Friday, December 18, 2009

The latest "challenges" of the Living Building and Site Challenges

I had a few minutes to catch-up with Bill Fenimore today, now that he's back from vacation. Quite a bit is going on!

Jason, a member of our site committee who works for Vulcan, will be meeting with Bill right after Christmas to set-up a performance audit. This will give us a benchmark to work from for energy efficiency. Jason and Jack have also formed a sub-committee for consultation when questions of particular products or methods arise, to vet them for compliance with the LBC/LSC. This will help Bill negotiate his way around the day-to-day work steps he's orchestrating.

The big ongoing project is the slate roof on the Brick Building. The build-back of the roof is close to half done now, but the overall project is well past the halfway mark, since all the removal and prep had to be done first of course. Three workers were roped-up on top today!

Bill gave me a souvenir solid copper nail from the project. I'm still amazed you can hammer a copper nail into that old wooden substructure, but these guys are the experts! (Still, I wonder how many of these they bend!)

The slate on the three sides facing the campus will all be the original ones that were in good condition. Some new ones had to be bought to replace cracked ones, of course, but to minimize the visual impact, these will be blended-in with the originals on the west side where they won't be seen from the rest of campus. All the old vent caps are being re-used, and just needed a fresh powder-coat. Thanks to a local business, Seattle Powdercoat, for the expert work. The powdercoating is so resistant to rust it's rated for below-ground use! So the metal parts up there should last a good, long time.

And speaking of the roof, right underneath it is the attic, which needs insulation! The attic space needs to be kept warm, so the insualtion can't just lie on the attic floor, it has to attach to the underside of the roof, so a soy-based spray-on open-cell foam is the material of choice. Work will start on that when the roof is done, since it covers the underside of the roof and you want the vibration of the work roof to be over when the foam goes on. Puget Sound Energy's stimulus money will pay for about half the cost of insulating the attic, which will save a lot of energy in the long run, of course.

Insulation's an issue up in the blue building too. The exterior walls aren't insulated and that's going to get done over the Holidays, when the building is little-used, if the contractor can do it, and Bill says he thinks they can! Rather than the standard drilling and plugging of large holes in the outside wood siding, like you see done on some older homes, our beloved blue building will be insulated from the inside, with holes high on the interior walls, which can then be patched and never seen again, unlike the fairly obvious plugs in exterior siding, that usually just get more obvious with weathering.

And finally good news on building interior lighting. The Community Hall now has both audience and stage lighting with new LED fixtures. The entire hall can now be lit as well or better than before with the equivalent energy of a couple of 100W incandescent bulbs! The next big thing will be a "Daylighting" project for one of the classrooms, performed in part by the Integrated Design Lab of the UW. This demo project will apply all the methods the Lab recommends and gauge the results in one room, so that if adjustments are needed, the work on the rest of the buildings will encorporate the best practices we determine in the test. We're lucky many of the classrooms have lots of big bright windows so we think with new fixtures and controls and new paint on the ceiling, an ideal lighting arrangement can be found, partly automatic to take account of available daylight, and partly manual based on the occupants' needs.

I'll touch base with Bill again after the first of the year, and I'm sure you'll join me now in wishing him a Happy Holiday and in thanking him for his hard work and diligence in handling the ongoing upgrades in progress! Thanks, Bill!

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