Beating the Heat – How I Did It

Sounds more grandiose than it is, really.
We’re going through a heck of a heat wave here on the east coast. The last 2-3 days have been 90+ degrees with high humidity, and it’s showing no signs of really letting up until at least next week.
I don’t react well to heat – I mean, I can deal with it during the day while puttering around, but sleeping? Bad things happen when Mr. Geek doesn’t get his beauty sleep.
With our super efficient buildings, we really don’t need to air condition an entire building just to make it habitable. But I’ve found that even with proper ‘behaviour’ (closing windows during the day, opening at night, using fans if necessary), I still need to cool the space down when I sleep.
Here’s how I set up my bedroom to use the minimal amount of cooling necessary for me to get a good nights sleep.
A few months ago I built a loft in my bedroom so Zach could have a place to sleep when he was over. I found that on super-hot-humid days (like this week), the upper part of the loft got too stuffy, even with the room AC turned on. I was also uncomfortable ‘turning up’ the AC just so my upper space could get cool. “The rest of the room is fine, it’s just this spot. Hmm.”
So last night I moved the room AC under the loft, turned it on LOW, and dangled one of my sheets over the end of the loft. With that loose enclosure, the low-power AC was easily enough to keep the space cool. I flopped on what is normally Zach’s bed, and slept like the dead for almost 8 hours.
I’m able to cool that space down in about a half an hour. I can turn off the AC when I leave, so in the end, I run the AC only about 9 hours a day on lower power. Just enough for me to get a good nights sleep.
Works for me!

Signal Boosting – MA Cohousing Tour – May 16th

Forwarding some information about the upcoming MA Cohousing Tour:

Come join us for a May tour of 4 cohousing communities on Saturday, May 16th, led by Laura Fitch, a cohousing architect and 15-year resident of Pioneer Valley Cohousing in Amherst. We will travel by bus and visit Camelot Cohousing and Mosaic Commons, 2 recently completed projects in Berlin, MA, then move on to tour New View in Acton and finish up at Jamaica Plain Cohousing. The tour meets and ends at the Riverside MBTA station (on the Green Line and just off Route 128 in Newton). You will have a chance to see 2 active cohousing communities and 2 which have just been completed, and visit with members of each. A fact sheet about each community will be provided and plans are in the making to have lunch at one of the just-completed communities in Berlin!
Cost is $105 per person and includes lunch. For more information and registration, please the ‘tours’ webpage

Cohousing Day #28 – Superinsulation Works!

Super Insulation in ActionToday we had 2 more houses move in (well, technically, only one – since the second is still unloading items from the truck as I type, and it’s 9:30 at night.) Tomorrow we have another household moving in, bringing our grand total to 7 so far. That’s seven families that have pulled up everything, and moved here. And there’s more to come.

But that’s not what I came here to talk to you about.

When we designed our houses, we put great emphasis on Superinsulation. The idea that a house should be insulated far beyond what ‘code’ calls for, to the point that it can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer with a minimal amount of work by heating / cooling systems.

Today we were able to put that to the test. It got incredibly hot today – hot for April in New England, topping out at around 95 degrees according to my indoor/outdoor thermometer (see above). (Note that wunderground history for today says it only got up to 89. But it was still damned hot). According to the thermometer, it got up to 95 outside, but stayed at or below 79 inside the house.

Note that we have no fans running, no AC, in fact all the windows were closed. The house kept in the cool air from the night before – all day long. Even with traffic in and out.

That, my friends, is energy efficiency.

How many other people turned on air conditioners today? We didn’t have to.

Cohousing day #20 – Spontaneous Outdoor Meal!

image1766156110.jpgTonight we had one of those cohousing moments everyone talks about, but this really was experienced first hand.

Cat and I were home doing normal work on the house, the kids were out doing kidstuff around the site. We bump into Diana who mentions she’s making tacos, and would we like to join her and the kids? Well this went further into ‘it’s such a nice evening, let’s eat on the common house porch!’

So we did!

Diana made tasty tacos while I got out the furniture and set things up. Cat finished up the work she was doing on the house, and the 3 adults and 4 kids sat down for a lovely outdoor dinner.

We had a visit from the fellow doing work on Beezys house, and our soon to be neighbor Ken came by as well. Later after we had finished and were lazing around chatting, Kai came by and shared some quiet time as well.

All in all, a nice end to the week, and we got to use a common house resource for something shared and pleasant.

I like this place.

Cohousing Day #10. We have a home.

img_7113.jpgA week and a half now. We’ve been living at Mosaic for a week and a half. Even though only 3 houses are now occupied, the life that is slowly coming to what was once just another construction site is tangible. I see people I’m close to almost every day – if just in passing, or to sit down for a chat. People are coming by to borrow tools, or to say hi, or for no reason at all.
Inside our house, things are starting to look sane and liveable. The living room is turning into a comfortable space, with the boxes receding like a flood tide, leaving furniture and decorations behind.
img_7112.jpgThe site in general? Wet wet wet. Color it mud. But even with the ongoing work, the dirt and rocks, the double parked construction machinery, and the strangers in your house at 7:30 in the morning working on an electrical problem, there’s no other place I’d rather be living.
In the next 2 weeks, I know of 2 definite move-ins, with 1-2 more possible. The neighborhood grows a little more, and a little more dream is realized.
Is is that shimmering utopia we imagined 10 years ago, when we started this project? No. But I’m starting to see glimmers of the thing we’ve been building. Sure, it’s been there, in the community at large, but it hasn’t been tangible and here.
Now. Bit by bit. It’s turning from a dream we all shared, to a place we can all call home.

Cohousing day #5: I am knocked up.

….. by electricians pounding in the front door responding to email I had sent the night before.

I’m working on getting the house internal wiring hooked up and realized (late last night) that the data and telco lines had been miswired. Fortunately our GC checks his mail often and sent the guys over to fix it this morning. Sadly I didn’t realize the problem until at least 5 trips from the basement to the attic (3 flights of stairs). Phew!

The guys saw the problem (yay! I’m not loopy!) and were repunching connectors as I was leaving.