Progress, pictures and a bit of a panic!

Ok, so in July of 2011 I had this big plan to document and blog about the whole process of us building our Natural Urban Home. And now it is the end of February and we are about five weeks away from getting possession of said home.

Um...

Oops!

I am so sorry for leaving you all out of the loop, but if you have been following along for the past 6 months you'll know how crazy and busy it has been around here (and in my mind).

But I have been taking pictures...

Lots and lots of pictures!

So when we left off, the full height ICF (insulated concrete forms) had just been poured.  I get a lot of questions about why we built the house like this, so here it is, the top 5 reasons why we choose to use ICF (information from the ICForming website).

  1. ICF is highly energy efficient. The foam in LOGIX brand ICF walls provides a thermal resistance rating of R-24. This exceptionally high R-value, along with high thermal mass and reduced air infiltration, allow ICF walls to deliver significantly higher performance levels. I swear I can feel this already! Even before the electrical and heating was hooked up, it was significantly warmer inside the house. I can't wait to see what this does to our energy bills!
  2. The sound insulation is superior. ICF walls offer you a quieter, more tranquil interior environment. An ICF wall can easily achieve a sound transmission classification of STC 50, which is twice as high as a typical wood-framed wall. Loud noises outside an ICF building will be reduced to a whisper inside the building. This is a big deal for me. While I do love our neighbours dearly at our current house, I can seriously hear a whole conversation through our bedroom wall when they are in their back yard!
  3. It's highly moisture resistant. ICF Walls don't need an extra vapor barrier. For below-grade applications, LOGIX ICF provides a waterproofing system that ensures a comfortably dry basement. Improved air quality is another benefit as ICF eliminates the studs and cavities that can hold moisture and foster mold and mildew growth. I am all for no mold! I hate that smell and the health concerns that come with it!
  4. It's stronger and safer. ICF buildings are up to 8.5 times stronger than conventionally framed buildings. As a result, ICF walls are much better able to withstand severe weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes. ICF walls have a 3-hour fire rating as opposed to 15 minutes for a comparable wood framed wall. Just in case! Fire is my number one fear as a homeowner and this gives me a bit more peace of mind!
  5. It's environmentally friendly. Buildings constructed with ICF are designed to last for centuries, not decades. LOGIX ICF walls conserve precious natural forest resources and their energy efficiency reduces fuel consumption. The use of LOGIX promotes sustainable, green building practices, and is an investment in the future. And really, that is what our goal was when we envisioned the Natural Urban Home. So there you have it folks, a house that will last forever and will also be our forever home!

With the walls and the roof trusses up, you can really start to see the shape of the house coming together! And I am SO loving the floor to ceiling windows in every room! I am looking forward to so much natural light infusing our daily lives.

A little 'inspection' by the boys!

A few of the other main 'green' building choices that we incorporated in the house include an upgraded window package, with HP triple paned Argon-filled windows. This further improves the energy performance of our home and also reduces noise from the outside. The heating system throughout the home is a radiant in-floor heating system. I found a great explanation of the differences between radiant heating and forced-air heating on the BuildingGreen.com site.  Essentially, with radiant floor heating you are heating the PERSON from the floor (feet) up via radiation of the heat, versus heating the AIR around the person via forced-air. We have NO major ductwork in our house, except for the small amount we needed for the air circulation/venting. The heat is now on in the house and I have had a little taste of the in-floor heating and I have to say that walking on the floors is going to be such a joy for this constantly cold-footed chikita!

And speaking of floors. We decided to go with concrete floors throughout the house. Yes, that's right, no hardwood, no tile and no carpet anywhere on the main floor. We chose to do this for a couple of reasons. First, we are making use of the material already present - the concrete. Second, it is a durable, easy to clean flooring option that also reduces allergens, and finally, because of its solar thermal mass properties, a concrete floor has the potential to provide the house with passive energy gains. This past week the concrete floor guys were in doing the polishing/grinding on the floors to give it a more 'salt and pepper' look with some areas of full exposure. I gave them the example of the look of the floor at our local IKEA store and I have to tell you that they came through and then some!  I am so in love with how our floors look already and this is before they apply the (eco-friendly) epoxy and urethane coatings.

The hallway floors.

The interior finishings are so much more than I expected and I have to give HUGE props to our contractor and his foremen (Derrick and Steve)  for doing an amazing job in custom building ALL of it for us!! We chose a rift-cut white oak for the cabinetry and built-ins in the house and it is absolutely beautiful! And yes, the island in my kitchen is almost 14 feet long!! Can you say "kitchen party" anyone? The apron-wrap 'blizzard' white quartz countertops and the stainless steel appliances should be arriving in about 2 weeks and I am very excited to see how it all comes together!

The kitchen.

The house had a slightly sloped ceiling (1/12 pitch) and on the vaulted area in the kitchen/dining/living space we warmed it up by installing wood on the ceiling! This is a look we first fell in love with on one of our trips to Mexico and I am so happy with how the natural pine boards complement the other woods in the cabinets, window casings and doors!

The Living Room.

Last week, the guys started working on the exterior siding. We had originally planned on using an acrylic stucco for the colored portions of the exterior, but on the advice from our builder, we switched to using a James Hardie fibre-cement siding. The HardiePanel™ product being used is sustainable, durable, uses raw natural materials (sand, water, wood pulp, cement), creates a better building envelope and has been used on multiple LEED® certified buildings in North America. And to be honest, I really like the look of it and also like that we are not like all other modern homes being built in the city using the flat acrylic stucco.

The house has sections of cedar siding as well as some metal panels and the whole exterior look of the place is really starting to come together. And according to the crew, our little Natural Urban Home is starting to be quite the talk of the neighbourhood, with people stopping and asking all about the house and the materials being used.

The back of the house.

Alright.

Well, now that you are all up to date on the goings on at the Natural Urban Home. I have to get back to packing....

Five weeks are going to go by VERY quickly!

In a bit of a packing panic,

Natasha~

P.S. We have also successfully just sold our current house! WOOHOO for one less thing to be stressed about!