2012: July to December; Slowly Slowly

December 2012
We pay Kotor municipality an enormous sum of money, a percentage of the estimated cost of building, as the first stage in being granted building permission. The payment entitles us to sign a contract with the municipality. We then have to pay separate sets of money for water connection. One goes to the municipal water company, another to the regional water company, which controls the pipeline along the coast. Bureaucracy. Payment to connect electricity is now made once the house is finished, as the law has changed recently – a slight advantage. It looks as though we will get the new electricity meters which EPCG are installing and which can be read remotely. As everyone goes on holiday at Christmas until the middle of January, nothing much more will happen until after that.

November 2012
We get the Montenegrin contact details for Rehau windows (VH Montenegro in Niksic), and await a reply. We then go and see them, to explain the project. Good quality – they do work for Porto Montenegro. They send a very acceptable quotation.

Vasko tells us that building permission should come through sometime in the week starting 19th, as the lady who deals with our case is away during the week before. In the meantime, he sends us the Bill of Quantities with the Autocad version of the final plans, so that we can approach more potential suppliers for the HVAC, windows/ doors &c.

After several sets of email correspondence, we meet the Belgrade-based senior engineer for Rehau heating systems, who speaks immaculate German, in Risan on 01 November. He needs a set of the plans in Autocad format, which we manage to persuade Vasko to send us about 10 days later.

An exciting 24 hours on 13th and 14th, as two earthquakes hit Danilovgrad, about 60km away in a direct line. The first is at 00:18 on 13th and the second at 00:24 on 14th, ie almost exactly 24 hours later. They are both identical, 4.5 on the Richter scale and VI to VII on time MCS scale of surface intensity. The first is at 17km depth and the second at 18km. To us it sounds and feels as if a train is running directly through the house. As far as we learn, fortunately there is no damage anywhere.

October 2012
A frustrating month when nothing seems to be happening. Parliamentary elections on Sunday 14th do not help, as there are mayoral elections in Kotor as well, although the continuation of Mrs Catovic’s reign is assured. Vasko puts in the application for building permission early in the month, but tells us that until the in-fighting between local politicians over who gets what job following the election is resolved, we cannot expect to get a decision.

We move the avocados across to the plot; more accurately, Branko very kindly allows us to use part of his land bordering us to create a small plantation. Anke has carefully nurtured 5 avocados from stones; two of them are now over a metre high and need to come out of their pots as the roots are very restricted. They are sensitive plants so James builds a bank to shelter them from the north wind. We also transplant the mandarins which have fared reasonably well over the summer, though need more light. Their original place on the plot will be destroyed when the building starts. Ditto with the hydrangeas.

September 2012
Our first meeting with Vasko after the summer break is productive. He has spent some time in Belgrade talking to a professor (name not given) who clearly has been teaching him what he needs to know about low-energy houses and Passive Houses in particular.

On the first Tuesday in the month, we decide to participate in the German Embassy-organised ‘Stammtisch’ for all and any German-speaking people in Montenegro. We had attended one in the middle of June and found it a great way to meet some interesting people. The only drawback is having to drive home afterwards. A major highlight of September is watching Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic to win Andy’s first Grand Slam title in the New York Open – YES!

Thursday 13th marks the anniversary of finding Karl, and so we weigh him – amazing how much growth he has put on; last year he was 10g, now 46g; and from 3.5cm long by 3cm wide to 5.7 cm long by 5cm wide.

We drive up to Ljubljana for a regional meeting of Green Building Councils on 20th. Wet and cold there, but a most useful day with a lot of information shared. On the way up we broke the journey in Zadar, but did not have much time to look around the Old Town. On the return we stopped in Trogir, again at the Palace Derossi, and enjoyed their delicious house rakija among other treats. We have given up exhausting ourselves by driving flat out for 14-15 hours a day; it is far better to do maximum 6 or 7 hours and have time to enjoy the places en route.

August 2012
Saturday 4th marks the start of the family invasion. Over the next 2 weeks we are host to a total of 2 daughters, three grandchildren plus a great friend of our younger daughter who brings her own two children – a total of 8 extra. All great fun and a delight to be able to share this incredible part of the world with them, but just as well Anke did all the preparatory cooking! We have forgotten just how much food teenage boys consume. When they leave, the place seems very empty without them all.

August is also the month when we start the renewal process for our resident’s visas. This year we get all the paperwork as for last year and then find that the bureaucracy has been considerably simplified, and we only need a renewed work permit. Next year with any luck we should be able to apply for permanent residency.

Naturally nothing happens on the house plans during this holiday month!

July 2012
We return from UK / Ireland on 10th to continuing glorious weather. It hadn’t rained in our absence, and many of Anke’s plants are in dire straits.

Vasko indeed comes back to us with his overall proposal, showing how he has changed things around to deal with the statics requirements, as well as the parking. He also proposes an outside staircase from the west side near the front door up to the top floor balcony. His thought is that especially in summer we don’t really want visitors traipsing through the house. We agree – despite earlier antagonisms against outside staircases! The important elements of the cellar, ie the Technical Room and the Wine Cellar, will be sited in buildings at the parking level alongside the retaining wall. We will also be able to keep the lower room of Le Beton as an additional store, so all-in-all we have a lot of storage space, always useful.

Vasko sends James an email asking why we need so much insulation – it is not ‘normal’! Clearly all we have been telling him about Passive Houses has not sunk in. James replies at length giving the relevant factors from the PassivHausProjektierungPlanung (PHPP) calculations, and remarking that this is not a normal house – that is the whole point of it. Silence!

A lot of energy is put into preparing for the major family visit in August. We stock up on wine, and fill the deep freeze with meals so that Anke does not have to spend all the time cooking.

© all text and photographs, except where individually credited to other sources: James Collins