MSc in Integrative Ecosocial Design
Gaia University

Richard Kühnel

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Implementation II

  • Project Plan
    The project plans created in previous phases have been copied and modified to indicate the progress of the project, making them effectively status reports. The status of the design phase project plan and of the implementation I phase project plan are shown with two additional columns, "Status" and "Comments". The status column indicates if a task, element or activity has been "Done", is "Open" or has been "Postponed". In the comments column additional information is provided. These two reports show for the whole project, which pieces have been implemented fully, where some tasks are still open and what elements have been postponed including the reasoning or with a reference to discussions in other documents.
    A few notes on the project planning: Obviously some tasks that have been completed are not listed at all in any of the plans. This is a normal occurrence in project management. Either one task required something else to be completed first that was overlooked during the original planning period or some factor has changed, for example legally or financially or priorities have changed or with a small amount of additional resources something else could be completed that otherwise maybe would not get done. It is also interesting to see how the project plan in the design phase and the implementation phase are different. In the design phase it is all about function and evaluating possible consequences of decisions and choices. During implementation a list of tasks are done in a certain order to complete the work.
    A preliminary list has been created consisting off all the open and postponed tasks, activities and elements from the above mentioned status reports. This will be the basis for the future planning and a first draft will be most likely included in the final review output.
    The main tasks for the winter is to work on the design, research, plans and budget for the coming year.
  • Budget Plan
    This budget plan is updated with the latest bank statement. As mentioned in the previous output, in the future it would be very good to track the expenses by a few subcategories per task (permit, material, labor, rent, transport, etc.). This will require to note on any receipt or with any purchase and expense to what task the amount needs to be assigned to and the tracking of how much time has been worked on a particular task. It would be also great if the expenses could then be viewed by subcategories across any task. For example the costs for permits per task/element as well as the total costs for permits for all tasks. This will require some thinking how to set it up and what tools to use.
    This budget and cash flow plan shows an overrun mainly in the labor cost. The reason for this is that the labor costs are not split out by tasks/elements. For example in the costs for the sidewalk the labor cost is not included, instead it is included in the labor cost item.
    I modified the total spreadsheets to contain four total columns:
    - The total up to date actual expenses
    - The total up to date originally expected expenses
    - The total of the up to date expenses plus the total expected future expenses
    - The total originally expected expenses
    This makes it much easier to see where the expenses are at in relation ship to the planned budget.
    As a whole I am glad to see that we are currently way below the projected costs!
  • Elements/Tasks, including Description, Photos and Clips
    Here are summaries, photos and clips (where available) of the implemented or currently worked on elements and tasks:

    • Driveway Approach ( Slides | Clip, 1.01 MB)
      Besides the sidewalk, we also wanted to redo the driveway approach. Due to its location on the planting strip this had to follow city regulations. All the same considerations apply as for the sidewalk implemented in the first part of implementation, except the concrete has to be 6 inches thick instead of three and has to be steel reinforced. All the same procedures were followed as for the sidewalk, plus a few additional things had to be done. One was to decide how wide to make it. That was quite difficult as the existing curb cut made it look quite strange proportionally. So we set some string lines, drove the car onto the driveway, as we usually would do, and marked where the tires actually touch the ground. We also had to add so called 'wings', little extensions to the left and right side that are shaped like triangles curving up to the height of the curb. This led to the decision to cut one side of the curb wider, which was a noisy, dusty and precarious work using a skill saw with a diamond blade! The other thing was to set rebar. We marked off the spacing on the frame and the curb. After setting and tying it together we made sure it was going to be in the center of the concrete by placing supports under the rebar to hold it up. After approval from the city inspector, we ordered another 4 1/4 yard of concrete. After letting it dry out over a couple of days we removed the forms and filled soil back in any space along the edges. It turned out quite well.

    • Foot Path West Side ( Slides | Clip, 4.7 MB)
      Along the westside of the house there is about a 5 - 6 feet wide area between our house wall and the neighbors property line, which is for the most part a fence. Thinking about how to gain more storage space, the need of transporting materials and tools between the back and the front, as well as the weekly trip for the garbage can and recycling container to the curbside we decided to built a path that can be easily navigated and potentially gives us more storage space along the neighbors fence for our bikes and kayaks.
      To come up with the design was quite tricky. The path should drain water away from the house and towards the front of the property and not to the neighbor. The roof overhang and the roof not having a gutter (yet) forms a drip line on the ground when it rains. The grade level of the neighbor's property changes along the whole length up to several inches. The thickness of the concrete pieces are varying between 3 - 5 inches and the draining might be a challenge because of some clay.
      Before we actually started we cleaned up stones, rocks and a buried metal pole along the property line and dug out a tree stump. This we did as we want to extend the existing fence about 16 feet towards the front to gain more potential storage space.
      What we came up with was to dig out a 5 foot wide and about 10 inches deep area from the back of the house to the sidewalk in front and a shovel wide deeper ditch inside along the neighbors property line. This will allow water that drains in to the ground end up in the lower channel and run to the front ending in flower bed in front and provide moisture the plants. We tested the drainage without gravel in it and it seemed to work fine. Then we filled everything with 3/4 minus gravel and compacted it with a flat plate compacter. After that we added fine sand on top and covered narrow bed alongside the house we had not dug out with cardboard. Next we laid concrete pieces from the broken up old sidewalk, that we loaded onto a dolly to transport from the planting strip to where it was needed. Wow - they are heavy and uneven on the bottom. Lifting them into place and make all the adjustment draining the right directions and being level for save walking was quite a challenge requiring skilled use of level, mallet and muscles. After a while we had pretty much figured out some basic ways to do this. Once in a while it just took a long time to have a piece placed correctly. After the first portion was laid we put sand on top, compacted it and then swept the sand off. We did not do this for the rest of the path so far as the plate compacter is fairly expensive to rent and try to do accumulate several compacting-tasks we can do all at the same time.
      We have to finish putting smaller gravel between the concrete pieces as the sand moves out too easily when walking on it, planting a few native perennial creepers between the them and the small planting bed alongside the house still needs to be planted.
      This whole project took us about a week and turned out amazingly well. A lot of people have commented on how great it looks and what a good use of "urbanite" this is instead of brining it to the landfill.

    • Retaining Wall (Slides)
      Once we had the foot path completed we had besides more larger pieces also many smaller pieces of concrete left over. This triggered an idea: just recently I had seen pictures of a retaining wall that was built from "urbanite", recycled concrete pieces. And it looked great. So we decided to build a retaining wall along the large flowerbed we have on the west side in the back yard. First we had to take out the long square logs that were the old retaining wall and move the irrigation supply hose out of the way. Then using the wheel barrel we brought the pieces into the backyard, some of which we had to break up. We dry laid a two run high retaining wall, which after the challenges in the beginning was not too difficult. It was overall an interesting experience for the first dry laid system I ever worked on. Sometimes it took a while to find or cut the right pieces. It really turned out well. More concrete saved form the landfill. Now we were left over with more small concrete rubble. So what to do with it? I was hoping we could build a small herb spiral using the small rubble in the center as mass, but we could not agree on a location and brought it to the landfill.

    • Planting Strip (Slides)
      This is the piece of land, about 40 x 14 feet, that is between the sidewalk and the street. The planting strip as well as the sidewalk are city property, but need to be maintained by the adjoining property owner following city regulations and building codes. For example, certain species of trees are not permitted to be planted, like willows, as they tend to grow into sewer lines. We had been using the planting strip during the last few month as deposit for excavated dirt, soil and concrete from the old sidewalk.
      Now was the time to take the first steps to transform it into what it is to become into the future. We are thinking to grow native and other appropriate perennial flowers, herbs and bushes with beautiful colors in an eye catching arrangement. At the same time it should provide a light screen to the traffic on the road and not growing too high in order to catch any sun in fall, winter and early spring that can reach the front yard and the windows of the house. It should not be needing any irrigation and catch any runoff from the side walk. We are looking for low maintenance and to harvest flowers for our own home once in a while. Because directly bordering the street no edibles will be planted there.
      We walked around the neighborhood to see what others have done to complement our own ideas. Berta expressed what she wanted with words like, 'wavy', 'flowing', 'hilly', 'soft edges', etc.
      We had to work on several things. First we put a layer of cardboard around all the edges, about 1 foot wide, to prevent weeds and the previous grass from coming up. Then we moved the left over concrete in an area of the future front yard, followed by dealing with the dirt and soil from two big piles that resulted form all the excavating and digging. We had to pick out grass sods, stones and roots that were all mixed in and came to the surface when moving the material.
      For some reason the curb along one part of the planting strip outside of our driveway entrance is cut flush to to street level. Maybe this was an old driveway. As the height of grade has been getting higher than it was before we needed a way to prevent soil from sliding into the street. Eventually we settled on using more of the concrete pieces from the old sidewalk to build a small retaining wall, just behind the street level curb right on the planting strip. We had to cut quite a few pieces to size. From our experience with the retaining wall for the flowerbed we were already familiar with that. It was more difficult as it should be quite stable so light kicks to the stones should not be a problem. This could happen when cars are parking and passengers getting in and out, etc.
      Another thing we had to do was to make sure that the water meter and shut-off access did not get buried. While working on that I discovered that during prior work we must have nicked a wire that was attached to the cover. I informed the city about it and have not heard anything since.
      Findlay we were ready to actually remove dirt that we did not need. We brought two trailer loads to a local home where it is was used as infill. Then we tried to sculpt the soil - wavy, remember! Daniel and Noah got going on this a few times, always coming back with the same questions: How do you want this? Finally Berta landscaped a small part how she envisioned it. This gave us enough insight and we just went for it. We had to change one portion as it turned out too linear. Now we ended up with small hills, with little paths and stepping stones in between. Quite pleasing looking. Once it was in place we raked over it and took off all the small stones and other non-soil stuff.
      There are a few more steps that need completion. Of course the planting, additionally one corner needs to be covered on the edges, the whole area needs to be covered with cardboard or black plastic and, before planting, with good soil. Before or after planting, everything will be deeply mulched with chipped tree bark. Maybe some natural, larger stones and a little solar powered pond would added some attention grabbing features.

    • Porch (Slides)
      As described previously we originally planned to build an attached greenhouse to the South side of the house. As this is not possible because of the city's building code required setbacks from the sidewalk, we chose another option to build an unenclosed porch. The city permitted the attached unenclosed porch after reviewing section and plan drawings.
      Once the porch is in place we can design temporary windows for the colder time of the year. We discussed frequently different ways to build it and finally had the required section and plan drawings at a stage to submit them to the city and received a building permit. This was a big step for us.
      The first part we build were the footings for a 10 x 6.5 feet stem wall. When we had rented an excavator for working on the sidewalk we also dug out the area for the future porch. Now we framed the footing in, set the rebar and received the approval from the city inspector. Then the concrete got poured. This time, due to scheduling difficulties with the previous vendor, I decide to go with another business that mixes concrete on site. They come with a truck that has all the ingredients loaded and mix the amount needed in 1/10th yard increments. This way hardly anything is left over or wasted. It worked quite well. As the driveway approach was fairly new we had to fill the concrete into a wheel barrel and chute it down a trough that we built using one section from the concrete truck trough. We spread the concrete with shovels into across the footing.
      When the add on order of Faswall blocks arrived we picked them up and stacked them in front of the future porch, covered with tarp to protect them against rain. Faswall blocks are made of recycled wood chips and cement. The blocks are 2 ft. x 1ft. x 8 inches high, relatively light weight, easy to cut and have interlocking grooves on the side. Rock wool insulating blocks are already inserted. They have a R-value of 20. For more information on Faswall blocks view the web site of Shelter Works, Ltd, especially the sustainability section. This is the manufacturer we used, as they are located "relatively close, in Corvallis, Oregon. Here are also a number of their publications (pdf-files): There is also more info at, though it is a little bit different, it is basically on the same type of building material. Their Faswall Technical Manual contains valuable information.
      A few days after the concrete footing had dried out we built the first row of blocks, set into a bed of mortar. It took quite a while to make it square and level and us getting used to the material. A little bit later we did the second and all the rest of the rows adding the required steel reinforcement. Any larger opening to the outside was covered as well the seam between the blocks and the footing and house wall were beaded with mortar. This is necessary to ensure the concrete that gets filled in does not leave the blocks or blows the sidewalls out. Another inspection was made, now we are ready to pour concrete again.

    • Driveway North Portion (Slides)
      After working on the planting strip and starting the porch, we decide to start working on the North portion of the driveway as it required a lot of digging and we wanted to utilize the help of Berta's nephews for that and bring in the excavator in again. So we measured in where we want the driveway located by setting some string lines and started excavating an area of 22 x 12 feet and about 12 inches deep. That is almost 10 cubic yards, quite a lot of material. We tried to find a place where we could bring this material besides the dump site. Finally it turned out the two of our friends could use some material for projects on their properties. We brought 3 loads of our small trailer to one. Our other friend had a huge flat bed trailer for which we built sidewalls and piled the dirt up, maybe 7 - 8 yards. This was too much weight to be pulled safely, so we had to take off almost half and brought it to the above mentioned friend's site. The large trailer load we brought a few miles outside of town and unloaded it to build a little passage over a swampy area.
      Now we started bringing in gravel, trailer wise (1/2 yard) and truckload wise (2 yards) in order to refill and subsequently compact the future parking spot for our car. We are currently thinking to use clay bricks for walking traffic, like a footpath from the sidewalk to the stairs that lead up to the the house door, the landing in front of those stairs and along the other side of the car for stepping out. The rest, the central part is the actually driveway where the car will be parked we are planning to fill with compacted gravel, maybe with a top layer of small river stone or pea gravel. There are several benefits and also disadvantages we are anticipating with this solution. Here an overview:
      • Materials:
        Gravel, sand and clay are all naturally (this to differentiate from "synthetically manufactured", using, for example, mineral oil, which is of course also "naturally occurring") occurring materials. Even though some of them, like the clay pavers, are not manufactured locally, it would be possible to do so.
      • Labor and tools:
        Most of the labor for installment can be done manually and with hand tools. For transportation and compacting we used machines, but could principally be done un-motorized or with "zero emission" equipment.
      • Looks:
        Here we have different opinions ranging from beautiful to construction site look for the gravel. For the the clay pavers we anticipate a beautiful look and in the future we can actually work on it and make designs by using different colored pavers.
      • We wonder it the gravel will "spit" from under the tires and will have impressions from the weight of the car. It may also be not so easy to walk on, specially for people with wheel chairs or crutches, etc. This is a consideration for Bert's clients and we plan to make the footpath made of pavers 3 feet wide.
      • Cost:
        Probably one of the more affordable options, except for using more urbanite instead of the bricks, which would be cost free for the surface pavers. I thought to show some other possibilities of what can be done in a more sustainable way than concrete.
      • Permeability:
        The gravel provides a larger area where rain water draining off the clay pavers can percolate into the ground.
      • Maintenance:
        Sweeping the clay pavers should be usually enough. For the gravel portion I am wondering how to deal with mostly leaves and small branch pieces blown in. Maybe these can be raked off. In winter we will need to make sure the gravel portion is not cleared too low digging up lots of gravel. The chosen materials are fairly resistant to weather and can be repaired or replaced easily - filling in more gravel where needed, adding more sand or replacing bricks.
      • Reuse:
        All the used materials can be reused if for some reason that would be necessary or would eventually just become non polluting parts of the environment. To be really sure about this it will be necessary to make sure the gravel and sands have not been treated and are non-toxic in their origin. Especially for the clay bricks this will be necessary s I know that some are manufactured with questionable source materials and additives. Again, what ever is available and done to day is one consideration, the other part is if it principally is possible to use this materials in an ecological way during the complete lifecycle.

  • Journal
    My IESD blog continues to be hosted at the JotSpot system.
  • Publicity
    During this phase quite a few people stopped by, some friends, but many I have never met before. Seeing us working in front, the piles of soil and materials, they were looking, asking questions and making positive comments. I gave 4 or 5 small tours introducing them to this project. Everyone was quite excited. I realized I should have made pictures and also could have handed out some additional info or how to contact me for consulting etc. Well, this has to wait till next year, when I have that ready.
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