Figuring that we ought to take advantage of the resources in our area, and also figuring that we needed an entertaining way to kill a few hours, Saturday we went to the home show in Sandy. The vast majority of the exhibits were entertaining in the way I think a renaissance fair might be entertaining — kind of a hoot once in a blue moon but really not my thing. For instance, this tile arrangement:
There were many more alarming examples of wildlife in home decor, such as this lamp base:
We also noticed a few too many exhibitors of coffins (I wish I had a picture of the white lacquer box with hot pink lining — nothing better to carry you into the afterlife). And etched granite designs featuring more wildlife.
I was a little snippy with one exhibitor who was displaying a binder of home plans for sale. I started flipping through the binder, looking at the different plans (ick and more ick, I'd say), and the exhibitor asked whether we were looking to build. I said yes, but we'll probably use an architect. He immediately said, do you have one already? Well, no, but we know of a few we'd like to talk to. Then he asked whether we were in the industry. Well, no, but we do have a few connections and are fairly optimistic. The undertone of his remarks felt a little like he was trying to convince us that it would be too difficult to retain an architect if we weren't in the industry. Eh, maybe. But we're still not purchasing one of these. Now, if he were talking about plumbers I might believe him... His house plans were full of gables and peaked roofs and extraneous columns and massive garages and turrets and windows in odd places and, and, and.
This particular home show was billing itself as an eco-expo; as far as I could tell, there were about 10-12 exhibitors who were advertising green products or services, a few Toyota hybrids on display and a speaker talking about compact fluorescent bulbs. Green washing, anyone?
Enough griping. We did run across a few gems, including a very interesting booth about insulated concrete forms. This particular brand of the product uses styrofoam blocks that look a lot like hollow Duplos. You stack the blocks in the dimensions of your house, reinforce with a little rebar and few joists for flooring/ceiling/etc. and pour concrete into the middle of the styrofoam. The mass of the concrete makes for a sky-high R value, major sound deadening capabilities and a nearly indestructible house. You save on drywall inside the house because normal construction requires drywall sheets to meet on a stud in order to secure them; that method can make for a lot of waste if you have to trim the drywall. ICF don't require the use of studs at all — they're built into the styrofoam and concrete. (If you read any of our sidebar links, check out the archives of Modern in Minnesota — they used ICF in that very cold climate.) ICF does have its downsides, notably that it makes for thicker walls, which decrease living space on a small lot. Concrete is also pricey, but the overall construction would be only slightly more than traditional building because of comparable rises in cost of lumber, siding, etc. Obviously, it piqued our interest.
We ran across a booth about solar electric and thermal panels (thermal for heating systems as opposed to electric for running, say, your vacuum cleaner). There we learned that the "starter" solar array system costs around $8,500 to $10,000, including installation and all energy company rebates. That same system provides an average of about 35 percent of a house's electricity; more if you are conscientious and conserve. Wow, that's a lot of money.
We learned about blown-in fiberglass insulation that fills nooks and crannies better than sheet insulation (without formaldehyde or similar chemicals). We also learned that it is made of recycled glass and sand, so it's fire-proof without chemical treatment (can't say the same for blown-in insulation made of recycled paper). And we met a very nice man who promised to help us out with radiant heat should we decide to go that route — and we would love to.
In all it was great to hit up a place that offered so much under one roof — the leaping wolves I need for my next table lamp as well as the solar panel contractor I wasn't sure existed in Utah. It was nice to see that all these wonderful things we read about happening in California or the northeast can also happen in Utah. With some work. And some cash.