Energy Efficient Log Homes & Cabins

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in Energy Efficiency, EZLog Cabin/Cottage Kits | Posted on 09-05-2013

I just came across this blog post from GBA (Green Building Advisors). It’s a not only a good  summary of the most important technical terms used in the building industry, but it prioritizes the areas where you should look first if you consider to build a new home “greener” and more energy efficient.

I’m an avid reader of the GBA newsletter and blog posts. This team is really on top of things when it comes to green building.

Our focus as Vanisle Ecolog Homes is to build well performing log homes, cabins and cottages. Of course you cannot use all the same techniques in a log home as you do at a “regular” frame home. But many concepts do apply, and some need to  be adopted to work with log homes and log cabins.

We use the Canadian “standard” software Hot2000 (from National Resource Canada) to model and check the energy performance for each home we design for customers.

I just created some new energy models for our new EZLog cabin and cottage kits. We developed a method to insulate these homes nearly without any thermal breaks, which leads to an excellent energy performance. And the construction technique we use is fairly easy to install and can be adopted to suite any climate – from the mild winters on Vancouver Island to “real winter” in Whistler.

 

Building a Summer Cottage or All Season Home?

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Posted by Hermann Thoene | Posted in Building A Log Home, EcoLog | Posted on 07-05-2013

Are you planning to build a cabin or cottage for quite some time now?

Are you overwhelmed by the huge amounts of products you find during your online search?

Don’t you wish you could just snap a maEZLog Cottage Constructiongic wand, and swoooosh, your new cottage is done – ready to use at your building site?

Ok, you don’t need a magic wand, but Vanisle Ecolog Homes can help, as we now offer you a complete we-do-it-all-for-you service. We start by visiting your property, analyzing your requirements and then talk to your municipality to find out if your plans match with their by-laws and regulations. Then we will suggest one or more possible cabins or cottages which you can build. After “zeroing in” on one, we can then create a custom quote for all the material and services you need. If you want, we can do it all – like the magic wand. But if you want to save some money and help with certain parts, we can leave that for you.

Our package deals for prefabricated cabins and cottages make it easy for you to plan your budget, and give you peace-of-mind. Check out the EZLog Europa model to find some sample packages.

It’s challenging to generalize bigger building projects, as each property is different, municipal requirements are different, and of course each customers has different requirements. That’s why we cannot tell you how much YOUR project will cost without seing your property and talking to you. But the following packages give you an idea about the services we provide, and what typical package costs can be for a given situation.

Summer Cottage

Let’s assume you have found a nice property on Vancouver Island, and now you want to build a seasonal 2 bedroom cottage mainly as a summer-getaway for your family.

Mari A 100 sqft cottageA so called seasonal structure does not require a heating system, and there are no minimum insulation requirements. Therefore you can use a prefabricated building kit like the 20’x24′ EZLog Europa with 58 mm thick walls. Apart from purchasing a building kit, what else is required to have a ready-to-use cottage?

  • Planning and permits: If your municipality requires a building permit (check out this blog article to learn more about building code and permits), you will need a whole set of building plans, potentially a lot survey, septic field permit etc. We normally guide our customers through this process – or even get the permit for them – as this can be quite challenging for “regular” (non-trades) people, who don’t speak “building code” and “by-law” lingo.
  • Build a proper foundation: The simplest way is a slab-on-ground, but for very little more money you will have more flexibility by building a crawlspace. Both of these options require proper framing and pouring concrete, and most people will hire trades people for these tasks. A typical 30″ high crawlspace with subfloor costs between $8,000 and $10,000 (that’s without excavation and backfilling, and the price depends much on the price of concrete in your area).
  • Once the foundation is in place the cottage can be erected. A prefab building kit like the Europa can be setup in about 200 “people hours” (maybe a bit longer if you do this type of work for the first time). No crane or other machines are needed for this – muscle power, some good ladders and some basic tools like hammer and drill will do.
  • EZLog kits don’t include the roof finish, as people have different tastes and requirements for a roof. The two most common choices for EZLog cottages are asphalt shingles or metal. Both can be installed pretty quick. If you have no experience in roofing, this should be done by professionals, so that all the right flashing is installed and your roof doesn’t leak.
  • Now the cottage needs to be stained or painted, to protect the wood from moisture and insects. We recommend using water based stains, which are very high quality today and last a long time. Stain or paint on the inside is optional. You can leave the natural wood exposes if you don’t mind some discolouration in areas where the wood gets exposed to the sun.

At this stage the cottage is at what we consider “lockup stage” (the windows and doors have been installed during erection of the walls). If you just use an outhouse and water from a well or river, and don’t require electric, then you seasonal cottage is done.

All Season Cottage

A seasonal log cabin on Vancouver Island could occasionally be used in the winter with no problem. Most areas don’t get so cold that a wood stove or small electric stove can’t heat such a cabin. It might not be the most energy efficient thing to do, but it works for the occasional weekend visit.

Europa CottageTo create a vacation or backyard cottage which can be permanently used all year around requires the building to have a proper heating system and to be fully insulated. Depending on the type of structure you build, the BC building code offers various possibilities to prove “proper insulation” and an “energy efficient building envelope”.  More details on that can be found in my earlier blog post on this topic.

To insulate EZLog cottages in compliance with the BC building code, we suggest (and implement) following solutions to customers:

  • The roof gets insulated with 4″ – 6″ of Polyiso foam, attached with Z-bars on top of the T&G roof decking, which is part of the EZLog kit. The foam comes in 2″ or 3″ thick 4’x8′ panels, and most contractors are familiar with its installation. A Tyvek membrane on top of the foam protects the foam and ensures an airtight roof structure. The metal roof can then be easily attached on top of the foam held by the Z bars as well.
  • The outside walls get insulated in following ways: A Tyvek membrane on the inside of the wall wraps from roof to the floor and into the window and door opening. This forms the air barrier of the home. Now the building attaches 2″-6″ XPS foam panels on top of the tyvek. The panels are installed using vertical 1″x2″ strapping, attached with (countersinking) screws into the log wall. Now a layer of 5/8″ T&G boards it attached on top of the strapping. After installing trim around doors and windows, this “second wall” looks exactly the same as the “thick” outside wall and other interior walls.
  • Insulating a concrete slab is optional and should be done before pouring the concrete. The subfloor above a crawlspace also gets insulated with 2″-4″ XPS foam attached to the bottom of the floor joists.

The amount of insulation and type of windows (double or triple pane, type of filling and coatings) needs to be carefully chosen based on the location where the cottage gets built. Going “over board” with too much insulation doesn’t hurt, but increases the building costs unnecessarily. Vanisle Ecolog Homes uses the Hot200 software from Natural Resources Canada to calculate energy models, which help customers decide which insulation options are appropriate and most cost effective.

In addition to insulation, all season buildings require plumbing, electric and a heating system. Our sample Europa package includes basic plumbing, which in consists of a small hot water tank installed in the crawlspace, and rough in plumbing for a kitchen and bathroom into the subfloor. The electric installation package included in this packages consists of a 100 amp panel with basic light fixtures and plugs and baseboard heaters as a heating system.

For sustainability minded customers we recommend to install LED lights, a hot water tank with built-in heat pump and a “mini-split” heat pump, which provides a very energy efficient and comfortable heating and cooling system for a reasonable price.