Win 7 Days tix, insulation, Woolly Pockets!

23:07, Jun 19 2013

In which I relaunch the "Guess The Day We Move In" competition including adding prizes - from Greenstuf insulation and Woolly Pockets, I use the magic of moving picture stories to show the steel rising into the air on our site, and I introduce you to the exciting world of home automation.

Welcome. Come in. Sorry the place is such a mess.

The scarcest building material on our project is patience. Building a house takes SO LONG and I have less patience than Michael Jackson's doctor. The weeks and months this year are crawling by, and no matter how I try to wish them away, there is nothing I can do to make them go quicker. Then I think "stop it you giant douche"! Why would I want it to go quicker? We'll never do this again, so we should enjoy each step instead of wishing we were there already. The same should of course be applied to almost everything in life - cooking a meal, riding my bike to work, being pregnant, watching X Factor. Well, most things.

Four and a half months from bare grass slope to this. Another four months to go?

So when we have a delay on site, it's agony. The last 10 days there hasn't been much happening because of a) Queen's Birthday, b) rain, and c) our steel fabricator Andy has a torn stomach muscle which he says he did lifting a piece of steel.


But heroically Andy has turned up on site this week and is working on through the pain. For that I am very grateful. On Monday I said to him "Shouldn't you be at home?" but what I meant was "don't you dare go home". I think he understood.

Andy's job is huge. He's responsible for the steel framing which gives the top floor its shape and strength. Here are the engineer's plans for the steel.

Andy has the best job. He has to assemble the giant Meccano set that is the structural steel for the top floor. Let's take a detailed look at how Andy, Sam and Deek made the two large "portals" you can see on the west wall of the plans. (They call them portals, and in the case of these ones if you walked through them you would indeed end up in another world - after your three-storey plummet.)

First Andy painted the steel that has been craned up on to the plywood. This blue paint is special paint that helps the steel resist corrosion. Because all of this steel is internal and thus not exposed to the elements, it doesn't have to be all that protective, but this nice layer of paint also makes it nicer to handle.

Next Sam, Deek and Andy bolted the uprights into place.

Andy and James next prepared the beams for welding by cutting them to length and welding extra bits onto them where required.

Then they lifted the cross beams, and Andy welded them into place.

Next it was time to build the second portal, which was smaller, but higher.

To show you how just one weld of this portal happened in more detail, I have employed the century-old method of "moving cinema". In this "sweet edit" I have captured just one of the hundreds of welds in our building. Here is the weld we are trying to make.

So now to the wonderful world of moving pictures! Roll it!

Some people have said to me "Jon, if you didn't build things up so much, people wouldn't be so disappointed when they turned out to be mediocre," and they are right, but what are you gonna do?

Here's how the weld ended up looking.

Building is just art in reverse. Compare the drawing of the weld above with completed actual weld. In art you look at a real thing and try to get it down on paper as realisitically as possible. In building you look at something on paper and try to make it exist in real life. "House Imitates Art". I sometimes wonder how far the builders would go. If I snuck into the the drawings file at night and drew a Shetland pony in the corner of the upstairs bedroom, would I come to site one day and see they'd built us a Shetland pony there?

So on Tuesday afternoon, here were the portals in their glory, standing on Three Kings like a modern-day Stonehenge.


There aren't enough henges. Why should stone be the only one? The English have shown that people are absolute suckers for a henge so why not some uniquely Kiwi versions? The Mad Butcher could make Meathenge. I'd visit "Woolhenge" to see the sun cast its ominous fuzzy shadow at the time of the "Dagging Solstice". We might be short a few druids, but I'm sure we could get some dudes to hang around it. I think of all the henges in the world, my favourite is this one.



It's time for me to get excited about something I'm going to spend a little bit of money on: home automation. To get the idea of what home automation is, start with the ability to have remote and/or automatic control of the electrical devices in your home. The lights, the stereo, the heating, the security system, the front door, the garage door, the sprinklers, the oven. All these things and more can be connected to the internet from where you can control them in smart ways that make things more convenient, safer, cheaper and fun.

Now add to that the ability for the automation system to gather information FROM your house. Is the front door open? What temperature is it in the living room? When was the last time it rained? Is the fridge still going? What temperature is it outside? Is there someone in the hallway? What time of day or night is it? Where does the GPS on my phone indicate that I am? Home automation means adding sensors to your house, or connecting appliances that can talk to the network, so that this information can be used to help control the devices in your home.


Now add the idea of "scenes" which are sets of settings. For example "romantic" might be lights dimmed, Barry White on the stereo, gas fire going and temperature at 22 degrees to encourage the removal of some of those garments.  A scene called "Homecoming" might be: garage door open, garage and hallway lights on, alarm off.  A scene called "Bedtime" might switch everything in the house off, the outdoor lights on sensor, and turn the alarm downstairs on.

The Brain

Then add a way to receive this information, make smart decisions and then send signals out to control the devices in your home - i.e. create a central brain that controls the house. Now not only can you do simple things like using your iPhone or iPad or iWhatever to turn all the controllable devices in your house on or off, you can also make the whole thing smarter by setting rules to control things automatically. For example: "If it is after 6am and the temperature in the bathroom is below 14 degrees, then turn on the underfloor heating" Or "If my phone GPS says I am within 100m of the house, activate the 'Homecoming' scene."

Furthermore the whole system is connected to the internet so you can monitor the sensors and control all the devices in the house (including security cameras) from anywhere in the world. Unlock the door for a neighbour while you are on holiday, have the lights come on and go off regularly while you are away, turn the crockpot on so that dinner is ready when you get home.

The idea is to make things convenient - allow you to control the lights without getting off the couch, or automatically water the garden when it's dry, but also to make things more secure and save waste by having things on when you need them, but not when you don't.

Somehow even when we've got space travel and Dominic Bowden, this kind of thing still seems like science fiction, but it isn't. It's a luxury, but for just a few thousand dollars you can add pretty good home automation to your house. When I was at the Home Show, sorry, "Spa Pool Show", earlier this year I met the characters from Fibaro. At first I wasn't listening to what they said, I was just resting on their couch and enjoying the break from looking at f*&^ing spa pools. But by the time my legs were refreshed they had me interested in the system.

The Fibaro system consists of a box called the Home Centre which is the central brain.

That brain is connected by a sort of wifi to however many devices in the home that you want. Lights and plugs are easy - for lights, just open the switch box and connect a little transceiver inside there which allows you to control them remotely.

We'll have dimmers on our upstairs lights, a door latch which we can control remotely and the garage door too. And we'll control the whole thing through apps on our phones and iPad - or from any computer anywhere in the world. Could it be hacked? I don't know? Could Kim DotCom remotely command our smartfridge to open up allowing him to steal our delicious sandwiches? I don't know. Probably not, but I'll look into it.

And as I understand it, the system is easily expandable without any need for rewiring, so in the future we can control more and more things. I'm looking forward to being just like Jabba the Hutt and I'll sit there with Gemma on a leash.

I'll give you more info as it becomes time to put the system in.



In an earlier blogging posty, I announced a competition to guess the date Gemma and I will spend our first night in the new house. And now I am re-announcing it, and adding prizes to it.

The prizes already are these:

1. VIP tickets for four people to a 7 Days recording (date is the winner's choice) in Ponsonby, Auckland - including the chance to meet the "stars" and have a photo etc.

2. A copy of Jesse Mulligan's brilliant book How to Speak New Zenglush.

3. The machete we found while clearing out the section of our current house.

And the prizes I'm announcing today:

4. From blog mates Greenstuf, one of their EcoWrap hot water cylinder insulating wraps (retail over $200!) - a good way to instantly and forever save money by keeping your expensive heat in the cylinder where it belongs.

Guaranteed to fit your cylinder better than this image fits my blogpostpage.

5. From Vertical Garden New Zealand, 3 x "Wally Three" Woolly Pockets!!

Three of these (retail over $300!) will allow you to make a vertical garden, a bit like this:

It won't be long before I close entries, so make sure to enter. Here's how it works:


- Enter by naming a date in the comments below.

- One entry per person please. If you entered before, you're entry is still good.

- The prizes will be given out among all the people who guess the exact right date that Gemma and I spend our first night in the new house. I will decide randomly who gets what.

- No correspondence will be entered into. (I don't know what this means but I've always wanted to say it.)

- Terms and Conditions do not apply. Quite honestly, f&*k terms and conditions.

The best clues as to what our move-in date will be are in this earlier post (but ignore the competition rules - they've changed). Since then we've possibly had a few more delays. I asked James last week if he had a revised finish date, and he said we might have lost a week or so...



Over the next few days on site, Sam and Deek will secure all the framing on the top floor into exactly the right spots by measuring carefully then nailing supports in to hold them solidly.

That is so when the larger steel beams are lifted by crane and then dropped into place and welded and bolted securely, the beams and crane won't knock the framing out of whack. With luck, next week's bloggypost will tell the story of the last of the steel structure being erected.


I think that's quite enough for today. Thank you very much for reading.

Your ever faithful,

Purchase Man


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