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Post #3: The foundation walls rise.

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

The following blog will chronicle the construction of a new Zero Energy Ready Home

designed by Domain Design Architects and located on San Juan Island, Washington. Denise Garcia and her husband, Eric Schmidt, who together have degrees in architecture, landscape architecture and city planning, have been passionate about environmentally responsible design since their student days at MIT. Their new ZERH home is the culmination of over 30 years each of professional experience. We hope this blog will inspire others to consider building a Zero Energy Ready Home.

View of our lot from the Cape San Juan Marina on the west side of Fish Creek. The foundation stem walls are just visible in the center of the photo.

San Juan Island, April 30, 2019

Cape Drive Zero Energy Ready Home

Blog entry #3- The foundation walls rise.


In the last 6 weeks, much has happened on the construction of our house. Concrete footings were poured and stripped, stem walls completed and the "rat slab" in the crawl space poured. We decided early on that a crawl space would save money in excavation costs, given our subsurface bedrock. We also made the decision to encapsulate our crawl space by eliminating vents to the outside and insulating the exterior of the concrete stem walls. All of this provides a crawl space that is clean, dry and conditioned. I have been promoting encapsulated crawl spaces since 1995, when building science proved it was a better way to build, but before the UBC (our code back then) allowed it. Since then, the International Residential Code has accepted encapsulated crawl spaces and they have become popular with both homeowners and builders. The benefits of an unvented, insulated crawl space include:


1) better air quality in the crawl space and thus, the house;

2) 20% reduction in energy use;

3) increased efficiency and lifespan of HVAC equipment;

4) elimination of problems with finish floors (particularly wood floors) due to humidity in the crawl space.

5) happy plumbers and HVAC subcontractors.


As an architect I've been in too many vented crawl spaces with serious moisture problems, rotting joists, failing insulation and critters that enjoyed the easy access and humid climate. This was an easy decision to make.


The driveway into our lot. Visible in the background are the newly-finished concrete stem walls. In the foreground, our trusty VW EuroVan.



View of the house foundation from the entry drive.

The 3" concrete "rat" slab in place in the crawl space. The slab was poured over a continuous vapor barrier (black plastic sheeting). The vapor barrier will extend up the walls and be secured to the top of foundation wall, under the pressure-treated mud sill. The visible steel rods sticking up out of the slab mark the location of isolated concrete footings under the slab.


The concrete stem walls will get successive layers of waterproofing, R-10 rigid XPS insulation and cement-fiber protection board as part of the encapsulated crawl space.

Corner detail of the concrete foundation walls showing 2" XPS insulation boards and fiber-cement protection boards. Joints between insulation panels are caulked, as are the joints between the cement-fiber panels. The builder did a nice job of staggering vertical joints between the rigid insulation boards and the fiber-cement panels.

Our first load of floor framing lumber, including 9-1/2" engineered joists, 3-1/2"x 9-1/2" Parallam beams and 4x4 pressure-treated posts.

In the septic drainfield area, several additional trees were removed to make way for the infiltration chambers. The root ball of the fir stump in the center of the photo will be entirely removed prior to the start of work.



Coiled fiber optic cable awaits burial in the same trench as the septic drain line.


The path to connectivity: the red spray paint shows where a trench needs to be dug from the fiber optic connection on Cape Drive to our house.


The view of Fish Creek and marina from the approximate area of the Dining Room. As the floor framing progresses, we'll get a better idea of what views will be like from inside the house.







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