Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ventilation and Heating System

The ventilation and heating system was installed from November 2007 to January 2008.

The heat pump and boiler.

Air is circulated around the house through pipes in the ceilings and walls.

Underfloor heating pipes in the main bathroom.

Silencers stop noise travelling from room to room.

Heating pipes in the walls. These are only necessary in a few places.

The Clay Walls

A very distinctive feature of our house is the clay walls. The clay helps to optimise the humidity
in the house, is a natural and safe material (thus adding to the healthy living environment), and looks gorgeous! However, applying it to the walls is a labour intensive and time consuming exercise. By the time it is finished, it will have taken three to four months of one to three people working on it most days, to complete it.

As this method is still quite experimental, some thin cracks unfortunately started to appear in some of the finished walls. The way to prevent this is to apply a layer of gauze to the base coat of clay (using clay) before adding the top coat (the suppliers of the clay had originally said that this wouldn't be necessary). Several of the walls have had to be redone, but at least the problem was spotted before most of the walls were finished.

5 January 2008. The master bedroom. The walls can be left in the basic clay colour, or different coloured sands can be used to make the top coat of clay.

19 January 2008. One corner of the living room.

21 December 2007. The living/dining rooms. The rounded edges look lovely!

December 2007. The base layer of clay in the living room and dining room.
Reeds were stapled to the wooden interior partition walls so that the clay would stick to them. Emma’s dad did most of the stapling when he was over in November. Emma’s parents had come over to help with the move, but found themselves doing building tasks instead!
As reported in previous blogs, unfired clay bricks were used to add insulation to the insides of the exterior walls. The base layer of clay could go straight onto these.

A thin wash of clay was painted over the reeds to make sure the thick clay would stick.

In November, Emma's parents went to the south of Slovakia near the Hungarian border to buy reeds from an old cooperative farm. It was a good challenge and cultural experience for them!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Open Door Weekend

From 9-11 November it was the Passive House Open Door weekend in Europe. Our architects put on presentations for the press and public, and about 250 people visited the house over three days, including a TV crew, lots of newspaper journalists and a bus tour!

Display of the clay that is going on the walls. We can choose from several different textures of clay.

Display of top coats of clay. Different coloured pigments can be mixed into the normal coloured clay to create a variety of natural colours. We will probably leave some walls the natural colour (see above photo) and then add one or two coloured walls to each room for a contrast. We will not paint the walls at all.

Hemp insulation being used in the roof and some interior walls.

"Wattle and daub". Reeds are put on top of the wooden interior walls and then a base coat of clay is put on top. The final layer of clay (see picture above of samples) goes on top of this.

Adam and Alex in the sandpit.

The outside of the house is almost finished, but they ran out of wood, so more is on order.
The ventilation system was installed in the week of 5 November. Some pipes will remain visible to prove that we have an alternative system. Fibre glass has been used as insulation in some interior walls.

The water pipes in the downstairs bathroom.

The electric wiring in the kitchen.

The ventilation pipes and the frame for the ceiling in one of the bedrooms. The box with the red stripe is to prevent noise travelling along the pipe.

The clay bricks have been laid inside all the exterior walls and on the floors for insulation. Several more layers of board and wood have gone on top of the floors, which are really sound proof (Alex tested them!).

Walls and Ceilings, Plumbing, Electrics

When you are having a house built, you don't have time to update a blog! A lot has happened in recent weeks: mainly to do with the interior fittings. Also, at the end of October we had to move out of our flat. The buyers had paid for it in August and agreed to let us stay on for a few months. As the house is behind schedule, we are now living with my amazing friend and her two children in her huge house in the village next to ours. 15 October 2007: Adam helps the plumber install the toilet.

Alex and Adam put all the pipes in order.

In mid October the electric wiring was also installed and clay bricks were laid as interior insulation. The bricks have not been fired, in order to help ensure optimum humidity in the house. They have been laid using a German technique that does not need mortar. Clay 'plaster' will go on top.

9 October 2007: Oak cladding goes up on the top half of house.

29 September 2007: The final downstairs ceiling.

Detail of mesh and plaster on bottom half of house outside (obviously not finished!).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blower Door Test

On 21 September 2007 the first blower door test took place. This test measures the ratio between the volume of air that is leaked within one hour (when via the blower door the house is either under or over pressurisd by 50 pascals) and the total volume of air in the house. For a house to be classified as a passive house, the ratio must be 0.6 or less. The result of this test was 1.2, which meant that some work still needed to be done to tape over holes and gaps, mainly in the roof and around the windows. The second test was done on 9 October 2007, and the ratio was 0.55, so the house meets one of the passive house criteria!! This is the best result that has ever been measured on a house in Slovakia! We will do a third test later, which should have an even better result, as more insulation, plaster, clay, wood, etc, has yet to be put on the outer and inner walls. For more info on blower door tests go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blower_door

The blower door.

Software is used to calculate the measurements.

Testing for leakages.

This was an interesting event for lots of people. Representatives from the Architectural Faculty, Passive House Institute, and the various companies working on our house attended.

The builders make sure that all of the gaps are covered with special tape. See "15 and 16 July 2007 - Air Tightness Tape and Beams" blog for more information.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

18 September 2007 - Windows Go In

On 18 September 2007 the windows went in. They came from the Czech company called Janosik (not to be confused with the Slovak Robin Hood!). As our windows won't need to opened (the ventilation system will ensure that we always have fresh air in the house), half of them don't open. However, as people expect to be able to open windows, every room has at least one window that can be opened! They are red on the outside and pine (to match the beams, etc) on the inside.
Around the same time that the windows went in, insulation was put around the bottom of the outer walls.
One of the den windows. Airtightness tape is covering all the spots where air could go in or out.

The neighbours are building a wall around their garden that we'll have to cover with bushs or some other kind of attractive cladding.

Close up of window and tape used to seal it in. The windows have also been screwed in.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Progress Mid September

So much has happened over the past month that I haven't had time to update the blog! Here is a brief look at what happened in the first half of September. 8 September 2007: Thick cardboard cladding starts to go on the outside of the house.

11 September 2007: The interior walls have started to go up.

15 September 2007: Close up of cladding and guttering.

From 11-26 September the cellulose insulation was blown into the wall and roof cavities. This took a lot longer than expected, partly because of the number of cavities to fill, and partly because the machine wasn't stong enough to achieve the correct pressure. In the end it was done properly!

The cellulose pump.

Holes were cut into the walls (at intervals so that each cavity could be filled) in order to pump in the cellulose.

Alex, Adam and Emma in the play area.

15 September 2007: We have a cardboard box for a house!