Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New Toys

I have to admit the consumer in me is gratified to get some new toys.  I recently picked up some cheap flow meters and a moisture sensor.  (I know, I'm easily amused.)  I especially like the design concept of the moisture sensor, which is powered by the galvanic reaction of the zinc and copper sections of the probe with the dissolved minerals in the soil.  The point is to use just enough water to irrigate (trees and gardens), and to measure that irrigation water use in order to calculate a baseline for "other" household water use, which will feed into a new water conservation incentive program.  Like most multifamily properties in this area, Sage Garden has a single city water meter and a single water bill for the whole property, which the owner pays.  It's an arrangement that works well enough for most places, but the drawback is that the people making the decisions about household water use have absolutely no feedback about how much they are using, and no incentive to use water prudently.  My intent (in the rough concept stage) is to introduce a simple, cooperative, rebate-based incentive program that encourages conservation, shares utility savings with residents, and has no downside for the owner.

As a related footnote, we recently started test driving a consensus-based efficiency improvement program in which the property owner invests in an efficiency improvement (e.g. programmable thermostats), and that investment is recuperated through a voluntary, temporary rent adjustment that is calculated to benefit both parties.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wall repair

This post was made possible by the help and expertise of my neighbor Steve.  I have a lot of posting to catch up on, including the Fall olive harvest and new trees and gardens, but today's post is about repairing a wall.  Since the day I moved into Sage Garden, this wall has been leaning.

Today, we did something about it.  What do you do with a wall in such a condition?  Well, for starters, I got quotes from contractors, none of whom wanted to consider any approach other than tearing down the wall, dumping the old material in a landfill, and starting over.

Steve caught me scratching my head over this, and stopped by to help me formulate a better alternative.  We brainstormed a little, and finally settled on pulling it straight.  First we had to make room for the footing to move, so I dug a trench like so ...
... and soaked the ground and dug around the existing footing.  We drilled two holes through the wall and fastened eye bolts to a brace on the back side of the wall.
Next, we drove T-posts deep into the ground and connected two Come-A-Long winches between the posts and the eye bolts.
At this point, we really didn't know whether this scheme was even going to work, but worst case, if we broke the wall, I could always go back to one of those contractors and tell them I'd started the demolition for them.  After several attempts, and digging out more mud from under the footing, the wall finally moved!  And all in one piece!  We pulled it up plumb and made forms for new footings to "clamp" around the old one ...
... and poured the first of three today.

We'll see how this develops.