Site is cleared and footings are in.

Posted from: MD, USA

There were two big developments last week. We cleared the site, and we received our building permit.

This week is off to a fast start.  Footings are already poured, and forms go up tomorrow for concrete foundation walls.

But before getting into the construction issues, a note about how we chose this particular site. I would like to say that our decision was based solely on Passive House planning principles.  The real world, however, is messier than that. The beauty of the Passive House approach is that it is designed to handle real world situations—even sites that don’t have ideal solar orientation. That’s another reason it works so well for the designer.

When we decided to undertake the project, Brendan (O’Neill) had already purchased this site for future development.  It made sense to use it and to fit our house to it. The neighborhood is undergoing the usual transition that close-in 1930’s neighborhoods in most growing major cities face. The increasing land values make it unfeasible from a real estate payback standpoint to retrofit and renovate the existing smaller houses.  Once the original owners are gone, these houses often become rental properties, held until the increasing land value makes it profitable to sell for the value of the site alone. With no owner incentive to maintain them, they deteriorate.  When they are finally torn down to make way for larger houses, they are usually in pretty rough condition.

This was the case with our property.  A small 1930’s cottage was financially unfeasible to renovate. Several houses on the street have already been replaced. On this site we decided that if we were going to replace the existing house with a Passive House, we would do two things:

1.       Keep as much of the house as possible out of landfills, and

2.       Try to build more or less on the footprint of the existing house.

On the first point, we contracted with Second Chance, a non-profit that goes through homes slated for demolition removing all items that can be resold—cabinets, appliances, fixtures, doors, hardware, etc. We then contracted with Roll Off Express in Finksburg, MD to salvage all materials possible.  ROE set up dumpsters on the site where all demolished materials were placed. They were then taken their facility in Finksburg for sorting and distribution to the appropriate recycling streams.  We will be given an accounting of quantities of materials recycled within a few days.

Below are pictures of a typical existing house in the neighborhood and a typical new house in the neighborhod.

More on the footings and foundation in a later post…