Posts Tagged ‘Intellistructures’

Introducing IntelliStructures Blog

Dear All,

Since the Arlington Passivhaus is now at an end.  We will be moving our new content to a new blog for IntelliStructures Inc.

If you enjoyed what we wrote about here, please visit us here for discussions on Passivhaus, high performance enclosures, SIPs structures and more.

Thanks for reading!


We got Gold!

This past Sunday, we had the great honor to host the Arlington Green Home Choice Program’s annual awards ceremony at OUR house!  It was an awesome success.  Arlington County uses this opportunity every year to recognize the home owners, builders and the homes that voluntarily participate in the program to build and retrofit homes to a high performing level that is “healthy, comfortable, cost efficient and reduces energy and water usage and protects the environment.”  Helen, the manager of the Green Home Choice Program works tirelessly to engage builders through the entire process from design, construction to commissioning.  She certainly kept us going through the hard times with her encouragement and her frequent site visits tell us how serious she and the county are about promoting green homes.

We really like the program because of its prerequisite that the home be Energy Star qualified.  Even though Energy Star isn’t the most stringent standard out there, it is a great starting point and more importantly, it is performance based.  This also means a Green Home Choice building will perform significantly better than a conventional home.  Additionally, as Energy Star continues to tighten its standard, Green Home Choice homes will also improve in energy performance.  Modeled after the EarthCraft program, Green Home Choice uses a score card to determine other sustainability features of a home, such as water use, site design, etc.  Here’s the 72 page score sheet.  It’s also good to look for ideas in during the design process.

For this year (2011-2012), twelve homes were certified in the Arlington Green Home Choice program.  Out of which 6 received”Certified”, 3 “Silver” and 3 “Gold” awards.   This is the first year, Arlington has given out the “Gold” awards.

GHC Certified Homes

Here’s our gold!

Matt Fine and Jake (Zavos Architecture and Design), me, Jay Fisette (Arlington County Board Member), Charlie Byrd (Intellistructures), Ricardo Leon (Leon Home Improvement), Helen Reinecke-Wilt (Manager of GHC)

Special thanks to Helen Reinecke-Wilt,  Joan Kelsch for organizing this successful event.  To Jay Fisette for his support and commitment to a sustainable energy future.  Congratulations to all the other Green Home Choice participants.

Stay tuned and be sure to come visit us on June 3rd for the 10th Annual Arlington Green Home and Garden Tour.  For more information, click below.

Interior Framing and Garage Slab

This past week we worked on framing the interior of the home and building a slab for the garage.  Intellistructures did a great job getting the interior framed quickly.  I can’t wait to start finishing the interior.

Here are some pics

Landing to Terrace

1st Floor Hallway

North Star Foundations came back to build the garage slab.  After they were done, Eric and I stood around, just admiring the smoothness of the surface…

Garage Slab Building

Garage Slab Building 2

Concrete Pour

Plastic Fiber for concrete

The fibers are cool.  They prevent concrete from cracking and reduces the amount of rebars/wire necessary in a slab.  Here’s a video of how it works (not sure what brand was used in my slab though).

Super Smooth Slab

Super Smooth Slab

Second Floor Done

After losing three more days to rain, we are back on track!  Intellistructures spent one day building the upper level floor system and one day putting the second floor together.  That leaves the roof panels to be set, which will hopefully happen on Monday.  By then, we will have the SIPs shell and be ready for roof dry-in and outsulation to be attached.  Similar to the foundation, two inches of EPS foam will be attached to the outer skin of the SIPs panel going from roof, walls down to where we left off on the foundation walls.  Stay tuned!

2nd Floor North View

2nd Floor South View

Interior View

12 Inch (R-46) Roof Panels

First day of SIPs construction

There was no building inspector holding us back, no buckets of rain coming down and the SIPs panels are finally onsite, what a great day to build a house!  With all the stars finally aligned, Intellistructures started putting the SIPs together.

SIPs are essentially two pieces of plywood (OSB) skins sandwiching a block of styrofoam which actually make them pretty light and relatively easy to handle.

Putting up SIPs

The East wall was erected within a couple of hours.

Erecting South Wall

Here’s the South Wall (with a large window opening) being erected.

Insulated Header

Instead of using a block of lumber for structural headers, here’s our site-finished insulated header using a 4 inch SIPs panel.

Installing Header

East Wall (Outside View)

It’s already starting to look like a house.

SIPs are here!

After delays of every possible kind which I can’t bear to relive by writing about them, we finally have our Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).  SureTight delivered them this morning.  For the walls, they are 8.25 inches thick (7.375″ Neopor EPS), giving us an R-Value of 35.  For the Roof, we’ll have 12.25 inch (11.375″ Neopor EPS), giving us R-53.  These R-values are not exact due to some lumbers between the panels.

Intellistructures will begin putting up the panels on Monday.  We hope to have a dry-in shell by the end of the month.

Here are some pics.

8.25" Neopor SIPs

More SIPs


Passivhaus Window Install Demo

Joerg Birkelbach of Tremco flew in from Ohio just to show us how to use their ExoAir Trio (formerly illmod Trio) foam tape in window installations.  Talk about customer service!

The Trio is an open-cell flexible polyurethane foam impregnated with synthetic resin.  According to its data sheet, it has been developed to expand into a window/door rough opening to create a seal that is “airtight, thermally efficient and vapor permeable”, hence the “Trio”.

The main objective was to learn how to install our windows from Intus using the Trio.  Aramus and Dave from Intus and Charlie and Rafael from Intellistructures were all present.

The Trio has an amazing expansion capability.  When delivered, it is about 5/32″ thick, which is what you see below in the rolled on left.  Once released from roll, within minutes, the foam expands to 1 1/2″.  As Joerg explained, 1 1/2″ is the maximum expansion but the at that point, there is no compression and an airtight seal does not exist.  For this particular roll the application range is between 7-15 mm (0.275″-0.59), this range refers to the gap between the window rough opening and the window frame.

This speedy expansion means whoever does the install must know exactly what they are doing and cannot take too long with each window install.  Even though the installer needs to know what they are doing, this doesn’t mean he/she can’t learn how to do it relatively quickly.  Joerg did a demonstration that took about 5 minutes (while everyone fired questions at him).  After that, Rafael (our SIPs installer) took over and did a practice install.  I think it isn’t a difficult material to use but learning how to properly use it before any actual installation is absolutely crucial.

We removed the window frame to see how the tape had expanded.  This is what the foam looks like after a few minutes.  As you can see that lines had formed on the tape and you can see where the window bracket had been.  The tape had expanded following the contours of the window frame and the bracket.

A few things about the Trio that we learned:

  • Keep it cool;
  • Work quickly;
  • Always cut a little longer;
  • Keep unused tape rolled up

Here are some videos we took.

Joerg doing an install demonstration

Rafael doing a test install

Tricks & Tips when using Exoair Trio

The PNC SmartHome Cleveland uses Tremco’s ExoAir Trio

Floor System Building

Intellistructures started building the floor joists today.  First, they secured the sill plate.  Then, they hanged these nifty Simpson joist hangers 24 o.c. directly on the sill plate and draping down on the concrete studs of the Superiorwalls.  The SW concrete stud-face will provide an excellent place of support for the joists once they are set into the hangers.

This is cool because these hangers eliminated the need for the band joist (see below).

In conventional building, this 2″ thick piece of lumber is the only thing between the inside of the house and the outside.  Since it surrounds the entire outer envelope of the house, it is frequently one of the weakest points in air-tightness and if not insulated properly, it is prone to heat loss.  Using the joist hangers allow us to completely eliminate this weak point altogether and our floor joists look like this:

The subfloor will sit directly on top of the floor joists. The SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) will sit directly on top of the sill plate.  No band joist to worry about!

We used I-joists to build the floor system.  This is a relatively common practice that replaces the traditional 2 by solid lumber with I-Joist, an engineered wood product that consists of recycled wood pieces and smaller pieces of solid lumber.  It is not only more sustainable, it will not bow, crown, twist, cup, check, or split as would a dimensional piece of lumber.

The crew also installed a ginormous piece of steel  today.  A 31 ft long steel column that probably weighed literally a ton.  I am still not sure how five guys did it without any visible equipment.

Well, it’s there and it’s secure.  So, I won’t ask any questions.

After the Shake

We are very happy to report that after yesterday’s 5.8 earthquake and a number of after shocks, Weaver’s Superiorwalls are intact.

Since we still haven’t backfilled yet I was quite concerned about the safety of the Intellistructures crew who were working on the floor joists above the walls.  Apparently, Charlie had his crew trained to walk the balance beam really well so no one fell!  Can they do other acrobatics?

Secondly, we were concerned about the walls moving because there were no external support from the backfill yet.  This morning, we carefully examined the wall connections to the crushed stone footing.  There were no visible shifting or movement from where the walls were originally placed or any loosening of the gravel footing.  So, at this at this scale and at this magnitude, I agree with Frank Lloyd Wright’s observation that crushed stone footings are “perfectly static”.

We also examined carefully each of the panels for any damages or cracks.  There were none.  So, good casting Weaver Precast!

We carefully examined the concrete slab poured last week.  The slab looked great and the strength of that slab probably contributed to the foundation holding together too.  So, good casting North Star!


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