Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Montrose Green update...

Well, it's been quite a while since our last post- we're long overdue for an update. We have finished the Montrose Green renovation and are in the final stages of wrapping up the LEED-H certification. We're still on track to achieve a Platinum level, as long as the final air infiltration & blower door testing goes smoothly. Lately we've primarily been preoccupied with designing and building our next project- this time for a client. The house is a 3-story infill on mid-block site in Graduate Hospital and is approximately 50% through construction. We've been photo documenting the progress and will be posting updates very soon at our new website: www.solibs.com. This site is still under development, but we'll be slowly transitioning to a new format that will allow us to report updates on multiple projects as our firm grows and we take on additional work.

In other news, we've recently decided to "temporarily" move into Montrose Green. Although we took the house off the MLS during the holidays, the home is still for sale by owner. We are taking this opportunity to test all the systems & appliances and monitor the utility bills (with a family of three) to see if we are indeed saving as much energy as we projected. With this winter season being the coldest in several years, it is proving a great testing ground. We'll report our findings as we compile the data, but so far, so good. Our unscientific report to date is that the house stays quite toasty, even on the bitter cold days. Because the HVAC sytem is zoned (1st floor- zone 1; 2nd & 3rd floors- zone 2) , and with the help of a tightly insulated envelope, numerous ceiling fans, and an open design, we can usually just heat the first floor and let the warm air rise up through the house.

The green roof and the stormwater planter have gone into dormancy for the season. Some of the sedums on the roof have turned a deep red color, but there's still some green visible. All of the other plants are doing well- with little to no maintenance. We are looking forward to the spring season when we'll get to witness the green roof and rain gardens bloom and mature.

As you can imagine, we're really enjoying our stay in the Montrose Green house. As the designers, it's an amazing learning opportunity as we're experiencing first hand every decision we made- for better or for worse. We're very satisfied with the vast majority of outcomes, but there are inevitably a handful of things we would do differently if given the opportunity. Overall, the layout works really well and the room sizes and storage space are more than adequate. The circulation is compact and the amount of natural light in the house is amazing...we usually don't turn any lights on during the day. The Caesarstone countertops in the kitchen and baths are extremely durable, with no worries about stains or scratches. We'd use that product again in a heartbeat. The chalkboard door in the kitchen is one of the other fun ideas that's working out almost exactly as planned. Having a powder room on the 1st floor, not having to trek down to the basement to do laundry, and having real closets are definitely a bonus. These aren't unique concepts, but are conveniences that older row homes often lack. The "green" features are more elusive to evaluate initially since they affect the energy usage/performance more than the day-to-day functionality or aesthetic of the home.

Up next...a critique of what we would change/do differently next time. We'll also share photos of some of the finishing touches as we continue to unpack & get settled. The plan is to open up the house again for tours later this spring, so stay tuned!

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