Double Wall Systems

Increasing attention is being drawn to double wall construction as a cost-effective, high R-value alternative to competing high R-value systems such as ICFs, SIPs, AAC, ThermaSteel, etcetera.

Advantages of double wall construction are:

Simplified wiring and plumbing due to wide open access prior to insulation, especially important when smart home wiring requires holding low voltage wiring well away from line voltage. The blown-in fiber insulation used in them is also easier to fish wires through than foam after the sheetrock is up and to modify for future additions.

The embodied energy and global warming impact of the double wall system also compares favorably with that of the concrete and foam in ICFs, Rastra and SIPs and the concrete and aluminum in AAC walls. These walls, including exterior OSB, are framed off-site and all scrap diverted to an I-joist plant and the walls for a typical house go up in a day. We’re generally dried in with tar paper on the roof in two weeks.

Whole wall “Steady state R-value” of a 10” AAC is R-12, 10” Rastra is R-16.5, 9” ICF is R-20, 6.5” SIP is R-23. We can expect a 12” double wall assembly with R-46 cellulose or JM Spider formaldehyde-free micro-filament fiberglass insulation in a thermally broken assembly to be well above any of these.

But most significantly the cost of double wall per R-value delivered is very favorable. Our wall panel quote on a recent 2,474 heated sf home was $12,810 total, $5 / square foot of heated floor area for double 2x4 construction (and $6.15 w/ 2x6 exterior walls needed with 2” of exterior foam on the foundation). The total cost for the JM Spider R-46 formaldehyde-free micro-filament fiberglass insulation was $1.30 per SF and this was done in a day and a half. So the wall cost for our 2,500 sf house was $16,000 with the 2x4 exterior walls (and $18,500 w/ 2x6 ext. walls). By comparison the panel quote for a similar house with energy framed 2x6 walls was $3.40 / sf and the 5 ½” R-23 spider insulation quote was $0.70 so the up-charge to go from 2x6 w/ R-23 to 12” dbl 2x4 walls w/ R-46 would be from $10,250 to $16,000. At $5,750 this is less than the up-charge for a solar water heater.

At $4,000 this is less than the up-charge for a solar water heater!

The wall panels arrive on the site, in two days we'll be setting trusses.

Dbl walls w/ offset studs, day two, braced and floor trusses going on.

Window openings are aligned but are not wrapped with plywood except at the bottom

Exterior panel is caulked to the slab. Blocks hold the walls 2.5" apart.

A mesh scrim is stapled to the wall and insulation is blown in to completely fill the cavity.

Some tight spaces are stuffed with conventional insulation, rough openings are shimmed after windows are installed.

Computerized panel plan is generated at the plant from our pencil drawings.

What we're working on right now, "outrageous green" tree bark siding, antique pine floors and counter tops, sixty solar tube collectors on the roof, radiant floor with a weave of heart pine and stone tiles, a vanity made out of a tree trunk! just outrageous is all I can say. (and Beth threw in some articulated steel arch beams to support a natural cooling cupola sheathed in local pine with concealed rope lighting) Creative collaboration at its funnest!

The team on this project, Michael, Scott Terry, Guillermo Vilegas, Mat McDonald, Chris Kerscher, Paul Rockwell, Gabby Garcia, and Beth Williams.

It’s a sea of mud right now but we are collaborating on a landscape plan with Caroline Siverson of Kinetic gardening and by spring this will be magical.

The front door, awaiting log columns and a huge stone Budda to go in the rock garden behind the wall at left which will be flanked by delicate copper rain chains where the temporary gutter pipes are now.

The view back towards the front door, the column rising from the fireplace is a steel post wrapped in a salvaged heart pine 8x8 from Heartwood Pine floors in Pittsboro NC who also supplied all the "Character grade" heart pine floors .

The view back towards the front door, the column rising from the fireplace is a steel post wrapped in a salvaged heart pine 8x8 . The cooling monitor is bound with a boxed beam (at the top of the post) that has a concealed notch which hides ninety feet of rope lighting so the upper cupola glows at night.

The kitchen, a blend of cherry wood and heart pine. The hood surround is antique heart pine as is the island top and legs. the toe kick will be mirrored to reflect the heart pine floors and give the impression of a floating island.

The cabinets are designed around aging in place principles, with the microwave hidden under the island and full wheelchair access under the kitchen sink. There is a special display niche planned for over the fridge for showing off local pottery.

While we had a rustic theme going with the lighting we made an exception to incorporate this sculptural ceiling fan over the breakfast table.

Sixty Apricus tubes on the roof supply heat to the drain-back solar water heater which in turn helps heat the radiant floor, with back up from a Quietside condensing gas water heater.

The view from the screen porch out across the boat landing to the private lake.

The view from the deck across the valley to the swimming pool and pool house. The gutters look like copper but they are actually aluminum with an oil-rubbed bronze finish.

The stone chimney rises from the roof.

The breakfast nook.

The Radiant floor in the front hall and guest wing is covered by a heart pine grid with tumbled travertine marble tile inserts.

Mat's branch vanity project. It's developed a life of its own, great to watch it come together.

Huge heart pine timbers to frame the opening from the entry hall to the living room were crafted by Chris Kerscher who also created the frame and panel work around the front door to give it presence inside and out.

Here Chris and Mat raise the 3x14 salvaged heart pine timber and “persuade it” into the notch cut to receive it.

The articulated steel I-beam created by a collaboration between designer Beth Williams and engineer Rob Munach. in the back is a similar but lighter articulated flitch plate beam hidden in the hip rafters at the bend in the monitor.

A short list of design themes that are guiding the work we are doing with the combination of solar thermal and radiant heat gained from many years of trial and error and a fair bit of study.

1. Absolutely stop mixing potable water and radiant floor water.

I can't really lay any incidents of Legionnaires related pneumonia on domestic - radiant loops but the odds just don't justify the costs, which turn out to be minimal. I’ve had to bleed out potable floor loops at the beginning of the fall to clear air bubbles and the color of the water that comes out after being stagnant in the pipes all summer is concerning. Sediment drops out of the well water into the loops as the concrete absorbs the heat and during the summer this sediment can grow bacteria, not what you want to have spraying on you in the shower. I’ve also had to repair two systems that had leaks in the slab floor loops, with a potable loop these leaks can cause flooding, with a closed loop they just cause pressure drop and air in the pumps.

Running the floor loop through a flat plate heat exchanger with the spin pump and using the warming pump to add BTUs to that heat exchanger isolates the floor from the house and lets us drop the pressure to about 20 psi and reduce flood risk while also keeping the minerals from building up in the floor loops. Low mass “staple up” type systems don’t have the delayed heating problem we see in slabs so don’t need the spin pump primary-secondary pumping scheme. I’m partial to flat plate heat exchangers (sit in a sauna for a while and then blow on your hand, heat transfers better with turbulence and a flat plate heat exchanger maximizes turbulence on both hot and cold sides of the heat exchange) but on staple-up type low mass radiant floors we may still use coil-in-tank heat exchangers on a single pump system.

Some the slab systems are prone to overheating problems caused by adding hot water to the slab when the indoor thermostat calls for heat and then allowing that hot water to rest in the slab when the thermostat shuts the pump off allowing that heat to rise into the home too rapidly. Some radiant installers have addressed this by using one small pump to circulate the water in the floor 24 hrs a day while a second pump adds heat when called for by the thermostat. When the warming pump shuts down the spin pump keeps the heat flowing out through the concrete so it doesn’t just stop and go straight up into the room above but spreads out and is released more slowly, the down side is that the spin pump can draw as much as 60 watts 24 hours a day burning almost a dollar a week in electricity. Spinning the water in the slab can have the benefit of evening out the temperature throughout the home when the thermostat is not calling for heat increasing the virtual area of the solar inertia of a slab in direct sunlight or in the vicinity of a wood stove. It also allows me to deliberately design a slab with “hot spots” in the mud room, master bath, under the dining room table and in the “monopoly playing zone” in front of the fireplace by sending the heat to the floor in these areas first and allowing it to circulate out to the rest of the house secondarily.

Many installers use an outdoor re-set mixing valve that blends water returning from the slab with water from the heat exchanger, and responds to the outside temperature by reducing the temperature in the water entering the slab in response to the outside temperature so that as the day warms up in the morning the inside thermostat can continue to call for heat but the outside temperature sensor will dial back the slab temp to prevent over-heating while a cold snap arriving in the evening will cause the mixing valve to react by increasing the temperature of the water entering the slab to anticipate the increased energy loss of the building envelope. This adds about $800 to the cost of the system and reduces the run time of the spin pump.

2. Stick with drain-back solar thermal systems

When we look to solar to provide supplemental heat for radiant floor we immediately come up against the fact that most panels are designed to provide a majority of hot water only and really don't have much left over for floor heating during the late fall to early spring time when we would really like to avoid using the back up heating system.

Some designers have increased the size of the storage tank thinking that they can store heat during the summer for use in the winter but have run into problems with the big (1,500 gallon+) tanks relating to durability, failure of the tank liners at high temperatures and escaping humidity associated with open-top tanks as opposed to pressurized tanks.

If we have the room for the panels, we can increase the daily heating potential quite a bit by adding panels without increasing the size and cost of the tank and the rest of the infrastructure. The problem here is when the family cannot use the BTUs generated by the panels during a summer heat wave or vacation. With an anti-freeze type solar collector this can result in a condition where the heat accumulating in the panels can boil the propylene glycol back into the expansion tank and leave a coating on the inside of the water channels inside the collector panels. Since these channels are quite small (the typical 4'x8' panel holds one gallon of heat exchange fluid) any accumulation of residue can impede efficiency of the system.

We use drain-back systems due to their ability to tolerate excessive panel area to tank size by draining the panel when the tank bottom sensor reaches 170 degrees in the summer in the same way that they drain back when the panel is cooler than the storage tank. We locate the drain back tank and heat exchanger as close to the panels as possible, it does not need to be adjacent to the storage tank and it benefits from having the least rise possible from the heat exchanger to the panels.

3. Never heat the solar tank with the radiant floor.

This system uses a tempering tank as a sort of thermal switch board to interface between the solar tank, the floor and the condensing gas water heater. We use a tempering tank and re-charge pump whenever we use a demand water heater to eliminate the “cold water sandwich” as well as to eliminate the pressure restriction of the heat exchanger inside the demand water heater and to improve the delivery rate of hot water to multiple users beyond the top flow rate of the DHW (a Rinnai can deliver 8.5 GPM with a flow restriction equal to 28' of head depending on the temperature of the in-coming water, we use a Taco 009 bronze circulator or eq, that can deliver this flow rate at this head restriction and avoid running the DHW at a low burner modulation which can lead to a sooty build-up on the interior of the DHW heat exchanger.) Bypassing the demand water heater also allows us to deliver hot water flow rates below the threshold of the heater to accommodate low flow shower heads. Avoiding the need for a extra low BTU flame modulation allows us to use a demand water heater with a higher bottom end (and lower top end ) so I can use a Quietside 120 ODW 94% efficient condensing gas water heater which sells for under $1,100 and vents with common three inch PVC pipe.

While it does convert a tankless water heater into a tank style system it gets rid of the un-insulated combustion tube found in the core of most 60% efficient gas water heaters and keeps us from using electricity to heat water, which in our area means burning coal at 30% efficiency. We adapt small electric water heaters for use as tempering tanks by removing the electric elements and short circuiting the thermostats that would have controlled those elements which converts the thermostats to switches which we use to control the pumps and gives us 1” threaded ports at convenient locations on the side of the tank.

If we simply connect solar water into the system as a pre-heat tank we will only flow water through the DHW when lack of sun or use of the hot water allows the tempering tank to drop below 120 degrees. But when we add a radiant floor system we want to flow the water from the tempering tank to the solar tank when there is heat available in that tank but divert the flow to the DHW when the solar tank is cool to avoid using the DHW to heat the solar storage tank as it's easier to heat cold water than hot.

In this design the thermostat in the bottom of the tempering tank turns on the re-charge pump and also sends power to the thermostat in the top of the solar tank which sends power to a 120 volt motorized three-way valve so that if solar water over 130 degrees is available the switch is open (element off) and the water flows from the tempering tank through the solar tank to re-heat the tempering tank. When the solar tank is below 130 the switch closes (trying to turn the element on) which energizes the three way switch and the reheat loop is diverted through the demand water heater. All cold water enters the system in the solar tank so any domestic water use advances hot water from the top of the solar tank to the tempering tank which helps keep the tempering tank warm to avoid use of the re-charge pump.

4. Minimize the use of low voltage controllers

We need to use low-voltage differential temperature controllers to provide the differential temperature controller “brains” for drain-back and propylene glycol systems but they seem to be vulnerable to power surges so the fewer of this type of controllers we can have in the system the more rugged they'll be in the long run.

Use molded end line sets, cut ends of grounded extension cords, to connect pumps and switches so swapping out pumps and tanks won’t require a visit from the electrician.

5. Design around easily available electric water heaters

Units with 1” threaded heating elements give you extra ports for pumps and hot water outlets. The price is usually right for 80 gallon tanks and the sources of supply are generally just around the corner. If you need more storage you can just add more tanks in series.

Coil-in-tank heat exchangers are generally not as efficient, flexible or economical as flat plate heat exchangers. Marathon high performance tanks and rubber tub-style open top tanks are readily available but there is much to be said for grabbing the biggest tank they have in stock locally and working with that.

6. Take control of pipe turbulence

Pipes are like rivers. When the water flows around an elbow there are eddies. An elbow at the top of the hot water tank starts the flow off with turbulence in it which mixes hot and cold together so you get warm water at the faucet long before you get hot. Gary Klein has done a lot of the research on residential hot water distribution. He advises that we eliminate all elbows and bull head tees in hot water lines to minimize turbulence and speed hot water delivery to the faucet.

However, when water re-enters a tank from a heat exchange loop an elbow close to the tank will add turbulence to help gentle the stirring effect of the water flow entering the tank. In the illustration we are returning the water from the demand water heater to the tempering tank through a 1” pipe nipple screwed into the tank where the electric element has been removed. This would have a 1” brass elbow on it with a 1”x ¾” bushing and a ¾” pex adapter. The water leaves the ¾” pipe with momentum but the combination of the elbow with the larger pipe diameter gives it a very turbulent and gentle flow into the top of the tank. The problem we were having was that a sudden input of water into the tank could “roll the tank” causing the hot water at the top to roll down to the bottom and bring cold water to the top where it would cool the water leaving the tank towards the owners shower. This was bad.

7. Eliminate check valves

They just seem to get jammed at half-open position and can be devilish to diagnose, even the expensive 300 psi brass gate checks with the stainless hinge pins seem to be prone to this.

8. Look out for thermo-siphon prone lay-outs

Locate the radiant floor heat exchanger below the tempering tank to keep it from thermo-siphoning heat out of the tank when the heat is off. Use a heat trap at the out-flow to the house.

9. Look out for un-intended pressure differentials

When one pipe with a pump on it is connected with a tee to another pipe with a pump on it you run the risk of creating a relative point of high pressure at that tee that could drive water through the idle pump creating flow in a place where flow is not desired. Break pump loops apart rather than rely on check valves to control this. Check valves fail at precisely this sort of low flow situation.

10. Dump the “boards”

It's important to let your systems express what they are doing by the way the pipe layouts are visually clear to a future service tech as to which part controls what process.

Mount the pumps and valves on threaded pipe directly on the tanks and heat exchangers.
Mounting all your components on a piece of plywood and then piping it across the room to the tanks and pumps just makes things more confusing and makes future service more complex. Don't layer the pipes up into a three dimensional matrix either (boy have I been guilty of this over the years).

11. Mount pumps in a vertical flow orientation

Bubbles are the death of pumps. Bubbles want to go up. Let that happen.

12. Locate air elimination devices at the point of lowest relative pressure

Bubbles drop out of closed systems between the restriction of the heat exchanger or floor manifold and the intake of the pump which is the place to locate the bleeder valve and the purge valve.

13. Use counter-spiral radiant pipe lay-out

Starting with a doubled pipe in the middle of the floor and then spiraling out towards the manifold will get the flow to the center of the room quickly and return back so that every other pipe is running in the opposite direction and is inversely distant from the heat source. Starting at one side of the room and running back and forth to the other side means that one side is closer to the heat source than the other.

14. Use equal length loops within any radiant manifold

Pipe runs have resistance proportional to their length. If all the runs on a manifold are the same length they will all have similar resistance and share the flow equally. If one of the pipes is shorter than the rest it will have less resistance and get more flow. Break 500 foot rolls in halves or thirds to make equal loops.

15. Break out pipe subassemblies for service

Let’s face it, it's a whole lot easier to chase leaks if thoughtfully placed isolation flanges and unions with ball valves allow major components to be serviced or replaced without draining and dismantling the whole system.

16. Lay off the copper

Except where the pipes are likely to get hotter than 130 degrees.
If PEX will get the job done then go ahead and use it. Threaded brass fittings are expensive but they can support the weight of pumps and valves and earn their keep.

17. Don't pan individual components, pan the whole area

Round commercial drain pans do meet code, but what is the point of “meeting code” when you have water on the floor. We make pans out of EPDM roofing or PVC shower membranes and just line the entire area with a two inch drain to daylight with no trap.

These and other details at

We can do a lot to fix America’s energy future and put people back to work by weatherizing light commercial buildings and homes of all income levels including those facing foreclosure without increasing the national debt…

We can reach more buildings and save more energy for middle class and poor alike if we could write weatherization contracts that would tie repayment to the electrical bill rather than the owner’s credit or home-equity or to government handouts and all their paperwork.

As many as 60% of the homes and small commercial buildings in America could reduce their energy bill by $600 per year if they received a weatherization package that cost $5,000 or less and could be paid off with a $50 a month payment. Energy Star licensed HERS raters would filter out the inappropriate houses where $5,000 would not yield enough savings to pay back the $600 per year so as to maintain customer satisfaction.

For-profit banks could make low interest micro-loans marketed and collected through the homes electric bills. The work can be performed by existing private home insulation companies under the supervision of existing licensed Energy Star HERS raters and state energy offices. The cost would be collected through the monthly power bill, saving taxpayers the cost of the work, meaning that more work could be done, and more jobs created, over a longer period of time while saving the stimulus plan money for other priorities.

The government could work through state energy offices to implement the project by facilitating the loan contracts and bundling them into securities for re-sale to banks and investors. Since the loans would be secured by the electric grid connection and would not result in a cost increase to the electric consumer the banks risk (and interest rates) would be low and the program would be applicable to people with bad credit, renters, small businesses, and even homes with no equity or in foreclosure. Once the loan was paid back (or if energy prices increased) the savings would go to the consumer.

The idea has been published at much greater length as a blog by Fine Homebuilding Magazine:

Many people have contacted me for clarification as a result of the Fine Homebuilding article; my responses to those questions are below:

If the savings are there for the taking why aren’t homeowners already doing it?

There are several factors at play here. First, many are unaware of the magnitude of the opportunity esp. in envelope improvement and are unwilling to spend money for an energy audit and would rather just blindly keep paying too much for energy.

When they do hit the home equity line or savings account for energy upgrades they tend to get sold on 20 SEER heat pumps and tankless water heaters without consideration of envelope opportunities that would have a better payback (like putting a V-8 in a car with four flat tires.) Or they add insulation to their attics without air ceiling the ceiling plane first (adding insulation to a wall with an open window.)

Many of us see our home equity loans as “emergency money” and annual bonus money as “fun money.” Neither of these categories lend themselves to duct sealing, energy audits, and insulation upgrades. They just aren’t sexy enough to attract discretionary spending.

Finally many of the homes and light commercial properties that need the most help aren’t owner-occupied. They’re rentals, and landlords are singularly un-motivated to spend time and money to reduce their tenant’s energy bills.

So we need a system that gets people into an energy audit and weatherization package that is no money down and no net change in monthly cost to the occupant with no impact on that sacred home equity line. There is a socio-economic component to energy policy here that must be taken into account. The default option is to continue to waste fuel living in a drafty, uncomfortable home with unhealthy indoor air.

Is it necessary to require the utilities to handle the payments?

We need an alternative way to encourage weatherization projects. Even though these investments can pay for themselves people are resistant to making the investment. People in Washington seem to be focused on giving weatherization away to the poor or giving tax credits to the middle class. But there is no need to spend tax money on something that will pay for itself and the issue becomes more urgent when we are talking about borrowed deficit spending. We need to get the best bang for our tax dollar that we can especially when the plan is to let the kids pay for it.

But we shouldn’t expect the utilities to do more than insert the information flyers to targeted neighborhoods in their monthly statements and forward the monthly payments to the state energy office for processing. They can get some benefit from the good press of playing along with this plan to reduce demand for their products but the people who really stand to profit are the insulation and weatherization contractors who will do the work.

Can we design it so the loans provide significantly greater payback than the payments?

In many cases this will be the case. But I don’t think it makes sense to exclude a building from the project due to the fact that the savings are only just equal to the payment. As energy costs go up the savings will increase. I think a case can be made that participation in the program should be extended to buildings where the break even point is at a 15% increase in energy cost. But I agree that there will be unhappy customers if the savings are significantly less than the cost.

Each building will need an energy audit before and after.

This is an important part of the plan. In many cases though the first energy audit will not include a blower door and duct blaster test. No point in testing a house with open gaps in the ceiling and floor and duct work in an advanced state of decay. Every house will get a post weatherization test showing what has been accomplished and what other options the owner might take to continue the work beyond the scope of this program. The weatherization contracts should also give the State Energy Office access to before and after energy bills for research and monitoring purposes.

The post weatherization HERS rating may become valuable if the house is offered for resale as many areas may soon require an energy disclosure when listing a house for sale as they require a termite report now. The raters providing these reports would be licensed by DOE Energy Star and follow up sample auditing of their work would be performed by the state energy offices on an annual basis similar to the way the pesticide applicators get spot soil samples taken annually to verify proper pesticide application.

Who’s going to pay for all these energy audits?

The people with the most to gain from this program are the insulation and weatherization companies who will be doing the work. They would hire the licensed HERS raters to go into neighborhoods to line up as many weatherization contracts as possible. The cost of this auditing and sales push would be covered by the companies doing the work but the auditors would be licensed and third party verified for quality assurance.

What happens to the monthly payment if the house goes into foreclosure or is sold?

The weatherization payment goes with the electrical connection to the next owner in the same way it does now and similar to arrangements made for buried propane tanks. If, on purchasing a house, you decide to switch to a different propane company you would need to buy out the contract on the buried tank. If a seller wants to convey a house un-encumbered by the weatherization contract it would need to be paid off at the closing. If the electric bill goes un-paid the power gets shut off and the payment goes into default until the bill is paid and the power turned back on.

What do you mean by saying that people of all income levels are too hand-to-mouth to afford a $5,000 weatherization package, doesn’t hand-to-mouth imply low income?

Welcome to America. Many people with $100,000 plus incomes are solidly middle class but chronically live beyond their means due to bloated home equity and credit card debt etc. Many of the relatively new McMansions they live in were built to the lowest code-legal standard and would benefit greatly from $5,000 worth of weatherization. Our energy problems are not limited to low income homeowners and the solutions won’t be either.

Where is the money going to come from and what’s in it for the lenders?

This proposal does ask the federal government to send more money for staffing to state energy offices. It does not ask utilities to loan money to their customers or for anyone to make zero interest loans. However, since the penalty for not making your monthly weatherization payment is that you get your electricity shut off the loans are very low-risk. State energy offices should be able to bundle quantities of these $5,000 micro loans into securities that can be sold to banks and other investors at an attractive interest rate that would be included in the monthly payment. The electricity companies could also earn a small processing fee for their trouble but would also gain good press from their participation.

What’s wrong with just continuing the time-honored practice of offering free weatherization to low income homeowners and tax credits to the rest of us for doing this work?

Beyond the issues of tax farming and the fly by night operators who promote shoddy work for tax credits what we need to do is grow an industry here, not just weatherize two million buildings. When we give something away, either through direct subsidies or tax write-offs, we de-value that thing in the marketplace. We create a sense of entitlement in the consumer that makes it difficult to sell that same item on the open market for a price that reflects its true value. This undermines the industry.

The solar industry has been crippled by a feast and famine reality caused by being so dependant on tax subsidies for its survival. An alternative financing strategy doesn’t undermine the value of the work. The beneficiaries of this program are paying full price for the work they are getting done, it’s just being financed creatively. By nurturing an industry we can better take advantage of economies of scale and make the service available to rich and poor and renters and small businesses alike without impacting the national debt. Why should taxpayers pay to subsidize something that pays for itself?

Won’t this create a huge new bureaucracy?

As it stands, state energy offices are chronically underfunded and need more support. They would be asked to partner with the Department of Energy, Energy Star and BPI to implement this project with training help from the existing community college systems. The money to do this would come from our taxes but the money to do the work would be paid for by the beneficiaries. We are not so much creating a new bureaucracy as leveraging what we already have to solve our nation’s problems as economically as possible. Most importantly, since these are not gifts, there is no income, need or credit verification required. It’s just a contract to have work done for a fee on a payment plan. Much less paperwork.

Why not the 2030 Stimulus Plan being promoted by Architecture 2030?

This plan and the 2030 plan can certainly co-exist, but I have 30 years of experience building high performance buildings and the 2030 plan is based on the assumption that it is pretty easy to make a building perform at 30% better than code and that 50% better is also easily attainable. My company just built a house that had a 9” thick ICF foundation, solar water heating and radiant floor with tankless propane backup, passive solar glazing, 6” foam in the walls, 8” foam in the roof and 37” overhangs for summer shading. It was still only 35% better than code. I know that 50% better than code is attainable in new construction but to make it wide-spread in renovations and to spend $96 billion a year in deficit spending in pursuit of this goal seems unrealistically optimistic to me.

I like this idea and want to help, what can I do?

Obviously, plenty of you are already finding my e-mail address and phone number thanks to the miracle of Google. So I thank you for your enthusiasm and ask that you lose the phone number. E-mail is fine, will get to me.

But what I will tell you all is to contact your government representatives, including your state energy office and your governor’s office. Some utility companies are very receptive to this as well. If you are a member of NAHB spread it within your HBA and to your contacts at National. The building industry has benefited greatly from the recent bail-out, we would do well to promote a low-cost initiative for a change. What you can do is spread the word.

What’s next?

It does come down to dollars and cents on many levels and so long as coal and oil are subsidized such that it is cost effective to burn 100,000 BTU of coal to deliver 35,000 BTU of electricity we will continue to have a problem.

Let’s put a resource extraction tax on coal, reduce the tax subsidies on oil and divert those resources to support the solar industry instead.

Instead of end user tax subsidies on weatherization and solar let’s put the subsidies at the front end of production.

Let’s subsidize the production cost of solar and weatherization components and raw materials and let market forces drive innovation and push the price down for all consumers, not just the ones who need a tax break.

Our power grid is at the limit of expansion but instead of replacing the grid we can shift to a distributed model of electric production.

Let’s put solar PV on all government buildings and build PV shade structures on parking lots to turn them into electricity producers that put the electricity into the grid closer to where it is being taken out.

Let the cost of conventional energy rise gradually through elimination of subsidies to change the payback equation.

I’m not running for public office so I can say that I think gas should be $3.75 a gallon and coal-fired electricity should be much more expensive than it currently is.

Use government investments to deliberately nurture and build a sustainable alternative energy industry.

Control the flow of government infrastructure projects (solar office roofs and parking lots, micro-cogeneration projects) to even out the demand in the alternative energy industry to change the boom and bust cycle to a steadily expanding market.

Invest government money in open-source research to drive innovation. The possibilities in solar, quiet wind, micro-cogeneration, and electric vehicles are unimagined as yet.

Copper Top

Here are some photos from the copper top we did the other day. The Geocel 2310 Brushable tri-polymer sealant from ABC supply is the best for gluing copper to MDF underlayment. We had set the last piece and had it clamped when we discovered we were 1/4" out of registration. loosened the clamps and gently slid it to rights. Try that with contact adhesive!

Copper tops are not green, but it's an inexpensive way to do a counter top that looks cooler than Formica. It's soft and rustic and ages to a pretty cool patina. A local bar had a tenderizing party when they put in a new top and gave out hammers and let the patrons hammer on it.

Total cost $150 for the two 3x10 16oz copper sheets, 50 bucks for the glue, and the regular set up for Formica, and six or seven hours for two guys to fold it all in.

The blank is 5/8 MDF underlayment reinforced with 2x6 for an edge profile of 2 1/8"

Rolling out the 3' x 10' 16 oz copper sheets

Scribing the shape of the top onto the copper

Make the plan then cut it out, dotted lines are folds, solid are cuts

Notching the under fold area ahead of time

The inside corners need a fillet

The fillet has ears that get tacked up under the top

Fillet installed and ready for the top

Setting the crease with a rubber hammer

Working a radius into the corner with the round shaft of a chisel

Working the edge with a hard chunk of southern yellow pine

Starting the under fold using two chunks of yellow pine

Test fit in the studio cabin

The finished fillet and cut out for the farm sink

The finished out-corner

Finished studio kitchenette


Chandler Design-Build Creative Construction

Dedicated craftsmen having a great time building beautiful, high performance homes for enthusiastically satisfied clients