If you’re building a house using brand new technology and it seems like you’re spending a lot of “build” time standing, staring and walking in circles, I have some advice for you: don’t mount a camera above the scene to capture exactly how much time nothing is in fact being built. I’m a photographer, so it seemed like a good idea to mount a Canon 1DS Mk II with a Canon TC80N3–remote controller to make a picture every eight minutes, eight hours a day, for 14 days. During the build I never reviewed the pictures; I just changed out the CF cards and backed them up. Today I converted all the RAW files to 1080 jpegs and threw them onto a video edit timeline, giving them .3 seconds each. Then I hit play.
This time lapse represents “the box:” installing the stair tower deck (wood), third-floor deck (wood), second-floor exterior / interior walls (Kama Eebs panels), third-floor exterior / interior walls and the roof (panels). As I stared at the screen, all the emotions came back. I watched the leaves on the trees go from green to gone. And in a similarly soul-wrenching way, I saw full hours of nothing: just a bunch of hard-working guys waiting for a part, a missing link, something to get the job back on track. Fortunately I also saw incredible focus and teamwork. I noticed that I wore the same pants for five days in a row. I was able to count my coffee intake (29 cups). But I figured that nobody else wants to watch a static build, so I went in and deleted every frame that was a “dwell” moment. It turned out that I had 52 hours of “dwell” time out of 112 hours of action.
The perceived rate of the build was faster than it appeared when I was inside the project day to day. If nothing else, I’ve learned to slow down, worry less and perhaps do my laundry more often…
John B. Carnett, PopSci's staff photographer, is using the latest green technology to build his dream home. Follow along as the project progresses on his Green Dream blog: popsci.com/green-dream
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.