Warning: I'm going to do a bit of venting in this blog entry. Appropriately, I'll be venting about venting.
Last Monday, our architect came by for one of his standard meetings. I was under the impression that we were basically going to go over the most updated drawings (which shouldn't have changed much) and see what other detail stuff he had done (interior/exterior elevation drawings etc). Unfortunately he started off by asking us what our thoughts were on heating and air conditioning. Well, Colleen and I had talked a long time ago about getting central air for the addition since the greatroom would be almost impossible to heat with window units. Our architect even put a heating pump and ventilation stuff in the plans so we assumed he was sort of taking care of planning that part of the process. He was not.
Now, part of this problem is born from ignorance on our part. We didn't realize the amount of room needed for venting and an air handler. Maybe we should have been more informed; on the other hand, maybe the guy we're paying by the hour should have mentioned something about it before we got this far in the planning process.
For those of you out there who are, like Colleen and me, blissfully ignorant about these sorts of things, I'll fill you in. A heat pump basically just takes air in from the outside and changes the temperature. An air handler is required to actually pull air from inside the house and move it all around to your rooms. This is not a small piece of equipment; it's about 2 feet square and 4 feet tall. Normally it goes in the attic or a closet. The entire house must be vented to this handler. An intake vent must also run to the handler. These vents cannot be small. Normally these are put under the house in the crawlspace. All of these things cause complications in the floorplan that Colleen and I meticulously laid out. First, we don't have a crawlspace. Due to the hill behind our house that we were already going to have to cut into, it was decided it would be considerably easier and cheaper to build the addition on a concrete slab. So the vents can't go under the floor. Secondly, if we put the vents below (or, at a greater expense, in) the floor joists above the first floor then we lower the ceiling which would become a bit claustrophobic at the entryway. Thirdly, our roof slopes at quite a few angles and so the attic is never very tall (4 feet would be about the max height). Finally, we designed our precious closets to store things like clothes, coats, and snowboards, not to house venting.
In short, something is going to have to give. I've been doing my research and I have some ideas about how we can mitigate the damage, but I need another meeting with our architect (who remains nameless for just occasions such as these) to verify my findings.