Week one, and done! Where did the time go? If there is one thing I can say about my dad, it is that he does not waste time. In fact, I have had zero time to be timid or unsure about the design, which is ultimately a blessing; I have lost enough sleep over it already. I arrived in Taos on Saturday, (Memorial Day weekend) and by Wednesday we had the house footprint staked out and the site cleared. I should also mention that site mobilization actually started in the beginning of May. I was still in Los Angeles, but utilities needed to be brought to the site in order to have water and electricity, both of which are crucial to the commencement of construction, and both of which take some time to install. The site is located in an area of Taos that is off the city grid, which means, if you buy a piece of land here, you need to drill a well and have a transformer (electricity) installed on site. Fortunately the owner documented the well drilling and transformer installation:
We had to drill 620 feet, approximately the length of two football fields, to reach water. This particular machine used a drill bit called a rotary drill, much more expeditious than a “pounder” drill (there are only two types of well drilling machines available in Taos), which does just that, until it reaches water. Also much quieter.
While drilling, the hole is lined with pipe (seen on the truck). It comes in twenty-foot increments, so as the pipe is lowered, every twenty feet a new piece is welded on… 620 feet later, a well! At the bottom of the well is a pump, which pumps the water up, and at about mid-way there is a booster pump; a lot of pressure is lost over that length.
A pump does not work without electricity, which brings me to the transformer! Most of what I know about transformers is that they “step-down” power to a voltage that is appropriate for residential use. The main power supply that feeds the transformer needs to be a high voltage because it has to travel long distances, and just like water in a well, it too loses strength the further it travels.
On Wednesday we had Daniel, from Maes Electric, operate the bobcat and clear the sagebrush from the site. (He also helped dig the electrical trenches.)
I couldn’t believe how fast he worked. In less than two hours the site was clear. He gathered the plant material (later to be exported), and began to level out the site. After he was done clearing we had three truckloads of pit run and two truckloads of base course delivered. Pit run has a variety of sized rocks, and is a good foundation for the driveway; it will later be covered in much finer crushed gravel. The base course is what we used for the house pad, and to level out the topography – that being said the site is pretty much flat.
Before Daniel could do his work, we had to mark the corners of the site (the area to be cleared). My dad likes to call it the “Big Rectangle,” we did this with a transit and a stakes. This is also what most contractors would hire a surveyor to do, but we had the tools, and it is good information to know.
This was really the first time I got a sense of the scale of the house, and the views that I addressed through the placement of windows; it was nerve racking. I am relieved to have built the scaled model of the house, because it reinforces my design and decision-making. I can see why models are such a powerful design tools.
Lead times are critical in the world of construction, which is why we also placed the window order this week. I have until Tuesday to make any changes on the order, after that you get what you asked for. Yikes! Our lead-time for the windows is about eight weeks, which is how long it will take Sierra Pacific to make them. We should be through framing at that point, which is exactly when windows get installed. Timing is everything.
Lastly, it should be noted that the timeline for the project is six months, which means we have no choice but to be expedient. Come December the client will be in residence. I get a lot of questions about whether six months is fast or slow; I would say for a 2200 square foot house, in Northern New Mexico, it is pretty fast.