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  • Denise Garcia

Post #4: Framing has begun!

Updated: Jun 10, 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.

As the weather warms up, so has construction activity on our house. Looking up our driveway, the new plywood subfloor in just visible, with the ever-present Mt. Finlayson in the background.

San Juan Island, April 30, 2019

Cape Drive Zero Energy Ready Home

Blog entry #4- Framing has begun!


In the last 3 weeks activity has jumped on our Zero Energy Ready Home. Getting "out of the ground" is always laborious, particularly if the weather doesn't cooperate. Luckily for us, San Juan Island is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and as such, has a relatively dry climate, averaging only 20 inches of rain a year. By comparison, Seattle gets 37 inches of rain. In the Pacific Northwest, weather is affected by not only mountains and sea, but by microclimates which can produce different climate conditions over a relatively small area.

The Olympic rain shadow results in a drier climate over the southern half of San Juan Island. By comparison, the northern end of the island gets 9 more inches of rain a year.

With good weather and longer days, the crew has been busy. In the 3 weeks since the last blog post, framing has begun in earnest. Seeing the progress has been exciting as we watch La Pedrera come to life.

Once the crawl space slab cured, the floor framing began. Here, the Parallam beams and 9-1/2" I-joists have been installed. Visible on the right are the slab-on-grade portions of the house, which include the garage, mud room and second bedroom. We used a slab in these areas to work with existing grades and keep our excavation costs down. Removing bedrock can be a budget-buster!

In the Master Bath, the foor joists were recessed to allow for a curbless shower.


What a difference a week makes! Installation of the subfloor is nearly complete. Our builder is using an engineered subfloor that is superior in strength, stiffness and durability, as well as being sustainable. It's a win-win for us and for the environment!


Its a busy day for the crew, as they begin to frame exterior walls.


At the perimeter of the house yard hydrants are installed. Given the dry climate of our area, water conservation is a must and rainwater harvesting quite common. These hydrants will be used only when necessary. Most of our roof rainwater will be captured by rain barrels connected to downspouts.

Our 1,500-gallon septic tank partially backfilled. Risers have been added, giving us an indication of where finish grades need to be in this area.

The area beyond the septic tank, now covered by 24 yards of good topsoil. This area will serve as a vegetated buffer for the rainwater discharged from the downspouts and splash blocks.

The first wall has been tilted into place! Here we see the north exterior wall in place. The large opening at the left is the future double casement window in the second bedroom.


The north wall of the Master Bedroom, nearly ready to tilt into place. Framing will continue at a good clip for the next few weeks. Looking forward to seeing the progress when we return!

While the crew continues framing, we've been busy gathering material samples for the exterior of the house. The dry climate and wildfire threat in our area make cement-fiber siding a good choice. It also helps with our goal of building as sustainable a house as possible, since cement-fiber siding has a high recycled content. Here, we have a sample of fiber-cement lap siding that looks like stained cedar. At the bottom left are color samples for the corrugated metal skirt and on the right, our choice for window color. Above is the stain we plan to use on the 1x6 tongue-and-groove cedar soffit boards that will be visible on the underside of our shed roofs.

Selecting exterior materials can be greatly aided by utilizing computer-generated renderings. Here, the stunning work of Ian Perkins of Delta Graphics illustrates some of the materials we've been considering. After looking at this render, we decided to replace the painted finish on the fiber-cement lap siding with a finish that looks more like stained cedar. Once composed, a render can be tweaked to show multiple options for colors and finishes. This is the fourth iteration of this view as we test different color combinations. We're nearly there!

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