Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sketchup - Playing Around (Not My House)

A member of the homeone forum commented on a thread I made for a build there regarding sketchup. I had a look at their thread, spotted their floor plan drawings and decided I'd have a go at drawing up their house. Some of the dimensions I had to guess and the roof is a little bit off what it should be, but it was good for a bit of multi-level practice :)

The house is coloured here in Dulux Tranquil Retreat, below is in Dulux Miller Mood

Below, is Dulux Dieskau:

Then back to Tranquil Retreat again, since that's what I exported all the other angles in.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Our House Build - More 3D Renders

I've been playing with Twilight Render which is a free-to-hobbyists renderer for sketchup - at first I wasn't a fan but it's actually quite powerful once you get used to how it works. It definitely takes its time to render but that could also be my computer showing it's age!

I still haven't quite worked out lighting (which is why even though I've added about 20 downlights, this image still looks dark-ish) but I've got the bump mapping for the grass, reflectivity for the concrete etc nailed. I've also made some exceptionally dodgy looking pendant lights for the sake of testing the render. Since we have no idea what we actually want to put here we will work on that for the future!

Prior to this, I geo-located the site in sketchup and rotated the model to close to the right orientation (it's off slightly as we're facing just over 5 degrees to the east as the house is aligned with the front boundary and it doesn't quite run a perfect north-south (see the surveyor's drawing with angles on this page)

This allows us to do a pretty good approximation of shadows in both the longest part of the year (summer solstice):

As well as the shortest part of the year (winter solstice):

For those that don't know, the reason North Facing living areas are so important is that with correct shading, you can get free heat from the sun in winter by letting the sun onto an appropriate thermal mass (in our case, exposed polished concrete) which then radiates the heat during the evening. Having the correct size eaves to shade the floor from this sun allows the heat to be kept out during the hotter parts of the year.

My initial modelling suggested a 600mm eave would be required, however 450mm has been the recommendation from the builder as apparently that's the width of the board they use; to do it in 600mm would have meant battening it out every 450mm and cutting the boards into 600mm length; and to do the whole house just to shade two north facing windows seemed a little crazy.

I spotted a homeone forum member's post where they had aluminium blades above their window, fixed at an angle that permitted winter sun but that blocked summer sun. I think we'll see how we go with the 450mm eaves and watch the sun on the floors in the summer (perhaps utilising time lapse on the go pro) before we commit to having something similar made, but that's definitely an option.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Our House Build - Visualising The View

Decided I wanted to try and get an idea of what the view will be like from the kitchen window - especially if a normal height fence will cover the Wannon Water hatchery shed but not the treeline at the river. All of the grassed area near the treeline is flood plain so should stay grassed for the foreseeable future.

First I went to the block and stood in approximately the location the window for the kitchen will be, and aimed directly south and at the horizon, then I put it in sketchup as a texture on a very large rectangle, centered on the middle of the window and about 50m away.

This allows the view to move with the viewpoint, with any luck it's close to accurate - the fence is drawn at 1600mm on this side and 2000mm on the north and east side (to limit neighbours being able to look down into our yard)

Applied the laminate Honey Elm texture to the benchtops and swapped the waterfall end. Sarah's not sure she wants a waterfall end at all now; although this does look more logical from most areas. Also removed the monument feature wall - walls are now Dulux Dieskau and ceilings Dulux Vivid White.

Played with the settings on Indigo and managed to make it a bit lighter, and higher resolution. It's still pretty noisy in the dark but I think it's emulating camera noise for some reason?

Gives a bit of an idea of what we should see anyway. Added a fridge in this shot to show the space a bit closer to how it will be used. Yes, I know I've not put a sink in yet!

Our House Build - Shed Colour and More Texturing/Renders

Playing around a little more with Sketchup Make 2016, downloaded a new driver for my 3dconnexion Space Navigator mouse which has made doing internals a bit easier (anyone who's used sketchup will know the feeling of scrolling to zoom then getting stuck on the wrong side of a wall)

Put some more trees down on the south side of the drive-way, as well as another low wall to match the rest; ideally in the real thing I'll make sure there's enough space left to allow a car or trailer to fit temporarily beside the garage.

Looking from the portico down the ramp toward the driveway (looking South)

Kitchen, I've modelled the shed and textured it, also added 6 panel stacker door in Monument and splashback window for the kitchen. Ignore the fact the handles are in the wrong spot on the door - I modified someone elses model and it was easier to leave them how they were. Sarah informs me the waterfall edge is drawn at the wrong end of the kitchen island. Whoops!

View showing the rangehood and oven, plus view from the splashback window. We saw a display home that had caesarstone splashbacks and given these are only about 550mm each we'll probably be able to do that fairly cost effectively here and save on a tile choice :)

Looking from kitchen toward living area. Keep in mind the table is massive - 3m x 1.1m

Drew in the driveway, or a rough approximation of what we'll aim to do. Unfortunately budget wise this is something we'll have to do after the build - hopefully before we get neighbours on the south side so it can be trucked in instead of wheel barrowed through the garage!

Originally I planned on using colorbond terrain for the shed walls, however it was too overpowering from the house, and because we've used Dune on the fascade I put it on the garage too. It seems to flow ok if you do a walk through from the front door and lightens up the living area a bit.

Tried a demo version of Indigo RT, it's a bit odd - if the surface of objects are inside-out it doesn't render them with a texture, regardless of the fact sketchup allows you to texture either side. Normally I fix inverted surfaces as I go but this time I didn't bother as I was planning on texturing everything anyway. Now I know why it's important.

It also takes forever - this is fairly low resolution and it took 3 hours to do - I don't think anything changed after the second or third pass though so maybe it just re-renders for higher resolution in the full version?

Sketchup showing the front door

Similar viewpoint from Indigo. Note I've got no capping or gutters in the roofline.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our House Build - Playing With Sketchup - Visualising Colours

Decided to build a sketchup model of the facade of the building to try and see what our current colour ideas look like on the building.

Ended up adding rooms (to allow window views to make sense) and landscaping.

These are just exports direct from sketchup, not renders, so there are no lighting effects or anything fancy like that. I also haven't geolocated the model so North is off.

Colorbond Basalt Roof, Colorbond Monument Fascia and Gutters, Dulux Colorbond Dune Render and Dulux Colorbond Monument Render, Monument garage door, Monument window frames, Boral Horizons Mocha Bricks.

One of the colorbond colours we're using (I don't remember which) suggested Dulux Orangeade as a compatible colour; here I've used it on the front door. We'll see if it sticks. Sarah doesn't want a red door (it's been done already)

A&L don't have their windows in sketchup so I had to modify someone elses models to make double ended awning windows.

Got carried away putting in interior and painted the kid's bedrooms including my choice of feature wall colours (not sure if the other half will agree!) - Pantone's 2016 colours of the year - Rose Quartz and Serenity on the two west facing rooms, and their 2014 colour of the year "Radiant Orchid" for the east facing room (to try and make up for the cold morning light). The white so far is Dulux Whisper White.

Playing with ideas for butlers pantry shelving - the builder has said they'll do fully adjustable shelving to the left, but I'm not sure if they're specing the overheads with doors or open as per this.

Kitchen, currently showing polished concrete, Caesarstone Nougat benchtops, Cedar doors under the island and Laminex Honey Elm on the cabinet doors. This is all subject to change, of course :) Monument feature wall to the right.

Showing the bulkhead idea, the bulkhead could end level with the island (which is back from the wall to right of image by about 600mm) - note this isn't the table we're planning to use just one from the 3D Warehouse that's the right dimension (3000x1100)

Feature slats, coloured in laminex honey elm - the plan is to try and find a stain that gets this similar.

Theatre Room with 1.75m high projection screen (a very very distant project!) and monument walls all round. I like this darker (but neutral) look.

Cinema rear wall showing movie posters and raised seating step - this step should be about 1200mm deep and 100mm off the normal floor height.

Added Pear Trees - I think it'll come down to a battle between pear and cherry trees when it comes to front shade, unless anyone has any suggestions?

Stepped garden beds, path to the footpath and ramp down to the driveway all seem simple enough, although I'm sure this stuff all costs money!! Doesn't hurt to have a plan though!

In other news, the builder e-mailed today to say they've finished with our plans and are starting to price it all properly. I think they're pricing with their standard inclusions and we then go and add in whatever extra we need (even things we've already discussed, perhaps) to ensure we can see where the money is going.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Our House Build - PV Solar - Why Not Yet

PV solar is and always has been on the cards for our house.

We are not doing it at first however.

The main reason for this is cost. Our funds are limited and this is the exact reason we aren't putting any PV solar in at first. It's the same reason we're not wiring or lighting the shed at first.

Paying for the system over a 30 year mortgage doesn't make sense, since it'll probably need to be updated/replaced in 10-15 years also.

There are other reasons which I'll try and explain here. Like my A/C post, I'll try and be as accurate as I can based on what I know - but there's no guarantee that I know what I'm talking about.

One of these reasons is that because we don't know our new house, we don't know how to anticipate our energy costs. Currently we use around 22kWh per day. We don't currently heat our home with electricity though. This may make a small, or large difference to this consumption. Our current home is quite dark, the light filled living areas of the new house may reduce our electric lighting requirements. The kids often leave lights on in our current home - the main culprits are planned to be sensor driven lights and so this should reduce some consumption.

One thing man people overlook with solar is the way you pay and are paid for electricity. You don't pay for anything you generate when you use it immediately. If you don't use it, you're paid around 7 cents per kWh. If your panels aren't generating power (it's dark, overcast etc) then you buy it at around 25 cents per kWh. I'd originally assumed that your meter just totalled the difference at the end of the month, and that you paid 25c/kWh you used. The problem with that assumption vs the actual way it works means that the TIME you use your electricity matters, a lot.

We have a 60kW solar array at work, and while it halves the energy costs of the building, the energy it produces in excess of the requirements only pays for a quarter of what the building uses while the panels aren't generating power.

Sizing the system larger than the amount of power you need during sun-shine times is pointless; without a feed in tariff to make it possible to make serious money out of your excessive solar production, your over-the-top-for-your-needs solar array won't pay for itself for a very long time. Possibly not before it starts to fail or becomes due for replacement.

Thinking about the way most families use energy, the evening when solar drops off (in summer) or is non existant (in winter) is when most energy is used. The house heats up (or cools down) in preperation for your arrival home, you switch lights on, you run your oven, you use your televisions, charge your phones, plug in laptops/computers etc. I'd wager at least 60% of our current 22kWh is in this non-solar time.

Battery or other storage (flywheel etc) systems are the solution. Some remote regions use central community storage solutions to limit the region's exposure to power supply cuts however that's a very distant and unlikely reality in our area.

Tesla's powerwall system is an interesting technology but still expensive for us. At 6.5kWh of storage, we'd need two to cover our ~13kWh evening usage. At $12,000 approx per unit, that's $24,000 - and that is a whopping 96,000kWh worth of electricity at 25c/kWh - Assuming 13kWh/evening that's just over 20 years before it pays for itself. Given that in ten years time the batteries are likely to be due for replacement, it's hardly a worthwhile investment. Further, in ten years time, once the tech becomes mainstream (as PV solar has) the same capacity is likely to be available for a quarter of the cost and hence a much shorter pay-back.

It's not all bad news, what it does tell me is that I don't actually need a 7kW array. 7kW should generate 22kWh on average; but because of when we use our electricity it would be a waste. I believe it's possible to get information from powercor about when you use your electricity via your smart meter. Once we know that information about the new property, we can work out our actual requirement for PV solar to cover our during-the-day use - including for pre-arrival air conditioning use in summer, and size the array to suit.

Interesting as a side note on the powerwall (or other battery based) unit - if you buy one, they use 7kW from your day-time PV to charge enough to provide 6.5kW of battery based energy. If you've got a poorly sized solar array with excess power consumption you may be able to add a powerwall without any extra PV solar requirement. Further, if it depletes, it'll probably not do so until you're into your off-peak power time. This means your remaining grid based power will be at a cheaper rate, and you can even use that off peak priced grid power to charge the powerwall enough to run your HVAC to condition the house for the morning before the solar panels see the sun for the new day.

Most of the energy companies currently advertising finance options on PV solar are cashing in on the opportunity to make bonus money from punters unaware of how PV solar works; assuming the only payment they will have is for the solar equipment - while they'll still actually be paying for grid fed electricity for their evening use - and they're also charging the systems at way over the going rate (have a look at what's included and the pricing and check for yourself!)

We'll save for whatever system we end up using once we work out exactly what we need.

Hopefully by that time micro-inverter systems are affordable; they're great in that if one panel or inverter fails, only that panel stops producing power. People we know have had an inverter fail in a single large inverter system, and not noticed until they get a power bill with no solar shown!

Our House Build - Heating and Air Conditioning Thoughts

Despite the amount of thought that I've put into planning the orientation of the home, limiting south facing windows (the house will have only the one, the splashback in the kitchen) and plans for west facing windows to be shaded by both eaves and foliage, one of the things we really consider to be essential for our home is some form of air conditioning.

We had a portable unit at our previous rental, which we brought with us to our current rental; while living here our landlords were kind enough to install a wall mounted reverse cycle, which is much quieter, faster and by the looks of the latest electricity bill, cheaper to run.

Standard inclusion with our builder is natural gas fired ducted central heating. We have had this in both of our previous rentals and consider central heating an essential also. This leaves us with the decision - do we augment the central gas heating with a few strategically placed split system air conditioning units (at approx $2,500 a pop, installed)  - probably one in the dining/kitchen/living area, and a couple of smaller units in the theatre and master suite; or do we go for a bigger central unit.

Going to a central add-on unit means upgrading the ducting to larger ducts; which means it's not a great retrofit option as you'd have to pay for two lots of ducting. There's also the question of how well a gas heater designed for smaller ducting will work with larger ducts (if the larger ducts allow the air to cool, it will condense and as it condenses it will slow down making the fan less effective).

The other option is a complete system based around a reverse cycle inverter.

I sent the drawing I did yesterday with my approximation of the builder's adjusted dimensions (it'll still be very slightly off as he is re-sizing the whole plan based on brick dimensions to windows etc) and the 2700mm ceiling heights to my dad, Barry, who is one of the proprietors at Cri-Tech Plumbing Services. He prepared and sent back the chart above gives the required energy to heat the rooms by room, separated into a ''day'' and a ''night'' zone.

By using zones, we will be able to get away with a 13kw unit - a quick glance around shows a number of brands have suitable units in the $5-6,000 range. Actron do an ESP system which have variable fan speeds which allows the system to operate quieter than other systems and also more efficiently, which is his recommendation.

Approximate another $2-3,000 for ducts, thermostats, dampers (remote controlled vents that open and close to control flow to different areas) and add labour. My brother's already offered his assistance in that regard (he's a refrigeration mechanic) - how good is family?

Interestingly, if I went 3 phase, a unit capable of doing the whole house is only about 50% dearer. The zoned systems should be able to do both zones at once but may not get to 21 degrees - perhaps 24 from what I've read on other people's blogs?

I also looked into the Nest learning thermostat - however the suitability of this system rather than the built in systems for the chosen A/C system depends on the complexity of the setup. Nest looks like a great option if we opt for a reasonably simple system - especially if paired with a kwikset kevo wifi lock which allows the system to know when you leave and enter the house so it can turn on and off ''away'' mode.

A little side note on costs to run the AC - and this is highly theoretical - if you know better and can correct me, please feel free to do so - this is a learning experience!

All new properties in Australia have to meet a 6 star energy rating.

For Warrnambool, this means the house's maximum thermal load is to be 151MJ/m2 per annum.

To meet this rating, our property at 200m^2 of habitable floor space should require no more than 30,200MJ/year.

30,200MJ is 8389kWh of thermal load, or averaged over 12 months - 700kW/h per month.

The COP (cost of production - basically how much heat/cooling energy it creates per unit consumed, or its efficiency) of the Actron ERV-17AS is averaged between heating and cooling at 3.8 (yes, this is 380% as much heating or cooling energy produced as put in) so that 700kW/h of thermal load per month should require 184.21kWh of electricity.

Our electricity currently costs $0.248697/kWh which means on average, per month - the house should cost around $45.82 to heat/cool.

Add to this that our intention is and always has been to install some form of PV solar, and electricity makes much more sense than gas. We will still use gas to boost our hot water and for our cooktop and bbq because we both hate induction and electric cooktops.

It's important to note that this is by no means an accurate way to determine these things, as I'm not 100% certain that thermal loads include cooling. You obviously effect the system's cost depending on how many hours you're home, the schedules, zoning and temperature tolerances you set for your HVAC, your utilisation of the home's energy saving features (cross flow ventilation i.e. opening windows and doors if it's hot inside and cool outside, closing living area blinds after the sun goes down in winter to keep the heat in the thermal mass, using ceiling fans to increase occupant comfort without running the heat/AC).

Now I've just got to find out how much the builder factors for their gas central system and how I go about organising (and paying for out of our construction loan?) that part. Just another step in the process I guess!

Our House Build - Kitchen - To Bulkhead, Or Not?

I've hit a bit of a stalemate. Originally I'd planned a bulkhead at 2400mm for the kitchen with the overhead cabinets running all the way to this bulkhead. I don't want a dust/oil catcher on top of the overheads. The alternative is we maintain our 2700mm ceiling height from the rest of the living/dining & entryway; but then the overhead cupboards will be exceptionally tall (or will need a bulkhead of their own)

I'll give it more thought.

While I'm here, this is what our boutique entertainer door will look like between our kitchen/dining and our future alfresco area. Except probably in Monument (the colour)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Our House Build - Visualising The Changes

I had to get some rough room dimensions from the modified floor plan - instead of harassing the builder and interrupting them while they work on it, I decided to do it in Revit.

Hopefully you can click this to get dimensions. It's got no furnishing/bathrooms/kitchen/laundry etc at this point, shelves, cupboard doors are missing etc - but you get the idea.

Here's a couple of quick 3D view outputs. The perspective is a bit strange in Revit but it gives a better idea of how the roof will look without the parapet.

Front view from a bit higher The black frame windows and sliding doors are close to what'll be used as they're revit files direct from A&L's website. The wooden windows and all the other doors are from Revit's internal libraries (some I've resized, for example the front door is 1200x2340mm)

Rear view. If the slope was shown it might make a bit more sense.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Our House Build - Melbourne and Ideas

Above is the only photo I took at the world of style. If I'm honest, I actually found it quite underwhelming and we probably only spent about an hour there. It was a bit strange after expecting to spend the better part of the afternoon. We probably spent nearly as long looking for parking as we did in there! I took this photo because I really liked the look of the wall hung entertainment unit. I need to check and see what's required to do something like this down the track in our theatre room; in case I need to have any noggins added in the wall etc to support it.

Couldn't help taking a photo of the kids posing in this display home in Cragieburn

Sarah liked this combination of kitchen colours.

If our view from the kitchen ever gets built out, this shows us what we can achieve with a garden lined walkway.

I liked the timber on these drawers

This island bench is a bit similar to what we're likely to end up doing. I also liked the lighting and the overheads.

Checked out the new Bryan and Petersen display home in Warrnambool today - the Cove - we really like this stone for the bench top and the doors - this is 1800 wide though which I think is quite a bit wider than we can fit in our ensuite design - a more compact version of something like this would suit us very well though.

Mixture of different tiles

Cool pendant lighting

Another shot from Craigieburn - this stone feature wall was super cool - I can't help but think it would be a total nightmare to dust though!!!

Cheeky bubs!

Hunter is a bit stumped here.