Eight Steps to New Years Resolutions Project Management

Note: I wrote this last week but our site had been hacked and I could not post it. Our good friends at AgniTEK have come to the rescue.

Okay, it is January 2 and I just can’t help myself. I swore, as I do every year, that I would not do resolutions. But I just can’t help myself.

Here’s the thing, Resolutions are an issue of project management, which is something that I know a little bit about. The reason that most people’s resolutions fail is that they do not approach them from this perspective. Together let’s create a resolution project that will work for you.

  1. Mission

The first part of project management is to understand the intention of the project. Step back and think about it; what are the big issues that you want to get focused on this year? Is it personal, which most resolutions tend to be? You know, losing weight, exercising, saving money etc. How about relationship issues? Do you need to do a better job of communicating with your spouse, being more appreciative and supportive of your kids, a better helpmate? These are great resolutions to have because others are usually motivated to help you with them. How about work or productivity issues? Do you need to increase billable hours, spend less time online, do a better job with email…?

  1. Goal Setting

One of the keys to good project management is not to take on too many projects at one time. In the resolution department three is probably a stretch. The goal here is to do a good job and have success. Taking on too many will not only stretch you thin, it will also demotivate you as you fall short. These resolutions are important goals.

  1. Set quantifiable measurement

Now that you have your list narrowed to just a couple or, at most, a few things that you are going to feel good about accomplishing, let’s determine what success looks like. It is not good enough to say, “I’m going to be a better helpmate,” or “I’m going to get into better shape.” These vague declarations are the undoing of many a fine resolution. How will you measure being a better helper? What does being in better shape look like? Be realistic; don’t commit to doing all of the housework or winning the Tour de France.

  1. Set resources

Great! Project Resolution is coming along nicely. We have determined what is really important and set up a limited number of achievable goals. We have established a quantifiable definition of success. Now let’s think about resources. What are you going to need to accomplish your goal? How much time are you going to need to devote to accomplishing your goal on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? Is there going to be an investment? Maybe a gym membership or some sort of tool is needed. What people are you going to need to enlist? Are you going to need a personal trainer, an instructor of some sort or just someone to help keep you on task?

  1. Scope of work

Now we need to break the project into its component parts. If the goal is to loss 30 pounds, how are we going to achieve that? It will probably involve both diet and exercise.   What type of exercise? You probably will not start out by running a marathon, but running a half marathon may be part of how you are going to do to get to your goal and provide a long-range plan. What steps are necessary to get there?

  1. Schedule

Now lets think about the schedule. Start slow, you have a whole year to accomplish your goal. And, as you agreed to make it a manageable goal, there should be room for contingencies. Life will happen. There will be times that you fall off the diet, fail to get the distance in you had hoped for, had to be out of town and couldn’t get all the work done that you had originally planned on. If you have created a manageable plan, you will be able to get back on the path. Your plan should include monthly or quarterly benchmarks. If your goal requires establishing new habits you will want to start with more frequent benchmarks – maybe weekly or even daily as you get started. Task habits take between 30 and 70 reputations to form.

  1. Oversight

You cannot expect to reach your goal without the right amount of oversight. For most of us this means something other than just self-discipline but that is certainly where it must start. Enlist the help of a friend, spouse or paid consultant to help with this.

  1. Assessment

How often are you going to assess your progress and how are you going to make that assessment? As mentioned above, there needs to be more assessment early in the process. Are you achieving your intermediate goals? If not, why? Is the goal realistic? Is there something that you need to adjust elsewhere in your life to be able to dedicate the time or resources necessary to accomplish this goal? Do you need to dedicate more time, get more help or reassess the goal? This is the point of derailment for many people. They wanted to loss 30 pounds but the fact is they do not have time to train for the half marathon that was part of the plan. Defeated, they abandon the plan, feel bad about themselves and put on 10 pounds. The New Year’s resolution was not accomplished and it made the problem even worse. This is why it is so important to make sure that the project is reasonable and to have a process for readjustment along the way. Okay, you don’t have time to train for a half marathon, but you do have time to walk for half an hour three times a week. So downsize your goal to losing 20 pounds. And then after a month of your regiment you find that you are not losing as much weight as you thought you would. That is okay; you have reassessment as part of your plan. In the end you may have only lost 10 pounds but, by sticking to your plan, you accomplished something and you stuck with it. Next year you will only set your goal at 15 pounds and having established a workable plan, you will be in much better shape to accomplish your goal.

What are your new years resolutions? Keep in mind sharing resolutions is a step toward committing to them. If your New Years resolution includes something about your home, be sure to give us a call.

How Often do You Change Your AC Filters?

We have had a cool spring but that is soon to be over and your air conditioner is probably going to be running a good deal of the time. Do you know how often you should change your air filters?  It is a good idea to change them once a month, when the unit is running often.  Keeping clean filters will help your equipment last longer and reduce dust in your house. Through the cooling season, it is a good idea to mark your calendar and change your filters regularly. It is also important to have your system serviced by a licensed AC contractor at the beginning of each cooling and heating season.  It is a good idea to install an inline HEPA filter.  These filters remove 99.9% of air born particles.  This means that they remove not just dust but also pollen,  VOCs and other harmful pollutants that exist in all homes.  Also HEPA filters typically only need to be cleaned twice a year and should be a part of your regular service agreement.  A little bit of home maintenance will help you stay cool all summer long.

Proper Siding Replacement

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

There are those who suggest saving money in the short run by putting new siding over old.  This is not a good idea.  It provides a poor substrate and the old nails are worn and weak.  The old, poorly attached siding will cause several problems that diminish your investment.
Here are some pictures showing the process of one of our recent siding replacement projects.

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station.

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station. Finished Product.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station. Finished Product.

 Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station. Finished Product.

Stearns Design Build replacing siding in Bryan / College Station. Finished Product.

Selecting the Correct Window: Efficient Characteristics

So, what are defining efficient characteristics of window types? The main distinctions in windows include the number and type of glass panes, as well as any coatings on the glass pane.  

Single and Multiple Panes

Your traditional old-style window is a single pane of glass. This single layer of glazing isn’t very good at keeping the heat out and the cold in here in Bryan-College Station (or anywhere for that matter!). This low thermal resistance means that heat is entering your home, making you less comfortable, and causing you to turn your A/C on even higher! This is why it’s a good idea to upgrade your single pane systems to higher efficiency windows with more layers of glazing. Double pane windows mean there are two layers of glass with a sealed space in between. This space includes air or gas (such as argon) and acts as an insulating barrier to stop heat from entering or escaping through your window. There are also triple or quadruple pane windows that have three and four glass panes with gas filled spaces. To try to reduce the bulk of these windows there has been experimentation with thin plastic instead of glass panes. Although these triple and quadruple panes do in most cases insulate to a higher level, you can get just about the same savings and efficiency with a double pane window for your home.

Glass Coatings

Multiple pane windows also can come with what is called a low-e coating. This means they have a micro-thin coating of transparent metal on one surface of one pane of glass that helps to block heat transfer and loss. This is a characteristic that really increases the efficiency of a window, helping to keep the interior surface of the window cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This decreases heating and cooling loads, keeping your home comfortable without as much energy waste. Low-e coatings can also help to block UV light which reduces fading in furniture and other household items. Glass in windows can be tinted or have a tinted film applied to them that reduces heat gain, but this has some drawbacks. Tints can darken a space by reducing the amount of visible light let through the window or by adding a color to the light. Tints can also absorb heat during the summer which cancels out its purpose of reducing heat gain. This makes low-e coated windows an overall better selection for homes.

Multiple Pane Spacer Materials

Multiple pane windows require a spacer bar between panes of glass. This bar material is normally aluminum. Because this material doesn’t insulate well and can cause condensation in the window, other options are being explored. These “warm-edge” spacers are made from lower conductive metals, plastic, and even foam—all help increase the U-Factor of the window system, meaning a decrease in heat transfer.

With this knowledge, you can have confidence when selecting efficient windows. For even more information, see yesterday’s blog about NFRC and Energy Star labels. But be sure to do as much homework as you can. Find out about warranties offered by manufacturers to help with a long term perspective of upgrading your windows.

 Home addition in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build, featuring plenty of windows it let in natural light.

Home addition in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build, featuring plenty of windows it let in natural light.

Stopping Air Leakage: Spot Sealing and Unvented Attics

 Sealed attic, part of a home remodel in Bryan / College Station by Stearns design build.

Sealed attic, part of a home remodel in Bryan / College Station by Stearns design build.

If your utility bill seems absurdly high, your home’s heating/cooling system and lack of adequate amounts of insulation are two possible culprits. Cracks and openings in your house allow outside air in and let inside air out. While it’s good to have ventilation and to get fresh air, this is not the desired means to do so. Air leakage through cracks and openings is uncontrollable and can’t be monitored— you can never tell how much air is getting in or out. Attics are a specific concern in homes because of their inefficiency in regards to air leakage. How can you gain back control?
There are different options for sealing you home and making your attic efficient. The first is called spot sealing. Using technology such as an infrared camera, your contractor can locate specific areas of leakage and directly seal those with spray foam. For all of the following techniques to be truly successful, you should have spot sealing done around your home.

Another option is to have the floor of your attic spray foamed and reinsulated. This process seals in all the air below the attic floor to prevent hot or cold air (in summer or winter) from infiltrating your living spaces.

You can also create an unvented attic by having the under-side of your roof sprayed with foam. By sealing your attic space at the roof, you essentially extend the conditioned (heating and cooling) space to your roof line. This makes it easier on ducts in the attic that normally have to move cold air through very hot temperatures during the summers. This option does have some complications—if for example your attic is as big as the usable living area of your house. Then, you have essentially doubled the amount of area in your home you have to condition. Also, any fuel burning appliances, such as water heaters, must be sealed (with an exhaust vent and air intake vent), as sealing the attic prevents outside air from coming in for combustion purposes.

It’s important to also understand that sealing your home doesn’t mean there is absolutely no air flowing through it. However, instead of having unpredictable air flow through cracks, you will have controlled ventilation, through your whole-house system of fans and ducts, as well as localized exhaust fans.