Broadcasting from Nelson BC

Stairs and the Second Stud Frame

Earlier in the summer we had paid a visit to Harrop Proctor Forest Products, a local FSC certified mill. Rami Rothkop showed us his selection of logs, from which he would cut all our timber stair material.

Before we talk about the stairs, I’d like to thank our Mom, Helga Karpinski. Here she is opening a beautiful present of homegrown garlic from Keiko’s mom, Susan. Helga is excited to move into her new home in the spring and without her, none of this would have happened. Thanks Mom!

The material Rami supplied was top notch, and the result is excellent. These are Max’s interior stairs.

You may notice the stair tread hangers in this photo. We used these as part of our strategy to build high quality with standard materials. Using the hangers instead of milling in the treads saved us a huge amount in labour costs.

Exterior stairs.


This may be the most important shot for the passive house enthusiasts. Here you can see a mockup of our triple stud frame. The outer two walls are insulated first. Then the vapour barrier, (VB), is applied to the inside face of the second stud wall.

The third stud wall, called the installation cavity, is built on the inside of the vapour barrier. This cavity holds all of the plumbing and electrical, minimizing the number of penetrations through the VB. It is critical to ensure that the VB is perfectly sealed in order to achieve the all important .6 air changes per hour mandated by the PassiveHouse Institute.

We are confident in our ability to do this, as we achieved .8 ach/hr in our last house, without the use of an installation cavity. It’s all in the craftsmanship!

For those of you wanting more information, I will be posting detail shots of our construction procedure in subsequent posts. Be sure to subscribe in the right sidebar to be notified of new posts.

Whew! So that is where we are now. Hopefully you enjoyed viewing this project as much as we did building it. Now I have to move my very pregnant fiancée from Vancouver to Nelson. We have rented a house in town for the winter, so the camp will be getting shut down as we prepare for snow.

Once we are back, we can get rolling on the second half.

Stay tuned!


  • Kevin on Jan 17, 2013

    Love the interior stairs. The mass and scale look great. I’m trying to build a similar look for a barn-home reno. Could you possibly supply a few specs like stair angle, tread rise and run, and tread thickness? Thanks.

  • Max Yanke on Nov 30, 2012

    Micheal Jessen writes in Nelson Daily article Energy Heroes
    regarding your project:

    taking advantage of that sun to build a Passive House that will have total energy costs under $1,000 a year – 90 percent less than an average house.

    This suggests the average annual home energy cost is $10000.00
    My 50 year old house annual energy costs are a little over $1000 annually.

    • Max Yanke on Dec 02, 2012

      Folly, using Energy Heroes data from Michael Jessen’s article we get 1277 hour of sunlight here. 9000 hrs in a year/1277 so
      14% of the time you will get some solar gain, most of it off angle and less than optimum. Your solar home is going to save you 90% the energy of a conventional home? Show me the data.
      Subsidies don’t make unaffordable construction affordable, it only changes who pays, I don’t like to pay for this and all the other
      solar projects that have no payback in any reasonable time frame.

      • lukas on Dec 02, 2012

        Hi Max,

        Thanks for your comments! I am preparing a blog post that will address your understandable scepticism of the “PassiveHouse” claims. In it I will offer research and data that will substantiate them.

        For now I will say that this home will be a “Certified PassiveHouse”. To be certified,
        a designer must take a specific course, and then use a specific piece of powerful energy modelling software to design the building. The software has been in development in germany for over 20 years. To be certified, a building must submit all construction and systems data to the head office in Germany for verification. They do not take these things lightly.

        The claim of an 80-90% reduction in energy use is made by PassiveHouse International. I intend to prove it here in Nelson.

        It must be remembered to compare apples to apples in these equations. Our building includes three homes, not one. It assumes that a comparable 600 sqft single family home would be on a standard foundation using only electricity or gas.

        At this point I would direct you towards
        for more information.

  • Harvey Armstrong on Oct 23, 2012

    When the roof was on the whole house came together for me! The decks made sense, and the feeling I got from the photos was a kind of verandah/porch; reminiscent of the tropics, somehow.

    This is a house for the coming years, that’s for sure. I find it very appealing,


  • Christine on Oct 22, 2012

    This is amazing Lukas! I love seeing this all come together. The stairs are really beautiful. And what a view!!

  • Keiko on Oct 22, 2012

    Your very pregnant fiancée is so proud of all the hard work and fine craftsmanship you have been doing, and can’t wait to join you out in Nelson! It amazes me to see all the steps that have taken place to get the project to the stage it’s now at. Congratulations to the whole team!

  • Onami Lee-Hem on Oct 22, 2012

    Great blog Luke. You guys are so impressive with what you’ve accomplished. What a massive amount of hard work! I look forward to checking out the house soon. :)

  • Herb on Oct 22, 2012

    Great work guys! I would love to stop by in November and pitch in!