Sunday, April 28, 2013

Walls and Windows

We have been busy thinking about the details of this structure.  About a year ago, Erica (our architect) and I were busy reading up about various wall systems and trying to pick the most energy efficient system that would fit in our budget.


We explored double-wall, cellulose filled walls, REMOTE walls, plain ol' 2x6 walls, ICFs, and somehow end up on on Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).  Based on performance, construction time and costs, we decided to use 10" SIPs which will create a tight, well-insulated house (~R-38).  Because we are building with SIPs, which are manufactured out of state, many things have to be final when the plans are submitted to the Muni and to the SIPs manufacture.  Once the panels are ordered, windows placements are final and based on a window manufacture's specifications.  So, changing window sizes, placements, brand, etc, would cause problems, to say the least.
10" SIPS make thick walls and deep windows sills! - photo from Scott Homes

A house with super insulated walls probably ought to have pretty good windows. We have been looking for triple pane windows, with good performance numbers.  It is overwhelming how complicated window shopping can be.  Things to consider include, but are not limited to, the U value (opposite of an R value, so the lower the number the better),  Solar Heat Gain number (how much solar heat the window lets in), Visual Transmittance number (how much daylight comes through the glass),

There are plenty of aesthetic options too, that can affect performance as well.  Do you want wood/vinyl/fiberglass, aluminum clad or not, warm bar spacers for your simulated divided lights, internal or external divided light bars, and much, much more.

I think we have landed on a Kolbe, a window manufactured in Wisconsin and sold by a dealer in Fairbanks.  My builder seems supportive, but would prefer a local dealer. The dealer is planning to fly down here for the delivery, which is nice to know. Anyway, the other day I received my weirdest package to date: a window corner sample. It is sitting on my bookshelf along with exterior color samples.  I will return it to the dealer when we are done with it.
Kolbe window corner - aluminum clad exterior with pdls


Kolbe interior with square pdl option and square bead option
Performance wise, it is probably middle of the road for triple-pane windows.  There are some European windows have significantly better U/R values, but would cost as much plus the shipping from Europe to Alaska. There are some other American made windows with better U values and mirror heat glazing, but aesthetically cannot compare and the mirror heat glazing has some strong critics.

The Kolbe windows have all the aesthetic details we were looking for, including matching triple-pane doors.


Here are a few of the criteria I considered when choosing Kolbe over comprable windows (including Marvin and Loewen)



  • smaller divided lite muntins - ⅝”, ⅞”
  • square muntins
  • square glazing beads
  • warm edge spacer
  • pine interior available (we plan to paint the interior)
  • hidden pull down shades available
  • triple pane doors available
  • flat panel on doors (no raised panels on this house, inside or out)
  • low U values - .20/.18 fixed
  • triple pane
  • double argon
    1. Interior wood raised panel
    2. Interior wood flat panel
    3. Exterior extruded aluminum raised panel
    4. Exterior extruded aluminum flat panel
  • adjustable shgc for South side of house




I think they will look beautiful and they will perform significantly better than your average double-paned window.  It is one of the biggest single expenses we will have and it is a tough decision to make.  The research is done, so now I am going to cross my fingers and hope we love them when the are installed.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

For the love of red

We were contemplating modeling our exterior after this house:

Kell Architects

Our builder, our architect and Dan all love it.  I really like it, but when it came time to actually pick the colors (siding stain, window colors, roof), I kept thinking how boring it seems.  I was trying to pick an interesting color for the door, but couldn't figure it out.

Then, while perusing Houzz, I saw this snowy scene:


Hmm.  Red.  Red in the snow.  Red and grey.



Then I started thinking about all the red houses I have fallen in love with over the years (while on my search for the perfect house plan and before we hired Erica).  Like this one (I actually brought this photo to show Erica):


Traditional Exterior by Baxter General Contractor Northway Construction Services


There were even more, but you get the idea.

So, I played around with our Sketch-Up model (I have no idea how much I paid for Erica to create this model, but it was worth every single penny).

I went from this idea:





to this:







It looks a little cartoonish, but it sure helps me imagine it better. The challenge may be finding the right red stain for the cedar siding.  I am going to try out some out later today. Maybe I will also go take a picture of our snowy, well-tree lot and put this image on top of it.

So, what do you think?  Greyish or Red?

Or there is always, my favorite; navy blue...



I love Sketch-Up, maybe even more than I love red.