Plasma cutting steel staircase Tung oil applied on trim woodwwork Floors milled from site grown trees Septic field restoration Reflecting afternoon sun Birth of a barn on Bragg Hill Radiant floors Solar panel installation Capping off the chimney Proud shape emerges on the hilltop Pumping concrete into the three gables Forming 12x12 Gables Delivering concrete from the sky Parallam beam positioning Flying flitch beam ICF window framing Precision concrete placement Lower level ICF fabrication Newly excavated driveway Finishing garage deck concrete Pouring concrete footers Rebar safety caps Surveying the construction site Checking out the excavation equipment Rapid soil stabilization Testing the soils for drainage Taking Solar Pathfinder measurements Milling downed trees onsite View to the Southeast over the Benzel Family Trust Future meadow to be cultivated Taking a stroll on Bragg Hill Road


Green construction design, engineering and plain old hard work.

Reclaimed Redux

Reclaimed Redux Handmade furniture from reclaimed wood has taken a new twist at 60 bragg Hill.  Our specification called for four simple wood vanity bases for the various bathrooms in our home.  Rather than buying new, we turned to Wolfe and Hale, a local thrid generation custom millwork and cabinetry shop.  Bob and Tom Hale worked closely with our architect, Matthew Moger to find the right wood for the vanities that faithfully… Read more →

Stairs of Steel

Stairs of Steel After a year of planning and design, the fabrication of our “floating” stairway went into production.  The hand made steel and oak stair structure was designed to be the predominant element seated within the glass and steel solar chimney that is at the core of the barn.  The open tread design will facilitate the natural convection of air currents through the stair chamber and out the cupola, keeping the house… Read more →

Waiting for Irene

Waiting for Irene While the entire Northeast suffered the wrath of hurricane Irene, 60 Bragg Hill did pretty well.  Still without electricity three days after the storm, the house is solid and dry.  Having a house built of concrete goes a long way to provide security, especially in such a violent, prolonged weather event. Mark Thompson and his team worked tirelessly the day before the big storm to secure the new home, seal… Read more →

Hand Built Kitchen Cabinets

Hand Built Kitchen Cabinets For the craftsmen at Superior Woodcraft, the past few weeks have been busy working on the 60 Bragg Hill project.  While the careful planning and design for the kitchen took a year in devleopment, just last month they focused their full production staff on our kitchen. Much has been said on this web site about the quality and craftsmanship of Superior Woodcraft’s kitchens, but you can’t really appreciate the quality… Read more →

The Magic of Drywall

The Magic of Drywall These past few weeks have seen a flurry of activity at 60 Bragg Hill.  A small army of finishing experts including drywall and flooring professionals, kitchen cabinet installers, painters, and stucco masons have descended on the new home.  For us, this is the beginning of the end of a three year long process.  A good thing too, because we are itching to move in and start enjoying actually living there.… Read more →

Timber Frame Details

Timber Frame Details While much of the attention on this blog has been paid to the exterior features of the nascent barn, not much has been said about the interior. One of the most significant and visible features of our home is its grand staircase. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door and it will become its predominant visual element. Our staircase will command the giant glass… Read more →

Red Barn Rising

Red Barn Rising To many, home construction in general isn’t all that interesting to watch.  There are times however, when it is simply breathtaking.  This is one of those moments.  While visiting the site on a quiet Sunday morning we saw for the first time the true colors and palette of the exterior of our modern barn.  It’s beauty and strength just stunned us.  Three dimensional computer renderings can only show you so… Read more →

Lower Level Entombed in Concrete

Lower Level Entombed in Concrete After months in preparation, the lower level slab of 60 Bragg Hill was poured today.  The timing of this pour was critical.  Unlike the concrete used inside the vertical walls of the home, an exposed slab representing the whole lower level of the home requires perfect synchronization of many elements.  Temperature, humidity, concrete and truck availability, and a small army of concrete finishing experts were required to be at their… Read more →

Going Solar: A Race Against Time

Going Solar: A Race Against Time Being that the sun has been in existence since the birth of our solar system, you wouldn’t think that we’d be in such a hurry to get our photo voltaic system installed and inspected.  If, however you are counting on a special grant from a government body who is willing to pay for a third of your costs, time becomes important. Like many states in the US, Pennsylvania has an… Read more →

Bragg Hill is setting for Green Home Caravan

Bragg Hill is setting for Green Home Caravan The Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) has selected 60 Bragg Hill to be a stop along the Chester County Green Home Caravan Tour.  Under crystal clear skies, more than thirty participants visited 60 Bragg Hill to learn about sustainable green building practices. The site was one of three locations that defined the Green Home Tour.  The first home, State Representative Chris Ross’s house was one of the first sustainable… Read more →

Preparing for the Elements

Preparing for the Elements A traditional barn cupola sits proudly atop 60 Bragg Hill.  From a visual standpoint, it is one of the strongest architectural elements of the home. This week, in preparation of the metal standing seam roof installation the Marvin windows were installed and the lightening arresters were affixed to its apex. The cupola’s peak is 48 feet above grade.  Add that to Bragg Hill’s already 331 foot MSL (Mean Sea Level)… Read more →

Soffit Details

Soffit Details Today began the installation of tongue and groove cypress pine siding on the underside or soffit of the deep roof overhangs.  Prior to the installation of the standing seam metal roof and solar panels, the entire soffit fabrication must be complete.  The 10 1/2 inch structural insulated panels that make up the roof of 60 Bragg Hill is thicker than is normally found in homes.  The soffit detail and edge… Read more →

It’s all about Cypress

It’s all about Cypress It’s confirmed: the many months of foundation and structural work are behind us.  Maybe it’s a sign of spring.  Finishing and detail work are now in full swing.  Today, an enormous truck filled with cypress pine was delivered today to Bragg Hill.  Much of the exterior of the home will be dressed in cypress.  Why?  Cypress is a conifer, a type of pine tree grown in the south in abundant… Read more →

Stone Work Complete - Windows Installed

Stone Work Complete - Windows Installed The pace of construction continues at a steady pace at 60 Bragg Hill.  Up until now, much of the work has been focused on the core structural systems and elements of the green home.  With the warmer weather, the masons have completed hand cutting and setting the stones for the massive chimney.  With that phase complete, the physical character of 60 Bragg Hill has changed dramatically.  Pointing and cleaning the… Read more →

Mason Artestry Revealed

Mason Artestry Revealed With the structural envelope complete and the cold winter temperatures behind us, the masonry work has begun in earnest.  The design of 60 Bragg Hill is graced with stone texture on both interior and exterior surfaces. An accurate masonry color palette that faithfully reflects Chester County’s heritage was critical.  We used a local quarry, Rolling Rock Building Stone, Co. just 33 miles from Bragg Hill for all of our stone… Read more →

A Perfect Fit: No Cuts, Rips or Errors

A Perfect Fit: No Cuts, Rips or Errors If you’ve never seen a Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) roof installed, it’s quite a spectacle.  In our case the entire structural roof system was successfully installed in two days.  The precision engineered panels were made in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and trucked 200 miles to Bragg Hill for installation.  It is common that SIPs require slight modification or “field trimming” on site during the installation process.  In our case, no trimming or… Read more →

Structure Capped Off With SIPs

Structure Capped Off With SIPs Today marked the beginning of the end of the exterior structural fabrication at 60 Bragg Hill.  After many months of vertical development of the concrete and steel reinforced walls, the roof installation was finally started.  A 40-ton crane assisted the Thompson Builders team in hoisting the more than 20 Structural Insulated Panels that will define the roof of the Chester County Eco-home.  The prefabricated 10 inch thick foam and OSB… Read more →

Vertical Concrete Wall Forms Complete

Vertical Concrete Wall Forms Complete All vertical construction of 60 Bragg Hill Road was completed today with the last ICF pour. Under a crisp blue sky, the three remaining gables were infused with concrete and “topped off”.  The only remaining vertical structure is the farmhouse cupola which won’t be built until the roof framing is complete.  Fabricating 12x12 pitch gables with concrete is tricky.  Many ICF homes avoid this step and revert to traditional wood… Read more →

Third Level ICF Pour

Third Level ICF Pour On a crisp winter morning a small army of concrete trucks arrived at 60 Bragg Hill to participate in the fascinating ritual of bestowing everlasting strength to our developing home.  Like a ballet, the confident choreography of man and machine was a joy to watch.  Many weeks of measured, deliberate work in harsh winter conditions went into the preparation for today’s pour.  Four concrete trucks, one 32 meter concrete pump… Read more →

A White House in Winter

A White House in Winter This has been a rough winter for anyone living in the northeast part of the US.  It’s been especially difficult when you are required to work outside.  Until the upper level ICF build is complete and a roof is finally put on the home, the construction team will just have to continue to deal with what Mother Nature throws at them.  For the past month now, we’ve been getting weekly… Read more →

Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven Yeah, it’s a little trite, but in this case, it’s literal.  Now that the upper deck of the main level is in place, fabrication of the upper level has begun in earnest.  A temporary construction stairway was just built built to enable the work to continue skyward.  The upper level of 60 Bragg Hill will define three bedrooms including the master suite, a laundry room and an open sitting area. … Read more →

Structural Support Beams Flown Into Place

Structural Support Beams Flown Into Place There is nothing like power tools.  Today, a large 40 ton crane was brought to 60 Bragg Hill to help lift nine giant structural beams into place.  These beams were carefully engineered and fabricated to support both the enormous 24 foot span and the weight of the second floor, which includes large stone slabs which are tightly spaced with minimal grout joints.  The beams are made from engineered parallel strand… Read more →

Second Level Concrete Pour Complete

Second Level Concrete Pour Complete Keeping to an aggressive construction schedule, the third major concrete pour was completed today.  44 cubic yards of concrete was required to fill the voids within the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) that formed the second and main level of 60 Bragg Hill.  Fabricating the forms (concrete molds) for the second level was the most complex of the entire project.  Due to the enormous steel window wall, large garage and front… Read more →

Enormous openings framed with ICFs

Enormous openings framed with ICFs Due to the design of the many large openings in this home, the main level is the most complex to fabricate using Insulated Concrete Forms.  The large window and door expanses require careful planning, engineering and execution of frames, braces and support structures to withstand the intense weight and pressure during the concrete pour and subsequent 28 day curing period.  Once the concrete has set and fused with the embedded… Read more →

Steel and Wood Bring Character to 60 Bragg Hill

Steel and Wood Bring Character to 60 Bragg Hill So far, styrofoam, re-bar and concrete has been the predominant building material.  But, as the lower level concrete forms cure, the M. W. Thompson team turns to new disciplines, both old and new.  The design of 60 Bragg Hill’s main level is complex, revealing for the first time the disparate substances and textures that make up the heart of the home.  The giant modern steel frame for the western facing… Read more →

Recycled beverage containers create waterproofing for 60 Bragg Hill

Recycled beverage containers create waterproofing for 60 Bragg Hill No it’s not a space ship, although it looks like one.  You are looking at the exterior of our lower level ICF walls covered with a waterproofing membrane called Platon®. This is a Certainteed product made from high-density polyethylene 92% of which has been recycled from milk and other beverage containers.  The concept behind the interesting dimple texture of the foundation wrap is to channel natural hydrostatic pressure from underground… Read more →

Lower Level Concrete Pour Successful

Lower Level Concrete Pour Successful An army of concrete trucks descended on 60 Bragg Hill today to deliver over 70 cubic yards concrete.  The number six slump concrete was pumped from the eight concrete trucks into a giant pump supplied by Forcine Concrete.  The concrete, mixed with fly ash and warm water was carefully delivered inside the ICf sandwich that will ultimately define the complete wall system for our home.  This is a time-critical task… Read more →

Lower Level Ready for First Pour

Lower Level Ready for First Pour Now that the footers are set, the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) assembly commenced at a rapid pace.  While the light weight Styrofoam forms snap into place, there is much careful preparation and stabilization required before the eight inch forms are filled with concrete.  The lower level walls are 11 feet tall and will absorb close to 80 cubic yards of concrete.  Because of the enormous weight and pressure of the… Read more →

Insulated Concrete Forms System Installed And Growing

Insulated Concrete Forms System Installed And Growing Rapidly rising out of the ground, the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are starting to define the shape of the home.  This process happens quickly because the ICF Styrofoam forms literally snap into place just like Lego® blocks.Don’t be misled, there is much work to be done before the concrete is poured into the form.  Each of the openings like windows, doors, etc. must be carefully framed and supported.  The forms… Read more →

Foundation Takes Shape

Foundation Takes Shape The first of what will be many concrete trucks delivered concrete for the foundation footers today.  The first half of the foundation, the part that is 12 feet underground used 17 yards of concrete.  The concrete was poured into the CertainTeed Form-A-Drain molds. This concrete recipe as all concrete used in this house is mixed with fly ash in place of portland cement. Because the concrete is used in the… Read more →

Giving Our Trees a New Life

Giving Our Trees a New Life We have begun in earnest to mill the trees we were required to destroy and form them into lumber for the new home.  Here, several hickory trees are milled on site for flooring in two of the upstairs bedrooms. In all, there were close to 80 trees that were harvested for the construction of our new home. For many of the trees, we will continue to enjoy them in a… Read more →

Twelve Feet Under

Twelve Feet Under After almost three years of planning, it is a strange feeling to step into the space carved out of a hillside that is supposed to be your home.  There was much discussion of what ifs:  What if there are huge boulders or solid rock underground?  Fortunately, the soil content at Bragg Hill is ideal for building.  It percolates well and in our part of Chester County, doesn’t contain subterranean rock. … Read more →

View from twelve feet under

View from twelve feet under Here is a 360° view of the recently dug out framework for the new home.  This elevation will be the lower level with 11 foot ceilings.

Foundation Excavation Complete

Foundation Excavation Complete After weeks of careful sculpting of the landscape, the foundation of the home’s footprint is complete. This image sequence shows Jim Hicks, our tireless excavator removing the final bucket loads of dirt from under the North side of the home.  Each load of fill is then carried to the bottom of Bragg Hill to complete the earthen berm to be used to capture storm water run off in the event… Read more →

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