This summer was a productive one. For all normal intents and purposes, the house is done (for those interested in the greener features – solar power and the grey water, rainwater and monitoring systems – there’s more work to do). The house will actually be for rent while I finish up my graduate degree in Architecture. Here are some pics:
In an effort to reduce energy consumption and get more info about our home and its inhabitants, we’ve been working on building a monitoring and automation system. Part of that system (much of the hardware) was completed by students at Portland State University who were working on their capstone project. The hardware they produced will allow nodes to monitor ambient lighting, temperature, motion and humidity in different rooms of the house. We wanted to also build a controller for lighting, but due to code restrictions, decided it was better to install something that was ‘off the shelf.’
That’s where SmartHome comes in. They’ve been kind enough to sponsor the project and provide us with controllable dimming switches and outlets. These are essentially switches that can be programmed to turn on and off (as well as dim) by a computer or device. They were genuinely easy to install, work wonderfully and look pretty good to boot. Best of all, they work with dimmable LEDs, a requirement for us to reduce energy usage.
With the dimmer switches installed, we can, for example, schedule when the lights are turned on in front of the house (e.g., on at night, off in the morning; we don’t have a street light close by). The endgame, however, is much more interesting. We’re going to be using the monitoring system that the PSU students constructed for us to provide information about room activity and conditions, as well as control the lights.
So, for example, lets say you wake up early to get some work done, you go into the office and turn on the lights. As daylight filters in throughout the morning, the automation sensors notice that the light level is increasing and slowly tell the SmartHome dimmers to bring down their lights. By the time it’s bright outside, the lights are off. We can also use the motion sensors to automatically shut-off when someone forgets to turn them off in a room they’ve left.
We have a lot planned for the automation system (e.g. automatically watering plants, monitoring water level in the cistern, etc.) and we’re excited to be slowly building the parts that will help us do just that.
It’s been a while since we’ve posted progress, but we’ve been making it. The kitchen is essentially done and we’ve finished the front stairs, catwalk and engawa (sorry, don’t have a finished photo yet).
This week we moved forward on several projects. Dad built the frames for the toilets (they’re custom because they’re essentially pit toilets) – we still need to sheet them, and plumb in the bidet, but we’re getting close to having a working bathroom! We also worked on building more of the sliding doors. We’re getting better at constructing them quicker, however there always seems to be a unique challenge on everything we do. The side tables, drawers and bed in one of the rooms are finished, we took a picture to show them off.
And we have one more project in the works: the engawa that surrounds the courtyard. Dad got it all laid out and tacked up and I spent this weekend welding it up. It’s great to see these projects coming together.
I also had the opportunity to go speak at Oregon State University this week. Todd Jarvis, the instructor of Sustainability for the Common Good was gracious enough to invite me down. I spoke about the project and fielded a bunch of questions – I think the students found the project interesting. Todd also runs a blog on grey water, Rainbow Water Coalition, it’s well worth following and has some great specifics about Oregon’s new grey water laws (there’s a post and video about my visit).
We’ve finally finished a little side project we’ve been working on – a bit of furniture.
We’ve been working on building our interior doors lately. We had two big goals we wanted to achieve with them: sound isolation and light transmission.
We’ve been a bit quite lately and that’s partially because there’s been a changing of the guard. Dustin has headed off to school to get an Architecture degree and is supporting the project from afar. I (Garrett) have been attempting to take over his duties with the help of my Dad.
We decided (admittedly what some may think an odd decision) to make all the lights in the house be fixtures that are actually plugged into the ceiling through a normal outlet. We wanted the ability, in the future, to change our light fixtures easily. For the light fixtures we decided on a simple and DIY look.
A big thank you to Kelly for helping with the assembly.