The photo above was taken in Grand Teton National Park in July, 2015. My wife and daughter and I took a long road trip (cue music)…
…from Chicago out to several Western states, including Montana and Wyoming. And like Clark Griswold towards the end of the movie Vacation (warning: NSFW)…
… building our new house is no longer just about creating a shiny new box for us to live in, it’s become a quest… a quest to try to do things right.
And just like for the Griswolds, things have not gone as we planned — our original builder took $30,000 from us, giving us nothing in return, all while wasting a year and a half of our lives (#ripoffclause) — so a sense of humor regarding our situation has been keeping us upright, otherwise we’d be curled up in the fetal position somewhere.
Working with our original builder on an eco-friendly, energy-efficient Passive House turned out to be a lot like buying a used car from Eugene Levy’s character from Vacation:
In our naïveté, we assumed a builder interested in energy efficiency, the environment, and the details necessary to achieve Passive House certification would also treat their clients with a heightened (we’d settle for basic) sense of ethical responsibility — bad assumption, really bad assumption, and lesson learned (see The Passive House Nightmare section of the site if you are interested in all the gory details).
Nevertheless, our goal is to build something that is meaningful to us as a family, and maybe something of value to the community in which we’ve chosen to live.
We want to build something that is sensitive to the environment, that uses little energy month-to-month, and that functions in a way that complements how we want to live our lives. And we want it to be beautiful.
Moving forward, we can focus on incorporating many of the interesting building principles and theories we’ve come across in the last few years…
Here are some of the ‘big’ ideas:
Sarah Susanka: The Not So Big House
Passive House science for a Pretty Good House
Net Zero (aka: Zero Net Energy)
Marie Kondo: (amazon.com)
It sounds a little New-Agey at first, but it’s pretty straightforward:
Do you love an item?
If yes, then keep it.
If no, then give it away or throw it away.
And the folding techniques, albeit extreme, really are space savers — they’ve really helped my wife, who’s a pack rat by nature.
Yeah, I just said that.
So, back to that photo in the Grand Tetons:
Initially, I put it here because I didn’t have any build-related pictures to post yet, thinking that once I did that I would replace it. Now, I think it’s actually a pretty good metaphor for building a new house. In the foreground, the distance to the mountains represents the design and permitting phases. Climbing the mountain will be the actual construction of the house, and somewhere over that mountain, on the other side, our new house awaits…