Re: Consultation & Facilities Management [was management services vs self-management at the building stage
From: Jerry McIntire (
Date: Thu, 7 May 2015 07:59:18 -0700 (PDT)
Thanks for sharing the walk-through notes Sharon. Sounds like a great
reason to have super-insulation and air sealing so that very small radiant
heat units can handle the needs, and less mechanical cooling is needed.
Energy-recovery ventilators are then needed, but they are simpler and


Jerry McIntire
Stone's Throw Ecovillage, in the heart of Wisconsin's beautiful Driftless

On Wed, May 6, 2015 at 8:09 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>

> > On May 6, 2015, at 12:24 AM, John Carver <jcarver [at]> wrote:
> >
> > Unfortunately none of the above, including the architects, were
> cohousing experienced, and our little clutch of would-be cohousers were not
> development experienced, which made for a rough learning pathway. Mistakes
> were made, some of them quite costly.
> With Skype (I prefer Zoom), and other means of long distance consultation,
> I think groups could explore consultants in other areas and avoid costly
> mistakes. Sometimes it just means understanding the language and the
> options. If nothing else, pay someone by the hour just to talk to you.
> Too late for you — I’m suggesting it for people starting out.
> Another source for groups already built is to keep seeking advice from
> professional building and engineering companies. They know a lot.
> And from condominium mangers in your area. Ask for a walk through of a
> large building and ask questions about vendors and services.
> We have had our reserve study done by firms that also do ecological
> retrofitting, building engineering, architectural design, etc. They have
> done 2-4 hours walk-throughs with us just looking at the property and
> suggesting options, warning us about things, and giving us cost estimates.
> Little things like warning us to keep plantings cut back to 12 inches from
> the building to big things like whether solar is worth it. Why we need to
> clean the gutters even though we are taller than any trees around. What the
> stuff is that keeps clogging our sump pumps and why. (When we moved in we
> were buying sump pumps by the dozen.)
> Apart from a reserve study, construction engineers and specialists charge
> $200 an hour and have been worth every penny.
> We’ve also had reserve studies done by companies that just do reserve
> studies and they were much less helpful, giving us no information about our
> facilities and charging the same amount. They just took pictures. When we
> asked questions, they said call your vendor. We were looking for an
> unbiased opinion from someone with a broader experience.
> Notes from one walkthrough with a geothermal expert. He is does
> installation but has and unusual amount of knowledge for HVAC service and
> installation people. This is just my set of notes on the walkthrough. There
> were two other people at the walk-through and they also did notes that are
> not included here.
> > 1. FILTER IN GUEST ROOMS: Someone has moved the HVAC filter for Guest
> Room A to the wall in Room A. This is an HVAC problem because it means the
> air being pulled through return vent from Guest room B is _not_ going
> through the HVAC Unit. A total problem for the coils.
> >
> > It is also a problem for the guests because it increases the exposure to
> noise from the unit.
> >
> > There is a filter in the filter closet that could be installed in the
> old slot until a decision is made for that unit.
> >
> > 2. OPTIONS FOR GUEST ROOM HVAC: Rowan saw three options for the Guest
> Rooms:
> >
> > a. Have someone else check the unit. Does it really need to be replaced
> or did the service person just not want to do the work required to fix it?
> It needs to be pulled out to replace the compressor and repair the
> refrigerant coils which need to be checked and may need to be replaced.
> When Rowan installs HVAC units they leave room on three sides to service
> them properly.
> >
> > This is the least expensive solution.
> >
> > b. Since the unit has to be pulled out to be repaired, we could close up
> the closet walls in the room and put a door in the hallway to service it.
> This would cut down on the noise in Guest Room A and make it easier to
> service. Room A would still need a return vent. We could change the filters
> from the hallway.
> >
> > c. Install the mini-split that has been recommended by everyone else.
> They would run the (small) pipe for the units on the wall through the back
> walls of the rooms to the outside. There is drainage from dehumidification
> that needs to go to a drainpipe outdoors.  The outside heat pump that would
> be connected to wall units is virtually silent and could be placed on the
> kitchen roof. The units can be controlled by remotes.
> >
> > 3. HVAC UNITS LAST 25 YEARS: Our HVAC units should last 25 years. That's
> why their company installs them. They completely discounted the opinion of
> two other companies that they have now reached their lifespan. (ASG used a
> 20-year life span.)
> >
> > 4. LOOP WORK: Easterday does all their loop work. "They are the best."
> Strong enthusiasm. Lester the Looper "is the best" (FT hired them and
> worked with Lester when the CH loops failed.)  Whenever there are loop
> problems, they recommend having Easterday flush the loops completely which
> means hooking  up a hose and running water through it for I forget how much
> time but much more than 15 minutes.
> >
> > 5. EXPANSION VALVES: They also recommend the expansion valves George
> recommended because we have polyvinyl pipes that expand and contract with
> temperatures. This changes the pressure. Even though the ground temperature
> is relatively constant the water coming out of the HVAC loops going back
> into the ground isn't. It can be freezing in the winter because we have
> removed all the heat, for example.
> >
> > 6. OFFICE & GAME ROOM HVAC UNIT: The small unit behind the big unit in
> the basement that serves the Office and GR, they considered impossible to
> service. Since the circulation is so bad in those rooms anyway, they
> recommended just shutting that unit down and connecting the vents to the
> main unit. They are doing the calculations to check the square footage to
> see how much that unit will service. Previous engineer's calculations said
> it would do that easily. The vent work would be very inexpensive.
> >
> > 7. UNIT FOR LAUNDRY, LR, KIDS ROOM: They believe the unit for the
> laundry room, LR, and KR is too small to do that much square footage. There
> is no fresh air vent on that system. A fresh air vent would have been cold
> today with the fan running but none of them were. They tracked all the
> vents to a vent upstairs. The one George thought was an air vent goes to
> the vent that was behind the sofa. It is a supply vent, not an intake vent.
> Also see Ducts below.
> >
> > 8. RETURN AIR DUCTS AND FILTER SLOTS: How much conditioned air can be
> blown into a room is determined by how much is being pulled out of it.
> Return vents and filter slots are as important as supply vents and
> sometimes even more important.
> >
> > We have duct problems in places. I forget all of them, but the Laundry
> Room, LR, and Kids Room is particularly a problem. The supply ducts in the
> basement turn a lot of corners and are narrow close to the HVAC unit
> instead of broader. Return ducts also turn a lot of corners.
> >
> > The return for the Office and Game Room is too small and badly placed.
> (We knew that already)
> >
> > They do not recommend taping over the filter vents. "As much air as  you
> can get moving through the system, the better it is.
> >
> > 9. REFRIGERANT: When refrigerant is low, we should not just add
> refrigerant until we find the leak. If the refrigerant is leaking and
> mixing with water "you don't want that." Lots of body language and laughter
> on that one. A big joke.
> >
> > 10. REUSABLE FILTERS: They do not like the reusable filters at all. They
> said it several times. They recommend blue filters and change them every
> month. Sometimes on some units it may not need it but if the filter is not
> a clear blue, change it. [Air is going through our filters all the time,
> not just when the HVAC is running. That's how the temperatures are balanced
> between different areas of the room so one side isn't hot and the other
> cool. The filters are always in use.]
> >
> > 11. NOISY VENT in DR: They looked at the problem with the noisy vent in
> the Dining Room. I didn't hear their analysis but they were taking
> measurements when I left.
> >
> > 12. CO2 SENSORS: They said we definitely should have CO2 sensors in the
> Dining Room, I think in the kitchen and the Laundry Room? The one in the
> basement is testing air pulled from all directions and would dilute the air
> in any one spot so we would probably be feeling sick before it picked up
> anything and opened the fresh air vents.
> >
> > We are supposed to have fresh air for the worst case scenario which
> would be about 100 people in the dining room, I think. We've had more
> people than that but 100 was uncomfortable enough particularly sitting down.
> >
> > The fresh air ducts should be bringing in some fresh air, not totally
> closed off as they are now. The last person said 20% of the air should be
> fresh.
> >
> > 13. SF CALCS and CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS: I will send them digital copies
> of the construction drawings.
> >
> > NEED HELP: They also want to know the R-values of the windows and
> insulation. Can someone look those up? They should be in the binders in the
> office. Someone who was involved with planning and construction would be
> helpful but anyone can do it.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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