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Finding Experts to Execute Your Design

sabotcat | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

Hey all,
first thanks for all the help and guidance so far.  A quick overview.  I sketched out a home for the High Desert (92268… climate zone 3).  Our temps fluctuate from the mid twenties to over 100 winter to summer.   I passed my sketches on to an Designer with years of experience in the desert but I’m finding that without an architect, there’s no one in the system who can give me guidance on the specific construction details…I’m trying to build at least to a “Pretty Good House” standard.  Martin’s book and Building Science Fight Club have been hugely inspiring.  But when it comes time for pen to meet paper in a way the county will approve…I seem to be at a loss.

The designer has no experience with anything beyond minimum code requirements.  The first SE I approached refused to call be back because I was asking for 24″ OC framing and the SE we settled on, while every energy conscious, is also very specific that they do not spend any time on details.

So my question is, how/where/who does one find someone who can intelligently react to requests for external insulation (called “overkill” by a potential builder on our last cabin) window details, etc.  And ultimately provide drawings and strategy…I’m even working with some excellent Energy consultants who sized mini-splits, helped with make-up air on the Kitchen and all that stuff…but don’t think about specifying backer  rod on windows, which I’d love to see in the plans I had to a builder.

Or should I just dummy up, get the plans approved and then talk through specifics with the builder when we’re standing out there in the middle of the desert?  Is that what folks do?

This is when I realize I should have begun with an Architect who cared about this stuff.

I know there’s a detail library on the site, but so far I’ve had a hell of a time navigating it…and walls are like fingerprints, no two seem to be exactly the same. And while our downstairs: Lime Plaster, Drain and dry (or similar), Comfortboard 80, WRB, Sheathing, Closed Cell insulation between 2×6 studs, permeable barrier, service cavity, drywall…is not uncommon, I can seem to find it in the library.

But ultimately, is there an SOP for a designer/draftsman without Green Building knowledge, to weave details into plans?  Where and when and how.

I know it’s a super rookie question…so I really appreciate the time.

thanks for any answers or insight.

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  1. Deleted | | #1


    1. sabotcat | | #4

      this is a super helpful paper. in my 9 to 5 I work in animation...and the only way anything every gets done well is when there is incredible cooperation, coordination and communication. And it's still rare to see. There was an amazing piece on the development of the Ford Taurus, still one of the best cars ever made...and how they did so much of what you're talking about here to make it work. Zehpyr7 expands on the notion below. I'm lucky to have you both respond.

  2. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #3

    I like to recommend contacting energy raters as a first step. People who care enough to work with energy raters are likely to care enough about other aspects of high performance buildings to be more receptive to your specific requests.

    I can tell you that exterior rigid foam is NOT overkill -- it's a actually a very good way to greatly improve the thermal performance of a typical studwall since it eliminates the issue of thermal bridging (which is the main advantage of CONTINUOUS insulation after all).

    A big issue with many in the trades is that they want to do what they've always done. You'll get a lot of "well, that's nice, but WE always do it THIS way" kind of responses. There is a lot of resistance to change, not all of which is completely unfounded -- no contractor wants to be responsible for a failure of something "new" that was tried for the first time. You'll find people on GBA more willing to try new things, because most of use here are trying to push the envelope and eek out every last bit of performance we can. Some of use (like me), want to maximize efficiency of everything as much as possible. Others want to use the greenese materials they can find, even when they're unusual materials. There are many different facets to "green" building after all :-)

    I think you'll find that once you find one person who is interested in working with high performance structures, that person is likely to know others and that's a good way to find the specific expertise you need. The trick is finding that first person, and I think checking with energy raters is a good way to start. I know in my own work, I do a lot of efficiency upgrades in commercial buildings, and almost all of my buisness is referrals from others in the trades.


    1. sabotcat | | #5

      thanks for the thoughtful, helpful response. You're really right...this is how you build a team...I began by just availing myself of the folks who were at hand...but if I'm going to build better, I've got to find some believers. Thanks again

    2. user-2890856 | | #6

      People really are resistant to disruptive technology

    3. ddbear | | #7

      Good tip, and where would one start looking for energy raters in their area? I have a similar question as the original poster.

  3. AlexPoi | | #8

    Frankly, in the current economic environment, it's almost impossible to find. Builders can pick the projects they want to work on at the moment so unless you have a ton of money to spend on this project, you'll have a hard time finding a local builder willing to work on a "risky" project. Your best bet is probably to buy from a panelized builder like Bensonwood or build the frame yourself and hire out the rest.

    Good luck

  4. larkomundo | | #9

    AlexPoi offers a lot of wisdom in his comment. It is probably not what you want to hear. But it is reality in my world. Our trades now major in mediocrity at best. It doesn't have to be hard to generate resistance and no return call. It just has to be different.

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