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Blog Cabin 2009: Q&A with Phillip Richardson, Greenstone Builders Inc.

An expert answers building questions about the DIY Blog Cabin 2009.

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Do you know yet whether there are going to be steps off the balcony on the back of the cabin? -Suzan

Suzan, We are looking at possibly adding steps down from the main-level deck at this time.

One of the big topics has involved what environmentally friendly and sustainable (aka green) products and steps are being planned for and used in the building of the cabin. Could you give us a rundown of what has been planned? -Kelly

Kelly, we are concentrating on energy-efficient design and building techniques, and using energy-efficient plumbing and HVAC design and equipment. We will be trying to attain Energy Star Gold Rating.

After viewing the video cam and all of the photos, I noticed that there is a mountain sloping towards the cabin. Is there going to be a retaining wall along that side of the home? -Roz

Roz, there will be a small retaining wall on the right side of the house. We will also be grading the area to create a gentler slope.

What is the green board being used on the home instead of the house wrap we typically see? Is the decking made of wood or Trex-type boards? What type of windows are you using? Has anything changed from the original blueprints? What is your favorite detail of the home and what is it like to build a home with America’s eyes on you? -Carrie Miracle

Carrie, the green board on the house and the brown board on the roof are examples of structural sheathing that are utilized during the manufacturing process. This type of sheathing provides a better first barrier against moisture than typical house wraps. What appears as black lines is actually sealing tape that covers the seams. The decking will be a manufactured product, in line with our green building initiatives. The windows are aluminum-clad with argon gas-filled insulated glass.

We have made just a few slight alterations to Pat Kirkland’s magnificent design. For example, the outdoor kitchen will be located on the main-level deck just outside the kitchen, and the window closest to the kitchen will be a door for access to the porch and outdoor kitchen. The window next to the fireplace on the lower level will also be a door for access to the outside from the side of the house.

I think my favorite detail of the house is the back wall of large windows that extends from the main to the lower level. This feature gives you magnificent views from almost every room of the house. Building a home with America watching does make me a little nervous sometimes, but we are eager to show everyone the quality and attention to detail we provide for all of our clients.

Will there be a workshop area in the basement or will it all be "man cave"? - GlenDB

Glen, a workshop is not planned for the lower level. The lower level will contain a man cave, or media room, along with a kitchenette area and open living space.

How are you finding the process? Is this build different from others you have done, and, if so, in what way? - Gail

Gail, the process for us is not very different from the custom homes we are used to building. The only difference would be arranging our schedules for filming.

(Concerning the relationship between architect and builder): Doesn’t the builder, working with a design team, select more of the interior/exterior finishes, for example? Will you be reviewing all of the suggestions already submitted by the bloggers that have to do with construction? - Tingoat

Tingoat, this home is truly a collaborative effort. We work with the DIY Network, developer Jack Fisher and architect Pat Kirkland and consider the suggestions from the bloggers to try and incorporate as many of the ideas as we can into the finished product.

Will you be incorporating a stairway off the back deck to the lower-level patio/cooking area? - Lillie 8

Lillie, we are looking at possibly adding steps down from the main-level deck at this time.

Some people have expressed concern that the dining area is not next to the kitchen. Can the builders and architect change that? - LindaL

Linda, the open design of the home will allow for many options in placement of the furniture and dining area.

What are the dimensions of the kitchen? The floor plans never show the dimensions of the rooms. - Mary from Texas

Mary, the dimensions are not normally made public because the design is the property of the architect.

Mr. Richardson, since most of us bloggers would like for the cabin to have a rear-deck staircase, are you going to build one or not? Can the window next to the breakfast bar in the kitchen be changed to a door instead? That would allow easier access to the side deck instead of having to go out and around. Many bloggers have also made this same request and it is a very good idea! - Shari B in OK

Shari, we are looking at possibly adding steps down from the main-level deck at this time. The windows next to the kitchen on the main level and lower level have both been changed to doors for better access to outside.

Just thinking that it might be easier for you to just make a list of all the green and eco-friendly components that you will be incorporating into the build, and also any structural or design changes that have been made. - Jeanie M

Jeanie, a full list of the building techniques and the energy-efficient design and materials used will be made available.

Will this be a true wraparound porch? - Lynne

Lynne, the porch is on three sides: the front, left and rear of the house.

What kind of septic system is being used on the property? What kind of drainage is being used around the house? What type of medium is being used for the driveway? Will the driveway be graded to ease down to the house? Are you going to caulk the interior part of the exterior walls to make it more energy efficient? What type of windows were used in the house? Are there going to be more trees moved away from the house? - Suthrn_chick

Suthrn_chick, the septic will be a reduced-flow system. The drainage at the foundation is pipe and stone. Also, the gutters will be piped away from the foundation.

The driveway will be paved with pea gravel. The driveway is being graded to allow for a gentle slope. The interior was sealed with foam before the spray foam insulation was installed to seal all air gaps. We’ve used aluminum-clad, argon gas-filled insulated glass windows. We are trying to disturb as little area as possible, but some trees may be thinned or trimmed to accommodate the house and the necessary grading.

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