Now that winter’s brutal two weeks have passed, we will start work on the first Carbon Zero project, aka The Brick House. I’m using the Royal We; it’ll be mostly me there for the first month.
The timing is more accidental than planned, but I confess I am relieved.
It feels hypocritical– being a person consistently raising the alarm about the dangers of our warming and destabilizing planet– to also benefit from Climate Change. But I grew comfortable with hypocrisy as I imagined working inside a below zero structure.
The inside of this house isn’t just cold, it’s dark. All the windows except one are boarded up. Going through the front door, it feels more like you’re entering an arctic cave, or a scene from X-Files. Up to now, I go in with a flashlight in one hand, my phone flashlight in the other, and an LED headlamp on my forehead. It’s a bit creepy.
My plan is to string up lights, which will be powered by extension cords from the temporary power pole in the yard. About a month into the project, a temporary furnace will be installed. We will not connect the furnace to the ducting (ducts get sealed at both ends, to keep out construction dust). The furnace will simply “run wild”. This is technical term HVAC contractors use for letting the furnace blow heat into the basement, where it then rises up through the house.
This is wasteful, of course, particularly until the walls are insulated and the new windows are installed. But it’s hard for the electrician to twist wires, or the HVAC guy to fit sheet metal while wearing gloves. Some things simply don’t work in the cold– spray foam insulation, joint compound, paint, water.
In addition to being cold and dark, there is the critter issue. This house has been empty for 7 years. Almost assuredly some creatures have squatted. My hope is that they are all small, and that they get the message when I tell them it’s time to go. I’m still figuring out the best way to convey that message.
I once finished an attic that had bats in it. Bats are the worst. They burrow into things like insulation and hibernate, and because they’re small and black, it’s hard to tell them apart from debris as you pull down ceilings and walls.
After bats, I dislike raccoons. Raccoons have fangs and claws, and these menacing red dots for eyes. Years ago, two raccoons got into my house through the cat door. It took me an hour to chase them out, and they peed everywhere as they ran (fear, I assume). After they were gone, I spent two hours mopping my wood floors. When I came home the next day, I mopped the whole house again. Ditto the day after that. Not a fan of raccoons.
Aside from the cold, the dark, and the critters, I’m excited to get started. What I am most excited about is the dramatic transformation that will take place. This house will go from uninhabitable to a showcase for energy reduction and green practices. It will be fun to see that unfold.
Following and Volunteering
If you are interested in supporting the project, the two best things you can do is connect with us on social media and/or volunteer some of your time at the job site. A strong social media presence is essential to a nonprofit’s survival. Like us. Get your friends to like us. That would be a big boost right now.
In the spring, there will be a number of volunteer days. The biggest day will be Garage Raising day. Several of my contractor buddies have agreed to come on a Saturday– probably in April– and frame and enclose the garage. Anyone who wants to join us would be welcome. Doesn’t matter whether you’re comfortable with a miter box chop saw, or merely comfortable wearing a pair of work gloves– all skill levels can help. Lunch will be provided, and a local microbrew may contribute. There will also be a raffle for the participants.
The garage will become the power source for the house. TruNorth Solarhas agreed to donate half the cost of a solar array for the garage. We’re still working on our half.
And if you can’t make it on Garage Raising day, almost any decent Saturday this spring, there will be stuff happening– stump grinding, grading, window well install, etc. If you want to just stop by for a tour, that’s cool too.
The existing garage has reached the end of its life. We will tear it down some time in March. If you dig pounding on stuff, this would be a great day to show up