Monday, January 7, 2008

    The Home Show

    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.


    Todd said...

    i'm sure i saw this on a link from one of your links, so you may already be reading it, but there's a blog called 100khouse you might want to look at. scroll down a ways and you'll see some stuff about how economical radiant heating can be. it was surprising to me.

    edit to include link (duh):

    Tai said...

    I hadn't seen that link before, so if it was on our site, Kersten has been hiding goodness from me. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I've heard of being able to do radiant heat for a lot less if you have a relatively small footprint and can use a domestic water heater for the system instead of a boiler.

    Where it gets tricky is doing A/C. In a milder climate, Radiant would save a lot of money upfront because you don't have to duct for forced air, but when it gets frequently above 100 degrees I just can't imagine living without some forced cool air.

    April said...

    I thought about stopping at the home show on Saturday, but ran out of time. Sounds like I didn't miss too much.

    I got to spend some time on a job site where I think they were working with the Owens-Corning version of ICF (I assume so, because it was pink), and they seemed to love it. I've heard nothing but good things about ICF in general.

    Kersten said...

    Wow — I WISH I could take credit for What a great project, and their documentation seems pretty consistent and helpful, too.

    Todd said...

    oh, i remembered where i found that 100khouse link. it was linked from, which is the blog of sarah and joe on renovation voyeur. there, mystery solved. house and fig is a good one too.

    That One Guy said...

    I believe DWELL followed this story and published some followup info as well on that.

    Great project.

    That One Guy said...

    and also - I can't believe you didn't just jump all over that tile bighorn sheep with your credit card.