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Green Home Addition Well Underway!

It's been some time since I wrote my first post on our green home project. . . The first phase of our 5 month, 2-story addition project . . began in earnest in mid-May with a deconstruction . . .

So it's been some time since I wrote my first post on our green home addition project. , owing to permit delays and other joyous pre-construction events, turned into T minus 49 days. And now, by some mix of luck and faith, we magically find ourselves at Day 26!

The first phase of our 5 month, 2-story addition project — to give our growing family a little more room and, more importantly, to incorporate some energy efficiencies and alternative energy systems — began in earnest in mid-May with a deconstruction. Deconstruction is markedly different from demolition, which is what you typically see in traditional building projects. In deconstruction, a building is dismantled by the careful removal and salvage of materials with an eye towards reuse. For info on deconstruction, see http://www.rebuildingexchange.org/faq.html 

Our deconstruction — including things like skillful removal of nails and studs from old lumber — was led by the good folks at The Reuse People, a national organization dedicated to keeping "reusable and recyclable building materials out of overburdened landfills. By deconstructing (instead of demolishing) a building, TRP is able to salvage up to 80 percent of the materials and channel them back into the marketplace through donations and sales at its network of retail outlets." 

In our area, The ReUse People have a partnership with Rebuilding Exchange in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood. Rebuilding Exchange gets donated and (sometimes) new materials from projects such as ours and sells them "for a fraction of the cost of new, so they stay out of our landfills, and are available to residents at all income levels, particularly those who can't afford the rising costs of such materials."

We are excited about all of this, and about our contractor, Loop Construction, working alongside The Reuse People for the first time on our job, to get certified in deconstruction. Good stuff.

And even though my husband and I were excited by the deconstruction (which will continue again in about 3 weeks with some interior materials dismantling and recovery), I have to admit it was the massive bulldozer that showed up in our backyard on day 5, and the way they moved what seemed like several tons of earth during the excavation on days 6-9 that got our young children excited. A close secnd for them was seeing the wheelbarrows of cement poured onto our new foundation on day 18.

So where are we today? . . . Well, we've just spent a few days watching the new foundation dry, and are ready to see the crew descend on us again tomorrow to frame out the "body" of the new addition itself. 

We're also trying to get our ducks in a row to start some early planning for the installation of our residential greywater system! As it turns out, we have been working since January with the Illinois Department of Public Health to obtain approval for such a system (which is currently prohibited by IL plumbing code, so not actually permissible by law), and received a letter at the end of March granting us a long-awaited "plumbing code variance" so we can proceed!

I believe ours will be the 2nd such system in the state of Illinois. A residential greywater system reuses water from tubs, showers, and laundry in flushing toilets (since it's really not necessary to source new, potable water for toilet use). The research we've done says we should be able to save 27% of our household water use by installing a greywater system, so we'll be auditing ourselves against this initial benchmark once the system is complete and running for awhile. To learn more about greywater reuse, see http://greywateraction.org/content/about-greywater-reuse

To learn more about our project, stay tuned to forthcoming blog posts as we spend some time this Summer chronicling progress and learnings!

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