

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Excel Designer Turned Climate Advocate Builds Madrona Passive House http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/co-creator-of-excel-turns-focus-to-climate/ http://hammerandhand.com/field-notes/co-creator-of-excel-turns-focus-to-climate/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:39:45 +0000 http://hammerandhand.com/?p=6089 Tech innovator becomes climate solution maker becomes Passive House creator. It’s a pretty unique story now, but in the land of Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, that could change – particularly with folks like Jabe Blumenthal, owner of Madrona Passive House, leading the way. (Visit our Passive House page for more about H&H’s approach, including project examples... Read more »

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Tech innovator becomes climate solution maker becomes Passive House creator.

It’s a pretty unique story now, but in the land of Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, that could change – particularly with folks like Jabe Blumenthal, owner of Madrona Passive House, leading the way.

(Visit our Passive House page for more about H&H’s approach, including project examples and videos.)

You likely know Jabe’s work if you’ve spent any time manipulating numbers on a PC. He co-designed Microsoft Excel in the early 80s and became Microsoft’s first program manager.

Jabe Blumenthal – 2012 Integral Fellow from Microsoft Alumni Foundation.

In 1994 he left the software giant to teach math and physics at the Lakeside School, his alma mater as well as that of Bill Gates, and served as chair of Lakeside’s science department. It was there, with the myriad of science and nature magazines that crossed his desk, that Jabe started to read about climate science.

He was already immersed in environmental philanthropy and advocacy, having entered that world through wildlife and land conservation. Jabe helped Conservation Northwest protect the Loomis forest in northeastern Washington, the largest swath of untouched forest in the state and home to the largest lynx population in the lower 48.

“We ended up protecting the land from logging,” said Jabe. “But as I began to read about climate change, it dawned on me that all of that was going to be moot. The lynx were toast. You can protect the habitat all you want, but if the temperature rises 4 or 5 degrees, then there’s no snow and they can’t hunt and their prey leaves. That’s what led me to want to learn more – and get my hands a little bit dirtier – about climate change.”

He asked around about the most effective climate advocacy organizations and kept hearing, “Talk to Climate Solutions and [its Senior Policy Advisor] KC Golden.” So he did, and now he’s been a board member of Climate Solutions for over eleven years and board chair for most of those. He also served on the boards of the Washington Environmental Council and of the Bullitt Foundation, a leading environmental philanthropic organization and owner of the Bullitt Center (the noted Living Building and home to Hammer & Hand’s Seattle office).

“Climate Solutions has a very pragmatic, solution orientation,” Jabe explained. “It’s about working within our capitalist system and working with the business community, as well as a lot of other communities, out of the belief that, ‘Hey, if we’re actually gonna come up with solutions, they have to be solutions that are going to make people money.’ They have to be solutions that are going to create viable businesses.”

It is this same pragmatism and market orientation that drew Jabe to the Passive House approach for the design and construction of his family’s new home. He wanted to build a home that not only maximized the positive impact on the climate problem per dollar spent but also served as an example for others who want to invest in climate solutions.

Of course Jabe and his wife, Julie Edsforth, also wanted to create a great place to live for their family of four.

“We wanted a nice house with a view, a house that is smaller than what we have currently, in a neighborhood we’ve wanted to live in for a long time.”

“But we also wanted a house that pushes the edges a little bit, not so much on the bleeding edge of what is technically possible, but in what’s technologically and economically very reasonable today.”

Madrona Passive House in Seattle WA

If the house costs ten, fifteen, or even twenty percent more to build in a climate-friendly way, then it’s reasonable for others with some extra money to replicate, especially if the 10th or 20th such house in Seattle costs only a few percent more. We want our house to be part of driving these technologies and building practices to be mainstream.

“We’re not going to see price parity [between conventional and climate-friendly construction] until we have true energy and carbon pricing. But we can at least drive high performance, über-efficient buildings forward,” Jabe said.

“We’re implementing technologies that you guys have already implemented in other houses,” Jabe said, referring to Hammer & Hand’s other Passive House work. “But you need more than one or two of these kinds of houses in a certain region of the city. It’s a little like Leafs or Priuses. You need to reach a certain critical mass before people really start to say, ‘Oh! There’s nothing weird about this.’”

The focus at Madrona Passive House is to reduce energy demand to very low levels (90% less energy used for heating and cooling than a conventional structure) and then meet that demand with the greenest technology practicable.

The home’s 10 kW solar photovoltaic array will likely provide all the energy (on a net basis) for Madrona Passive House. But while the home will be in “net zero energy” territory, Jabe did not set out to reach that target specifically, partly because he doesn’t see small-scale rooftop solar as the best way to generate “green electrons.”

“In addressing climate change we need societal solutions that are scalable,” Jabe explained. “I’m not against distributed solar on rooftops, but what we really need is big, industrial-scale wind and solar generation to replace big, industrial-scale oil, coal, and gas. Not because we love ‘big and industrial,’ but because we want to achieve scale, to move from 1 or 2% of our electricity generated by solar to much, much more.”

“A given solar panel on even a well-oriented house will produce fewer electrons per dollar spent than a rooftop array on a big building downtown, which will produce fewer electrons per dollar than a solar farm in eastern Washington. That said, we’re nowhere near critical mass of societal awareness, acceptance, and enthusiasm for solar energy, in any setting. So put solar where you can. And the more visible the better, to get people to think, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. That’s how we should power society!’”

And as economically irrational as they may be from a climate bang-for-the-buck perspective, generous subsidies for small scale solar arrays make rooftop solar pretty attractive for homeowners. (Jabe has decided to forego the 3 times higher public subsidy for Washington-made solar panels than for the most efficient panels from California, as he feels those subsidies are too high.)

To design Madrona Passive House, Jabe and Julie selected SHED Architecture & Design, a firm they had worked with on a couple projects in eastern Washington, including a lodge and school for paragliding students.

“When this project came around, we were just super comfortable with SHED. They’re committed to trying new things and stretching. They hadn’t done a Passive House before and were very interested in doing one. And once they learn something they’re the kind of firm that’s likely to apply it on future projects.”

To choose a contractor for the project Jabe researched Passive House home builders in Seattle and discovered that there were only a couple in town. They chose H&H for the project due to our experience building Passive House projects.

“The other firm was great, doing cool stuff. But I was attracted to H&H as the larger firm, with more experience. Schedule is such a huge part of the true cost of a project, and size and experience really impact schedule.”

After having lived for many years as “curators of a 100-year old house,” Jabe and Julie were ready for simplicity and maintenance-free living. SHED created a contemporary design for them that captures the site’s commanding views of Lake Washington and the Cascades as well as lots of natural light. The home’s architecture achieves what Jabe describes as a “really relaxed, informal, open space design.”

Madrona Passive House Wall Assembly | Hammer & Hand

Its passive design – balanced heat recovery ventilation, and airtight, thermally-resistant wall assembly of high density cellulose insulation, zip sheathing, and ROXUL mineral wool exterior insulation – will deliver on Passive House’s promise of superior comfort, indoor air quality, and durability.

The house will be a gracious space to inhabit, one that sets an example for others in the city who want to create a home that is as good for the well-being of its inhabitants as the well-being of our planet.

P.S. For more info about the project, including a series of videos documenting the high performance construction techniques employed there, visit the Madrona Passive House project page.

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