Preparing to Lower the House

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

Last week I showed you a little bit of the day the concrete truck arrived. Here’s a video of what happened afterwards. Much of this is happening on days when I teach in the mornings so I get limited footage, but here’s a taste.

It’s a medley of clips: removing the re-useable forms, Leanne stacking wood for re-use, checking out the new storm sewer, sump and perimeter drain as well as the white styrofoam that went up on the outside of the concrete, and melting off the sealant where the basement stairs are going to go. Nobody likes rubbing black tar when you’re walking down stairs.

“Are you adding a basement?” people ask when they see our house in the air.

Leanne is a highly skilled sorter
Leanne is a highly skilled sorter

That’s when I feel a little extravagant. It’s true, we already had a basement, but it was a cruel one.

The ceiling was high enough to call the space a basement, but too low to spend any length of time down there. It quickly filled up with our crap which we sorted through this past spring.

When it was finally more or less empty on April 30, 2015, it looked like this:

When it was ready to have the holes in the floor jack-hammered, it looked like this:

I guess it seems a little extreme to raise a house only to put it back down at pretty much the same elevation. Most people leave it up there and build a new story without going through the expense of digging. Maybe it looks like we have money to burn or are just not very bright, but what happened was we started to think of keeping this 92 year-old house forever and our Heritage Revitalization Agreement does not allow us to change the exterior look of the house so drastically.

Putting it back down is exactly what is happening tomorrow. Nickel Brothers is coming back to take away their big steel beams and their heavy Jenga-like cribbing.

Continue reading Preparing to Lower the House

UBC, BCIT, Light House and Us

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

We can’t do this alone.

There has to be people who know how to take an existing home and make it energy efficient without tearing it down and wasting all that energy and resources. It’s not rocket science.

With the climate changing and everyone aware of why and even what we have to do about it, why do most contractors still stare at you blankly when you say you want to insulate beyond what is required by the building code?

These are questions I asked myself when we started to plan the renovation and retrofit of our house.

I took this quote from DesmogCanada:

“Frankly, we need an army of carpenters, electricians and contractors going out to plug leaky buildings,” federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May said during the August 6 leaders debate. “Thirty per cent of carbon pollution comes from the energy we waste and the money we waste heating the outdoors in the winter and cooling it in the summer.”

and she is 100% right except that we needed it 30 years ago.

However, if you take a few years to work up to your renovation and you connect with people like Lorraine Gauthier of the Now House Project and Monte Paulsen of City Green Energy Solutions, you start to not only meet people who know how to do this, but a few who are willing to help you do it.

I told you about our relationship with the BCIT Building Sciences Centre of Excellence who put sensors in the house for a year to analyze the indoor air quality. One student wrote a report using three months of the data which you can read in a series of Hammond Forever House posts here.

I also told you about the design charrette we held in Maple Ridge to hash out a plan for a community home energy retrofit project (hey, if our government won’t do it, I guess we have to). With insufficient support, the project has been shelved pending the completion of our own retrofit which I hope will set an example.

2013 Now House

One of the participants at the charrette, Light House Sustainable Building Centre, has made it possible for more students to get involved in our humble little Forever House. These ones are 4th-year Environmental Science Students at the University of British Columbia who will put what they have been studying to practical use.

With UBC involved, BCIT has agreed to help with the post-retrofit air quality analysis so that students will be able to study the practical effect of the water and energy saving measures we are able to implement. I love this idea because, although the techniques are not new, we need more people out there who know them and we need to get the word out about what is possible for ordinary homes.

Continue reading UBC, BCIT, Light House and Us

BCIT Conclusions

This post comes with my sincere gratitude to Professor Rodrigo Mora, who heard about our project and thought it would make a good subject for his students at the BCIT Building Sciences Department, and to his students Colin Tougas and Nichole Wappel who took him up on it. I have been posting (and commenting on) Nichole’s results.

How did I get BCIT to study my house? Well, a Scout leader gave me Steve Finn’s name who heads the Sustainable Energy Manager Program who put the call out to other faculty and that’s how Rodrigo heard. Simple! Of course, I don’t know if any home reno could attract such interest. Our project was firmly in the context of the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project at the time and our stated goal is to reach for net-zero energy use when we’re done.

There is more to that story, but here at last are Nichole’s conclusions. She used data collected by sensors placed in several rooms of the house and the last one in her report was the Master Bedroom. The Conclusions and Recommendations, however, are for the whole house.

For the full BCIT story so far, click on the BCIT link in the right-hand menu.

Master BR

Similar to the children’s upstairs bedroom, while the average CO2 was approximately 940ppm, higher “spikes” are regularly occurring at night time when the bedroom is occupied.


In general, the average carbon dioxide concentration in the home can be considered moderate. Higher concentrations occur in the bedrooms when the house occupants go to bed; however, these concentrations decrease shortly thereafter. It appears that natural ventilation is performing adequately for most rooms of the house, with the exception of the bathroom. The bathroom appears under-ventilated, and is likely contributing significant amounts of moisture into the attic. The oil-burning furnace appears sufficient to heat the house to temperatures comfortable for the occupants.

The data analysed in this study was limited to temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide concentrations. Although CO2 is often considered a good indicator of ventilation, it does not provide information on other potential contaminants in the house such as mould, pet dander, dust mites, etc.

The following recommendations should be considered for future research, and during the renovation project:
 Complete air sampling and testing to check for the presence of biological contaminants.
 Install an air barrier to reduce air flow from the house interior into the attic through ceiling
finishes, and provide air-tight gaskets around attic access hatches.
 Renovations will require increased home airtightness to control air and moisture flow through new, highly insulated building enclosure assemblies. The existing natural ventilation strategy will likely be insufficient to provide required ventilation airflows once the house is air sealed. Other ventilation strategies should be considered, such as providing mechanical ventilation with fresh air intakes.

Thank you Nichole! You rock! Allow me to comment here on your conclusions.

After all the pains Dave-the-father-in-law and I took in 2008 to seal this leaky house, Nichole’s comment about “natural ventilation” “performing adequately” except for the bathroom made me wince. However, in a home with no mechanical ventilation system except the furnace fan which only comes on to blow warm air around, it’s good we didn’t do too good a job!

At the top of my wishlist after we take another crack at sealing the “natural ventilation” (ie: leaks) is installing a Heat Recovery Ventilator just to keep the air fresh and free of those other “potential contaminants” Nichole couldn’t measure. Heating and cooling is another question entirely.

As any good report will have, here are Nichole’s list of references. May you find them useful!


ASHRAE Standard 55 Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy 2010. American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc., 1791 Tullie Circle NE, Atlanta, GA.

Birmingham & Wood. Whitehead Property – Conservation Plan. PublicLAB Research + Design.
Dales, R., Liu, Ling., Wheeler, A., Gilbert, N.L. 2008. Quality of Indoor Residential Air and Health. Canadian Medical Association Journal, Vol.179, pp.147-152.

Fisk, W.J., Satish, U., Mendell, M.J., Hotchi, T., and Sullivan, D. 2013. Is CO2 Indoor Pollutant? ASHRAE Journal, March 2013.

Sherman, M. 2004. ASHRAE’s New Residential Ventilation Standard. American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc. ASHRAE Journal January 2004, pp.149-156.

Mora, R. 2014. Class Lectures Notes for BSCI 9170 – IAQ, Ventilation, and Thermal Comfort.

Nichole’s Report VI The Living Room

The boy loves the fire
The boy loves the fire

Over the past winter, the living room has become the warmest room in the house with its wood-burning insert pumping out the heat. Even last spring, when Nichole from BCIT got the data for her report and the oil furnace was still in use, you can see from her results how warm it got in there when we had a fire.

For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, entitled Evaluating Interior Environmental Conditions of a Maple Ridge Home, click on the BCIT category in the right hand column.

The living and dining room will be the least changed in the house when we renovate. We are restricted by our Heritage Agreement from adding insulation on the outside, thus altering the exterior appearance; insulating from the inside and trying to reproduce the beautiful wood detailing would be a shame.

What we could do, blow in foam insulation, has been done, but at every place where the wood panelling contacts the studs which contacts the exterior siding, there is significant heat loss. In an infra-red photograph, the studs appear as red stripes on the wall, glowing with heat loss.

In our quest to get as close to zero net use of energy as possible, we have decided to leave these rooms alone and do a deeper retrofit on other parts of the house.

Here is what Nichole had to say about the living room in her report:

Living Room
Temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 data for the living room is plotted in Figure 7 below. Figure 8 illustrates the spread of hourly data points on a psychrometric chart, with a comfort zone in yellow assuming a “sedentary” activity level. For the majority of the time, the interior conditions fall within the comfort range. There are isolated instances with high temperatures, which are isolated to the living room. These occurrences likely indicate that the occupants were using the fireplace in this room. Occupants typically expect higher temperatures in the proximity of the fireplace when using one, so the higher temperatures are likely to result in excessive discomfort.


Me again. You may remember that a film crew used the house during this period and that is why the temperature and humidity dive sharply for a few days there. [I believe the film was called The Memory Book and it was made for the Hallmark Channel. Let me know if you recognize our house!] The sound department doesn’t want the furnace to kick on suddenly in the middle of a take, so they shut it off completely.

These wild ups and down in air quality are what modern houses are supposed to be designed to avoid. With the Heat Recovery Ventilator we want, fresh air will be circulated throughout the house evenly.

In the room with the fire, however, I expect we will occasionally be a little nostalgic for the spikes in temperature the insert provided. With an electric, simulated fire, even one that gives heat,  it will never quite be the same. It is the constant heat loss of a chimney I will not miss, nor will I miss the wasted money nor the oil furnace.

Progress sometimes means sacrifice.

Nichole’s Report V The Solarium

Sunroom/solarium with cat furniture and litter box
Othello in the iMac

We call this room the sunroom, the mudroom and the laundry room. Nichole dubbed it the solarium which is also a good name. It was once a back porch but, like many, it was walled in years ago. The cats spend a lot of time here; their litter boxes, food, water, scratching pads, and furniture are all in here. So is the iMac cat bed. Actually, we have the water in the kitchen now because the sunroom got too cold and the water froze.

When we were refurbishing the house from 2007-2009 this room filled up with junk.



After the first retrofit and the house was painted, we cleaned it up, painted, replaced the old carpet with vinyl flooring and moved the washer/dryer from the basement in here.

The new washer from craigslist on the new flooring, 2009
The old washer from craigslist on the new flooring, 2009. Who needs cable TV?

The floor is sloped like the porch it once was and the washing machine bounces on it energetically during its spin cycle. We replaced the one pictured with a high efficiency model I got on craigslist in 2013. I had bought the first one on craigslist, too. (I get everything on craigslist.) I think the old one’s motor went kaput which is the risk you run buying used appliances. Still, I save about $1000 each time, so it’s worth fixing or replacing them every so often.

Have you noticed that appliance stores will give a lower price on buying a washer/dryer set? That means that one machine will die first and people will often buy a new pair instead of repairing it. The machine that is still good is usually pretty new with no problems. That’s what happened with the new HE washer. I bought it in April 2013 for $280. It was 4 years old then. So far, so good!

Little HOBO hiding on a shelf
Little HOBO hiding on a shelf

Anyway, how does this old walled-in porch measure up? Here is what Nichole found. For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand column.

I love Nichole’s graphs which show temperature and relative humidity (RH%) on the same graph (no CO2 sensor this time). What does this information tell us about how we should renovate?


Temperature and relative humidity data for the solarium is plotted in Figure 6 below.


The door between the solarium and the remainder of the house is often kept closed, and there is a cat door from the solarium to the exterior, so the environmental conditions within the solarium are highly influenced by the exterior conditions. This room is not generally occupied by the house occupants, but rather the cats reside in this room a lot of the time. This room is in effect acting as vestibule to buffer air leakage that may result from the cat door to the exterior.

To elaborate on Nichole’s commentary, the windows are single-paned and the wall cavities below them are hollow–no insulation. When we blew foam into the exterior walls, we did, however, fill the walls between the sunroom and the rest of the house, which is why we keep the door closed.

The sunroom can become a source for passive solar heat, but in winter the heat leaks out as soon as the sun disappears.

Catdoor leading into the panty
Catdoor leading into the panty

Nichole was mistaken about the cat door. It would probably make more sense to have it in the sunroom door as she describes, but I had the clever idea of converting a cold-cupboard hole in the pantry/office into a catdoor. Then I had to make another hole from the pantry to the sunroom. That way the cats can come and go to and fro (I can’t imagine opening the door every time one of three cats wants in or out!) The heat sneaks out those holes, too, however.

It seemed like a nice idea at the time. Fortunately, this part of the house will be rebuilt and we can get it right. But where does one put a catdoor in a super-insulated and sealed house?

It must be the lack of heat or insulation/sealing that results in those wild temperature and humidity variations. Not a very comfy room to hang out in, but the cats seem to like it.

Let’s compare Nichole’s results to the BC Hydro elelctricity consumption and, more relevantly, the average outside temperature. Shall we?
I think it is remarkable that the temperature can spike to 25 degrees celsius on March 1st when the outside temperature seems to have dipped to close to freezing. The only explanation I have is solar heat. Now, if the room were insulated, we could keep more of that heat.

People say poo-poo to solar power around here because we get a lot of cloud. These results suggest it’s poo-poo to those people, especially since the cost of solar panels continues to drop. Excuse my language.

Nichole’s Results IV The Kitchen

Kitchen sensors
Kitchen sensors

The temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide sensors were placed on top of the china cabinet in the kitchen. This cabinet was left to us by Leanne’s grandmother on her father’s side.

For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand column.

I love Nichole’s graphs which show temperature, relative humidity (RH%) and CO2 level (in parts per million) all on the same graph. What does this information tell us about how we should renovate?


Temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration data for the kitchen is plotted in Figure 5 below.


The carbon dioxide concentrations and the relative humidity appear to be coupled, generally following the same trends over time. This correlation is reasonable, as the occupants spend a lot of their time in the kitchen, and carbon dioxide and water vapour are both produced by occupant activities (breathing, cooking, etc.), and would be similarly affected by ventilation. Despite the average CO2 level of about 950ppm, the CO2 concentration is above 1,000ppm much of the time, and rises above 1,500ppm on several occasions. These high values may affect the occupants’ ability to perform decision-making tasks, and may indicate that other contaminants are not be sufficiently removed through ventilation.

Hmmm…I definitely have trouble performing decision-making tasks! Maybe now I can blame it on high CO2 levels!

I suppose it is a blessing that all our efforts to seal the house were not more successful; the “ventilation” Nichole mentions is mostly air leakage and without it, CO2 levels would be even higher. We may not be enjoying the new ventilation system yet, but at least we’re not pickling our brains in CO2.

Nichole’s Results III Bedrooms


At this time in 2014 there was a temperature and humidity sensor in the daughter’s upstairs bedroom and a CO2 sensor was added in March. Our children are a big reason why we want to renovate and why we want to do it right so this section of Nichole’s report is of special interest.

For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand column.

I love Nichole’s graphs which show temperature, relative humidity (RH%) and CO2 level (in parts per million) all on the same graph. What does this information tell us about how we should renovate? How is the air quality in the upstairs bedrooms affecting our children’s health?

2nd Floor Child’s Bedroom

Temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration data is plotted in Figure 3 below. CO2 data was only available after February 25.

[James’ Note: I have added the BCHydro data for electrical consumption and outside temperature below Figure 3 for comparison.]

Nichole Fig.3

On Feb.6th last year it was 14 degrees colder
On Feb.6th last year it was 14 degrees colder


While the average CO2 concentration was approximately 1,100ppm, higher “spikes” are regularly occurring at night time, when the bedroom is occupied. Figure 4 provides a closer view of the data over a three day period, from March 5 to March 8. As expected, the CO2 levels increase sharply around 7:30pm, which is around the time that the child goes to bed; interestingly, the CO2 concentration decreases shortly after the child goes to bed, and continues to decline throughout the night. This appears to be a result of the exterior temperatures decreasing over night, driving greater stack effect ventilation.

Nichole Fig4

Thank you Nichole!

This last graph gives you a picture of our bedtime routine. The CO2 spikes when the kids, Leanne and I snuggled into the big bed in the room with the sensors to read bedtime stories. At lights-out time I would typically go downstairs (not enough room in the bed) and Leanne would fall asleep with the kids. At that point there is not so much breathing in the room and CO2 drops. Leanne usually woke up in an hour or two and came downstairs, leading to a further drop in CO2 and a much happier husband.

I’m proud of how consistent we are with bedtimes and this graph reflects that consistency.

From Nichole's report
From Nichole’s report

There is little air circulation in the upstairs bedrooms. Dave the father-in-law helped us install a new heating duct in each room, but they do not seem to be very effective. Perhaps this is because they are smaller ducts, but perhaps, without a coresponding duct to take cold air down to the basement, the warm air has nowhere to go. Certainly the BCIT results suggest that air is not moving. However, it looks like the oil furnace combined with the electric space heater in the room were keeping the temperature pretty steady at least.

Do Nichole’s results prove that our efforts to seal and insulate the upstairs worked? Every exterior wall was covered with vapour barrier before the drywall was put up. The only leaks would be through gaps at the windows, attic entrances and holes made for climbing wall gromits, ladders, etc. If so, we can see here the effects of sealing an old house without installing the necessary ventilation system at the same time: CO2 spikes.

So should we be worried? 2000 parts per million of CO2 is not desireable. Carbon dioxide is not dangerous in a room except as an indicator that there is a less-than-ideal amount of oxygen (and that there may be other air problems). However, the spikes of CO2 are short-lived, lasting about an hour, so there is no need to panic. When we renovate we will install an effective ventilation system that will circulate fresh air throughout the house.

Lately, we have been heating with wood and electricity exclusively and we are more conscious of not letting the heat escape. I wonder how CO2 levels are affecting our health right now.

It’s a good thing we expect to be finally renovating in 2015. We expect to sign the final Heritage Revitalization Agreement on Tuesday and I’m meeting another contractor today. More on these developments later!

Nichole’s Results II Bathroom

This is where the data starts getting juicy.

Master bedroom below, bathroom above
Master bedroom below, bathroom above

Sunday was bath day but we forgot so yesterday after school and the kids had their half-hour of iPad time I filled the tub. They used to bathe together all the time but now sometimes the daughter prefers to wait so she can bathe alone.

Iron bathtubs cool quickly
Iron bathtubs cool quickly

While the son bathed the daughter passed out in the master bedroom and I let her sleep until it was time for dinner before we headed out for Beavers (him) and Cubs (her). She had a mild fever last night and lost some sleep hallucinating and wandering around the house demanding, “It’s snuggle time!” I thought sleep was more important than bath.

The result was a full tub of warm water washing only one kid (a scandalous waste in our house). The other result, as usual, was a lot of humidity in that corner of the house. With no central heating fan blowing air around I am reluctant to drain the tub when the water is still warm. I don’t know how good the moist air is for us, but I just want to suck all the warmth out of it I can before I let it go down to warm the sanitary sewer.

Another thing I don’t like doing is living in a leaky, badly insulated house and burning wood and oil to heat the neighbourhood.

Anyway, here is part two of “Nichole’s Results” in which she comments on the fact that, in winter, we don’t like opening the windows in the bathroom to let the humidity out–especially now that we’re refusing to turn the heating on!

For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand column.


Temperature and relative humidity data is plotted in Figure 1 below.

The bathroom window
The bathroom window

The bathroom does not have a dedicated exhaust ventilation system, and the homeowners do not consistently open the window for ventilation due to cooler exterior temperatures, so the humidity levels in the bathroom are often very high. Figure 2 illustrates the spread of hourly data points on a psychrometric chart, prepared using the Ecotect software; a comfort zone is indicated in yellow, assuming a “sedentary” activity level. For a large portion of the time, the conditions in the bathroom fall outside the comfort range, and are primarily too cold. This helps to explain why  occupants are reluctant to open the windows to increase ventilation, as this would also decrease the air temperature further.The change in temperature profile from about March 16 to March 23 is due to the house being unoccupied during the family’s vacation.


It’s true. We took the kids to Disneyland for the first time. We wanted to do something special with the small inheritance Leanne’s Grandma had left her.

Anyway WHAT A COOL GRAPH! AmIright? You can tell exactly when we bathed. Awesome.

The temperature in there is bouncing up and down by 3 or 4 degrees Celsius every day, dictated, I guess, by the programmed thermostat, the amount of sunshine coming in the windows and the number of people in the house. I imagine in a really comfortable home, a good ventilator is circulating the air and controlling the humidity so those spikes become a nice gentle wave. After feeling pretty smug about how well we sealed the house in 2008, this graph is pretty sobering.

imageSpeaking of our vacation, it looks like I set the thermostat for 18 degrees celsius in the day and 16.5 at night. That is how far the blue line bounces up and down in the third week of March. It is pretty regular there until around March 20th. That is when a movie crew filmed at the house and turned off the furnace completely for hours at a time (they do that for sound recording). I guess that tells us how fast the house will lose heat without any source at all.

How do you think your house compares? I would love to hear your comments because I have heard that, even using “modern” building codes of 30 or even 20 years ago, similar problems exist in more recent homes. Remember that this data was collected AFTER we insulated the attic spaces and pumped foam into the walls.

Let me add a graph from BC Hydro for the same time period.

Electricity Consumption and outisde temperature
Electricity Consumption and outisde temperature

One thing that is fun to note is the bathroom humidity went down when it was cold outside. I suppose you should also see our electricity consumption go up when the humidity spikes because we use electricity to heat the water for the bath and shower. Finally, when we were on holiday, the fridge, freezer and furnace fan  were pretty much all that was drawing power. I wonder how that baseline would drop if we got super efficient appliances.

As I noted when I first shared a graph from our Smart meter, since we were using oil to heat the house, not electricity, we don’t consume more of it when it is cold outside, but we do on bath and laundry days.

Nichole finishes this section up with an impressive psychrometric chart.

The bathroom ceiling finishes are tongue-in-groove wood boards, which are likely not providing a reasonable level of airtightness. It’s likely that high volumes of warm, moist air are travelling into the attic space, where they may be able to condense and cause deterioration to the wood framing.

What a cliff-hanger! Will we find deterioration in the wood framing when we open the walls up? How many carpenter ant nests are there? Will James and Leanne find a way to live inside the Yellow Comfort Box?  Tune in next week on Hammond Forever House!

Nichole’s Results I

My son slipped and fell and suffered a mild concussion. Two days later he tripped and fell at school and acheived two cuts on his cheek and one stitch in each. Two days ago we discovered lice on his head. Now I’m coming down with a cold.

Forgive me for keeping this post simple–it has been quite a week.

Here is part one of a little series called “Nichole’s Results”. For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand menu.


Visual Observations

The family occupying the house consists of two parents and two school-aged children. There are also two cats residing in the home.

The exterior walls are insulated with fibreglass batt insulation. The home owner stated that a polyethylene air and vapour barrier and spray-foam insulation were recently installed on the basement walls in an attempt to reduce heat losses. The house is heated by an oil-burning furnace located in the basement, which does not have a dedicated outdoor air intake; ducts from the house interior provide the intake air for the furnace. The bathroom does not have an exhaust fan, and the homeowner reported that on occasion they open the window to control the bathroom humidity levels, although this practice is less common in the cooler winter months. The attic floor is insulated, although we did observe an air and vapour barrier on the interior side of the attic insulation. The bathroom ceiling finishes consist of painted tongue-in- groove wood boards, which are not generally air-tight. The solarium, off the kitchen, has a cat door to the exterior. The homeowners stated that they generally keep the solarium door into the house closed, to reduce air leakage from the home through the cat door. There is a small opening in the interior walls to allow the cats access through the solarium.

The house appears to be relying primarily on natural, buoyancy and wind driven, ventilation, with intake air provided through the air-leaky walls and window.

During the site visit on January 31, 2014, we noted that the house had a musty/earthy smell typical of old wood-framed buildings. There was also an odour of cats, particularly in the solarium where the cats often reside. However, the homeowners did not report any complaints with the air quality of their home.

Nichole's Table 1

The family was away on holidays for a week in March, during which time the temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations in the house dropped significantly. Based on this, the average values presented above may be slightly lower than average values when the house is occupied; however, they appear generally consistent with the occupied data.

This section of Nichole’s reports contains a couple of errors but none of them affect the result. The walls are insulated with spray foam, not fiberglass batts, and, as I told you, the cat door to the exterior is in the wall of the old cold cupboard in what was the pantry. There is another cat door from there into the solarium. This is another example of how we insulated and sealed the house and then I cut holes in the envelope for cats and children: the cats have a cat door and the children have things to climb on in their rooms. We’ll do better next time.

In Nichole’s Results you can also start to understand my disappointment after all our work insulating and sealing. Her description of “air-leaky walls and windows” wounded my pride, but wait until you see the wild fluctuations in temperature and humidity (next post). She speaks the hard truth.

It’s information like this that might inspire one to improve the energy efficiency of one’s home and create a Forever House.

Nichole’s Methodology

The BCIT Building Science department studied Hammond Forever House!

I decided, with her permission, to share Nichole Wapple’s entire report, “Evaluating Interior Environmental Conditions of a Maple Ridge Home” with you, piece by piece. What am I talking about? Check out my previous post where she introduces her project or click on the BCIT category on the right for the full story.

Here, accompanied by my own photos, is what she did:


Jan. 31, 2014
Jan. 31, 2014

This work consisted of collecting data on the indoor environmental conditions of the existing home, and proposing improvements to the house to meet current industry recommendations for ventilation and indoor environmental quality. The following research methodology was applied:


On January 31, 2014, an initial assessment of the home was completed. The purpose of this visit was to gather information on conditions which may be impacting the interior environmental quality, and to place sensors to gather data on temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 levels in several rooms across the house. Six Hobo data loggers were installed, in the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, solarium, bathroom, and upstairs children’s bedroom, respectively. A CO2 sensor was also added to the kitchen data logger.

The home was revisited on February 25, 2014 to install additional CO2 monitors, in the living room, master bedroom, and upstairs children’s bedroom. Sensor locations are indicated on the floor plans in Appendix A.

The Hobo data loggers take readings every 15 minutes, and data must be downloaded from the units directly. Hobo data was obtained on April 1, 2014, for use in this analysis. The secondary CO2 sensors record data every 30 minutes, and the data can be accessed remotely through SMT Research’s website.

Dr. Mora came out to the house a few times to collect the data. He would sit in his car and collect the data wirelessly from the CO2 sensors and then come in to collect the rest from the Hobos. I remember wondering if I should call the RCMP about the car parked suspiciously at the side of the house. I didn’t. Nichole continues:

For the purposes of this study, the data was analysed to identify potential issues with the quality of ventilation in the home which may be impacting the environmental quality. The Ecotect Analysis software by Autodesk was also used to plot the temperature and relative humidity on a psychrometric chart, to assess how the conditions fall within the standard comfort zones.

Originally, I had intended to also complete air sampling and testing to test for microbial pollutants and allergens; however, project funding was not available for this work.

I don’t know if it is normal to be as excited as I was that I had sensors all over my house. How would you feel?

I was disappointed that there was no funding to go deeper into the “microbial pollutants and allergens” of which I expect there to be some (with rot and carpenter ants, there must be, right?). However, unlike the services of Monte Paulsen, our energy advisor extraordinaire, Nichole’s work did not cost anything, so I can’t complain!

Here are the locations of the sensors as Nichole wrote:

On one of his later visits, I convinced Rodgrigo to put a sensor in the basement because it is a significantly different environment. He promised to give me the data. I know you are as excited as I am about that!