I am the one whose praise echoes on high.
I adorn all the earth.
I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams.
I am the rain coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
I am the yearning for good.  

-Hildegard Von Bingen

This poem is as good a description of the Divine energy as any I know. It helps me grasp the meaning of whatever it is that originates and evolves, lives and moves, that infuses and occupies the Sacred Stew of life on this small spinning rock. In and amid our best laid plans and Creation’s randomness is the yearning for good. For most of our purposes here, the Sacred Myth is much simpler than it’s usually portrayed: All of life is born in goodness, from the ground conceived in very-goodness. As life is breathed into the lungs of existence, our human purpose becomes patently clear: we can breath in and out with the yearning for good. Or not. We can either conspire (breath together) the fresh air of good or cough and sputter with pollution in our lungs.

Since the time President Obama announced against Keystone XL, evidences of a conspiracy for goodness are everywhere. Last night the City Council of Portland, Oregon voted 5-0 to get out of the business of transporting fossil fuels. This morning I heard the news that 22 major business and civil society leaders have signed a letter to heads of state requesting a legally binding goal of a Net Zero world economy by 2050 be part of any agreement made at the Paris climate talks. As I saw the plumbers arriving at the site this week, the racks atop their trucks full of big black pipe, I was reminded that TransCanada was once so confident Keystone XL would win approval, they contracted for the manufacture of 661,670 tons of pipe, much of it now stockpiled on the plains. These kinds of forward investments are why we need to keep 80% of the fossil fuels that are in the ground, in the ground!!! Because there is so much inertia for ruin, we must conspire for regeneration. And while we are advocating against those other conspiracies, we must create Net Zero dynamics on the user end of the energy chain with Net Zero buildings and investment in alternatives.

This week, the walls of our future airtight envelope were finally wrapped in blue, so the cube of Blueskin barrier is complete, surrounding walls and ceiling to meet the tight seal of the insulated foundation. Blueskin is folded into the window frames awaiting the windows which will arrive from Lithuania, November 20. Metal flashing has been installed extending down to cover the pink insulation around the foundation walls and up the outside wall where the Blueskin seals seamlessly down over the top of it.

Of course this doesn’t complete the airtight membrane, far from it. All the electrical wires are pulled. Think of it. These are the conduit that implicates us in the Great Warming. They connect our demand to dams, power plants, coal mines and oil platforms.

For us they are also potential air leaks, as they penetrate our carefully laid Blueskin for switches, lights and appliances.   Holes for wires and pipes are in the process of being meticulously taped and sealed.

Only one wire per hole! Why? Because you can tape and seal around the outside of a cluster of wires, but you will still have leaks between the wires.

And there are other unavoidable breaks for building structure that we must learn the best strategies for sealing.

The air tightness standards are so strict, we will not cover the Blueskin with insulation and siding until all holes are sealed, windows and doors are installed. Then we will perform a blower door test where the whole envelope will be pressurized with a blower to test air leakage from inside to outside.

Leakage is measured in Air Changes per Hour (ACH) at 50 pascals of pressure. The Passive House standard is .6 ACH. This means, when under pressure, our home must have only .6 air exchanges per hour or less—-or we will make changes until we pass the test!

 

Conspiring Together: The Lungs of Our House

 

We showed up the other day to see this immense octopus-like creature, hanging from the ceiling. The lungs of our house have finally arrived!!!

Perhaps the most common misconception regarding Passive Houses concerns airflow. When we talk about 13-inch walls, invariably someone will warn us to make sure our builder knows what they’re doing or our home will be a moldy slime-ball. “A house needs to breathe,” they say. A Passive House does breathe – exceptionally well. Rather than breathing unknown volumes of air through uncontrolled leaks, Passive Houses breathe controlled air by mechanical ventilation, effectively the “lung” of the building. A Passive House constantly sips fresh air in and exhausts stale air back out.

The HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) runs 24/7, replacing one-third of the house’s air every hour. Exhaust air from bathrooms and kitchen doesn’t mix with incoming air supplied to bedrooms and living areas. The two streams pass each other, exchange energy, not mixing or touching, making the Passive House one of the healthiest building standards in the world.

Thus the tubes coming down like tentacles into the space that will hold our

Zehnder ComfoAir 350 HRV, certified by Passive House to operate at 84% efficiency. It will be located in a closet there, distributing fresh air and gathering stale air through these flexible ducts, running just above the ceiling. Each run connects to an air canister which will be a round, white smoke-alarm-looking unit on the ceiling of each room. Because the bathrooms will have air return canisters, this eliminates the need for other exhaust fan units.

As Jorge and Connor began boring holes and pulling ducts, we started noticing a little pump-bottle of soothing aloe vera soft-soap. Hmmmm, hardly the typical hand-cleaning agent for working men, right? Then I saw Jorge was wiping it on the ducts to lubricate them so they’d slip through the tight holes more easily…like soaping screws before you drive them. I love these little moments of genius!

 

This morning, as news breaks around the world, picturing and streaming new stories of terror in the neighborhoods of our brothers and sisters in Paris, we must hold fast to our dream of a better world.  The Climate Talks begin there soon.  Leaders from all over the world, including our own Charlie Hales, mayor of Portland, will go and raise their voices.  This may be the most difficult thing we ever do, to keep showing up to protest, negotiate and vote; to encourage our heads of state to remain compassionate in the face of all that would harden our hearts.
For me, friends, our Net Zero home is a microcosm of what we must be and do together to survive.  We must reverse the flow of the electron stream in our wiring to keep our meters turning backward, transforming curse into blessing.  As our planet’s ecosystems breathe in and breathe out, we must breathe along.  From Portland to Paris, from the Nebraska prairie to McMinnville we must use our pipes not to extract and exploit from life but to conspire with it. This will be our conspiracy of hope.
John-Pitney-Main-blue

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