In the halls of the Frederician king

Wheels up for ShowStoppers @ IFA 2015 Berlin — with a couple of hours before the team of US journalists begins to arrive. Cheryl Delgreco and I took the train to Potsdam — first trip in x years that we have made it out of Berlin to see more than Berlin. It was Monday, which means almost everything is closed, except the New Palace at Sanssouci, built by Frederick the Great in six years according to the brochure, 1763 to 1769. “Luxurious ceremonial halls, magnificent galleries and richly designed private suites such as the king’s apartment are outstanding testaments to the Frederician Rococo.”

It’s part of a miles-long campus of palaces. It’s a privilege to visit. It’s a delight to explore beyond Berlin.

One of the most ornate rooms I have ever seen. Period. Thousands of seashells cemented into columns, reflecting light. Water fountains between every column. Intricate inlays in the floor and walls and coved ceilings. And all this is just part of a huge edifice built by how many thousands in just six years?
One of the most ornate rooms I have ever seen. Period. Thousands of seashells cemented into columns, reflecting light. Water fountains between every column. Intricate inlays in the floor and walls and coved ceilings. And all this is just part of a huge edifice built by how many thousands in just six years?

 

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Week ending 28 Aug. 2015

Ron Dahlke from Ranserve files this week’s summary:

This week:

  • Received final shower pan
  • Set remaining plumbing for inspection
  • Installed sheetrock at mud room walls
  • Started insulation
  • Continued on outside masonry
  • Met with welder on site
  • Installed cedar siding at front porch
  • Ordered tile

Next week:

  • Meet with Miki on the Green Build program
  • Continue and finish insulation
  • Call in for insulation inspection
  • Receive and install remaining shower walls
  • Continue exterior paint
  • Shim reveals on windows
  • Finish cabinet specs and start production

Steven adds:

  • Steven approved kitchen cabinet plans
  • Steven asked architect Brett Grinkmeyer to draw plans for potential third garage bay
  • Steven continues hunt for company to install network, AV, phone and low-voltage wiring systems.
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Cleaning up the boneyard

Lumber, brick and other recyclables taken out of Emerald Hill were piled on the driveway at Emerald Hill, creating a boneyard of sorted material piles, with each material chucked into a specific dumpster on a specific schedule to help meet Green Build requirements and properly recycle the waste.

Today, above, Matt from Ranserve has cleaned it all up — and there’s still room in dumpster #7.

And at the end of the day Matt hauls one final bag of trash off the driveway -- which has not been this clean since day 1 of demo. There are still piles of metal and unpainted drywall to sort and properly recycle.
And at the end of the day Matt hauls one final bag of trash off the driveway — which has not been this clean since day 1 of demo. There are still piles of metal and unpainted drywall to sort and properly recycle.
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Taking a brick to it

While the insulators are spraying foam inside, the masons are back to continue patching the holes in the exterior brickwork.

At the kitchen window.
At the kitchen window.
Moving across to the wall between the kitchen window and side door.
Moving across to the wall between the kitchen window and side door. Using a string line to keep each course of brick level — and to match the mortar lines with the existing brickwork.
Tapping a brick into place between the window and door.
Tapping a brick into place between the window and door.
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The back side of the chimney

As purchased by the Leons, the back side of the chimney was flashed with metal to prevent water running down the roof from penetrating the brick.

After 50 years, it’s time to approach this problem differently — because water got into the brick and ran down the brick and down the interior framing. Mold grew against the tar paper sheathing inside the walls. As we discovered when Ranserve opened up the walls during demo.

As a first line of attack, the roofer built and installed a metal "cricket" at the back of the chimney, inserting the metal under roof tiles. Instead of water cascading down the roof, slamming into and through the chimney brick, the V shape of the cricket diverts water away from the brick.
As a first line of attack, the roofer built and installed a metal “cricket” at the back of the chimney, inserting the metal under roof tiles. Instead of water cascading down the roof, slamming into and through the chimney brick, the V shape of the cricket diverts water away from the brick.
Inside bedroom 4 upstairs, Matt from Ranserve steps back to examine the tar paper sheathing he tore away from the backside of the brick. After 50 years, the tar paper rips easily and is dried out; it crumbles, actually. Water stains run down the brick and paper. Ron will spray the brick and lumber with bleach to kill any mold.
Inside bedroom 4 upstairs, Matt from Ranserve steps back to examine the tar paper sheathing he tore away from the backside of the brick. After 50 years, the tar paper rips easily and is dried out; it crumbles, actually. Water stains run down the brick and paper. Ron will spray the brick and lumber with bleach to kill any mold.
After applying the bleach, and letting it evaporate, Ron and Matt stapled Tyvek sheathing to the studs and up against the chimney brick. Two of the foam insulation installers suit up for the next step.
After applying the bleach, and letting it evaporate, Ron and Matt stapled Tyvek sheathing to the studs and up against the chimney brick. Two of the foam insulation installers suit up for the next step.
One of the installers sprays a light coat of foam against the corners of the Tyvek and studs. This pushes the Tyvek tightly into the corners and seals the joints.
One of the installers sprays a light coat of foam against the corners of the Tyvek and studs. This pushes the Tyvek tightly into the corners and seals the joints.
With the joints sealed, the installer begins spraying the entire stud bay.
With the joints sealed, the installer begins spraying the entire stud bay.
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Insulation begins

It’s a big day. Ranserve is insulating Emerald Hill. Framing is done.  Plumbing rough-in is done. Drywall comes next.

Eleven years ago, when we built Sea Eagle with Hagy Custom Homes, we were one of the first homes in Austin insulated with BioBased spray foam.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a spray-applied plastic that can form a continuous insulation and air sealing barrier on walls, roofs, around corners, and on all contoured surfaces. It is made by mixing and reacting unique liquid components at the job site to create foam. The liquids react very quickly when mixed, expanding on contact to create foam that insulates, seals gaps, and can form moisture and vapor barriers. SPF insulation is known to resist heat transfer extremely well, and it offers a highly effective solution in reducing unwanted air infiltration through cracks, seams, and joints. Spray foam makes sense.

Sea Eagle is tight, comfortable, efficient. We believe our utility bills run about half that of nearby homes built about the same time that use conventional fiberglass batts.

So we planned from Day 1 to insulate with foam.

Before Energy Guard Foam Insulators pulled up to Emerald Hill this morning, Ron and Cris from Ranserve walked the house sealing up small penetrations with cans of spray foam. They also took the time to spray behind every electrical outlet in every exterior wall — “because the big guns the insulators use don’t always hit behind the electrical boxes,” said Ron.

An example of the attention to detail from Ron and Cris as they prepared the house for insulation -- spray foam applied behind every electrical box in every exterior wall, sealing any air gaps.
An example of the attention to detail from Ron and Cris as they prepared the house for insulation — spray foam applied behind every electrical box in every exterior wall, sealing any air gaps.

To spray two liquids that instantly react to create foam, you have to have a surface to spray — so Ron and Cris installed drywall on the shared walls between the mudroom and garage — the first drywall screwed into Emerald Hill!

Ron, left, and Cris, right, in the garage, with drywall wrapping around the mudroom.
Ron, left, and Cris, right, in the garage, with drywall wrapping around the mudroom.
Downstairs, in bedroom 1, the insulation team begins installing sound insulation -- fiberglass batts designed to attenuate the transfer of sound between rooms and floors. Expanding foam insulation is not as efficient at reducing noise as the loose batts, which trap sound in voids and fibers.
Downstairs, in bedroom 1, the insulation team begins installing sound insulation — fiberglass batts designed to attenuate the transfer of sound between rooms and floors. Expanding foam insulation is not as efficient at reducing noise as the loose batts, which trap sound in voids and fibers.
The batts come squeezed into sausage-like bales.
The batts come squeezed into sausage-like bales.
Here's the back end of the pumper truck. Blue barrels of the liquid foam components on the right side of the truck. Batts waiting to be used on the ground, still in protective wrapping.
Here’s the back end of the pumper truck. Blue barrels of the liquid foam components on the right side of the truck. Batts waiting to be used on the ground, still in protective wrapping.
About one hour later, most of the ceiling in bedroom 1 is insulated with sound-absorbing batts -- and, already, noise reverberates significantly less.
About one hour later, most of the ceiling in bedroom 1 is insulated with sound-absorbing batts — and, already, noise reverberates significantly less.
The East and South walls of the master bath, foamed. At right is the wall between the master bath and master closet, with plywood blocking installed to support the shelving and storage that Jacquela plans.
The East and South walls of the master bath, foamed. At right is the wall between the master bath and master closet, with plywood blocking installed to support the shelving and storage that Jacquela plans.
Liquid parts A and B mix just ahead of the spray nozzle. As the mix hits the wall, it's a liquid. In seconds, it begins expanding into every corner that conventional insulation would never reach.
Liquid parts A and B mix just ahead of the spray nozzle. As the mix hits the wall, it’s a liquid. In seconds, it begins expanding into every corner that conventional insulation would never reach.
The installer moves quickly from stud bay to stud bay in the master bedroom.
The installer moves quickly from stud bay to stud bay in the master bedroom.
Overhead, a second installer has begun spraying foam against the underside of the roof decking. When this job is done, the attic and exterior walls will become one system, sealed and insulated with foam -- a cooler turned upside down, pinned against the concrete slab, able to keep drinks and humans hot and cold for long periods of time with minimal use of energy.
Overhead, a second installer has begun spraying foam against the underside of the roof decking. When this job is done, the attic and exterior walls will become one system, sealed and insulated with foam — a cooler turned upside down, pinned against the concrete slab, able to keep drinks and humans hot and cold for long periods of time with minimal use of energy.
The model train room gets foamed.
The model train room gets foamed.
And here's the train room after the installers shift to the next-door loft.
And here’s the train room after the installers shift to the next-door loft.
The loft, foamed, with one of the spray guns hanging from the ceiling rafters.
The loft, foamed, with one of the spray guns hanging from the ceiling rafters.
Ron asked the installers to spray a "loaf" of foam against a plastic sheet. Ron will use this to seal any holes he has to make in the house as construction continues after insulation is complete. He will slice out chunks as he needs them. The foam weighs almost nothing. This loaf is probably four feet by eight feet and you can pick it up with one hand.
Ron asked the installers to spray a “loaf” of foam against a plastic sheet. Ron will use this to seal any holes he has to make in the house as construction continues after insulation is complete. He will slice out chunks as he needs them. The foam weighs almost nothing. This loaf is probably four feet by eight feet and you can pick it up with one hand.
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HVAC change

Mark Rehberg called this morning. Early. Ranserve fired the HVAC installer. Everything at Emerald Hill will be removed. Mark will bring in a new installer. We start over.

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If it runs like a duct, Steven does not approve

Ron Dahlke and Steven scheduled this morning to audit the duct work in the attic.

Steven does not approve.

When the ducts were first roughed in a couple of weeks back, Steven identified and discussed with Ron several tangled ducts and errors that required correction. Ron and Mark Rehberg reviewed Steven’s notes, discussed the issues with Ross Britton, the HVAC consultant. Steven is told that Ross concurred with Steven’s assessment, and ordered up corrections by Elite, the HVAC installer.

That was then. Today is the first chance to stick our noses into the attic — and come away knowing that Elite has a lot more to fix — a second time.

At 4 pm, Ron reports he met today with Kyle from Elite — and Elite is coming back Thursday for a third attempt.

Above, one of the ducts in the attic is ripped open. Why didn’t Elite spot this and fix it?

At what will be the attic hatch, Ron is looking at a duct strangled by the black hanger. That will choke airflow and affect efficiency. Behind Ron's head, three duct runs are stacked one atop the other. With the result that the bottom duct is crushed. That bottom duct is apparently the duct that feeds the kitchen and office, by routing through the chase in the master bath. Steven suggests this duct should be relocated to the east side of the attic, where there is a clear run straight from the plenum to the chase. That will eliminate the compression behind Ron's head, open up space for the ducts behind Ron's head by removing one of the three runs, and improve airflow to the kitchen and office. It's obvious. Why didn't Elite plan and do this?
At what will be the attic hatch, Ron is looking at a duct strangled by the black hanger. That will choke airflow and affect efficiency. Behind Ron’s head, three duct runs are stacked one atop the other. With the result that the bottom duct is crushed. That bottom duct is apparently the duct that feeds the kitchen and office, by routing through the chase in the master bath. Steven suggests this duct should be relocated to the east side of the attic, where there is a clear run straight from the plenum to the chase. That will eliminate the compression behind Ron’s head, open up space for the ducts behind Ron’s head by removing one of the three runs, and improve airflow to the kitchen and office. It’s obvious. Why didn’t Elite plan and do this?
At left, two return ducts knot around each other. Why? Then the lower duct is pulled up to the peak of the attic, crammed into the narrow space created by the horizontal collar ties, and choked four times as it travels across four collar ties. Why? And, in this position, the insulation installers will never be able to blow foam against the roof to properly insulate the house. The solution is to untie the knot, extend the duct run to the right side of the attic in this photo, rest the duct against the ceiling rafters, let it travel out to the north side of the attic, relaxed, improving airflow and efficiency. Why didn't Elite think of and do this?
At left, two return ducts knot around each other. Why? Then the lower duct is pulled up to the peak of the attic, crammed into the narrow space created by the horizontal collar ties, and choked four times as it travels across four collar ties. Why? And, in this position, the insulation installers will never be able to blow foam against the roof to properly insulate the house. The solution is to untie the knot, extend the duct run to the right side of the attic in this photo, rest the duct against the ceiling rafters, let it travel out to the north side of the attic, relaxed, improving airflow and efficiency. Why didn’t Elite think of and do this?
Here's a better shot of the duct crammed into the collar ties and choked.
Here’s another shot of the duct crammed into the collar ties and choked — with a second duct also jammed up tight into the same limited space. Why? When there’s so many better ways to run both ducts, relaxed, in wide-open attic space to the right of this photo.
Here's the same duct run from 180 degrees opposite, looking back at the knot, choked at each collar tie and black hanger strap.
Here’s the same duct run from 180 degrees opposite, looking back at the knot, choked at each collar tie and black hanger strap.
The black strap hangers choke the ducts in several locations into 90 degree turns that will restrict airflow if not corrected.
The black strap hangers choke the ducts in several locations into 90 degree turns that will restrict airflow if not corrected.
This is one of several spaghetti bowls -- duct wrapped around duct squeezed past another duct wrapped around another duct. Why? There are so many better, more logical, simpler ways to run each duct from A to B. All it takes is someone humming a song from Sesame Street -- around around around around over and under and through -- to know what to not do with duct work.
This is one of several spaghetti bowls — duct wrapped around duct squeezed past another duct wrapped around another duct. Why? There are so many better, more logical, simpler ways to run each duct from A to B. All it takes is someone humming a song from Sesame Street — “around around around around over and under and through” — to know what to not do with duct work.

There are other fixes required to exhaust vents that circle 180 degrees, then split, and then each split circles back 180 degrees to end up reversing the original airflow — when relocating the split six feet would result in two straight runs. That’s all the thought and planning needed.

Steven will not approve the HVAC install until all the fixes are completed and he again audits the work.

All this is based on hard-won and unfortunate experience at Sea Eagle, where Steven learned from Carrier as it ripped out and replaced air handlers, condensers and ducts that added up to 30 pages of repair orders. Steven is adamant about not repeating history. Those lessons do not make Steven an HVAC expert. Those lessons do not make Steven an HVAC engineer. Or installer. But what’s wrong is obvious and must be addressed before Steven signs off on the HVAC system.

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Notes, 25 Aug. 2015

The framers are nearly done putting up cedar siding at the front porch and entry.
The framers are nearly done putting up cedar siding at the front porch and entry. The smell of the fresh-cut cedar is intoxicating.
The plumbers are busting concrete around the toilet drain in the mudroom bath, in order to pivot the toilet 90 degrees -- a better design for the use of space in this small bath, realized only after it was framed and rough-plumbed.
The plumbers are busting concrete around the toilet drain in the mudroom bath, in order to pivot the toilet 90 degrees — a better design for the use of space in this small bath, realized only after it was framed and rough-plumbed.
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