Tag Archives: Passive House

Fast Forward

A couple times a year, my life just hits fast-forward. I got back from Alaska and immediately started packing to move house the next weekend.


The McKinstry truck I borrowed for moving came with a stern task master.

After the move, I started unpacking while simultaneously digging out gear for my first 50km trail race, The Rut. I left work at noon on Friday before the Sunday race and drove to Missoula- my pre-race team was second to none:

I'm not sure I would have finished with out these folks cheering me on.

I’m not sure I would have finished with out these folks cheering me on.

The Rut was really hard. My training took a nose-dive in August due to other constraints, and my shoes were too lightweight for the course. Lots of lessons learned: I took the first downhill too fast, I added some glue to the shoes to alleviate a soft spot (and found that hard spots are worse), and for the first time, really actually wanted the dubious “mini-soft-shell gaiters”. Also, poles. Poles would be not stupid on this course. Double also, crew. Having a crew person is rad. Thanks to Paige, Jess, Tod, and Amanda for pinch hitting in that regard.

Up and over the peak at right... twice. Remember it is supposed to be hard.

Up and over the peak at right… twice. Remember it is supposed to be hard.

Post race salt deposit. It was hard.

Post race salt deposit. It was hard.

I got a truly gnarly set of blisters by mile 11, which made the race a lot grittier than it needed to be. Early nutrition and cheering volunteers kept my spirits up. Once we got into the steeper terrain I stopped getting passed and the scenery got a lot better. After adding a full roll of tape to my feet at mile 18, I was ready to fight for the finish. Around mile 25 the blisters were screaming and I dug two painkillers out of my jacket pocket, just to take the edge off against the remaining miles. I’m not proud of needing the pills, but it felt like the right call at the time. I finished in 8hr 4min 10sec. Not the sub-8hrs I hoped for, but for a few long hours afterwards I felt full, that simply finishing was enough. I’m not afraid of the distance, or my feet, any more and

Tape is awesome. Flip flops are awesome.

Tape is awesome. Flip flops are awesome.

I had a wonderful night of recovery (2 dinners!) staying with Jordan and Cari in Bozeman before driving back to Seattle in one go on Monday- it took 3 tries to get out of the car at the first gas stop. Despite the stiffness in my legs, it was a beautiful drive, which was good because I jumped straight into a 11hr workday, and then onto a flight to Chicago for the 2015 North American Passive House Conference (NAPHC) on Wednesday.

What’s wrong with me that this:

Wall insulation cross section.

Wall insulation cross section.

is almost as much fun as this:

These guys are awesome. I think they had more fun than I did.

These guys are awesome. I think they had more fun than I did.

It was a great conference. I linked up with some old colleagues, some new potential clients, and got a lecture from a few of my heroes.

After the last 6 weeks in fast forward, I’m officially ready for a weekend at home.

Portland #4: In Limbo

The most recent adventures have pulled more on my heartstrings than my hamstrings.  About a month ago my boss invited me to join him for the PassiveHouse Northwest conference being held in Portland.  Aside from the topic matter (that has become increasingly more important to me of late), I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to see friends and spend some time in the previous home city.  About a week ago, I realized that making the trip was also likely to involve some challenging emotions.  We’ll stick to the facts first.

PassivHaus is an aggressive German standard for designing and constructing buildings with ultra low energy use and ultra high air quality and comfort.  In the design community it has a reputation for attracting some of the most zealous and nerdy folks that the architecture and engineering community can offer.  I prefer to think that the standard simply represents the next logical step in how buildings really must be designed and built. In general, folks at the conference were well behaved, very amiable, and geeked out really hard (star of the show was the guy who built a PassivHaus in Fairbanks, Alaska).

Yes, yes, this is a bunch of people standing around gawking at a window mockup-- only at a PassivHaus conference.

Close up of what all the fuss is about. Really high performance windows from Germany.

A mildly color adjusted image of a double stud wall with no thermal bridging. Nerdy as charged.

Building materials test chamber- for wind driven rain up to 200mph...

In between conference duties, I squeezed in time with old friends, and wandered in old familiar places.  I stared down some heavy emotions about careers, opportunities, friends, love, and the direction I’d like my life to take.

I miss Portland.  I miss the deep and high quality friendships that I have there.  The high salary gave me ample freedom of choice, and the city itself met much of my criteria for where I want to be.  I found two musical partners there that continue to write and perform music that I love, and loved to be a part of.  I honed my skills there in a career that is important and meaningful, and yet somehow in my gut, my life isn’t there.

I love Montana, and have ever since my first trip as a kid.  The access to the outdoors is phenomenal.  I’ve found meaningful work to get back on my feet, and live a simpler life that is more locally oriented.   In many ways, life here is better balanced, and I’m looking forward to many awesome, local adventures.  I feel honored to work with the people that I do, and am excited to be developing new skills an knowledge in the building design field I’ve done well with in the past.

I’ve found a little more peace since returning to Missoula, but my heart was in limbo for most of last week.  No doubt, I’m sticking to my commitment to Montana, but it was an interesting trip to Portland.  Below is a small bit of wisdom I picked up on the way:

John Ruskin was a wise man.

“Any pain associated with leaving something behind is usually a good sign that it was worth what you paid for it in the first place.” (George Veech)