Friday, July 11, 2014

Introduction - Our Journey Begins

Unexpected Mutual Interest
Shortly after Dorothy and I were married in the early 2000's, we realized that we had a mutual interest in energy conservation.  She and her late husband had belonged to a solar greenhouse interest group and considered adding a two-story greenhouse to their 19th century farmhouse.  I had been following the "earth home" movement from afar, not ever expecting to become a part of it.

Dottie tutoring in one of her RSCs
Dorothy Follows Her Passion
About six years ago, Dorothy wound down her rep agency for educational materials and used her PhD in Education and business acumen to satisfy her passion for tutoring. She started the non-profit "Reading Success Center" which helps other non-profits establish programs for underachieving readers.  Growth of the Center has exceeded all expectations to the extent that Dorothy is now into an all-consuming 24/7 situation and loving every minute of it.

Yours Truly Goes Crazy
When my interest in sustainability and energy conservation got totally out of control and morphed into "let's go build an energy neutral home for ourselves", Dottie was only too happy with her schedule to delegate the project to me........but with one proviso.

Modest home in St Charles
Strict Budget
Both of us had already downsized considerably, especially when we bought our house in St Charles, MO, a northwestern suburb of St Louis (the first capital of Missouri). And we agreed that, since our house was paid for it made no sense at our ages to rob other assets or borrow money for a new house.  Our construction budget, after selling the St Charles home during the great recession and paying for land in Collinsville, IL, turned out to be $72,000 and our final design turned out to be 2,100 sq ft. Do the math and we are talking an-unheard-of $34 per sq ft which is about 25% of contractor prices in our area.  

Accept the Challenge 
My early thoughts were that the budget was doable, primarily because I intended to use mostly lumber that I would salvage from tear-downs and most of the labor would be free -- mine and volunteers.  However, it did not take long for reality to set in. Since the budget was firm, reality dictated that we choose between building smaller and/or finding alternative strategies.  As you will see if you stay with us, it was mostly alternative strategies that won the day -- such as limiting the amount of earth sheltering to one wall, thus eliminating the need for timber framing, and using truss walls filled with rice hull insulation for the stick-built exterior walls in lieu of structural insulated panels.

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