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Professionals » Our Sustainable Home
Browsing Topic: Professionals

Firewall for the North wall of loft

July 8th, 2009

Just before going on strike our inspector indicated he wanted the North wall of the loft area to have a 45 minute fire assembly. (The loft is singled out since it is a stick-frame construction, not ICF like the rest of the house.)

Any walls of a house that face a neighbouring property (at a close distance) need to have a 45 minute fire rating, but this is usually just for fire that would occur inside the house. As such, putting 5/8″ drywall on those walls is sufficient.

But (as I understand it) a “45 minute assembly” needs to have that rating on EVERY side of the wall (top and bottom, too). Because we didn’t have a good way to do this, we were looking at having to drop our cool soya-based spray-foam insulation from the north wall, and use Roxul.

Roxul is a great product but it doesn’t provide the air-seal that spray-foam does. This morning, *just* before the drywall was to go up, the fellow from Ryerson who is researching our house called to say he had an engineer who could give us a letter describing a fire assembly to satisfy the city requirements!

A flurry of phone calls later, it looks like our friends at Foam Comforts can come back tomorrow to complete the air-tight seal we’d been hoping for in the loft! This is another one of those: it now feels ‘right’ moments. And more importantly the house temperature will ‘feel right’ too!

The loft area uses 4.5″ of foam (R-31) insulation on the roof and walls.

The solution, by the way, is quite simple: We just need to put 5/8″ drywall (probably concrete board for moisture protection) on the outside of the house as well. Our builder was very worried about the spray foam carrying a fire through the wall, but since each 5/8″ sheet provides 45 minutes, the flammability of the inside of the wall can be discarded (assuming it isn’t an accelerant, which I don’t think it is). Then we just add our ULC-rated cladding (hardieboard, in this case) to the outside of the house and we’re good to go!

Good save, team! 🙂

Posted by Colin
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The return of the surveyor

February 3rd, 2009

Our surveyor from way back at the beginning of this project returned today to mark the “outsets” (I think that’s what they were called). He puts stakes around the property noting how far from each stake the house begins. This includes one marking how far down the bottom of the footings need to be.

The footing depth is absolutely critical for several reasons:

  1. If the house is too deep, the outging sewer connection will not flow properly. (It won’t be installed at all, actually.)
  2. If the house is too high, we’ll be in violation of the building code which limits the height of a house to 10m above grade at the front wall of the house.
  3. The footings must rest on undisturbed soil. There is no acceptable way to recompress the soil once it has been disturbed. If the footings did sit on disturbed soil, the house (especially one made of concrete) could tilt and/or sink.

The surveyor marked the bottom of the footings based on traditional building practices because the documenation we provided didn’t stipulate exactly what was going on beneath the surface of the basement floor.

For our project, we have some extra height requirements because our footings are 10″ deep (typically 6″), we have 2″ of insulation between the ground and our basement floor, and our floor itself is 4″ instead of 3″ thick. The net result is an extra 7″ of depth to the bottom of the footings.

Posted by Colin
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Plans partially into the city

August 13th, 2008

Unfortunately our Civil Engineer has become swamped with other projects and like many in his industry are just so busy with other things, don’t have much time for a small project like ours.

Since I couldn’t be sure when I’ll actually have the Grading & Drainage plan in my hands, I decided to take what I had down to city hall.

Unfortunately when I tried to hand in the revised drawings 4 of them were rejected because it had the wrong stamp. A set of plans can either have the architect’s seal with a space for them to sign by hand, or it can have the signature embedded as part of the seal. Mine had the former and since they had been sent electronically, weren’t signed.

I was able to submit the new Mechanical drawings (now showing the HRV lines).

I’ve now received the drawings from the architect with the digital signature, and will reprint and redeliver them to city hall in the next few days.

I should mention: when I had to get the plans printed I used Sure Print and Design. They are a little bit out of the way for me, but their pricing for 2’x3′ engineering-bond pages was significantly lower than anywhere else I found. (And they were really nice folks, too!)

Posted by Colin
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Civil Engineer Found

July 29th, 2008

One of the many firms I contacted about providing a grading and drainage map (after turning down the work like everyone else, of course) was good enough to spend some time flipping through their list of contacts and provided a referral.

Not only was the referred Civil Engineer interested in doing the work, he was also available to start immediately.

He made a lot of interesting points & suggestions during our conversation:

  1. I need to get to the Toronto Water department to arrange hookups for the new house immediately. The timeline for installation is going to be about 6 weeks after all the paperwork is in order and payment is received by the city, so the process should be started very shortly.
  2. The city no longer allows the installation of underground storm drainage. As such, our house will definitely need a sump pump and drain out to ground level. All eaves will have to drain to ground level as well.
  3. I need to find out the level of the sewers in front of our house to make sure the basement isn’t too deep.
  4. I should talk to Toronto Hydro about changing our overhead power lines into ‘drop lines’ (underground). The houses to the North and South have power lines running through our property’s “air space” and he suggested we look into having those turned into drop lines as well.
  5. I should get any permit application information back to the city as soon as possible. He suggested city hall is only getting busier so getting the information in for review earlier is always better. (i.e., don’t wait just so the information can all be submitted at once.)

I’m looking forward to tomorrow being a busy day!

Posted by admin
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Civil Engineer for Grading and Drainage

July 25th, 2008

As motivated as we are to get this show on the road I have completely failed in my one major task this week: I was unable to find a Civil Engineer interested and available to build the Grading and Drainage map. Either our project was too small, or it wasn’t really the kind of work they did, or it was work they did, but only as part of the larger structural engineering aspect of the job, etc.

It was probably a mistake to try to politely avoid wasting people’s time by only phoning a couple of firms at a time and then wait for someone to get back to me. Next week I think I’m going to have to just keep phoning until we have someone signed on to do the job.

Our builder tells us we could actually start as late as  November 1 and still get the house closed in before winter, but we really don’t want to test that if we don’t have to.

Posted by Colin
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We’re holding us up

July 19th, 2008

Due to an unfortunately ambiguous email exchange in regards to our permit requirements it turns out the thing that’s holding up our project at the moment is: us!

Somehow we thought someone else was going to be looking after providing a Grading & Drainage plan for the new house but it seems we were the ones who were actually intended to scout out a Civil Engineer for the task.

Apparently all the other issues have been addressed in a series of email messages referencing building codes and jargon that I confess I could not decipher. Once we have submitted all this additional information, the city may still come back with further concerns (but hopefully not).

Posted by Colin
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Greener pastures of our own

June 10th, 2008

We’ve found our new project manager!

Last year, our new PM had actually looked at our plans at the request of the architect and turned down the job as he was already stretched thin. He also wasn’t very keen on the stick-frame construction that had been proposed at the time.

Fast-forward a year and it turns out he had been selected by our old PM to lay the Durisol ICFs for the project. But we met with him today and some really interesting things came to light:

  1. He usually works as a general contractor and has a full team of trades on hand to do the work (so he can usually work much faster than other General Contractors who have to hire external trades, whose availability is highly variable).
  2. He’s been building Eco-Block ICF homes for many years and has a wealth of experience with ICF type products.
  3. He seems like just a great, smart guy who will be really easy to work with.
  4. He works on exactly one project at a time.
  5. He works the job site himself, so he’s there all day to make sure things are being done correctly (often by him).
  6. Even our old PM said he thinks we might be in better hands with this fellow, based on his wealth of experience

I think we will be really happy if we have no more surprises on this project, but so far the majority of our surprise “missteps” have actually had us wind up in a better place than before.

The plan is now to start August 1.

Posted by Colin
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Permit application short on two counts

June 9th, 2008

We received one call and one letter letting us know that our building permit application could not be approved until we:

  1. Submitted a Grading and Drainage Diagram with our build plans (a new requirement for all new construction in the city).
  2. Submitted revised mechanical drawings that show the location of the HRV ducting. (Because our heating system is entirely radiant flooring, one has to show how the ventilation will work.

We’ve asked the Mechanical Engineer to start work on the HRV ducting but we’re not sure who will provide the Grading diagram yet.

Even though it may seem like we have lots of time with our start date being moved back to August 1, we know all too well by now everything that can be rushed, should be rushed or it will never get done.

Posted by Colin
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Fertilizer for greener pastures

June 2nd, 2008

The Project Manager has received a job offer teaching architecture at a Canadian university and will not be available to help us this summer.

Crap.

This is suddenly shades of last year, but this time we haven’t just paid for plans. We’ve also paid to design a mechanical system, and bought permits from the city for a house we can’t build.

He is (and we are) working on finding a replacement.

Posted by Colin
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Plans submitted to city!

May 29th, 2008

This day has been a long time coming: we’ve finally gotten a full set of plans into the city for final approval.

Our initial PAL Review in 2007 was for a stick-frame house with a proposed forced-air heating system. The final plans call for an ICF house with a radiant floor heating system. Several key structural members were also changed in the roof truss design.

While everything has been signed off on by the appropriate professional, we won’t know for certain that the plans are approvable for 10 days. I’m especially concerned about the Plumbing form which the clerk just accepted and said “the plumbing guy will figure it out.”

In addition to our concerns about approvability, we don’t yet have the final budget numbers from the various trades and sub-trades.

At this point we are tentatively looking for places to rent during construction, but probably shouldn’t sign any leases until we receive final approval from the city and finalize the all the significant budget numbers.

Posted by Colin
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