Earth Sheltered Timeline, 2012
January: I got some bids on “polygonal skylights” for above the storm room. Aluminum frames with proper insulated windows were more than $10K. One piece polycarbonate extrusions were less than half as much… Sherri wanted me to figure out how to fit rectangular skylights into a round roof, but at this point, I couldn’t imagine how.
February: We decide to hire an architect to help us properly detail the design. I put together a list of candidates in our area. Sent out some more inquiries about costs for polygonal skylights and glass floors.
March: I got quotes on concrete, steel Quonset buildings and other materials for my cost estimate spreadsheet. We had some early phone calls and emails with various architects and one stood out above the rest. We had our first meeting with our eventual architect on March 23rd. That same day we met with another architect and several more before the end of the month (details).
April: Met with the architects structural engineer and got him a copy of the plans, including my 3D Revit model and details on the steel quonset hut by April 2nd. Steel master buildings actually gave me a number of photos of their buildings turned into earth sheltered homes (steel buried directly, without concrete cover), but said they could not officially recommend it and it would void the warranty… On the 3rd, I provided the architect and engineer with a full set of plans from Formworks, including all the specified steel beam sizes, rebar layouts and concrete thicknesses. This was to help with the bidding, before we had even decided which architect to hire. However, by the middle of April, we did decide to go with the one I had been talking to since the previous November. The architect needed a site survey, so we had that done. By the end of the month, we met with the architect and were presented several variations on the house design, including one made up completely of quonset huts. He had also got started on a cross section of our house that looked great and convinced us that they really could get it done in 3 months. We took the weekend to decide, but concluded that we had already worked out so many details on our design that we wouldn’t want to start over with one of the architects alternatives…
May: On May 2nd, I sent the architect the ppt of all the thoughts I had collected over the previous few years. Later in the month, I sent over a folder of sketches. I also worked on getting quotes on windows, and found that window companies in my area were very unprofessional. I talked with a number of geo thermal and radiant floor heating companies about combining geo-thermal with passive solar. I also got a little concerned that the vaulted ceilings may have acoustical downsides, so I got quotes from companies with spray on acoustical treatments, just in case (they were expensive, up to $12/sqft for the best stuff). We also got the pre-approval on the bank loan with the hope that we could actually start construction in 2012 (based on the 3 month schedule the architect laid out). By the end of May, Sherri and I had concerns that the engineer was not fully on board and talked to the architect about going with a different option. The architect assured us that his engineer (a separate company) would be great. By the end of the month, the architect had put together some plans and I was busy giving feedback and pointing out issues. Many were related to thermal bridging or other earth sheltered concepts the architect was not as familiar with.
June: We didn’t actually get around to signing a contract with the architect until June 4th, but not before adjusting it so I could retain rights to my design. Soon after that, my wife and I had a meeting with the architect and his assistant, the engineer and his assistant, the shotcrete contractor and his partner. We called it the UG8 summit and Sherri joked that she was my assistant. It was a roller coaster meeting for me as the contractor would tell us that we couldn’t do certain things (such as shoot the shotcrete from below) and then we came up with solutions to each problem. Definitely our most productive and valuable meeting. By the end, we had come up with a unique building approach that worked for everyone. I also spent time getting quotes on doors (especially arch top doors), lighting and cellular concrete. By June 21, I created my first post on this website. By the end of the month, the architect was working on understanding the wall types and we were in discussions with Marvin windows.
July: In July, I really got going on the content for this website. I spent time on historical updates about my early designs or buying the land, as well as some of the TECH notes about things like earth tubes and the concept of the umbrella. I also continued to do sourcing for my cost estimate, including things like the wood stove.
I will come back and fill in the rest of the year when I have time…