Mid-winter Update – House Building

It’s been a long time since I have posted a blog entry.  Here at Wild Bunch Farm we have been busy building a new house so not much chance to enjoy the bees or write about them.  I believe that getting more experience with building energy-efficient homes will help me become a better beehive builder.  Our current top bar hive design has been studied and tested over the years, but there are always new materials, designs, and concepts with which to experiment to make our hives even better in the future.

basement walls
Forming up our basement walls


For those that are interested in house construction, I am going to use this post to explain what we are doing.  We are building a 2800 sq. ft., 4 br/3.5 ba home with a 1600 sq. ft. unfinished basement.  The basement will be my workshop for making things such as top bar beehives!  700 sq. ft. will be reserved for my parents who will be moving in with us. Naturally, we will have separate entrances to keep the peace. We are trying to do about 70% of the work, while subcontracting out for things like the metal roof, solar panels, drywall finish, electrical, and ductless minisplit installation.  Some of the challenging work we will be taking on is double stud framing, window installation, wood stove and chimney installation, hydronic radiant heating, air-sealing, dense-packed insulating, plumbing, kitchen, bath, and siding (cement fiberboard and cedar). Two years ago, we built a smaller home on our farm that is a 700 square foot apartment over garage, where we currently live.  After we finish our second house, this house will become a bed & breakfast – maybe for some honey bee-interested guests.

Framing a 14 ft wall with our tractor.
Framing a 14 ft wall with our tractor.

As I mentioned, the house includes a 700 square foot in-law suite for my parents to stay in for most of the year.  I’m still wondering how they are going to downsize from their current 3400 square foot house. Ebay and Craigslist will be our friends when we try to sell all their stuff.  The in-law suite has some universal access design features including an open dining, kitchen, and living area as well as a curbless shower that I had to plan for during the framing stage.  The in-law suite provides me an opportunity to explore home design for the elderly as this is an area in which I am interested.  With our population getting older and nursing homes not an attractive option for some, I think smaller, single story, custom built homes for the elderly is a good market.  I will also be putting in hydronic radiant heating for my parents’ section to keep them nice and cozy during the winter and to keep allergens and dust from blowing around which happens with forced air heating and cooling.

In terms of energy efficiency, we are installing triple pane Intus windows with a U-factor averaging 0.18. Our double stud walls will have a true R-value of 36 with minimal thermal briding through the studs. Attic insulation will be R-72 throughout thanks to 20″ raised heel trusses.  Air-sealing will be accomplished through tapes, caulk, gaskets, and spray foam. Here is an article I wrote about why air-sealing is important for beehives and you can obviously see why it’s important for us. Heating and cooling will be accomplished through wood stoves (we have 5.5 acres of woods), ductless minisplits, and hydronic radiant heating. Radiant heat like the type that our bees produce to keep warm during the winter! The house is designed with generous overhangs to take advantage of passive solar heating during the winter and shading during the summer.  Our metal roof is the color bone white and has a high solar reflectivity rating to help keep the attic cooler and reduce our cooling loads.  I don’t think the savings will be dramatic from the white metal roof, but I really just like the color. Ventilation will most likely come in the form of an HRV from Zehnder.  It is expensive, but a necessity for air-tight homes to get the right amount of fresh air exchange in the house.  Unfortunately, our house does not have access to natural gas so we are all electric. Energy use modeling estimates that we will use 934 kwh every month.  In our area this equates to about $150/month. An 8 kw solar panel array will take care of 90% of this cost and with the federal tax credit, we should recoup the upfront costs in 10 years.

Glueing subfloor to joists to prevent squeaks
Glueing subfloor to joists to prevent squeaks

We started construction on this house in September 2015 and finally got under roof before the snowstorm in January 2016.  This Spring we hope to get some more orders of our beehives so that will cut into our house construction time.  With this in mind, I hope to have the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) by January 2017.

We got the trusses set and roof sheating and underlayment the morning before the 2016 snow storm. The storm dropped 20" on us.
We got the trusses set and roof sheating and underlayment the morning before the 2016 snow storm. The storm dropped 20″ on us.

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