Having worked for 30 plus years in the Weatherization program I was not rich.  When we had the opportunity 3 years ago to build a new home for my wife and I we tried to take our Building Science knowledge and build a home close to zero fossil fuel heat.  Thought I would share with the group how we have almost achieved this for under $40,000 by building a pole constructed house.  

http://cheoyleeassociation.com/family/NCHouse.html  is the link to the page on our construction process etc.  

James McGarvey

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Hi James, Great house !!! Four years ago I built a similar pole house for customers up here in Brookfield,NY. The big difference was it was built on grade with a super insulated slab. Walls were 8 inches thick and foamed with a thermal break on the exterior of hi "R" board. Ceiling is R-60 with 6 mil poly installed below joists with sealed penetrations. This was not designed to passive house standards but it's pretty tight. My customers are pretty happy and their heating bills are well south of $100.00 per month for a 1200 sq ft house. As you know the winters can be pretty brutal up here in upstate NY so my customers were very happy with the low energy bills and the low cost of construction. I'm now looking at alternatives for my own land. I presently live in one end of my barn in a 1600 sq ft "apartment" that I completed 6 years ago. I have 46 acres with a south facing hill. I'm looking at a earth sheltered home or another pole structure. I'm leary of the earth sheltered home because of moisture issues and the cost of concrete so I may go with the pole structure...Thanks for the inspiration. Matt Redmond

Pole foundations are affordable, but I have to wonder if you would have been better off stopping them at the floor. We put so much effort into isolating the thermal bridges created from studs, and here you have these large diameter poles passing from outside into the interior of the house.

That said, the house looks great and I'm sure outperforms other thoughtless construction.

Greg, if I had built platform construction on top of the poles then would have had headers over doors and windows, thus more lumber in walls, With the wall system I ended up with about 10 inches of wood at the poles, built my inside wall to edge of girt so pole has airspace to inside.  Recently with 30 degree delta t and thermal scan could not see poles in walls.  James

That's a great thing....

I understand what you are saying - your poles are inboard of the exterior walls, so yes, you don't have temperature gradient across the diameter of the pole, but no, you have a gradient over the length of the pole which at the exterior temperature below the floor level and above grade, but then at near room temperature in the house.

I don't want to contradict you, but header conditions need not be significantly different in platform framing from what you've done. Non bearing end walls would not need headers, and on the bearing walls headers at openings would replace beams running the entire length of the house. I'd say the trade off is minimal as far as the quantity of wood, and insulated headers could mitigate these few instances. I'd have to say that the headers would represent less thermal bridging than the poles.

You probably are correct Greg, but one advantage of the pole construction for me was since the process took so long building by myself for the most part I was able to put roof on first and therefore not get my wall assembles and sub floor wet.  We had a couple of nights last week in the upper 40's here and with only internal gains house was 76 degrees in morning,  When I get my solar hot air collector system built I think I can heat with $10 worth of wood or $50 electric on the mini split.  I am happy with what we accomplished for less than $50 grand.

Well it looks great - must be so satisfying as well. Hope to do the same some day. Keep us posted as you settle in and go through a few seasons!

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