Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Out of the Weeds

How is it possible that I haven't posted since May!!! So much has happened. Actually, there is a pretty solid chance that we may be breaking ground in the next two weeks!

Ok, ok, let me back up. Last you heard we had selected a general contractor. Helios Design + Build, and their representatives Hans Fedderke and Aash Desai, have been great. They are really into the spirit of the project. I know we made the right choice. It turned out that Indiana Building Systems (IBS), the manufacturer, decided that they wanted our GC to manage their contract, not the owners (us), so unfortunately for us that meant that Helios needed to add a fee for managing that contract. It took a while to get that settled, but ultimately we received a competitive bid from Helios and currently have a signed contract.

We also (and when I say " we", I mean Jeff) went back through the whole zoning and permitting process as we made some modifications to the house that rendered us back to the beginning of the queue. Fortunately, after some modifications and corrections, and because we still qualified for the green permit process, we are approved and all but have the permits in our hands.

Jeff told me today that he amassed all the big wigs from the Chicago Department of Buildings to brief them on this project as well as to determine how the inspection process would go. Lo and behold, DOB is embracing this project and is even starting to reconsider some of their inspection policies to help more development like this in the future. Additionally, they all want to be present for the "house setting," that is when the modules will be set on the foundation. Personally it makes me nervous as hell, but I will have every faith in our crane operator...I think.

Lastly and most importantly, we are now working with Green Choice Bank. Finally at the end of July they finished the acquisition of Family Federal Bank, a local community bank. This was the final act they needed to complete before they could start "doing business." Fortunately, Green Choice really believe and embraces our project, as opposed to the other lending institutions we've spoken to, and are moving mountains to make this happen as quickly as possible. The longest lead time item is the appraisal, which is underway now, and is expected to be completed next week. Fortunately this appraiser (forgive me, but I don't know who it is) will take into account all the green components of our home. And just to name a few that I didn't even know, here is the list we gave them:
  • Seeking Platinum LEED-H certification
  • Seeking Energy Star certification (we may also be certified for ES's new indoor air quality program as well)
  • Achieve 600+ points with the Chicago Green Homes program (qualifying the project for expedited permit, and permit fee waiver)
  • Meets IL DCEO building standards
  • Achieve a 46 HERS rating (prior to blower door test)
  • Building envelope: R-30 walls, R-55 roof, with R-4 (u-.25) windows
  • Ductless mini-split heating/air-conditioning system with 21 SEER condensers, 10 HPSF heating
  • Indoor ventilation provided by 94% efficient HRV
  • Solar thermal system, dovetailed to on-demand hot water heater to reduce water heating costs
  • Energy efficient lighting, water conserving plumbing fixtures, and Energy Star rated appliances
  • Indoor finishes are water based, low-VOC
  • Exterior materials are low-maintenance, made from recycled content and are recyclable
  • Recycled content for interior finishes as well as construction materials (steel, concrete, gypsum board)
  • Roof is engineered to receive a future vegetated (green) roof
  • Building is pre-piped for future photovoltaic panels (once the PV panels are installed, our HERS rating goes from a 46 down to a 35
Pretty impressive, huh? I don't even know what most of this stuff means, but I know it's good.

So, GC contract in place, financing pending, we are well on our way to making this thing happen! I hope you are as excited as we are.

So, in real life, things are more complicated. We are expecting the home to be complete (in move-in condition) by mid-October. Yes, I know, I know, things can happen that can delay this, so we need to be flexible. I get it. The problem is, our llease ends September 30th and our landlord will ABSOLUTELY not let us extend our lease for two more months. Not even one more month. They claim that October 1st is the only time of the year that you can rent an apartment and they will not forgo this opportunity to help us (or at least that's the way we see it). So we are SOL as of now. We are exploring all our opportunities. In fact, tonight I've been scouring Craig's List for temporary housing opportunities. Trouble is, we have three cats. Most places don't want pets at all, but three cats seems to be too much for folks to take. Fortunately my sister has graciously offered to host Maude in her home (with her twin 6 year old boys to play with), so we are very appreciative of that. That takes care of one problem. Hopefully one of these Craig's List opportunities will come through. Most are fully furnished apartments that folks rent out for short term stays. We are trying to save some cash, so this would be the most affordable option. So hopefully we can get that taken care of soon.

The other issue, although slightly humorous, is that our once bland, gritty site suddenly blossomed with 6 foot weeds seemingly overnight. One of our new neighborhoods kindly alerted us to this fact. Michael and can I say this...are very "urban." We showed up at the site with two kitchen knives and a pair of scissors thinking we could tackle this simply. When we arrived to see these towering beasts, we realized we were idiots and promptly went to Home Depot to buy some real gardening tools. Fortunately our idiocy provided entertainment for many people, including our new neighbors.

I know I should have been posting this stuff more frequently, and then I throw all this out in one blob. As construction progresses, I promise to post more frequently.


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  2. I love the way you write! Very entertaining, and it all seems to be good news.

  3. Congrats! I'm so excited to see it all come together. I'll say a little prayer for your crane operator's steady hands.