May 042017
 

I got pretty political during the Federal election in 2015 and I even wrote a post titled “Vote for Bob D’Eith“. Bob was the NDP candidate in my riding.

Well, it’s Provincial election time and I haven’t had the time to investigate the candidates too deeply, let alone create a well-researched blog post about it, but I do have something to say, for what it’s worth.This is my political T-shirt this time around. That’s Neil Degrasse Tyson saying, “What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the latest evidence?”

With a T-shirt like that, you’d think I’d be voting Green, wouldn’t you? Sorry, but we still have a first-past-the-post system here, and in my riding of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, the race is between the NDP and the BC Liberals and I have to vote against the Liberals IMHO. So do what you want, but this time around I’m voting for Lisa Beare of the NDP.

Do I have something personal against my BC Liberal candidate? No, but if we look at the responsibilities of the provincial government, especially healthcare, housing, education and transportation the evidence shows that those files, after 16 years of Liberal government, are not doing well.

What we typically hear from Liberal candidates is that they will create jobs, but I’m hearing from economists that provincial governments have very little control over the economy as a whole. The promises that Liquified Natural Gas will solve everything have been proven hollow, yet they continue making them.

Speaking of LNG, how does such intense support of the fossil fuel industry jibe with fighting Climate Change? I’ve written about the inconsistent support for reducing home energy use, even though I appreciate the new Oil to Heat-pump rebate, but how can a government simultaneously build a massive hydro-electric project like Site C, push LNG and still support homeowners reducing their GHG emissions?

They can’t and they don’t.

Priorities like LNG and Site C demand that the world use more natural gas and more electricity, not less. China should move (and is moving) directly from burning oil and coal to using renewable energy. British Columbians can and should reduce their energy use and switch to renewables, too.

UBC researchers have even found that halting construction of the Site C dam is our best economic move. “The report calls for the project to be suspended as it has become ‘uneconomic.'”

Without First-Past-The-Post, I would say let’s collect the best information from experts on how to solve the challenges before us–the housing crisis, the drug-overdose crisis, rising healthcare premiums, rising BC Hydro rates, climate change, etc.– and then vote for the party whose platform most closely matches what the experts recommend. It is my impression that the NDP and the Greens have platforms that are far more evidence-based so, in this system, it becomes a question of voting for the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating the BC Liberals, whose platform seems based on populism and trickle-down economics.

A case in point in Maple Ridge is the homelessness issue. It’s not unique to Maple Ridge, but two years ago there was a large “tent city” that sprang up in the downtown and wouldn’t go away. Many residents and local businesses naturally wanted to blame the people camping there because they are breaking the law, but homelessness and drug addiction are problems that can be traced to failings in Provincial policies related to healthcare, housing and education.

It’s a question of priorities. The good folks in the BC Liberal party like to campaign on the concept of balancing the annual Provincial government budget. Every election, if they can claim to have done that, many people will vote for them. I guess we think of our household budget and how hard it is to balance that, and surmise that if the government does it, they must be good fiscal managers. However, a province is not a household and the long-term economic and social well-being of the province cannot be managed in this way.

If you want to balance your short-term budget, you must ignore the experts that tell you to invest in education, affordable housing and healthcare. In the long-term, failing to invest will cost far far more. (To be fair to the BC Liberals, our political system is not set up to manage long-term challenges very well and it takes a lot of trust for someone to vote for a party who says they will run a deficit, even if its the right thing to do.)

So, when other parties promise to increase funding to deal with these problems, the BC Liberals fire back that what they are proposing is impossible “within the framework of a balanced budget.” This is a false standard. People are dying. People can’t afford to live in the Lower Mainland. People can’t afford childcare. Beyond the human cost, these crises have long-term disastrous effects on our economy.

The way the BC Liberals have chosen to “balance the budget” has been to cut (or fund inadequately): education (including childcare), healthcare and transportation. Ironically, the result is that ordinary households shoulder the burden of increased healthcare premiums, higher BC Hydro rates, traffic congestion, housing costs, childcare costs, etc. (And if you want to take the extra step of renovating and retrofitting an older home, forget it!)

Yes, while the Provincial government’s books look nice, most households are borrowing heavily. That’s not sustainable.

So what happened to the homeless camp? Did the provincial government step up? No.

As I recall, it was the Municipal government who arranged for a temporary shelter made sure the homeless camp was dismantled. A lot of people didn’t like that our property taxes helped fund a homeless shelter, and neither did I, but somebody had to do something.  Was it worth it? Apparently, yes. While deaths due to fentanyl overdoses are still rising in other municipalities, those in Maple Ridge have gone down. That’s a Municipal Government taking on a Provincial Government responsibility and showing them how it’s done.

Did Maple Ridge Council listen to the experts? Here’s a story on BC Housing presenting to Council last year: click here. BC Housing is the Crown Corporation that should be leading our representatives with fact-based advice. I wonder why their website, www.bchousing.org is showing “service unavailable” right now? Perhaps their fact-based advice is not something Christy Clark would like us to hear right now? Ah well, the information is still out there. UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research wrote a policy framework for the City of Victoria and it clears up a lot of questions.

That “temporary” shelter’s operation stretched out while the homeless hot potato bounced around. How much easier it is for a government if homeless people keep to themselves so we can ignore them, eh?

Nobody wants a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood, but experts will tell you it needs to be centrally located and accessible (among other things) or there is no point. The way it usually works is the city provides land and the Province builds the facility. The Quality Inn was identified as the next step–still temporary, but it would do until a permanent shelter was built with $15 million of Provincial funds. There was, of course, a protest and it seems that our two local BC Liberal MLAs intervened and asked the Housing Minister to cancel the Quality Inn plan. That extended the use of the first temporary shelter.

In this photo of a house I pass on the bus a lot, a BC Liberal supporter displays a “No Shelter” sign in their window. This slogan epitomizes to me short-sighted, mean-spirited NIMBYism.

Next, the City agreed to buy another plot of land for $1 million. In the face of more protests, our MLAs rejected that site, too. More recently, they held a public forum and appointed 7 residents to choose a location for the shelter. Any experts on that panel? Nope. The big thing we know about the panel’s recommendation so far is that it should be outside the city centre and shouldn’t be “low barrier”. Now, I’m sure these are well-meaning, concerned citizens, but how much do they know about where a permanent, multi-faceted housing and service center should be located other than, “not in my back yard”? If we put the facility out of sight (and out of mind) there is a good chance we will pay $15 million for a hardly-used facility while the crisis continues. That’s right, a shelter AND a homeless camp.

This is hardly evidence-based decision making. This is populism at its worst.

While this staggering inaction is continuing, the 2 year-old “temporary” shelter is being closed down and the situation is returning to where we were two years ago when the homeless camp sprang up. Is there another camp? Of course there is. Politically speaking, what our BC Liberal candidates must be hoping is that their supporters will take their anger and frustration out on the people creating the new camp and not on them.

It’s not a bad bet politically. I can imagine a crowd chanting, “Lock them up! Lock them up!” However, what we really need is leadership which listens to both the public and the experts but is not afraid to do what is right based on the best possible evidence. What we have now is MLAs who listen to the people who shout the loudest.

This is where my vote is going this time around.

One last note about the NDP. Someone I know says they will never vote for the NDP because of experiences they had with a labour union 30 years ago. Is that still a thing? I pointed out that Christy Clark was Education Minister 15 years ago when the BC Liberal government illegally altered the teachers’ contract and has been spending millions of Provincial government money fighting a case they must have know they would lose. “But it’s a different party now” came the response.

30 years vs. 15 years.

I don’t like party loyalty and you won’t get me to pledge my future support to any party, but if you hate the NDP on principle but are willing to accept that the BC Liberals can change their ways, you should read my T-shirt again.

What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the newest evidence?

Nov 122016
 

Does Donald Trump’s victory mean the end of Climate Action in the United States?

Does it mean the end of the Paris Accord?

Does it really mean that half of the American people think that Climate Change is a hoax?

I don’t know about the first two, but I can’t believe people who voted for Trump don’t understand that Climate Change is a thing that we have to do something about.

Some of them, maybe…

I suspect they are mostly sick of having it pushed in their faces as if its their individual problem to solve.

Leanne and I can relate.

img_2865At this stage in our renovation and retrofit we’re just trying to finish enough of the house so that the building inspector will let us occupy it and we can get homeowner’s insurance again.

We’d like to spend Christmas in our house for a change instead of next door.

I haven’t been writing the blog because I simply don’t have energy at the end of the day. Weekdays I wake up early to make lunches for the kids, teach a class til noon, pick the kids up from school, and then work on the house til dinner time. Leanne works full-time and keeps up the electrical work with our electrician and her Dad. On weekends its all house all the time.

If this is what it takes for average folks to fight climate change, its no wonder we’re the exception, not the rule. My Eco-Warrior Badge is heavy.

Trump often railed against “the Mainstream Media”. Apparently, it struck a chord. Maybe when you are  struggling to eek out a living and the media reports that climate change is the single greatest threat we face, it’s a little hard to swallow.

The truth is that the media have been under-reporting climate change. There is no confusion among scientists, researchers, NASA, the UN and everyone else who has looked at it for ten minutes but nobody seems to have any solutions besides buy more eco-friendly stuff.

One problem is that most mainstream news is delivered in a context of commercialism. Every story is steeped in commercials for stuff we don’t need and the solution for climate change is presented in products. Buy a more expensive car to reduce emissions. Replace lightbulbs, shop local, buy organic. The market has consumed environmentalism as an opportunity to sell more stuff and that has made everybody cynical.

CBC radio had a story on today about some people who say that Canada should reconsider its commitment to introduce a carbon tax.

Wrong! A carbon tax is precisely the kind of tool we need!

The BC example has been good for the economy while reducing greenhouse gases. It provides incentives for communities to take climate action which takes the pressure off the individual consumer who is already wracked with guilt for buying a new…anything.

What will happen if the US stops taking action on climate change? Will Canada’s economy suffer?

Can I answer that question with a question? Can we stop thinking about the profits of large corporations as if their well-being is more important than anything else for a second?

The Natural Resources minister under Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver was on the radio programme I was listening to. He was so full of misinformation I was yelling at the radio.

One thing he said was that the best way to fight climate change is to push forward in science and technology so that cheaper and better ways to solve the problem come into the market.

Sound reasonable? It’s hogwash. What makes me angry is that he is in a position to know better. All the best information was at his fingertips, but he continues to soothe the shopping public with the message that we can keep doing what we’re doing until technology fixes everything.

One of the biggest lessons we have learned as we work to make our home as energy-efficient as possible is that technology is not the issue.

The technology and techniques have been around a long time and they are so simple that most people can understand easily:

  1. Insulate your house
  2. Insulate your house some more
  3. Insulate your house to the point where people look at what you’re doing and say, “holy crap that’s a lot of insulation”
  4. seal your house (doors, windows, chimneys, vents…)
  5. ventilate your house (you need fresh air now that you sealed it so well) with a Heat-Recovery Ventilator

Now that you have done all that you should not need very much heat in the winter nor cooling in the summer. Now you can decide how you want to provide that little bit of heating and cooling. (Hint: try not to use fossil fuels, including Natural Gas)

Here are a few fun options for heating your house without emitting GHGs: an air-source heat pump, a ground-source heat pump or a sun-pump.

SPOILER ALERT: Leanne and I have decided to deliver heat in the house with water pipes under the floors (and radiators on the top floor) and heat that water with electricity. We’re eschewing a heat pump for the time being but we may be able to partially heat the water with solar panels.

Yes, there are best-practices and some gadgets which help with all this, but the technology is available.

The problem is that not enough people are doing it.

Why are solar panels expensive?

Not enough people are buying them.

Why is it so hard to find a contractor who knows how to retrofit a house?

Not enough people are doing it.

Why does it take so long to retrofit a house?

Not enough people are doing it.

Does this cycle right back to blaming the public for not taking action? No. How can we expect the 99% of people who are not rich to spend a year and a lot of money retrofitting their house when the return on investment will be at least a decade away?

So, let’s not blame the media for ringing the climate bell without offering solutions. The solutions have to come from the people we elected to manage our future. Unfortunately, I don’t think Donald Trump has any solutions and I pray that Canada stays strong and doesn’t get sucked into the past.

Til next time,

James

 

Oct 012016
 

Ever since the spray foam was…installed? Is that the word? Sprayed? Anyway, ever since then, we have been working flat out roughing in electrical, building interior walls, building the basement stairs, putting a skin on the outside of the house and on and on.

imageIn the mornings I am back at ISSofBC teaching English to new immigrants and in the afternoons I pick up the kids and work on the house. I’m so busy I haven’t had time to share some significant events with you: the spray foam installation, the stairs, presenting at our MP’s townhall on Climate Change, to name just a few.

We’re finally nailing down the details of how we will heat our house–with water, as it turns out–and I remembered from my experience putting hydronic please pipes in the basement slab, that the City will probably want a heat-loss calculation done. That will show how much heat will be lost from each room of the house to ensure that the system we put in will meet that need.image

A Heath-loss calculation is not something I can do, so I asked Richard from Meadowridge Plumbing to get one done.

I think that these calculations are usually done assuming standard insulation values and I didn’t want that. We’re going far beyond the minimum in some places and if we use standard values it might mean installing a heating system far bigger than we need. For example, minimum wall insulation in Maple Ridge is only R20 and there will be R50 in some of our walls.

I thought it would help if I marked how much insulation will be in the walls and ceiling on a plan. Here’s what I came up with.

On the top floor, the spray foam gave a minimum of R28 to all the ceiling space. Wherever I can I will add more batt insulation below that. The number will vary based on the size of cavity–those attic spaces are triangular.

image

On the main floor the R-values vary in the roof spaces again and you can see that the front two rooms of the house will remain at R14 because we cannot add insulation in those walls due to heritage considerations.

image

Check out my previous videos to get an idea of what’s going on in the basement. It’s a little confusing from the drawing…

image

PS I always imagined this blog could be a play-by-play of our project as it proceeded but it looks like I will have to tell much of the story in detail later in retrospect. The story is complex and sometimes requires careful wording which takes time. Every moment I am not working on the house keeps my family out of our home for longer, so please accept my apologies if I paint an incomplete picture.

All will be revealed, I promise.

 

Jul 192016
 

Sometimes Shakespeare really nails it.

Lately I have been hearing Leanne say some lines that really echo human-caused Climate Change.

She is playing Titania, The Faerie Queen, in the Bard on the Bandstand production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Midsummer Nights Dream Poster

I am playing Oberon, the Faerie King.

The King and Queen are not getting along and it’s causing all kinds of problems.

Titania describes it like this:

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems‘ thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

Oberon responds with:

Do you amend it then; it lies in you:
Why should Titania cross her Oberon?

Which is a pretty typical response to the global threat of Climate Change, isn’t it? If we’re not denying it’s happening, we’re expecting someone else to do something about it.

The_Quarrel_of_Oberon_and_Titania

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Sir Joseph Noel Paton

 

Jul 152016
 

To my own amazement, I am now the owner of a 1996 Ford Ranger pick-up truck.

DSC04160I thought my next car would be electric!

It seems that new auto sales are stronger than ever even in the face of the fact that the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the internal combustion engine used for transportation. The first is the energy sector.

We ask consumers to reduce their carbon footprint, but it is difficult for most of us, squeezed as we are, to resist the short-term temptation of a low-priced car or truck with a financing package featuring extremely low monthly payments we can absorb into our monthly expenses and forget about.

The fact that the sellers of these vehicles are making their money from financing interest and the inevitable maintenance that goes with gasoline vehicles, is still not causing a much of a dent in our consumer mindset. The sticker-shock of higher-priced electric vehicles has a strong effect even though their minimal fuel costs and minimal maintenance costs result in a much cheaper vehicle over the years.

Combine the cost-effectiveness of electrics with what you can do to integrate your electric car into the electrical system of your home, and the arguments for eliminating fossil-fuel powered vehicles from your life become even stronger.

However, the fact remains it is a mental shift that most of us just don’t have time for. My wife and I talk about not having the “brain space” to focus on making changes to our routines, even if it benefits us. We know we “should” do something, but we’re having enough trouble just getting through the days.

All this to say that saving the world is a long-term project and feeling guilty about day-to-day choices we make is not particularly helpful. You’re reading this blog right now and thinking about this stuff, and that might be enough environmental work for today. Good job!

So how did I end up with a truck?

The best way possible.

Friends we met via our kids moved to Alberta last week and needed to find a home for their truck. They had asked around, but none of the offers to purchase it had come through, so they handed it off to me.DSC04161

It’s a 1996 Ford Ranger. It has a four-cylinder engine so it doesn’t guzzle gas as much as a larger truck and it runs just fine. Three months of insurance cost me $413 and when I put $20 of gas into it, the gas gauge needle actually moved significantly, which is a good sign. (In our Prius, $20 is at least half a tank.)

On the down side, the car had been broken into before our friends bought it for $750 so the doors don’t lock anymore. This will mean we keep nothing in the cab and use a club. We’re used to that. We used to own a VW Rabbit Convertible with a cloth roof and we did the same thing with that car to stop people from slashing open the roof.

The nice thing is that I’m going to be able to pick up construction supplies much more easily now. I have been relying on contractors, family members and neighbours to deliver stuff or lend me trucks until now. That takes a level of planning which is a little taxing.

Environmentally speaking, keeping an older vehicle on the road is a good thing. Throwing away a vehicle and buying a new one is like knocking down a house to build a new one–an incredible waste.

Here’s hoping that in three months I can find a buyer who will fix this little beauty up and keep it running for a long time to come!

Jun 122016
 

Back in December, we made a couple of new political contacts.

John Horgan, James, Leanne,

John Horgan, James, Leanne, and George Heyman in The Little Yellow House

They were John Horgan, MLA for Juan de Fuca, Leader of the Provincial NDP and Leader of the Opposition in Victoria as well as George Heyman, the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and the Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment, Green Economy and Technology.

Continue reading »

Apr 222016
 

Maple Ridge Celebrates Earth Day this Saturday and it looks like it’s going to be super fun as always.ED2016-Save-the-Date-Poster-791x1024

The theme this year is Energy and today I’m trying to let the positive energy flow.

You see, today our engineer visited (again) and signed off on all the structural work we have done on the house. This is a big deal for any construction project because it means you can get to work on the plumbing, the electrical wiring, the insulation and…everything else.

For Leanne and I, it means we are no longer going backwards (fixing structural deficiencies left by our former contractor) but instead moving forward.

Yay for us. Fantastic. Rah.

Nope. I can’t quite muster a celebration right now. By Saturday’s Earth Day Celebration I’m sure I’ll feel better. Absolutely. (Just don’t remind me that we expected to be able to offer tours of our new ENERGY efficient house by now. Sigh.)

Speaking of Earth Day, in honour of the theme of Energy, I have decided to answer what many people ask me:

“How are you going to heat the house?”

I’m sure my past vague answers have been a little frustrating to some.

The thing is that the question is a little backwards. It assumes that the most important consideration when you want to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions is what fuel you use and how you deliver the heat.

Meanwhile I have been tackling the more fundamental question of how we can reduce the amount of heat needed by the house in the first place. Once we know how little heat (and cooling) we need, we can find the perfect delivery system and the perfectly sized system. Remember, this is the family that spent a full year not using their furnace out of pure environmental stubbornness!

Okay, okay. I’ll talk. Here’s what we know.

  1. No fossil fuels.

As I discussed before, natural gas is a tempting option. It is cheap at the moment (cheap enough to be competitive with the cost of the electricity to run a geothermal heat pump) and it is much more efficient and clean-burning than, for example, fuel oil (which is what we had before) or wood (which is how we survived that winter without a furnace). Continue reading »

Apr 162016
 

So I went in to chat with our new Member of Parliament last month. March 3rd.

I won’t lie, it was because it was Federal budget time and I wanted to put retrofitting homes for energy efficiency in the back of his head. It’s one of those things, like funding the arts, that people say we can’t afford but which are actually a great return for the investment.

As you may know, we elected a new government last year. Justin Trudeau is our Prime Minister now and, surprise of surprises, our local Liberal candidate, Dan Ruimy, is part of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal majority government in the House of Commons.

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I say it was a surprise because Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows (and formerly including Mission) has been a polarized Reform/Conservative vs. the NDP riding for a loooooong time. In 2015 I supported the very strong NDP candidate, Bob D’Eith, because I felt that if we sat back and pondered who to support, Stephen Harper would win.

Dan told me he doesn’t want to waste time. He wants to make a difference.

I made an appointment to see Dan in his brand new office before its official opening.  I told him about the Maple Ridge Net Zero Home Energy Retrofit Project now waiting on the shelf for someone to dust it off and set it going.

I told him about the Nelson BC Ecosave Energy Retrofits program.

I told him about Solar Colwood which released its final report last year.

And I told him about the Design Charrette we held in 2013 to move the Retrofit Project to the next step: a project manager and project design.CharretteGroup

Unfortunately, I have been too busy with our own retrofit and renovation of Hammond Forever House, which I hope will be the test case for the larger project, to have a clear proposal ready for Dan (and Justin, for that matter).

Among other things, we chatted about Dan’s apartment which he said is so badly insulated that there is no point wasting the energy to leave the heat on when he is not home. What a common problem! Tenants and homeowners alike suffer with high energy bills while the climate changes. Our best information estimates that Climate Change will cost Canada $5 billion per year by 2020 and there is very little being done to address the problem of inefficient existing buildings in a meaningful way.

The new Liberal Government, Dan said, is looking for innovative and unique programs they can support. Heritage, Energy, Climate Change, reducing home-heating costs for families–all these things are easy to support. Neither of us had a clear idea for the next steps in the Maple Ridge Retrofit program but Dan suggested we keep talking about it. Then he pointed to the large conference table in the next room and told me what it was for.

I left our meeting thinking it may be time to renew my conversation about the community project with our excellent City Staff to see if they have some new ideas on the subject. After all, I’m not the only one around here with ideas. (I haven’t had time to make that call, yet.)

It seems that since that first meeting with Dan, he spoke to a few other people because last week Leanne and I both found ourselves in that next room sitting around that big table with a bunch of other like-minded people. Leanne was there representing Ridge Meadows Recycling and I was there representing, well, this blog I suppose. Others from local environmental organizations were there, too.

DSC03460Dan’s idea was to start some sort of ongoing advisory panel on the environment.

There was a kind of stunned optimism in the room as a result of being invited. Many in the room remarked how much of a change the approach was to the previous government. If you remember, I had some professional criticism for our previous MP.

I also remember appealing to our former Prime Minister to attend a climate meeting while he was in New York in 2014. No luck.

It struck me afterwards that many Canadians may prefer the government to make decisions on their behalf without them having to lift a finger. I can understand that and it would be fine if our MPs were infallible gods and/or if everyone agreed with them. Other people, like myself, believe that building consensus is key and that means citizen engagement.

DSC03459Dan admits that he doesn’t know everything and is willing to collaborate and learn how he can help.

I think I can safely say that everyone in that room will be there next month with bells on. We have a lot of catching up to do!

Jan 312016
 

We’re entering a new phase in the renovation and retrofit of Hammond Forever House.

If you would like to visit and learn more, send me an e-mail at jamesrowley@telus.net and we’ll try to arrange a time for me to show you around. There is lots of work still to be done and if you are willing to pitch in, we will not say no!

The tent.

The tent.

This past week was a difficult one. To make it possible to build the addition and upstairs dormer in the middle of winter, our contractor erected a huge plastic tent over the house. Smart, right?

DSC02968

Unfortunately, it leaks. Leanne and I have been mopping up the floor and setting containers under drips so that not too much water gets through. It’s not too much of a problem if water gets through to the new construction which will all dry out, but we have been noticing signs of water damage on the ceiling of the living and dining rooms which makes it hard to sleep on these rainy nights.

On Thursday evening, January 27th, Leanne and I contributed to a panel discussion after the screening of a film about environmental activism. The film was called Continue reading »

Dec 182015
 

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

Last week I showed you a little bit of the day the concrete truck arrived. Here’s a video of what happened afterwards. Much of this is happening on days when I teach in the mornings so I get limited footage, but here’s a taste.

It’s a medley of clips: removing the re-useable forms, Leanne stacking wood for re-use, checking out the new storm sewer, sump and perimeter drain as well as the white styrofoam that went up on the outside of the concrete, and melting off the sealant where the basement stairs are going to go. Nobody likes rubbing black tar when you’re walking down stairs.

“Are you adding a basement?” people ask when they see our house in the air.

Leanne is a highly skilled sorter

Leanne is a highly skilled sorter

That’s when I feel a little extravagant. It’s true, we already had a basement, but it was a cruel one.

The ceiling was high enough to call the space a basement, but too low to spend any length of time down there. It quickly filled up with our crap which we sorted through this past spring.

When it was finally more or less empty on April 30, 2015, it looked like this:

When it was ready to have the holes in the floor jack-hammered, it looked like this:

I guess it seems a little extreme to raise a house only to put it back down at pretty much the same elevation. Most people leave it up there and build a new story without going through the expense of digging. Maybe it looks like we have money to burn or are just not very bright, but what happened was we started to think of keeping this 92 year-old house forever and our Heritage Revitalization Agreement does not allow us to change the exterior look of the house so drastically.

Putting it back down is exactly what is happening tomorrow. Nickel Brothers is coming back to take away their big steel beams and their heavy Jenga-like cribbing.

Continue reading »