Q&A - Managing your project in the best way

Through the course of this blog so far, I've written some zany analogies about building a new home. I've compared it to being the conductor in a symphony orchestra, because all the parts of your project must work well together in order to assure optimal and predictable results.

I think it's more than that, though - I think that having a home-building project go well also requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence. I have a friend whose family grew up with an African Grey Parrot - if you're not familiar with these majestic animals, these parrots are highly intelligent and require constant time and attention from their owners. My friend's family showered the bird in love and attention, and in return the bird sang and made the house a happy place to be.

Like the African Grey, a home-building project is long-lived experience and potentially a life-long companion - if you plan to live in the house you build, then I think it's important to build with heart - treat the people you work with well, and they'll make your house a happy place to be. Love your project, and it will love you back.

I hope my tip helps some of you to have great home-building projects. What's your advice for managing a project in the best way possible? Join the conversation and let us know!

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AHR 2017 - Everyone's a winner!

This year's AHR show in Las Vegas was fantastic. In between my booth dury for Taco Comfort Solutions, I got to catch up with a wide range of professionals across the HVACR industry. Energy efficiency is still the name of the game, and the drive to make more eco-friendly mechanical systems that consume less power is stronger than ever.

On the show floor, I ran into a few old friends and a couple of new ones, and I'll have some special content for you in the weeks to come. I had the pleasure of having a few conversations with some folks whose knowledge you'll find interesting including Robert Bean, recipient of this year's Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award. Be sure to check the blog regularly for these special feature updates. Did you attend this year's AHR Expo? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below!

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The right ingredients for a great kitchen

One of the biggest areas where I can save money on energy costs for my eco-friendly home is in the kitchen. Even though I’m still working on the skeleton of the room that will become our kitchen, I think that planning the details of what appliances I want to include and what materials to use is important to do early on in the process.

The kitchen is one area of my new home that I’m pretty excited about, just because kitchens are fun to design and there is a myriad of options out there that can really spice things up. One of the latest trends in kitchen design is to hide appliances - that is, cover up the refrigerator, dishwasher, and other appliances with cabinetry so that the whole space blends seamlessly together. Whether or not this will look good in 20 years is debatable - if I decide to hide my appliances behind cabinet veneers, only time will tell.

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AHR is right around the corner!

The International Air Conditioning, heating, and Refrigerating Exposition, or AHR Expo, bills itself as a “unique forum designed expressly for the HVACR community, allowing professionals to get together to share new products, technologies and ideas.” I’ve found my experiences at the show to be overwhelmingly productive, and I’ve met some faces there who have helped me along in my quest to built a comfortable, eco-friendly home.

At last year’s AHR Expo in Orlando, I had the pleasure to speak with some of the industry’s leading experts about sustainable building design, construction techniques, and systems that could greatly reduce the carbon footprint of my new home. Dr. Allison Bailes III is a fellow eco-friendly homebuilder and author of the Energy Vanguard blog. He teaches HVAC professionals about the big picture when it comes to eco-friendly home construction and offers invaluable knowledge and expertise on a multitude of energy efficiency related topics.

At AHR 16, I also got to speak with Jay Egg, a certified geothermal designer and mechanical professional who has been an authority on geothermal heating and cooling systems for nearly 30 years. In my opinion, Jay Egg is a foremost authority on all things geothermal and is a great resource for anyone considering installing such a system, including myself.

I also got to catch up with one of the best HVAC trainers in the industry, Taco FloPro Team Trainer John Barba. John is committed to providing the highest level of support and training to folks working across the HVAC industry, and I got a chance to talk to him about my project at last year’s AHR show. I also got to ask him what to expect at this year’s AHR show.

Are you looking forward to the AHR expo? Will you be attending? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Time to select a house wrap system

Protecting the walls and roof of my new home from wind, moisture and infiltration is super important, especially during the stages of construction when the frame of my home will be more vulnerable to the elements.

Now that the framing of my eco-friendly home is mostly complete, it’s time to protect the structure that I’ve invested so much time and energy on so far. Generally, home builders do this by wrapping the unfinished structure in a protective layer of man-made film that allows moisture to escape while not allowing any to pass through the barrier from the outside. House wrap helps keep the structure dry and keeps the materials in good condition until the outer layers of the home can be applied.

By preventing water from penetrating the structure, mold is not able to form and rot is not able to take hold on the structure. This is important when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on building materials and hundreds of man hours building a structure that you plan to live in.

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Q&A - Comfort and energy efficiency balance

Happy 2017 to all of you! I'm excited to see what this year brings for our project. Each year brings with it new opportunities to learn, grow, and enjoy each other's company. I hope that you all find fulfillment in your relationships and work experiences, and that you get some good takeaways from the upcoming portions of this project that I will cover in this blog.

My New Years story for this year probably isn't that exciting. I started off the new year fiddling with the thermostat at the temporary saltbox cottage where my wife and I are staying while we build our new home. Between you and I, nothing is more of a downer for me than having to get up every fifteen minutes to change the temperature on the thermostat.

For this year, my New Year's resolution is to not spend a fortune to heat and cool my home using a system that leaves me feeling too cold or too warm. Help me accomplish my goal by responding to this week's Q&A and help our audience learn from one another!

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Dave's Tips - Use the BBB!

I've been fortunate enough to build my own network of licensed professionals and home building experts that I can fall back on when I need help with a particular area of my project or if I have questions on how to make the best of a portion of my project that I may not be well-versed in. However, not everyone has 30 years of home building experience in the same geographical region and the good fortune to work with the same professionals across multiple projects.

If you're just getting started building your network of home building experts or want to be sure that the people you hire for a job give you the right value for your dollar, then one organization I recommend turning to is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB calls itself "an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other", and I've found this to be pretty true in my experiences.

The BBB can help you find quality contractors and licensed professionals by providing you with a wealth of information before you pick up the phone. On the BBB's website you can learn about a company before you do business with them, including a company's performance record with the BBB. The BBB also provides valuable consumer information so that you can make the best choices for your project, and provides a variety of other services that help protect consumers.

Overall, I've found the BBB to be a useful resource that supplements word of mouth references and is an excellent tool for any home builder.

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Seasons Greetings

As construction continues on our new eco-friendly home, my wife and I are waiting it out in a tiny saltbox cottage near the bottom of the Connecticut river. Over the years, Debbie and I have lived in a number of different "temporary" houses during our construction projects, and it's been an interesting and educational experience. I've lived in two-story colonial homes, bungalows, saltboxes, and cape cod style homes - each place I've lived has had a unique character to it, and in many cases I have shaped the character of those homes by adding onto them or doing renovations.

This project is something my wife and I are truly excited about because it encompasses a total application of my knowledge and the experience of everyone we are working with on it.

Thank you for following along so far and being a part of something fun and educational, and for helping me towards completing my quest of balancing energy efficiency and green comfort.

Stay tuned and have a happy new year!

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Thinking on your feet

I’ve been building my own homes for over 30 years, and in the process I’ve learned a few things that only come with experiencing a string of homebuilding projects. Building homes has been a hobby of mine that has withstood the test of time, economic changes, and technological advances in the trades.

I consider myself a die-hard homebuilder, and I’ve kept up with trends and innovations so that each time I’ve built a new home, my next project always surpasses the one that came before it. Building an eco-friendly, safe and secure comfortable home means that in addition to giving my plans a great deal of forethought, I also have to be prepared to make decisions on the fly.

One thing I’ve learned is that if I encounter a complication in a portion of my project or an unforeseen externality to building my home a certain way, I don’t have to face it alone. Rick Staub and Greg Echtman of Point One Architects have helping me plan this project from the beginning.

One of my first big “decisions on the fly” involved the availability of the person I initially chose to build my home, Bill Zdon. As my project timeline moved along, Bill became hung up on an unrelated job and couldn’t begin work at the jobsite. Even though I have a good relationship with Bill, I needed to stick to my established timeframes. So, I hired a local framer to bring the project to a certain stage. Hopefully, Bill can wrap up on his current job and consult with me on some of the insulation details.

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Q&A - Eco-friendly plumbing

Installing a plumbing system into a new home means using a variety of different products made from a number of different materials, not all of which are sustainably sourced or manufactured. The good news is, if you’re building a new home you have a lot of control over what materials and products you decide to incorporate into your system.

Installing eco-friendly plumbing has a number of benefits including reducing waste, saving water and energy, and in some cases providing performance superior to that of conventional plumbing products.

There are several different features that I am considering adding to my home’s plumbing system including PEX tubing, energy-efficient toilets and other plumbing fixtures, and water-saving outdoor watering system. Since I’m at the beginning of this part of my homebuilding process, there’s still plenty of time to work out the details.

How would you make your plumbing system more eco-friendly? Join the conversation and let us know!

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